I listened to Hamilton for the first time three months before COVID shut the world down.
I had resisted for years, because I had had a client (back before I marketed to right fit clients) who had LOVED it, and urged me regularly to go and see it on Broadway.
I dismissed it as a defense, and wrote off the entire musical. What the hell did the founding fathers have to do with me?
And so when I downloaded it, on a whim, I had expected it to be a fun listen, something to entertain me on my inhumanly long commute (forty-nine minutes with no traffic, and I live in the DC Metro, the only way you don’t encounter traffic is by staying home).
That first listen, I pulled into my driveway halfway through “Stay Alive (Reprise).”
Being the very composed person I am (and only having scratchy Dunkin' Donuts napkins in my glove compartment), I went inside and proceeded to have my heart torn apart in small, digestible pieces as I finished the soundtrack.
It was now 11:44 PM. And I really should have gone to bed.
Instead, I composed the soundtrack that iTunes tells me I named “Therapy for Thinkers” (ballsy, considering I hadn’t even bought the domain yet). And the first track?
(The second was Cake’s version of ‘I Will Survive’, but that’s a story for another day).
Okay. Here’s the part where I’m about to spoil Hamilton (and I guess, also 18th century American history) for you:
And in the musical (and maybe at the actual funeral) we have the reflections–of who tells Hamilton’s story.
His political rivals weigh in, begrudging him his genius, admitting their difficulty in undoing the same. For a moment, it seems like his story will be summarized in terms of his accomplishments, his ‘legacy’ as it may be.
But then the one who loved him best–his betrayed and bereaved wife, Eliza, reenters the narrative.
Even after Alexander chose to protect his pride by shaming her.
Even after having her heart ripped out as her eldest child died defending his father’s honor.
Even as her second chance of happiness died over a stupid dispute between men too cowardly to risk real connection.
Eliza reentered the narrative, choosing to be seen rather than staying comfortable in obscurity.
So she tells his story. His accomplishments, his passions–yes, but as a kind of prototypical psychotherapist, she gets to the heart of the matter, who he was before the fame, the glory, the prestige:
An orphan who learned that you could write your way out of hell.
It ripped my heart out.
And in telling her story, she reveals some part of her own story–engaging in a kind of reparative experience where she gets to see hundreds of orphans growing up, unlike her baby boy, and even, ultimately, like her husband.
In telling his story, she heals something in her own life.
And with her final gasp left up to interpretation, I can’t help but project that it’s a gasp of realization, that healing comes, unexpectedly, like the piece of your heart you thought had been incinerated long ago.
Eliza knew that when you tell someone’s story that their accomplishments are a mere flourish to who they were underneath–the ways they survived the seemingly unsurvivable, and the beauty of who they were that shows up no matter the privilege or the trauma.
She never lost sight of the part of him who longed to belong to a family, even if she failed to see her own genius. Alexander may have always been writing like he was running out of time, but she savored the moments she had with those she loved.
Maybe like Hamilton, your ambition blinds you to your needs. Or maybe like Eliza you diminish how your very presence offers both comfort and challenge.
But whatever theatrical persona you identify with, know this:
The stories you tell–about yourself, about the clients you long to work with, about life in general–they matter, even when it seems like everything ends in tragedy.
I know you won’t crumble, but will survive. And maybe, if you’re willing to risk it–to thrive…
This was all a long-winded way of saying–those of you behind in case notes?
I’m rooting for you to catch up. That shit isn’t just in case someone somehow audits or subpoenas you. That’s someone’s life you’re detailing, word by word.
P.S. Wish you had more dream clients to write those notes for? Check out my free workshop: Full Caseload: Unlocked where you'll discover the three secrets that waitlist only therapists use to build their dream practices.