Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Eating, Praying, Loving, Crying, Learning...

This is a photo of my bed last Thursday - the bed at the Sunset Inn in Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Reading, journaling, filling in some of the blanks in my head, my heart, my stomach, and on the written page.

If it's a good book, if I can put myself in the place of the author or the protagonist, then coming to the end of the book is agony for me. I've taken a break from my fevered tear through Eat, Pray, Love to walk the dog, to cry, to come to terms with the fragility and solidity and joy and sorrow and loneliness and fullness that make up my life. This book is that good. This book is that piercing. This book is that challenging.

To fill these dreadful moments before I finish the book, I went to Elizabeth Gilbert's official website. I read nearly everything there. And I discovered this quote there.

The rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself….then truth will not be withheld from you.”

After making my way through most of this beautiful book, most of her beautiful website, after discovering, copying, and printing out that quote (which I will cut out and glue onto postcards to use as future bookmarks), a self-defeating thought crossed my mind: "I am not that brave. I have never traveled for a year alone to Italy, India, and Indonesia. I am not as brave as she is, and I never will be."

This is an after-dinner photo at the home of one of Antonio's friends -
taken this past January on my most recent truth-seeking journey to Spain.
During that entire meal (eat), I launched silent prayers of gratitude (pray), and marveled that I have known this man, this beautiful, intelligent, faithful, funny, adventurous man (love) for nearly twenty years. On the right is Antonio's hand.

After standing anxiously in that unmoving line of thinking for a minute or two, I realized that indeed I am that brave. I have left behind everything familiar - many times.
To travel in Europe.
To go on business trips (way back when I had "a real job")
To become a teacher and college counselor
To enter into marriage
To become a mother
To become a homeschooling mother
To become a translator at church
To travel alone many times to many places for many reasons -
all life long.
I have been brave all life long.

I have learned to seek clues every step of the way.
Often I have sought truth; always I have found it.
Lately I have tried to accept everyone along the way -
the person who cut me off in traffic,
the exterminator, the plumber,
the boy on the block who rubs me the wrong way,
the pastor whose absolute certainty about everything makes me downright bristly sometimes,
the woman whose criticism of everyone she knows makes me want to never speak to her again,
the friend whose smile lifts my spirits every time I see her,
the one writer friend whose prose seems more like poetry,
and the poet whose verse makes me sing and dance -
every one of them is a teacher sent from God
to home-school me in the subject of life.

But it's the last "if" in the quote that is the highest hurdle to get over:
"If you are prepared - most of all - to face (and forgive)
some very difficult realities about yourself..."

I've concluded that I'm okay with facing the difficulties born, bred, and ingrained in my often selfish, demanding, ungrateful spirit. But forgiving myself? I have forgiven people for lying, infidelity, stealing, abuse, neglect, even acts of violence. But when the time comes to forgive myself for the difficulties I have created in my own life, in my marriage, in my immediate and distant family, in other people's lives, in churches I have attended, in classes I have both taken and taught - not so much. I have created some serious problems for a lot of people, and I have been forgiven by people whose forgiveness I do not deserve. I just cannot extend that courtesy to myself. All this talk about forgiving myself makes me want to change the subject - fast.

Here's the thing: every time I have earnestly left behind what is familiar, and set out on a journey (whether truth seeking or grocery seeking), if I have done so with the mindset that there are lessons to be learned and teachers to be met and tutored by on the way, the truth has not been withheld from me. Not ever.

Eat, pray love.
Cry, learn, teach.
Travel, unravel, recreate.
Forgive, be forgiven.
Accept, embrace, cherish.

Well, the time has come to go finish the book.
I'd better grab some tissues; I think I'm gonna need them.

This is a photo I took in Sevilla last October.
A Bacardi ad that contained a life lesson for me.
I love it: "Don't walk; DANCE! You in?"
Eat, pray, love. You in?
Yes, I'm in. I'm definitely in.
You in?


Shelby said...

You are one of my life teachers. Thank you.

Amy said...


Elizabeth Gilbert (whom I adore) couldn't have penned a more beautiful blog entry! Your thoughts challenge me and my unfinished life!

GailNHB said...

Shelby, Amy, thank you both for your support and kind words on my blog. It seems that we have met online but have always known each other in heart and spirit. The thought that we and our words are teaching, challenging, and emboldening each other along this life's journey is gratifying beyond explanation. Peace to you both this Thursday. Traveling mercies to us all.