By Elizabeth Gilbert, Penguin, February 1, 2007, B000PDYVVG
Elizabeth Gilbert was recently divorced when she wrote this book, and so was I when I read it. Her experiences help me understand what I was going through. It’s also a fun for me to read about Italy, and the food descriptions were awesome. I used to have a wood burning pizza oven in my kitchen so I really relate to her pizza experience. I practice yoga so I connected to the the spiritual chapters as well – despite me being an atheist. There are a lot of quotes here, and I didn’t include all that I found interesting. It was a very enjoyable read.
[k244] And three, of course, is the number representing supreme balance, as anyone who has ever studied either the Holy Trinity or a simple barstool can plainly see.
[k344] “Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.”
[k1280] Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that’s not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment.
[k1286] Americans don’t really know how to do nothing.
[k1308] But while the Italians have given me full permission to enjoy myself, I still can’t quite let go. During my first few weeks in Italy, all my Protestant synapses were zinging in distress, looking for a task. I wanted to take on pleasure like a homework assignment, or a giant science fair project. I pondered such questions as, “How is pleasure most efficiently maximized?”
[k1356] But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.
[k1551] I look at the Augusteum, and I think that perhaps my life has not actually been so chaotic, after all. It is merely this world that is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have anticipated. The Augusteum warns me not to get attached to any obsolete ideas about who I am, what I represent, whom I belong to, or what function I may once have intended to serve. Yesterday I might have been a glorious monument to somebody, true enough–but tomorrow I could be a fireworks depository. Even in the Eternal City, says the silent Augusteum, one must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation.
[k1621] Giovanni passed along the name of the place with such seriousness and intensity, I almost felt I was being inducted into a secret society. He pressed the address into the palm of my hand and said, in gravest confidence, “Please go to this pizzeria. Order the margherita pizza with double mozzarella. If you do not eat this pizza when you are in Naples, please lie to me later and tell me that you did.”
So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered–one for each of us–are making us lose our minds. I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return.
[k1630] You need to get there fairly early in the day because sometimes they run out of dough, which will break your heart. By 1:00 PM, the streets outside the pizzeria have become jammed with Neapolitans trying to get into the place, shoving for access like they’re trying to get space on a lifeboat. There’s not a menu. They have only two varieties of pizza here–regular and extra cheese. None of this new age southern California olives-and-sun-dried-tomato wannabe pizza twaddle.
[k2361] And the task at hand in Yoga is to find union–between mind and body, between the individual and her God, between our thoughts and the source of our thoughts, between teacher and student, and even between ourselves and our sometimes hard-to-bend neighbors. In the West, we’ve mainly come to know Yoga through its now-famous pretzel-like exercises for the body, but this is only Hatha Yoga, one limb of the philosophy. The ancients developed these physical stretches not for personal fitness,
[k2373] The Yogic path is about disentangling the built-in glitches of the human condition, which I’m going to over-simply define here as the heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment.
[k2707] “It doesn’t serve you. Your ego’s job isn’t to serve you. Its only job is to keep itself in power. And right now, your ego’s scared to death cuz it’s about to get downsized.
[k2894] “But I wish me and David could–”
He cuts me off. “See, now that’s your problem. You’re wishin’ too much, baby. You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.”
This line gives me the first laugh of the day.
Then I ask Richard, “So how long will it be before all this grieving passes?”
“You want an exact date?”
“Somethin’ you can circle on your calendar?”
“Lemme tell you something, Groceries–you got some serious control issues.”
My rage at this statement consumes me like fire. Control_issues?_ME? I actually consider slapping Richard for this insult. And then, from right down inside the intensity of my offended outrage comes the truth. The immediate, obvious, laughable truth.
He’s totally right.
The fire passes out of me, fast as it came.
“You’re totally right,” I say.
“I know I’m right, baby. Listen, you’re a powerful woman and you’re used to getting what you want out of life, and you didn’t get what you wanted in your last few relationships and it’s got you all jammed up. Your husband didn’t behave the way you wanted him to and David didn’t either. Life didn’t go your way for once. And nothing pisses off a control freak more than life not goin’ her way.”
[k2914] “They_can’t? Honey–Ray Charles could see your control issues!”
“OK, I think I’m done with this conversation now, thank you.”
“You gotta learn how to let go, Groceries. Otherwise you’re gonna make yourself sick. Never gonna have a good night’s sleep again. You’ll just toss and turn forever, beatin’ on yourself for being such a fiasco in life. What’s wrong with me? How come I screw up all my relationships? Why am I such a failure? Lemme guess–that’s probably what you were up at all hours doin’ to yourself again last night.”
“All right, Richard, that’s enough,” I say.
“I don’t want you walking around inside my head anymore.”
“Shut the door, then,” says my big Texas Yogi.
[k2938] This was New England, after all, and the word God tends to make Yankees nervous.
[k3027] I met an old lady once, almost one hundred years old, and she told me, “There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. How much do you love me? And Who’s in charge?” Everything else is somehow manageable.
[k4347] Then he breaks free and laughs, asking, “Why they always look so serious in Yoga? You make serious face like this, you scare away good energy. To meditate, only you must smile. Smile with face, smile with mind, and good energy will come to you and clean away dirty energy.
[k4856] She opened her eyes, grinned and said, “I can tell by your knees that you don’t have much sex lately.”
I said, “Why? Because they’re so close together?”
She laughed. “No–it’s the cartilage. Very dry. Hormones from sex lubricate the joints. How long since sex for you?”
“About a year and a half.”
“You need a good man. I will find one for you.”
[k4880] She says that people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment.
[k5607] Then she added in perfect English (and perfect Balinese logic), “To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life.”