Sara Bareilles’ recent single comes from her new musical “Waitress”, with it’s story adapted from the 2007 award-winning Indie Film. The musical centralizes on a waitress, who strategizes a way to leave her abusive husband, but finds herself pregnant with his child in the planning process. With an innate talent for conceptualizing and baking beloved pies for her patrons, her identity lies sandwiched between her impressive pastry skills and the cowardly use of a man who can’t love. 

The song “She Used to be Mine” is the musical’s ballad baked into a melodic pie of brutal self reflection. Whether you have seen the movie or listened to the tracks released on Bareilles' new album, “She Used to be Mine” attempts to pry open that emotional coffin you buried a piece of your soul in. 

I’ll give you four minutes to listen to the song… 

Now here is a breakdown of how it relates to you (mostly me though…maybe you too). 

“She is broken and won’t ask for help”
Brokenness is something we can all relate to because well...we are all broken. Jenna, the main character, sings about her unwillingness to seek help within the shattered confines of her marriage. I’ve always had trouble understanding why some people stay in abusive relationships until I looked at my own self-pity. I can be extremely hard on myself especially when I fall into the common misbehaviors of my damaged character. I repeat mistakes, often wondering if I’ll ever learn from them. My brokenness is rooted in fear and am willing to bet that much of your brokenness is rooted in the same; fear of facing your past, fear of change, fear of responsibility, fear of your own thoughts, fear of pain, fear of being alone, fear of losing someone, fear of losing yourself, fear of being loved and not being loved.

Jenna is afraid for the entirety of the story. She is afraid of never being loved and never loving in return; true love, not feared love as coerced by her egotistical husband. That fear began when she lost her mother, a woman who showed her that baking can be as artistically enriching to taste as the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is to absorb with your sight. Tragedy is difficult to recover from once it sinks its roots into the heart with unpronounced emotional numbness. Once you are numb, it’s easy to stay in an abusive relationship. One is convinced that it is better not to feel anything than to face the internal combustion that is the grieving process.

Jenna sings, "Most days I don't recognize me." She is holding on to her brokenness by dwelling on a past identity. We are not always the best version of ourselves in our most fondest memories and sometimes those admirable traits we have will alter. While our core identity remains in tact, the surrounding elements will shift. By trying to get back to a single time in our past we don't leave room for the necessary transformation of our heart’s authentic self. But as Jenna discovers at the end of the play "Everything Changes”, including those traits that made up the identity she once desired. 

Life is Alive
“Sometimes life just slips in through a back door and carves out a person and makes you believe it’s all true.”
Wow, how brutally honest is this lyric? When looking back on my life I can say there have been times when life carved out an identity that was false and convinced me it's who I was. Without self confidence, I believed that the repeated opinions of others was all I was made to be. This lyric is all about taking control of life before it takes control of you. Life of course is alive. It’s a garden waiting to be pruned or else prepared to grow wild wherever it likes.

When I was 10 years old my friend’s Michael and Matt had a picnic table in their backyard. One day they were playing on it (or something) and it broke. Rather than fess up, they blamed it on me. I wasn’t even there! That did not stop their mom from forcing a false confession out of me. She sat me down in her kitchen and told me that I needed to admit what I did or I would never be able to play with my friends again. She promised their wouldn’t be any repercussions If I just admitted it. It would have been nice if Mike and Matt had given me a heads up about this, but they didn’t. So instead of embracing an identity of honesty and self-worth, I admitted to a crime I never committed just so I would not lose my friends. She convinced me of admitting to something that was not true and it rooted into my identity. I started having a fear of authority from that point on. This is an example of how “sometimes life just slips in through a back door and carves out a person and makes you believe it’s all true.”

Even at a young age, even when we may think it doesn’t matter, even at the loss of friend’s, one cannot forfeit their identity. The outcome is immense as one develops their character.  

The Back to the Future Syndrome
“If I’m honest I know I would give it all back for a chance to start over and rewrite an ending or two.” 

