Eat, Pray, Love Your Way to a Dream Life

Quote on dream board by Elizabeth Gilbert

Hanging on my bedroom wall is a quote written in black felt pen, nailed right in the center of my dream board which reads,

Happiness (your dreams) is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings (dreams).

And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness (that next dream) forever, to stay afloat on top of it.

It’s a quote from a section of Elizabeth Gilbert’s wildly popular book, Eat, Pray, Love with some Catherine mixed in with it.

In 2006, I purchased her best-selling book because my 16-year career in mortgage banking was crashing and deteriorating right before my eyes, like a retired Las Vegas casino implosion.

BOOM!

I needed to ease my fear of losing everything and becoming one of those bag ladies in front of Target, digging through the trash for food.  All my adult fears danced around my head with the ring-leader of them screaming:

Ohhhhhh fuc* what will you do next (for a career)? Can you even do anything else?

Note to Catherine: fear makes for the absolute worst partner — it lays around your place nagging you with gut-wrenching thoughts, while turning boxes of tissue into little wet balls of cotton, leaving you with red wine stains on the bathroom counter and chocolate crumbles on your counter.

I had to get out of my own head.

One day, desperate to find something besides wine and chocolate to make me feel better, I decided to take a long walk to the nearest shopping center.  Nestled in this quaint outdoor center is this lovely little bookstore and coffee shop. Wandering around bookstores warms my heart and gives me hope so I decided to hang out there until they made me leave.

In an obscure area towards the back there was a table of paperback books for sale.  From about 3 feet away, I found myself staring at one particular book cover, contemplating whether or not I wanted to spend money on a story I had been hearing so much about without knowing what the real story was.

But the idea of a book title beginning with the word, “Eat” (maybe there was chocolate?) fascinated me. It helped that it ended in “Love” too — something I’d been so horribly bad at for such a long time (when it came to partners).

A voice inside me said, “Catherine – buy the damn book!”

So I did.

Never argue with a voice sounding like your Irish grandmother while you are spending your single weekend afternoon in a local bookstore, where the salespeople would like you to leave so they can close and enjoy the life they’ve managed to create.

Have some self-respect, Red.

My son was with his father for the weekend. I went home, changed into my pajamas, crawled under a blanket on the couch — with my usual box of Kleenex and glass of red wine.

Light jazz played softly in the background.

Self pity feels great with jazz.

At 3:00 a.m. I was still on my couch reading Eat, Pray, Love, and contemplating finishing the entire book in one sitting. I hadn’t touched my wine in hours and for the first time in days I didn’t feel like crying.  In fact, I had been laughing out loud at Gilbert’s wit and wonderful vulnerability.

So I did the thing that most women would do in my position:

I took the book to bed, curling myself around its pages like some long lost lover cuddling me and I drifted off to sleep dreaming of India.

As soon as I awoke that morning, I rolled over and began reading right were I had stopped several hours before.

I didn’t make coffee. I didn’t eat breakfast.

I stayed in my pajamas until I finished the book — sometime that afternoon.

I remember it was the afternoon when I finished the book because the sun was casting a long soft ray of light through west window of the living room. Upon finishing the book, I’d gone over and laid down on the floor under the sun’s rays with my arms spread out wide and the book closed tightly in my right hand.

I inhaled a deep breath and thought,

I need to get a better fuc*ing life.

Here’s a woman who went out and faced her life head on. She faced her limiting wall and scaled over it. She did it traveling and eating, traveling and meditating, and traveling and riding bicycles through rain-forest country. Then she did it again for the whole world to read.

Then I told myself, “Well, she didn’t have responsibilities”

and

“She didn’t have kids.”

andBuy your own copy of eat, pray, love

“I love raising Brian and she doesn’t have that.”

But truth be told — I envied her.

I envied her because, even though she was afraid, she changed her life anyway.

It couldn’t have been easy – even without kids.

