“When you set out in the world to help yourself you inevitably end up helping … Tutti.”
Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love)
Today’s quote is borrowed from one of my favourite books. I won’t pretend that it is the greatest literary masterpiece ever written — it isn’t.
In fact it’s the rather rambling, sometimes long-winded account of one woman’s struggle to get out of the way of herself.
What makes this book so unique is Gilbert’s honest descriptions of her own self-manufactured sense of loss (and accompanying self-pity) and her honest account of her gradual recovery set against the backdrop of her travels across Italy, India, and Bali.
In a year without travel, there’s a certain appeal in losing yourself in the pages of a book like this filled with exotic scenery, eccentric personalities, and countless descriptions of foreign cuisine.
It’s the sort of book that you can pick up as an instant means of escape from your reality for a few minutes and come away surprised that you accidentally learnt a few things along the way.
Gilbert’s story is one that has the capacity to make a lot of people stop and think about the purpose of their own life and the direction in which they want to head going forward.
So that’s my question for everyone today: if you had to write your own story, what would it say?
Would it be a story that you were actually proud to tell? Would it even be possible for you to tell it truthfully, honestly, objectively to yourself on the privacy of a piece of paper?
Or would your ego be angling for attention, luring you to drone on for pages about how “unfair” things were, how badly you had been treated, how completely misunderstood your motives were?
Better yet, what would happen if you, like Gilbert, allowed yourself to wallow on paper until you got so fed up with feeling bad that you actually started to reject the idea that you needed to feel this way?
What would be the turning point in your story? Would it be an incident in your past, or would it be a moment of clarity just around the next bend in the road waiting to be discovered?
What would it take for you to decide to let go of all the pain and self-loathing that you have been so carefully nurturing?
In short, how would you describe the moment that you finally decided to overcome all the obstacles to good things happening that you have manifested in your life, and finally started to release yourself from that sad little prison of your own making?
And, having finally freed yourself, what sort of person do you suppose would then awaken inside you? Where would that person go? How would they view the world and all the struggles of all the people in it?
And, lastly, how would your personal epiphany ultimately lead you to help everyone whose life you touched?
• Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at olderhoodgroup.com, 538-8937 or firstname.lastname@example.org