Friday, August 13, 2010

I ate, I prayed, I loved . . .

Translating a book from the printed word to the screen is not an easy task. I remember about ten years ago listening to the 10 year old daughter of friend arguing with one of her classmates about the possibility of turning the Harry Potter series into a movie. Her position was that was beyond a bad idea because having "real" images would limit the imagination which is limitless (she was a smarty then, still is. . ). When I learned that a movie was being made of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, I was a bit leery.

This book is close to my soul for a number of reasons, not the least of which that it was what I was reading the weekend my life turned to chaos in 2007. The day Renfrew and I had agreed it was time to pull the escape cord on our marriage, I picked a copy of it up in Chapters. Honestly, I did not handle the separation really well. I have 'quit' a lot of things in my lifetime --> choir, band, Math 30, to name but a few - - but my marriage was the one thing I never envisioned quitting. Even then, I saw our separation as temporary. Give the husband some time to sow the wild oats he didn't get out of his system before we met and then he'd come to his senses.

We met at our marriage counselor's office with the plan being to calmly discuss the way we would disassemble our life. Somewhere between my office and the counselors, I lost 'it'. The only thing I was capable of saying was: "You want this. You deal with it. The Pumpkin is out of school at 3, remember to pick her up."

For the next 48 hours, I hid at my friend's house alternating between laughing, crying and praying. Renfrew had 'helpfully' phoned a number of my friends to tell them we were pulling the plug on our ailing marriage. People I had not spoken to in months were phoning. I talked to some. My dear friend ran interference with others. I was just plain tired - - not unlike Liz Gilbert on the floor of her bathroom sobbing and asking God, politely for help. By Sunday morning, I felt almost human. Almost.

I stopped for breakfast and then headed to my Mom's apartment to break the news to her. She knew our marriage was in trouble, we had talked about Renfrew's disillusionment with marriage and with my anger at his lack of commitment. I had tried to call her but had gotten no answer and assumed she was out at the casino with one of her friends.

As I rounded the last corner to her apartment door, I saw the newspapers. Several days worth stacked in front of the door. I knew before I turned my key in the lock what I would find. My Mom was gone, just as my marriage was. They say timing is everything and this clearly was not how I would have planned such things. Honestly, this type of double whammy is what a Nicholas Sparks' book is made of. . . one of the ones that make even the most devoted romantics roll their eyes.

But there it was. My life. Change was being thrust upon me whether I was ready or not.

The words of Elizabeth Gilbert spoke to my broken heart and banged up spirit. Her journey around the world to find herself and God helped me to see that the only way past the hurt was through it. I set about phoning my siblings -- I am the youngest of six. By evening, we were all sitting around our mother's apartment talking through what would come next. The end of my marriage became an afterthought that week. "My Mom has died and the funeral is Thursday. Oh, and Renfrew and I are separating."

After the dust settled, I looked around and realized I needed to find my way in the world and the universe. Prayer was easy . . . I am a word girl. In fact, God and I have had many, many deep conversations over the past several years. I know when I'm on the right path because almost magically obstacles turn into opportunities. The Universe whispers 'yes' and a sense of peace arrives.

Meditation. . . that is a bit more of a challenge. I borrowed the advice of Liz Gilbert's Richard from Texas to help me sort out my feisty monkey mind. When Liz comments that she argues with herself when she tries to mediate, Richard tells her: "That's just your ego, trying to make sure it stays in charge. This is what your ego does. It keeps you feeling separate, keeps you with a sense of duality, tries to convince you that you're flawed and broken and alone instead of whole." And so, I wrestle my ego and try to ignore my monkey mind as it swings from tree to tree. I have moments of complete surrender, rapidly followed by the tumbling dominoes of whirling thought.

It has been almost three years since that weekend. My life has moved forward and I have found a deeper commitment to myself and to the Divine. I have learned to forgive and to choose love over fear. I have learned to practice forgiveness and kindness in my daily life. Friends observe that I don't get rattled by much anymore.

My Mom, while gone from this world, walks beside me and I feel her presence everyday. I see her in my child as she grows into an independent young woman. I hear her in my own voice -- her words are the wise and patient ones.

God is here too . . . not the patriarchal, anthropomorphic bearded man-god of my childhood sitting in judgment waiting to punish his children. No, the God that fills my soul with hope and love is everything and everywhere. I see God in many places: the face of my daughter, the rainbow after a summer storm, between the lines of a really good mystery novel, in the worn face of a homeless man. God, as I experience Him, is a cheerleader and champion for His children who lives the message of Corinthians by not keeping track of our wrongs, but rejoicing in the right.

The screen adaptation of Eat, Love, Pray is a visual kaleidoscope. And, while I had my doubts about Julia Roberts ability to morph into Liz Gilbert, she pulls it off. The supporting cast rise to the challenge of the rawness of the material. The 'transitional' boyfriend, David, is just impish and charming enough; and Ketut, the medicine man is beyond perfect. Billy Crudup's besot and confused portrayal of Stephen, the husband Liz leaves is sad and believable. (I used to be a divorce lawyer, trust me when I say I witnessed those type of 'negotiations' a multitude of times over the years.)

It was easy for me to visual the Italy part of her journey. I may not have been there, but the scenic vistas are the stuff of travel brochures. But India, and Bali. The ashram in India came alive and I could almost hear the mosquitoes buzzing around my head. The beauty of the Hindu wedding took me back to another wedding I attended over 20 years ago and, yes, it is as amazing and beautiful as portrayed. Bali was beyond anything I could have imagined on my own, despite Liz Gilbert's rich text.

Yes, it is a wonderful journey. I say pack lightly and tag along. . .

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