Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Eat, Eat, Eat: Why I only read the first part of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir

One of my favorite books is Elizabeth Gilbert's travel memoir Eat, Pray, Love. I tend to completely fall for these kinds of books, where people make a complete break from their everyday mundane lives to do something wildly different with themselves (right now, I've fallen into the chocolatey comfort of Eloisa James's Paris in Love). It's not that I don't appreciate the mundanity of my own life (and the way I've constructed it). It's just so delicious to imagine myself in Paris, wandering through winding streets filled with cafes, booksellers, bread, and cheese (that's how I've constructed Paris in my brain, anyway, having never been there).

This past summer, I tried and tried again to re-read Gilbert's book, however. And I could not get past the "Eat" section, when the author is in Italy and lets caution fall by the wayside, falling head-first into Neapolitan pizzas and glass upon glass of wine. 

Pizza

I think the fact that, this year, I could only get through this part of the book really tells you something about me. I believe that life should be filled with sensory adventure. I don't want to get up everyday and eat the same thing, all day, every day. I want to see new places. Learn new things. I want my life, right now, to be filled with stuff I enjoy doing. I think I've reached the point in my life (pushing 40) when I want to give myself permission to stop doing things I don't enjoy - in my professional life, in my personal life, as a parent - just because other people think that's what I should be doing. 

It's not that I want to be a glutton. The deliciousness is not necessarily in the eating but in enjoying the life I create. I am, right now, over the asceticism that the second section of the book requires. I feel like I've served my time as an apprentice to life; I've been the disciple, in various ways. Now, I just want to live on something of my own terms. Before I wind up, like the man in Shakespeare's sonnet, with a few sparse leaves rattling around in my ribs: 

When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang, 
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs where late sweet birds sang. 

So, this summer, I gave myself permission to read only the part of the book that I enjoyed. And then I ate a pizza (and a really amazing one at that);). A/J

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