I re-read “Eat, Pray, Love” following a conversation with a girlfriend. This Elizabeth Gilbert memoir swept the world, well the Western world, by storm in 2006 when it was published. I read it then, was rather nonplussed, and shelved the book in my collection.
I had no idea why I was compelled to re-read it but instead of overthinking this, I just did.
Ironically it coincided with me returning to my birthplace for a short holiday. Ironic because I had planned this jaunt fully intending to experience my birthplace through savouring its local foods. It has been some 30 years and I know much has evolved, least of all, me.
Finding pleasure in its cuisine is a way of experiencing the culture of a place.
Elizabeth had written a memoir about her search for meaning after a protracted divorce. Keen to learn more about herself and her world, to do the things she’d always wanted to but had not, Elizabeth set out to Italy, India and Bali. Her search for her purpose for life led her through the gastronomic delights of food to pleasure; through the solitary reflection of the spirit to devotion; through the struggle for balance to contentment and love.
I had done “pray” first. This is unsurprising. My introversion meant I would travel inward before I would venture out and forth. The spiritual journey had taken many turns, some unforeseen, and I had embraced them best that I could. The road was arduous, though not without its little pleasures and blessings. Life I found is rarely just bad or good, it is what one chooses to notice and appreciate. Love comes in many forms and is ever present.
Next, “eat”. Events in recent months inspired a rebellious streak within me, to indulge and prioritise pleasure. I naturally gravitated to food, having grown up in a food-obsessed culture. I do love my foods. Perhaps it is no coincidence (let’s ask the gods?) that an opportunity arose for me to return to Penang, known for its delightful street foods and fusion cuisines.
For two weeks, I sampled new foods, re-visited old favourites and was intrigued by the old made new. It was not just food I was referring to, also relationships to places and people. Nourishment.
And as I feasted and rested, I also experienced a renewed sense of belonging. Difficult to explain but I’ll try – I did not find my old self; I found my new self in the old and familiar. It answered in part questions of “who am I?” and “who should I be?” Fascinating indeed. All is changed, yet nothing changes.
So back from the holiday and resuming the usual duties and responsibilities is an inwardly different me. I will grow into this integrated sense of past and present colliding.
In the meantime, a few lines from “Eat, Pray, Love” which resonate.
I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.
I am a better person when I have less on my plate.
Your treasure–your perfection–is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.
You take whatever works from wherever you can find it, and you keep moving toward the light.