NYC, Waitress the Musical, and Unexpected Lessons

Note – This post contains slight spoilers for the movie and musical Waitress.

A while ago, I mentioned that I was going to write about my trip in New York City. Writing about it had always been my plan…and then Orlando happened that same weekend and I ended up writing about that instead. Recently, I remembered that I had not written anything about NYC and I really do want to talk (er, write) about it. The trip was spectacular and such a treat. I immediately want to be back in the city when I think about that weekend. My life has been feeling rather stagnant and the pace of the city was a welcome feeling. I had not had a clue that this trip would touch me deeper than I could ever imagine.

It has been a while since that trip, so it is hard to remember some of the minor things I did. The main highlight is, no surprise, seeing a Broadway musical for the first time. That was the reason M, D, and I went to NYC. Waitress is based on a film directed by the late Adrienne Shelly. It tells the story of a waitress, living in a small southern town, who is in a loveless marriage with an abusive husband. The film is quirky and charming. Keri Russell plays Jenna, the main character who is an expert pie maker who uses the pies to help her cope with her tough life. Jenna becomes pregnant and she has to learn how to navigate her feelings and experience around her pregnancy within an unhealthy marriage. The film is a beautiful story of the resiliency of the human spirit. It is funny, smart, and touching. Waitress the Musical is an adaption of the film. The music and lyrics were written by Sara Bareilles (my crush).  That is how I got into the show and became determined to see it. Jessie Mueller who plays Jenna is a phenomenal Tony Award winning actress. Before having tickets, I had already watched so many interviews of her, and I fell in love with her personality and lovely spirit. Her voice is one of the most gorgeous voices I have ever heard. Sorry, Sara…but I love Jessie’s voice even more.

At dinner, before the show, I could barely focus on the conversation or my food. My body was full of energy and excitement. It was challenging to stay still and restrain myself from bouncing around the restaurant yelling, “I am seeing Waitress, I am seeing Waitress!!” over and over again. On my phone, I have an app that I use to countdown various things. For example, I can track the number of days that I have been free of self harm or eating disorder behaviors, days until a holiday, and other important events. The minute D got tickets, I began my countdown and seeing zero days until the show gave me such a thrill. The theatre was only a few blocks away so we walked there after dinner. Seeing the marquee gave me a shiver down my spine. I. Was. There. Quotes from reviewers peppered the outside walls of the theatre and seeing quotes about Sara’s music made my insides feel warm and happy. I am so proud of her accomplishments, especially after reading her book and listening to the audiobook. She truly is a wonderful human. The fact that I met her still feels like a bit of a dream. (I wrote a post about it if you want to read about that experience).

Walking into the theatre sent an energy through my whole body and I felt an odd sense of calm. It was adorable how they had people who had mini jars of pie you could buy. Looking back, I am disappointed that my eating disorder prevented me from having one 😦 However, I cannot look back too much and I know that in future days I will be in a situation like that and I will conquer the negative voice. The lights dimmed and Sara’s voice softly filled the theatre. I was so excited to hear her voice at the opening. The curtain rose and it was immediately enchanting. Right away, I was immersed in the story and I was transported into that world. A live band sat on stage to play the music and that detail was very cool. Knowing the story was fun because I got to see how they had adapted it to the stage. One of the actors nailed the voice of his character and he sounded so much like the actor in the film. I watched the story unfold and I began to relate to her feeling trapped in an unhealthy relationship.

In a pivotal scene, Jenna’s husband has discovered the money she has hidden in order to leave him. His abuse escalates, yet Jenna still stays, partially because she still loves him despite how cruel he has become. Jessie Mueller stood in a yellow nightgown peppered with small flowers, looking extremely pregnant, with a broken look on her face. The whole theatre was dead quiet as we watched her sing Jenna’s ballad called, “She Used to Be Mine.” As she sang, feelings surrounding my own trauma/abusive relationship(s) surfaced. Jessie cried as she sang this powerful ballad. Next to me, the other patrons began to tear up and cry quietly. Everyone in the audience was touched by the depth of her performance. Jenna sings of how she has seemingly lost the old her; the version of her who is stronger, more independent, and ultimately truly alive. I began to shake gently, realizing that this song reflected how I felt about myself when I was in the deepest moments of the abuse I received. Looking back, the girl I was during those months feels (and is) so far from who I was before and also who I am now. One of the biggest struggles I faced following the end of the relationship was trying to rediscover myself. I had become so entwined in what/who he wanted me to be. I had disconnected from the knowledge of my own power. I had lived in this trap of his abuse despite the fact that I was outside of the relationship. These scars remained with me and they are still there now.

It’s not simple to say
That most days I don’t recognize me
That these shoes and this apron
That place and it’s patrons
Have taken more than I gave them
It’s not easy to know
I’m not anything like I used to be
Although it’s true
I was never attention’s sweet center
I still remember that girlShe’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine

It’s not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person
And makes you believe it’s all true
And now I’ve got you
And you’re not what I asked for
If I’m honest I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew

Who’ll be reckless just enough
Who’ll get hurt but
Who learns how to toughen up when she’s bruised
And gets used by a man who can’t love
And then she’ll get stuck and be scared
Of the life that’s inside her
Growing stronger each day
‘Til it finally reminds her
To fight just a little
To bring back the fire in her eyes
That’s been gone but it used to be mine

Used to be mine
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine

On the plane back to my state, I sat alone a few rows away from my parents, and it gave me time to ponder my connection I felt with the show. At the end, Jenna finds her own power regardless of her initial plan. She learns that you do not have to give up on your dream, mission, or hope for your life. Do not give up on the goal, just change the plan. Music has always been a big part of my life and hearing the words through song made the notes punctuate my fear and the darkness surrounding my trauma. I had heard the song before, Sara’s most reason studio album is a concept album of her singing songs from the show, but this was different. I had seen this story of triumph in a way that affected me in a way I had not anticipated. The musical lovingly captured me and I was inside that universe. In the end, Jenna prevails and finds hope again. She allows herself to be loved.

These days, I am still journeying through the abuse, trauma, and hurt. Each day is different. Some days I am strong, and I feel like I can conquer the world. Other days, I feel like I am being crushed by the world. However, I continue to walk down the path of recovery. In therapy, I continue to open up and discuss my trauma as best I can. AAC and also BM helped me through and have given me so much support and love.

It hurts and also is going to change my life. I will stay alive. I will be myself, and I will discover who I truly am.


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