The Year I Broke up with God.

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I give the book, Eat Pray Love, so much credit for so many things I’ve undertaken in the last few years.

During 2012, it became my solace, my confidant, my bible, my comfort—the secret sanctuary where I sobbed those deep, body-hiccupping, snot-flying, eyes-screwed-shut, mouth-skinned-back-into-the-ugly-crying-skull, sobs and alternately laughed in my new-found happiness.

I carried my well-loved-abused copy everywhere I went (even when I knew I’d be unable to stop and read it), a talisman against my own fear and doubt—a validation and sacrament for the necessary hurricane of changes I was offering up to myself.

That year I broke up with my boyfriend, my church, and my God. I rewrote and redirected my life, Eat Pray Love as my companion and witness, as my poetic Sherpa.

When the book was published, I quite sullenly and self-righteously read it, only because so many were raving about it. It pissed me off—all that raving. I’m so pig-headed that I won’t admit when someone else has written a great book with great ideas—simply because they aren’t my ideas, and it’s not my book.

I rolled my eyes at everyone asking, in that excited, insistent tone of voice, if I’d read it. When I admitted to not only having not read it, but also to having no plans to ever read it, I had to listen to them launch enthusiastically into their list of reasons why I should go immediately and get a copy and begin reading it while standing in the checkout line.

I am stubborn—and stupid in my stubbornness. If you tell me I should do something, I will avoid that very thing—avoid it with instant disregard to its possible benefits to me.

I also conjured some vague, sanctimonious plan to contradict them after reading it by insisting on how boring it had been, how their approval of such an inferior book only proved how poorly-read they were. I wanted to prove that it wasn’t as good as they imagined.

Superior much?

I read it quickly and dispassionately and thought, “Okay, that was a good book, but I don’t know what all the fuss is about.” Then I gave it away, because I only keep books I will reread. In those books, I always write the date I bought them. This one didn’t fall into my will-read-again-in-the-future category.

Then 2012 dawned, and the shite hit the proverbial fan. The year started normally enough, what with her usual refusal to make resolutions, but early on I noticed signs of her unrest—the unwillingness to make eye contact, refusal to tell me where she’d been all night.

You know, the usual early signs of doubt and dissatisfaction.

As the there’s-a-reason-for-everything (control-freak!) person I am, I’d like to assign an agent, a specific reason, for the upheaval. I find, however, that I cannot pinpoint an exact catalyst.

I could blame the church “prom.” At the 2012 prom, while dancing with my boyfriend, my lack of attraction to him swam up from somewhere inside me. Worse, I suddenly remembered the very same thing surfacing at the 2011 prom.

I suck at tracking time—always have. So it came as an incredible, depressing shock to discover a real-time calendar marker that proved I had been dissatisfied for over a year. I was horrified at myself that I had “wasted” a year of life. How could I have allowed that to happen?! What was wrong with me that I wasn’t paying attention?

I had become a sheep, unaware—a zombie! I tentatively—and with much dread—began to look at my life, only to discover that in no area of my life was I happy. And it was a surprise to me, asleep that I had been. It would have been easy to blame the boyfriend for my general unhappiness, but I kept digging—while I whined and cried—uncertain about what to do.

Finally, I quit crying and decided it was time for action. I had reached the conclusion that I was in charge of my life, and that if I wasn’t happy, then it was my own damned fault.

I started with the boyfriend. I broke up with him in April. Afterwards, I debated my sanity. After all, he was a good man. I talked it over with girlfriends on a regular basis to stay strong. I made myself keep away from him, afraid I’d weaken and ask him to return.

Next, I broke up with my church, resigned from the council. It was going through a lot of transition, and I realized being involved with all that transition was too stressful. The come-to-Jesus meeting that finally got my attention was so tough that I think I had a heart attack. I am a veteran panic-attacker, so I knew it was not that—something that can be confused with a heart attack by panic attack novices.

