0

“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).

Advertisements
3

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