I have lost count of the times that I’ve watched Eat Pray Love and read the book. They are stand bys for me. If I am writing in the living room and have nothing else to watch and just need something on in the background — it’s likely this movie (other movies include Under the Tuscan Sun and Paris Can Wait — do you see a theme?). I can practically recite the lines along with the characters. But it is soothing and comforting. It’s like writing with an old friend.
If I have gone through all the books in my TBR pile (it doesn’t happen often), Eat Pray Love is one of the books I can read over and over again (along with From Stardust to Stardust, Winter Solstice, and The Shell Seekers). People ask me why I read these books again, even though I know what happens. It is because I feel like I’m visiting with friends.
But this isn’t about my affinity for watching movies and reading books I love on repeat. It’s about the lessons. I learn something each time I take another go around.
Here are the things I learned from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love.
Yes, eating is a big part of the book and the movie. Especially while she’s in Italy, but there are references to eating throughout the entire book and movie. In Italy, she’s devouring pizza and pasta and eating gelato at 9:30 in the morning.
Then I went for a walk and ate some pistachio gelato. Which Italians consider a perfectly reasonable thing to be eating at 9:30 a.m. and frankly I could not agree with them more.
In India, her nickname is Groceries, because she eats so much. She drinks a local soft drink that is “five times sweeter than Coke.”
In Bali she drinks coffee with Ketut and shares meals with Tuti and her mother.
Food is a necessary part of life. It is all around us. Yet, especially as women, but more so today than in the past for men, we are constantly told that food is bad. Especially (fill in the blank). We are discouraged from enjoying food too much. It might lead to an addiction.
It’s ok to enjoy food though. Even food that is “bad” for us. Sometimes.
The key to enjoying food though, the real secret, is trying new things and sitting down to focus on the taste, the texture, the experience. Food should not be something we just stuff down our throats as we rush to get to the next important thing we need to do. Food should be part of our journey.
Eat. Enjoy. It’s ok. It’s even an important part of life.
I’m not saying you need to go to church and get right with God. Maybe that’s not your thing. Some of you may know that I used to be a Jehovah’s Witness. That pretty much put an end to all organized religion for me.
But prayer can take many forms.
When you pray, it connects you to something bigger than yourself. It reminds you that you are but a speck in the universe. Smaller than a speck. And when you remember that, your faults and mistakes don’t seem like such a big deal.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s form of prayer came through sitting meditation. It was very specific and controlled.
You can experience different forms of meditation and prayer, though. Go sit in a kayak in the middle of the lake with the mist still rolling over the water and tell me that you don’t feel spiritual. Lay on your back in the park with the rain coursing over your body and feel how small you are. Listen to a meditation podcast.
For me, the best form of prayer and meditation I have found is driving down the highway with a podcast or audiobook on the speaker. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic works for me. A new one I love is Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights.
When Gilbert is dancing with her ex-husband at the ashram in India, she tells him, “It won’t last forever. Nothing does.” She’s coming to terms with the end of her marriage and the way it ended.
I think it is important to accept that love — whether it is the love of a friend or a lover — rarely lasts forever. Even if it lasts a long time, one of you has to die first. Once you accept that, you are free to love without restraint. You can give your love freely. You can enjoy love for what it is and for as long as it lasts.
I think the love story in Eat Pray Love that gets to me is not the one in Bali where she meets her future husband, but the love between her and Richard, in India. He is the man who calls her Groceries. Their friendship is not easy at first, but it grows. The book gives much more details about their friendship than the movie does. Love between friends is…well, it is everything. Love between family is expected. Love between lovers is based on sex (don’t lie — sex is a critical part of it and few relationships last if sex is removed). But love between friends? It is pure.
“Don’t be selfish.”
“Think of the family.”
“Do you want to hurt me?”
These are the kinds of things that people think are completely acceptable to say to someone. But often, what they are really saying is, “Don’t be selfish.” And much of the time that they are insinuating that you are not being selfish. You’re being self-full.
And being self-full is perfectly acceptable. No. Wait. It is necessary.
Because we are told by society that we should not think about ourselves but instead should always be thinking of others, thinking about our own needs and requirements is a habit we grow out of. As children, we are perfectly aware of what we want. We know we want to play. We know we want hugs. We know we want friends to play with. And we go after them (even if it means a little temper tantrum now and then).
Of course, we need to learn that there are other people besides us to be concerned about. But maybe society pushes the willingness to consider our own wants out of us too much.
When was the last time you did something because you wanted to? When was the last time you made time for yourself a priority? When was the last time you put you first?
Self-introspection and self-care are critical to your well-being and your growth as a person. Take time for self.
I absolutely love to watch Julia Roberts laugh and smile. The scene where she is dancing with the young man in Bali just makes me smile so much. “Everyone has a love affair in Bali,” he says as he stands naked in the pool. I have no idea how she walked away from that. I wouldn’t have.
But anyway, laughing. We all need to laugh. There’s a good reason that they say laughter is the best medicine. It’s true. Laughter makes our hearts lighter. It bonds people. It calms us.
I think the most important thing to take note of is that you do not have to leave the country to do any of these things. In this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, you don’t even need to leave your home. You can do all these things from your own house with people you live with.
You can even do these things without people living with you. Get on your phone or your computer. Video chat is amazing. I know, I know, it’s not the same thing.
But I fell in love over Facebook Messenger. If I didn’t learn these lessons, I would not have developed the relationship with JB that I have today.
EAT. PRAY. LOVE. BE SELF-FULL. LAUGH.