I have a few friends who have heard the sound byte synopsis of my current life situation (mid-30’s [now that I’m 35 I can’t say “early 30’s” anymore, can I? Ugh] life crisis spurning an overseas trip in the hopes of “finding myself” and getting my head clear) and stated, “Your story is exactly like Eat, Pray, Love!” I don’t know why, but that makes me have less than zero desire to read it. Actually, it’s making me feel kind of hostile about the book. Like when I see the cutesy cover written in mustard, prayer beads, and flowers, I want to chuck it across the room. Why this unfounded ire toward a book I’ve never read? Well, partly because I’m a hothead. But otherwise, I suppose it all started when one person went so far as to suggest I should read Eat, Pray, Love…and perhaps that would fix all my problems and I wouldn’t have to end relationships and take this trip and make the necessary changes to live my life on my terms! As if!!!
I also feel like, “Hey! That’s not my story! My story is unique and rare and individual, like a snowflake or a DNA sequence or a Rice Krispie! Except that no one is paying to read it, and I don’t have a book deal or the highly desirable advance royalties, and I’m not being championed by Oprah, and I have a super low budget, and I’ll be living in hostels and on trains and eating on the cheap, and I’m not much of one for traditional prayer, and love is NOT on the agenda. The last thing I need is to mess my head up further with the added distraction of some man!”
There’s also the other factor of ‘who wants to read one’s own story as told by someone else?’ Case in point: I was with someone from age 21 to 28. Let’s call him “C,” as I feel bad using his real name as the story I’m about to tell is my own point of view and not entirely flattering. C and I went through a lot together, an unfathomable amount, actually, culminating in the semi-insane plan to build a 2300-square foot log home on 13 acres in northern Idaho. And I mean build it, as in do every last bit of physical labor ourselves with eighteen hour days and a six-month construction loan. TOTAL NIGHTMARE.
Anyway, we somehow survived this ordeal and got the thing built hours before being foreclosed on (a six month construction loan borders on criminal – especially when considering the two of us did all the work. In hindsight, the bank must have seen us as suckers and were looking forward to taking our $55,000 cash down payment + all of our unpaid labor as a nice, easy uptick in the revenue line that month. Like taking candy from a baby!). Anyway, we got through it and got the thing closed when, lo and behold, the bills started coming in and someone needed to get a job to pay them. Unfortunately for me, C was “tired.” That left me playing the part of the grown up. While I would get up at 5:30 every morning and drive an hour each way to my crappy new job, C made use of that time by taking a nice big dive off the new age deep end.
What is going off the new age deep end, you ask? Well, that’s when you go from being a more or less normal person contributing to society to believing that you’re channeling deceased Native Americans, healing people with crystals, and utilizing astral travel to spy on others…and being upset about what you’ve “seen.” It’s also when your wife comes home from slaving at a terrible job all day (I would literally go in my car and cry during lunch) to find that you’ve spent $500 we don’t have on oil paint and a giant 5’x5’ canvas upon which you’ve painted something that can best be described as a fetus with no skin riding a broomstick. Seriously. C had my old anatomy books out (for some unknown reason I did a full year of anatomy while getting my psychology undergrad) and was using the muscle drawings and the fetus in development photos as guides. Apparently, when you looked at this painting, it would activate ten additional strands of DNA (so twelve total!) which apparently was a good thing on the new planet where he now lived. I also remember that he had a new jab he would throw at me when I seemed incredulous about any of this, which was, “You’re so third plane.” This means that I live in the third dimension – where last time I checked, we all actually live, by the way!!!! – whereas he had ascended to the fifth (and I couldn’t begin to tell you what that meant except that it bore – in my opinion anyway – a fair resemblance to the Christian concept of the Rapture).
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m quite open-minded and I believe there could be parallel universes and aliens and auras and Bigfoot and past lives and shamanic travel and The Loch Ness Monster…I just don’t want to have to check out of reality and abandon every other responsibility of life as a result of entertaining these beliefs.
Anyway, the point of this long story was to say that after all this happened and we got divorced, I was given a book for my birthday (in October). It was by Nick Hornby, the guy who wrote High Fidelity and About a Boy, and I was told by the friend who gave it to me, “It’s exactly like your story!” It’s called How To Be Good, and apparently is about a wife whose husband gets in with a guru and has a personality 180 change with causes a major crisis (breakup?) in the marriage. Although I probably still have the copy, I can honestly say I’ve never read it. All I could think was, “Why do I need to read this story? I lived it.”
Same to you Eat, Pray, Love. You may be the best thing since Care of the Soul, but for now, I’m only interested in my own version of the 30-something midlife crisis travel chronicle!