Over this past year, there has been many influences that have changed my life and taught me about change and growth. However, no movie or book touched my heart as much as Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. The moment the movie came on I was captivated by the lead character, Liz, played by the lovely Julia Roberts. A woman who gave up her marriage to seek the unknown desires of her heart. All she knew was that she wasn’t happy and that something had to change. She set her life in ruin, hitting rock bottom, yet listening to her heart and setting out on a truth seeking journey.
That movie was a journey of change of a woman who set out to find enlightenment. It was a beacon of hope to me and showed me that I was not alone. I watched the movie probably over 150 times in the past two years. It inspired me to take the action I needed to take after my own break up and set out on my own truth seeking journey, known in the movie as the Physics of the Quest.
I’ve come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call “The Physics of The Quest” — a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum. And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself… then truth will not be withheld from you.” Or so I’ve come to believe.
After my own break up of my long time romance, something deep inside me knew I needed to embark on my own truth seeking journey and take some time to heal before jumping into another relationship. My life was in complete ruin and after being so closed for so long I decided I needed to change. I decided it was time to face some very hard realities about myself, opened my heart, opened my mind, but most of all open my life to whatever was about to come my way. In the movie Gilbert explains that ruin is a gift, ruin is the road to transformation. I took comfort in this idea that slowly I was being transformed. Two years ago, the transformation started to take place and I began my own journey to find who I was at 25 years old.
I gave myself a milestone to get to which was to travel to Italy. I had always wanted to go to Italy because of the vibrancy , culture, passion, and of course the food. I worked on myself for 9 months before getting on the plane to Rome on my first solo journey. I turned 26 on May 29th and got on the plane on May 30th, touching ground on May 31st for a month adventure through Italy. June 1st was supposed to be the day that I got married to my ex, so instead of being at home feeling bad for myself, I decided I would rather have that day go down in history as the day I spent wandering the sites of Rome. I wandered through the Pantheon, the Forum, Coliseum , and throwing coins in the Trevi Fountain. I spent my vacation feeding not only my body, but my soul. If I wanted to eat something, I would. If I wanted to do something, I did it. I ate and fed my life by giving myself permission to indulge in anything that came my way.
Italy changed my life and set me on many paths and showed me the importance of feeding my soul and body. For 9 years prior to my break up, I was bulimic. Binge eating and throwing up after every meal. I hid my eating disorder from my friends and family. I never experienced intense weight loss as I would indulge in food I craved, eating till overly full, only to throw up and either eat less amounts of the same thing or eat healthier. I had low self esteem, wasn’t happy in my skin, had zero concept about who I was, had poor health, and overall seemed to just be coasting along in life. Although I am not proud of how I lost the weight and kicked my eating disorder to the curb, it is apart of my truth. When I went through the first weeks of the breakup, I experienced such anxiety that I couldn’t eat. I hadn’t been alone with myself in years, I didn’t even know who I was. Within a few weeks I had lost 25 pounds turning my 135lbs figure into 110lbs. For years I had dreamed of losing the weight and now it was just falling off. Although, I do not recommend this weight loss method, I decided to take this as a blessing in disguise and work on myself.
I learned that in order to make changes in your life you must grow your four pillars on a constant basis. The four pillars are mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. So I started to feed my four pillars. I fixed limitations through surgery to repair a labral tear to my hip I avoided for two years, enrolled in a gym, and started yoga. I fed my body and never dieted. I refused to give anymore energy into worrying about my body image. Instead, I focused on building my confidence and my value. I learned a healthy respect for myself and put my energy into building strength, flexibility and my mind. I worked to change my thought patterns to be a more positive way of thinking and showing gratitude towards the blessings in my life. I started to feed my soul by engaging in activities that made me feel good, and stopped wasting time on people or things that made me feel bad.
Before long my way of thinking infected my whole life for the better. I started to notice the people and the activities that made my life feel full and abundant. I started to understand that it is just as important to nourish the body as it is to feed the soul. Finding the balance and refocusing my energy took a lot of time, and there were many stumbling blocks, but overall I kept moving forward little by little each day. Slowly, I was able to not only regain my appreciation for food but also for my life. Maintaining and feeding my life to obtain a high level of self-love and awareness that at times can become so full that it overflows and I am able share with others along the way.
Over the past two years my walk of faith has not always been easy. For years leading up to my breakup I questioned whether I actually believed in God or not. I was raised in a Catholic School and was always told I had to be a believer, yet truly inside I did not feel the connection. So, when I learned about growing myself spiritually, it was a hard concept for me to grasp. However, I do believe that God shows himself to us in our hardest moments, however we have to be open to him. I was shown through many examples that bad things can happen but if you surrender control, everything will work out for the best. It will get taken care of either by the right person finding you at the right time or something appears just as you need it. Before I learned this, I was at a point of desperation as to why my life had gone in such a way. I remember getting on my knees daily and just asking the Universe for help, declaring that I had no idea what was coming my way but to help me get through it.
The universe always delivers if you are willing to take the action. I started my spiritual path through learning about the Universe. I saw a Shaman, learned to meditate, watched the movie The Secret, adapted an attitude of positivity, saw a Tarot Reader, and started to pray. However, I never prayed to God, I prayed to the Universe. You see, when you deny God in your life for so long accepting him in your life can be scary. Entering into a relationship with God is more than a name, it’s a connection and a relationship that must be maintained. Slowly my connection developed through being comfortable with the Universe and opening my heart to the idea that there was something bigger than myself in this life with me. Understanding and letting go of the idea that I had it all figured out. Sometimes our life does not go the way we plan, but just how it is meant to go. God can dream a bigger picture for me than I can, leaving me with the task of asking, listening, and taking action when called too.
