It is amusing, for lack of a better word, how life comes full circle after a while. I remember I picked up a book very randomly off the shelf of a library to clear my head after a series of intense board exams. The cover had Julia Roberts with her million-dollar smile that allured me to it, even further.
I knew little or next to nothing about the premise of the story but decided to give it a go and issued it for the week. The book was titled “Eat, Pray, Love” and was penned by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is a memoir based on the life of the author. What happened after that was- this book was about to hit me hard.
Technically, Elizabeth, herself can hardly be called a literary character. But, her vision, expression and her personality, somehow mirror mine. I was a naïve teenager when I met Gilbert on paper and I was a shocked, shattered and depressed adult when I found the suppressed Gilbert hiding within me. The book narrated Gilbert’s tryst with divorce and her subsequent journey through Italy, India and Indonesia in the quest of happiness and peace.
She tries to find peace and ends up discovering herself, her ideas and the peace in being a unique individual. She has experiences that tell her that life is beyond the self, you can’t take yourself too seriously because life and bigger events are unfolding outside of your being and your clogged brain.
You need to sit down and de-clutter that amazing organ of yours and find ways of loving yourself in a bid to love life. The words explaining this entire journey from breaking-down to building-up are lucid and bare the soul.
I found that even though I couldn’t relate to the character, I could understand the kind of internal crisis her soul was going through. She travelled around the world but her heart was the same everywhere, she carried that same broken heart with her throughout the world.
Ruminating on her personal life, I grew up and started college. Her story was pushed on the back-burner. I began this new stage of life with zeal and enthusiasm. But, no stage is similar to the previous one and realised this as soon as I started getting attention from the opposite sex.
What had seemed like a fictional movie plot suddenly unravelling in my reality. It was unnerving and exciting at the same time. It was fun and laughter and coy looks and promises of the future. Life seemed to be taking place somewhere in the seventh heaven, above the mundane happenings of the ordinary folk.
I was flying and sailing through the air and obviously I was the most beautiful girl, in my head and theirs. The whole future was clear before me and the D-day started to come alive in my vision. I had thought of every last detail of the day and life beyond. I could see the evening rambles and the fun cooking experiments, the morning kisses and sudden hugs from behind.
The thought of my own success did not light me up as much as their success in even being able to beat their peers at a friendly tea-time debate while prepping for an approaching interview. I forgot that the college had lauded me with a trophy and certificate declaring me to have been the best student of my batch, all the different branches combined.
I even forgot that that had been my dream since the very beginning of college. A few days after this honour, our results for the semester were declared. I had secured first position with an insanely high percentage. I could only rejoice in the fact that someone I loved had performed well this time.
My own victories stopped mattering to me. I forgot that I had a soul that yearned for someone who could also revel in My glories; a kindred spirit who could cherish my little ideas and talents. I was suppressing my identity to please another and even then I was blamed for not caring enough or not giving enough.
Now this may seem like a letter expressing my angst and slandering someone who was and probably always will, remain a big part of who I am. They say, your firsts are always special and I feel that will always remain true for me as well. So this isn’t a letter of rage.
It is the acceptance that as Elizabeth Gilbert sat on the bathroom floor at 3 am crying her eyes out and yet not being able to heal her broken heart, so too I sat ; in the wee hours of the morning, sobbing into my pillow, cursing myself for not being enough and feeling so scared of the idea of loneliness or leaving someone who had become a cherished habit, that I almost wanted to throw-up.
There seemed like no light at the end of this tunnel. I realised I was Gilbert when in retrospect I found that mine, too, was an all-consuming, all-sacrificing sort of love where every inch, every ounce of me had to belong to the other person. I found that my peace had always resided in their validation of my actions, my personality and basically my entire self.
Gilbert tugged at the chords of her ruined and next-to non-existent relationship to try and salvage it and herself in that process; which proved to be futile. The same happened in my case.
Long after their efforts had ceased and their concern for my well-being had vanished, I kept tugging at that chewed-away rope to pull them closer to me and ask them to be with me because I had given up so much of my esteem and energy to them that it seemed like I would cease to exist in their absence.
When love happens we do not even begin to understand the chaos it shall ensue in our respective lives and this is not because love is wrong, it is because we find love to be the goal of our very existence and forget that it involves two people, who, no matter how hard they try, will never be carbon copies of each other.
Their expectations will clash and so will their energies. When that happens, life will find ways of helping each person survive. Their mechanisms to find meaning in chaos will range from helpless clinging to downright neglect of the other person’s neediness.
None of them is wrong or right, but the best way to make sense of this chaos is to depend on oneself. Gilbert undertakes a life-changing and awakening journey across the globe and finds that good health, spirituality and oneness with oneself are prerequisites for a wholesome life and before you embark on a journey with a partner.
What Gilbert understood about life is what I am trying to inculcate within myself for the past few months. Her character or her personality resonates with me because of our similar experiences and also because of our stubborn ideas of giving despite having a vessel within, that is mostly empty.
I think this pretty much sums up my love for this person who acts as an alter ego to mine-
“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
The experience and idea behind this article belong to the “older and wiser “graduate Tanya Talwar.