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How Disney's Encanto Perfectly Captures My Pandemic Mom Brain

Anyone else’s kids really, really into Disney’s Encanto? Like, so into it that during your Covid quarantine this week they watched it 5 times in two days? I finally sat down with mine yesterday afternoon, and holy smokes I get it. My kids aren’t a bunch of dum dum vegetables after all. As soon as I dried my tears I too was ready to watch it again.

I haven’t cried that much watching a Disney movie since Frozen 2 when Anna gave us the gift that is The Next Right Thing. How is it possible that there exists a song that gutted me more than when Anna is broken because she thinks her sister is dead?

Surface Pressure

Enter, the brilliance that is Surface Pressure, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (because of course).

In it, older sister Luisa (played by Jessica Darrow) delivers an oldest child anthem that makes first born children everywhere feel validated or vindicated or both. But, seeing as I’m a middle child, why did this song make me feel so much? Wrecked, seen, relieved, recognized.

Because this song and it’s poignant, soul-bearing lyrics could just as easily be an anthem for mothers and strong, tough women everywhere. Strong, tough women who have, for two years, born the brunt of the trauma pandemic living has caused.

Each and every lyric resonated with me - perfectly voicing my inner-monologue - and allowed me to take a much needed deep breath. A breath I’ve been holding for two years.

I’m the strong one, I’m not nervous. I’m as tough as the crust of the earth is. I move mountains, I move churches.”

No one asked if I could and would give it all up or pile more on to handle the work - but yet we move mountains to do so. The homeschooling, the masking, the distance, the vaccinating, the cooking, the cups (why so many!?!?), the juggle, the sooo many hats, the ever-changing playbook, the worry.

“I don't ask how hard the work is. Got a rough indestructible surface. Diamonds and platinum, I find 'em, I flatten ‘em. I take what I'm handed.”

I’ve got this. This is the tough, roll with the punches shell I present to my children, on my Zoom calls, and on my Instagram stories.

“But under the surface I feel berserk as a tightrope walker in a three-ring circus. Under the surface was Hercules ever like "Yo, I don't wanna fight Cerberus”? Under the surface I'm pretty sure I'm worthless if I can't be of service.”

Sometimes I don’t feel like fighting. Deciding. Every decision. Do we attend this birthday party? Every moment. Was that a sniffle? Every opportunity. Will this vaccine work? Every detail. Do they need a mask while they play sports? Are the masks even working? What if I’m screwing this up? What if I’m screwing them up? What if they get it? What if…worse?

“Pressure like a drip, drip, drip that'll never stop, whoa

Pressure that'll tip, tip, tip 'till you just go pop, whoa

Give it to your sister, your sister's older

Give her all the heavy things we can't shoulder

Who am I if I can't run with the ball?

If I fall to

Pressure like a grip, grip, grip and it won't let go, whoa

Pressure like a tick, tick, tick 'til it's ready to blow, whoa

Give it to your sister, your sister's stronger

See if she can hang on a little longer

Who am I if I can't carry it all? If I falter”

If there is anything the last two years has taught us, it’s that if we falter, scratch that…when we falter we can brush ourselves off and try again tomorrow. Comfort comes from knowing that and that there is strength in numbers. My challenges aren’t just my own but part of a mass, collective unease - a whole community, world holding our breath - fear just under the surface. Show of hands if you’ve cried in your car or shower this week? This year? We see the iceberg, and we can’t always steer the boat let alone stop it.

“Under the surface I hide my nerves, and it worsens, I worry something is gonna hurt us. Under the surface the ship doesn't swerve as it heard how big the iceberg is. Under the surface I think about my purpose, can I somehow preserve this?”

And, no matter how hard we try, how much we carry and how incesantly we worry. Sometimes the dominoes still fall. The boat still gets rocked. This week our domino was tipped, our boat was rocked when my youngest tested positive for Covid. Line up the dominoes. A light wind blows. You try to stop it tumbling. But on and on it goes. But wait”

But, wait.

And there it is: HOPE. Our boat might be leaking, but it’s strong, like Luisa and that is why it didn’t swerve. My kid is fine. We are fine. (And, I’m lucky to have people in my boat that are hella good at bailing water.) So, is it possible to free ourselves from the pressure to carry it all? Encanto shows us we can with the right people by our side.

If I could shake the crushing weight of expectations would that free some room up for joy or relaxation, or simple pleasure? Instead we measure this growing pressure. Keeps growing, keep going. ’Cause all we know is…

Pressure like a drip, drip, drip that'll never stop, whoa

Pressure that'll tip, tip, tip 'til you just go pop, whoa-oh-oh

Give it to your sister, it doesn't hurt

And see if she can handle every family burden

Watch as she buckles and bends but never breaks

No mistakes just

Pressure like a grip, grip, grip and it won't let go, whoa

Pressure like a tick, tick, tick 'til it's ready to blow, whoa

Give it to your sister and never wonder

If the same pressure would've pulled you under

Who am I if I don't have what it takes?

No cracks, no breaks

No mistakes, no pressure.

Hey Alexa, play Surface Pressure. Dance. Keep going. We have what it takes.

Meet Kate

Hi!  My name is Kate...

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