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Attraversiamo

My kryptonite is totally "Eat, Pray, Love."  The movie AND the book!  In every way. 

It's the story of a woman who has a crisis of the soul ("mid-life crisis" is too trite and a not quite strong enough a term to describe it), and upends her entire life.  There's a divorce, an identity crisis and a torrid love affair in rapid succession, none of which is good for her and all of which were probably vitally necessary for her personal growth.  So she decides to quit her job and spend time in Italy to learn the language, and then move on to India to live in an ashram and then travel to Bali to find herself spiritually.  The book (and the movie for that matter) is a little too precious at times, too self-aware on the level of "I'm living my own Ya-Ya Sisterhood all by myself!", and yet it's the underlying theme itself that calls to me like I cannot explain. 

anita_margarita, herself a bit of a siren in my life, loaned me the book and said she thought the parts about Italy would appeal to me.  She wasn't kidding, not by half.  I have discovered that even though I can't really relate to the author on practically any level, I understand what she's getting at.  I also discovered that I can only read about two or three pages before I want to set down the book with a scowl, stare at my car keys for a moment and walk out of my office never to return.  I imagine, in vivid detail, the conversation with my boss, the discussion with my family, the talk with Chris, the cashing out of my retirement accounts and then finally placing sheets over all of my furniture in my house, like they do in the movies when the master leaves the manor for an extended period.  

I can imagine all of it.  I imagine my family saying, "Mattie, are you crazy??"  I imagine Chris and Barbara saying, "Go.  Go now.  You may not get another chance.  We'll come find you when you're settled."  Melissa/Cindy/Cathy would say, "Fly, you fool!"  And Miss Expatria already beckons like a ghost from across the pond, whispering "Come.  We have gelato and wine."   

Even watching ten minutes of the Julia Roberts film version of "Eat, Pray, Love" is difficult.  In the book I can only imagine the things I'd be seeing.  In the movie I actually see them.  She stands on a terrace as the sun sets over Rome, in the distance are the green hills north of the Vatican, with a look of trepidation and contentment on her face.  That scene all by itself makes me want to check my account balances and pack a bag.

I don't think for one second that I'm as tragic a figure as that writer (or Julia Roberts even).  I don't imagine that my life is a heavy coat that must be shrugged off and thrown to the floor with a sneer.  I've got many wonderful things in my life here that give it meaning and purpose and value, and lots of people who care about me.  Still...still. 

I want to be able to move to Italy and find a charming dive to live in, with a grocery store nearby where the people recognize me and smirk when I ask for a "cat's ass", when what I really need is some laundry detergent.  I wouldn't mind finding a Marco to take me under his wing like Miss Expatria did, but she hit the lotteria and I suspect the universe isn't so kind as to provide an opportunity like that again.  I want to learn the language and have a favorite kind of pasta and walk the streets with my head held high knowing that even though I'll never be mistaken for an Italian, I will always feel like one on the inside.

Perhaps I'm over-romanticizing it, but I suspect I'm not because I know exactly how badly I would love to do what she's done (minus the Indian ashram or the spiritual center in Bali).  As the author is studying Italian, she learns the word "attraversiamo" which means "let's cross over", like when you cross a street with a friend.  It's a simple concept but loaded with so much meaning, particularly when you're looking for something that means exactly that.  I want to cross over, and the street would actually be the size of a continent plus an ocean, but it still fits. 

I have to stay away from "Eat, Pray, Love" or I am going to end up a cautionary tale for others.  I don't even particularly care for the book or the movie but...ugh!  How does she make me crave changing every single thing in my life?  Perhaps I shouldn't tug too hard on that thread.

I know this post is a little rambling and random, but I just had to figure some way to get these words out of my head so I can get back to being content with my ordinary, beige life in my familiar world.  As long as I can still get away every so often and have a taste of Italy I think I'll be okay.  Probably.

