I just finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love” for the third time. I wrote last week about how every few years I take it off the shelf and read it in times of trouble, but let me be more specific: The first time I read it, I was 21 and entering my senior year of college and…I was trying to decide whether to break up with someone. The second time was my first year in New York and- yup – I was going through a breakup, this time as the dump-ee, rather than the dump-er. This third time, 6 years later, my love life seems to hold more stressful weight because I am now almost 30, which whether I like it or not, as a woman, matters.
I think the reason I always go back to this book when I’m in this particular state of worry is to reassure myself that:
- I am not alone in my feelings of soul-crushing, all-consuming fear. Other people, since the dawn of time have been feeling these exact same feelings and I’m not some sad mutant-person destined to be alone and unhappy forever. (In fact, reading about others’ pain makes me realize that a lot of other people have it WAY worse than I do and frankly, it’s not as bad as I think it is. No matter how old I am or how much of a failure I feel like, truth is it could be a LOT worse and it isn’t.)
- I need to be reminded that my happiness is in MY control and no one else’s. Not only do I not need external things/people/success to make me happy, but it’s quite simply not possible for those things to make me happy. I have to do the work. I have to be diligent in my search for joy because I’m the only one who can fully realize my own happiness.
- It is beyond comforting to read that even through the pain, it is 100% totally possible to not only get through it, but to come out on the other side a happy and fulfilled person. It is not some fictional fairy tale reserved for Super-Special-Selected-by-Fate People. Rather, it is attainable for anyone and everyone. And just when God hears me balking at that, HERE YA GO, KID! Here’s a story that proves it! This literally happened to someone, deal with it!
So why “rainbow passages”? Each time I read this book, I’ve gone through it with a different color highlighter.
Yellow at 21, green at 23, orange at 29. And lemme tell ya, it is fascinating to see what was important to me at these very different times in my life, and even more fascinating to see what words affect me every time I’ve read it. I call those latter bits of prose my “rainbow passages”. And for good measure, and so I can always go back to this blog and see them when I need to, I’m transcribing a few of them below. Hopefully they bring some clarity or hope to someone reading this.
“I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. If you need the medication again, go ahead and take it- I will love you through that, as well. If you don’t need the medication, I will love you, too. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.” – p.54
“Listen to me. Someday you’re gonna look back on this moment in your life as a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and that your heart was broken, but your life was changing and you were in the best possible place for it…Big deal. So you fell in love with someone. Don’t you see what happened? This guy touched a place in your heart deeper than you thought you were capable of reaching…But that love you felt, that’s just the beginning. You just got a taste of love. Wait till you see how much more deeply you can love than that….People think a soul mate is a perfect fit, but a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life….But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah, too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it.” – p. 149 (pretty much this whole page is highlighted so I included just the juicy bits.)
“You take whatever works from wherever you can find it, and you keep moving toward the light.” -p. 208
And my favorite of all:
“People universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your contentment. It’s easy enough to pray when you’re in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments.” -p. 260
So what do I take from all this?
Well, after finishing this book, I did something I haven’t done in awhile: I prayed. Out loud, and on my knees- which as a self-proclaimed feminist and rational thinker was not an easy thing for me. I put my hands together over my heart and I calmly asked to simply get through today with grace and forgiveness- for myself especially. (And I asked for some other stuff too but mostly that was the idea.) And for today, that is enough.
Get your own copy of “Eat Pray Love” HERE: