Girl Talk: Give a girl a break: Eat Pray Love
But I did yesterday. Because I've tapped into this newfangled concept called A BREAK, or, more particularly, giving myself permission to follow my fancy when the opportunity presents itself in order to find that unique, and ultimately productive, balance between work, rest and play (a full-time life of slovenly slackerism is not something I aspire to – I didn't even do that as a uni student – but the temptation to freefall is always there for freelancers).
To partake in frivolous activities, which might inadvertently nourish the soul, is not something Australians are programmed for – we are largely the offspring of convicts and immigrant workers, not the aristocracy. And there's an added layer of anxiety for women: those without children need to work super-hard to forge careers before the baby time bomb goes off, while those with children need to devote all their spare time to their children. So we need permission from the boss to do it; someone to tap us on the shoulder and say, "Hey, you look like shit; how about taking some time off?".
But by this stage, we are usually so overwrought that "time off" equates to slumping in a heap on our beds, rather than doing something to feed our spirits: like walks in the park, visits to a book shop, enjoying a coffee with a girlfriend or a solo trip to the movies. Or else, we are always waiting for the (rainy) day when we finally reach that career/education/financial goal: then we will permit ourselves to let loose... which sometimes never happens.
Which brings me to my favourite scene in Eat Pray Love: the part where Liz and her new BFF Sofi are educated in the Italian joys of pleasure in a barber shop. "You Americans don't know how to enjoy yourselves." Of course, everyone thinks they know how to live life better than we do. Liz might need to make room in her life for more pleasure, but she's not about to give up on her inbuilt American ambitions.
Just the same, I'm not going to pack my bags, say goodbye to my husband and set off on a round-the-world adventure, but I can build more down-time into my schedule and find enjoyment in daily life. Responsibilities, commitments and ambitions can be managed with a side-serving of romanticism. In fact, the creative muse and productive worker in us all is better served by taking time out before we hit the proverbial wall.
There's a twisted version of Christianity that deems enjoyment sacrilege. While gluttony (over-stuffing one's gob), greed (over-stuffing one's shopping bags) and lust (over-stuffing one's sex life) are often mistaken for enjoyment, Jesus came (and sacrificed himself) so that "they may have and enjoy LIFE, and have it in abundance, to the full, till it overflows" (John 10:10). For those of us who claim to follow Christ, NOT enjoying life – or the comfort and joy that faith assures us – is sacrilege. Why work hard if not to enjoy the occasional fruits of one's labour; the array of treats life presents us?
Like the personal journey that inspired Eat Pray Love, this may itself be an exercise in middle-class Christian narcissism: the atoning for an afternoon off via a blog post (eye roll). Believe me, my interior monologue has already fired off a number of self-flagellating thoughts (I have a PhD in self-punishment). I don't need a guru to alert me to my grandiose aspirations for living a better life. I had a nice time. Now back to the grind...
See other GWAS musings on Eat Pray Love:
ELLE's Eat Pray Love cover coup
Gilbert upstages Oprah; Richard rocks
And Elizabeth Gilbert's talk on nurturing creativity.
And a few select movie reviews (good and bad):
Me Myself I (SBS)
David Stratton's review for At The Movies
The New York Times
Girl With a Satchel