Do you have a story or a hero that has changed your life? Can you say that some of them have saved you? I think, I have, and I am lucky to have it.
Two days ago I watched the movie “Julie and Julia”. It is a history of two lives, both real: one is of Julia Child, an American lady who lived in France, fell in love with cooking there and wrote a book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. The second one is of Julie Powell who seems unhappy about her work and moving to Queens, so she starts a project of cooking all the recipes in Child’s book during a year while blogging about it. Her story becomes a book too, and a movie, as we see. According to Julie, Julia Child had saved herself from falling into bored expat wife in Paris by discovering her passion, and she saved Julie. While Julie’s husband says: “No, you have saved yourself”.
Today I’ve listened to a moving story of Dr. Terentai Trent on GLP podcast. The woman who moved from poverty of colonial Zimbabwe, where her tribe was held poor and illiterate, to getting an education in the States and working to make education available in her home country. She said: “When people say “This person has empowered me, I say “No, they have made a platform where you can step on and empower yourself”. This sentence met me straight in the heart as I was making this text in my head and asking this question: “Was it Julia Child who saved Julie or she saved herself? Is it that stories and heroes save us – or do we use them to save ourselves?” And that sentence by Dr. Trent rang like an answer: people (or stories) create a platform where you may step in. Or you may not. There is a free will, and no one will forcefully save you. And I love the sense of agency behind this idea. Whatever change happens to you, you decide to let it influence you or not. Whatever idea hits you, you choose to let it work on you – or not.
I don’t have a hero, though I admire several strong personalities, mostly women. But I have a story. A story that has helped me through the toughest of times. Or maybe, I have helped myself with that story. The story is the book “Eat. Pray. Love” by Elisabeth Gilbert. She is also one of the personalities I admire a lot. It is strange how many women felt helped by this book. When I was telling my friend about the book, he said skeptically: “This sounds weird that such a special life has waked such a general recognition. I mean, the woman is a journalist from the States, and she takes herself freedom to travel a whole year without working. How many can share that lifestyle?” He didn’t get that it was not the lifestyle choices that hit so many hearts. It was “one woman’s search for everything”, as the subtitle puts it. And so many women related to that search. And I related too.
I received that book as a present for my 30th birthday. That birthday sucked. I was in pain, physically and emotionally. I suffered from a broken heart, and a minor operation. Earlier that year I had fallen out of my religion, fallen in love with a guy and never felt so lonely as that September. I had two jobs, a course in statistics, studies, and acute loneliness. To add to my frustration, the book was sprinkled with familiar names. On the first pages there was Giovanni, and I was on a date with Giovanni just a couple of weeks ago. He was a friend of the guy I fell in love with, and that caused a bad discussion. Later in the story the main character is having a relationship with David, then breaks up and is recovering from it through almost the whole book. Good news, my boy’s had the same name, and gosh it was painful to meet that name on those pages again and again.
Two years later, when the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world, I had my own apocalypse. But before during those two years D. and I got back together as friends with benefits. Then I started dating a Spanish guy, because D. had promised no future to me, but then he opened his heart and his feelings for me, and I got back to him because, of course, I was in love with him. That autumn of the Mayan calendar’s end I had a depression which I considered to be S.A.D, but I still am not sure about it. I was frustrated because of my master thesis which I had no idea how to write – and it didn’t have meaning to write it. What would I do with master in sociology after I get it? Will I get a job? I saw my friend using many months applying for work with his master. My stay in Norway was temporary and bound to studies, and if I didn’t find the work fast, I would have to travel out. Obviously, sociology was not a field which made me an attractive work-seeker. But the worst thing was that we broke up with D. That time for good.
I was heart-broken and sick for weeks. I had gone to the psychologist in the student service, and as it was free we could not make this course forever, so she proposed that we focus on one thing. I said: “Ok, seasonal disorder”. When I came to her two weeks later, and said that I broke up with my boyfriend, I guess, she thought: “gal, you are such a mess. It would take a year to figure you out”. So yeah, we had a couple of sessions, I cannot say that helped me a lot. I had to to pick myself up by the hair. And to figure myself out myself. As I was rereading “Eat. Pray. Love”.
All this shit happened in October and November. That was extremely dark time of my life. And one day in December, I walked out of the psychologist’s office, breathed in the cold air and thought: “I am healthy again”. I was not yet healed – but I was ok. I knew I had survived it. I felt like I had been hit by the train – but I recovered. And I can make it. And I can fix my life. Which I did in months to come. Firstly, I was really hoping to meet a man who would heal me, but then I realized: “girl, you have to heal yourself – by yourself. Don’t present this mess to others, do it yourself”.
Also I remember sharing with my friend over pizza, somewhere after new year: “I want to meet a man who has been through the marriage like Felipe in the book. Who is older than me and has a grown-up child, so he knows what that is”. My friend was rolling her eyes: “why would you want this? Why don’t you want a guy of your age?” And I was watching the movie again, adoring Javier Bardem as Felipe.
Guess what guess who, just some months later I bumped into the old acquaintance of mine, namely that Spanish guy I had been dating once. We went out eating. And then once more. He was older than me, had been through marriage and has a grown-up child. A year later, looking on the cover of “Eat. Pray. Love” with Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem on it, I realized that I got my type of Bardem: same voice, same hair, and a very similar air about him. And that story is a good story, with its ups and downs too, but a good one. Sometimes I get chills when I realize how many of my dreams had become real. And how slim the chance was when I saw that guy on the street rushing by and decided to call hello (because he didn’t see me).
Julie from the movie “Julie and Julia” relates to Julia like to an imaginary friend. “Sometimes I talk to her, when I cook”, she says. She wears pearls just like Julia used to. I don’t talk to Elizabeth Gilbert, nor do I wear something in her style. But I have watched her Ted talks, both brilliant, and some interviews (thanks, Youtube). I read two of her books and loved them. “Big Magic” is one of the best books about creativity, I dare say. And “The Signature of All Things” is such a good novel, I haven’t felt captivated like this by a fiction book for a long time. But I haven’t read her other books (guilty, I forgot “Committed” which I found at my friend’s on the day of my breakup and was reading during that dark time of my soul). I would not call myself her greatest fan – I am too old for such thing)) But if once I had a chance to talk to her, I would love to say: “thank you, you have saved my life”. Or better say, with your book, I have saved my life. Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you, life, for stories and heroes whom you send so we can help ourselves. Some of them inspire us, some we use as a material to create our own dreams. Some have the power to save us. Or – we have the power to save us with what is given to us.
If you have a story or a hero that has helped you or formed your life in any way, let me know!