"It felt good to cry about something else for once".
That's what I found myself texting a friend after watching Disney's Encanto for the first time.
I've been thinking about this movie and watching it many times since. It feels like I'm studying it now, trying to understand why it hits me so hard everytime and literally brings on more emotion than I thought I had left at this point.
I could write an entire essay on the songs themselves and the brilliance of the messaging, the catchy harmonies, I mean, 'we don't talk about Bruno' is a household phrase by this point. But I just love it all, I love the big picture where once again, Disney has found a way to totally help us escape to this gorgeous experience of colour and vibrancy that wakes my tired eyes up from the everyday. It's the nuances that feel theatrical and make it hard to believe that these characters are animated. If you're about to watch it again, watch Mirabel when she reacts to the cracks at the family dinner to see what I mean. She braces herself in a way that is totally theatrical and amazing. But aside from all these fabulous moments, it's the key messaging and subtext that shines here.
Most of the characters are dealing with internal struggle, pressure and anxiety, and they are all misunderstood. It's amazing to watch each story unfold, and for obvious reasons, Luisa is the headliner here. If I haven't felt like a single crack would break me entirely since the start of this pandemic, I'd be lying to myself. So many people have been walking around in such fragile states for almost two years, that we have built such high, protective walls just to keep us going.
The power in her messaging is the misconception that because she isn't talking about her vulnerability and shows up with strength everyday, that it simply doesn't exist. And because her family relies on her to be strong when they are not, she doesn't get or give herself that 'permission' to break (or take a break).
This happens so much, especially as parents going through this really hard thing with no guide book. But while we are wrapped up in the strong show we are putting on, we can easily miss that our kids are doing it too. We talk about them being so adaptable and flexible through all this, but maybe they're the ones we are also leaning on to keep us going and hold us together.
And then, there's Abuela's story. Wow. It's the first story you learn about, but it's not until the end that you actually get it. I think it's pretty common to hear stories about our grandparents and their strength during extremely difficult situations and just embrace it with ease. Whether you've heard a story about your grandparents immigrating and starting a new life from nothing, when it's been part of your upbringing, it can become so familiar that you don't always think to dig deeper.
It's not our fault, it's just if you've never shared a similar experience, it's kind of unrelatable. And it's why I realize this movie makes me cry so much more than my kids. When you watch a father kiss his three babies goodbye to do something completely selfless, you feel that. If you're a parent - you KNOW so hard that feeling of fear, utter desperation and devastation that runs through Abuela in that moment and all the ones that follow. But in her deep sorrow and mourning, she looks at her babies and realizes she can't stop showing up for them.
And though it's two entirely different experiences... In some strange parallel way, I've never felt more heard. This idea of showing up when you're broken. When you just need the heal or curl up in a ball, or be completely wrapped up in your struggle, but a new day calls on you to once again persevere.
It's been almost two years and I don't know one person who hasn't experienced some form of pandemic fatigue at this point, including me.
So at this point you're probably asking yourself, I came here to read something from the girl who draws happy prints and tries to keep it cheery - if I wanted to feel depressed, I could just watch the news. But just don't stop reading yet. Because you're in it if you're feeling that way. The point is we need those feelings sometimes, to remind us how to feel deeply, and that we can feel deeply, when so much has felt buffered or surface level just to protect, to sustain ourselves a little longer so we can be a little stronger.
I used to say the best way to discover what makes you comfortable is to experience what makes you uncomfortable. Basic right? But it's true. The best way to understand when you're feeling happy, is to know first, how it feels to be sad so you can appreciate fully when it hits you.
I started creating during this pandemic to find the happy in the sad. And that's why Encanto gets me and why I need to go on that emotional rollercoaster, is to remind myself that I have and can have deep feelings still, get into them and come back out okay. That I don't have to worry that I'll get sucked so far in that I'll be lost forever. In fact, feeling what your need to feel as a practice helps you get used to coming in and out of it.
You are so much stronger than you know and sometimes the house just has to fall for you to figure that out. It's never about the fall or the crumble - it's always, always, ALWAYS about what you do afterwards that matters most.
You got this.