Originally posted: February 7, 2012
On a rather pleasant Wyoming summer day, I sat down with a dear friend after sharing a yoga practice outside on the grass with my 2-month old Critter. Thoughts kept recurring during my practice that the me that I thought I was striving to be didn’t quite match up with the me that I actually was becoming. I guess that conflict had been silently pestering me for a couple of weeks.
I rather earnestly asked my dear friend, as a way of simply introducing the discussion, “You know how you always have a Super-Hero alter ego?” She kind of swallowed a laugh and replied “No…I don’t. But it makes perfect sense that you do. Where are you going with this?” I often forget to remember that not everyone in my universe approaches life or thinks the way that I do (despite my husband’s efforts to remind me). I was still troubled by my conflict though, and felt like I needed to talk it through. So I started from the top:
Well, everyone has a super-hero alter ego…it is just a matter of identifying who she is and what she’s called. When I was a child, I thought you kept your super-hero for life. I mean it is not like Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker shopped around until they found the right title. As I grew in years and life experiences, I realized that kind of thinking isn’t real – that’s comic book stuff. What is real is the need to constantly check in with your super-hero self and make sure she is the hero that is serving you best. It took me till the end of graduate school to learn that. I was tightly hanging on to my childhood alter-ego. As I was getting ready to leave South Carolina yet again, I realized I needed someone else to take me forward. It was not an ugly break-up. In fact, it was not contentious at all. Parting ways with the super-hero that I had since I started wearing glasses in the second grade was healthy and positive. I was like a hermit crab looking for a new shell. I have had three extremely awesome and incredible alter egos since initially sticking my neck out.
It was MadFaith who helped me to transition from school life in Columbia to making pizzas with my new not-quite-yet-paid-for-Masters-degree while living in Boulder. MadFaith marched me outside and led me up into the foothills trails on the days I had to pay my bills. MadFaith hopped on my skateboard and rode it from Marine Street down the 9th Street hill to Canyon and on to work. MadFaith helped me take a job I did not love at a school I did not love and reminded me to always “play for the king”. MadFaith showed up at rugby practice after vowing to never play again. MadFaith sat me in front of the internet and searched for jobs that matched my real interests. MadFaith packed up the ’89 Oldsmobile, covered the holes in the exhaust pipe with pop can patches, drove through the feed lot lands of Kansas, and landed in Western North Carolina. MadFaith lived on the verge of reckless abandon. MadFaith loved every minute of every day and did not let making minimum wage with a graduate degree dampen her spirit a bit. MadFaith sat silently on a picnic table bench during staff training and knew her end had come. MadFaith was the perfect transitionary hero for me. MadFaith remains with me and I still call her to hang out on very specific occasions.
It was Ultra-Violet that emerged shortly after the staff training ended. I always pictured it happening much like the birth of Athena. MadFaith bent down to take a final bow, her head split open and out marched Ultra-Violet. Ultra-Violet was inside all along waiting for her turn, she needed MadFaith to get her to the right place before she could step on the stage. Ultra-Violet was shining from the start. She was spunky, zesty, and cheerful. Her energy knew no bounds. She derived her powers from breathing outside, being active, and helping others live on the bright side of life. In her first year, she spent 200+ nights sleeping under the stars. She traveled the country with groups of children and attempted to teach them the keys to happy living. Ultra-Violet could not believe her good fortune. MadFaith allowed her to incubate and brew until the stars aligned perfectly for her to make her debut. Ultra-Violet began accomplishing things I never thought possible for myself. Ultra-Violet climbed the Grand Teton. Ultra-Violet hiked the Glacier Trail from Dubois to Pinedale and crossed glaciers with crampons and ice axes. Ultra-Violet learned to shoot a rifle, then shot a deer – alone, by herself, with an old Russian sniper rifle with open sights. Ultra-Violet rode her bike daily in grizzly bear country with bear spray in her water bottle holder. Ultra-Violet raised a puppy. Ultra-Violet accepted a full-time job with a company she believed in with all her Ultra-Violet heart. Ultra-Violet bought a split-board and an avalanche transceiver and began skinning up mountains to ride back down them. Ultra-Violet learned to surf, alone, in southern California. Ultra-Violet sprinted the Teton Crest Trail in 2 days with her good buddy The (original) Plum Fairy. Ultra-Violet bought a cabin. Ultra-Violet ran 5 miles at 14,000 ft when she summited Mt. Whitney, and accepted a wedding proposal when she was done. Ultra-Violet married a fella. Ultra-Violet grew a garden – a beautiful, luscious, bountiful garden. Ultra-Violet began to practice yoga. Ultra-Violet trained for a half-marathon and actually began running fast! Ultra-Violet rode her bike from Steamboat Springs to Estes Park in September – alone, through a blizzard with 0 visibility on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. As MadFaith who went before her, Ultra-Violet loved every minute of every day. It wasn’t always sunshine and moonbeams though. Ultra-Violet had to fight several battles. Although she always emerged triumphant, there were some that left her battered and bruised. As my career morphed into one that was more indoors than outdoors, more sedentary than active, and more on computers than with people, Ultra-Violet began to shrink and wither. She continues to make appearances now and then, when the conditions are right…but those times seem to be growing further and further apart. The transition from Ultra-Violet was not handled with a modicum of grace that MadFaith had.
