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Enclothed.

Wrapped in a warm hug

my

dressing gown embraces me

and I her.

“Mutual respect,” some may call it.

I call it love.

There is a boundary between my heart and the fluffy material;

My skin.

My skin protects me and embraces me and I hold her and that mutual love and respect opens my heart and I am vulnerable.

That vulnerability makes me empathetic, open and honest, but when those qualities are taken advantage of, the flower encloses into itself and I am entangled in my own thoughts.

I feel used, I feel angry, and most upsettingly, I can only think about myself as a result.

Gone are my embraces of friends through words and cuddles.

Gone is my love.

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“Rebecca’s Reprise” from the Season 2 Finale of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

[You Stupid Bitch tune] Well, Rebecca,
You’ve done it now;
You’ve gotten everything you said you wanted.
[updated version/different key; whimsical] So, take a moment and take a breath; After today, you’ll start fresh;

And finally I’ll be [pause; I’m The Villain In My Own Story tune in a    major key] the hero of my own story.

The princess in the tale.
[updated version/different key] In an unexpected twist,
It turns out magic exists;
I’ll feel it in my dress and in my veil

[I Love My Daughter (But Not In A Creepy Way) tune] Daddy’s little girl,
Princess of his world
That was never something I knew before;
But now that I’m a bride,
He’ll look at me with pride;
[Poignantly different rhythm; also, more legato]‘Cause my daddy will love me,
And then, in a wonderful way,
Everything in the past will just fall away.
[new tune; more earnest/pleading] My daddy will love me,
And my mommy will love me,
And Josh will love me and then…

[We’ll Never Have Problems Again tune; song’s resolution] I’ll never have problems [pause] again.

– Rebecca’s Reprise from Crazy Ex Girlfriend 

^Yea, I’m not doing this for every song or anything.

Full disclosure, I copy & pasted the lyrics from here, but ended up revising the punctuation based on my own interpretation/Rachel Bloom’s performance. The bold brackets [] describe what is going on in the subsequent lyrics, according to me. Please let me know if I missed anything/got anything wrong!

Basically, I love breaking down discourse in order to explain it to others and/or add my own interpretation; whether it’s poetry (holla my “Picasso, Nietzsche and T.S. Eliot” Freshman Writing Seminar at the University of Michigan and my 11th grade poetry project on Theodore Roethke for AP English Lit), novels, dramatic writing or interview data from a semi-structured protocol.  The process provides a structure through which, I can be creative and express my ideas.

 “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” as a Whole 

I’ve written about Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom’ show previously (specifically, the Season 2 Finale), because the show means a lot to me and I can really relate to Rebecca (side note: I’m apparently very into semicolons, today).

Specifically, I grew up with songs in my head (Since I was 5,  I’ve been in 4 musicals or plays a year, on average, until 6 years ago) and learned very early on that singing and acting could help me deal with emotional distress and psychological turmoil. While I still love to sing, dance and perform (and have managed to continue doing these things alongside a lot of academic training), creative, memoiristic, annotational and academic writing have recently joined the therapeutic-activities club! This is probably because I consider writing to be a kin to quietly talking to myself (and my audience), which helps me figure out my own thoughts and feelings on a subject (rather than just adopting those of loud, sometimes coercive, people). Acting, singing and performing play a very similar role in my life.

I’m not sure if what I’m about to write can be generalized to other people’s experiences, because I’m just me, but I find that creative, productive activities also help me heal from trauma in very specific ways. For example, all of the activities I mentioned require me to be emotionally buoyant and resilient. Thus, in addition to practicing adopting this healthy emotional framework, I also have the opportunity to work through, sometimes intense, feelings of frustration, jealousy, anger, love, joy, excitement etc.

In terms of how my ramblings relate back to CEG, the catharsis, emotional/cognitive empathy and giggles I experience from merely watching others (i.e., the CEG cast) sing on screen, is similarly very therapeutic for me.

The example of Rebecca’s Reprise

Rebecca’s Reprise is an excellent microcosm of the the entire series. For one thing, it includes excerpts from songs from the first two seasons sung by different characters. In addition, it illustrates key themes in the show:

Key theme 1: In the real world, Rebecca has yet to find her own, grounded voice (possibly because of low self-esteem). Instead, she latches onto “signs” the universe is “providing” her (my quotations indicate I think this is a bullshit notion; although, I must admit that when I haven’t been doing well, I’ve done the same), cultural standards (although her rational-self has admitted its not healthy to depend on relationships/others for your happiness) and the opinions of other important people in her life.

