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ruins This weekend, I saw Eat, Pray, Love with Mom, Sister C, and Sister T. Admittedly, I had read only the first fifteen pages of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir from which the film is adapted (Toddler was a wee one then and I didn't have an abundance of free time), but still I was excited to see it. The movie was good, the scenery was exquisite, and Julia Roberts didn't disappoint.

At one point in the film, Roberts (who plays Gilbert on her three-stop journey of self-discovery) visits an abandoned ruin in the middle of Rome. I can't remember the surrounding details exactly, but she says something like:

"Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation."

These words struck me. They struck me so powerfully that I whipped out my phone in the middle of the packed theater and jotted them down. So I could come back to them. And here I am. Coming back to them.

Gilbert's story of self-ruin and subsequent self-transformation is stunning, but it is also extreme. After divorcing her husband she leaves all that she knows to travel and find herself. She devotes a year of her life to eating and praying and loving, all ways of exploring her own personal ruins and rebuilding her life. I can appreciate this tale, but I cannot relate to it wholly.

What I can relate to though is the more subtle idea of crumbling and creation. The notion that things must fall apart in order to come together again. The concept that chaos is where order is born. There is something immensely encouraging about these ideas.

There are times when I feel the earth shaking beneath my feet. There are moments when I detect decay - of control, of happiness, of identity. There are points in my writing when I feel like my story is shredding itself to nothing.

These times are tough. They test me.

I am realizing now, in this very moment, that these times are tiny moments of existential and creative ruin, of fertile unraveling. Maybe cracks must form for wholeness to manifest? Maybe uncertainty must reign for understanding to alight? Maybe questions must creep - through our lives and minds and stories - for answers to come?

This realization - that a good, full life entails moments of meaningful destruction and disorder, of poetic ruin and rubble - is worth more, far more, than the price of admission.

____________________

  • Have you read Gilbert's book or seen the movie? Thoughts?
  • Do you buy the idea that ruin can be a gift?
  • Have periods of transformation in your life been preceded by moments of ruin?
  • Have you ever gone to a movie for fun and walked away with a shift in outlook?

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