I’ll eat, pray, love right here

With apologies and respect to Elizabeth Gilbert….

I am not likely to take a year off from my life. I am not likely to get on a plane, passport in hand, to fly solo into Italy and India and Indonesia, searching for my significance and wholeness.

Most of the western world is aware of Elizabeth Gilbert’s fascinating self-discovering memoir, Eat Pray Love, about her quest for spiritual and emotional wellness through travel, particularly since it’s now a movie starring Julia Roberts. I first read the book when it came out and liked it, particularly drawn to the Italian ideal of “the art of doing nothing” and longing to be able to travel across the world. But on subsequent readings, I found myself reading with new eyes from a new life.

Apparently, enlightenment comes through privilege and overwhelmingly focus on Self. Wholeness comes at a high price: you must leave something (or everything) behind, you must put yourself first, you must travel, you must spend …erm…invest, you must transcend your boring, hum-drum life to achieve something that looks like satisfaction.

But what if the greater sacrifice isn’t leaving your life behind to travel for a year? What if the greater sacrifices – the greater rewards, even – are to be fully present, right where you are, in the messy non-Hollywood of real life? Transcendence by living a spirit-filled life in the daily, by finding the sacred in the mundane isn’t that sexy.


So maybe I don’t eat delicious cheesy concoctions that feel like a religious experience in Rome where someone else does the labour of meal planning, cooking and clean up.

My kitchen is mine – I do the cooking, I do the clean-up, we all do the eating. Together. One night, it might be a fantastic meal and then the next, because I’m tired of washing dishes, we order pizza in or have bacon tomato sandwiches.

It feels just like a religious experience though because here is my family around the table, holding hands, thanking God for our food, eating together. It’s a privilege to have friends and family at our table, to talk about our life, to wash and eat the vegetables my husband grew, to have a wilting sunflower from that garden as my centrepiece brought to me by two grimy and proud children.

I find life and enjoyment in simple food, eaten at my own kitchen table or at noisy Sunday suppers at my mother’s house with a growing houseful of cousins. I found that when I was off travelling, eating at cafes in Poland or fancy restaurants in Washington, I longed only for my mother’s cooking and a life that wasn’t just made up of visits.


Maybe I won’t meditate in India, across from a wise guru, taking hours or days to contemplate my existence and ancient prayers. Maybe I don’t rise at dawn to recite ancient words. Maybe I don’t find spiritual enlightenment in a religion that different than my parents.

But I am just as hungry for God, just as full of longing for depth and spiritual connection. My ancient prayers sound more like “Help” and “Thank you” though. I carve out my time for meditation in the dailyness of my life – early morning moments before everyone wakes up, twenty minutes before bed if I’m not already asleep before my head hits the pillow, prayers at tiny bedtime, here and there and always always always praying. I wouldn’t mind a week or two at a retreat centre or a monastery or an ashram – some days more than others. But instead I’m praying through my real life, using my work as a prayer. And I read Scriptures that I’ve memorised since I was a kid, I roll the familiar words of life under my tongue and through my veins, rubbing them into my heart, finding wisdom and truth like none other.

I find God in simple moments and in the abundance of my life, too. It feels like meditation, it feels like light breaking through and a privilege to teach them to pray, to sing, to laugh, to read. It’s a gift from God, a requirement for mothers, to be easily pleased. And when you are easily pleased, when the small things are a priority and a source of joy, I realise that they are, in fact, big things, the things that were a gift from a generous Giver.


Maybe I won’t find a hot and rich Brazilian man in Indonesia to make my toes curl, who pooh-poohs marriage with me.

Instead I married young, freely using words like ‘soulmate’ and ‘meant to be’ when we were still teenagers. Instead, we’ll celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary this spring, knowing life looks nothing like what we thought it would and thanking God for that. His hands know every inch of me; it’s not so much a chain that binds as it is a thousand threads, a million points of connection, shared memories, cry until you laugh and laugh until you cry moments that holds us and then that something extra, that something that does, in fact, make my toes curl when he kisses me. It’s the mixing and mingling of ourselves and then giving birth together to two beautiful true little people. Only the two of us know everything about the other and, somehow, miracle of miracles, still love all the more. Only the two of us can meet eyes across the room and have an entire conversation by one raised eyebrow.

It’s a privilege to grow old together, to be heading into middle age together, to have grown up together. To be raising babies together and trying to make ends meet. It’s a privilege to lay beside the same man in the same bed every night and know that you love and are loved in return, that you are one.

Maybe I won’t sit on Oprah’s couch discussing my best-seller, giving advice and implying that the lives of mothers are one of unbroken servitude that results in a cracked shell of a woman. Maybe Julia Roberts won’t play me in a movie with a hipster soundtrack (I should be so lucky!). Maybe my journey doesn’t look much like this.

Instead I’ll write sentences here and there on bits of paper, backs of napkins, blank page journals and a small website. I’ll write about piling stones, making an altar of my life, marking time and remembering the places where I met God in my real life. I’ll watch the sun set behind the same pines every night and still marvel.

I’ll get frustrated and tired, confused and sad sometimes. That doesn’t mean I’m doing life wrong. I’ll be happier than I could have ever imagined. I’ll consider it self-indulgent to have an afternoon at the bookstore alone, never mind a year in Bali, and I’ll find my true self in the daily life of living loved and loving those that God has given to me.

We can eat and pray and love, right here, in the life we are living, in the story we are writing off the page, too. We can find wholeness and love, wellness and truth without a single plane ride. We can write a story of big verbs like forgiving and giving and sacrificing and loving and fighting and then the big nouns like family and marriage and intimacy and justice and mercy and faithfulness and joy.

Sarah blogs at Emerging Mummy about the intersections of a spirit-filled life.

9 Responses to I’ll eat, pray, love right here
  1. melissa aka equidae
    September 10, 2010 | 2:34 pm

    Its a wonderful post and one with which i totally agree. I admit I haven’t read the book yet but I had my share of travelling and yes apart for our honeymoon everything else seemed something was missing. Now at home with my son life is much more complete 🙂

  2. Patricia
    September 11, 2010 | 1:22 am

    I can’t comment on the book or the movie because I haven’t bothered to see or read it. Anyone setting out to travel a year to find themselves who already has a book contract about her upcoming adventures under her belt, makes me believe that the book is grossly contrived and in no way an honest representation of a solo extended journey of self……blah no thanks.

  3. suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter}
    September 11, 2010 | 3:52 pm

    sarah, i love this essay and your take on marriage, especially.

    i had mixed feelings reading the book. her story was interesting for sure, but i’d never read a memoir by a less appealing narrator. i’m glad she found herself, but i never found her to be admirable or even likeable.

    to ordinary, outwardly-focused lives lived simply, appreciatively, and well.

  4. Stephanie
    September 14, 2010 | 10:32 am

    This post is better than the book! Thanks! Loved it!!!

  5. Jenny
    September 22, 2010 | 11:40 pm

    I agree with the previous comments…this post IS better than the book. I read the book and watched the movie, and the whole time I did both, I couldn’t help but think, “Can we say ‘selfish’?” Her entire being came across as utterly selfish and self-indulgent.

    I love the way you take an otherwise very ordinary and unassuming life and make it…beautiful. That’s where fulfillment comes from – finding the beauty and the joy in where we are and who we are.

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