How to find the hidden gems of your superpowers.
I have always opposed the whole parent as superhero narrative. It never sat right with me. The glorification of doing it all, pushing yourself beyond human capabilities. When you aren’t able to parent your child and be a fully normal, sometimes flawed, sometimes tired human, it’s the canary in the coal mine that something is dreadfully wrong with our culture and the way we support parents. The parent as superhero story has always felt like it glazed over this upsetting reality and put the responsibility on the parent to heroically overcome such impossible circumstances. I call bullshit.
And then, I had to be a superhero.
My ex and I had recently split. I did actually have to do it all. Care for the toddler. Mow the lawn. Make the dinner. Walk the dog. Make the important phone calls. Clean the house. Earn money. Find a new place to live. Find a new job. Watch my life be bulldozed and start over from the destruction.
But that was the easy part.
Doing it all isn’t a superpower. Extreme productivity, no matter what our fast-moving society tells us, is not a superpower. Maybe you’re talented, efficient, or smart. Or maybe you can keep working through exhaustion and burnout. These are markers of material success and puritanical work ethic (you know, the puritans. The ones who burned any female with spirit and/or a brain because they thought they were witches. Not exactly great role models). These qualities can allow you to thrive economically in our capitalist world. But, over time and when out of balance these characteristics degrade the quality of your life. You might feel beyond human when in this state, but it’s because you are taking on a capacity of things beyond what a human should do. These aren’t superpowers.
When my life was suddenly disassembled piece by piece and laying in front of me, I noticed a few things. I could go on and on about all the negatives that I noticed at first. All the things I should have done, should have known, should have seen, etc. I found this path of regret and shame unavoidable for a while, but eventually grew tired of the repetitive narrative. Also, it wasn’t the whole story.
In the midst of the destruction of my life, I realized I absolutely possess superpowers:
I am an amazing cheerleader. Best in the biz. I am on the sidelines cheering my heart out for my team to win every moment of the game. I leave the weird outfit at home, but the hokey rhymes and spunky moves are there.
I put my family first. Full on. And I want all the good family stuff. The family dinners, traditions, adventures, memories. Real, unfettered connection. I want my fucking Hallmark moments and I’m willing to work hard for those rare moments.
I can lean right into darkness. Like, get right up in it’s business and not turn away or cover my eyes. Sadness. Anger. Grief. Pain. Hopelessness. All of it. For a long time I tried to keep my head above water, but I couldn’t. The undertow grabbed me. I went under. And I discovered this amazing superpower. I could breathe underwater. I swam through the depths of it all. I took murky, watery breaths. I was in the center of my dark pool of grief, anger, and pain but I was ok. I was breathing.
In the midst of my life literally crumbling apart I discovered powers I didn’t know I had. Powers that I didn’t recognize or call on when my life appeared to be more put together. They only became apparent when I lost everything. It was the unraveling that flung them forth into being. My life in crisis shone the bat signal. Everything had crumbled to the ground so I had no choice but to excavate the site and sort the rubble.
I imagine that we all have mysterious and powerful hidden jewels hidden in our midst. The daily din of life doesn’t demand our finery. But, when your life crumbles to the ground, you suddenly have to excavate to sort through the wreckage. You’ll find your history, dreams, superpowers, flaws, exhaustion, regrets, losses, lessons, rememberings, and pain all in the dust of the destruction. You will spend time with each discovery. Observing it, rolling it around in your palm, categorizing it. Some are gems while others are bits of old structures, rock, or detritus. Some things you choose to put in your pocket as a takeaway from all the tragedy. It might be bitterness and loss. It might be pain. It might be the rememberings of who you are. My wish for you is that when you walk away from the rubble your pockets are lined with the gems of your superpowers.