Tonight on my hobble-walk* I came across a playlist of show tunes on Spotify. Happily the first song that came on was one of my very favourites: “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. I still remember the first time I saw the song performed in person, 3+ years ago. It was such an emotional experience for me (read: full-on ugly cry).
I love the retelling of stories from different perspectives: in this case, The Wizard of Oz from the POV of the wicked witch of the west, Elphaba. If you’re not that familiar with Wicked’s retelling, one of the reasons why the story resonates with me is its focus on social justice — Elphaba becomes a voice for the mistreated, in part because she can empathize with what it feels like to be so misunderstood and bullied. A lot of that I can relate to, on some fairly personal levels.
Elfie has an innate sense of justice and wants to help the oppressed, and thinks some good can be accomplished through working with the Wizard’s leadership. Of course, that’s not the case and the Wizard is corrupt and hypocritical. Hence, the song Defying Gravity.
When I first heard the song performed 3 years ago, I thought of how hard it was for me to “defy gravity” in my life and strike out away from the religious lifestyle of my friends and family (I wrote about some of that in this blog entry). I related to Elfie, because for so long I wanted to make things work within my belief system — but soon the hypocrisy and injustice I kept witnessing became too much for me, and I knew I had to get out, even if leaving meant taking a huge personal risk and facing relational loss.
Fast-forward to my life three years later. I’m now walking down an abandoned University Bridge, in the 7pm golden light of sunset, and this song pops up — and I realize that, once again, my life has *defied gravity*. But instead of walking away from my longstanding religious background, I walked away from my 10-year-marriage.
Part of the song’s lyrics state:
Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!
and I know what that feels like. There was a point in our marriage when a corner was turned, and then there wasn’t any “going back to sleep” and pretending that everything was alright. And as hard as it was to “trust my instincts” in that moment, I’m glad I did. I’m glad that I did what was difficult: I leaped.
I’m through accepting limits
’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But til I try, I’ll never know!
Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost!
“Too long I’ve been afraid of / losing love I guess I’ve lost” — those lines hit me hard. I remember when I heard that line 3 years ago, it was the love I lost of my friends and family who couldn’t accept me as a nonbeliever. And now, the love I lost 3 years later, was due to someone not fully embracing me for who I truly am. Both lost loves are devastating — and yet, they will no longer hold me back.
Which leads to the BEST PART of the entire song (and maybe the part I sang out loud to a couple times this afternoon on the trails):
So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
“Ev’ryone deserves the chance to fly!”
And if I’m flying solo
At least I’m flying free
To those who’d ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
I’m flying high
And soon I’ll match them in renown
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!
“If I’m flying solo, at least I’m flying free” — That’s me, today. I’m no longer happy being grounded — whether that means being a part of a religious system that forces me to compromise or in a relationship that doesn’t fulfill me. Nothing is ever gonna bring me down.
It’s a song that still feels so devastating and yet empowering — which is a lot like life, don’t you think? There can be moments when life knocks the wind out of you, and other times when you feel like punching the sky with happiness.
Today a dear friend told me that they admired my strength. And my response was that I didn’t think of myself as all that strong — but that I thought I was just strong *enough*.
And maybe being strong enough is all it takes to defy some of the gravity that holds you down in life.
*I forgot to blog about the fact the surgery happened 4 weeks ago