Eat Pray Love: Well worth the journey

As little girls growing up playing with dolls and Easy-Bake Ovens and pushing our fake grocery carts around and carrying our fake purses, it’s pretty much drilled into our heads from Day 1 that the pentacle of a woman’s life is marriage, and kids, and carpools, and a white picket fence. We marry off our Barbies to our Kens at 5, marry off ourselves to our first boyfriends on the playground at age 10, and marry our varying Prince Charmings in our imaginations all through high school and college. Then we graduate from college and enter the Real World, and for most of us, that’s when we take a look around, realize “man was not meant to be alone,” and walk down the aisle toward our high school or college sweethearts to live a good, solid life in our hometowns, get groceries every Monday, take little Suzie to ballet every Wednesday, and have Date Night every Friday. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Then there are those of us who enter the Real World, take a good look around and see a world too full of options and choices and dreams at our fingertips to pick just one…a world that can only be tapped into while riding solo…a world in which one is company…and two’s a crowd. A world in which we live our lives on the edge, have time to explore every last nook and cranny of our hearts to figure out where it’s leading us next, and in which we go to yoga every Monday, get a pedicure every Wednesday, and have Girls Night Out every Friday. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Why, then, do people act as though there is? Because it goes against the grain? Breaks from the norm? Doesn’t fit into the traditional Jell-o mold of what a “grown-up” should do?

In the movie (and the book) “Eat Pray Love,” Liz Gilbert redefines what it means to be an early 30’s woman. Actually, she rips it apart, shakes it around, stretches and pulls and shreds it, then sews it back together in a pattern unlike anything you’ll see in your mom’s hand-me-down sewing kit. Based on a true story, Eat Pray Love follows Liz’s journey as she escapes from an unhappy marriage into an unhappy relationship before realizing the only person who can truly bring you happiness is the one you see staring back at you in the mirror. On a quest for self-discovery and enlightenment, Liz follows her heart to Italy to learn how to indulge in one of life’s most simple pleasures – food; to India to get closer to the source of all pleasure and joy – God; and finally to Indonesia to learn how to strike a healthy balance between pleasure and praying; love for others and self-love. Julia Roberts finds a way to play Liz Gilbert that is charming without making you feel as though you are watching the Pretty Woman and the Runaway Bride; in an understated way rather than her typical larger-than-life characters; and in a way, that to an avid fan of the book, feels authentic and genuine and organic. Fans of the book will also appreciate the movie’s tendency to stay fairly close to the book’s timeline, while taking creative license in a few scenes that do not detract from the overall poignancy of the book’s message.

As a single 31-year-old woman who is constantly asked “Why are you still single?” or even told “Oh, so THAT’S why you’re still single!” (And the “that” usually ranges from everything to my looks to my independence to my hatred of Tupperware) or my favorite: “And THAT‘S why you‘re going to be single for the rest of your life!” (would that be the WORST thing in the world?) – the message of Eat Pray Love speaks to me in a way that not many movies have; and I think it will inspire other women, single and married alike, to refuse to compromise any part of yourself to fit into a mold that was never meant for you to begin with. And Eat Pray Love gives us single 20- and 30-somethings permission to feel good about choosing our lives rather than having them handed to us, charting our own path through life, and living life on our own terms instead of those that are expected of us by our friends and families. Some of us find love with our high school sweethearts and some of us find love in our own reflection in the mirror, and despite what the world teaches us, neither way is right, or wrong, or superior, or inferior. Some of us have the Bride Gene; others of us have Seven Jeans, but whichever way it falls – in the end, no matter how close to home you stay or how far from home you wander, the most important thing is coming home to YOURSELF…and being content to be exactly who you are in this very moment. Because just like Liz Gilbert and Dorothy Gale from Kansas and this smalltown girl from Tennessee have all realized: The power was always ours. It was always there. It never left. We are already all the things that we hope to be. Sometimes we just have to go halfway around the world to figure it out.

“At that moment of realization (that union with God is always present), that’s when God let me go, let me slide through His fingers with this last compassionate, unspoken message: You may return here once you have fully come to understand that you are always here.” ~Liz Gilbert, “Eat Pray Love”

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