Key theme 1: Seeing the world in black and white, rather than shades of grey, is very easy to do. When Rebecca co-ops songs from earlier in the show’s lifetime, she either intensifies their message (e.g.,”Cause my daddy will love me […] Everything in the past will just fall away;” ending the reprise with a musically resolute, “I’ll never have problems again”) or uses them to express an opposite message (“You’ve gotten everything you said you wanted”). There’s no middle ground. The thing is, most people I know can’t identify the middle ground from one time or another.

For me, the weirdest thing about this song is that it reminds me of a very specific event from my childhood. I was around 7-years-old and recently admitted into my elementary school’s Gifted & Talented program. Awesomely, my peers and I were assigned to write an original play based on a fairytale. We chose Snow White, but decided there would be 7 Snow Whites and one dwarf. I was obviously the witch (I knew from a young age that the best part wasn’t always the ingenue). When I was finally defeated (I think I was pretending to be one of the Snow Whites?) and hurtling towards my demise, I rapidly went from one snow white personality to the next. It was a pretty epic emotional journey for a seven-year-old to convey, but whatevs…pretty sure I naaaaailed ūüėČ

Anyway, I’ve read many a blog post about CEG proposing complex diagnoses for Rebecca Bunch. Whilst using the terms “depressed” and “anxious” doesn’t bother me so much, although us arm-chair clinicians cannot diagnose it…saying she’s bipolar or has a personality disorder is not helpful. Not because there is anything shameful or wrong about being diagnosed but that…it’s no-one’s right, except your psychiatrist’s or GP’s (but…the latter is a bit of a stretch), to do so. Also, as I’ve said before, from my experience, many people experience mental health issues that don’t amount to a formal diagnosis and don’t need to. Meds or no meds. Therapy or no therapy.

Ok! That’s it :0) Also…I’m a Doctor now! YAY! – Dr. Molly :0)

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Being empathetic

Hello world!

I’m still planning to write/post a Molly & Musicals post this week, but today, I wanted to write my ¬†response to the current political/social climate…in the form of a lesson on empathy.¬†Luckily, it’s my blog..so, I make the rules! Yay!

Quick life update: I’m defending my thesis next week so hopefully…very soon, I’ll be Dr. Molly, ftw!

Alrighty, Being Empathetic

I’ve been fortunate enough to be paid to study psychology at the doctoral level for the last 3.5 years. One of my favorite topics to read about and conduct research on is¬†empathy.

Empathy is an interesting term, because, at least in my opinion, it’s super easy to misunderstand (I know I still get confused!). Also, like many psychological concepts, its definition is highly debatable…so, basically, academia can be a pain in the ass (no offense, Mr. Academia!).

OK, so…what is empathy? First, I’d like to start with what empathy is not:

  1. Empathy is not (necessarily) having an emotional reaction to someone’s plight in life, e.g., feeling sad when you see a rough sleeper on the street.
  2. Empathy is¬†not imagining what¬†YOU¬†would do in someone else’s shoes, e.g., “If I were in your situation, I would NOT have done THAT.”
  3. Empathy is¬†not thinking you know what’s best for another group of people because of your own life experience/identity, e.g., because I’m in a position of power, it’s my right to decide women don’t deserve free contraception (PS Fuck you, Trump).

Alright, Molly…then what’s empathy?

Well, the exact definition is still debated among researchers. Specifically, the difference between sympathy and empathy, but here is my understanding of what empathy is:

Empathy is the ability to understand the perspective of another person and includes at least two components: cognitive and emotional empathy.

Being¬†cognitively¬†empathetic is the ability to understand the thought processes of another person, their emotional state and possibly (this might be incorrect), how they came to have that thought process (based on their life experience/what’s going on in their life at the moment/profession/personal trauma/temperament).

Being¬†emotionally empathetic is the ability to feel what another person is feeling. This is different than sympathy, the ability to feel compassion towards another person’s plight in life.

Basically, in my opinion (and also in the opinion of the amazing Empathy Lab), developing, most importantly,¬†cognitive empathy (emotional empathy is still beneficial and will help you to better understand another person’s plight through embodiment, BUT¬†cognitive¬†empathy can be taught and allows you to better intellectually understand another person or people’s existence) at an early early age or at least eventually has the potential to significantly affect contemporary culture.

