I had more than one friend tell me I should read Eat Pray Love. I saw it at the airport one time soon after I left my now-ex-husband. I read the back of it and put it down right away. It was not a good time to read it. I was still in full crisis mode. I was falling apart daily. Every cell of my body was fighting to keep its cohesion. I needed to survive, not ponder my survival.
I figured I was ready this summer to read it and I think I was right. It was a great cottage read. Only 352 pages, I got through it in under 12 hours (in between naps, many bagels and a few relaxing swims in the lake). My friends told me they found the author was narcissistic for ending her marriage for no real reason and that she came across as whiny. I can see why they said that. However, I recognized her pain right away. I think it is hard to understand a meltdown unless you have had one – especially when it involves the end of a very meaningful relationship (like the near 17 year one I had with my ex), of never being alone once in your adult life (like the author I have not been single since my first boyfriend at age 18), of feeling absolutely aware of your past choices, but still needing something altogether different in the here and now (I do not regret my past, I was a full participant, but I need to be and do differently).
The beginning of the book was tough for me. It reflected much of what I have gone through these past months – the end of my marriage, a dramatic rebound relationship, and the desire to be myself on my own terms, but not quite sure how to do that. It took the author a few years for her divorce to become final and only later did she take a year off to travel. I am just at the beginning of my journey. I do not have expectation of focusing on pleasure, spirituality and then finding love. I do see though that next few years will be ones of growth and new experiences. I do not want to recreate the author’s journey (as some women seem to try to do – there are Eat pray Love Bali tours – eek!). I am quite excited by my own.
In any case, here are a few passages from early on in the book that resonated strongly with me.
The many reasons I didn’t want to be this man’s wife anymore are too personal and too sad to share here. Much of it had to do with my problems but a good portion of our troubles were related to his issues, as well. That’s only natural; there are always two figures in a marriage, after all – two votes, two opinions, two conflicting sets of decisions, desires and illuminations. But I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to discuss his issues in my book. Nor would I ask anyone to believe that I am capable of reporting an unbiased version of our story, and therefore the chronicle of our marriage’s failure will remain untold here. I also will not discuss here all the reasons why I did still want to be his wife, or all his wonderfulness, or why I loved him and why i married him and why I was unable to imagine a life without him. I won’t open any of that. let it be sufficient to say that, on this night, he was still my lighthouse and my albatross in equal measure. The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving.
And then there was David.
All the complications and trauma of those early divorce years were multiplied by the drama of David – the guy I fell in love with as I was taking leave of my marriage. Did I say that I “I fell in love” with David? What I meant to say is that i dove out of my marriage and into David’s arms exactly the same way a cartoon circus performer dives off a high platform and into a small cup of water, vanishing completely. I clung to David for escape from marriage as if he were the last helicopter pulling out of Saigon. I inflicted upon him my every hope for my salvation and happiness. And yes, I did love him. But if I could think of a stronger word that “desperately” to describe how I loved David, I would use that word here, and desperate love is always the toughest way to do it.
David and I met because he was performing in a play based on short stories I had written. He was playing a character I had invented, which is somewhat telling. In desperate love, it’s always like this, isn’t it? In desperate love, we always invent the characters of our partners, demanding that they be what we need them to be, and then feeling devastated when they refuse to perform the we created in the first place.
I tried to talk about our separation, but all we did was fight. He let me know that I was a liar and a traitor and that he hated me and would never speak to me again.
I thought I had fallen to bits before, but now (in harmony with the apparent collapse of the entire world) my life really turned to smash. I wince now to think of what I imposed on David during those months we lived together, right after 9/11 and my separation from my husband. Imagine his surprise to discover that the happiest, most confident woman he’d ever met was actually – when you got her alone – a murky hole of bottomless grief. Once again, I could not stop crying. This is when he started to retreat, and that’s when I saw the other side of my passionate romantic hero – the David who was solitary as a castaway, cool to the touch, in need of more personal space than a herd of American bison.
There are a bunch more about her feeling towards her ex husband and David, a bunch more about her mixed emotions during her period of self discovery (such as pages 23, 31, 46, 51, 65, 95, 146). There are a fair amount of a similarities, but I don’t think I am trying to force my life to match hers. Like I said I am not going on any Eat Pray Love tours. However, it was good to read about a woman’s divorce and the messy process of dealing with it and coming into her own. I am the first of my friends to divorce so it was reassuring to find some comfort in another woman’s words.