I started to attend church before I left for Italy. It was a small start up church where my friends attended. My walk with religion has not always been easy, but it has changed my life. I was able to feel comforted by calling the higher power in my life God. Once I put my faith in something bigger than myself, I truly started to change and grow rapidly in my walk of faith. In the movie, Liz sits in an ashram and explains her revelation that God dwells within me as me. In my experience, God waited until I was ready for him to enter. In her book Gilbert wrote there’s a crack (or cracks) in everyone…that’s how the light of God gets in. In my relationship with God he has showed me mercy, showed me forgiveness, and blessed me with a second chance. I believe in God, I believe that everything happens for a reason, I believe life is what you make of it, and I believe in loving your neighbour like you love yourself. I am still learning to walk in faith and I have a long way and a lot of discoveries to go. However, for the first time I know I am not walking this life alone.
As I said before, Italy was always a milestone in this journey for me. I decided that when I came home from Italy that I would open my heart to the idea of dating again. I had to be careful in order to make sure I did not get back into a relationship for the wrong reasons. Love is an act of vulnerability and is unnerving at best. It would have been easy for me to jump into a relationship and bury myself into a man, disapearing completely. However, deep inside I knew that hiding away in another relationship would only be a temporary solution and that I would have to deal with myself at one point or another.
So, I decided to give myself time to be alone. Of course, at the time I hoped that my ex fiancé would come back to me and life would just resume as if nothing happened. However, months went by and I had to swallow the hard fact that my ex had moved on and that the man I declared was the love of my life, truly wasn’t. I had a broken heart and for the heart that I wore on my sleeve, I couldn’t hide the pain. I took comfort in the words that Ketut speaks to Philipe when he says this is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.
I decided that I would set myself a goal to start dating when I got back from Italy. I wanted to go and explore somewhere different and truly see the different types of men that were out there. I met many wonderful men in Italy that added such value to my trip. Beautiful men from all over the world that showed me that chivalry was certainly not dead. None of those men became lovers, just wonderful lessons in the quality of men that truly do exist.
When I landed back home, I truly opened my heart up to the idea of love again. I had no intentions of broadcasting my availability, but just put it out to the Universe that I was ready. Within one week of arriving home my heart was captured. Stephen had sent me a request through Facebook to become friends and with one look of his picture, I was hooked. Before long I met the man that would steal my heart and teach me that I could love again. However, this is not a traditional love story with a known forever after. Stephen came into my life with a keystroke and it was a romance of passion, lust, laughter, pain, healing, and learning. In moments it taught me my strengths and also my weaknesses. Stephen was never my boyfriend, although I tried to be his girlfriend many times. However, nothing I seemed to do would allow me to break down his walls. Yet there was always something between us, a bond that tied us together, a sexual attraction that bound us to one another, and a comfort level that allowed us to open up to one another on a deeper level. I questioned the idea of him being my soulmate, however not the forever after type, but the soulmate as Gilbert describes as the following in her novel;
People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master…
Stephen taught me more about myself than I ever anticipated. At times during the relationship I had to check in with my emotions and as Gilbert wrote I had to stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be. The truth is, no matter how on and off again the relationship was and how toxic it became to my soul, I credit Stephen for a lot of my transformation as a woman. I loved my ex fiancé, but not in the way I have loved Stephen. No other guy came close to the chemical and physical reactions that he set off in my soul. Many times I would lose myself in the love affair and couldn’t keep my balance. However, Gilbert wrote that to lose balance for love is part of living a balanced life. I was in love and the reality was that it was not how I had pictured falling in love again. I thought after Italy that all my broken pieces would be put back together and my prince would come and we would ride off in the sunset together. The idea was in my head and my prince was Stephen. However, an understanding came to me when Gilbert wrote;
I have a history of making decisions very quickly about men. I have always fallen in love fast and without measuring risks. I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential. I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness. Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism.
This past year with Stephen taught me a lot about patience, forgiveness, understanding my value, my confidence, my sexuality, and letting go. Although our story is not over, it is parting ways as I set off on another journey across the globe. I had stayed in a world of hope that Stephen and I would become more, however slowly I have had to let go. My life was calling for me to travel and his life was taking him in his own direction. Regardless of what the future holds I will still always love and be thankful for him. I see something beautiful in his soul and how it connected with mine. I am not naïve to know that it was unhealthy at moments, however I am grateful that the lessons I learned came from walking this path with him. No matter how my story ends with Stephen, I take comfort in knowing that I gave him all I had in me to give. I love him with every part of my soul. I was open and honest about my feelings and I did all I could do. As I leave I set him free because love does not bind, it liberates. In the end, you cannot make someone love you and you shouldn’t have to. Sometimes, as love as shown me this past year, you have to let go to allow for the journey to continue and have faith that everything is happening for a reason.
The Journey Continues…
As I embark on the next chapter of my life, a part of me wonders if my life will continue to replicate Eat Pray Love. However, as I leave for Southeast Asia I take comfort in the lesson that two years ago I would have never dreamed this life for myself. The wisdom and teachings that comfort my soul today are setting me on the right course for tomorrow. I dedicate my life to continuing to growing my four pillars and living an honest life. Take risks, listen to your heart, eliminate the what if’s, and just be happy. In the end, Gilbert wrote;
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 own 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.
Thank you for reading and I look forward to revealing my journey as it reveals itself to me.