Bareilles Hits Close to Home with “She Used to Be Mine”

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!

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