I just finished this book and saw the movie with my friend Jill. I loved the "eat" part, was a little bored with the "pray" part, put it down, saw the movie, and because I have this need to finish books, even when I know how they end, went back to finish the "love" part.
But there was a specific passage that I read over and over again. If it had been my book, I would have highlighted it. Since it wasn't, I kept a post-it flag on that page. And even after, I had put the book down and moved on to another, it stayed on my night stand, and I would read and re-read it.
And then I saw this same passage posted on another blog, from another woman who has struggled with fertility. And I realized, truly, how universal this feeling is, how completely crippling not being able to conform to the rules that society makes us as women.
I have failed not only in the sense that I didn't meet the Prince Charming and buy the house with the white picket fence, but also in the sense that my body failed me not once, not twice, but 13 times as I tried to conceive. I have felt this way countless times -- at family events and holidays. I have failed.
It’s the emotional recoil that kills you, the shock of stepping off the track of a conventional lifestyle….To create a family with a spouse is one of the most fundamental ways a person can find continuity and meaning in American (or any) society.
I rediscover this truth every time I go to a big reunion of my mother’s family and I see how everyone is held so reassuringly in their positions. First you are a child, then you are a teenager, then you are a young married person, then you are a parent, then you are retired, then you are a grandparent—AT EVERY STAGE YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, you know what your duty is and you know where to sit at the reunion.
You sit with the other children, or teenagers, or young parents, or retirees. Until at last you are sitting with the 90 year olds in the shade, watching over your progeny with satisfaction. WHO ARE YOU? No problem—you’re the person who created all this. How many people have I heard claim their children as the greatest accomplishment and comfort of their lives? It’s the thing they can always lean on during a metaphysical crisis or a moment of doubt about their relevancy—If I have done nothing else in this live, then at least I have raised my children well.
But what if, either by choice or by reluctant necessity, you end up not participating in this comforting cycle of family and continuity? What if you step out? Where do you sit at the reunion? How do you mark time’s passage without the fear that you’ve just frittered away your time on earth without being relevant? You’ll need to find another purpose, another measure by which to judge whether or not you have been a successful human being.
--Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love