I was watching the movie "Eat, Pray, Love" and came to a particular scene that made me pause. Julia Roberts has arrived in Italy, rented a room, and is preparing to enter the city armed with a map. She is at a crossroads, not just in the city, but in her life. There she stands, the map in her hand, the wind blowing through her hair and brushing it away with her fingers. She gazes down one long street to another, the immense loneliness swallowing her up as she tries to figure out where to go next. As she enters the coffee shop to order a cappuccino, she is surrounded by dozens of customers, all shouting out their orders and she just does not know what to do. Immersion.
She needs to totally immerse herself in the culture in order to understand it fully. Not only must she travel the country to learn more about herself, but she needs to become one with the people. She cannot be who she is, because she does not fit in there. She is not Italian. She is a tourist. She looks like a tourist. She acts like a tourist. In order for the people to accept her, she must become like them. She must learn to like what they like. She must become acclimated to their culture and their way of life. As she moves on with her life, traveling to India and then to Bali, the same changes must come over her. Each time she moves on, she needs to learn about herself. At each place she still doesn't know who she is. She thinks she will find the answer in each place she goes, but the answer is not at the places she visits, but inside her. It is not until she learns to immerse herself in each culture that she can figure out what her purpose in life truly is. Her anger with others resonates when she meets the man in India. I love when the man tells her the meditation room is within her.
If she cannot master her thoughts, then she is in trouble. Wow! What an eye-opening sentence. As writers, we must learn to immerse ourselves in other people's lives. Unfortunately, we cannot do that unless we open ourselves up. We must learn about ourselves in order to go into depth with our characters. How can our characters truly become alive, if we are not alive ourselves? So, we work on our craft, because we think that is the answer, but in reality, the answer lies within us. We must be true to ourselves and the person we are, in order to make something of ourselves in publishing. The woman thinks she needs to shed all the people in her life in order to be happy – to find that inner peace. For some people, they need that solitude in order to better understand themselves. For others, they need to be surrounded by the people who truly love and understand in order to find that solitude.
Immersion. What do you need to immerse yourself in so you can find that inner peace to write and become the person you need to be? The person you are meant to be? Are you meant to be a published author? Are you meant to be a leader in your community? What is your path in life? Are you so focused on just getting by, that you forgot how to immerse yourself in that inner peace that makes those day-to-day activities meaningful? Shake them off. Shake off the responsibilities. Shake off the shackles that have been keeping you fettered to the way of life that you have forced upon yourself because you think it is what you are meant to do. Now, what do you really want?
I want to go back to Paris. Why Paris you ask? I want to return to Paris, because I found inner peace there. I have been many places in my life, but I have always yearned to see Paris. Ever since I was small, I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and the other beauties of Paris. It was like Paris was always calling out to me. So, I finally went to Paris last year. Was it as wonderful as I imagined? It was better. Total immersion. By myself, I arrived in Paris, and scared like hell, I had to navigate the city on my own. I found my hotel, I spoke French to the people. I ordered my own dinner and went to see the Eiffel Tower. I was so totally at peace when I was there. I felt like I had gone back in time and I belonged there. I walked along the Champs-Elysees and knew this was where I was meant to be at that time in my life. I could not wait to call my husband and tell him about it. I missed him, but I was where I was supposed to be.
I have felt this way before. I felt like this in New Orleans when I visited the plantation homes. When I was in Charleston and wandered the open fields of the homes built over 200 years ago. Most of the time, I feel at peace when I write. Writing is the most peaceful place in the world for me. I feel at touch with my inner self. I know this is where I am meant to be. Writing. So, I immerse myself in writing every day. It helps center me. It brings me peace. It keeps me in touch with a part of myself that no one truly understands except other writers.
So, immerse yourself in what makes you feel at peace.