I continued to lay on the floor for what must have been an hour. The sun moved down behind the fence, while my living room faded into the colors of sunset.

Suddenly, I jumped up, threw my box of Kleenex in the garbage and said,

“Catherine, old girl, whatever it takes – you are going to change your life!”

Of course, you have to be really specific with these types of requests when making bold statements at the universe, or it will send a hurricane into your living room then sit back and say, “Well, you said you wanted change.”

As you can imagine, I was very specific.

That night I created a dream board from the magazines laying about my house. I went on to create a list of the 150 things I wanted to do before I died. I entered them in my daily journal. They take up 6 pages.

Then, a funny thing happened to my life.

I’ve completed 12 of those 150 goals so far — this website is one of them.

In order to change your life have to stop burying your passions in wine and sorrow and go after whatever it is you really want. You are the only one who can make your dreams come true.

You only have one blessed life.

And let me be the first to say — changing — ain’t for the faint of heart.

It can be difficult and tiring, boring and tedious, and you can go years before you see results. But if you look carefully at your life while you are working on it, you will notice little, subtle changes occurring, and one day you will find yourself smiling for no reason.

Because it suddenly dawns on you that you’ve changed the trajectory of your life.  You will never again work in mortgage banking.

And there’s no better way to live your life.

Trust me.

If not — then go ask Elizabeth Gilbert.

Catherine

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Catherine Hughes, Be an Online Success

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed.
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Latest posts by Catherine Hughes, Be an Online Success (see all)

  • Catherine, Site Admin

    A shout out and thank you to ABC Reporter Kimberly Brown for contacting us for your article
    How to Eat, Pray, Love … From Home Take a Journey to Happiness Without the Travel

    Catherine

  • carmen

    Loved the book; loved the movie; love her writing style; love your blog.

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Thank you Carmen.

  • Heather, CEO and serial entrepreneur

    Love it Cath! The Italian portion of the trip might snag me permanently. The book reminded me what an incredible time my husband and I spent there.

    The movie was great!

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      To be in the movie theater, and experience it with you – so awesome – since you gave me your copy of the book to read it a 2nd time. It reminds me of your wedding gown, you stories of Italy and those amazing photos by Ray.

      Where would this site be without you?

  • Emma

    I borrowed Eat, Pray, Love from a good friend, but I think I will buy a copy now because it’s the type of book I could read over and over again. I will likely highlight Eat, Pray, Love quotes in the book and reflect on the benefits of slow travel. I enjoyed the movie. My word is joie.

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Nice word! Mine is (and always has been) “mo chroí” (my heart). Thanks for your comment Emma.

  • Amoura

    Have any of you thought of your “word”? I did. Mine is STRIVE.

    Went to the movie yesterday; loved it.

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Such an awesome question Amoura!! I thought about your question a lot this weekend. Give me a few days and I’ll leave it here for you. I like yours – great word! In Italian it’s sforzarsi!

  • Brenda

    Again Catherine, another wonderfully written piece that I can relate to completely. I’ll be reading the book “Eat, Pray, Love” and will continue on my dream journey. You’re a blessing girlfriend…keep the good stuff coming. Hugs.

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Oh Brenda – considering we grew up together – you will LOVE this book. You are amazing artist and I look forward to seeing you get back in touch with that part of you.

      Besides, you have the most beautiful red hair I have ever seen.

      And that speaks for something.

      Because redheads rock!

      Hugs, Cath

      • Brenda

        Thanks Cath you’re such a sweetheart…and yes, we readheads DO rock! (Even if the “red” is enhanced by hair stylist wizardry these days). I’m looking forward to getting together too. October is just around the corner, yay! Until then…

  • my word is “vivacity”. i love the book and her journey. it was inspirational to me.

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      My word is “mo chroí” (my heart).

  • maldelyn sparks

    absolutely great! i laughed thru my nose at ‘i need to get a life part’. i can relate. loved the book. seeing the movie tomorrow.

