Last Thursday, we packed up the majority of our earthly possessions and completed what we are calling “Phase One” of our move to Massachusetts. Phase One is a three week seasonal rental, Phase Two is our post Labor Day monthly rental, and Phase Three is contingent on the sale of our house in Pennsylvania.
Not exactly a seamless transition.
While we are doing OK overall, moments of
sheer lunacy anxiety have been popping up during this adjustment period. Even Phoebe, who’s biggest concern is the time and place of the next meal, has voiced some confusion regarding the new arrangement. Just last night, as she *Brauned* (see below) swordfish and spinach salad off my plate, said between bites: “Sooo, is ‘dis aw house? Or like, or we be bowwowing it?”
And Emma….God Bless her little sensitive soul…has had her share of
complete meltdowns ups and downs. This was all to be expected, and I have been trying to follow the advice of all “the books:” Create space for their fears, listen compassionately, yet do not allow yourself to get triggered by negativity. Stay upbeat, reassuring, and confident as you embark on this new adventure! We can do this! This is going to be GREAT!
But as hard as I am trying to make it all work, I still feel kind of mediocre. Average. Incompetent. Then the doubt starts to creep in: “Are we doing the right thing here? What would Dr. Phil say about this?”
On Tuesday we took a little outing to the YMCA. Here we met Carol: a wise and gentle sage masquerading as a card swiper. Carol could sense that we were feeling a little overwhelmed. Perhaps it was Emma screaming, “I WILL NOT GO IN THAT BABYSITTING ROOM!” or the smell of Phoebe shitting up her back that gave us away. As she attentively walked us through the registration process, she asked us about ourselves and what brought us to Massachusetts.
We gave her the Cliff’s Notes of our story as Phoebe attempted to pull my shorts down in the YMCA lobby. Carol rested her hands on mine and said, “I made big changes with my family too over the years, and no one knows how much work it can be. But it was always worth it. And I think you two are just handling it with aplomb. You guys are my HEROES OF THE DAY!”
Wow. Hero seems like kind of a strong word. No one is curing cancer here. But I must say her encouragement put some pep back in my step. Now I realize that Carol could be sniffing Purell, but I choose to think of this interaction as what Joseph Campbell would call a “Meeting with a Wise Mentor” on our Hero’s Journey.
I spent the rest of the day thinking about heroes, and how traditionally, heroes tend to fly solo. But a family of heroes…that’s a pretty cool concept. So after the kids went be bed and Phil stayed up working, I took my computer into bed and downloaded The Incredibles.
I had seen the movie before and liked it, but this time it spoke to me on an entirely different level. It is the story of a formerly high profile superhero couple Bob (aka. Mr. Incredible) and Helen (aka. Elastigirl) who have tried to retire from their “super”days and settle into a normal life in suburbia with their three children Violet, Dash, and Baby Jack-Jack. In order to fit in, they all need to repress their superpowers.
Frustrated by their inability to use their gifts, marital tension develops between Bob and Helen, and the kids act out at school. Just when it seems like family is about to implode, Bob gets a mysterious call to return to his superhero work, but on the sly. Eventually Helen discovers his secret and races to join him -with the kids in tow- to defeat the villainous Syndrome together.
For me, the movie emphasizes the importance of realizing and utilizing one’s God given talents, but also understanding that the real power comes from integrating one’s strengths into a larger community, aka the family unit…to have the confidence to shine while encouraging others to do the same. One of my favorite lines from the movie is Helen telling her children: “You have more power than you think.”
Now you might say, “But I’m not a superhero, nor do I have superpowers.”
But what if you are? What if you do?
I asked Phil: “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?”
“Hmmmm…I would be able to eradicate all negative thoughts and spread only positivity and light.”
“Really? Because you kind of already do that.”
“Well, yeah. Most of the time. That’s kind of why I married you, once I got over thinking you were in a cult.”
“Interesting. What about you? What would your superpower be?”
“I would be an Intuit with a keen sense of inner knowing. I would be able to center myself, listen, and feel what other people feel. I would be psychically connected to the emotional state of all living beings which would allow me to respond to them with compassion. And my name would be Gut Girl.”
“Wow. The funny thing is, you kind of already do that.”
“Well, yeah when you don’t have your head up your ass.”
On the beach later that day, I asked Emma the same question: “If you could be a superhero with any superpower, what would it be?”
She paused, sand shovel poised in mid scoop: “I would be able to close my eyes, and dream up something amazing, and then be able to create with my hands whatever I just created with my mind. And my name would be Creativia.”
“Wow. That’s awesome Em.”
“Right, sorry Creativia. The funny thing is, you kind of already do that.”
“Yes. You can draw owls, dragons, mermaids, and helicopters without even looking at a picture. And just look at your sandcastle.”
“Yes, this one is coming along nicely.”What if the one superpower we long for is the one we already possess, but often keep underground? Perhaps the “longing” for it comes from a place of needing that special gift to be nurtured and supported, by ourselves and those closest to us.
Joseph Campbell describes a hero as “someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” I used to think of heroes exclusively as Mother Theresa or the firemen of 9/11, those clearly deserving of such a title.
But maybe being a hero in your own family means a commitment to greatness. To believing in yourself and in each other. To believe that together, you can DO THIS THING, that your collective gifts are bigger than your fears, and that the reason you are together is to creative something new and exciting and expansive.
Mr. Incredible’s true strength emerges at the end of the movie, when he is able to make himself vulnerable and face his fear of losing his family. He encourages his wife and kids to use their powers even though it might be “dangerous” or “risky.” By believing in them, they begin to believe in themselves. They realize they were stronger than they thought…and more powerful together than alone.
What is your superpower?
Because you do have one.
Just ask Creativia.
*Brauning: (v.): To unapologetically eat off someone else’s plate without permission.