Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thoughts On A Tuesday

God never slams a door in your face without opening a box of Girl Scout cookies.--Elizabeth Gilbert.

Recently I finished my second read of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. The first time I read it, over a year ago, it was just one of those "okay" books...I enjoyed it, thought it was a good read, but that was it. This time, re-reading for my book discussion group, I couldn't believe it was the same book...I am obviously in a much different place in my own life, and as such, I found SO much in it, especially in the first two sections, that made me stop and say "Hey...that sounds like ME!!!" So, my plan for today is to share some of those passages, and my own thoughts on them.

Culturally, though not theologically, I'm a Christian. I was born a Protestant of the white Anglo-Saxon persuasion. And while I do love that great teacher of peace who was called Jesus, and while I do reserve the right to ask myself in certain trying situations what indeed He would do, I can't swallow that one fixed rule of Christianity insisting that Christ is the only path to God. Strictly speaking, then, I cannot call myself a Christian. (page 14)

I have had problem with that "rule" for years...since the God of the Christians, Jews, and Muslims is the SAME God, and since people of other religions have many of the same beliefs as Christians, how can anyone say with any sort of absolute certainty that there IS only one way to God. My belief is that He's more concerned with whether or not we come to Him than about how we get there...just sayin'.

In desperate love, we always invent the characters of our partners, demanding that they be what we need of them, and then feeling devastated when they refuse to perform the role we created in the first place. (page 19)

Oh man...how many times have I fallen into THAT trap? Thankfully, I've finally gotten past it, and learned to accept him as he is--which is not to say that we don't still try to help each other reach our full potential and become the best "US" we can be. That's different than trying to turn someone into someone totally different than who they are, though.

It's a kind of emergency life-saving policy, more than anything else. I got started early in life with the pursuit of sexual and romantic pleasure. I barely had an adolescence before I had my first boyfriend, and I have consistently had a boy or a man (or sometimes both) in my life since I was fifteen years old. That was--oh, let's see--about nineteen years ago, now. That's almost two solid decades I have been entwined in some kind of drama with some kind of guy. Each overlapping the next, with never so much as week's breather in between. And I can't help but think that's been something of a liability on my path to maturity.
I disappear into the person I love. I am the permeable membrane. If I love you, you can have everything. You can have my time, my devotion, my ass, my money, my family, my dog, my dog's money, my dog's time--everything. If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else.
I do not relay these facts about myself with pride, but this is how it's always been. (page 65)

For me it started when I was nineteen years old...a full three decades ago. I came to this realization about a year and a half ago, and I've been working on myself a LOT in those 18 months. I feel more comfortable with myself these days, and am now able to give without giving ALL of myself...and I'm enjoying finding out who Teresa really is, as well.

And the question for me now is, What are my choices to be? What do I believe that I deserve in this life? Where can I accept sacrifice, and where can I not? (page 83)

This is pretty much where I am right now. I'm making choices about my life that will make it just a little more about me and less about pleasing everyone else. I'm working out what I think I deserve, instead of listening to the voices from the past that have always told me what I don't deserve...and I'm setting boundaries, so that I don't sacrifice all of ME to other people and their needs/wants.

When you sense a faint potentiality for happiness after such dark times you must grab onto the ankles of that happiness and not let go until it drags you face-first out of the dirt--this is not selfishness, but obligation. You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.
I came to Italy pinched and thin. I did not know yet what I deserved. I still maybe don't fully know what I deserve. But I do know that I have collected myslef of late--through the enjoyment of harmless pleasures--into somebody much more intact. The easiest, most fundamentally human way to say it is that I have put on weight. I exist more now than I did four months ago. I will leave Italy noticeably bigger than when I arrived here. And I will leave with the hope that the expansion of one person--the magnification of one life--is indeed an act of worth in this world. Even if that life, just this one time, happens to be nobody's but my own. (page 115-116)

I LOVE that quote about happiness!!! In the last few months, I've definitely been grabbing onto the ankles of happiness, holding on tight...and yes, it's dragged me out of the dirt. I was in a place for a while where I felt like I'd lived the best part of my life, and that all I had to "look forward to" from here on out was just getting by...that "sorta happy" was all I deserved. Now I know better...I'm HAPPY, and it makes a huge difference in the way I look at life, and the way other people see me. At our family reunion over Labor Day weekend, we were watching a video from 1995, and one of my aunts remarked that I still look the same, just happier. It's great to know that people can see the difference in me. And I can relate to the "putting on weight" by living a fuller, happier life...the stress is lessened, so I've gained weight in the physical sense and no longer look anorexic and sick...and "Teresa," the real me, has more substance and being with every day, so I've gained weight in an emotional and spiritual way as well.

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's 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 they leave. (page 149)

I'd never really thought about it like this before...but to look at it this way, I realize now that I've had several soul mates in my life. They've all helped me to change in some way....some big, some small...and become the person I am today, who is ever closer to the person I want to be. And now, I think I've discovered a "soul MATCH," someone I can be with for the rest of my life, someone who complements me, who I complement, and with whom I can be myself....good, bad and ugly.

You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be. (page 150)

Oh boy, did this resonate with me!!! I've spent way too much time WISHING things could be different, WISHING I could have a better life...when all I really need to do is stand up for myself and MAKE things happen the way they should for me.

There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under my jurisdiction. There are certain lottery tickets I can buy, thereby increasing my odds of finding contentment. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with. I can select what I eat and read and study. I can choose how I'm going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life--whether I will see them as curses or opportunities (and on the occasions when I can't rise to the most optimistic viewpoint, because I'm feeling too damn sorry for myself, I can choose to keep trying to change my outlook). I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts. (page 177)

And this paragraph sums up, rather succinctly, where I am at this point in my life. I'm still a work in progress, but the goal is to stop trying to please other people with the decisions I make...to make decisions that make ME happy, that bring me closer to the life I've always imagined was right for ME. It's a one day at a time struggle, but the good news is that it becomes less of a struggle every day!!!

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