I recently re-visited the movie Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts, based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you are not familiar with the movie, it is all about the real life story of Liz (Elizabeth Gilbert) who takes off on a journey in search of self-discovery.
I can relate so well to this transformational journey Liz embarks upon as I have considered the last few years my ‘Eat, Pray, Love Years’. Similar to Liz’s experience, my transformational journey would begin with an ending, as is often the case. The journey I would undertake would lead me to a new way of being and bring about a different approach to life. The journey would involve eating, some form of prayer, loss and a greater understanding of love.
I should point out that unlike Liz, my situation, at that time, did not allow for me to travel to the exotic locales that are so beautifully featured in the movie. So no, I didn’t travel to India, Indonesia or Italy to enjoy the sites, devour the food, learn the language and find myself. Sadly, at that time the closest thing I got to anything barely resembling Italy was a Margherita pizza from the local Dominos. Very sad I know but at least now I have upgraded and only eat pizzas from the local gourmet pizzeria. Regardless of my location and from where I was ordering my pizza, I did embark on a powerful, personal journey of the mind and spirit and so in my mind I was not too dissimilar to Liz.
The ending that would begin my journey was the death of my lengthy marriage. As with so many break-ups and break-downs I experienced SO much sadness and pain. This was particularly the case because my now ex-husband had been engaged in a long term affair during our marriage and a few other indiscretions. Having effectively led a completely separate life to the one in which he led with me, the reality of the situation finally came to light. The sight was not pretty and resulted in a great deal of damage to not only me but to others I loved and cared about deeply. I not only experienced the usual feelings of sadness, regret and loss when a relationship ends but I also found myself dealing with the fall-out from the deception, lies and the betrayal of my misplaced trust. It would be quite a process to work through the events that followed and the powerful emotions which tore me apart at the time.
The demise of my marriage also meant that I would leave behind the secure life I once believed to be a certainty as all which remained was an unsalvageable ruin. In the weeks, months and even years that followed I would try to make sense of that ruin.
Ruin is a Gift
There is a quote in the movie which touches my heart, brings me to tears and resonates with me on a deep level. ‘Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation’.
Of course, when you are right there in the middle of deep grief and immense emotional pain you do not recognise ruin as a gift. When you lose your money or your home you are not thinking WOW what a gift I have been given. At that time all you want is for the pain to go away and to go back to the way that life used to be in the days when times were good. The issue for me was that there was no going back. I had nothing to return to or anything upon which to rebuild. The only way was moving out of the situation with my children and going forward. I had to work my way through the ruin and back to the gift – the gift that was my life. Certainly not always recognizable to me as a gift at that time but I had to find the way again to make it so. I would recover the gift and learn a few lessons along the way.
Transformation & Recovery
The recovery process does take courage but I now believe in being able to transform the negative experiences into a greater appreciation for life and a greater sense of purpose. I feel I have come out the other side a wiser and greater person. There are still struggles but I sense the worst is far behind me. What this has meant for me is that I have clearer personal boundaries but much less judgement, more compassion and I find it easier to express kindness. My capacity for empathy has grown tremendously. There are scars which continue to heal but this hasn’t prevented me from taking small steps to move forward out of the darkness into a much lighter existence.
If you are facing your own crisis and wonder how you will get through it, what I know now for certain is that it will take some time and possibly longer than first imagined. It is not uncommon to experience times when you feel you have come so far only to find that you feel as though you have fallen back. My advice is to just continue on the journey. You will have made more progress than you realise. For me, it required a balance between sustained effort and knowing when to let go and just surrender. There is also a need to be practise self-compassion and exercise extreme self-care. That means absolutely no negative self-talk and it may also mean putting your needs ahead of those of others and seeking support. Allow yourself to be vulnerable when you are experiencing it, and don’t feel that this is a weakness. This can be your greatest strength. Your vulnerability is a time for enormous growth and if you are like me a time of great transformation. I wish you all the best on your journey.