In 2008 I wrote a blog post after watching Torch Song Trilogy with my then 14 year old daughter. She was starting to be a film buff and I wanted to share a lot of my favorite films with her the same way I had with the boys when they were growing up.
I have posted this scene from Torch Song Trilogy on the blog many many times but have only (once) I think talk about my story in relation to it.
I saw this movie in the theater when it came out and I was pretty tortured and depressed at the time. I had just ended my marriage and was wrestling with my relationship with my adoptive family. I remember crying at the relationship between Arnold and his adopted son David…I wanted a mom like Arnold, bunny slippers and all (if you haven’t seen the whole movie…see it!)
But I didn’t UNDERSTAND the sentiment, “Love and respect me or get out.” (the clip above).
It did not compute. I had not yet learned, as Arnold knew, that love is an action. And I had not yet insisted on it from absolutely everyone.
But about 3 years later I saw it again. I was STILL in contact with my adoptive family but some of the themes and Arnold’s insistence on being loved and respected by his mother bothered me. I had read that “Love is An Action” in the Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck but I was still not yet “there.” There being a place where I said, “Love is an action…act like it or get out.’
I saw it again in 2000 and they were out of my life. When he gets to the line, “If you don’t love and respect me, you have no place in my life.” I realized I now ACTED in concert with that sentiment, but I cried because it was so damn hard to do and to boot out people who are SUPPOSED to love you. They’re not supposed to take it away and give it back and take it away. You’re not supposed to wonder what you did wrong THIS TIME and if anything will make up for it. You’re not supposed to wonder what they’re all saying behind your back and how it’s all (what they’re saying) going to come back to bite you. I realized it was time to put those type of people out of my life, but it was DAMN HARD.
By 2008 it had gotten very simple. If you don’t love and respect me, you have no place among the people close to me. By 2008 I had done my grief work over people who didn’t. I walked away from those who had less than my best interests at heart. And the people in my life are a reflection of that work. They love and respect me.
It took me a long time, to walk that particular talk with absolutely everyone, but today I do. I started in the late 1980s with my ex husband, moved onto friends and coworkers, slowly worked it through with my family and it was pretty much a wrap in 1995, about a year before I met Michael. But since then I’ve had occasions where I’ve had to revisit the insistence…and it got better and easier. It’s not always easy but it makes life easy.
And for a film I’ve seen several times over the last 20 years and ALWAYS had an emotional reaction to that line, 2008 was the first time I heard that line and just nodded.
It’s become second nature….that’s what I expect, that is what I deserve and that is what I have. My daughter liked the film but I know that because she’s been raised to demand love and respect, those lines weren’t to her what they were to me….a huge emotional watershed for me…or marker of my own personal improvement. She, at 14, knew just to nod. She got it. The way I never would have or could have at 14.
But what everyone needs from everyone in their life is love and respect. If you’re not there yet, where you demand on it no matter who the other person is, you can get there. There can come a day when it’s just a simple nod.
Love is an action.
Insist on it in your life and don’t settle for anything less.
The path from “What the F does THAT mean.” to “That’s right.” isn’t always easy but KEEP affirming that is what you deserve and it will become second nature.