Trolls follows the story of two main characters, Princess Poppy and Branch. Poppy is bouncy, bubbly, eternally optimistic, happy and pink, while Branch appears gray, enclosed, guilt-ridden, inward looking, and fearful. Both protagonists are brought together to save their fellow trolls from being eaten by Bergens, large, ugly, gray, unhappy, miserable creatures who wait for Trollstice, the annual moment where they get to eat a troll, the only action that brings them a fleeting moment of happiness.
I need to tread carefully here, especially as I live in Bergen County. No kidding. There are really nice people up this way. Good-hearted souls, who have a lot of happiness in their lives and care deeply about other people. And once you get off of Route 4 and Route 17, there's also some beautiful country driving on the back roads if you don't mind going 25 mph on roads where you'd rather be going 40. October is especially lovely and colorful.
But I digress.
Metaphorically, all of us live among Bergens. We face moments in our lives that seek to rob us of our colors, that tell us we shouldn't feel a certain way, that ask us to be something or someone we are not, that sometimes require us to tuck our truest self away into some God-knows-where part of our emotional core. We try to pack, pad, and pound our selves away, sometimes with food or drink or exercise or another addictive habit, because it is much more gut-wrenching to face our own broken humanity, and confront our raw pain, vulnerability, hardship, suffering, uncomfortable emotions, shame, anxiety, sadness and loss. All of us have Bergens, real demons, nestled somewhere in our souls, eating at us, devouring us, keeping us from feeling whole.
But our pretend game of make-believe lasts only so long. After a while, the charade catches up with us. Maybe the message comes from someone we love. Perhaps someone we don't know calls us out on our (mis)behavior. Maybe it's a spouse, family member, friend, colleague, stranger, or even an angel Divinely sent on a mission, who extends a hand and offers us a profoundly loving invitation - enough already, just be who you are.
No more "fake it till you make it." Just be the God-given beautiful, aching, human being you are, feeling the panoply, the resplendent rainbow of life's emotions and experiences that spread throughout the spectrum of color. We have to face what we don't want to face about ourselves, own it for ourselves and sometimes, even do so in the presence of others.
It seems easier to go through life pretending that we are whole. But keeping up an impenetrable facade is emotionally exhausting and overwhelming. Other people will love you for being yourself. And beyond the love of others, we need to love ourselves for who we are, and we need to love those parts of ourselves that can be so hard to love.
Perhaps the most touching moment of Trolls is the moment where Poppy loses hope and it appears that the Bergens will win the day and eat all the trolls. Gasp! So Branch sings "True Colors" to her, confessing his love. (Yes, I know the song is not original to the movie Trolls, and Cyndi Lauper did a rendition, but if it happened after 1900 and was performed by anyone other than Gustav Mahler or Dmitri Shostakovich, it's unlikely that I know about it - true self shining through). In any event, Branch reminds Poppy:
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
The darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small...
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
On the festival of Purim, one custom reminds us that we are to choose a costume that reveals a side of our truest self, part of our self that we might be otherwise unwilling to share, except in costume. One teaching links chag Purim (the festival of Purim), a day of masks, to Yom Kippur, chag ha-kippurim, the day that is like Purim, the day that our masks come off.
Deep inside, plainly exposed, or masked, God sees our truest self. Purim is a time for others to see our true self, and for us to see and own our true self too. Like Mordecai says to Esther (paraphrasing), "Just because you live in the king's palace, don't think that you're going to be spared from Haman's evil decree."
No one in life is immune from pain or hardship or difficult passages. It is how and when we embrace these challenging feelings, how we learn to rely on others, and allow others to rely on us, that helps us to uncover our greatest, deepest strength. Purim reminds us to connect with our truest selves, and to know, that even when God seems hidden, like in the time of the Megillah, our greatest strength comes from rallying around one another, lending a helping hand, and letting each other be who we truly are.
This Purim, I pray that each of us may be blessed with the gift of resilience - within ourselves to continue bouncing back from life's challenges, and among others, who are there to catch us and pick us up when we fall, holding our hand, steadying us, walking alongside us on our journey.
Each of us is blessed with the gift of resilience. Like Poppy sings, "You can knock, knock me over; I will get back up again."