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Eat, Fragments, Shrapnel: What I learned in 352 pages

This week’s blog post is brought to you by Elizabeth Gilbert. The Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert… not some other random Liz Gilbert I met on the street or while commuting to work. But it might as well have been some random stranger… because Elizabeth Gilbert has been stalking me and taunting me.. daring me to read her book.

When Eat, Pray, Love first came out I thought the idea of finding yourself by going to India and eating a lot was a great idea. It has always been my dream to be a travel writer and I’ve been jealous of Anthony Bourdain the first moment I watched No Reservations. Lizzie’s gig sounded like a great idea but when the book became a run-away best seller and movie I didn’t want anything to do with it. I’m one of those weirdos who ignores best sellers and pop music and prefers to dig deep and turn over rocks to find the truly interesting gems. When I visit a new city, I rarely go on organized tours preferring to find my own way around and stumble on to the interesting back alleys and sights.

Elizabeth Gilbert, for some reason is different. She has always been in my peripheral vision with little blips on my radar no matter how hard I try to ignore her. She gave a thought-provoking interview talking about how her muses give her ideas and what might happen if she ignores them. She then went on to quote Tom Waits, which, in my opinion, is a good thing. I told a friend about the interview and she recommended I watch Lizzie’s talk on Ted.Com. I watched because I was intrigued and everything I’ve watched on that website is wonderful.

So, it was no coincide that I took a trip to the library this weekend to pick up a deep book about Sigmund Freud’s cocaine addiction and Eat, Pray, Love taunted me from the Staff Pick’s shelf. I had just gotten back from a writing group and spent two hours with some truly talented writers. I should have been inspired but I left feeling like a hack. I didn’t eat enough before I went to the group and had difficulties with the writing prompts and didn’t feel like sharing my ramblings. I felt like I had hit bottom so I picked the book off the self and read the dust jacket. It was free and if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t be out $10 or $15 or however much the trade paperback costs so I had nothing to lose.

I took the book home along with a book about Sigmund Freud and inhaled it like a person devoid of oxygen. I wrote down quotes from Rumi and took notes from the book. I haven’t taken notes from a book since college. About the time I read her letter to the Universe, the dam broke and I put the book down and cried. In this letter she unselfishly asked for what she truly wanted and deserved. She signed the letter “with all her heart” and went on to list a cast of characters ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Joan of Arc to Jim Henson who would sign her letter as well.
I’m about to turn 38 in a couple of weeks and the big 4-0 is looming off in the distance. I believe that age is a state of mind and have met some mature 12 year olds and immature 50 year olds. But there’s something about turning 40 in two years that has made me take a mental inventory of my life. I have traveled more than most people I know, I’ve raced in 3 triathlons and lived in exotic locales like Washington, D.C. and Missoula, Montana but something inside of me (the inner critic perhaps?) thinks I should be hitting my stride when I turn 40 instead of spinning my wheels.

I’m not going to say this book changed my life, but it did give me a compass and a direction and told me to start walking. If I really truly want Anthony Bourdain’s job, I know I’m going to have to work hard but with a little more faith in myself and others (Elvis?) I can believe I can reach those goals. Even before I’m 40.


About Anna Alexander

I get ideas. I write things. I sometimes follow through with those ideas. I also run long distances and live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband cat who lets us pay the mortgage on his house.

One response »

  1. ha – can’t judge a book by it’s popular approval. I, too, found her writing and experiences to me motivating. I liked her emotional honesty. Run with it!


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