I recently finished reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert which will go down in my history as one of my favorite books. Not so much because of the story, but because of the way the author writes. I love her style of writing, her raw honesty, her extreme vulnerability and her ability to tell the truth. I once read that an author’s most important job is to tell the truth – to distill a thought or emotion or feeling into a crystal clear statement that everyone on the planet can resonate with. When I look up “truth” in the dictionary, it says “reality”. Not good or bad, just reality.
If you’ve read the book (spoiler alert!), you know that “Eat” chronicles the author’s journey through Italy where, well, she eats. Then she ventures to India where she meditates in an ashram for several months, and finally she falls in “Love” in Bali. Before reading the book, I thought “For sure, I’ll fall in love with the “Pray” section because I’m so introspective” *rolls eyes* But, it was the indulgent “Eat” section that really stole my heart.
Gilbert says that “the appreciation of pleasure can be an anchor of one’s humanity.” Before I had kids, I feel like I indulged in a lot of pleasures. I went to Europe and packed in as much eating and sightseeing as possible in two weeks. While living in New York and DC, I ate at some great restaurants, saw amazing Broadway plays and concerts, shopped at some amazing stores and drank more alcohol than I care to admit. Indulgence was my main goal.
But since having kids, these things seem silly and selfish to me now. Besides the guilt I have from spending money that could otherwise be used for my kids and family goals, I just have too many responsibilities to partake in such pleasures. I go back to my whole Selfish vs. Self Care debate.
Then, today I read about Layla Grace, a 2 year-old little girl who died from a cancer called Neuroblastoma. I have read about things like this on the Internet before, and they have been too hard for me to get through. But today, I read the story of a little girl who was loved and who is no longer in pain.
This is my favorite part of Eat, Pray, Love:
“…when you sense a faint potentiality for happiness after such dark times you must grab onto the ankles of that happiness and not let go until it drags you face-first out of the dirt-this is not selfishness, but obligation. You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.”
Since when did everyone start feeling so GUILTY about everything? Why isn’t it ok to go on vacation without feeling like you don’t deserve it? Why must every pleasure come with a tinge of regret? Layla Grace will never grow old enough to experience the pleasure of watching a sunset in some far away land...or stop in her tracks at the sound of a beautiful song...or smell a beautiful rose. Shouldn’t we take this life and live as much as possible? Don’t be selfish or neglect responsibilities, but when we experience pleasures, really experience them.
Gilbert says “In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted.” This may be a glass half-empty outlook on life, but it still holds true. Beauty and art isn’t bad or good, it’s just real. So easy to understand in a world of gray.
Rest in peace, Layla Grace.
“Sometimes art is the only thing that can triumph over death - and win.” - Unknown