I just finished another book that I absolutely loved and didn't want to part with. I had seen it in bookstores for months but for some reason had resisted buying it; probably because I had so many other books that were waiting for my attention. I finally gave in when I saw it on a shelf the night before I was suppose to leave for Turkey.
I was planning to spend at least six hours waiting at Newark airport for my flight to Istanbul. Since some unexpected occurrences had completely botched up our summer travel dates, my son had to fly to Miami to catch his transatlantic flight. The lovely suburbs of New Jersey are not known for their convenient mass transportation so we both had to leave for the airport in the same limo at 10.30 in the morning, hence my six hour vigil at Newark Liberty International Airport, for an evening flight. But I decided this would be a perfect opportunity for me to relax and entertain myself with some light shopping and lots of reading. I am never intimated by a long line or annoyed about an extended waiting period as long as I have a decent book with me. Also, the days prior to any of my trips are so frantic and exhausting with packing and organizing that I almost look forward to these types of mishaps to calm down and get some much needed rest. This trip to Turkey required even more organization and planning since I was going to be away for almost six weeks.
My son and I went shopping for some last minute gifts and snacks the night before our trip and that's where I saw 'Eat Pray Love' on the shelf beckoning for me to pick it up. After I read the back of the book, I knew I just had to read it before seeing the movie at the end of the summer. I am so looking forward to this movie and am aware that I am definitely destined to love it. So, I wanted to give Elizabeth Gilbert a chance to take me into her world before I was distracted by watching Julia Roberts traveling to exotic places and falling in love with Javier Bardem; it turned out to be a very very good idea.
When I read a good book, I find myself getting lost within its pages and hate to finish it. I sometimes will prolong the affair by leaving a chapter or two to linger over or reread parts I couldn't get enough of. Sometimes it's just the fascination of the story but with a book like this, about a woman's travels in search of balance and tranquility, it became much more personal and there were times when I wasn't sure if I was reading about my own desires and longings or hers. I have often heard said that good art is suppose to be about self discovery; in 'Eat Pray Love' I found pieces of myself as well as hidden aspirations I didn't even know existed.
As I read about Gilbert learning Italian in Italy, I revisited my own similar dreams from the time I was about thirteen. Although, I wasn't particular about the country, it could've been France or Spain or Italy, I would go willingly to any one of them. It looked like I might be getting my chance when I signed up for a summer program in Paris, when I was in college. Unfortunately, terrorism interfered and the trip was cancelled. I am still hatching up plans to realize this and Gilbert made it seem pretty easy, just rent an apartment, sign up for a class, arm yourself with a couple of names of friends of friends, smile, be open and friendly. It seems the only thing standing in my way is the financing. Her journey into the culinary delights of Italian cooking had me drooling and remembering all the unforgettable meals I enjoyed while I was in that incredible country. When we took our Mediterranean cruise and stopped and ate our way through lovely Italian shores, my husband and I planned to return with our sons as soon as possible - that was four years ago. I still have hopes of realizing this dream in the near future.
Gilbert's experiences in India were fascinating and refreshing. I have not been a very spiritual person and never had the slightest urge to visit an ashram, still, Gilbert's encounters where she was agonizing over meditating and finding that inner peace, connection to divinity, reminded me of my puny efforts at Yoga this past winter in order to find my calm. I was amused when I read about her trying on different personas in order to be a better, more spiritual person. I have always been envious of those lucky individuals who are true believers that seem to radiate an aura of serenity. Even if I can never be a true Yogi, Gilbert made me recognize that I already posses the love and respect for all living things and I need to work on my meditation in order to succeed in calming my spirit.
When she was in Bali, just going through life, day to day, meeting people, connecting with them and absorbing the atmosphere of the landscape, something clicked within me about wanting to have a similar experience myself within the boundaries of my own life. Bali might be the universally accepted epitome of paradise on earth but I know there are places in Turkey that could be substituted in the absence of an opportunity to visit there. Besides, the whole concept of paradise seems to reside more in our state of minds than a particular geography.
Unfortunately in most tales of women taking control of their lives and having defining experiences, a male protagonist seems to play a major negative role. Just because the male protagonist in my life has been there for the past twenty-one years and I have no intention of changing his position does not mean I can not have just as great an adventure as any of these women. So I boarded the plane from Istanbul to Bodrum with new resolve two weeks ago. I would make this family vacation about all that I have been yearning for.
I had already started to transform my life before I came here for the summer. My metamorphosis began about two months ago, after reading Rita Golden Gelman's book, 'Tales of a Female Nomad.' I was mesmerized by her courage in saying 'there has to be more than one way to live life' and going after her dreams. Not only did I start my blog but I announced it to the whole world, well....my family and friends anyway. My habit is out of the closet and I am not writing and emailing my friends secretly anymore. I do not have any prospects for my writing but I am doing it all the same just because it makes me happy.
One of the other things that makes me deliriously happy is to connect with the local community and share experiences and stories with them. I am not so reticent about approaching people anymore, I find myself smiling and talking to anyone I see on the beach, the restaurant or the bazaar. Amazingly, they respond in kind and are very friendly and seem to be perfectly happy to talk to me as well. Today, as I was driving my mother-in-law to her evening stroll, we passed by the beauty salon where we get our nails done and the proprietor and her daughter both waved at us very exuberantly. I was so elated by this show of emotion; we may not have made lifelong friends just yet but we have certainly made headway in making connections.
I am hoping that with the inspiration I have absorbed from these two books and my own determination, this summer will be one to remember and write about. I am living my dream, after-all; we have a house in one of the lovely beach communities by the Aegean where all we have to do is consume mass quantities of the local flavors prepared using the freshest ingredients, create memories to last a life time with our dearest loved ones and spread the love. This may be the beginning chapter of a brand new phase of our lives.