While getting ready for dinner the night of my birthday (exactly 10 years ago today), my friend noticed I seemed distracted and asked me what was wrong. I said, “I wonder what Liz is doing tonight, in Italy”. She asked who Liz was and I began to tell her about the book. My friend sweetly reminded me that Liz was probably not in Italy right now and we joked about how gripped I was by her story.
While reading Eat Pray Love something in me shifted. I felt similar to the way Liz did at the brink of her journey, “a sorry busted-up old self” who desperately needed to get back in the driver’s seat of life. I needed to start listening to my inner guidance and make decisions based on what my heart was really longing for.
Liz and I have a lot in common, I thought. First off, we were both named Elizabeth; we both love yoga, and are just about the same age. I also love to write but I’m more of a closet writer, not a professional one. We recently both experienced devastating heartbreak and personal loss, and as a result were on a journey of self-discovery. Liz and I are both seekers and have, as Liz calls it “a tendency toward melancholy”. In fact, my favorite mix tape from college was named The Melancholy Mix. We are curious, creative, independent women who love to travel, and desire to live fully. Liz’s journey inspired me to take a look at what I really wanted, to live more authentically, and ultimately got past my fear and MADE ME DO IT, all of it.
In my early thirties, within a short span of time, I had a long-term relationship end with a broken engagement and then my mother died suddenly. Both were devastating losses in different ways, but proved to me that even though I can’t anticipate every situation life hands me, I do have control over how I respond and move forward. The way Liz described her dealings with depression and loneliness spoke right to me, and I am sure, millions of others. I have always been an optimistic person but at that point I felt as if I was barely breathing, and definitely not living. My ability to see beyond the pain I was drowning in was impossible. Reading Liz’s words gave me the faith that I could also find my own way out and until then it was okay to be lonely and lost and I no longer had to beat myself up over it.
Years prior, desperately seeking something to make me feel whole again, I started practicing yoga. Yoga became a journey of feeling again, of asking myself tough questions like who am I and how do I want to live? I began to accept life and myself fully. Yoga became much more then a practice, it became a way of living life with devotion. I eventually became a yoga instructor and quit my corporate job after 12 years to open a yoga studio. I wanted to share the profound principles of yoga with as many people as possible and I continue to try to inspire others to find the courage to live authentically in the midst of life’s challenges, just like Liz. I frequently quote the gems found on the pages of Eat Pray Love in class and anyone who knows me is aware of my affection for it.
Before my mother passed away, we had started making plans to take a trip to Italy together. She died before we could make that trip happen. Three months after reading Eat Pray Love my friend Sarah asked me if I wanted to co-host a yoga retreat with her. Of course, I said yes! Then days later, I received an email to the general inbox at my yoga studio from the owner of an organic farm in Tuscany who was wondering if I was interested in hosting a retreat at their property. I called Sarah and said that the universe (and my mother) had just sent me an email saying we should go to Italy. And we did. We flew there from New Jersey for a long weekend, rented a car and drove around the Italian countryside to scout out that farm among a few other properties. We did choose a property, 45-minutes north of Rome in the beautiful Sabina Mountains, and hosted our first annual Yoga & Wine in Italy retreat in October 2006. This trip has been an annual event ever since, and year after year I am brought back to Liz’s adventures in Italy, the delight of slowing down and savoring life (and food, wine, and gelato), the beautiful language, and the kindness of the Italian people. The essence of every retreat is the sweet reminder of what Liz describes as Il bel far niente, “the beauty of doing nothing”.
Over the past several years, we have added other locations to our travels, such as Belize, Spain, Panama, Sonoma, Vermont, Honduras, and the near and dear Jersey Shore. These experiences help me stay rooted on my path of trying to experience life fully while providing the opportunities for others to do the same.
During the last ten years I have made many decisions that have helped me define a life for myself. I decided to live part-time in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, over two hours from my work, because I felt like I needed to find a refuge from the craziness of my daily life. I rented a small studio apartment and split my time between New Jersey and my new sanctuary in the mountains. My friends and family thought it was an impulsive decision, especially because I had just opened my third yoga studio, but it proved to be the most nurturing and extraordinary period of my life. While living there, I focused on caring for and connecting with myself. I painted my apartment earthly colors, dove into my yoga and meditation practice, experimented in love, nurtured creative projects, explored nature, began to enjoy being alone, and found space in my days for things I loved. It was during this time that I decided to become a single mother by choice. At the age of 39, after not meeting the right person to spend my life with, I decided to try to have a baby on my own. Unlike Liz, I did have that deep internal desire to have a child and I couldn’t imagine not being a mother in this lifetime. I chose the unconventional path of getting a sperm donor and since I grew up in a traditional, conservative family, this created quite a bit of anxiety for me but I knew I had to follow my heart and try.
For me that included fertility treatments, but also other, more atypical things like yoga, acupuncture, meditation, vision boarding, wearing gemstones, aromatherapy, ingesting herbs, eating lots of pineapple, wearing the color orange to stimulate my second chakra, and of course, praying and making deals with God. After a year of trying to get pregnant and spending every last cent I had, I did get pregnant and was blessed with twins! Two beautiful seven-pound babies! My mother used to say that when I put my mind to something, I always did it BIG, which I think Liz would appreciate. I named my daughter Delilah and my son, Luca. I may joke that he is named after Luca Spaghetti, but really I named him Luca because it means “the bringer of light”. The bravest decision I’ve ever made has reaped the greatest joy.
Eat Pray Love provided the inspiration that I needed to embark on a journey of living in accordance to who I really am and what I really want. To heed that quest, is not easy, it is sometimes and mostly always, excruciating, but is required to truly find happiness. I would say that beyond a doubt, my quest began when I finished reading Eat Pray Love for the first time.
I often think, what if Elizabeth Gilbert never shared her story with the world? Would my life look similar to how it looks today? I don’t have that answer but I do know that the process of getting here would have been much more messy and inundated with fear. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Stay tuned for more information about A Celebration of Devotion: Honoring Eat Pray Love's 10-Year Anniversary at Devotion Yoga on Saturday, April 23rd!
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