It was sunny and breezy; at least that’s how I want to remember it. I know I went on a walk around the block with Charlotte our Sheepdog on one leash and Tina our Chihuahua on the other. Walking them wasn’t easy. As you can imagine, those two always wanted to go in opposite directions but I could handle it. I could have even ridden my bike with a leash in each hand and gotten them around the block at the same time if I’d wanted to. Of course I could. I was Supergirl in a powder blue Snoopy sweatshirt. There was going to be an ice cream cake from Baskin and Robbins later. It was a great day. I was ten, at last I was ten and I was as happy and as proud as I’ve ever been. And all I’d really done is make it to the double digits.
That’s the picture in the scrapbook of my mind. I return to it over and over, absolutely refusing to let the memory pull away like a piece of taffy leaving only wispy, tenuous strands. I want this one solid.
Time passes. Full of vigor and purpose, we spend our energy and our days doing Things. Becoming Someone. Crafting our own myths. Grappling, striving, racking up accolades and degrees and connections. Going to the right events. Seeing. Being seen. Inventing and reinventing ourselves. It’s called living and sometimes it’s a whirlwind so intense and so wonderful that there are no words to express it. And sometimes it’s a hurricane so awful, so dreadful that we can’t breathe and we are choked for words and we don’t know how we can go on. But we do.
Even if some of us are lucky enough to do what we dreamed of doing when we were ten it’s likely there’ve been a few disappointments, plenty of tedium, and many compromises along the way. Every Supergirl needs to file taxes and wash her cape occasionally.
Sometimes dreams themselves are thwarted or deferred because of unexpected forks in the road or demands of those who love and need us. At those moments a chasm opens. And in those really bad and lonely times, some of us may even do ourselves the ultimate cruelty by convincing ourselves that our greatest success has been in our repeated failure.
Well then. It really is time to be Supergirl.
When you’re young you’re sure that adults have total control over everything. Every adult knows for sure that you have control over virtually nothing. Half the time we feel as if we’re bobbing about in the ocean, frantically clutching after a buoy. Even the most overtly successful of us sometimes feel as if we’re phonies and that we’ve failed.
But we haven’t.
If life is complex, let’s at least keep this part of things simple:
You’ve remembered which of your children likes peanut butter sandwiches and which likes tuna. They will never forget that you always remembered.
You took a minute to respond to and then forward on some unknown kid’s email to a colleague. That kid found his mentor. Finding his mentor changed course of his whole life.
You looked a clerk in the eye at the grocery store. You said thanks.
You’ve really listened to a whole phone conversation with your mother without folding laundry, playing Words with Friends, or mentally working on your repartee.
You were wrong. You said so. You apologized.
You never mentioned that your friend didn’t utter one single coherent sentence that time when she was upset.
You responded to the email.
You were careful not to give standing ovations for every show.
You let someone lie to save face.
You looked behind you and held the door open.
You didn’t give away the punch line.
Your feelings were hurt. You talked it out. You got over it. Your friendship continued.
You didn’t jump to conclusions when it would have felt so self-righteously great to do so.
You noticed the new haircut.
You knew when to ask questions. You knew when not to.
You did that little bit extra. It might have even been a loved one’s birthday. You were far away. You went out and bought a slice of their favorite cake to eat so you could celebrate together from afar. This was not your favorite cake. You ate it anyway.
Let’s face it; the above list does not constitute the makings of a traditional killer resume. But that doesn’t make each tiny scenario any less powerful. These are just the small heroics that punctuate our days, that form the ongoing web that invisibly binds us together. These are just a few of the unsung, unselfish and very kind acts of all you quiet superheroes.
You’re out there. You’re doing good. And thank you.