“It’s really hard to hear your own voice, and every lie you tell makes your voice harder to hear, and a lot of what we do is lying. Especially when what we want so badly from other people is for them to love us.” – Nora, A Doll’s House, Part 2
I can’t tell you how much I will miss this show. It has quickly become one of my favorite plays, perhaps because I delved so deep into it, but it is beautifully written and speaks deeply to my soul.
Fifteen years after Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Nora returns to ask for the divorce she never received. What follows is a debate about the pros and cons of marriage, a discussion about hurt feelings, and a criticism of lies and truths and how they affect us. Every character in the show makes a strong argument for their position, leaving the audience full of questions about where they stand on the issues.
My favorite part of the show comes towards the end where Nora explains what she’s been up to for the past 15 years. Turns out, she spent two years finding her own voice, which had been drowned out by everyone around her. She spends two years in silence until the voice she hears is her own, not those of the many other people in her life, telling her what she should and shouldn’t do.
Her story speaks to me on a deep level. How many times have I made decisions based on what someone else wanted, or because I thought it was what someone else wanted? How many times have my likes and dislikes been drowned out by the needs and wants of others? What Nora says is so right to me. We lie in small ways to all sorts of people until our own voices are as small as the lies we tell.
When I was younger, I waited tables in a fine dining restaurant. It was decent money, but the owners of the restaurant cut many corners. Several times, I witnessed unethical practices there, not anything huge and probably things that lots of restaurants do, but it always rubbed me the wrong way. After a while, though, I noticed myself falling in line with the lies. It was my job, and I needed the money, and it wasn’t a huge deal, right? But I could feel my morals being compromised, just slightly at first but then snowballing until I no longer recognized myself. I left the job. And since then I’ve tried to keep my voice as loud as possible.
Everybody lies. We lie to our parents because we don’t want to worry them. We lie to our children so they don’t worry about us. We lie to our partners because we are afraid they won’t love us if they find out who we really are. And we lie to ourselves about what we need and want from others because we don’t want to be vulnerable. But every lie we tell eats away at our soul and makes our voices harder to hear.
Listen to your voice. Let it guide you and light you up. And take some time to be silent. Perhaps you will hear the small voices of those you love shouting to be free.