I’m going to apologise twice in this blog post, firstly at the beginning and then once again at the end. I’m worried I’m going to come across as a pretentious, self assured asshole you see and I feel if I apologise in advance you may be more like to heed my words and think I’m somewhat less of a twat.
What I’d like to discuss is happiness. I watched Eat, Pray, Love a few days ago for the first time. From my understanding it is a story about a woman who is upon her travels meets a medicine man who predicts her future telling her she is going to travel and she will have two marriages, one short and one long. She asks which one she is currently in but the medicine man says he does not know. He then asks her to come back and see him in a year. So she goes home and decides or realises she is unhappy with her life. She divorces her husband and decides to go travelling for a year. Her publisher and friend however suggests therapy but she insists she needs to travel. During her journey she is constantly trying to discover herself or truth or god and also trying to forgive herself for leaving her husband.
I believe I did not enjoy the film for two reasons. Firstly, it overcomplicated the idea of happiness and peace. One should not have to travel to find out who they are, although I very much encourage travel simply because I feel it opens the mind and allows one to discover new cultures and meet different types of people. I also think it can ground you and put things into perspective by revealing that your problems are somewhat insignificant compared to those, say, living in a developing country. However, the lead actress, played by Julia Roberts did not seem to experience this at all. If anything, the more she travelled, the more unsure of herself and of what she wanted, she became. In fact even when she befriends a young Indian girl who is being forced into an arranged marriage, the film does not emphasise how much of a traumatic experience this must be for the teenaged but rather, selfishly, Roberts’ character recalls her own marriage once again focussing on her own problems. Therefore, although I do believe travel can help someone find out more about themselves, this film did not seem to imply that at all! Secondly, the fact that a medicine man at the beginning of the film her future leads into question the old argument of ‘would you still have broken it if I hadn’t said anything’ taken of course from the scene from the Matrix where Neo breaks the vase. In this case, if the medicine man hadn’t told Julia Roberts that she would have two marriages, would she still have been inclined to end hers? Perhaps she would of encountered the same problems in the marriage but may she have perhaps been more prepared to work on them?
I’ll be honest, I don’t think it was a film whose message was intended for someone like me. And by that I don’t only mean someone of my age group, as it clearly marketed more towards a middle aged audience, but also someone with my perspective on life. I feel society over complicates the idea of happiness and peace by suggesting it can only be achieved by flying off somewhere exotic and practicing yoga or kabala or some other spiritual ritual. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against these, in fact I’m sure they do help a lot of people but the one thing that really got to me in that film was that the woman never seemed to have truly discovered herself! Surely happiness and peace starts from within. In order to be happy you have to be happy within yourself no? Is that not a basic concept? I appreciate that this is easier said than done, and I understand that perhaps people undergo these travelling and spiritual expeditions simply to do just that. But in the film she simply meets a man and falls in love and that’s that. Relationships do not equate to loving yourself. I cannot stress that enough! In fact I think it is incredibly selfish and unwise to embark on a relationship if you’re not truly happy within yourself. Perhaps the reason I’m not particularly partial to a lot of romantic comedies is this reoccurring theme; meet a man, fall in love and all your problems will be solved.
Here’s the thing, people are too hard on themselves. They expect so much from others and thus are constantly despondent when they are let down. The problem is that people will let you down, at one point or another, that may sound incredibly pessimistic or cynical but what I’m really trying to say is that surely if you manage to teach yourself to be self sufficient and to be happy in knowing that you are, then you will achieve a sense of accomplishment which will translate into confidence. I’m not saying that achieving this will make you a brilliant judge of character and consequently you will only form relationships with those who have also attainted this level of maturity, but what I am saying is that if you discover they haven’t, you’ll psychologically be in a better position to deal with it! The problem is that if you have a lot of personal demons and then you meet someone who also may not be a particularly well rounded individual, not only is the relationship likely to have a lot of problems but you will also blame yourself for having met that person and having formed a relationship with them in the first place!
I’m not going to sit here and say I have all the answers, I’m not going to say I haven’t made mistakes in fact I’m not even going to tell you that I know exactly what it is I want in life but what I will tell you is that I’m excited by the prospect of living! As corny as that may sound it’s true, I’m constantly being praised by friends for my enthusiasm and positivity. Someone once told me it’s about the choice you make in how to deal with something. Another person told me a situation only has as much power over you as you allow it to. Until today, these are probably among the wisest and most truthful things I have ever been told. If in fact you do only live once and if like myself, you have realised that life is incredibly short, then why not grab every opportunity by the bull horns in an effort to better yourself? Travel and do yoga and study Buddhism and have therapy, try one of them or all of them. Travel whatever road you feel you need to or want to, but not to achieve spiritual enlightenment or happiness, because these will only come after you have learnt to love yourself. Once again, I realise how corny that sounds, but couldn’t it also be true? Finally, I think you should acknowledge that your journey is yours and yours alone to judge. For example, I met up with a friend recently who had started smoking and she felt so ashamed when she told me that she profusely apologised when she did it around me. I kept reassuring her that there was no need to apologise. She informed me that other friends had scorned her for picking up this bad habit. As a friend I suppose it makes sense that you do not want to see those you care about harm themselves but I would be a hypocrite if I told her not to smoke when I drink alcohol which also has harmful side effects, so does the junk food I ingest and the substances I may or may not have smoked at one time. I suppose I could tell her I think she’s picked up smoking as the result of working in an office of smokers; something she admitted to herself and shared with me. I could also tell her the negative side effects. But these are things she already knows. I can only hope that as she made the choice to smoke, she has also acknowledged the consequences and is prepared to deal with them. And if she’s not, as she may not be in any situation, as a friend I shall be there to help her through it. That’s all you can really do. Everyone has to experience things for themselves in order to truly learn from them. Another example would be when a friend told me she’d decided to take a relationship with a friend to the next level. I told her I’d been there. I told her it does not usually end well as it did not for me. But again, I told her it was not my decision to make and she would have to experience it for herself to know what would happen. And afterwards when it did in fact, not end well, I didn’t sit there and say I told you so. I said I’m glad you have now been through it so that you have learnt what it was like. I also said I can’t promise that if you encounter the same situation tomorrow or in 5 years you won’t make the same decision and whilst I may once again offer advice, I will promise that I will always respect that it is your decision to make.
Right so as promised I am going to apologise if I have come across as a self acclaimed spiritually enlightened being in this blog post because I’m not, I’m just someone whose been through a hell of a lot this year and along the way I’ve realised that life is what you make of it.
P.S if you haven’t already done so, please give this a listen. I can’t recommend it enough and I feel it encompasses what I’ve tried to get across in this blog post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmAReOklwNY