Foreword by Elizabeth Gilbert, A Compilation of Essays
“Despair is a social condition in which you convince yourself that tomorrow is going to be exactly like today. Once you fall into despair, you don’t even try to alter anything in your life, because why bother? You become hypnotized by your own stagnation. You resign yourself to sameness because that’s what you’ve tricked yourself into thinking life is: eternal, soul-crushing sameness. But that is a myth and a lie. The entire story of creation is a story of ongoing change. And the moment you wake up and you realize that you are allowed to change and are allowed to assert agency over the direction you go next…this realization is the end of despair.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Forward
In 2006, Elizabeth Gilbert published her memoir, Eat Pray Love, and it became an international best-seller, and achieved a cult-like following, profoundly changing the lives of men and women of all ages, races, and backgrounds.
This book, Eat Pray Love Made Me Do it, is a compilation of forty-seven essays from super-fans who consider the memoir their saving grace: a call to change their lives of despair and stagnation into ones of hope and action. The essays on these pages tell the stories of women leaving abusers; of people taking charge of mental illnesses or addictions that were ruling their lives; people changing careers (leaving priesthood in one, entering the seminary in another); adult children finally leaving home, and many, many people ending failing marriages with the hope of finding longer-lasting love.
For every fan of Eat Pray Love, their is a reader out there who absolutely hates the book; among them are several of my close friends. Those anti-fans call the Gilbert “selfish”, call her journey “unrealistic” and “unattainable.” However, I feel like perhaps they are missing the point of the memoir: it is an attempt to tell one woman’s story about her very personal transformation…it is not a self-help book meant to tell others to follow her lead. The people who found something of their selves in the pages of her book were not following Gilbert’s example as much as allowing themselves to see the possibilities of greater happiness that might exist for them. Sometimes, in order to lift themselves out of despair a person has to do something that is selfish or unrealistic; something that means they put themselves and their joy above others, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.
I know that I would never accept a diminished life just to keep the peace. We only get one shot at life and I would hate to think that I put off dreams or limited choices out of a sense of decorum or obligation. The people in this compilation do not all leave loved ones to explore the world alone: many of them ask their loved ones to support their transformations and come along with them in order to experience their own! We should all strive to live in a world where we all are encouraged to find our own best lives.