The Eat Pray Love fantasy worked for Elizabeth Gilbert but hasn’t worked for me. For starters, several cars ran over my copy of the book.
I gave in and decided to read Eat Pray Love back when I was going through my divorce. Everyone told me to read it, so I figured they must be on to something. I mean, how could everyone steer me wrong?
Everyone: You must read it.
Me: No can do. I’m reading 10 other books simultaneously at the rate of two pages each a day, and I’m also holding down a full-time job while writing version 3,119 of my novel.
Everyone: I read Eat Pray Love when I was going through my [divorce, breakup, mid-life crisis], and it transformed my life. Stop reading Annie Proulx, Michael Ondaatje, and other people whose names even they can’t pronounce and get cracking on Elizabeth Gilbert.
Me: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
Everyone: And Elizabeth Gilbert. Borrow a copy. We all have it. You’ll thank us, we swear.
My Eat Pray Love Fantasy Life, Part I
I breezed on my one-speed orange cruiser from the Highlands neighborhood of Denver to a courthouse downtown. A friend of mine who worked there was out front waiting. She handed over a pristine copy of the 11th book I would soon be reading at a rate of two pages a day.
I biked home up one big damn hill. (The neighborhood’s called Highlands for a reason.) I got out of the saddle to haul ass across Federal Boulevard’s four lanes of frustration and rage. Just then the light turned yellow for negative two seconds and then turned red.
I slammed the brakes, and the book flew right out of the basket on my bike onto the road, where it was run over by approximately 32 cars.
My Eat Pray Love Fantasy Life, Part II
After buying my friend a replacement book, I read the run-over version. What I need to do is travel, I thought. It worked for Elizabeth Gilbert. How could anything possibly go wrong?
I left for a month-long solo trip to Spain and wandered around Granada, Sevilla, and Barcelona. I walked hours each day in sweltering heat. I took daily Spanish lessons, spent afternoons napping, saw AC/DC in concert after a random Irish guy at a British pub gave me a free ticket to the sold-out show, ate the free tapas that came with each drink, and watched World Cup soccer on bar TVs. I did as many Spanish do, staying up until three, four, or five in the morning.
In Sevilla, I got lost. A lot. Around two a.m. one morning, after circling Sevilla on foot for hours, I crumpled against a brick wall and sobbed. I am so close, but I cannot get where I want to go, I thought. Somebody help me, I remember thinking. Or praying. But there was no one in sight.
One night, I returned to the British pub to thank the Irish guy for the AC/DC ticket. He wasn’t there, but I ended up meeting a Spanish guy. We hung out for the next week, and I changed my return ticket at a hefty price so I could travel to Portugal with him. Just as we were planning to leave on our trip, he told me he was attracted to my new best mate, a French woman named Melanie who I had met in my Spanish language class.
I didn’t go to Portugal. As quickly as I had made several friendships, I severed them all. I got lost some more. I changed my return ticket a second time. (“You sure you want to do this?” the United rep asked me over the phone. Even she was blown away by the change fees I was paying.)
I headed home.
Me vs. Everyone
Back in Denver, I bought a loft, focused on building my business, took another crack at the novel (I’m currently on version 4,332), and continued reading the 10 books.
Over the last decade, many of my friends left their long-term boyfriends or divorced their husbands. A few have decided to go it alone for the long haul. Several met and married new partners. With a few notable exceptions, they talked and still talk about their self-discovery and personal growth, about their resilience and rebirth. About the peace that came with coming into their own.
Proulx is pronounced “prew.” Ondaatje is pronounced “awn-DAH-chee.” Federal Boulevard is still harboring frustration and rage. When I can, I still ride my orange cruiser about town.
I still have no idea how to reach the Irish guy who gave me the AC/DC ticket. I would like to thank him. The day of the concert, I walked five miles each way to get to the Olympic Stadium where the 57,000-person sold-out show was held. Inside, I got myself a beer and watched the concert alone. I reveled in the crowds and lights and noise I usually shy away from. Afterward, I paid no mind to the strangers who offered to walk me home or buy me a post-show drink at a local bar.
Back at my Sevilla apartment, I realized I had locked myself out. An hour later, the building owner showed up to let me in. While I waited, I peered through the window to my room, savored the soreness of my muscles, and tried like hell to remember the Irish guy’s name.
Everyone who told me to read Eat Pray Love left out the messy parts. As if the book is a blueprint, as if the act of reading sets that plan in motion, the disarray relegated to the before times, the cleaning and cleansing destined to flourish from here on out. A $12 cure for what ails you. Thus far, my Eat Pray Love life has turned out exactly like Elizabeth Gilbert’s. If her life had been continually run over by 32 cars and salvaged again and again and again, that is.