(I know, I know...a hat at dinner.  I wish I could take it back.  But the moment is perfect) 

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
bartok
Nov. 30th, 2011 05:25 am (UTC)
As someone who watched 5 minutes of the movie and then got bored how does she actually support herself in Italy? Prostitution?
supermatt41
Nov. 30th, 2011 02:16 pm (UTC)
She doesn't really say, but I'm able to glean from her writing that she's a woman of means. I'd never marketing as far as she does without resorting to prostitution myself.
spqr_ragazza
Dec. 27th, 2011 04:54 pm (UTC)
The trip was paid for in advance with a book deal from the publisher.
jaiser
Nov. 30th, 2011 01:39 pm (UTC)
Yes. This. I totally get it, Matt. Aside from the fact that I've never been to Italy (gasp!) I could've written this post. Haven't seen the movie yet (I know!) but the book had a very similar impact on me.

I suspect, though (reluctantly dragging myself back to reality) that no matter *where* we are, *there* we are and so is our life. The view may be spectacular, but there is still laundry to do, bills to pay, and the occasional headache. Of course, there is also the view, gelato and wine. Point being, in order for me not become said cautionary tale, I had to look at the journey as a state of mind and not necessarily geography. Some days it works, others not so much.

Either way, excellent post as always.
supermatt41
Nov. 30th, 2011 02:20 pm (UTC)
That's so perfectly put. I think that's exactly what holds me back from leaping off the cliff. If you try to run away from your troubles, you will find them neatly packed in boxes waiting for you at the next destination. I suppose we all want to run away from home some days, but it would be foolish to do so.

But as much as the book and movie irritate me, it's the concept of a "do over" that calls to me. I think I'm probably just one of the lucky ones who found a place where I'd actually like to start over because not everyone does.
jaiser
Dec. 2nd, 2011 01:54 pm (UTC)
Again, spot on, Matt. And I agree: To feel so drawn to a place is a special thing. Enjoy!
rockingthemike
Nov. 30th, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
i saw the movie for the first time a few weeks ago, and largely enjoyed it. haven't read the book, but then that genre of literature really isn't my cup of tea.

i found i related to the protaganist quite a bit, probably because i did a soul-searching trip of my own this past summer. i think you have to be in her shoes before you can truly appreciate the beauty of the movie (and presumably the book).
supermatt41
Nov. 30th, 2011 03:04 pm (UTC)
When you talked about your trip to Australia on your blog I did see some similarities with the book.

Part of why her story hit me so hard was because the last year or so of my life has been pretty challenging and I could, and can, pick up and take off at a moment's notice. It's a strong pull, to be sure, but somehow she manages to put it in a way that appeals to me deeply. My problems are different than hers but are no less intense, you know?
rockingthemike
Nov. 30th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
i definitely think it should be treated as a cautionary tail. i do think that sometimes one does benefit from throwing themselves halfway around the world to experience self-discovery. i don't think that everyone should just up, sell all of their earthly belongings and do it though. moderation is the key. i didn't need a full year and three countries to figure things out. three weeks in australia was enough for me (though, i'm still technically paying it off).
yummydeb
Nov. 30th, 2011 04:09 pm (UTC)
I don't think for one second that I'm as tragic a figure as that writer (or Julia Roberts even).

Tee hee!

I assume you have seen Under A Tuscan Sun? That made me feel the same way. Except how do these people really live, where does the money come from, does one have to divorce a stonkingly rich spouse and get an enormous divorce settlement to do it? That doesn't sound like fun. I know that movies show the romanticized version, and they have happy endings so that audiences don't walk out in anger...

But yeah...

The thing is, for me, being in a new place (but only having to have my ear become accustomed to accents, rather than having to learn a new language), while it is wonderful, it is also incredibly isolating. Yes, you meet lovely people but I think you perhaps meet lovely people more when you're passing through a place, living there for a while and moving on. They become almost mythical figures in the story of your journey. (I don't mean *you* you, I mean the universal 'you', btw.) Upping sticks and moving to a new place permanently, well, I can say from experience that (perhaps depending on the place) making *actual* lovely friends is unbelievably difficult. I suppose not so hard if you play a sport or work somewhere or have children and meet other parents or have a specific interest that you can share with other locals in your new place, but still... Part of it is what age you are, as well, at least I think so.

But maybe this has just been my own experience. It's not super-difficult for me to make friends, I'm not socially awkward (much), but to break into a new place in a different culture is... hard. Three and a half years in, and I still haven't done it, not really.

Have I met wonderful characters? Discovered things about myself? Had great experiences? Yes. But without Sem, I would be utterly lost.

