Julia Roberts is Not My Guru

I have a basically unread copy of Eat, Pray, Love that I will likely never read at this point especially now that there is a movie version. Reading a book that you can watch is just very not done in my homeland. Americans are practical in their quest of the lowest road that will not make them appear too lazy or uneducated.

I am probably one of only a handful of women in the western world who hasn’t read more than the chapter excerpt of Eat, Pray, Love which appeared in Oprah magazine sometime in early 2006. I bought the book because I wanted to use the O magazine version as a reference on my comps. We had to write a bibliography of all the books or magazine articles we quoted, or that influenced ,the gazillion mini-thesis papers that made up the examination at the end of the masters program I was just finishing in the spring of 2006. Unfortunately, I had reached my limit on the number of magazines I could use and needed books. So I just figured since I liked the chapter, perhaps I could claim to have read the whole book and then do so after the fact, in case I got quizzed on it during our Masters week in July.

As a matter of fact, or point of reference, take your pick, I was working on those comps exactly four years ago. Or I was trying to. My father was having surgery and Mom was freaking out. He had a growth that needed removing that could have been cancer but the doctor didn’t think it was overly likely. I was prevailed upon to come home for Spring Break and … step up? … despite the fact that I had a thesis paper to finish and comps to take.

Big memory of that week, being annoyed that I was stuck taking care of kids, sitting at the hospital with Dad and generally being expected to be strong and serene while Mom and DNOS went about their normal routines for the most part. It was like they didn’t notice that I had really important agenda items on my plate that I couldn’t delegate. Sigh, always the delegatee back then

Anyway, Eat, Pray, Love.

I’d heard about this movie. Investigated the author and novel’s premise a bit more. Decided she was a poser and dismissed it all as self-help garbage.

“Why do people need to travel to exotic locales to find themselves?” I asked Rob on our most recent lunch date. “Your self is inside of you. There is no need to go looking.”

“Well,” he said, ” I’m a little hurt by that statement because it’s kind of what I did after Shelley died and I took my trip down south to revisit places we’d been together and see people we knew.”

Which, to my mind, made what he did different from what Eating Author did. She was running away in hopes that the bad stuff about herself would be sloughed off as she discovered new things or cultivated new things or something like that. Rob was reconnecting with memories – the good ones that get lost sometimes after your spouse dies.

I remember at the time I read that single chapter thinking “wouldn’t it be nice to have such simple problems and be able to shed a whole existence and start fresh with someone else bankrolling you?”   That just wasn’t my reality and never had been. When life needed overhauling, I had to stick around and do it and pay for it myself.

However, in a way, coming to Canada has been my mini-Eat, Pray, Love – minus the pray part or Yoda or getting to hang in India.  Canada? Not India. I have put on weight though. Perhaps I am like Eating more than I care to acknowledge?

Since Rob would rather sledgehammer a toe than go to a theatre to see a chick flick with delusions of enlightenment no less, I will likely only see this if the universe nudges me to pick it up at the bookmobile but since the book hasn’t moved me to crack its spine in fours years, I doubt it.

8 thoughts on “Julia Roberts is Not My Guru

  1. I asked for the book for Christmas while Gavin was ill, because my minister had used excerpts in several sermons, and it was funny and delightful.

    I didn’t pick it up for 2 years because, yeah, she’s got stupid little problems and a luxurious solution, who needs it.

    But when I read it I was surprised. First of all, divorce is a pansy problem compared to loss, but she is truly a train wreck at the beginning. And throughout the book, she’s pretty humble and appreciate of her smallness. And she does acknowledge her luck in receiving the money to make the trip.

    Second of all, it is very funny and I thought she was likeable, even though my fog and pain. Her pain is relatable.

    Third, I don’t think the guru stuff about her is from the book. The book happened to resonate with millions of divorcees and the writing is fairly powerful, maybe in a women’s lit way, but still. She doesn’t set herself up as someone who knows the secrets, and her insights are fairly personal and spiritual. At least, I felt that she was testifying and not preaching. I don’t see how someone could reproduce her internal experience anyway (though I know all these losers have clustered in Bali as if she’s set up shrines… but that’s their own stupidity not her fault.).