I find myself thinking of times in my past that I would like to go back to and relive with the knowledge I have now. I want to prevent myself from making irrational choices in desperation of avoiding the pain of emotional consequences. I know; however, that because of former bad decisions I have achieved a much more valued character. I also know that because I persevered through those challenges I have become a better version of myself. I am a better person because of those mistakes. Yet, I still won't hesitate to travel back in time like Marty McFly and change my past even if it means affecting my future. That's what I call BFS or Back to the Future Syndrome. The goodness in our lives is shadowed by the dark scars in our past.

This song is Jenna's BFS moment. She cannot see the goodness residing inside her because she is consumed by thoughts of a "girl she once knew”. This is a plea for identity, an S.O.S. to the inner life, brought about by the unrecognized life force within her. We all have a life force that we have abandoned and are searching for again.

Jenna's life force is her unborn child motivating her to become stronger. Your life force may be an untapped talent, your passion for justice, or the yearning for unconditional love. Life forces are transformation makers. Jenna accepts that her old self is gone and a new identity outshines the old. Her transition from a motherless child to the mother of a child changes everything. Mother is who she is and how she now thrives as she sings to her newborn in the final song of the musical "And who I was has disappeared, it doesn't matter now you're here, so innocent...And I swear I'll remember to say we were both born today." She Used to be Mine is a song that wants Jenna to cling to the past, but the following song, Everything Changes prepares her for the new future, one that transcends her past self. Think of a snake, it cannot fit into its old skin once it's been shed. As Jesus put it, you cannot place new wine into old wine skins. You cannot cling to an identity you no longer have, but must seek for the transformative life force within. 

Bareilles bridges a gap between pop and musical that has been missing for a long time. The song speaks volumes in context of it’s story, but holds it’s own as a pop single. Enjoy!

I had the opportunity to take my daughter to watch Finding Dory for Father's Day. It was her very first movie at the theaters and my wife and I were a bit nervous of how she would behave through it, but she did surprisingly well. Since she loves Finding Nemo, she was captivated by the familiar characters and fell in love with a few of the new ones, namely Hank the "Ock-a-pus", which she kept repeating after the film (and everyday since…like ten times). 

I was caught up by this story with preexisting positive emotions. Finding Nemo was the first movie I took my little sister to see with my very first paycheck when she was 8 years old. Watching the sequel now with my daughter and having it be her first trip to the movies was heartwarming. Mix that with the opening scene of Dory losing her parents and it makes for some serious waterworks.  

While I don't want this to be a spoiler review, I do want to express the importance of the story’s three parts, it’s theme of child disability and the ingrained lesson of self-reliance. 

In this film Dory gets caught in the Marine Life Institute, an animal hospital/natural habitat exhibit. Through the Institute’s loudspeakers the audience hears the voice of actor and spokesperson Sigourney Weaver repeating the company’s mission statement: rescue, rehabilitation, and release. These stages not only emphasize the process for helping disabled animals, but serve as a euphemism for a child's process of becoming self-reliant despite the challenges or handicaps that may have been placed on them physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. It's a tremendous message that speaks to the heart of parent and child alike. 

Rescuing is a prevalent theme in the story for our leading characters. In Finding Nemo we witness a child in need of physical rescue from exterior forces, and a parent's need for rescue from an internal force: the inability to let go.  Dory helps Marlin rescue his son Nemo, who was taken by a scuba diving dentist who claimed to have discovered Nemo struggling for his life out on the reef and "rescued" him. The dentist noticed Nemo's little fin, the disability he was born with, and believed he needed to be rescued when in fact Nemo was simply proving to his friends, his dad, and himself that his disability was not a hindrance to him by swimming a far distance to touch the diver's boat.

We see this same idea of rescue being played out again in the sequel. In Finding Dory,  young Dory is in need of not just physical rescue, but mental rescue. Dory was born with her own disability (short term memory loss). She never truly learned to manage it due to the involuntary separation from her parents. One year after Dory’s adventure with Marlin in Finding Nemo, she gets lost on a new journey to find her parents. Through her journey she discovers that she can rescue herself and manage her own disability. Even though she is at times fearful of being alone and possibly forgetting her mission, she still does not allow her disability to get the best of her as it did so many times in the past.

