Frozen had a huge impact on me. So much so that it took me a year to work through my feelings and finally get it out.
And I’m not 8 years old.
That’s the beauty of art, isn’t it? It has the potential to transcend age and gender and culture and every other distinguishing barrier between people. Art digs deep into our guts and pulls out our humanity — allowing us to connect with anyone else who has guts too. So friends, are you willing to dig in? I give you my humanity: the top ten (of about 156) reasons Disney’s Frozen changed my life.
10. I love a good surprise. I had NO CLUE this movie would be anything other than a tolerable fluffy children’s movie about a cute snowman and a reindeer, let alone a life-altering inspiration for me. I was shocked as the movie transitioned from Cinderella’s castle to a dark, deep and beautiful land.
9. Apparently “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” almost didn’t make the last cut. I am incredibly grateful it did. Our son has an internal alarm clock that wakes him hours before mine does. My loss of sleep the first four years of his life made for a lot of physical and emotional pain for me (and thus probably for everyone else in our family). The week Frozen hit theaters, he was waking his sister up at 5:00 in the morning to play and I was beside myself about it. When I saw Anna whisper “do you wanna build a snowman?!” to Elsa, I lost it. The entire song-sequence includes the loss of their friendship the loss of their parents and the quick passing of their childhood. Talk about putting things into perspective! Even as I type this I’m holding back tears (since I’m in a coffee shop!). I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to grasp and then embrace the innocence and beauty and friendship my children share. I still want them to sleep more, but I’m learning to sit and enjoy and appreciate them even when they disrupt my well-laid plans. So thankful for this.
8. Frozen not only has songs in it, it is a musical of Broadway proportions. When I first heard Idina Menzel belt out “tell the guards to open up the gates,” I started to bawl. It’s one thing to sing out. It’s totally another thing to sing Idina. I grew up singing my heart out – often wondering if I should be quiet since people would sometimes stare or say things that embarrassed me. Most of the time I didn’t want attention, I just wanted to sing what was in me. What was in me was so intense that expressing it often felt too loud – like I was seeking attention. I often held something back. Then through postpartum depression that stretched into a couple of years, I was left without a song in my heart. I didn’t sing spontaneously. I didn’t sing hardly at all for over 4 years. When I first recognized Idina’s voice, I heard another voice say “This movie is a gift to you, Andrea. Receive it.” And so I opened myself to whatever it would bring.
7. Frozen’s emotional, artistic tendrils reached into cold and lonely places of my heart that I had abandoned in order to survive the necessary-mundane. Elsa has a beautiful gift that can enhance and bring joy to others’ lives. But even Elsa has her limits and sometimes using her gift causes big problems and relational strife. The wide range and intensity of her emotional, internal world directly impacts the expression of her gift in her life. She bears a great weight, knowing that her emotions impact others so powerfully. When the people around Elsa don’t know what to do with her, they silence and cover her. In effect they say, “You are too much. Your emotional instability is dangerous to us all.” Despite having an amazing family and support system growing up, I have always felt that I am too much. Like an iceberg, there is this part of me on the surface that I allow people to see and there is way more under the surface that I believe most people can’t or don’t want to handle. I’ve grown a ton in my ability to invite people to see the deeper parts of me in the past 12 years, but there always lingers a fear that if I start to express the intensity of my emotional world, people will shrug me off with “you think too much” and tidy me up with a trite “just give it to God” while never touching or seeing the depths of who I am as a woman. The movie gave me the opportunity to feel – intensely. In some ways it felt like waking up.
6. Oh, Olaf. Even Elsa has within her a certain capacity for innocence and faith and hope and love and sacrifice. She created the snow monster to keep people away, but her creation of Olaf proves that deep down, she most wants to enter into and celebrate the beauty of relationship.
