Girl Talk: Eat Pray Love

Girl Talk: Give a girl a break: Eat Pray Love

As a (recovering) workaholic, perfectionist of Catholic roots, I struggle with guilt. Life's small pleasures have too often passed me by as my mind is sidetracked by a mental list of To Dos (work! blog! clean! exercise! pray! achieve!) and To Do Nots (sleep in! have fun! let yourself go!). So the idea of taking a rainy afternoon off to indulge in a movie is about as comfortable a notion as wearing tight leather pants on a stinking summer day. Enjoyment chafes against my work ethic.

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
The Vine

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


Jess said...

Totally agree! If you can't take some time off and enjoy the little things, what's the point of working so hard??

House in Tillford said...

I watched this just a few days ago and totally related to that scene, we seem to live in a culture where we feel guilty whenever we something we enjoy and seem to define ourselves by what we do rather than who we are

Anonymous said...

House in Tillford,

I would be interested to know what you feel guilty about enjoying?


Scarlett Harris said...

Give yourself a break, girl (with a satchel)!
You work so tirelessly on this blog, not to mention your freelancing gigs and lecturing, you DESERVE to take a break!
I do relate to this dilemma though, as I sometimes struggle with guilt, not internally, but from outside sources, ie. friends, family, co-workers who think my three days off from paid employment a week are three days spent lazing around the house (they're spent blogging, thankyou very much! Albeit, around the house ;)). Or that my budget for magazines is indulgent (I'm sure you'd get that one, too). Or that the amount of time I spend reading and watching and just plain absorbing pop culture is a waste.
But we know, deep down inside, that we work tirelessly on things we're passionate about, and at the end of the day, we deserve to reward ourselves with whatever else we're passionate about. Whether that's attending church, going to the movies or spending the day in bed with a box set and a tub of icecream, that's our perogative.

House in Tillford said...

In reply to anon, I know I personally feel guilt whenever I do something for too long that isn't uni related. And I know I'm not the only student who feels pangs of guilt in the beginning of holidays even though we have nothing to do expect relaxed. Its like its programmed in us, if we do something we enjoy but if it doesn't help us achieve a goal or reach a deadline we feel like we aren't using our time well