For example, if the majority of politicians ¬†genuinely cognitively empathized with disenfranchised members of society, I’d predict they’d be more likely to propose policies that have the potential to actually benefit those groups rather than…themselves or…lobbyists and donors etc.

That’s all for now :0)

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“No One Is Alone” from Into the Woods

I’ve written about this song before. It means a lot to me for a variety of reasons.

First off, Into the Woods is one of my favourite shows and I’ve had the pleasure of being in it twice: once as the Baker’s Wife (only act one (junior edition!), but my dream is to play her in the whole thing one day) and a second time in High School as half of the narrator (my best friend played the mysterious man!; technically two sides of the same coin?). The original cast recording is also downright magical in my eyes (ears?).

So, “No One is Alone.” Why did I write an essay about it Senior Year of High School? Why did my 11-year-old best friend include a quote from the song in my birthday card? Why did I keep the card indefinitely?

Lots to unpack. Yay!

To start this off, I need to talk about Sondheim’s writing in general. In my opinion, he’s very good at writing lyrics that double as ingenious life advice. For example:

“Stop worrying where you’re going/move on[…]Anything you do/Let it come from you/Then it will be new”

– Sunday in the Park with George

“Somebody need me too much,/Somebody know me too well./Somebody pull me up short,/and put me through hell/and give me support/for being alive./Make me alive[…]vary my days./But alone,/is alone,/not aliiiiiive!/Somebody crowd me with love/somebody force me to care. Somebody let me come through/I’ll always be there/As frightened as you/to help us survive/Being alive”

– Company

So, what type of wisdom does the song, “No One Is Alone” include?

In the play, all four characters are dealing with a loss. Either a loss of a loved one or their identity. In my opinion the song has two seemingly paradoxical messages:

“Sometimes people leave you/halfway through the wood./Others may deceive you, /you decide what’s good./You decide alone,/No one is alone.

At a glance, the song is very “You Will Be Found”/don’t feel alone even though you’re lonely because there are people you may have never met that are on your side.

But I think there is AT LEAST one deeper message that helps make this show the timeless gem that it is: When you’re by yourself figuring things out for yourself, listening to your gut, you’re actually far from alone.* There are people that will be in your corner and others that aren’t and life will change and evolve, ebb and flow, but you’ll always have you and if you’re there, you’re not alone.

More succinctly, if you’re true to yourself, you’re not alone.

Yea, this song is the best.

ADDENDUM (“And ANOTHER thing!” – Jennifer Mankin) – In my haste to finish this post and get it off my to-do list, I missed exploring another crucial layer to this song.

Alrighty, here we go:

Sondheim manages to seamlessly weave so many layers of humanity into this song, while still adhering to his titular statement:

“No one acts alone./Careful”

“No one is alone” is meant to both comfort and warn us. You’re not alone, but neither are the people who may want to hurt you, for example.

“People make mistakes!/Fathers,/Mothers./People make mistakes./Holding to their own,/thinking they’re alone”

I don’t think this quote has just one interpretation, a common occurrence in Sondheim’s lyrics. One that resonate with me: those responsible for the welfare of others (fathers/mothers/guardians/carers) may make mistakes out of stubbornness, forgetting their very important connection to another.

“Honor their mistakes!/Fight for their mistakes! Everybody makes [mistakes]/One another’s/terrible mistakes!”

This is an interesting one. I wouldn’t interpret this as “blindly follow in your parents’ example” (although, if you don’t reflect on what you’ve learned as a child, that’s a likely behavioral outcome). More interestingly, I think of this lyric as declaring “we ALL make mistakes,” don’t let that stop you fighting for those you love and want to lift up.

Bit of a side-note: The ability to see the world through another’s eyes (especially the eyes of someone from a completely different background to yourself) requires going ¬†into situations that challenge you (e.g., “into the woods”) and opening yourself up to meeting new people from diverse backgrounds.

“Witches can be right,/ giants can be good./You decide what’s right,/you decide what’s good”

This maps onto my side-note. People can and will defy your stereotypes. In the end, it’s up to YOU to decide what’s “right” and what’s “good.” which harks back to my first deeper interpretation of this song: be true to yourself.