5. “Let It Go” has become a beautiful anthem for self-expression. I love the song and singing it Idina – style has become the kind of goal for me that running a personal record in a marathon is for my racing friends. I still get chills every time I watch Elsa run up the ice stairs she creates as she sings “It’s time to see what I can do….I’m one with the wind and sky…” Sometimes I wonder if I could test the limits and break through. It’s astounding to think that my emotional, internal reality could potentially build an ice castle.
4. On the other hand, I know I can throw ice. I don’t mean to most of the time. Anna pushes Elsa’s emotional limits at the Coronation Ball and later in her ice castle. Elsa warns Anna that she needs to leave – she feels the intensity rising in herself and knows that if the pressure continues to build, she will burst. And burst, she did! And burst, I do. I HATE it. I HATE it when the internal pressure in me builds and then others are around to see the scary ice show. It’s terrifying for me and probably for them. I have been researching emotional sensitivity for the past 4 years and when I saw Frozen, I knew I had finally found the perfect example to explain what goes on inside of me. It was scary to see Elsa erupt in dangerous, icy defense. And it was eye opening for me to see how others experience it. I could genuinely say “I don’t want to hurt others, I want to relate to them in love instead of the fear that comes with the sensitivities I experience. I want more.”
3. Oh how I love Anna. She pursues a relationship with her sister at any cost to herself. Her naiveté is endearing. As someone who identifies so much with Elsa, it is hard for me to understand how Anna could diminish her own value and elevate Elsa’s so much. To me, Elsa is nothing but a hot mess without Anna. Anna is the hero. Anna is the inspiration. Anna is love. Anna’s actual loving sacrifice of self is the key to unlocking Elsa’s real power – love in relationship. I hate to think about where I would be without the Anna’s in my life. It wouldn’t be pretty.
2. For months I’ve wanted to shout this: “Let It Go is only a step in Elsa’s journey – it is not the end goal!” When Elsa tests those limits, she breaks right through them and creates an astonishing ice castle that only ELSA can live in. When Elsa lets it go, she explores her abilities and in the process she isolates herself. It’s cool to visit an ice castle, but where does one sleep? A philosopher/theologian can make amazing connections in her head but if she can’t share them with others, she is quite alone. Fear that others won’t understand – fear that others will run when she says her thoughts out loud – fear that she will offend or hurt others…these fears have kept me mostly quiet for a long time. I’ve learned a lot about tact and honesty and being considerate in my time exploring my own little ice castle, and I am very thankful for that. But there comes a time to come down from the mountain and offer one’s gift to the world with a balance of honesty and love. The world doesn’t need a bunch of ice castles, but ice rinks can be fun. Just ask everyone in Arendelle at the end of the movie. “Are you ready?” says Elsa with a gentle smile and nothing to prove. It is this scene, more than any other, that moves me. I feel called out in that scene. Nothing to prove. Time to share in honesty and love, without demand that others understand or stay or not be hurt.
The gift of ice magic is selfish and demanding when fear rules, but when love overcomes fear, it is a gift that can meet others right where they are and offers whatever it most wants to offer.
1. And so it is time for me to sing my heart out. To throw awesome parties. To write. To teach. To make kids feel special. To offer what I most want to offer without demanding anyone receive it. I had the Frozen soundtrack downloaded by the time we got home from the theater for the first time. I plugged my phone into the kitchen speaker and the kids and I sang and danced our hearts out for what felt like hours. Aaron even joined in when he saw what was happening. I’d never shown my kids such joy mixed with tears and love. Since then they have grown immeasurably in their own self-expression and love for the arts. I finally gave this gift to my kids – my family. Had I held it in, I may have unintentionally hurt them by uninspiring them to hold back.
Thanks for hanging with me through my top 10 list. I hope to offer more on these topics in the future, but I need your help. I am inspired by relational connections. You share, I share: send me a message, respond to this post, share it with others. I’m also working hard to build a platform. Your follow on Medium or Twitter and your like of Andrea Joy Wenburg on Facebook can make a huge difference in helping me give others the opportunity to dig deep into their own guts and pull out their humanity — that true love might free them to let it go in relationship like never before.
For more on my experience with depression: