Sunday, March 9, 2014

Eat, Pray Love: On Being Oneself

Many of you have no doubt already read Elizabeth Gilbert's EAT, PRAY, LOVE, but I'm just getting to it.  I'm in the middle part now, about Gilbert's time at an Indian ashram.  For people who know a lot about Eastern spirituality, it's a bit redundant in the places where she's laying out Eastern philosophy, but the personal parts make it worthwhile.

One of those is where Gilbert describes herself as a social butterfly -- even at the ashram, she admits with dismay.  She determines that she will change, that she will become the quiet one, and everyone will admire her for her steadfastness.  All day long, including while she is scrubbing the floors -- her job since she arrived -- she will not utter a peep.

And, wouldn't you know it, she is almost immediately called to the job assignment office and told that she will have a new job -- hostess for arrivals at the retreats about to be held! 

And life is like that, too, isn't it?  Our ego has some ideal of what we should be, but then life comes along and says, "I don't think so.  Try just being yourself." 

In Thomas Hardy's JUDE THE OBSCURE similarly we have a character who wants to be what he is not.  The whole book is about how Jude thinks he is too smart for his station in life.  He's a snob -- and yet, although he's not likeable and we know he will get his comeuppance, we somehow want him to succeed -- at least I did. 

Although Gilbert is a likeable character and Jude isn't, in both cases we care what happens.  Maybe it's because this characteristic is so universal.  We all want to think we are special and that we deserve more credit than others have given us.  But as a therapist once said to me, "Give yourself credit."  When we really do that, maybe it's not so necessary to try to earn it from others by putting on a suit of clothes that doesn't fit.