Sally: Yes. We were off and on, but we were together pretty solidly for three years.
Oprah: What did that relationship teach you about yourself?
Sally: Burt was very similar to my stepfather in so many ways, and with all due respect to what an interesting man Burt is, a lot of our time was about my needing to be able to walk away from that profound connection to my stepfather.
Oprah: The universe is so compassionate; it allows you to draw in what you need in order to heal yourself.
Sally: Yes—to finally choose health over neurotic behavior.
Oprah: As children we don't have that ability. We just fight our way through it. But you can't just get up and walk out without repeating the behavior over and over.
Sally: The dilemma for me now is that I have no dilemma to repeat, so I stand stationary. If I were ever to have a relationship again, I'd have no pattern to head toward.
Oprah: But you've come clean. Isn't that great?
Sally: It's daunting. It would be exciting if I let myself go there, but I don't. I feel frightened.
Oprah: Because you have no patterns to repeat? How did you reach that point, anyway? Have you learned all of life's good lessons?
Sally: I certainly haven't learned all of them; you've done that when you take your last breath. I'd say I've learned the easiest lessons, even though for me they weren't so easy. But to answer your other question, yes, it's daunting to be without patterns. Even destructive patterns are comforting in a way. It's uncomfortable to be without them. I feel like I'm falling.
Oprah: That's fascinating. After talking to you for a while, your 1985 Oscar speech for Places in the Heart, when you said, "You like me, you really like me," makes more sense.
Sally: I was trying to own that—for this one moment in time—this amazing thing was happening to me. I said, "I can't deny the fact that you like me right now, you like me!" That line has been interpreted in all sorts of ways. For me, it was about admitting that the moment was real. When you've had a career that lasts a while, the hard times impact you so greatly, especially if you allow yourself to feel them; they sock you in the stomach. The challenge is always to move forward out of them. But you do the work and your life such a terrible disservice if you aren't able to feel the good. You would never have the strength to move on to the next place unless you took a moment to stop and say, "Something good is happening here. I have been successful. I am seen and appreciated." If you're busy thinking, "Gosh, I'm not pretty or smart enough," your spirit is undernourished. So that speech was about accepting that I'd achieved what I'd always wanted—which was to do good work and to have that work be recognized. It came out the way it did because the light was flashing to signal a commercial break.