I was aware of what was happening to UV, but life continued to move in that direction, and despite my efforts at balancing it, I lost control – and lost UV. There was a period of time as UV was fading away that I felt like each of my days was like playing Whack-A-Mole. Things came up, I whacked ‘em down, only to see something different pop up somewhere else. It is a frustrating game – but you can get good at it. I was competent – but unhappy. I did not like being without a super-hero one bit! I am a mere mortal. I am incapable of accomplishing the greatest things without an alter-ego. I decided during the Whack-a-Mole phase that I blatantly lacked grace. I determined that the super-hero I was to be next was “Liquid Motion”. I thought it was what Ultra-Violet set me up for. I thought I’d move gracefully from one mole to the next. Instead of whacking them with force, I’d gently step on them and balance for a while until my understanding and compassion urged them to gently recede. I tried to hang with Liquid Motion for over a year, but we just never really connected. I knew that a big part of the problem was that I forced Liquid Motion. She didn’t present herself to me like the others had – I tried to create her. Big Mistake. I wouldn’t let go though. I want to develop grace so badly – I have very little you see and it bothered me that Liquid Motion wanted nothing to do with me. We were at odds. My alter-ego was my nemesis.
Then I learned that I was pregnant. I called on Liquid Motion. I thought I needed her to get through the pregnancy, and certainly once I had a newborn on my hands. She continued to disappoint me though. She actually made me live through the 43 (that’s right – 43!) weeks of pregnancy on my own. I did okay – although I had a bit too much ice cream it turns out. Like I mentioned though, I don’t like flying solo – I REALLY LIKE having a super-hero up my sleeveless-hoodie-cape. Critter was born and I was still on my own. Still making it happen, but really missing my other identity. MadFaith came to visit from time to time (always at the exact right time of course) – and that helped. Ultra-Violet showed up when I gave her the right conditions (a long bike ride, a run in the badlands, a sunrise hike…) But Liquid Motion was nowhere around. It bummed me out for a while.
Then one day it all became clear. I’ve always known that I’m going to be at my prime at 62. Not that I’ll hit a steep drop off after that – but I’m pretty certain that’ll be my peak. Who am I to ask Liquid Motion to be with me now? I reckon if you are not born with it, it takes a lifetime to develop grace. Perhaps Liquid Motion will hang out with me when I’m 62. I stopped longing for her and feeling so rejected. At the same instant I let that go; it occurred to me that my newest and most incredible super hero alter-ego was hugging me tightly. La Madre. She is so incredibly cool!
La Madre did not pop out of anyone’s head and simple appear on the scene. La Madre grew slowly and silently. La Madre has an understanding of things that I cannot fathom. Her patience runs deeper than the darkest crevasse I have ever stepped over. La Madre knows selflessness (pretty HUGE help for me these days). She is able to see a bigger picture than my narrow mind can grasp. When I’m discouraged and grumpy about my current level of fitness or time spent outside, she gently squeezes me and whispers reminders about all the wonderful things there are to balance now, and everything will get its fair share. La Madre is as tough as she is gentle. Ultra-Violet fought the battles and learned to stand up for herself and persevere – La Madre wears the scars. She has learned the lessons of those that have gone before her, and stands with confidence and pride. If I saw her in a line-up of super heros 10 years ago, I never-in-a-million-years would have picked her as one for me. I’m sure I would have thought she looked super-cool and way bad-ass, but I just would have never figured we’d be a match for each other. But here we are, together, right now. How great my fortune has been for my path to have crossed with hers.
You see, I need one. A super hero. Without them, I am just ordinary. I can only get so far and then I hit the wall or crash or fizzle. My super heros have accomplished so many great things. I can dream my life, but they are the ones who help me to live my dreams. They are my dream me. They don’t see the limits. They have confidence only available to super heros. I don’t even wish I could do it on my own. I love having them around. I love giving them the credit they deserve. I love knowing that although I’m slightly terrified of having Sprout just 15 short months after Critter, that La Madre will take care of it and be smiling and happy all the while – it is what she was meant for. And I know that she will take care of me too – and Daddio, and my career, and my future.
I’m a gonna keep track of the journey. with the consistent inconsistency that is my forte.