Ruin is a Gift

by belinda

It’s not like I haven’t been writing, because I have. Just not here.

Little poems have come to me in fragments, repeating sentences in my brain like a bird knocking on the inside of my head, desperate to be let out. They aren’t necessarily good poems but the good thing about my current stage of life is that I’ve started to care a bit less. I still seek affirmation, but that is now infused with a healthy dose of not trying to please absolutely everybody, all of the time. This feels intensely liberating.

(you can follow me on Instagram for my shorter form writing)

I also recently had a story shortlisted in the top 20 in the Kwela/Arts24 Corona Fiction competition. Which was pretty cool as apparently there were over 1200 entries (did I then go and work out the Maths yes of course I did, that’s the top 1.6%). It’s a story inspired by a friend who went on a “date” with a girl he’d met online, but because it was Level 5 lockdown they had to meet at the supermarket, pretending to be shopping for groceries, and then they shared a sneaky kiss in the parking lot. I found that concept pretty interesting.

In fact, with this virus changing our whole world, it’s having a huge effect on our relationships too. With social distancing becoming more of a norm, I wonder if we’ll ever make new friends at a braai again, or if people will ever find love at a bar after drinking one too many tequilas (just me?!). I’m not saying that won’t happen, I’m just saying that maybe it will become more rare.

Perhaps the majority of any new relationships will start out virtually? Maybe that’s how most of our relationships will continue to be conducted? It’s a bit sad and weird, but it’s a reality we’re all facing. Human beings need touch and physical closeness (as well as emotional and mental support), and I really feel for those who’ve been single, and must be impossibly lonely, over this time.

My husband and kids are out walking the dogs this morning, so the house is quiet and still. I can hear birds high in trees, calling to each other. I can see a giant arum lily that has unfurled under a tree, a brilliant white against a canvas of deep green. Outside my bedroom window are three bright orange strelitzias, and during the day the sunbirds love to come and drink their nectar. The sunbirds always come in pairs: the beautiful male with his green and red shimmering colours, and then the dowdy female, with her industrious little brown body. I’ve started to think of them as belonging to me, even though I know they are freer than I will ever be.

Nature has been a comfort to me over this time, how it continues in its cycles, oblivious to the chaos around it. Seeds take root, flowers bloom, things die, and then they are reborn once again. I wonder if we can do that too.

Of course I’ve found comfort in words. And in movement (yoga and HIIT classes). In speaking to friends and family, messaging them and making phone calls (yes, I have ACTUALLY been calling people). I’ve said “I love you” a lot more than I ever have before. I’ve also cried a lot more. I’ve started actively avoiding the news, trying to minimise anger and sadness. Are these all healthy coping mechanisms? Who knows. But we do whatever we can to get through this time.

It doesn’t feel dramatic to say that any life we lived before 2020 has been thoroughly decimated. Like all the constructs we had set up so carefully have been bulldozed away. Flattened. What new life will we build for ourselves? What do we want it to look like? What will be possible here? Where will we go?

So as much as this is a terrible thing, it is also a wonderful thing.

“Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation” (Elizabeth Gilbert)


Photo by Mehdi Sepehri on Unsplash






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