Diary of a Marriage: Eat, Pray, Panic

This marriage thing means I’ll never live in an ashram or ride an elephant, right?

A month or two before my wedding, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s ubiquitous memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. Bad decision. (For those of you who live under a rock, it goes something like this: Liz leaves her boring husband and boring life — and tumultuous post-divorce romance — and bravely jaunts across the world on a voyage of self-discovery in Italy, India and Bali. She gorges herself on pasta, lives in an ashram, meditates for an unbearably long time and, ultimately, finds herself. Fast-forward to 2010: They make a movie out of her soul-searching travels; she’s played by Julia Roberts.)

The book sent me into a tailspin of panic: I’d never traveled the world by myself or lived in an ashram or practiced meditation! When was I going to do all of this now? My dad had to talk me off a ledge, consoling me as I sobbed, “But I’ve never ridden an elephant! How am I supposed to get MARRIED?!” Gently prodding, he helped me realize that, let’s be honest, I’d had years to jet off to another country, to live abroad, to find myself, and, until the threat of settling down into normalcy reared its head, I’d really had no interest in any of it. I had to face it: As much as I want to pretend I am like Gilbert, I’m not. I’m a creature of habit, I don’t like change, and the thought of living in an ashram makes me want to throw up. (There! I admitted it!)

Still, sometimes I talk myself into thinking I’m a fearless world traveler, stifled by marriage and wifehood and all the boring stuff that Gilbert left behind. Usually it happens after I’ve met or read about someone who lives a hippie-ish, artist-like life, not fenced in by a 9-to-5 job and a mortgage, moving from city to city on a whim, spending afternoons in Parisian cafes or nights in smoky Amsterdam bars. Then I’ll come home and test J., peppering him with requests that I’m not sure I even really want: “Why don’t we live abroad?” “Let’s backpack through Europe!” “Can’t we spend a month in India?” Then, in true unfair fashion, I resent him for being practical and for patiently reminding me that I hate backpacking.

I guess it’s easier to blame J. for our relatively run-of-the-mill life (in comparison to Gilbert’s globe-trotting, movie-inspiring existence, anyway) than to admit that the life “Eat, Pray, Love” has inspired throngs of women to seek is not what I want. And I’m slowly realizing that that’s okay. Maybe some people will think it’s an uninspired life — we eat frozen dinners instead of Italian feasts, we pray in the teeny church where we got married instead of some trillion-year old temple, and we watch bad reality TV instead of meditating — but, if I’m totally honest with myself, I know deep down that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Plus, I’d rather ride elephants with J. than by myself.

I hear that Gilbert’s recently written another book about marriage. I think I’ll pass.

As a bride-to-be or a new wife, do you ever freak out that you haven’t done everything you wanted to do before you got married? Or at least everything you think you’re supposed to want to do? What brings you back to earth?

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