I really do believe it’s our responsibility to be true to ourselves and not to just blindly follow in the footsteps of others (unless…being true to yourself is being a follower? I guess? dunno). I recently went through a period where I wasn’t being completely true to myself and it negatively impacted important aspects of my life. It was a real bummer. ALSO, I was super unhappy pretending not to be me. It felt “easier” and I pretty persuasively convinced myself it was a good idea, but…yea, it wasn’t.

OK! One last quote:

“You move just a finger/say the slightest word/something’s bound to linger/be heard”

Yea, this is a super beautiful segment. Both sonically and semantically.

Very Butterfly Effect, but with a tone of hope and urgency. We’re connected. Don’t fret, something you write/do/say is bound to linger. Whether for a day, week, decade, millennium.

Also, there are a lot of voices out there but if you DON’T make yours heard, nothings going to linger…so, be heard!

NOW, that’s it for this week :0)

Thanks for reading!!

– Molly

*I think of “alone” as a synonym for “lonely” in this context (but I may be wrong).

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“She Used To Be Mine” – my first post in a new blog series, “Molly & Musicals” plus…a long intro :0)

The reasons I started blogging were completely selfless and selfish.

Communicating how I feel is how I process my thoughts and emotions, whether that be through singing, whining, dancing, talking to a friend over coffee, screeching on the phone with my sister etc. and so forth. Thus, I selfishly started this blog in part as a form of therapy; a way for me to communicate with myself, process how I’m feeling and reach out to others.

At the same time, ¬†whether this was idealistic or not, when I started this blog, I also hoped that people reading my posts would potentially feel the catharsis I felt whilst writing them, or at least something equally beneficial. To feel like “no one is alone“. Thus, a primary aim of starting this blog was ¬†to promote empathy and community, at least on a small scale.

Since I started blogging, I came across two websites/organizations and one form of qualitative analysis (obvs) that I’m realizing have really impacted my understanding of and recharged my passion for sharing my story and way of seeing the world:

  • Empathy Lab, an incredible organization I’ve started volunteering for that broadly aims to strengthen the relationship between reading/writing/learning and empathy.
  • Second, a couple of months ago a new friend of mine showed me her website, What Would Julie Do?, dually a love-letter to Dame Julie Andrews and self-help guide for musical theatre lovers. Although I haven’t had the chance to attend one, her live shows are what really got me excited about her endeavor: talented singers singing show tunes that they’ve resonated with and sharing how the shows/songs/characters have impacted their lives.
  • Finally, when I first met my friend George, he told me about the magic of auto-ethnography, a self-reflective form of qualitative research that I hope to pursue in the future.

Now, onto my new blogging series. For each blog post, which will come out at least weekly, I’m going to choose a song/character/musical/lyric that has significantly impacted my life and unpack why and how. I’m hoping it will cross the barriers of love-letter/psychological analysis/self-reflection/catharsis/empathy/fun-times! Here we go…

“She Used To Be Mine” – the 11 o’clock number from Waitress the Musical (music & lyrics:¬†Sara Bareilles

“It’s not simple to say/that most days I don’t recognize me/that these shoe and this apron, that place and its patrons/have taken more than I gave”

This song is one of those pieces of music that can immediately change my mood. It’s sad, but not depressing; empowering but also nostalgic in a really beautiful way.

I saw Waitress on Broadway with my mom last summer (2016) and whilst I was moved and enjoyed the music, I didn’t fall in love with the show right away. First of all, in my opinion, it’s difficult to compete with the original movie and my mom and I spent a lot of the time comparing the two.¬†In addition, I wasn’t in the best place at the time. I’d just started a period of intermission from my PhD after switching primary supervisors and had one year to submit my thesis. I was also, understandably, depressed.

Then, in 2017, after chatting with an awesome musical theatre friend who is also a teacher, I realized how much I can relate to Jenna and that feeling of empathy is epitomized in this song.

My PhD experience definitely took more from me than I gave. Meaning, (side note: such a great lyric!) the PhD stole more from me than I ever consented to give it. Then, why did I stay in the program for 4 years? Because I was passionate? Because I knew I wanted to stay in academia for the rest of my life? Because I have an above average level of determination and grit?

Fuck no. Well, maybe a bit.