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Enjoy! Thank you for the comment and the compliment. Cath

  • Diane

    I am not happy that Ryan Murphy is directing it. How can a man possibly direct a woman’s journey from depression to salvation? It should have been Nora Ephron with maybe (this may sound crazy) Nicole Kidman, or Diane Lane, or Ashley Judd with blond hair. I don’t see Julie Roberts as Elizabeth Gilbert. I enjoyed the book and read it in one weekend. I’m going to be a tough customer to please at the movie.

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Believe it or not I thought of Rob Reiner directing it with Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth, Alec Baldwin as Richard from Texas, and maybe Armand Assante as the man she meets in Bali. I never thought about Nicole Kidman, but she has the right look. Thanks for your comment Diane.

  • loving eat pray love

    I like richard from texas too!

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Ditto

  • Did you hear that Michael Cooper, the ex-husband of Elizabeth Gilbert was going to be writing a books and publishing his side of the story??? He struck a deal with Hyperion to write “Displaced”, his version of the divorce from Elizabeth Gilbert, but the New York Post reported today that the project has been canceled for the time being. Wow, to have your ex do a tell all would be the worst. I mean come on, lets ride her coattails to fame. She never said one bad word about him except that he was unwilling to be friends with her. I can’t wait to see the movie too!

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Now that would be my nightmare . . . an ex writing his version of me (shudder). Thank you for the update Margaret.

      Catherine

  • Yudhi is my favorite character in the book!!! I LOVED IT!!! LOVED IT!!! Can’t wait to see the movie!!

    I wish he’d come back to NY!!!!

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      I’ve never seen him before he’s good. He’s as cute as I pictured him in my head, but I still stand by Richard from Texas. Thanks for posting this Alyssa.

  • Jennifer

    Cath, I remember when you read this book. You are too hilarious! And I remember when you bought Betty the bike and was riding her all over town. I admire you and your life. I think you’ve always had a great life: a son who adores you, great friends (me), a mom who has your back, men who never seem able to leave you alone for very long and all your funny life stories. Elizabeth Gilbert has nothing on you dear!!

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Thanks sweets, we need to get together soon.

  • maggie

    I read Eat, Pray, Love during a particularly difficult summer after my oldest daughter moved out, leaving me alone in a big house. I was reading everything I could get my hands on so I wouldn’t have to think too much and a friend gave me the book and ordered me to read it. Like you, I could not put it down. I even cried with her in some places. I ended up going back to college to finish a BS degree I started before I got married. I studied Italian and lost 60 pounds. Which goes to show you never know how reading a book can change your life. I am seeing the movie this weekend with my daughters. I hope it’s better than Sex and the City II!

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      I did not go see Sex And The City 2. I dodged that bullet. What a great story and congratulations to you for all your success! Thank you Maggie for your comment!

  • The book needed a war and some blood… then it would have been great. My girlfriend liked it and we actually went to Italy to experience the food.

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Oh lucky you – Italian food is amazing. War and blood – lol – you sound like my son. Cath

  • Hope

    Great stuff! I really enjoyed reading your story of how you read Eat Pray Love.

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Thank you Hope!

  • DV

    I agree. Well written story Miss Catherine. ;-)

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Thank you Dino ;-)

  • Mike Thomas

    Believe it or not I am a guy who read this book. I thought she was a bit too into herself in the first section. I was getting real tired of all the boo-hoo, woe-is-me diatribes in Italy. I almost stopped reading the book, but I agree, when she gets to India she’s mush more interesting as a person and Richard from Texas tells her exactly what I would have said to her, including, “Grow up!” In the end, I liked her story well enough. I like to travel and she does a great job at transporting you to the places she is at. The parts where she describes herself naked aren’t too bad either . . .

