Lies Are Bad, M’Kay?

Sally and I worked our way through the series Nurse Jackie on Netflix over the past couple of weeks. It was at times compelling and moving, and at other times silly and overdone. But mostly it was brutal, a relentlessly “real” depiction of addiction that refused to settle for a happy ending.

I found, as I watched it, that I was growing ever more angry with the show’s protagonist, played to cold perfection by Edie Falco. Didn’t matter how skilled she was as a nurse. Didn’t matter that she was so human and real and good with her patients. She was a liar. A lying, lying liar. And I hated her for that.

I know that I’m supposed to realize that it was the addiction that was lying. I know that I’m supposed to be compassionate, and think of her addiction as an illness. I know that her addiction was a response to an extremity of pain she could not bear to look at. I know that she was raised in a culture where true healing for such pain is a rare thing. I know all that. But still I was angry with her.

It’s a tough call, isn’t it? At what point do we hold people responsible for their choices? At what point do we stop and realize that what might appear to be choices are not really choices at all, from their point of view?

I struggle with this daily, as I continue to process my own life issues, and deal with the lingering effects that lies have left in my life. I have been hurt by the lies of a pervasive and unacknowledged family system, and the surrounding culture in which that system is embedded. And I spent decades telling my own lies, trying to fit in and not be found out.

And I think it’s more difficult for me because of my Aspie neurology. I find other human beings disturbing enough as it is, without adding lies to the mix. It’s all I can do, it feels like, to learn and understand the social rules in play. But when the social experience includes falsehoods, either deliberate, unconscious, or by omission, I can feel really confused. It should come as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed another Netflix series, Lie to Me, as it was all about the exposing of lies, and the protagonist’s heightened ability to detect falsehood. Yeah… that’s what I want.

The biggest saving grace of Nurse Jackie is that it had a secondary character, another nurse named Zoey, who was the perfect foil for Jackie. Zoey was completely open, an irrepressible truth-teller, and I loved her for that. She’s the sort of person I aspire to be: caring, supportive, and totally able to speak the truth as she sees it in every situation.

Maybe Showtime needs to do a spinoff series.

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