    That said, Julia Roberts? Uck. It’s a very interior monologue type of book and I can’t see how it will translate.

    She’s a vivid, honest writer and that’s why it works.

    You needn’t give the book a chance, and I sure won’t see the movie, but that’s my 2 cents from the perspective of someone else who had a “real” life crisis.



  2. I did read the book, because everyone I knew said that they could see me in the author.

    After reading, I find that quite depressing, the author is completely self absorbed, and this book is the number 2 reason I will never leave home to “find” myself. Number 1 being that I am learning way more about being an elightened being just dealing with family.

    When you leave you take all of your baggage with you and the people around you will still reflect all of the negative things you were trying to leave behind in the first place.

    I agree that you do not need to be on your own to find out who you really are. If you are on your own, who is going to call you on all of your bs.

    1. It reminds me of a single line in a very depressing, anti-marriage song by Carly Simon,

      “how do I learn to be me first by myself”

      as if this is the point. For me happiness is when those around me are happy. Not made happy by things, but happy in themselves and whatever I can do to aid this in turn brings me joy.

  3. i got that book mixed up with “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”. Didn’t read either. Never been drawn to ‘self help’ books of any type. like the old joke, “if you need a book, well then it kinda defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?”

    regarding the ‘couple/single’ discussion? as you described, you had plenty of time on your own – and chose a path with a partner when it was right. some, like Rob, seem to find the right partner(s), and don’t need time alone to develop self awareness.

    i can’t speak for everyone, but for me, i’m at a point where i enjoy flying solo. may not be forever, but having been pair-bonded at 19, then family centric from 24 onward, i’m simply enjoying time on my own. not a journey of self discovery. just farting around, while minimizing collateral damage…

  4. I haven’t even read the excerpt, and doubt I’ll ever read the book or see the movie. I’m not a fan of anything that’s targeted at me because it supposedly “appeals to women” – the emotional manipulation feels icky, and I resent the assumption that all women have the same interests and like the same things.

    I don’t think being on your own is a requirement for finding out who you are, but I do think some people get more of their identity from relationships than others. There are people who were married to the same person for 50 years and have no shortage of self-awareness (my grandmother is one of them), and there are people whose lives lose all meaning every time they break up with someone. Somewhere in that latter group, there’s probably a subset that could benefit from some time spent in developing a sense of self, or at least finding some interests that are their own and not their boyfriend’s. But it’s certainly possible to accomplish that without selling all your worldly possessions and moving to India!

  5. You just nailed the two reasons I have staunchly refused to pick up the book:

    “Why do people need to travel to exotic locales to find themselves? … Your self is inside of you. There is no need to go looking.”


    “Wouldn’t it be nice to have such simple problems and be able to shed a whole existence and start fresh with someone else bankrolling you?” That just wasn’t my reality and never had been.

    Sometimes we DO need to get away from our regular environments to see ourselves anew — that’s the whole point of secular vacations and religious retreats. But to simply travel to exotic locations on someone else’s dime? And engage in navel gazing for an extended period of time?

    Not part of my reality either.

    1. You bring up an excellent point that I failed to acknowledge. It is good to be able to step physically away from your reality sometimes to get an “outside” look, but Gilbert never really comes clean about the fact that she sold her quest for self-enlightenment to a publisher before hand and that it wasn’t just some, spur of the life thing.

      There is a line in the film’s promo that just struck me when Roberts’ character complains that “since I was fifteen I have either been someone’s girlfriend or breaking up with someone”. Must be rough, poor baby. To have gone through life always as part of a duo. Aside from the first three years of my marriage to Will and now these last three years with Rob, I have always been on my own and it’s not rocket science to be single. I really loathe the notion that women need to be able to be on their own in order to know who they really are. It’s such a crock of shit. I never knew Shelley (Rob’s late wife) obviously but she had never been “on her own” and yet the sense I get of her was that she knew precisely who she was. Rob has never been on his own either and I have never known anyone so self-actualized. Anyway, I despair of yet another anti-relationship movie or call to women to embrace selfish navel-gazing as a path to enlightenment. It is so me-generation baby boom legacy to their entitled offspring that my stomach bile rises not quite out of my mouth.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.