Over the past couple years, I’ve come to see my life as an ongoing project. I have established a fitness routine, embarked on a major career change and crossed items off my bucket list, not to mention quit drinking.
I could choose to take a breather and rest on my laurels for a bit, but New Year’s is a time for dreaming big. So, I’ve been wondering for weeks now…what should I resolve to do in 2019?
Digging deep, I realized that what I could really use is more compassion for and acceptance of others. But how does one go about getting that? And why is it so hard to resist criticizing people, especially those closest to us? As I began exploring my motives, a surprising inspiration surfaced: an unforgettable biopic.
Back in the 1980s, the Jessica Lange movie Frances made a profound and lasting impact on me. Recently I watched it again, and three decades later it still has the power to reach in and prod at one of my tender spots.
Frances Farmer was an actress who rose to fame in the 1930s. The film depicts her as an independent thinker who doesn’t care much for authority or convention. Farmer appeared in a number of movies, but she chafed against the Hollywood studio system, eventually running into trouble with the law and spending time in multiple psychiatric hospitals.
There is little doubt that Farmer suffered from mental health and substance use issues, but the intervening actions taken by her family and medical professionals come across as severe and designed to break her nonconformist spirit.
In two different scenes in the movie, Frances is dragged into police custody kicking and screaming. Her eyes and hair are wild, her anger and fear palpable. I was only about 20 years old when I first saw the movie, and Farmer’s desperation and utter abandon in those scenes terrified me. I was afraid that one day I might lose control like that, but at the same time, I was afraid that I wouldn’t.