So these intrepid women, fictional or real, who go off and have epiphanies and live on scads of money vaguely obtained somehow who have passionate affairs and are embraced by the locals and see it all come out right in the end, well... perhaps it's a lovely fiction but I'm not so sure the actual realities of daily life and the isolation of knowing no one - and the difficulty of being Other - outweigh the magic.

Having said *that*, I also know that I'm not a do-alone kind of gal. There are, I imagine, plenty of people (probably yourself included!) who could happily uproot all and hie themselves off to a new country/language/culture, make loads of friends, drink wine and eat gelato and charm the socks off the natives, ending up surrounded by the local worthies, all regaling each other with life stories interwoven with laughter and affection bridging cultural gaps and Otherness.

I'm happy if that's what does happen for you one day. In fact, I hope it does! I have no regrets about moving here - that's all down to Sem, though. One day I will be here entirely on my own, and I don't know how I'll handle that. When everyone you know and love (except, in my case, for the one most important to me), is an ocean away in another country, it's not so much that you don't know anyone in your new place, it's that they don't know you. You make acquaintances and maybe even friends, but those who have known you all or most of your life - with all the jokes, memories, and shared experiences - aren't there, and while you will make new experiences and memories with the people in your new place, it is somewhat of a rootless feeling when no one, er, knows your roots.

yummydeb
Nov. 30th, 2011 04:09 pm (UTC)
(How dare LJ cut me short?)
Continued...

I think I am saying all of this very badly. What I think is that moving to a new country is an amazing experience, whether it's a permanent or temporary move. We learn so much being elsewhere, gaining knowledge about our new place but also fresh insights about our home place from the outside looking in, and both perspectives are invaluable. It's fun and exciting and for a long time every day is new, and every experience an adventure. It is, I think, the long haul that can become difficult.

Perhaps utterly worth it in the end, though :-). That all depends on what villa you renovate and what locals embrace you and how deeply you can feel the beauty of the place that surrounds you. For you, personally, I think you would feel the wonders and beauty of your chosen place intensely, with eyes, ears and heart wide open. And mouth, for the gelato :-D.

May it one day be so, if that is your heart's wish. ♥
supermatt41
Dec. 1st, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
THIS. See, your experience is the real world version (plus or minus, but you know what I mean) of this "tale" and it's a fascinating perspective. The cool thing is, even with the challenges and difficulties and disconnects, you're happy with your choice and that's amazing to me.

I'm fairly certain I'm not the kind of person who can rebuild my life in a new place. I know who I am, and I like my security and my safety and I wish I was bold and brave enough to move far away, but I know I'd face some tough times. I think I'm more of a dreamer, but I would love to be able to go there for a short-ish time and TRY things. I don't think I would regret that one little bit. I just know I'm open to the notion of perhaps making a big change at some point, and that's beyond exciting to me.
rockingthemike
Nov. 30th, 2011 04:17 pm (UTC)
That made me feel the same way. Except how do these people really live, where does the money come from, does one have to divorce a stonkingly rich spouse and get an enormous divorce settlement to do it? That doesn't sound like fun. I know that movies show the romanticized version, and they have happy endings so that audiences don't walk out in anger...

it actually wasn't stated in the movie, but the book version of eat. pray. love. explicitly stated that after the divorce was settled (and she had to pay out), she sold off all her possessions, liquidated her assets, and had arranged for some of her writing while away to be sold (mostly stuff she had written while in italy). the money was there, she had it, and even if she didn't, she wouldn't made it work; i know that from personal experience.
yummydeb
Nov. 30th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
That's not really the point I was making in any of what I was saying, but okay.

I read the book long ago and am not making light of the author's leap. I'm saying (in terms of finances, which anyway was a very small part of my comments to Matt about moving to another country) that Hollywood romanticizes things and often we tend to want to see that version and not necessarily the realities of such a leap. Financial or otherwise, though I was more talking about the 'otherwise'.
rockingthemike
Nov. 30th, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
that's a fair criticism too, and one that the movie version certainly glossed over those facts; i was simply going under the presumption that you hadn't read book. i know i had the same criticism until someone who had read it filled in that particular plothole.
supermatt41
Dec. 1st, 2011 03:16 am (UTC)
I was thinking more along the lines of the Hollywood fake version of "my life sucks and I'm outta here!" rather than the author's practical dollars and cents ability to pull this off.

