Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love was nothing short of humorous and entertaining. And as intelligent and witty as her prose was, I found myself enjoying the book more in the beginning than when I had finished it. Jennifer Egan wrote a review for the New York Times and I think she was accurate in saying that the reader is left yearning to know more about the unresolved things Gilbert chose to leave out rather than the flowery and cliché events and ending of the novel. I think it’s fair to say that as readers, we knew what was coming from the very beginning of the novel, and although optimism and happy endings are exactly what one may be looking for when they pick up a book about self-discovery and spiritual awakening, I do think that it dragged on too much. Egan says, “What’s missing are the textures and confusion and unfinished business of real life, as if Gilbert were pushing these out of sight so as not to come off as dull or equivocal or downbeat.” And I couldn’t agree with her more. Because to be completely frank, real life can be dull, equivocal and downbeat all at the same time. And we cannot push our problems out of sight like a writer would in a book, instead we have to face them in order to move forward and grow.
This is not to say that it was not a great book. No doubt that her reflections and insight were extremely profound and genuine, however by the end of it I found myself thinking, “Really?” Needless to say, I found it hard to wrap my head around how easily and magically things in her life panned out. I didn’t only find the outcome of certain events unrealistic, but also the ways in which they occurred and how they were described and written.
With that said, I think Gilbert had a point, and she definitely drove it home. What I gained the most out of this novel was the simple notion of being honest with ourselves. And I mean blatantly honest, which as Gilbert shows us, can be excruciatingly difficult. At the same time, it is only when we master this skill that we are able to deal with our problems more efficiently and logically. I think this novel is more than just a memoir about Gilbert’s own journey towards self-discovery, I think it’s about the power and necessity of self-discovery, in its every shape and form.
She focuses a great deal of her novel on the power we have to control our own destiny, and that it all starts from the way we think; our mentality and perspective. I was having a conversation with my sister a while ago, and I was telling her how different our lives would be if we didn’t think so much about our fears, limitations and barriers, but instead focused on positive thoughts such as success and growth. Our problems would be so much easier to deal with by adopting a different mentality. She then said it would be even better if we didn’t view problems as problems, but as circumstances and challenges; simply as things we have to overcome and deal with. And I realized, (I admit, quite obviously) that we always have two options. One is to become upset, discouraged and depressed, which disallows us to make any sort of progress, and the other is to do something about it. Going back to Eat, Pray, Love, I think Gilbert gives readers a chance to see the extent to which our thoughts affect our perspectives, spirit and actions. Gilbert didn’t change her location for a year and heal, she transformed herself mentally.
Being honest with yourself is making the right decisions, which is usually not the easy one. But I truly believe that it is the only way towards progress, which is impossible without change. Self-discovery never ends; we are and will always be in a constant struggle to grow and find meaning and purpose in our lives. There is a reason why it’s called a journey towards self-discovery, and this journey can never be dull, equivocal or downbeat. Eat, Pray, Love allowed me to re-evaluate my thoughts and become more conscious of my surroundings, to constantly search for the things I want in life, and to strive to make them happen.
I’ll leave you with a poem by one of my favorite poets Rumi, which in my opinion seems to be an appropriate conclusion.
“When you lose all sense of self
The bonds of a thousand chains will
vanish. Lose yourself completely.
Return to the root of the root
Of your own soul.”