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My Own Eat, Pray, Love Story

Laurie Erdman's picture

Tagliatelle with tomato sauce. Photo by Laurie Erdman.

This weekend I saw the much-anticipated movie based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best selling book, Eat, Pray, Love. The story is based on Gilbert’s own Pleap of all Pleaps (Pink leap of faith) -- for a year following her divorce she lived first in Italy, then India, and finally in Bali. Her goal was to find herself and learn to live again.

Like many who have read her book, I envied Gilbert for the courage to take this journey -- not just to these foreign countries, but to the foreign land of giving up control and giving into universal love. I loved the book and was eagerly anticipating the film version.

I was enjoying the movie when the landscape changed from New York to Rome – a cityscape overlooking the Tigris. To my surprise, I started to cry. Now this isn’t exactly a scene included to induce tears (those scenes were coming later!), so why was I crying? Although the scene was serving as a simple transition point within the film, Rome signifies a transition point in my life. I wasn't aware of it until that moment but I was living my own Eat, Pray, Love story, just in slow motion (and without the Brazilian lover).

EatPanna Cotta with chocolate sauce. Photo by Laurie Erdman

Ever since dancing with the Italian graduate students in college, I have dreamed of going to Italy. My interest was heightened when, in law school, a dear friend shared details of the Italian way of life from his time there. I dreamed of going -- but as happens with such dreams, life got in the way. 

Then the universe delivered, in spades. A few years ago, I received an email from a girlfriend inviting me to join her for a one-week cooking class in Tuscany. I said yes before checking with my boss and barely before checking with my husband. By my standards, this was impulsive. I look back at this moment and am proud of myself. I was not a person who took vacations very often and certainly not without lots of planning and thoughts. But here was my dream, so I jumped at the chance.

The trip was everything I had imagined and more. The food from Rome to Florence and everywhere in between was fabulous. The scenery was breathtaking.  The men gorgeous. I glimpsed the Italian way, with gusto, and nary a crumb left on my plate.

Eat AgainGrilled Vegetables. Photo by Laurie Erdman

Six months after returning and still trying to lose the five pounds I gained during the cooking class, a potter friend emailed me about a two-week workshop she was giving in Tuscany that spring. As impulsively as before, I said yes.  And again I had the time of my life. We had wonderful meals, made beautiful pottery and life-long friends. Best of all, staying in one spot for the entire two weeks, I really got to feel the rhythm of Tuscany. Yes, it is heaven on earth.

So when Rome flashed up on the screen and tears began to flow, I recognized them as tears of gratitude. In a span of nine months, I had been given the opportunity to live my dream, not once, but twice.  


I have yet to visit an ashram, but in the last year, I have been doing a lot of praying. This really started during my second trip to Italy. Making pottery is a spiritual practice for me. It is meditative, helps to keep me centered, and has taught me patience and detachment. Getting the chance to spend 40 hours a week for two weeks making pots was an immersive spiritual experience.

Franciscan Monastery in Tuscany. Photo by Laurie ErdmanThe spiritual foundation that began in Italy helped me when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Pottery gave me a center, a place to return to when this transformation was too hot to handle. 

But a few months ago, I realized I needed more. My life was undergoing an increasing number of changes and I needed to find my center in other ways. I wanted to get away. I wanted yoga and meditation and tender loving care. I needed an ashram like experience. So later this month I am off to a retreat. I am trying to manage my expectations (in the face of rave reviews about the retreat center). That being said, I plan on taking as many yoga and mediation classes as possible and then just being with myself and clearing my head. Clearing the way for light and love. Clearing space for my prayers to come true.


Gilbert’s time in Bali is characterized as the “love” leg of her journey. In reality, her whole trip was about love -- love of herself. From eating pizza and pasta (“muffin top” be damned!) to forgiving herself about her marriage. Her story is a form of hero’s journey; she must slay her demons to win her true love – herself.

It was during my second trip to Italy that I began to catch a glimpse of who I am. I’m not sure I have found “my word” yet, but my time there led me to discard the career goals that weren’t making me happy and were skewing my priorities.

My art has led me closer to center, but I still have work to do. I am more centered, yet in constant threat of becoming unbalanced. As I open to my passions, I find myself juggling a number of them. I wondered if I should cull some...yet they all drive my mojo. So for the time being, I juggle! And I remain resolute in my radical self care practice, my sincerest form of self love.

I am still searching -- searching for a word that is me that doesn't describe what I do. My story is not complete, but neither is Gilbert's. These are all just chapters in our journeys. We are all heros looking to love and be loved. 

Have you been living out an Eat, Pray, Love story? Have you learned to love yourself completely? Have you seen the movie or read the book? What did you relate to the most?

Photocredits: Me, during my Italian travels.

With love and light,


Dana Theus's picture


good stuff, Laurie. I think we're all playing out this story and I love how you tell yours!

Laurie Erdman's picture

Pleasantly surprised

Thanks Dana.

In hind sight, I realized that I sat down in the theater expecting to beat myself up after the movie about not having taken a bigger Pleap. I was shocked, and pleasantly surprised to realize that I was pleaping already (also starting in Italy), just in comparatively slow motion. I was reminded of your recent posts (although forgot to link to them) about pleaping in our own way and at our own speed. So true.

Ciao bella,

Dana Theus's picture

Life Backwards

Jeff recently wrote out a reminder to himself while researching colleges that paraphrased someone wise. "Life can only be understood backwards." And it is so true. In the midst of change we rarely have meaningful perspective on it. And when we do, we should share it to help others see their own change in a useful light. That's what you're doing - we're all doing - in sharing the insights we gain when we gain them. When, where and how is much less important:)


Laurie Erdman's picture

Thank you

Cara, thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed my post.

When reading the book, I could only think "oh, I wish I could do that." So it was a shock for me to realize that I was living out my own version.

I check out out your site - very nice. I'm excited to get my starter kit. Your photography is amazing.

cara's picture

I loved this article! Thank

I loved this article! Thank you for sharing it. I especially related to this: I am more centered, yet in constant threat of becoming unbalanced. As I open to my passions, I find myself juggling a number of them. I wondered if I should cull some...yet they all drive my mojo. So for the time being, I juggle!
I love that you call it a hero's journey and point out that we must tame the demons.

I also loved the book, so much that it inspired me to create Cool Blue Souls. How wonderful for you that you've been to Italy twice!

Laurie Erdman's picture

You go Girl


Baby steps are good. Since you read the book, you know that Gilbert didn't take this journey quickly, without thought or with out a safety net of sorts. We all have move at our own pace. The great thing about Gilbert's story (and Lissa's) is that they inspire us to move, whether slow or fast.

I saw the movie alone as well. While I wanted to discuss it with my husband as I left the theatre, I think it was better to see it alone so I could sit with it, and my reaction to it. I learned more that way. I'm not sure I could have stayed up until midnight writing this post if my husband had been around.

Enjoy and let us know how you like the movie. And seeing it alone. :)

With light and love,

Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul's picture

Going to the movies solo!

Thanks for sharing your story. I read the book a few years ago and I plan to go see the movie tonight - alone. This is obviously quite minor in comparison to taking a solo journey around the world, but it's my baby step in establishing comfort in being independent.

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