How many of you have been in a complete lather since reading that America’s grown-up, consciously conscious Cinderella, Elizabeth Gilbert, split from the guy who swept her off her feet at the end of Eat Pray Love?
Me? Triggered. Totally and completely triggered.
You know how chimpanzees throw their shit at people in the zoo? That’s what projection is like. Since finding out about her separation, I’ve been throwing a lot of my shit her way.
Let’s start with Eat Pray Love. Just in case you are one of the six people who hasn’t read it, I’ll summarize: Girl finds herself in existential despair. Leaves husband. Finds herself—and a yummy Brazilian lover—after eating her way through Italy, seeing God in India, then seeing God in an entirely different way—and with a different part of her anatomy—in Bali.
Girl gets book contract. Girl and Brazilian hottie marry. Book becomes movie. And as of last year, according to the bible of all things right and true, People Magazine, the marriage is bliss. That’s right. She said this a year ago.
So here we are, all us married folks, thinking here’s a chick that got it right She’s seen God in India. She knows things.
So where’s the trigger? It’s classic “fear of missing out.” We haven’t seen God. We didn’t meet our husbands in Bali. We met our partners on Match, in bars, at AA meetings, waiting for the ATM, or in the next cubicle. We married guys who drive Toyotas. Not lusty Brazilians with multiple orgasm potential.
And that bliss thing? Maybe five minutes a day, when he texts you an emoticon heart or an “I love you.” But then the other 23 hours and 55 minutes is work and laundry and dinner served up with a side of irritation and possibly a laugh or two, then an episode of “Chopped” (because who doesn’t need distraction from police shootings, terrorism and sick relatives and neighbors?), a snuggle and goodnight. And then we do it again, trying harder to be kinder and more authentic than the day before.
Poor Liz. Her fandom has painted her life with fairy dust and unicorn spit (along with plenty of our own monkey shit) that it’s spawned a kind of “Eat Pray Love” syndrome with people masticating and meditating their way around the world in the hope that they’ll see God, score a book contract and find their handsome prince. We’re like, that Liz, she’s got game.
So now they’re done. This blissful, mature, multiply organismic couple are now consciously uncoupling. Well, crikey, that’s triggering, too. Because if she can’t do it—and she’s seen God—can the rest of us?
Gilbert’s announcement about her separation has unleashed the slings and arrows of haters and critics and even the jabs of people like myself who just want to believe that lifetime love is not only possible but also desirable. Though she has put her life out there time and again through her memoirs and social media and Ted Talks, she is also a woman whose marriage is ending, and no matter how that’s going down, it’s got to be excruciating.
My heart goes out to her. But I also want to know why, knowing that it’s none of my business (though Gilbert has actively sought to make her life our business). I want the "why" to be a talisman against separation in my own home, something prosaic like infidelity or a longing on the part of her expat to return home, something easy to identify, instead of something complex and frightening like they felt they couldn’t grow together.
Ultimately what Gilbert’s fans are feeling has nothing to do with her. My longing for certainty isn’t her fault. That I’m busy projecting all kinds of crap onto isn’t her problem. Does she know something I don’t? Does she possess the secrets of love and the keys to the universe? Sure. For her life.
Godspeed to her, I say.
Me? I'm busy cleaning the cage of my own psyche. As confusing as this news is, I know my marriage still has so much life in it. Life and bliss and tsouris and big love. Monkey shit, too. As perfectly imperfect as it is.