Eat Pray Lame

Posted on February 21, 2011


I’ve been feeling nauseous, dizzy, achy and feverish for the past 48 hours.

It all started the night I hired Eat Pray Love.  Coincidence? You be the judge.

A friend gave me this cultishly-revered book as a bridal shower gift last year just in case I wanted some inspiration to throw in the towel before I’d even said ‘I do’. To be fair to her, she apologised later for having given it to me and said she had no idea at the time what she was doing.

So I read it in spite of myself – and so I could make witty-yet-disparaging remarks about it at dinner parties on the internet to fool people into thinking I’m cultured and wise.

I love being original.

Then I hired the movie to spite my husband, who tried to smother me with a pillow when I quoted it to him in bed one night.

I only just managed to resist the urge to ritually sacrifice it – along with every copy of the Ellen de Generes show ever produced, peaked beanies and bad customer service.  All are equally heinous.

Further justifying my disdain and fascination with the Eat Pray Love phenomenon was an Oprah interview I saw last year with the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, which went a little something like this:

What is God to you?

Oh wow, Oprah, to me God is the perfection that absorbs...


I'm going to stand over here because I don't understand what you're saying...

That's ok, I'll just meditate with this guy until you calm down...

Ok I'm back. So... what exactly do you mean by that?

It’s the perfectness of the universe which can bring you into that state where you are absorbed in that perfection, then you will know it.



How is it possible that this particularly indulgent strain of humanism has become the new bible?

If you’ve not read it, it’s a memoir about Gilbert who decides to leave her husband because he is awful abusive insensitive ugly wait, what was it again?  Oh yeah, it was actually nothing, she just didn’t want to be married any more.  So naturally, the only conclusion was to have a conversation with said husband to work through the issue divorce.

To escape the aftermath of her divorce, a subsequent failed relationship and rebuild her life, she decides to take her bigass book advance and travel for a year to find enlightenment and peace.

She rocks Italy for three months to eat and explore pure pleasure with no responsibilities; India for three months to pray in an ashram to a guru with a bad haircut; and finally Bali to study with a medicine man who has prophesied riches and love over her life.

Tough gig.

Basically the book catalogues a year of Gilbert doing whatever she wants and concluding that her path was “divinely” appointed.

“Divine” being code for sexy narcissism with a few almost-truths woven throughout.

Let me break it down for you in case you were wondering why I struggled so much with Gilbert’s 12 month tour of spaghetti and spirituality:

  • The notion that the path to happiness is paved with getting whatever we want whenever we want it is toxic.
  • The notion that we ourselves are god is, while a convenient concept, arrogant and unhelpful.
  • The notion that faith is a transactional equation – I.e. I “pray” and then the universe graces me with everything I ask for, amen, thank you for playing – is bogus.
  • The notion that we never have to do anything we don’t want to or that is hard or uncomfortable (because fulfilment is about only doing the things that you want to do) is crap.

NB: Gilbert in her interview with Oprah, when questioned on the selfishness of her choices, answered that if you consider a choice to be central to your happiness then it isn’t selfish.  The perfect crime.

As I frolicked amongst the fields of my own arrogance while pondering Eat Pray Stupid and all its narcissistic particulars, and while marvelling at how much smarter I felt than her in that moment, I all of a sudden found myself crashing unceremoniously back down to earth.

No sooner had I completed my dismissal of Gilbert and her self-aggrandising la la land, when I had a shocking revelation.

I also had indulged in an Eat Pray Love tour.

Oh the shame.

Here was my itinerary:

  • I left a good job in Adelaide in early 2007 and went to work in the UK – mostly to escape a toxic relationship that had made me, among other things, clinically depressed.
  • I then arrived in England, ate myself silly, drank a lot of wine and put on 20kg while connecting with God in a way that was completely healing and wonderful.
  • I then disregarded all the things I’d learned and flew to Italy to pursue a boy who was, for all intents and purposes, spoken for (and also emotionally challenged).
  • I then came back to Australia via Turkey, Ireland, Spain and a few false starts to find true love and my old size 10 jeans again.

What will people at dinner parties on the internet think of me now?

All of a sudden I was imagining myself as Elizabeth Gilbert sans the annoying accent.  Who would play me in the movie of my life? Did I need to write a memoir? Please God, not Julia Stiles.  In fact please God, not any of the Hollywood Julias. Maybe Maggie Gyllenhall?  Too much to hope for?  Kate Winslet?  Juliette Lewis?

Finding my celebrity doppelganger went on for hours and with the help of a friend and a handy Facebook application we concluded that it would be Katherine Heigl.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this.

But I’m just stalling because I’m annoyed that my life in some way parallels Gilbert’s.  Only mine didn’t make me a squillionaire.

What it boils down to is that I think we all like to legitimise the dumbass decisions we make by lauding them as weighty, profound learning experiences.

And the annoying thing is that they really are.  I learned so much in 2007.  I grew so much in 2007.  I am so grateful for that journey which led me to where I am now.

But these experiences become Eat Pray Lame when our life apologetics suggest that our choices are what the universe had intended all along.

That the decisions we made which hurt others were permissible because they ultimately led to what we perceive as a “better place”.  That we can “eat pray love” our way out of the consequences of our actions.

Gilbert (and dare I say it – the millions of women and gay men out there sleeping with this book under their pillow) was essentially trying to atone for her selfishness by finding a way to legitimise her decisions through the Religion Of Self.

I am relieved to say I didn’t fall into this trap.  I turned to God (nb: big G) and to good people who kicked my ass when I sorely needed it and loved me into a place of greater authenticity, perspective and humility.

I still wince at some of the decisions I made even though they are now deep in the past, and I’m glad I do because it means I see those choices for what they really were.

I am honestly relieved to carry the scars left by these decisions because they are a constant reminder to choose better.

So if you’re feeling stuck, dissatisfied or lost, can I suggest that you take a moment to put aside your fear and deeply ponder your motivations, choices and desires.  Have the courage to be brutally honest with yourself and, crucially, others and you will be amazed at the freedom that will grow.

You’ll also save yourself time (approx 12 months) and money (approx $9000 – the amount I spent on airfares in 2007).

And always remember that there is grace to cover our choices when we make ourselves accountable, and Truth (big T truth) that inspires peace, humility and gratitude to propel us forward.

Love LK.

Ladyketo is so wise... Oh my gosh, yes she soooo is... I know that for SURE...