Saturday, November 29, 2008

Eat, Shit, and Die

After hearing a buzz about the book "Eat, Pray, Love" for so long, I finally read it, and I did not like it. For those who haven't yet read it, save your time and money -- here's my synopsis that I think embodies the essence of the book.

Chapter 1 - Italy
"Boo hoo hoo, woe is me. I got a divorce and then because I have issues doing anything alone (which I'll try to convince you otherwise by my solitary world travels) I immediately fall in love with another man and THAT didn't work out either (could it be me?). I am so self absorbed that instead of sucking it up and getting on with my life like millions of other divorced Americans, I decide I need to learn to speak Italian and then travel to Italy, all while documenting it in a novel (with far too many parenthetical side notes, if you must know.)
So now I'm in Italy, and I'm all alone here, which all of my new friends in my Italian class can attest to. I've asked everyone I know in America if they have any friends or acquaintences in Italy that I can cling to while I'm here, and they reluctantly give me the names of people who I can mooch off of (but if I tell them that it will be a chance for them to learn to speak better English, then I actually come out looking like I'm helping them!) Everyone here in Italy has been great. They are acting like my divorce never happened. When I pass strangers on the street and say ciao (Italian for "hello" for those of who are too stupid and small-minded to ever learn a second language and travel the world) they will smile and say ciao back and then will not even bother me as I head up to my apartment to cry and eat gelato by the ton.
You might be thinking, "Liz, please for the love of God, tell me because I HAVE to know, how can you possibly be in ITALY with all of these attractive MEN and not be having SEX every DAY?" And the answer, oh dim-witted reader, is that this is a spiritual journey where I am focusing on ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME, and sex is really not the best thing for me right now. Not when there is so much gelato and pasta and sea urchins to be eating, (not to mention that I feel like a freakishly tall blotchy white person that the men aren't attracted to, which is the first thing I noticed when I got to Italy. But really, it's the gelato. Oh my GOD, the gelato! You're really missing out because this is the best gelato in the world and I'm the only one lucky enough to be here by myself surrounded by men who don't find me attractive and eating all of this fabulous gelato!)

Chapter II - India
Now I'm in India where all they have is bland vegetarian food, but that doesn't bother me because eating has never been of importance to me. What I want most from this spiritual journey is to find myself at one with God, or Allah, or wait a minute, what kind of God do they worship here in the Ashram? It doesn't really matter. What matters is that my ex-lover who I'm so obsessed with will be jealous that I'm here at his guru's Ashram. Oh, didn't I tell you? My guru is actually his guru (did I mention how independent I am?)
I'm so impressed with this Ashram and everything about it. The monks here have dedicated their lives to become enlightened, and when I finally have the opportunity to speak with one, I ask a question that comes from somewhere so deep inside my heart that it actually feels like God himself is reaching his hand inside my chest, cradling this thought, and then presenting it to the monk in a sort of mystical ritual. "Will my ex-boyfriend call me?" The monk rolls his eyes and tells me to go scrub the floors and look deep inside myself for the answer, for only I can find the answers I seek (which can only mean that he thinks I am already so superior to everyone else here.)
I have become so good at meditating that I do it all the time, except when I'm chumming it up with all of the non-Indian people here at the Ashram. They all think I am so funny and love to hear me tell stories (just wait until I tell them about the gelato in Italy!). But really, the meditation is giving me the validation that I needed, people do like me, and I am funny, and I am fun to be around. So why doesn't my ex see that? Why can't he call me collect at the Ashram and then I can leave here and be with him and start eating meat again?

Chapter III - Indonesia
Two years ago, I visited Bali and paid some old sheister to read my palm. At the end of the reading, he asked me to lean in close to him, and he whispered that someday I'd be back. (What I didn't realize was that by leaning in closer, I was allowing him to steal the cash that was sticking out of my purse.) I clung to this reading, and over the years, my memory of his final comment became, "Come back to Bali and I'll give you a place to live and food to eat and you can tell all your friends that you are studying under an ancient medicine man and they'll all be in awe of you and your great worldliness." So imagine my shock that two years later, this old medicine man didn't greet me with open arms. He didn't remember our 10 minute meeting from years earlier at all! But I was persistent, I told him that he told me to come back here and study with him, and I must have sounded really desperate and flashed a lot of cash because eventually the old man pretended to remember and now I come to his house everyday and pretend that I am learning things from him.
I have made another friend here too. She is a healer and once she found out I had money, she was so nice to me. The balinese are truly the most wonderful people in the world and it's a shame that all of my friends are stuck in dreadful old New York WORKING for a living (although it's a good thing they are working, otherwise they never would have been able to donate money to buy a house for this wonderful woman.)
When I first embarked on this journey to the 3 I's (Italy, India, Indonesia -- aren't I witty?) I had hoped that I would find myself, and I did. I found myself eating lots of food in Italy, I found myself pretending to become englightened in India, and I found myself in love and finally having sex again in Indonesia. And now that I am not alone anymore, I can truly say that this independent journey was self-fulfilling and full of self-wonder, and I love myself so much more now that I know a man loves me. I'm learning a lot about love and sacrifice with my new boyfriend. Life is no longer about ME ME ME, it's about loving and caring for that person, and maybe that means living in Bali and Brazil and Australia, but I'm willing to do that, because I know that by giving myself and my love to this relationship, I can only receive it back ten fold.

(Stay tuned for my next book about how I convinced my Brazilian boyfriend to move from Bali to the suburbs of New Jersey.)