Honesty is the best policy, or so the saying goes. Honesty at all cost? Is that, truly, what an authentic life asks of us? In the final analysis of our lives, will we wish we had been thoroughly honest with everyone?
Are the recipients of learning about our truths better off with or without those truths? Is it better to leave some things unsaid?
In the movie, “Bridges of Madison County,” Robert, a freelance photographer, by chance meets Francesca, a passionate housewife stuck in a passionless marriage with two ungrateful teens. This ‘by chance’ connection, searching for bridges to photograph, finds them both deeply attracted to one another in one weekend, embracing each other in every way possible.
Finding a true love in an insanely, short amount of time, can only happen by chance. Like in the movies, this life altering experience leaves one breathless and lamenting of the only decision worth making. When Francesca’s husband and teens return from a weekend at a country farm fair, unable to be truthful, she resumes her passionless marriage, continuous, uninterrupted mothering of two ungrateful children while Robert is left standing alone in the rain, waiting for her to join him.
Francesca’s husband never learns of her weekend with Robert. Only after her death do her two, now grown children, find out the deepest secret only Francesca and Robert knew. They both took their love to their graves as well. What would honesty have done to this family? When her grown children find out about their mother’s love of Robert, they find a deep understanding of their own truths. It is discovered, however, through their own anger, pain, suffering and deep sadness on all levels. The ‘it’ they find is what love, without fear, means to them.
In “Phantom of the Opera”, Christine is loved by and loves the Phantom, who had been her musical guide in her younger years. This story is also a tale of a forbidden union that could bring only heartache and torment. Yet, there is love, no doubt. Maybe the purest form of all. Before leaving Francesca for the last time, Robert said to her, “This type of certainty comes but once in a lifetime.”
There is lust and there is passion. (What is the difference?)
The final decisions made in both Bridges of Madison County and Phantom of the Opera is based on the truth of things. Decisions from what is right and wrong for their culture. In one scenario guilt, shame and remorse prevents a unity of passion that both acknowledge. In the other, the decision was based on different types of love not shared, and for Christine, ultimately, not wanted.
Both of these unrequited unfulfilled and unforgotten love stories had a decision based not in truth. Only in denial, could the true loves remain without each other until their last breaths. With both couples, the men held onto hope of what was the impossible while the women were left to make the ultimate decision for the future of both.
Francesca without Robert; Christine without the Phantom left these women to live with passionless men who could give them respectability and financial safety in their cultures. The cost? Like many of us, never knowing what could have been.
Yes, life with the Phantom would have led to total isolation and constantly dealing with his demons. While a life with Robert would’ve been an isolation of it’s own, roaming the world in search of his next photograph.
How many of us have made life decisions based on what others around us thought? Unsolicited, cautionary tales from friends and loved ones predicting the folly of what we would face. Yet, for us, as well as for Robert, Francesca, Christine and the Phantom, the cost becomes a lifetime of longing for the other until the other is no longer.
Debra Whittam is the author of “I'm I Going to be Ok?" For any media inquiries or questions please contact: Contact@DebraWhittam.com