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How My Illness Relates to This Song From 'Mamma Mia!'

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Having watched “Mamma Mia!” countless times with my daughter and being lucky enough to go to the show for my birthday, the song, “The Winner Takes It All,” blows me away every time I hear it. It’s so powerful, full of emotion, telling the story of what it’s like to be left behind, in the case of a song by a lover.

Each time I hear it, I feel that I could relate to other things too. Things I have lost, like my health, my career, my ability to have children, my independence and my value.

Due to my hearing loss it is difficult for me to hear music, but this is one song I can hear clearly. I miss having music as a companion in the long hours spent alone and I also have lost the ability to read music and play instruments.

In the film this song is sung on an empty cliff top with the sea in the background and I think there is something about standing there letting it all out, like going to a cliff top and screaming and letting go.

Here are the lyrics:

I don’t wanna talk
About things we’ve gone through
Though it’s hurting me
Now it’s history
I’ve played all my cards
And that’s what you’ve done too
Nothing more to say
No more ace to play

The winner takes it all
The loser’s standing small
Beside the victory
That’s her destiny

I was in your arms
Thinking I belonged there
I figured it made sense
Building me a fence
Building me a home
Thinking I’d be strong there
But I was a fool
Playing by the rules

The gods may throw the dice
Their minds as cold as ice
And someone way down here
Loses someone dear
The winner takes it all
The loser has to fall
It’s simple and it’s plain
Why should I complain?

But tell me does she kiss
Like I used to kiss you?
Does it feel the same
When she calls your name?
Somewhere deep inside
You must know I miss you
But what can I say?
Rules must be obeyed

The judges will decide
The likes of me abide
Spectators of the show
Always staying low
The game is on again
A lover or a friend
A big thing or a small
The winner takes it all

I don’t wanna talk
If it makes you feel sad
And I understand
You’ve come to shake my hand
I apologize
If it makes you feel bad
Seeing me so tense
No self-confidence
But you see
The winner takes it all
The winner takes it all

So the winner takes it all
And the the loser has to fall
Throw a dice, cold as ice
Way down here, someone dear
Takes it all, has to fall
It seems plain to me

If I were talking to my illness, the first verse seems to say that I have tried everything – it now has what it wants. Now it’s too painful to talk about it, it has won and taken over. It’s history and I have to accept the way it is.

The second verse says the illness takes it all and leaves me behind feeling small and insignificant, the illness has won.

Verse three seems to say it felt safe when I had my health and I was sensible, but that doesn’t matter it still got taken away. We take our health for granted and it can be taken away without our consent.

Verse four says that fate takes control and has no emotion when taking away someone’s health. It also speaks out about death saying, “And someone way down here, loses someone dear.” It feels like a drawing that decides who gets taken and who is left behind, as it is with who gets hit by illness. The things I hold dear are taken away by some stronger force and I have to accept that, and not complain.

In verse five, which is obviously more about the betrayal, it still says I miss my health, but I have to accept what I have been dealt even though I miss what I had. I have to “play by the rules” of society and I can’t complain or be sad. This can also be true when someone has died. They have been taken away, but society doesn’t like us to talk about the pain of the loss. Instead, it encourages us to move on and make a new life.

Verse six is saying it’s all out of my control. I may recover, I may get back what I lost. But again, it’s not in my control. Something else makes the decisions and I have to accept that and submit to the wishes of the illness or situation. So, even though there is a glimmer of hope, it can go either way. I guess we all have high hopes of a cure or recovery, but we can’t control how or when or if this happens.

Verse seven talks about guilt and having to keep feelings to myself so I don’t upset others, leaving me robbed of self-confidence not allowed to discuss the upset. Yet, I’m left wanting to speak out and wanting people to know the hurt.

Verse eight is a repeat of having everything taken away on the “throw of a dice” controlled by something with no cares or emotion. Someone has to be the person who takes the fall, struggling while others seem to have it all.

I have been in a relationship where I was left for someone else, so can see the song from that side too. The betrayal and the “what has she got that I haven’t,” but thats a long way in the past. Although, I think the effects do live on in relationships with others.

Songs usually tell a story or carry a message, but most of the time we miss it or may not feel it applies to us. But looking at it a slightly different way can make it meaningful and speak to us.

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Thinkstock Image By: Rulles

Originally published: August 1, 2017
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