Parents want to rescue their children, not just from disabilities, but from everything. It feels natural to protect them. There were some tense moments in the movie when my daughter got scared and turned around to cling to my neck. Her tight grip made we feel like a rescuer. As the movie illustrates though, children will one day need to learn how to rescue themselves, which Dory demonstrates when she learns the skill of self-analysis to help aid her memory. She does not need to be mentally rescued anymore, but becomes self-reliant enough to be the rescuer, as she has proven to Marlin during the first movie and proves now to herself in the sequel. 

Rehabilitation means to restore to health or former life after imprisonment or illness. The preparation of this process often takes place outside the normal living quarters. Nemo's rehabilitation came after spending time in the "eternal bonds of tank hood" with the dentist's aquarium fish. Marlin rehabilitated after his long adventure across the ocean looking for his son. In Finding Dory, the blue tang fish had to go back home to rehabilitate. She was a nomad without a home for a long time and could never learn to become self-reliant without the support of her family and friends. 

Children need the love of their family to encourage them and empower them. Without this, a child lacks an important tool in developing independence. Dory could never find someone to care enough about her to help her rehabilitate, until she met Marlin and Nemo. The familial bond created among the group sparked a deep memory of her actual family. Inspired by this powerful memory, Dory begins her rehabilitation process. 

As I was holding my daughter in the theater, It struck me that one day I would have to release her into the world and she will have to learn how to make healthy choices regardless of anything holding her back. 

What a most difficult job this is for a parent! We tend to be just like Marlin who yearns to protect his son from the "big bad ocean" and who worries about Dory's disability getting in her way. Knowing that you cannot always be there to protect them, even those who struggle with a disability, is the rehabilitation process of all parents.  Parents know that establishing good healthy habits is key to self-sufficiency. Finding Dory showcases this brilliantly by allowing the audience to witness Dory's parents create consistent habits from early childhood. They sing songs to her (Just Keep Swimming), they place shells across the ocean that lead to their home and remind her to follow the shells if she ever gets lost, and most importantly they repeat this process. By repeating these healthy habits they bypass her short term memory and sink in to her pre-frontal cortex (or whatever part of the brain that can hold habits for a fish) which ultimately brings her back to her family in the end. 

Habits are powerful in children.  I witnessed a habit loop play out in front of my eyes with my two year old daughter last weekend. My wife and I have done our best to stick to a routine when it comes to putting her to bed. She eats dinner, she takes a bath, she brushes her teeth, she says her prayers, she reads a book, and then she walks to her bed to fall asleep. It may not be 100% perfect every time and we may alter the sequence slightly, but last weekend I saw how my daughter’s brain works when it comes to habits.

As I was feeding her in her chair my wife was reading the news update regarding the tragedy in Orlando. We suddenly stopped to pray, offering a moment of silence for the victims and their families. We said a “Hail Mary”, which is the prayer we usually say right before we put her to bed. She participated as she usually does and closed the prayer with her ominous “AMEN” swinging her hands over her head and chest to make the form of a squiggly cross. My wife suggested to add an “Our Father” as well, but Imma’s brain immediately began to go through her habitual routine. She stopped eating and insisted on reading a book. With her “Kite” book close at hand, she grabbed it flipped through the pages and immediately said the word “bed” pointing to her room. She was ready and willing to go to bed at that exact moment. It was because of our consistent practice of routine (steps of sleeping) and reward (sleep) that propelled her forward even when it wasn’t time to go to bed. 


Finding Dory is a beautiful extension to a film layered with emotionally charged parental suffering and decision making. It's a permanent reminder that a disability is only as crippling as one makes it out to be. With the proper support network and intrinsic motivation, self reliance can be attainable for those whom others deem it impossible. 

P.S. I haven't even discussed the slap in the face the movie makes to Sea World. Rescue, Rehabilitate, and Release. Think about that in terms of Sea World. 

Further Reading

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