At times of personal crisis the world seems to shrink until all you can see is your own pain and despair.
That’s where Liz Gilbert was when she decided to spend a year exploring the world – at least exploring Italy, India and Bali. Her story – played beautifully by Julie Roberts in the newly released movie – feels at times narcissistic and shallow.
But her pain is all too evident as she works to forgive herself and find her way to emotional and spiritual balance.
As daughters, wives, mothers and friends most of us can identify with the pain that relationships can cause – pain that can consume our every waking moment. We examine endlessly why the relationship isn’t working. We tell ourselves that it is our own fault – if we weren’t so needy, so demanding, so selfish, the relationship would be fine.
Yesterday my 24 year old daughter received a phone call from her father. Once again, he forgot her birthday. Once again, her face radiated the pain of a relationship that has seen more than its share of frustration and unfulfilled expectations. I listened as she tried her best to make her dad feel better: “It’s OK, really dad. Don’t feel bad. It’s fine.”
After she hung up, we talked a bit about why we so often feel the need to let our men off the hook. I shared with her what I’ve learned over the years. It’s not our job to soothe their feelings of guilt. They screwed up – they should feel bad. When we let them off the hook – “It’s OK – don’t feel bad” – we simply give them permission to hurt us again – and again.
Liz Gilbert clearly needed to work her way through relationship issues that likely went much deeper than disappointment and hurt feelings. She did that by giving herself permission to focus on her own personal growth – and only her growth – for a full year.
I don’t imagine I’ll ever have that luxury, and frankly hope never to have that need, but it’s a great adventure to travel along with her in the sights, sounds, and life lessons shared in Eat, Pray, Love.
Read the book – see the movie.