In the previous post I started to write about the movie “Julie and Julia” and was swept away by the inspiration to share the story that has influenced my life in a profound way. But there is one more theme in the movie that is worth writing about. The theme of the work that saved their lives.
Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep, falls in love with France and exclaims: “I feel I AM French!” And, oh, I exclaim it together with her. I too love France, and France in the movie is so pretty and lovable. Julia discovers her taste for the French food, and she plunges with enthusiasm into cooking courses, though she has never been fond of cooking before. With this newfound passion she keeps herself busy in the landscape where it is easy to become a boring expat wife with no meaningful occupation. On her way her interest for this work gives her new meaning, new friends, and later it gives her a professional call and even fame. As Julie Powell says it: “She saved herself by cooking”.
Julie Powell is also saved by the love for cooking. And blogging about it. It fills her grey days with colors and tastes, with meaning and enthusiasm. And that saves her also. Giving her a chance to be a writer as she had always dreamt of, giving her new opportunities.
In the old books I used to read people were saved by love. And often by love of another person. Like Cinderella is saved by the prince. Like in “Crime and Punishment” by Dostojevskij, Raskolnikov is saved by the love of Sonja who visits him in prison. What I love about this movie is that the person is saved by his own love. And love not for another person, but for the work. That love also gives a new dimension to their relationship with their loved ones. Their love for cooking feeds their husbands and friends, while it also feeds their own souls. Their own love, not somebody else’s. And I love that idea.
I love the idea that the love can save you. But it is a different kind of love than the one I was waiting for after reading and watching fairytales. I was waiting like a Cinderella for someone to love me and save me. But no one’s love can feed you. Only your own love can feed you. Your love for yourself, your love for your life, your love for someone – but YOUR love. And that can be as well your love for what you do.
So sometimes when I wonder why I do this or that, why I try to write or blog, who would appreciate it, who would be helped by it – I need to remind myself that I do that to help myself in the first place. As Elisabeth Gilbert says in “Big Magic”: “I get thousands of letters and people coming to me and saying that I have helped them by my book “Eat.Pray.Love”. But I was not writing this book in order to help anybody. I was writing it to help myself, to figure my own life. If I had set out with the goal to help others, it would definitely have become a very different book. As they say, it is easy to notice people who want to help others – by the stressed look on the faces of those others. So, please, don’t try to help anybody with your writing”.
That must be a symptom of our time, that we are so obsessed with the feedback, recognition, popularity. No wonder because we operate on the daily basis with terms like likes, shares, followers, influencers. I wonder how the people viewed their lives 50 years ago without all those things. And yet, “Julie and Julia” is a reminder of people who were doing the work first of all for themselves – to add meaning to their lives, to feed their own souls. I am a firm believer in the work done because of the love for work, honestly and authentically, with the focus on the process, not on the results or rewards. I believe, that such work has so much value, especially in the modern world of superficial products and ideas. I believe in the stories told by our own honest voices, and that they have the ability to touch others, to move others – and, maybe, help others.
My desire and vision is that all of us may find this type of work that will feed our soul. That will give us joy. That will help us in the first place, not others. This is truly a creative living that saves our lives. This is the power of love.