Eat, Pray, Love – Think, Talk?

By Janey Womeldorf

Eat, Pray, Love – Think, Talk?

It took just one sentence of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat, Pray, Love, to stop me in my tracks. The words leapt off the page at me, and I felt my whole body sag.

“No, no, not now,” I pleaded to myself, “all I want to do right now is not think.” I was desperate for mental “quiet time” and had come to my favorite bookstore for a decadent, lazy afternoon of nothing but me, myself and I. Mental silence is a rarity for me because I am never not thinking; the chatter inside my head is constant. I believe my brain only sleeps when I do, and even then it’s really just on hold. The rest of the time, it analyzes, makes lists, ponders and talks to me. In fact, conversations with myself have become such a normal part of my day that I find it hard to make decisions anymore without discussing it with myself first. In public, my brain and I carry out these conversations privately inside my head; at home though, I just chat away. Some people call it talking to yourself; I call it thinking out loud. At times, I wish I could turn my brain off. This, of course, will never happen, so instead, I seek mental quiet time in bookstores.

I spied the perfect, secluded, comfy chair, marked my spot with my stash of magazine brain-fluff, and trotted over to the café for my indulgent drink of choice. Any book with “eat” in the title has instant appeal, so along with my stack of magazines, I had also picked up Eat, Pray, Love, a previous Oprah favorite now on the best-seller list. I sank into my inviting, oversized chair, sipped the creamy foam off my chocolate-sprinkled cappuccino, and two cooking magazines later turned to chapter one.

I heard myself exhale one of those audible, whole-body sighs; even my heartbeat felt slower. My brain was still, and it felt cathartic and delicious; sadly, it would not last long. Elizabeth Gilbert’s book is a journey of her self-discovery and in chapter nine, she mentions a great philosopher who would have his students write down the three things they most wanted in life. It jarred me upright, and I took a deep, sharp breath before repeating the words to myself, “The three most important things in my life.” I presumed her three things turned out to be eat, pray, love – hence the title – and knew instantly my mental slumber was doomed. My philosophical mind thrives on this type of question, and the sudden need to determine my own three things hijacked my idling brain. My lethargic body screamed, “Ignore it, ignore it,” but it was useless; my brain was back open for business, unleashing with it unwanted thoughts of dinner, laundry and to-do lists. With my concentration shattered, I closed the book, breathed the other type of sigh, gathered my belongings and cursed Elizabeth for crashing my party. I shuffled out of the store mumbling, “Three things,” like a mantra.

To the untrained ear, talking, or as I prefer to say, thinking out loud sounds like a real conversation. It took my husband years before he realized that when I stand in the kitchen, hand on my chin, staring blankly at the contents of the well-stocked but uninspiring pantry asking out loud, “What shall I do for dinner tonight?” that I wasn’t talking to him. In the beginning, he would answer:

“What about that one creamy pasta dish?”

My response was always the same, “No, not in the mood for that.”

It was such a shame – I was never in the mood for any of his suggestions, so he gave up trying. I endeavor to remember this when I accuse him of leaving dinner ideas up to me night after night.

My husband’s the opposite of me; he’s an internal thinker who contemplates everything in his head first. It gives me mental constipation just thinking about it. He once asked me if I am ever “not thinking.” My immediate response was, “What must that be like?” I have the same response whenever someone tells me they don’t drink coffee.

Back at the house, the laundry, mail and the looming dinner that I still don’t have figured out distract my thoughts.

“Where’s the other sock?” I moan. Seconds later, “Found it.” I shut the dryer door and walk past the kitchen en route to the bedroom. “What about that chicken-rice dish?” I ask the stove. “No, had that the other night,” I reply. I reach the bedroom and out of nowhere three words ground me. “Travel, love, health,” my inner voice yells. As if it were perfectly normal to be standing in the middle of the bedroom, fixed to the spot, holding my laundry basket, I grin and shriek to no-one, “Yes, that’s it – travel, love, health.” The surge of excitement gets me moving again, but my brain is not finished.

“Is your answer in order of priority, because if it is, shouldn’t travel come last?” I tut, desperate to ignore the question and figure out the more pressing what-to-do-for-dinner issue. I return to the kitchen and stare blankly into the pantry before blurting, “Creamy pasta dish.” I sigh with relief, the dinner-dilemma saga solved for yet another day. Instantly, my brain defaults to my three-things dilemma, and I repeat again, “Travel, love, health.” The words wash a reassuring calm over me and I smile, comforted by how it feels.

Rather than curse Elizabeth, I now want to thank her. She inspired me to take time out of my merry-go-round and concern myself with things more important than creamy pasta and socks. In doing so, I smelled the roses, and gained a priceless reminder of what’s important in life.

As for their order, well that’s another conversation.

One I daresay, I shall have with myself.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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