While I was (outwardly) calmly arguing my stance, listening to people (not calmly!) verbally attack me, there was a sane but desperate voice in a deep, quiet part of me—monitoring the heavy pressure in my chest and the erratic, excruciatingly painful beating of my heart—praying, begging, “Please don’t let me die here. I don’t want to die in the middle of so much anger.”

I refused to show any signs of “weakness” to the verbal assailants (I’ve mentioned the stubborn thing, right?), even as I was experiencing all the painful, classic, heart attack symptoms.

Afterwards, I resigned from the council. When you’ve decided to take charge of your life and make it happier, you know very easily and quickly that life is too short to be having heart attacks—real or otherwise—at church meetings.

I could also blame the fact that I found it necessary, at some point that year, to break up with God. Yes, you read that right. I broke up with God. I was pissed off that I didn’t have the life I thought I wanted, so I officially broke up with God. I became an atheist—sort of—for a while.

It turns out we were just taking a break, but I didn’t know that at the time.

At some point early in that year, I started having a hankering for Eat Pray Love. It baffled me. I mentioned this longing to someone, and she said—in a condescending tone, “You mean you haven’t read that yet, Grace?!”

“Bloody hell,” I thought, “here we go again!”

She was one of the original ravers—one of the women who had thoroughly pissed me off years before with her snobbish attitude about the book. I explained, inwardly defensive but trying not to go there verbally, that I had already read it, but was feeling drawn to it again for some inexplicable, baffling reason. Her attitude at this vulnerable admission revealed condescension again.

As usual, my timing was off. Had I expressed this hankering those few years ago when it was in vogue to read the damned thing, I might have been accepted into their inter sanctum. I was failing again at fitting in. I was never accepted into the in-crowd in school either, much to my teenage chagrin.

My copy of Eat Pray Love is dated May 18, 2012. It is written in, beat up, squashed, tea stained, smeared; it is well loved. Its dog ears have dog ears.

I spent the summer alone, out on the deck meditating and reading—for hours at a stretch. Each time I finished, I turned immediately to the front and started over. I lost count of the re-readings. I began to skip the first, sad, part and would go meet Liz in Italy instead.

I read—moved to tears, laughter, chicken skin, longing, happiness, sadness, shame, joy…

I would stop reading and meditate over passages that caused some sort of shift in me—and would open my eyes hours later to discover the sun had set on the front side of my house, and I was sitting in darkness, a smile on my face.

With its support, I successfully changed my attitude and my entire life. I graduated off my deck and became social again. I started dancing again. I took tango lessons. I learned to salsa. I began exploring the masculine/feminine aspects of myself and began coaxing myself toward the feminine end of that spectrum.

A man that has become—second only to my daughter—the love of my life, taught me how to blues dance. And I fell in love—with him and with blues dancing. He and I are still dancing together, dancing through our amazing and fulfilling relationship and on the dance floor. We teach blues dance now.

I didn’t stop there. I am still rereading Eat Pray Love, letting it have its way with me.

It is still my comfort and solace and go-to propellant. It continues to usher me up and into my own heart when I am wondering what to do (go back to bed, Grace), when I’m frightened about what’s next, when I know I need to crack through my own restrictive seed pod and send out some roots, some new growth into happiness, into sacred moments when I, just like Liz, sink down into that still, calm hub of my heart, happy and content.



Relephant Favorite:

Total Openness: The Wisdom of Non-duality.


