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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 😉

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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“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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2017 the year that “you decide alone, no one is alone” – Stephen Sondheim

Good morning world!

When I was 11 or 12 years old,  my best friend growing up gave me a card with a quote from my favorite song from an amazing musical. No One is Alone from Intro the Woods. It included the lines, “Sometimes people leave you halfway through the wood, others may deceive you, you decide what’s good. You decide alone, but not one is alone.” Did I mention this friend was 11? Yes he was/is a bit of a kid genius. Anyway, this quote means the world to me and I hang his card up in every home I’ve lived in since that fateful day I received it at French Woods for my birthday. Eventually, after High School, Alex and I parted ways half way through the woods because he was off to Columbia and I to Michigan, but we’re still good (if not as close) friends to this day. Why have I decided to name 2017 the year that “you decide alone, no one is alone,” you ask (and freakin’ buy a domain name about it)? Well, it’s probably the most concise description of humanity that I’ve ever heard. We can’t depend on other people to make decisions for us but that doesn’t mean we don’t have people in our lives to lean on. Actually…the latter phrase is even more loaded than that. It’s also a call out to anyone feeling alone right at this very moment. Anyone feeling scared, sick, depressed, unhappy, anxious. You may feel so desperately, heart-achingly alone, but the fact of the matter is…no one is alone.

Now, for a real-life story. Trigger warning: includes a discussion of self-harm

2016 was a horrible year for me and not just because of Brexit, Trump and seemingly unexplainable deaths. 2016 was the year I developed a bad, bad habit to deal with my anxiety and depression. My decision to reveal what this habit was on the internet was not taken lightly (I assure you, concerned relatives). The reason I AM going to tell the “world” is because I want to take responsibility for my actions and perhaps by sharing my experience, I’ll bring comfort to someone going through a similar experience. I’m also hoping that my internet-honesty will make me more accountable for my actions and perhaps prevent me from doing this in the future.

Basically, back in January, 2016, after a very, very stressful few weeks, I began self-harming (using sharp objects to scratch and cut my arm) in order to deal with the dark thoughts i was having and the pain in my chest and head (symptoms of depression and anxiety). If you’ve ever experienced a depressive episode (according to the DSM V – lasting two weeks or longer), then you know that it’s a bit like a black hole. It’s not just that you’re emotionally and psychologically empty but you feel like your “self” is slowly being sucked out of you. It’s shiiiiiit.

The worst part was that even though I thought I kicked the habit by April, I was cutting again in June and then again in September and November.  WTF world? I’m a strong ass woman trying to get my doctorate. If I can create an experimental paradigm, why can’t i stop myself from cutting? Well, “despite what pretty poets say, the night is only half the day” (The Fantasticks). Don’t worry, I haven’t lost my damn marbles, just yet. What I mean is, our conscious awareness is only half of our “mind.” We ALL (yes all) have unconsciously controlled habits (e.g. musical theatre quotes popping into my head like a second language), thoughts and ticks that are not easily thwarted.

On January 2nd, 2017, I still don’t feel completely over the hump even though I’m choosing to start my year with 31 days of yoga rather than cutting. For example, I found myself ripping up a cardboard box the night of new years day to stop me from cutting…whatever works!!

I don’t expect to never FEEL like cutting but goddammit, I swear I’m going to try my darnedest not to hurt myself with a sharp object this 2017 (or ever again).

BOOM, MOTHERFUCKERS!!!

Love you all,
Molly-pop