But even if I had the money, I'm not sure exactly how I would follow my own version of the story. In my head it's an exciting journey, but in the real world I suspect things would be a lot less charming and far more frustrating.
spqr_ragazza
Dec. 27th, 2011 04:54 pm (UTC)
Actually, the trip was paid for in advance with a book deal from the publisher.
anita_margarita
Nov. 30th, 2011 07:55 pm (UTC)
I picked up that book several times in several years at Book Country, thumbed through it, and put it back because.... it just didn't grab me, I think, because somehow I associated the "Pray" part with some kind of fundie thing and I didn't want to waste six bucks on that.

And when I finally DID buy it, the story seemed odd and disjointed and uneven. The first part, the divorce, was hard because I myself have been in that situation, crying on the floor, and it wasn't fun. But then she goes to Italy and it's so wonderful.

But then she goes to India and it was like another writer took over, and she lost me. But now, looking back, the India part is the part that still sticks with me the most. The Bali part, meh.

And the movie - they DIDN'T include my favorite part of the book, where they're going over her petition to have her divorce papers signed and she's yelling all the people who would sign it. I thought that was ESSENTIAL to the movie and it's not there. Hmpf.

And as someone who is about to take a leap of faith that leaving this soul-sucking, miserable, pit of hell job for the great unknown, I'm telling you... every day the burden seems a little lighter. There has to be a way to be happy in the few years we have allotted to us on this realm. Nothing is certain in this life, but I do know that we regret the chances we didn't take.
supermatt41
Dec. 1st, 2011 03:01 am (UTC)
There's a lot of the plot of the movie that seemed to be built around Julia The Star, which takes away from the overall journey of the author. I'm going to have to finish the book AND the movie!

I couldn't agree more that there's got to be a way to have your cake and eat it too. Fear is both a great motivator and a heavy burden, and it's hard to know what the right thing is to do. I admire your leap of faith more than I can say. Perhaps one day I'll actually take one of my own and you'll come visit me in my apartment in Italy.
anita_margarita
Dec. 1st, 2011 03:07 am (UTC)
Oh, yes. Julia was perfect and wonderful in the movie, and I did love it on so many levels (I still love the shot of her eating gelato on the bench next to the nuns and the whole Thanksgiving scene), but still, it was maybe the best effort they could make on a Book Of Many Colors.

My parents drummed into me The Fear Of Not Having A Job, and although I will have an income, I did not plan to quit this soon. But at some point, Fear Of Losing My Mind became paramount, and I had to take that giant leap of faith. I will miss you terribly... but I am only a phone call or email away, and there are many, many dinners yet to be held.
winddame
Dec. 1st, 2011 08:14 pm (UTC)
You are just the bestest, ever.
supermatt41
Dec. 2nd, 2011 02:54 am (UTC)
Right back at cha! MWAH!
(Deleted comment)
supermatt41
Dec. 4th, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
I agree, things would be far harder in reality than you'd ever encounter in a book or the movies. But my pipe dream allows me to think it would be a piece of cake!
tienuviel
Dec. 4th, 2011 07:22 am (UTC)
Fly, you fool! But let's get you a place thru House Hunters International first.
supermatt41
Dec. 4th, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
Yes, this! And then I can ignore all the advice people at home shout at the screen about what place to buy. When I watch the show, no one EVER listens to me!
spqr_ragazza
Dec. 27th, 2011 04:52 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad I wrote to you and you reminded me to check LJ.

I have a lot to say about EPL. A lot. A LOT. But guess what? I'm not going to say any of it here. No. Instead, I'mma wait until we've got a bottle of wine between us, and we can discuss it in real time, in real life, face-to-face.

What I will say, though, pursuant to the comments above, is that in the book it does mention that she received an advance to write EPL.
supermatt41
Dec. 27th, 2011 05:27 pm (UTC)
That's about the best way to discuss ANY book or movie! I'll hold you to it, and I'll buy the wine.

I don't know how I missed the bit about getting an advance for the book. I was probably too caught up in the notion of living in Italy to notice anything else.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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