Friday, September 17, 2010

How my life does not resemble Eat, Pray, Love

While watching the movie Eat, Pray, Love, I couldn’t help comparing the main character, Elizabeth Gilbert’s, life with my own.

On the surface, there’s nothing similar there. But, underneath, the whole concept of longing to leave your comfort zone, and the nagging feeling that there is something else you have to do or find before you buy that leather sectional couch with matching recliner, or commit to another three years on the school board, is familiar to me.

The similarities kind of end there:

Elizabeth Gilbert really did leave it all behind: She gave up her home, marriage and the American Dream of 2.1 children-- to get out of Dodge. I rented my perfect house to three, 19-year-old Dead Heads. I left my dog with my mom. The rest, the husband and two kids are right here with me.

Elizabeth Gilbert packs lighter than I do: She brought her clothes and a yoga mat. I brought 7 suitcases on the plane, and shipped four boxes by boat-- including a bag of clothes for Isla to grow into, piles of childrens’ books, two hula hoops, six stuffed animals, a two pound pet rock and, yes, a yoga mat. (I've used the yoga mat about 20 times in the year and a half since we've been in France.)

While I’m always wondering if it’s the right time to kiss the other mothers at the school gate, Elizabeth Gilbert fantasizes about kissing her cute Italian conversation partner.

Elizabeth Gilbert noticed the Italian men weren’t whistling and cat calling her anymore, I am at least a decade beyond catcalls, but still wince a bit when people, especially cute young men, call me “Madame.”

I’m still struggling, daily, with the local language. Elizabeth Gilbert apparently had a much easier time of it. I could attribute this to several things, most of which would be a bit competitive and catty.

I haven’t ever, once, orgasmed while eating a meal in France. I have eaten some very good food, but this ain’t Italy.

I curse the very existence of golden croissants and perfect meringues calling to me from every bakery window, and refuse to buy bigger pants. Elizabeth Gilbert guiltlessly gorged on gelato, then splurged on Italian lingerie.

I don’t jump on trains to explore France, as much as I’d like, because by the time we got to our destination, it would be another school night.

I forgot to get a book advance before I came. But, if I understand correctly, book advances don’t grow on trees.

Elizabeth Gilbert couldn’t get over all the beautiful men in Rome. I cannot get over all the beautiful women in Paris.

We are both inspired by the remarkable amount of kissing that goes on on Main Street. Joni Mitchell was right. People are kissing everywhere. All kinds of people, not just the young and beautiful. And not just perfunctory pecking, but real kissing, mashing, snogging, making- out, sucking face kissing. The kind of kissing that makes you wonder why you don’t still do that, every chance you can, with your mate.

When Elizabeth Gilbert got to Italy, she was surprised to discover that depression knew her Italian address. I had that moment too. "How could one be in France and depressed?" I thought. The answer is, "same person, different address."

Elizabeth Gilbert found God on her journey. I found African Dance.

Elizabeth Gilbert had to let go of her dependence on men to discover herself on her journey.  I had to let go of my independence and give myself permission to need my husband for everything, including, in the first half year, making doctor appointments and signing kids up for activities. You ain't seen nothing until you've filled out a French dossier.

Elizabeth Gilbert knew she was spending only a year abroad. I thought I was spending only a year abroad. Now I know that I know nothing. And I'm okay, for the most part, with that.

New BabyCenter post here.


Spedrson said...

Ha, ha, ha... you said "sucking face"!!

Emilyplays said...

Wow - has it really been a year and half that you've been in France?! Does time still move at a different pace like it does when you travel or are on vacation? If so, I imagine a year and half could feel like a lifetime. I'm not reading posts as often as I like, but I heard you mentioned on the radio the other day and thought I'd pop in and see how your adventure was going. I guess I should have started where I last read - I'll be traveling backwards through your writing!

Emma said...

Ha! Love the comparison. Maybe a movie about your adventure? "Eat, cry, poop." or something along those lines.

oh, btw, we had a little Isla born at the hospital the other day. Spelled properly too!

Irishmama7 said...

Wonderful post Betsy! I have yet to see the movie but have read some of the book. Your writing intrigues me more than the actually book does ;) I especially like the bit about book advances not growing on trees. Thanks for being a place I can escape to.

Steph said...

Eat, Cry, Poop. Love it.
I can't believe it has been a year and a half, Betsy!

Betsy said...

For me it's definitely something more like, shop, eat, clean (repeat).

Andrea Frazer - Pass the Zoloft said...

I've written quite a bit over at Good Housekeeping about Eat Pray Love. I found the book amazing and soulful and thought provoking. But, but... as a mother... I found it disturbing. After all, I, too, have longings and dreams. But I can't simply pack myself up and leave my family. Would I, like Gilbert, be called brave? No. I'd be called irresponsible and selfish. And honestly, some of what Gilbert did was selfish. It really was. Her husband sounded like a lovely man. But she just wasn't happy, so she took off to learn about herself.

I was married once before, too. I also left behind a broken heart - not mine. But I wouldn't do that to kids. And honestly, to this day, I feel like shit for entering into a union I simply wasn't ready for.

Again, I loved that book. But I always walk away from it feeling like I'm not as courageous as she is.

And yet again, Betsy, remember: It's a BOOK. It's easy, when everything is behind, to write something brilliant and make all the pieces fit.

andrea frazer said...

Well, here I am now. I keep forgetting. I'm always moving blogs.

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

Great post!! I grinned through the whole thing. This, especially, cracked me up: "Elizabeth Gilbert found God on her journey. I found African Dance." :D

Really, Betsy, I do hope you are working on your book about all of your experiences. Seriously. I know I'd buy it in a heartbeat!

SJ-F said...

you definitely could get a book out of all this material... you already have a ready made readership!

great post again ;)

Megan said...

I haven't seen the movie, and I got annoyed with the book and quit, but...
I am so with you! I am constantly checking out French women with my husband. Rather, he stays silent while I point out the pretty ladies everywhere. I'm just in awe. The way you described the pastries luring you in-- exactly. It's like they send out a sonar or something and then wait for me in the windows. Deliciousness. PS- I don't think the French women eat the French pastries. As for me, I'm even excited about plain ol' baguettes. Oh and the French French kissing! Fantastic!

Left my dog with my mom and shipped a whole box of rocks here! MY rocks, I miss them.

Well anyhow...

Although I wasn't a big fan of Eat, Pray, Love, I highly recommend listening to Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk. It's awesome.

Betsy said...

Thanks, Megan. I have seen that TED talk. It is fabulous.