by Elizabeth Gilbert, Penguin, February 1, 2007, B000PDYVVG
Elizabeth Gilbert was recently divorced when she wrote this book, and
so was I when I read it. Her experiences help me understand what I
was going through. It's also a fun for me to read about Italy, and
the food descriptions were awesome. I used to have a wood burning
pizza oven in my kitchen so I really relate to her pizza experience.
I practice yoga so I connected to the the spiritual chapters as well
-- despite me being an atheist. There are a lot of quotes here, and I
didn't include all that I found interesting. It was a very enjoyable
[k244] And three, of course, is the number representing supreme
balance, as anyone who has ever studied either the Holy Trinity or a
simple barstool can plainly see.
[k344] "Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You
really need to be certain it's what you want before you commit."
[k1280] Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to
relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation,
but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. Americans spend billions
to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to
wars, but that's not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment.
[k1286] Americans don't really know how to do nothing.
[k1308] But while the Italians have given me full permission to enjoy
myself, I still can't quite let go. During my first few weeks in
Italy, all my Protestant synapses were zinging in distress, looking
for a task. I wanted to take on pleasure like a homework assignment,
or a giant science fair project. I pondered such questions as, "How is
pleasure most efficiently maximized?"
[k1356] But never again use another person's body or emotions as a
scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.
[k1551] I look at the Augusteum, and I think that perhaps my life has
not actually been so chaotic, after all. It is merely this world that
is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have
anticipated. The Augusteum warns me not to get attached to any
obsolete ideas about who I am, what I represent, whom I belong to, or
what function I may once have intended to serve. Yesterday I might
have been a glorious monument to somebody, true enough--but tomorrow I
could be a fireworks depository. Even in the Eternal City, says the
silent Augusteum, one must always be prepared for riotous and endless
waves of transformation.
[k1621] Giovanni passed along the name of the place with such
seriousness and intensity, I almost felt I was being inducted into a
secret society. He pressed the address into the palm of my hand and
said, in gravest confidence, "Please go to this pizzeria. Order the
margherita pizza with double mozzarella. If you do not eat this pizza
when you are in Naples, please lie to me later and tell me that you
So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies
we have just ordered--one for each of us--are making us lose our
minds. I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe
in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return.
[k1630] You need to get there fairly early in the day because
sometimes they run out of dough, which will break your heart. By 1:00
PM, the streets outside the pizzeria have become jammed with
Neapolitans trying to get into the place, shoving for access like
they're trying to get space on a lifeboat. There's not a menu. They
have only two varieties of pizza here--regular and extra cheese. None
of this new age southern California olives-and-sun-dried-tomato
wannabe pizza twaddle.
[k2361] And the task at hand in Yoga is to find union--between mind
and body, between the individual and her God, between our thoughts and
the source of our thoughts, between teacher and student, and even
between ourselves and our sometimes hard-to-bend neighbors. In the
West, we've mainly come to know Yoga through its now-famous
pretzel-like exercises for the body, but this is only Hatha Yoga, one
limb of the philosophy. The ancients developed these physical
stretches not for personal fitness,
[k2373] The Yogic path is about disentangling the built-in glitches of
the human condition, which I'm going to over-simply define here as the
heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment.
[k2707] "It doesn't serve you. Your ego's job isn't to serve you. Its
only job is to keep itself in power. And right now, your ego's scared
to death cuz it's about to get downsized.
[k2894] "But I wish me and David could--"
He cuts me off. "See, now
that's your problem. You're wishin' too much, baby. You gotta stop
wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be."
This line gives
me the first laugh of the day.
Then I ask Richard, "So how long will
it be before all this grieving passes?"
"You want an exact date?"
"Somethin' you can circle on your calendar?"
tell you something, Groceries--you got some serious control issues."
My rage at this statement consumes me like fire. Control issues? ME?
I actually consider slapping Richard for this insult. And then, from
right down inside the intensity of my offended outrage comes the
The immediate, obvious, laughable truth.
The fire passes out of me, fast as it came.
right," I say.
"I know I'm right, baby. Listen, you're a powerful
woman and you're used to getting what you want out of life, and you
didn't get what you wanted in your last few relationships and it's got
you all jammed up. Your husband didn't behave the way you wanted him
to and David didn't either. Life didn't go your way for once. And
nothing pisses off a control freak more than life not goin' her way."
[k2914] "They can't? Honey--Ray Charles could see your control
"OK, I think I'm done with this conversation now, thank you."
"You gotta learn how to let go, Groceries. Otherwise you're gonna make
yourself sick. Never gonna have a good night's sleep again. You'll
just toss and turn forever, beatin' on yourself for being such a
fiasco in life. What's wrong with me? How come I screw up all my
relationships? Why am I such a failure? Lemme guess--that's probably
what you were up at all hours doin' to yourself again last night."
"All right, Richard, that's enough," I say.
"I don't want you walking
around inside my head anymore."
"Shut the door, then," says my big
[k2938] This was New England, after all, and the word God tends to
make Yankees nervous.
[k3027] I met an old lady once, almost one hundred years old, and she
told me, "There are only two questions that human beings have ever
fought over, all through history. How much do you love me? And Who's
in charge?" Everything else is somehow manageable.
[k4347] Then he breaks free and laughs, asking, "Why they always look
so serious in Yoga? You make serious face like this, you scare away
good energy. To meditate, only you must smile. Smile with face, smile
with mind, and good energy will come to you and clean away dirty
[k4856] She opened her eyes, grinned and said, "I can tell by your
knees that you don't have much sex lately."
I said, "Why? Because
they're so close together?"
She laughed. "No--it's the cartilage. Very
dry. Hormones from sex lubricate the joints. How long since sex for
"About a year and a half."
"You need a good man. I will find one for you."
[k4880] She says that people universally tend to think that happiness
is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like
fine weather if you're fortunate enough. But that's not how happiness
works. 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. If you don't, you will
leak away your innate contentment.
[k5607] Then she added in perfect English (and perfect Balinese
logic), "To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a