While Elizabeth Gilbert was in Italy, the first of three countries she traveled to, she was asked a question by her Italian friend Guilio. "What's your word?" he asked, after they defined Rome, New York City and Naples' words. Gilbert did not know the answer. I read this and immediately asked myself the same question. What is my word? How do I define myself? If I was asked this question 5 months ago I immediately would have known the answer: LOST. Even now I cannot get through writing this without bursting into tears, because 5 months ago I found myself exactly where Liz Gilbert was when she was lying on her bathroom floor wondering what was going to become of her life. Five months ago I was at the lowest point I have even been, dealing with more in a span of a month than I could ever have imagined, and it shattered me into a million little pieces until I asked myself, "How much more of this can I possibly take?" I was completely and utterly lost, and after reading this book, I find myself wishing I could have had the experiences that Liz had in Italy, India and Indonesia because maybe then I would get back to who I was before.
"Lost" would have been the last word I would have used to describe myself before October of last year. My nickname all through school was "smiles" and I seemed to find pleasure in just about everything in life. So you can imagine how hard it was for me to feel so detached from the person I thought I was. Who was this new emerging being? Why is she so awful and sad and confused and broken? These are questions I asked myself everyday while I cried myself to sleep. And then came the big question, ironically, the question we were asked in class to use as the basis of this blog... What is my purpose? WHY AM I HERE?
This is exactly what Liz Gilbert was asking herself and searched desperately for the answer. She writes in response to Guilio's question, "I don't know the answer, and I suppose what this year of journeying is about. Finding my word." For me, it's about changing mine from LOST to something much more worth while.
When you're at a low point in your life, it is so easy to let you mind give in and to fall apart. I know from experience, and so does Liz Gilbert. But what I love about her memoir is that she tried so hard to fight that battle and to win over her mind and fill it with positive thoughts. Too often I feel that we let negative emotions consume us, but Gilbert tells it to us straight when she says, "You were given life; it is your duty to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight." We cannot waste the life we have been given by only pointing out the things that, pardon the expression, suck. We do that, and we will never find out our true purpose in life.
In the India section of Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert begins to get to the heart of the question, "What is your higher purpose?" She writes, "We have failed to recognize our deeper divine character. We don't realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme Self who is eternally at peace. That supreme Self is our true identity, universal and divine." The unfortunate thing about this statement, I concluded, is that we have absolutely zero clue (at least I don't) on how to understand that supreme Self within us. How do we get there!? I think Liz Gilbert is trying to show us how. Now, we all are not fortunate enough to be able to travel to Italy, India and Indonesia to find that "supreme Self", but I believe we can do our best to find it through the life we live. What is standing in our way? After contemplation, I believe it has come down to this fact: We are so busy with finding what we want in life, that we cannot find what we need. Our wants are constantly blocking us from the most important needs that make us who we are. The things I think we need are family, faith, love, truth, etc. But our wants, like money, a good job, a house, etc. keep us from seeing the non-material items that make us who we are. Before we know it, we're going to be 60 years old, ready to retire, and we have no idea how we even got there. The time will just slip by and we will never truly have lived. Sure, it will seem like we did because we'll have that high paying job with that Benz in the driveway of our 1 million dollar home, but we may have lost our true self in the process. Now, I am not saying that all of us are going to end up this way. But I think Gilbert is trying to get us to see that our happiness is never measured by the material. Gilbert wants us to take time to "listen" to God to help us find who we truly are.
When I was feeling "lost" last year I had, according to my counselor, "an A+ in Worrying." Thoughts would go through my mind a 100 miles a minute, constantly racing and racing through my head until I had nothing left to do but cry. I wish I had Richard as a friend at that point because he told Elizabeth, "Instead of trying to forcefully take thoughts out of your mind, just you mind something better to play with ... Like pure divine love" (141). I could not agree with Richard more because I feel that, like Gilbert, we tend to let our thoughts take over inside our minds and we have ZERO control over them. And how in the world are you supposed to understand your purpose in life when you have no control over what you are thinking on a daily basis? We need to calm down and manually put in the good thoughts, like love, as Richard suggests.
When Liz Gilbert is in India I feel that she truly begins to find her higher purpose in life. So I have decided that I am going to put myself in my own India and find our my purpose in life, and this is what I have come up with so far: My higher purpose is to help others from becoming lost. More specifically, I am going to become a teacher and a coach (hopefully at the all girl high school I attended) and I am to help those girls find out who they are and keep them from becoming as lost as I was last semester. I want them to live by Elizabeth Gilbert's words that the mind is always telling us, "I'm right here. It's OK. I love you. I will never leave you..." (148). Everyone is going to go through a rough patch, some may be worse than others, but I have come to the realization, with the help of Liz Gilbert, that you have got to LET GO and allow yourself to live beyond the bad experiences. You MUST find your higher purpose. Like I said, mine is going to help others from becoming as lost as I was. My higher purpose is going to be to understand that life is so much more than the material wants and more about the spiritual needs that we should long for each and every day. I want to help as many young women, and eventually maybe a wider variety of people, understand that and realize they have so much to give to this world. My new word: FOUND.