I recently heard that Elizabeth Gilbert, the author and protagonist of the wildly popular autobiographical best-seller Eat, Pray, Love, was separating from her husband. The husband who was the culmination of her year-long, emotionally wrenching, soul defining journey described in her book. This separation caused an enormous uproar from the devotees of her writing. "How could this happen?!" they shrieked. "He was her soulmate!" "He's the one she was looking for all along, if THEY can't make it, how can WE?!"
Now first of all let me share that while I did read Eat, Pray, Love, I skipped ahead when I got bored during the "Pray" part, and ultimately skipped to the end after finishing only about 2/3 of the entire tongue searching, mind expanding, heart seeking tome. (I did however, watch the entire movie, of which I thoroughly enjoyed every scene containing the artfully scruffy, earnest faced handsomeness of Javier Bardem.) The book clearly resonated with a lot of people, particularly women, especially after it, and the author became an Oprah-fueled sensation.
About six months after the hoopla, I heard from a close relative that he personally knew of 4 women who left their husbands after reading the book. In all of these cases the husbands were completely blindsided by the wives' sudden revelations of their misery and ultimate departures. Since I don't know these people I'm not saying that they should have stayed in these marriages if they were unhappy and unfulfilled. If this book gave them the courage to finally leave an untenable situation then I completely applaud that.
But I wonder...how many women left their situations because they were lulled into the false hope that they would meet and mutually fall in love with Javier Bardem on a faraway island. How many women threw away their diet regimens (which I am personally in favor of discarding wholeheartedly) only to find that they were not able to miraculously lose the 40 or 50 pounds gained during their "Eat" phase, because they do not share the expedient metabolism of our fair leading lady? It seems that a great number of women who followed strictly in Elizabeth Gilbert's exact footsteps became disillusioned and disappointed when they were not blessed with her same, positive outcomes.
Why did this happen?
Because they were traveling on someone else's journey.
One that was not meant for them.
Other people's journeys can provide insights and inspiration and tools to help you follow your own journey, but your life journey is meant for you alone.
The people you meet, the jobs you have, and the triumphs and disappointments that you experience all make up the life that you learn from and enjoy and inhabit. And while you can most definitely learn and grow from the experiences of other people's lives, they are not yours to live. You cannot compare your marriage to others' because no matter what a couple looks like on the outside, you can never know what's really behind closed doors. Because you SHOULDN'T! Those are private experiences between the partners and however they make their relationship work is up to them. Moreover, you should never try to model your own life based on someone else's opinion, situation, or decisions. You were given a set of circumstances, which lead to your own experiences, which is your own personal life to live! If you are unhappy with a situation, by all means change it, but change it based on what's inside YOUR heart, and YOUR mind, and YOUR soul. Not someone else's, who is on a completely different journey from yours anyway.
I'll admit, when I first heard of Liz Gilbert's separation from Jose Nunes I felt a pang of disappointment. As if Cinderella's prince came to her 12 years later and said, "The slipper ain't enough anymore babe." But that's when I had to remind myself, real live isn't a made up fairy tale. These are real people, going through real life, and what goes on behind their closed doors is their business, not mine. As Elizabeth Gilbert said herself, "This is a story I'm living, not a story I'm telling."
I wish them the best as they figure out the next chapter of their respective journeys. And I wish you the best on whatever chapter of your life you're in right now. I encourage you to follow your own path and make each decision every day on based on what's right for YOU, not on what anyone else says, or does. In short, eat what's best for you, pray what's best for you, and love however is best for you. Always be true to YOU, and you'll see what miraculous things will happen when you do. Better than in any best-selling book about someone else.