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      lol @naked

      My mother felt the same way Mike. She’s seen a lot of death in her personal life, as well as her life as a nurse and she is always saying, “What in the hell is she crying for? She’s alive.” She gets real irritate with women crying for what she feels is no reason, although I think Elizabeth Gilbert was dealing with serious depression and she found a way to cure it.

      Thanks for your comment Mike.

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  • Terry

    Great, great piece of writing Cath. Really great stuff.

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Thank you Terry.

  • karen

    I’m glad that I found your site via a Facebook posting by Debbie Z Lattuga.

    Yes, I read the book. But, I was already on the path of a much needed reinvention of my life. I have been through the crash of losing everything and I am loving building my life back in the way that I envision it.

    I’m doing those things that I have wanted to do but didn’t think that I should or could. I’m very glad to report that I was wrong.

    I am starting a small business built on utilizing my creativity. The skills in sales and marketing that I learned while in a successful career doing things that I didn’t love, are coming in handy.

    It is never too late to be who you might have been.–generally attributed to George Eliot.

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Karen – thank you!

      I agree with you about rebuilding your life anew – the way you want it. It takes such bravery, but reaps so many rewards!

      I love that you too are doing something creative.

      Thank you for your comment and words of encouragement!

      Catherine

  • Mariska

    I loved this book too!!! I thought her journey was so real and could completely relate to her search for happiness. Funny post Catherine. You writing sort of reminds me of her. I can’t wait to see the movie. I hope it is as good as the book!!

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      I hope the movie is good too – such a great story – so I hope they do her justice. We are going to see it on Sunday – can’t wait!

  • Hi Catherine, loved, loved, loved the book. Read it about 2 years ago. Although I definitely want to go to Italy, the ashram called to me most.

    I loaned the book out and really only remember the feeling of loving it.

    I have been on the path for my dream life for some time. I’ve recently kicked it up a notch and things are really speeding up.

    Yea! Love this site!

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      Debbie thank you for your kind words and your email.

      The Ashram called to me too – of course who could not love Richard from Texas?

      Thank you for your lovely comment!

      Catherine

  • Cath, I LOVE this: “In order to change your life have to stop burying your real passions and go after whatever it is you really want to be every day for the rest of your life. You are the only one who can make your dreams come true.”

    Yes, yes, yes…. Which is why I’m so grateful to be a part of this dream team and this group, which supports EVERYONE in living their dreams (thanks to YOU living your dream!) – So beautiful.

    Here’s to checking the other 100 or so items off your “life list!”

    And it’s so heartwarming to hear that Eat, Pray, Love is your favorite book of all time… One of mine as well, and it is a huge inspiration for the book I’m writing now! :) Hope that my book can someday become one of your favorites too! :)

    I am looking into spending a few weeks in India in January… will tell you more about that later… 8womendream trip to Italy, then India? ;)

    Love,
    Lis

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      From your lips to Gods ears dear!

      We missed you on Saturday – did you see our plans to go to SF to meet with you in Sept?

      We are going to see the movie on Sunday – so you should gather some girlfriends in NY on Sunday and see it too – that way you are sort of seeing it with us on the same day.

      I look forward to your book, just as I look forward to your posts each week cheering us on.

      Catherine

  • Remy G

    Oh yea, I read it. Much the way you did. But it was given to me on my birthday, the month after I left my ex – by 4 people. I took the hint.

    After our meeting on Saturday I came back and started writing my post for the week. It was amazingly helpful to see my experience with it in a more objective, two dimensional format – rather than living it as the swirling windstorm that is my head and heart.

    Thank you for your post. Ducking projectiles as we speak!

    xoRem

    ps Italy was amazingly creative as a backdrop. I say we all go. Now??? lol

    • Catherine, Site Admin

      I’d like to go to India, by the way of Italy would be nice too.

      Another thing I took away from the book was her ability to have such a strong writers voice, which I heard in my head, like an old friend.

      It is still my all-time favorite book.

      Cath

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