But it was a different part of the movie that struck me in particular. It has to do with her relationship with her husband (Patrick Dempsey.) I have noticed this theme repeated in various books and films. There's a dialogue between the two in the film that goes like this:
- Dempsey: I just want to live my life- and not feel bad about it.
Swank: Well, I'm not trying to make you feel bad.
Dempsey: You don't have to try!
Swank: I didn't plan on becoming responsible for these kids...
Dempsey: Well, who asked you to?
Swank: No one asked me to-
Swank: Well, why do I have to be asked? [pause] I- finally realized what I'm supposed to be doing and I love it- When I help these kids make sense of their lives, everything about my life makes sense to me. How often does a person get that?
Dempsey: Then what do you need me for?
Swank: You're my husband. Why can't you stand by me and be part of it, the way wives support husbands?
Dempsey: Because I can't be your wife. [pause] I wish I could make that sound less awful. Erin, you know if you had to choose between us and a class- who would you pick?
Swank: If you loved me, how could you ever ask me that?
Dempsey: Erin, look at me- this is all there's ever been to me. This is it. I'm not one of those kids; I don't have any more potential. So you don't want to be here because if you did, wouldn't you be in the classroom every night?
Swank: That's not true- I want to be here; I love you.
Dempsey: You love the idea of me.
Swank: But it's such a great idea.
Dempsey: [softly] I know.
Redford: Don't drink it like water.
Streisand: Okay. It's because I'm not attractive enough, isn't it? I'm not fishing, really- I'm not. I know I'm attractive...sort of. But...I'm not attractive in the- I'm not attractive in the right way- am I. I mean...I don't have the right style- for you. Do I? Be my friend.
Redford: No. You don't have the right style.
Streisand: I'll change!
Redford: No, don't change. You're your own girl. You have your own style.
Streisand: But then I won't have you. Why can't I have you? Why?
Redford: Because you push too hard. Every damn minute! Look, we don't- there's no time to just relax and enjoy living. Everything's too serious to be so serious.
Streisand: If I push too hard, it's because I want things to be better. I want us to be better; I want you to be better. Sure, I make waves. You have to. And I'll keep making them until you're...every wonderful thing you should be and will be. You'll never find anyone as good for you as I am, to believe in you as much or love you as much.
Redford: I know that.
Streisand: Well then, why?
Redford: Do you think if I come back it's going to be okay by magic? What's going to be different? We'll both be wrong; we'll both lose.
Streisand: Couldn't we both win?
Redford: God, I- [pause] Oh, God, I- [pause] Katie, you expect so much.
Streisand: Oh, but look what I've got...
So you see there is a theme. There is the underlying theme of the relationship between the idealist and her husband, or lover. And it is simply this; the idealist pushes the other person too hard, whether she does it deliberately or simply by the nature of who she is as a person. The exact same idea is echoed in each of these exchanges. Dempsey tells Swank "You're in love with the idea of me," and she responds, "But it's such a great idea." Redford said the exact same thing when he explained, "Katie, you expect so much" and she said, "Oh, but look what I've got."
The tendency of a person is to look, not only for where they can improve, but for the ways in which everyone around them can improve- how they can grow, become better, achieve their whole self. And generally this tendency is even altruistic, because the idea is that a person is happier when he has achieved his whole self and everything that he might be and desires to be. Such a person glows with confidence and pleasure in everything that he is. So how can you expect Streisand or Swank not to be what they are, not to want to change the world and everyone around them, and bring that kind of joy and pleasure to everyone else? The problem is that they cannot see when other people have already given up. Take Dempsey, for example, who is happy with his job and has no interest in the work required to go back to school in order to become an architect. That's because his attitude is that there is a real world that needs to be pacified, and that's the way the world works. It is what it is. This is the way things go. Suck it up and deal. Because you're never going to get the breaks you need, and it's not worth the time.
That attitude kills the people who are around you who are idealists. It rips apart the fabric of their world, a little at a time. Because to them, it appears as though you are choosing to remain unhappy. And they just don't get why anyone would deliberately choose to remain a mere part of himself when he has the opportunity to be whole. They're in love with the idea of a person at his best, doing everything he wants and should do. They're in love with the idea of a joyous person, a happy person, a fulfilled person. And damn right they're not going to take it when someone says that's impossible, because that's the only thing they cling to in order to stay alive.
I think this is true, not merely of relationships with lovers, but of all relationships that an idealist has. The people who are around them are subjected to scrutiny, usually unintentional, or they feel like the idealist looks down on them, and it's simply not true. Nobody's looking down on anybody. People are just perplexed, confused. Because how can you have the ability and opportunity to reach for something wonderful- and still deny it to yourself? Why won't you believe? Especially because it's not a question of having no one to believe in you. I believe in you. I believe in all of us and in the good that is at our core, no matter how many disappointments we suffer.
I hate how people talk to me, with their statements that suggest this is how everything is, forever and ever. Every so often I start accepting the limited parameters of their world, the world which simply works a certain way and that I can't change, that place where things just are and it's my job to deal with it, no matter how fair, unfair or unjust it is. That world where all I have to do is suck it up. I have no intention of ever doing that, and with God's help, I never will. It is our job to see everything that our world could be, and to partner with God in making it more beautiful. It is our job to hope for the better and to look for the beauty in people. It is our job to forgive the unforgivable, to learn to see people, to stop cowering because we won't dare to believe that we can be the things we wish to be, if only we put in the time and effort. And just because I haven't yet found the way to go about it doesn't mean I can't, or that I won't.
The only thing that makes me sad is this idea found in the literature and the movies, that it's impossible to live with a force of nature. Because who wants to deal with someone who pushes too hard or who wants everyone to live up to what seems- to others- to be an impossible standard?
So yes, you can be extraordinary, or strive to be; just know that you're going to lose people along the way. And it's going to hurt. And you're going to hate yourself for not being able to change enough, and wishing you could, while knowing you can't. Because that would hurt you more.
וְהַשֹּׂרֵף אֹתָהּ--יְכַבֵּס בְּגָדָיו בַּמַּיִם, וְרָחַץ בְּשָׂרוֹ בַּמָּיִם; וְטָמֵא, עַד-הָעָרֶב.