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April 12, 2007

Marriage: An Image for Writing and Healing

In Love Actually, the movie, there’s a moment when the character played by Emma Thompson responds to a betrayal by her husband. Perhaps you’re familiar with the moment. She’s discovered a necklace that her husband has given as a gift to a young and attractive woman at his work. The marriage has reached a point of keen disappointment. There’s a scene where she absorbs this disappointment, alone in their bedroom, blotting tears with the heels of her hands. And then there’s a moment, later that same evening, when she approaches her husband as they’re walking out of an auditorium after watching their children in a holiday pageant. Because this is a movie, and because, after all, it’s Emma Thompson, she’s a bit more sane and clever than most of would be in a similar situation. She tells him that she knows about the necklace. And then she asks him: “What would you do? Would you stay, knowing that if you did everything would always be a little bit worse? Or would you cut and run?”

It’s such a good question. It’s such a good line. It’s a memorable line. But will it be worse? Does it have to be worse? Maybe in this case, after this particular necklace, it does have to be worse. Maybe. But does it always have to be a little bit worse after we discover that it’s not what we thought it would be? Or not what we once hoped it would be? Is it possible for it to be different—more flawed—than we once thought and still, somehow, to have a sweetness? Perhaps a different kind of sweetness—

Can writing still have a sweetness after we begin to discover its flaws and challenges?
Can healing?