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).
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.
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.
The 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,
Cheers to being free,
Go to www.LaurieErdman.com to download an excerpt of my current creative project: Exiting The Hamster.
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