Dear Elizabeth Gilbert,
Some people I know really did not like your book, Eat, Pray, Love. For me, I’ve added it to my list of life changing books.
I’ve read it multiple times but the first was when I was a senior in high school and I felt like I had everything figured out. I was a devout atheist and loved shitting on other people’s religious beliefs because I was a jerk who was ignorant to the intricate beauties of faith. Then I read your book and the section about India sang into my soul. As you wisely tell us, it is unnerving to have someone see you better than you see yourself… but its even more unnerving when the other person is someone you’ve never met and its a book. You left me hungry for a connection with god and I began my search.
Then I read your book when I was leaving the country for the first time. I was en route to Cape Town, South Africa to study for 5 months and I feasted on the Italy section while I flew down the African continent. I lived 5 months in inexplicable pleasure, finding courage in the pages of your book to live completely for myself.
Finally, I read your book last Fall when my dad texted me and told me that my parents were getting a divorce. I too find solace in bathrooms, specifically the shower. If I feel the emotion starting to combust inside my chest… I yearn for the shower. For the bareness and nakedness and the yet the secret solitude and privacy behind a plastic curtain. I could feel the tears coming that day and they blurred my vision as I wrenched the faucet to red. I stood there in the steam staring at a blank tile wall. The water was so hot it was like I was trying to melt the skin off my back and start anew. Soon my knees buckled under the weight of my mind and I was hunched over in the corner of a small shower stall gasping for air. And then the tears came and a sob snuck out and I huddled with matted hair falling all over my forehead. I focused on the shower drops pelting my back. I started tracing my parents divorce in the water streams that trickled down the wall. I followed my hopelessness in the drops that melted down my legs. The pain roared up from my chest and to my throat and came out my mouth in the form of harsh gasps but the tears never came. I wrapped my arms around my knees and looked at the drain in envy wishing I could swirl down the pipes too.
In this moment I talked to God. I begged him, l like I never have before, to take my life. I just wanted to stop this life and start a new one somewhere else, like pressing reset on my old playstation counsel; I would still be the same player but I would be starting a new game fresh.
This time when I read your book, I focused on the beginning and you gave me fresh perspective on divorce. You whispered to my heart from Indonesia and assured me that pleasure and pain and prayer were united and meet somewhere in the middle of my chest.
I started taking yoga in the Spring and one day during the final minutes when we do the relaxation pose and focusing on our diaphragmatic breath, my mind disappeared somewhere. The room was so quiet, I almost opened my eyes to make sure there were still people in the room but I knew this would ruin the stillness that had taken over my body. I didn’t want to move a muscle because I didn’t want to lose this beautiful silence. But the second I started to think about how I didn’t want the silence to go, my brain started rapidly becoming aware of it and I slowly slipped out of the stillness. In that moment though, I felt so whole and complete and not fragmented and angry and I swear, right before I left this solitude, my heart whispered to me that it loved me and that I will and can love and be loved too.
I am still in progress of this transition to finding balance in my life. I listen to myself more and I indulge and I’ve also started searching for god like a man whose head is on fire searches for water. Through this I’ve seen in myself little cracks of unbelievable love shining through. Elizabeth Gilbert, although we have never met and probably never will, the pages of your book saved my life. They gave me strength, they continue to give me confidence, and have inspired me to take my own personal “I” journey to order to find more of myself. While some people did not share this experience or this connection with your writing, it is important to me that you know that I did.