Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I went to see Frozen 2 by myself. I am a boy mom, and much to my consternation, my sons aren’t really into Frozen or its songs. I definitely tried bribing them with popcorn and treats at the theater but that attempt failed miserably.
Soon, I found myself sitting alone in a sold-out theater next to a couple who were clearly on a date and a tiny army of little girls whose moms had taken them together (and probably didn’t have to bribe them with popcorn).
I quickly dismissed any self-consciousness, because I’d come here for a lighthearted escape from my life, battling severe postpartum depression isn’t for the faint of heart and I needed to feel childlike once more, if only for 1 hour and 43 minutes.
I went into the movie expecting some laughs from Olaf, some sisterly love from Elsa and Anna, and lots of magic. What I didn’t expect was a song that would describe my current life as I know it and the message of hope I needed to hear in that moment.
This song is entitled, “The Next Right Thing“ and it isn’t sung by Elsa, nor is it the main song of the movie.Anna (Kristen Bell) sings it at a sad, pivotal moment in the movie while she’s encased in a dark cave. It begins with the lyrics:
“I’ve seen dark before but not like this. This is cold, this is empty, this is numb. The life I know is over, the lights are out. Hello, darkness, I’m ready to succumb”.
I have had many failures and stages of loss in my life, I’ve endured countless moments of pain, including the death of my ex-husband in 2016. Never though, until this year, did I feel so alone in this darkness – where all senses of worth and purpose are gone. I had my baby boy in February and the hormones set their hooks into my thoughts and they have yet to let go. I’ve seen dark before. But not like this. I don’t know how to pull myself out and there’s no one to help me whenever you don’t have much of a family, you lack a husband, you can’t turn to your children because you’re the strong front, and you don’t have the insurance for medical help. To say I’ve been ready to “succumb” is an understatement.The song continues…
“I follow you around, I always have. But you’re gone to a place I cannot find…this grief has a gravity it pulls me down. But a tiny voice whispers in my mind, “you are lost, hope is gone but you must go on and do the next right thing.”
I lost myself this year. I somehow knew this but it didn’t become clear to me until this song hit home. I grieve over the “me” that is missing. She used to smile, she used to look for bright spots of light … but she was soon overcome by this shadowy version of myself that I am now. Weighed down by the responsibilities I have as a mother, worker, friend, and as a spiritual woman – I don’t even have time to search for Missing Me.
The next right thing? The song continues.
“Can there be a day beyond this night? I don’t know anymore what is true. I can’t find my direction, I’m all alone. The only star that guided me was you. How to rise from the floor when it’s not you I’m rising for? Just do the next right thing. Take a step, step again. It’s all that I can to do the next right thing.”
The old me knew that life was full of tomorrows. I never thought that there would be a time I wouldn’t know what to do except get to tomorrow, and if it wouldn’t be for my babies guiding me to the next tomorrow, me literally only breathing for them – Present Me may have succumbed long ago. In this season of hopelessness, this season of being on the floor, there have been too many times I’ve felt unworthy of my little stars that guide me on a daily basis. Each day I worry about providing the most basic necessities in my boys’ lives. At least twice a week, I worry about things for their future like how they’ll afford college, get health insurance since I currently have a job that doesn’t provide it, and my creating a living will so that they are left with something if the worst happens to me, now that I’m their sole provider. I have no choice but to be future-oriented, even when the future seems bleak and nonexistent. It’s overwhelming and completely maddening.
But … what if I need to rise from this floor for me, not just for them?
I won’t look too far ahead, it’s too much for me to take. But break it down to this next breath. This next step. This next choice is one that I can make.
And Anna sings, “Just do the next right thing.” Then she sings, “Step. Step again.” It’s so simple. The right thing is to get up from the floor. To take one step and then step again. No matter how small they are, these are the only way to escape the cave. Getting out is the right thing to do. Even if I can do nothing else, even though the future seems like an impossible path, I can choose to breathe a breath and take a step. She continues to sing.
So I’ll walk through this night, stumbling blindly toward the light and do the next right thing. And with the dawn what comes then, when it’s clear that everything will never be the same again. Then I’ll make the choice to hear that voice and do the next right thing.
There will be a dawn, anywhere there’s night. There will be. One does not exist without the other. This song is so encouraging and I am not ashamed that it took a trip to the movies to teach me what I can do right now until I get better, until things get better. The song is right, I’ll never be the same again. Anyone who experiences sorrow or trying times and gets through those obstacles alive rarely stays the same. This is a good thing, though. We come out of caves stronger, wiser and our children see this and will know what to do whenever they enter caves of their own. I have chosen to hear that voice and do the next right thing and I hope they will, too.