Here is the mug a dear friend gave me a few years ago. This friend took a chance on my writing when she started her magazine. We have since started and run a successful business together. Over coffee and slide decks, we dream of future ventures. When she gave me the mug, a Christmas gift I think, she said, “You are a Wonder Woman to me, Lela.”
Every time I use this mug I remember those words and they encourage me.
I know, it’s just a mug. But I’m a mug person. I still have the mug I received from my very first real(ish) job. My Bellingham National Bank mug is 25 years old. I haven’t managed to break it yet. That one reminds me of the super powers it took to overcome my circumstances at the time (unhealthy relationship, ill-advised “break” from college, questionable 1990s fashion choices, etc.), and make the decisions I needed to make in order to own my own life. And the friends I made at that job. The mug reminds me of them too.
But back to Wonder Woman, because this post is about super heroes. I want to identify with a super hero, so that in my darker moments I’ll have one more tool to make me feel that ‘I can do this thing!’ energy we all need sometimes to power through. Wonder Woman is worthy, and what a sweet compliment from my friend. But I’m not so sure Wonder Woman is the one for me. Just minutes ago she was covered in crusted chocolate, the result of an unfortunate microwave hot cocoa incident. Seems like she would know better, or do better, or jet off in her invisible plane to a land where cocoa never runneth over. Not me.
I have plenty of real life heroes, women (and men) I know who accomplish amazing things or exhibit the qualities I wish I possessed. It’s important to have these people to look up to, but these real life heroes are not super heroes. They are role models. No matter how lovely, they are still human. They still fail. While they deserve our admiration, we can’t hold real people to super standards.
But a superhero, she can take it.
Business coach Erika Lyremark talks about creating “compact super heroes,” different personalities you can fit in your pocket. Each with unique super powers to get you through any situation. I like that idea, too. You create the heroes you need for a given situation. Still, I want the one. My special super girl.
What I don’t want is the busty, half-naked comic book femme fatale, leaping across rooftops and fighting crime. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but she doesn’t feel like me. Check out Wonder Woman. She is fierce. She is an Amazon.
I am an awkward, say-the-wrong-thing, tiny girl. I like to do yoga and read personal essays. My super power is spreadsheets, which is just not very dramatic, or literary, or conducive to cool costumes. A few months ago I got really excited about a cleaning cloth. Not my best moment. But on this side of 45, I can own all that. And thank goodness, right? Because I must now qualify as middle-aged despite my determination to live to 100. And ladies of a certain age, while we don’t have to grow up (oh, but, never!) we do have to give something back. We do have to be comfortable in our own un-super skin.
So I’m thinking Dorothy Gale. You know, the girl who travelled all the way to Oz to find out her powers were inside her all the time. And do not even try to tell me she is not a super hero. She leads a motley crew through an unknown land, and helps each of them find what they desperately desire. She doesn’t put up with any crap from flying monkeys or bad witches or the man behind the curtain. That’s the kind of power I’d like to tap each day.
And I love sparkly shoes. And pig tails.
Dorothy it is.
Maybe someday I’ll grow up to be Glinda the Good Witch.
But not yet. I still have a lot of traveling to do.
You know what super heroes are extra good for? Helping you fake your balance when everything threatens to tip you right over.
Also great for that, encouraging words from my latest book: Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life.
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Image: Lela Davidson