Saturday, August 28, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love

Weber and I went to see the movie Eat, Pray. Love tonight. As the previews concluded and the movie itself was about to begin, I leaned over to him and said, “It has been a long time since I have been to a movie with my husband.” He smiled at the realization that this was indeed the first movie we have been to since we were married. As the movie concluded, I thought to myself how ironic it is that first movie that we saw together as husband and wife is about healing the wounds of divorce.

This was a fantastic movie. I will admit upfront that my reaction has much to with its plot hitting close to home, like in the middle of the living room. As I think about Elizabeth Gilbert’s year of eating in Italy, praying in India, and loving in Bali, I realize that each of these places is a metaphor for stages in the healing process, places that I myself have been in the last two years.

In Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert first visits Italy. Though there are many scenes with her indulging in Italian cuisine and one where she is convincing a friend she meets in Rome that the few pounds that she has gained eating spaghetti and pizza are no big deal, this first stage of her journey is less about eating to fill herself up and more about eating away all that is hiding who she really is. It is about reconciling who you have been with who you are now.

Gilbert’s next stop on her yearlong journey was an Ashram in India. There she learns the discipline of meditation, not just the formal practice but also its place in the tasks of everyday life. She learns that to find God, she must be open and living in the present.

In Bali, her last stop, all that she has learned about herself and others is put to the test. Has she truly learned and can Gilbert put into practice the ways that have been given to her by the wise companions she has encountered on her quest?

As I look back over the past two years of my own life, I can see that I too have had the opportunity to eat, pray, and love though not in the exotic locales that Elizabeth Gilbert experienced. That however does not make these things any less meaningful or powerful. The external is simply a backdrop for the places we visit within.

My eating took place right here in my everyday environment. I had to be willing to have my fa├žade eaten away in the surroundings where I built it and where I would continue to live once it was torn down. It is easy to recreate yourself in a place where no one knows you. It is much more difficult in the place where people have an image of you that is then eaten away leaving your core exposed much in the way that termites eat away at a structure. This was the most difficult step on the journey. There is much truth to the adage that the first step is the hardest.

Unlike Gilbert who did not have a prayer life before the crisis of divorce entered her life, I have always found comfort in my ability to talk to God. What I learned on the “prayer” leg of my experience of eat, love, pray was to be still and listen, not do all the talking. It was during the period right after I filed for divorce that I added Zen meditation to my daily discipline. This too happened close to home.

Elizabeth Gilbert and I did share one common destination in our journeys to healing – Italy, though she was primarily in Rome and I was in Assisi. However, Italy was the first leg of her journey, the place where she learned to eat. For me, it was the last stage, the place where I learned to love. The locales of the last stage on our journeys were different but the ultimate question was the same – “Are you willing to love again?” Though I ultimately said “yes” to this question, the ability to do so came from much eating (away) and praying.

One piece of wisdom that was given to Elizabeth Gilbert was that all people and all things are teachers. Neither Weber nor I are big movie fans; going to see a movie is never our default mode of entertainment. Choosing to spend tonight at the theater was a deliberate decision; one that I now know was guided by God.

I leave you with this: With proper care, the wounds of life can be healed. They may leave scars but those scars often add to one’s beauty rather than detract from it.