I just went to see the new movie’ Eat, Pray, Love’ starring Julia Roberts on Saturday. I remember seeing Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of the book) interviewed on Oprah with my husband a long time ago when the book came out. The next day my husband surprised me by buying me a copy of her book in hard cover. So I read it happily and I liked the premise of a woman taking a transformative journey to connect with her ‘true self.’ But I remember being a little disappointed in the book’s ending, because she ends up with another man at the end of her journey. This is odd for me, because I am a true romantic and I love it when great partners find each other. Maybe it’s because all Hollywood movies seem to end this way, suggesting that wholeness comes when you find your mate, not yourself.
Anyway, I was interested to see if the movie elicited any further messages. The thing I enjoyed most about this film was the cinematography and the flashes of the beautiful places that she visits in Italy, India and Bali. Our heroine really got out of her comfort zone and immersed herself in the local wisdom and culture of each place so that she could grow.
This process then seemed temporarily derailed when she meets and falls in love with a handsome stranger in Bali. She takes a few weeks off from her regular tutelage with the local healer (the main reason that she came to Bali) and she instead stays home and makes love repeatedly to her new suitor. When things start to become serious our heroine panics and we wonder if she will repeat her pattern of losing herself in that relationship, thus ending up at square one. She tries to back away from the relationship and is on the brink of returning home. Then she visits her healer to say good bye to him and he tells her that sometimes it is necessary to be temporarily unbalanced in love, in order to live a balanced life. This causes her to reconsider and re-embark on an ongoing love affair with her Brazilian flame.
So at the end of the movie this last issue is put to us is: Is it an important part of a balanced life to be unbalanced in love sometimes? ‘Falling in love’ is certainly is a part of life that many of us would not want to miss! In fact many of us crave this bonding, union and sense of heightened bliss even after the ‘falling in love stage.’ Sometimes long-term relationships and marriages feel stale in comparison when both people regain their balance and their focus on other areas of personal responsibility. So, many folks have the challenge of losing that ‘in love, unbalanced feeling’ but some others are afraid to lose themselves and their goals in a flood of passion.
When initially dating, it’s often a good idea (yet hard to do) to try to retain your usual life structure. By this I mean to continue seeing your family and friends, focus upon your work, take your usual classes and carve out time to get to know your new suitor over time. This helps you to keep your feet on the ground, rather than just sitting by the phone obsessing about when he’ll call. Unbalance often puts undue pressure on you and that relationship. Plus, if it doesn’t work out, you have temporarily dropped the rest of your life so it will hit you even harder. So, if possible, it may be best to start seeing each other once or twice a week in the beginning, instead of hiding away like roommates for weeks at a time, because you can’t get enough of each other. The idea is that if this is the right person, you will be spending your whole life together!
This idea of maintaining balance in life is a big issue overall, not just when it comes to romantic love. When our heroine lives in Italy she learns about the Italian siesta, where locals schedule in relaxing time every day. In our culture of achievement, relaxation is not always prized nor discussed. We have time for work, time for romance and family but not a lot of time for the self. Perhaps that is why Elizabeth Gilbert’s book appeals to so many people; the idea of her taking off for a year to discover herself in new places, discovering joy with no responsibilities. In the end, the question is how she can integrate her newfound love of life and self with the real world, and perhaps with a life partner. Can she maintain her life vision, goals and new spiritual practices and still be present in a relationship?
In the film this question is left unanswered, except we see that she is going to give it a try. We get the sense that her Brazilian love is different from her past failed relationships. He is an unconventional traveler, like her. He seems to support her goals and he is not pushing for marriage or children, which allows her to explore the world and write. In fact, he even suggests that they live in different places for 6 months at a time. He can do his work from anywhere so she does not feel that she will have to give up important parts of herself or her dreams or needs for him.
In Gilbert’s next book ‘Committed’ she describes the further evolution of their relationship and marriage. Although there are struggles, one gets the sense that for the most part, things are working out. Perhaps there will be a sequel to the movie ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ that reveals Gilbert’s latest truths about marriage and maintaining your true self within a lifetime partnership.
As for ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ I was not completely clear what Gilbert learned on her journey but I think ultimately she was on a new path where she would only embrace a relationship if it was an extension of her true self and life vision.
This is a good message for people to consider.
If you see this film or read the book, please share your comments below.
My Best in Love,
Author of ‘Dating from the Inside Out: How to Use the Law of Attraction in Matters of the Heart’ published by Atria Books.