Written by Shelley Plett Tuesday, 24 August 2010 16:14
“Cause if you’re happy in your head, then solitude is blessed, and alone is okay. It’s okay if no one believes like you, all experiences unique, no one has the same synapses, can’t think like you...and it doesn’t mean you aren’t connected, and the community is not present, just take the perspective you get from being one person in one head and feel the effects of it.” —Tanya Davis, “How To Be Alone.”
I can copy and paste it, but I’m not sure I can say it. I don’t speak Italian, but the phrase means “let’s cross over.” “Eat Pray Love” fans will recognize it. The memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, more recently made into a movie, introduced this phrase as Gilbert’s “word.”
Everyone has a word, her Italian friends told her. She became “a woman searching for a word.” In her year-long journey she found an Italian one.
It’s hard to pick just one, but I did my best.
Alternative. (The adjective, not the noun.) I like the limitlessness of that word. And the options. Alternative signifies unconventionality and uniqueness and choice.
I was directed via Facebook to a video short by an “unconventional” poet/writer named Tanya Davis called “How To Be Alone.” It won’t talk to everybody, but it will some. This video definitely falls into an “alternative” category, literally. And she does too, professionally, as her first album was nominated for an Alternative Recording of the Year award.
Several years ago I attended a huge Oprah-fest in Kansas City. It was sponsored by O Magazine, so the freebies were flying into our pink I-Pledge-Allegiance-to-Oprah-Winfrey tote bags. Jewelry, coupons, makeup, wine, and if I remember right, a sample of soy milk.
If I could have lifted him, I would have stuffed her interior designer Nate Berkus into my bag, but security was tight and my trunk was full. His loss.
There was a speech from the big O herself at the end of the day. Without sounding too star-struck, from my vantage point about 20 feet off of stage left, she looked…ultra-real. They must have sprayed her down with unicorn dust. She was shiny.
Oprah’s message was all about “you.” About me. About how great I am. About how great you are. Her message was about listening to “the whispers.” She calls it the “universe.” I call it God. And intuition. And awareness.
She said in her case, the whispers start softly. Then, if ignored, turn into a tap on the shoulder. Eventually, if fate is feeling tenacious, a slap upside the head.
If we miss it after that, we may just miss it all together. I try to listen. I am sure there’s plenty I inadvertently ignored, but I can say that in the span of a week, I’ve heard one phrase at least five times.
“You can’t give what you don’t have.”
I’m not sure who’s winding the watch (well, I think I know), but we’re all running on someone’s schedule. And it sure ain’t our own. But maybe this is what happens when we break open and let all the gooey stuff leak out onto the floor. Lots of junk oozes out, uncomfortably so, but with a gaping hole, some new stuff can get in. Alternatives.
This big self-awareness and soul-searching movement could be seen as self-centered over self-aware. I have thought so at times. But my mind, it is a changin’.
The whole premise of “Eat Pray Love” is about Gilbert looking in...at first. Stripped down, her desire was pretty basic. To “marvel” at something.
Given, she had the luxury of being a travel writer working for an editor with deep pockets, so her self-discovery was on speed from Day 1. But regardless of resources, who doesn’t need to marvel at something?
And once she did that, she had enough bang in her bank to give some things back to her friends and audience. The alternative (as a noun) paid off. Sometimes it might.
Alternative is an adjective worth considering. It’s a legitimate category. They give awards out for that stuff.