Author: Grace Cooley

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Courtesy of the author

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Grace Cooley

Grace Cooley is a Certified Hypnotherapist and Registered Psychotherapist in Ft. Collins, CO, USA. She sees clients and facilitates Divine Feminine Hypnotherapy workshops for women. She’s a flaming, Earth-loving, tree-hugging, save-the-Planet, believes-in-faeries, bike-riding, card-carrying, spiritual-but-not-religious, hippie cowgirl liberal poet—yep, they do exist. You can find her blog here and her creations here. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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anonymous Nov 9, 2015 7:38am

This book also helped me through a similar situation in 2012. In November my husband of 20 years told me he loved someone else, and after a couple of months of therapy, at my request, said he was certain he didn't love me anymore and was moving out. I grabbed a stack of books and jumped on a plane to Jamaica by myself. I started with Eat Pray Love and read it every day on my little treetop balcony. I did a lot of thinking and realized I had been really unhappy for several years, and that the breakup was actually a good thing. I came back and dropped in to a buddhist temple I had driven by many times and meant to go into, just to see what it looked like. It turned out they had an English meditation and Dharma class staring that week. It was called "the Roadmap to Happiness"! Well I hadn't done the Eat part yet, but I thought I would start with the "Pray" part. A year later I became a buddhist, and a year after that my heart opened and I fell in love with a man who I had met on my birthday in 2013. I was still focused on figuring out who I was and what I wanted at the time and like Liz, had no interest in getting involved in a relationship. Like with her as well, a gentle sweet friendship developed and he was as patient as Felipe, until one day "it was time". I guess you could say we did the Eat part together when he took me on a tour of Italy & France last month for my 53rd birthday. I had bought Committed but vowed not to read it until I had settled into a new relationship, and recently read it and enjoyed it almost as much as Eat, Pray, Love.

    anonymous Nov 9, 2015 1:24pm

    Yay! Bravo you! And wow, what a journey. I didn't get off my back deck. 🙂

anonymous Nov 4, 2015 9:54am

I only saw the movie but was told that the book was way better. I know you hear that all the time but makes me curious if the book is that much better than the movie in this case.

    anonymous Nov 9, 2015 1:23pm

    I enjoyed both, but LOVE the book, while only loving the movie. 🙂 I recommend both.

anonymous Nov 4, 2015 2:24am

it was an awesome book with a terrible ending. all that self work and seeking some spiritual path only to end up with a man for fulfillment. anticlimactic and disappointing.

    anonymous Nov 4, 2015 2:09pm

    @Jasmine, I would not dismiss the book ending like that without reading her follow up book, Committed. She did not give up herself for a man. In fact, she very much grappled with the idea of entering into marriage again, because of her past pain. I would highly recommend reading this follow up to see what MORE she learned about herself, her boundaries, her aspirations, etc. in the context of moving forward in her life with a partner. Be well!

      anonymous Nov 9, 2015 1:22pm

      I agree with Anna! Her next book, Committed, talks about what happened after EPL.

anonymous Nov 2, 2015 11:15am

I needed this, today. I am 22 years old and totally aimless in my life at the moment. I am almost done doing my honours in translation and it has been hard. I am so unfocused. I want to explore the world, travel, read, eat! I have decided that 2016 will be my year of rebirth and I will start it by reading Eat Pray Love. I remember when I watched the film at the cinema that it really had a great effect on me, but it was at a different stage in my life, when I felt different. I need this now. I have no boyfriend, but I have also broken up with God. I can say we have been broken up for three years already. I do not know if we will ever find each other again… Anyways, thank you for an inspiring article.

    anonymous Nov 3, 2015 9:56am

    I got a copy of the book right after reading this post and loving it so far. I've only read 60 pages but I can already tell it will make a diference in my life. I feel so inspired by her journey and words. You will love it!

      anonymous Nov 9, 2015 1:21pm

      thanx for hte read and the reply! Have fun! 🙂

    anonymous Nov 9, 2015 1:20pm

    Godspeed and thanks for reading! All the best to you! 🙂

anonymous Nov 2, 2015 11:08am

I love that book

    anonymous Nov 9, 2015 1:20pm

    Me too. I also like her next one: Committed. I am re-reading it now.

      anonymous Nov 9, 2015 3:03pm

      I read that one as well and just put here newest on my amazon wishlist 😉 She's great!