Last updated on April 27th, 2018 at 11:48 am
Hanging on my bedroom wall is a quote written in felt pen, pinned right in the center of my vision board which reads:
Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your blessings.
And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.
It’s a quote from a section of Elizabeth Gilbert’s wildly popular book, Eat, Pray, Love.
In 2006, I purchase Gilbert’s best-selling book because my 16-year career in mortgage banking is imploding right before my eyes, like a retired Las Vegas casino implosion. I need to assuage my fear of losing everything and becoming a bag lady who hangs out in front of Target with her leashed cat and bags of clothes.
All my adult fears dance in my head screaming:
Ohhhhhh fuc, what will you do next (for a career)? Can you do anything else?
Fear is the absolute worst partner. It lays about your headspace nagging you with your gut-wrenching thoughts while you binge-watch old comforting movies, leaving you with red wine stains on the counter and chocolate-something crumbs in the kitchen sink.
I have to get out of my head.
Desperate to find something besides chocolate to feel better, I embark on a several-mile walk to the nearest shopping center. Nestled in this quaint outdoor spend-your-money shopping space is a small bookstore and coffee shop. Wandering around bookstores warm my heart and gives me hope. I decide to hang out at this one until they insist I leave by vacuuming around me.
In an obscure area towards the back, there is a wooden table stacked with paperback books on sale. From about three feet away, I find myself staring at one particular book cover, contemplating whether or not I want to spend money on a story I’ve heard heaps about without knowing what the real story is.
The idea of a book title beginning with the word, “Eat” (maybe there is chocolate?) fascinates me. It helps that it ends in “Love” too–something I’m bad at receiving when choosing a partner. I won’t discuss the “Pray” part. Ask my mom.
A much wiser me-voice inside my head asserts, “Catherine. Buy the damn book.” Don’t argue with a voice that sounds like an Irish grandmother when you are spending a weekend afternoon loitering in a bookstore, where the salespeople would like you to leave so they can close and enjoy the leisurely life they’ve managed to create for their time off. Have some self-respect, Red.
I buy the book.
My son is with his father for the weekend. It’s a brisk walk back home–pajamas, a blanket on the couch, a box of Kleenex, and a glass of red wine. Trust me. I know how to devour a book. I turn on a bit of light jazz. Self-pity feels excellent with jazz. At 3:00 a.m. I’m still on my couch reading Eat, Pray, Love, and contemplating finishing the entire book in one sitting. I haven’t touched my wine in hours, and for the first time in days, I don’t feel melancholy. In fact, I enjoy the sound of my laughter aloud at Gilbert’s wit and vulnerability.
I do the thing that most women do in such a situation: I take the book to bed, curling myself around its pages like some long lost lover to cuddle as I drift off to sleep dreaming of India. It’s better than dark chocolate.
In the morning as soon as I open my eyes, I roll over to begin reading right where I stopped.
I don’t make coffee. No breakfast.
I remain in my pajamas until I finish the book. It’s now late in the afternoon.
I remember it being late afternoon because the sun was casting a long soft ray of light through the west window of the living room. Upon completing the book, I lay down on the floor under the sun’s rays with my arms spread out wide, and the book closed tightly in my right hand.
I inhale a deep breath,
“I need to get a better fuc*ing life.”
“Here’s a woman who went out and faced her life head-on. She met her limiting wall and scaled it. She did it traveling and eating, traveling and meditating, and traveling and riding bicycles through a rain-forest country. Then she did it again for the whole world to read.”
I tell myself, “Well, she didn’t have responsibilities.” and, “She didn’t have kids.” I continue, “I love raising Brian, and she doesn’t have that.” But truth-be-told–I envy her.
I envy her because, even though she is afraid, she changes her life.
It couldn’t have been easy–even without kids. Even with a book deal.
I continue to lay on the floor for what must have been an hour. The sun moves down behind the fence, while my living room fades into the colors of the sunset. Suddenly, I jump up, throw my Kleenex in the garbage and confirm, “Catherine, whatever it takes–change your life!” A word to the wise here … you have to be very specific when you make bold declarations to the universe. The “great other” may send a hurricane of unanticipated random events into your life you may not be so fond of, then remind your subconscious, “You say you want to change!”
I am precise in my protestation. That night, I create a vision board from the magazines I haven’t read but keep to study article titles and advertising jargon because I want to venture into the world of publishing. I write down my favorite quote from Gilbert’s book and pin it to the center of the board. I develop a list of the 150 goals to accomplish before I die. I enter them in the back of my daily journal. They make up six pages of written intentions.
A funny thing happens.
In the time since I read the book, I’ve completed 12 of the 150 goals thus far–this 8WomenDream website is one of them. To change your life have to stop burying your passions in wine and dark chocolate and go after what you want. It can be scary and sometimes disappointing, but YOU are the only one who can take action to make your dreams come true.
You have only one blessed life. And let me be the first to say–changing is not for the idle.
You may find your change-journey to be challenging and draining, and at times, boring and tedious. You can go on for years before you see tangible results. But if you look carefully at your life while you are working on it, you will notice little, subtle good occurring. One day, you will find yourself smiling for no reason as it suddenly becomes clear to you that you’ve changed the trajectory of your life. If you are like me, you will never again work in mortgage banking.
And there’s no better way to live your life than work on creating a fulfilling one–a happier one. The one you dream about.
Just ask Elizabeth Gilbert.
This story is part of a series of articles I asked each dreamer on 8WomenDream to write about Eat, Pray, Love that caught the attention of ABC News when the anniversary edition of Eat, Pray, Love was released. They called the women of 8WomenDream to ask about our Eat, Pray Love stories.
Here’s the article: How to Eat, Pray, Love … From Home by ABCNews/Good Morning America.
If you like reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert:
Catherine Hughes is the founder, content director and editor-at-large of 8WomenDream. She is passionate about helping women step out of their own way and strike out into a world waiting for their special talents. She’s a published author and a former award-winning mom blogger. Catherine has helped companies both large and small create engaging web content, social media narratives, and unique blogging platforms. She claims to be a redhead, but don’t hold that against her.
Note: Articles by Catherine may contain affiliate links and may be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link.