“Eat, Pray, Love” and the Early Mid-Life Crisis

It seems that everyone is talking about the new movie, “Eat, Pray, Love”, starring Julia Roberts.  Personally, I haven’t seen it, and I don’t intend to.

The reason? I read the book in the midst of a horrible depression.  Everything in my life was crumbling around me, and as a result, I was in therapy, on medication, and watching way too much “Oprah”.

Eat, Pray, Love
Cover of Eat, Pray, Love – Image via Wikipedia

While watching Oprah, I saw the episode where she interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the autobiographical book “Eat, Pray, Love”, the story of her journey from complete and utter despair at her life to complete bliss and happiness.

Of course, someone like me who felt herself on the verge of crying many times a day, feeling trapped by my life decisions (just like Elizabeth Gilbert), immediately fell victim to the claim of how this woman, this once tragically unhappy woman was able to overcome and live the life of her dreams.


If you haven’t read the book or you haven’t gone to see the movie, I don’t recommend you go any further unless you don’t mind spoilers.

Seriously…this is your last chance…

To sum up the book, here is what Elizabeth Gilbert did with a year of her life.

1.  She finds herself bawling her eyes out because she was unhappy with her life decisions.  She was married, had a great writing career, a beautiful house, and she and her husband were supposed to be trying to have kids.  She didn’t want any of what she had, but had it all because that was what you were supposed to do and suppose to want.

2.  She leaves her husband, has a lover or two, and lives alone.  Surprise! She’s still unhappy.

3.  She decides the only way to be happy and fix her life is to travel the world for a year, with the help of a book deal.  She decided to spend 1/3 of the year in Italy eating herself fat (EAT), 1/3 of the year in India meditating (PRAY), and 1/3 of the year in Indonesia where she met a foreign man, much more exotic and romantic than her ex-husband (LOVE).

Eat, Pray, Love

Elizabeth Gilbert - Image by Erik Charlton via Flickr

4.  She publishes her book, rakes in millions of dollars, gets on Oprah, and a movie deal.  You think she’s happy with her life now?

I have no problem with international travel. I’ve done it myself, and it can be an exciting chapter in your life if you ever have the chance to do it.

I love trying new foods, food allergies aside, of course.  To be able to do this for 1/3 of a year while living in Italy would be friggin awesome, of course.    India and Indonesia would be tons of fun too, although I’m not much into mystical meditation.  A whirlwind romance with a foreign lover would be fun, but returning to reality is important too.

Let’s face it, most of us who are dreadfully unhappy don’t have publishers who would pay for us to have an early mid-life crisis traveling the world.  Yes.  That is how she paid for her trip.  In the book, Elizabeth Gilbert states that her publishers paid for the trip by giving her an advance on the book she planned to write chronicling her journey.

Even without a publisher to pay for our trips, most of us still don’t have the money to spend a week in Italy, let alone 4 months living there before moving on to India and Indonesia.

So there I was, reading this book every chance I could get, thinking “This woman is just like me”, when really she wasn’t anything like me.  And in my mind, all I could think about was how my life would be fixed too if I could do what she was doing…but I never could do that.

As a result, the book didn’t help me to empower myself and feel better. No, it made me feel worse, because yet again, only the famous, celebrity, rich people who weren’t tied down with children could ever accomplish their goals.  That was the message I got from that book.

And in all honesty, I think that’s why the book sucks.  At least, it’s one reason the book sucks.

Plus, most of us have a mid-life crisis that makes us look really bad. “Oh, he’s going through a mid-life crisis and bought a new flashy car and left his wife for a younger girl.”  We look down on him, don’t we? Yes, we do.  You do, too. Don’t lie.

But when Elizabeth Gilbert does it and writes a book calling it a boost in self-esteem and female empowerment, that makes it ok.  Give me a break.

Drunks doing Yoga_Page_02
Drunks Doing Yoga – Image by DrJohnBullas via Flickr

I loved the book anyway, while I was still depressed and feeling like a major loser.  I tried indulging myself, but it felt like a chore.  I tried meditating and doing Tsi Gong and Yoga. That helped, but not for any spiritual, wise Yogi reason, but because I was focusing on movements and controlled breathing instead of what was bothering me.  It was a distraction and exercise – nothing more.  The love part was hard too, because a lot of that was my problem – my marriage was on the rocks.

But I wasn’t going to abandon my marriage like Gilbert did, even though my husband and I had REAL problems – a developmentally delayed child they said might have autism, an affection free relationship, a brand new baby, post-partum depression, alcoholism, and my undiagnosed anxiety and depressive disorder.

Now, a couple of years later, I look back on that book and Gilbert and think, “Wow, what  a self-absorbed bitch.”  The book is simply her over-indulgent mid-life crisis that she got paid for and continues to get paid for with book and movie ticket sales.  Boo!!!

I feel the same way about Oprah, too.  But that’s for another post on another day.

If you want a really good movie and book about self-empowerment and changing your life for the better – read and/or watch “Julie & Julia”.  Don’t run off abroad to eat, pray and fall in love – stay where you are, do what you enjoy and write a friggin blog or diary. Also, don’t leave your husband if you are in a happy marriage and love each other.  Strengthen your marriage and work on it.  That’s what marriage is all about.

That’s the lesson you’ll learn from Julie.

From Julia, you’ll learn how being honest with yourself and everyone around you, and simply working toward your personal goals within the life you’ve already chosen will help you achieve even more happiness and excitement – but that the life you have now is great.  Julia Child is also a wonderful example of how sometimes you achieve your wildest dreams well after 30, or even 40!  So don’t freak out if you’re 30 and not where you thought you would be.

Get over it, and enjoy the life that you have.  And if you aren’t happy, work within what you have to achieve your goals and improve your life.  Be happy with what you have and what you can achieve.  You don’t have to travel the world, stuffing your face and living at a monastery followed by a fairy tale foreign romance to be happy with your life.  Life in and of itself can be fulfilling and exciting without all that garbage.

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