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Sunday, October 9, 2022

The Power Within

On a very hot day in June, I found myself in a grocery store parking lot wearing a scratchy long brown wig, red corset, and a blue mini skirt with stars all over it. Excited kids were running all over the place. I was Wonder Woman at a charity event to prevent child abuse.  It wasn't the first time that I have portrayed a superhero, as a little girl I wore superman underoos until they didn't fit. 
As an adult woman, I have been Captain Marvel at other events but this was the first time as Diana. But it makes sense as a family with 5 males, 4 boys 3 of them who can pass as men, and theater backgrounds that we would be asked to do this.   But as I was putting the gold bracelets on my wrists I wondered if I looked more like Wonder Woman's mother.  Were all the 24-year-old wonder women out there busy that day? 

I watched as little boys sprinted to Spider-man, Batman, Superman, and Captain America. We were located next to the Disney Princesses and most of the little girls were starstruck by Elsa and her sister, Anna.   The kids carried around autograph books and at first, I was just signing a simple "Wonder Woman".  But then I got carried away. I started writing "YOU are the real superhero" and  "Girl Power and "OMG, equal pay for women!"  I was about to write a short story about how you should never have to get your boss coffee just because you are the only woman in the meeting when I saw a little girl out of the corner of my eye.  She bypassed the princesses, ignored Spider-man, and came right up to me.  As I looked down at her she just stared at me. I could see my reflection in her big brown eyes. But more than that, I wanted to be the woman she was seeing. She said nothing and her mom took a photo of us and she was pulled away still staring at me. I was back to writing my girl-power quotes in the autograph books when I felt a little pull on my skirt, she was back, she had her hand up to her mouth to tell me a secret.  I leaned down and she whispered in my ear, "Are you the real Wonder Woman? "

I certainly wish I had her powers. This past year  I would have done just about anything to have not only Wonder Woman's strength but more so, her lasso of truth.  For those of you who may have forgotten, the lasso of truth, when wrapped around someone makes it impossible for them to tell anything but the truth.  As a mother, it would come in handy when you ask your son who he went to the beach with, or if he really finished his homework.  But in my case, it would have gone a bit deeper.  My oldest son had been struggling. Like a lot of kids, he had spent his last two years of high school going to school virtually because of Covid.  I had watched as he withdrew from everything, everyone, including his family. 
The light that had lit up my world had dimmed and as much as I tried to re-ignite it, it only seemed to get darker. He went away to college.  If I had that lasso of truth I would have wrapped it around him when I asked him if he was okay.  Deep down I knew he wasn't. We sought the help of doctors, therapists, and medication but this battle he was fighting was with a demon called depression and it was internal.  If I had the lasso of truth I would have known he wasn't winning.  
When he texted me, "I love you, mama, sleep well, I'm sorry" on a late October night my universe stood still.    I respect that this is his own journey and someday he may choose to share it.  All I can tell you is what it felt like from my perspective. If I would have wrapped the lasso of truth around myself I would have told you that I was scared, vulnerable, and guilt-ridden, while simultaneously zipping up my boots because I was about to enter a battle and stop at absolutely nothing to help him.
Wonder Woman is one of the only heroes that doesn't wear a mask. Her emotions are exposed on her face and her demigod physical strength comes from within.  Even so, before she goes into battle she calls on the help of her trusted hero team because strength is in numbers.  
When I saw my son at the hospital my heart shattered into millions of pieces with such a violent force that I thought my knees would buckle.  He told us he needed help. Despite what you may think at this point, I really don't know a lot about superhero etiquette but I seem to recall some type of signal when they are needed like a batman symbol in the sky. His quiet words, like a signal, melted my shattered heart and in doing so mended the cracks and it began to beat stronger. 
When he was a baby growing inside of me before he had words, or we ever had eye contact, the first form of communication we had was his heartbeat. I could feel it before I even heard it.  His heart and my heart are very very old friends and I understood. 
When I was a little girl I wanted to be superman because  I believed that I needed to be a man to be the strongest superhero.... oh, how wrong I was. 
It is not a coincidence that I had not been asked to be Wonder Woman until AFTER I was a mother, because mothers carry a wild, untamed strength that will stop at nothing. 
For the next 8 months, my son lived in California getting the help he needed.  It was hard for us to have him miss holidays and birthdays but make no mistake, he was the one that put in the hard work. 
I have grown a lot in the last year too. What I have learned is that when someone is in pain, sometimes death feels like the only way to stop it and it is not our job to fight for them but to assemble a team that stands steadfastly behind them and loves them fiercely as they fight their own battle. 
Our team may have looked a little different than what you see in comic books. In fact, you might not be able to see it at all.  Our team's strength was generated by the comfort of a 2-minute hug in the middle of the gym. Colleagues who covered for me. Friends, family, a text, a prayer, a listening ear, a note.  
Thor's weapon is his hammer, Ironman has his blasters and we have Love. 

My answer was, "Yes" to the little girl who asked if I was the real Wonder Woman.  I would not have been able to say that a month ago.  And I told her that she was too.  No lasso of truth is needed. 

As I was writing this I glanced down at something that I carry around with me every day. Attached to my keys is a gift my sons had given me over a decade ago. 

A lego wonder woman key chain. Her face is worn off, she has scratches and missing her signature parts. 
They have always known, it just took me a few years to discover it myself.

No matter what your circumstances, never forget that we all have a superhero inside of us, waiting to be called upon. You'll find her.  Sometimes we need to see a reflection in another's eyes to truly see it.

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