I was also genuinely scared to quit. Studying and pleasing teachers was all I knew. And the worst part of it al was that, although I was lucky enough to continue having singing lessons with an incredible teacher, I’d stopped performing. I just didn’t have the time or I didn’t make time for it…one or the other. Or both.

So, here I was, the beginning of 2017. 6 months away from submitting my thesis and feeling completely empty. Completely drained, scared to quit, wondering how I’d even manage to finish this thing I’d given too much of myself.

Then, a blast from the past happened! I was invited to volunteer at a recruitment fair for my old sleep away camp, French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts, basically, the greatest place on earth. I spent 7 summers as a camper and 2 as a camp counselor/voice teacher/vocal coach and those summers gave me more than I could have dreamed. I grew up there. I learned how to take care of myself, to be my own person, to sing, to perform, to be a good friend. I had bad days and stressful experiences, sure, but the net worth of those summers is immeasurable. I wouldn’t be who I am today without those summers.

Attending that recruitment fair and chatting with the owner and an awesome head counselor brought back a flood of memories, emotions, passions and dreams that laid dormant. That I’d more or less suppressed or forgotten about. “I didn’t have ‘time” to entertain that molly’ I’d tell myself when I was crying over a difficult three-way interaction or trying to please a supervisor I just didn’t get on with.

The amazing thing about Jenna’s journey in this song and throughout the musical/movie/whatevs is it normalizes surviving abuse. Abuse in all of its forms has been normalized…basically forever, but surviving abuse is a different story. In my opinion, you don’t hear the survivors’ perspective nearly enough.

That has got to change.


Alrighty, thanks for reading my first post in this series :0) Any feedback/comments/questions/complaints (I suppose…) are welcome!

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I’m back!

Hello world!

I’m back after an unplanned, 5-month hiatus!! Yay!

Basically…finishing my thesis was tougher than intended and as a result, I lost my voice for a short while. Or, at least my interest in sharing what I had to say with others. Mostly because I started thinking, ‘why would/should anyone give a shit about me and what I have to say?’

To be honest…even while writing this blog post, there’s still a small part of me that feels this way, but luckily, the mindful Molly (TM!!) can recognize that it’s just a negative thought. And as a result, that thought has less emotional power!

I love writing. Mostly because I think of it as another form of talking (to myself or to my imaginary reader) and I REALLY love talking. And singing for that matter.

So, fuck that whiny voice inside my head telling me to stop being me!

I’m going to aim to write one blog a week, on average, indefinitely. If that changes, I will let y’all know!

If you have any constructive criticism and/or positive feedback on what I’ve written so far, get in touch! If you have any suggestions for future blog post/collaborations, that’s cool too!

Love you all,

Molly

PS I’m moving back to Brighton on Friday for a few months :0) YAY!

 

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How to stop time.

T minus 19 days until I submit my thesis and I had the luxury of spending most of the weekend with my boyfriend in Brighton.

I haven’t seen him in over a week, which is unusual, because we live together. But alas alak, ¬†that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.

Luckily, absence DOES make the heart grow fonder or whatevs so ended up having an especially magical weekend (managing to interact with no one else! #winning).

As per usual (as long as I take the time to listen), he made an especially perceptive comment about humanity (one that when made earlier in the form of a suggestion, I wholeheartedly disagreed with).

 

Basically, his suggestion was that I ought to read the news less . Being the rebellious gal I am, I  started reading the news more often when he first suggested it a few months ago.

One of his arguments for encouraging me (and everyone) to make this change (which I only now chatted with him about) was ¬†that by reading about eeeeevery “terrorist” attack, eeeeeeevery “lone guman” (same thing as the fucking former), even though¬†I’m as safe as I was before reading the article, I’m VEEEEEERY much more fearful and freaked out. THAT FEAR IS WHAT FUELS¬†ISIS (he said). If no one paid attention/cared, ISIS would potentially¬†disband, because there would no one fueling the fear-fire.

Curious!

He’s not suggesting we ignore news about our government and the political situation around the world or ignore systematic intolerance/mutilation etc, but…considering shootings happen in the states (especially) EVERY DAY, it’s ok to turn of your phone and go for a walk in the sunshine (preferably, while enjoying an ice cream cone).

It’s also OK to make intentional changes in your life to be a better version of yourself and thus be more capable of enriching the lives of others.

(Tick, Tick…)Boom!¬†