I haven't been posting much lately. What I have been doing is nitpicking myself like crazy over tone and content and, in the process, forgetting why I started this project in the first place. Today I went to see Eat, Love, Pray and, thankfully, was reminded.
Modern life (at least here in L.A.) is a post-apocalyptic, globally warmed, technological ordeal - definitely not nurturing to spiritual equanimity, restful contemplation or, dare I say it, bliss. Add parenting to the mix, and it presents a recipe for rampant mental dis-ease, and a deep, deep cultural appetite for anti-depressants and other mood stabilizers/enhancers.
Admittedly, there are those of us who are blessed enough, through our own determination, inheritances, or luck, to be daily "living the dream." But for those of us stuck managing the crap that passes for daily life in a constant struggle to just get by...the desire for escape can be a pretty constant thing.
In fact, after watching Eat, Pray, Love, my viewing companion, an astute, married, mother of two, asked: "Doesn't everyone want to run away? Like all the time?” Then added indignantly “But you can't just do that! Not with kids."
Which is why I started this particular project. Julie Powell hated her government job and needed some meaning in her life - so she found Julia Child. Divorced and at loose ends, Elizabeth Gilbert found meditation and Bali. But neither of them had to do their thing while simultaneously nursing, changing diapers, scheduling playdates, home schooling and generally caring for a family. By omitting just those particular tasks from their daily to-do lists, in fact, they gave themselves quite a transformational leg up on us equally desperate and spiritually thirsty breeders.
I started surfing as a personal quest. I started surfing because I was going to go even more crazy than I already was if I didn't do...something. I started surfing because I looked at Elizabeth Gilbert with envy but didn’t feel desperate enough to abandon my family. I started surfing because it seemed, and still seems, kind of impossible - just the kind of thing that could prompt a profound spiritual transformation.
I started surfing because I wanted other people to know that just because you’re married and have children, or are imprisoned, or disabled, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have your own spiritual quest right in your own backyard. Elizabeth traveled because she was already a world traveler. Julie - already a cook. Surfing is not a possibility for everyone, but for me…the Pacific Ocean is four miles from my driveway.
Everyone has something.
Life is full of easy excuses for not finding oneself, for not finding bliss. And instead of looking within themselves, a lot of people are conveniently pointing fingers at Elizabeth Gilbert and the impossibility of her journey for the average person. But as Andrew O’Hehir said in his review of the movie for salon.com:
"Eat, Pray, Love" is a minor and superficial summer diversion that offers female viewers not much more than a two-hour escape fantasy, but that's not a crime. The fact that we find it almost impossible to talk seriously about the pervasive emotional or spiritual or psychological yearning that a story like this represents -- that's a bigger problem.”
So I’m here to talk about the yearning - and about the journey: its despair, its highs, its lows. I've been wondering which areas of my life are off limits to this adventure, but I see now that it’s all of the piece. I started surfing because I sensed that there was no area of my life that it wouldn't impact and I think I was right about that.
I started surfing because I thought it would make me instantly mellower and more happy. In that I was wrong. Since surfing, I'm perhaps even more disgruntled than I was before.
But therein lies the tale.