We watched Frost/Nixon last night, a movie nominated for 5 Academy Awards in 2009. Political movies don't really get my blood pumping, but I do like Ron Howard's work and wanted to see what the fuss was about. I was completely engrossed by the performances of David Langella as Richard Nixon and Michael Sheen as the reporter David Frost. The interview scenes between them were so intense, you forgot you were watching a dramatization. The actors inhabited their roles so thoroughly, so authentically, that for the viewer they became Frost and Nixon, battling each other as one attempted to hide and one worked to expose.
I was just a toddler when Watergate happened, but I found it painful to watch the movie version of Nixon labouring so furiously to hide what he had done, covering up his illegal activity with a veneer of arrogance and a deep desire to parry and thrust his way through the interview and come out a victor. David Frost was determined to break this arrogant man, to expose what he had done and force a confession that would satisfy the American public.
It made me think of the masks we all wear. It takes so much work to cover up parts of ourselves that we don't want exposed to others. I lived a lot of my life afraid that I would say something to upset people I loved and respected, so I pretended most of the time. I ended up with a split personality, acting one way with a group of new people, and another way with my family and oldest circle of friends. It was an exhausting and inauthentic way to function. When I was pregnant with Ava 7 1/2 years ago, Jason and I went to Europe and stayed with some friends in Devon. Ruth was one of the most authentic people I had ever met. She had struggled with some of the same identity issues and really helped me see that I needed to work at being fully me all the time, in all circumstances, without fear of the consequences.
It was a hard lesson to learn, and one of the best things I've ever done. Slowly, over a long period of time, I began to work toward congruence. If I was willing to swear with my new group of friends, I swore with my old group of friends who didn't approve of such behaviours. I remember the cold feeling of dread I had when I deliberately engaged in this way, saying "damn" or "hell" and letting the chips fall where they may. It seems laughable now because I've come so far, but at the time it was a real relationship risk not to hide anymore; to come into the light of day with all circles in my life and say, "Here I am. This is me. Take me as I am or walk away, but I'm not pretending to be what you want any more."
Watching that movie last night, seeing Richard Nixon trapped within himself, struggling to maintain a lie that he was sick to death of, brought back those feelings for me. I am beyond grateful for the time I spent with Ruth in the UK in 2002, for she showed me the path to authenticity, the freedom to be myself in all circumstances, and I will never go back or live any other way.