Life Lessons: Encanto Style

My triplets are two and a half now, and they are obsessed with the new Disney movie Encanto. It's a warm, family-friendly, feel-good movie. It follows the tale of the Madrigals, a Colombian family that received magical gifts after surviving tragedy. We have watched Encanto hundreds of times by now. I can see how I relate to many of the characters and the message with each viewing. If you have not seen it, this article will not be full of spoilers; however, it will be a highlight reel of some of the magic that the film portrays. I feel that as someone with MS or someone who struggles with self-worth and feelings of isolation, Encanto is a beautiful movie that many can relate to.

Finding the magic

Following the tragedy of losing her husband, Abuela Alma must flee with her triplets, who are infants at the time. During this challenging journey, she stumbles upon a magical candle. As her tears of grief drip into the candle, she finds that the candle comes to life. The candle holds a large part of the storyline; it wasn't an incidental finding. It was a beacon of hope. It allowed her family refuge and safety when they fell upon hard times. It helped give them their magical Casita, their home.

The candle also gave magical gifts to her children, who passed them on to their children. Each child and grandchild uses their unique gift to serve the community. The gifts range from controlling the weather to shapeshifting, extreme strength, healing through food, beauty, perfection, the ability to see the future, and talking to animals. Each child and grandchild receives their gift through a gift ceremony. During each ceremony, the child opens the door to their assigned room. Once they touch the doorknob, the revealing of their unique gift begins. A room is revealed behind each door, tailored to each person and their magical talents.

When you feel like you fall short

However, when a much younger Mirabel (the main character) opens the door during her ceremony, she finds that she does not receive a gift. Nothing special happens when she touches her door, leaving her with confusion and disappointment. These feelings are especially apparent coming from her Abuela. She wants to contribute and help her family; however, she feels she falls short because she has no gift. Mirabel struggles to remain optimistic and feels like she does not fit in with her family. She often unintentionally feels isolated and alone because she's different from her family. At her cousin's gift ceremony, as she sees the joy in her family as Antonio's gift is revealed, it is apparent how alone Mirabel feels. She sings an emotional song that includes these lyrics:

Waiting On A Miracle
"Always walking alone
Always wanting for more
Like I'm still at that door
Longing to shine like all of you shine
All I need is a change
All I need is a chance
All I know is I can't stay on the side
Open your eyes
Open your eyes
Open your eyes
I would move the mountains
Make new trees and flowers grow
Someone please just let me know, where do I go?
I am waiting on a miracle, a miracle
I would heal what's broken
Show this family something new
Who I am inside, so what can I do?
I'm sick of waiting on a miracle."

You may be wondering, what does Encanto have to do with MS?

So many times, I have felt what Mirabel expresses in this song. I have no desire to sit on the sidelines being viewed differently. I want people to see all that I'm capable of. To see how I'm longing to shine despite MS. It's through Mirabel that we relate to finding self-acceptance. Through her, we see the honesty in being vulnerable and learning how to be different in the world. To embrace our imperfections. To learn how to make our path despite not fitting in with everyone else or feeling like an outcast. Throughout the movie, you also see how despite being given unique gifts, the other members of the Madrigal family also have their struggles. To Mirabel, they may seem extraordinary, but the pressure these gifts put on them can be burdensome. It's not always greener on the other side.

The lesson we didn't realize we needed

I love each character in the movie, and I love the message behind the film. The soundtrack is incredible, and each song is relatable. However, I think what I love the most is that the magic the Madrigals have is not random, nor does it come from a place of happiness. Their magic manifests despite Abuela and her husband going through immense tragedy and trauma in the past. Encanto does end with a happy ending, but it is not the magical, unrealistic happy ending typical of most Disney movies. It is a happy ending in which Mirabel finds self-worth and happiness while bringing her family together again. Despite her differences and the feeling that she does not fit in with everyone in her family, Mirabel finds her magic in being true to who she is and accepting herself.

As someone who has often felt different due to MS and the age of my diagnosis, Mirabel is an inspiration. She is a character that shows grit and determination. She is inspiring to many who have ever felt like an outcast or felt less than. She proves that being vulnerable in your differences can feel lonely and isolating, but it can also be beautiful. Through her, we learn that life's about digging deep and finding our magic within despite feeling like it comes easily to everyone else. She shows that life isn't always what we imagine, but we have the magic and the power to live a beautiful life. Not only that, but we can help others in the process. At the beginning of the film, a little girl tells Mirabel she must be sad because she does not have a gift. Mirabel responds, "Well, my friends, I'm not sad because gift or no gift, I'm just as special as everyone else."

We should talk about...Encanto and MS

I often want to sink into feelings of sadness due to MS. The feelings of having a disease and differences sit heavy. But, I will end with this: Well, my friends, I am not sad. Because, MS or no MS, I'm just as special as everyone else. MS may change my health, but it certainly doesn't have to change who I am or who I long to become. I am just as special, and I hope you remember that you all are too. If you've watched the movie and enjoyed it, I would love to hear your thoughts! Which character in Encanto could you relate to most?



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