Sunday, April 09, 2006

Book Review - "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert

As an avid reader, I've come across some good books (and, of course, lots of losers). I'm not genre-specific, from mystery to "women's literature" to autobiographies to historical, I've read them all. This one, however, stunned me.

As a 30-something raised by former religious-order (Catholic) parents who ended up embracing eastern philosophy, I spent my formative years visiting ashrams, meeting mediums and gurus, meditating- all sorts of non-traditional exposure. My parents had us do the Catholic sacraments and training too. Just in case.

I married a traditional Catholic and honestly wasn't sure what I believed. I admired the complete faith of other Catholics, but I didn't feel it. In my darkest moments, I began to question whether this wasn't all random and maybe in the same way we think a dead bug is just dead, maybe that too was our fate. Gone forever- faith being just a brain-process to protect us from the truth. I sadly thought that maybe I was burdened by being one of the smart ones who was able to see this and I felt cursed that I had the intellect for it.

In recent years, I began to truly feel that existential weight- that I needed to know what this was all for. Time seemed to be slipping by so quickly it began to alarm me. I read all sorts of books from Victor Frankel to Ian Stevenson. I thought I was starting to find a path back to believing in something greater, but it seemed like "information gathering" for me vs an emotional breakthrough.

Then I read a review of this book and tacked it onto my to-read list with a bunch of others. It seemed like a chick-lit type book and those are great every now and again, like eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast- good but best you don’t make a habit of it . When I finally got it, I checked reviews again and ALMOST DECIDED TO RETURN IT. The review I read said something along the line of: obviously a book written only as an excuse to travel around the world. That sounded dull to me but I started to read it anyway, just to see.

Well, wow. What can I say? Someone commended the author for having the courage to publish such a brutally honest and intensely personal journey of discovery. At times, that's an understatement. This book can be so forthcoming, I almost think I would edit some of the content, even contemplating only in my own mind. However, there is something so stirring and so vividly true about her story, and her humor among the gravity of seeking such divine wisdom. It felt so real. And for me, given my background, I found myself actually shedding tears several times in the book (out of seemingly nowhere)- I recognized things the author wrote that my conscious mind had forgotten. This book has put into words things that I have struggled to define. Over and over again. Its remarkable.

Beyond the deeply moving spiritual and philosophical discoveries in the book, Elizabeth is just a really really good writer. Very funny, very clever, very articulate. It made me insanely jealous of her talent. You could read this book on a "regular" level without the spiritual overtones and still find it funny.

Obviously this book wasn't intended as a religious text, but in some ways it became one to me. I will actually reread this book, which I almost never do, because in her observations I think there is profoundly deep meaning and I don't know if I could have absorbed it all the first time. The best part is that this is someone who I actually saw a lot of myself in and my friends in, not some wacky "new ager" that makes you want to roll your eyes as you find a way to extract yourself from listening to their stories.

And whoever wrote the review on Amazon about this all being about not wanting to have kids? What kind of craziness is that? The author makes brief commentary on being unsure about having kids- which 90% of us go through/went through, but she also has the wisdom to note that most parents seem to find them a metaphysical experience. And I can attest, I think my young son is a lot of the reason I began "seeking" truth because despite the endless sacrifice, there are the moments when I know I am, without question, in the presence of something that is the closest I may ever come to God in this lifetime. The radiant innocence and beauty of a child- it that doesn't break your heart open and set it free, I'm not sure what can.

What a remarkable book, and a remarkable person.

My Epilogue: Eat Pray Love...then what?

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Divorce House

Every street has one, doesn’t it? The house where, for practical purposes, should install a department-store style revolving door- (they can be an extreme sport for the coordination challenged, no?). The For Sale sign went up a few days ago, errected, best I can tell in the early dawn hours. The "Scarlet A" of suburban neighborhoods. Given that we havent been shown glossy brochures of the neighborhor's new house, this means one thing- the Big D---again. Again for the house anyway. A few years back the first neighbors also sold the house amid a divorce. That couple had some pizazz though. Despite being casual wave-as-you-drive-by neighbors, we were awoken one night around 3am with the door bell being run repeatedly and a pounding on our front door. 3am has got to be the worst time for this sort of thing- its so much in the dead zone, that it's impossible to leap from bed and take organized action. Even after I got up, I was sure I was in a vivid dream. My husband, who is 6'7" and 250lbs, grabbed my Victoria Secret robe (full size on me, mini-dress robe on him) in his semi-stupor and raced downstairs. Not far behind him, I looked down the staircase to see him at the front door and mistaking my robe for an old fashioned male nightshirt, thought I was having a dream where he had become Eboneizer Scrooge from A Christmas Story.

Then I saw the bodies roll by the front door in a tumbled mass as the wife and husband tussled over a manilla folder of financial documents. Apparently the wife's late night reconissance mission was discovered and she fled the house with the husband in hot pursuit. Why she decided to seek refuge with us, we have no idea, except my husband is the type who can and will strike up a conversation with anyone and so while I know the neighbors mostly by the dogs they walk, my husband has found himself many times the most unlikely of confidants. He spends a lot of time doing yard work and often I look out the window and see him leaning on his rake, nodding sympathically, while some neighbor is engaged in some sort of passionate story. So anyway, be warned, this is where all that friendliness leads to: 3am referree sessions. Who says all the excitement happens in the ghetto?

Anyway, if you hadnt guessed that couple didn’t make it and divorced splitting the house and 4 kids down the middle, each moving to another smaller house in the neighborhood, which also seems to be part of our neighborhoods divorce manual.

Then, the new neighbors moved in- highly educated, married 20 years, two kids. Two years later, the sign went up. I feel some concern for the families I've seen come to look during the Open House- should I warn them? Then again, I've conflicted. I don’t want to scare off the best prospects- getting a new neighbor is kind of like waiting for your blind date to show up. Will they be the cool couple who hold BBQs and can be seen casually drinking a beer on a hot summer day? Will they be the ethnic family with 27 cars who tear out the front bushes and don’t plant anything in the dirt left behind? Will they be the doctors, highly stressed with the $80,000 cars who seem constantly exasperated with their kids who will probably never measure up?

Pending Discovery

I cant help but notice I don’t have a fan base yet. That’s disappointing. I guess "eccentric 80 year old" wasn’t a big search term on Google yesterday. Maybe I should find something more popular-society to discuss. Then again, the only thing I know about popular society these days are from reality shows. I don’t want to admit that I watch those (or that they are almost all I watch). Of course people at work know I do, it's pretty humiliating, since I'm supposed to be smart. But who needs reality shows anyway- real truth is stranger than than reality shows.

Today at work, a vendor who is majorly behind on a critical project which is costing us bazillions and is over a year late said that they were knocking off for the week because they were tired. Then they got on a plane and went home. Things were no better at home where a secret-nanny playdate was nearly discovered by another nanny after an unannounced drop by. Cell phones were abuzz with warnings to take evasive action. I don’t know how this one turned out to be honest- have to get the download later tonight.