Tuesday, April 7, 2009

At home with yourself

Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love explores a much different interpretation of homeland than we have discussed in class.  Gilbert does travel and change her physical homeland three times, but her physical homeland is not the true focus of the novel.  The real journey in Eat, Pray, Love is the journey to feel comfortable in and with your self.  Our bodies and ourselves are our true homes.  We are born into them, and can't truly change them.  What we can do is learn as much as we can about ourselves, because we won't be truly at home until we are at home with ourselves.
This is the kind of journey that Gilbert takes on in her memoir.  She takes herself out of the elements she has known for her whole life--marriage, New York City, a comfortable home--and sets out to find out out what makes her tick.  She literally conducts conversations with herself:  "And here recommences my strangest and most secret conversation.  Here, in this most private notebook, is where I talk to myself" (53).  I think this is one of the most poignant moments in the book so far.  It is Gilbert at her barest and most exposed.  She knows she cannot be happy until she finds answers within herself.  To outsiders, she probably appears crazy, but this might suggest that it is only at our lowest, when we hit our extremes, that we can really learn about ourselves.  We need to accept our flaws, to face them in fact:  "When I get lonely these days, I think:  So be lonely, Liz.  Learn your way around loneliness.  Make a map of it.  Sit with it, for once in your life.  Welcome to the human experience.  But never again use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings" (65).  Gilbert seems to be finding out, as we readers find out with her, that we need to sit with ourselves, flaws and all, and accept ourselves as humans.
Gilbert reveals many aspects of what it means to be human, even in just the first half of her memoir.  The book is in some ways the story of a woman whose life has fallen apart.  Nothing seems to be going right for her, and she has, for lack of better words, a whole lot of issues.  I think that's part of the point.  It is okay to be a mess sometimes and have no idea where or who you want to be:  "What a large number of factors constitute a single human being!  How many layers we operate on, and how very many influences we receive from our minds, our bodies, our histories, our families, our cities, our souls, and our lunches!" (49).  I think Gilbert finds out, and wants us to find out through reading, that it is okay to take time to figure out who you are, and that it is okay to be a human being every once in a while.

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