I had never been into super heroes. In fact, I despise them. I don’t like the idea of a character who is invincible. Call it Spider Man, Batman, Jack Bauer, Jason Borne or Jon Snow, if they survive the unsurvivable many times in a row I loose interest on them (well, not in Jon Snow, but that is the exception). Of course, as life loves to play tricks on us and gives of us a double dose of of whatever we despise, I was blessed with a baby boy who loves super heroes. At three and a half he is obsessed with them. One day he is a super hero, next one he is the bad guy.
I like my character with flaws. The good ones have a dark side, the bad ones never learned to deal with pain. And regardless of the side they identify most with, they will sometimes fail, many time they will succeed. Life is not a string of constant achievements because everyone eventually falls down, a few steps down, a whole wall or into the darkest abyss.
Regardless of our capacity to rise from our ashes, there in an universal feeling that will eventually stops us on our tracks: fear. You are waiting for a diagnosis, you experience a heartbreak, imminent change is approaching, there are more questions than answers, you don’t want to open a door that leads you to an unknown path. There are a million reasons to feel the paralyzing effect of panic. So many times we see ourselves as super heroes; we are in a constant battle to beat obstacles and if we have been lucky enough to be spared many times, we start believing we hold super powers that shields us from failure. We repeat constantly that if we we keep a positive mind, good things will happen. For some, it is the strength of their faith that becomes the safety net that protects them from an evil fall. For others, it is a constant planning that gives them a sense of control. Many others believe the universe always has a master plan.
It does not matter what our pillars are, fear will cripple inside our blanket eventually and hug us with the strength of a boa constrictor. In those moments it is so easy to question all our super powers, because if we were so courageous we would not be defeated by such a earthly kryptonite, right? But fear is natural. Fear is what protects us from great acts of stupidity. Fear is what makes us run when a threat is imminent. If you are attached to your super hero shield, just answer a question: have you ever love with all your heart? Because nothing guarantees that we will be stricken with fear more than love does. If you love somebody (or something) fear will always be present. Fear that that person will not be there one day, that he or she will suffer, that you will not be able to protect them. If we love with all our hearts, fear is always part of the equation.
So if fear is the kryptonite, then what is the super power that defeats it? I know only one: vulnerability. I am sure I am not the only one that has gone through a lot of s…painful moments in my life. And when I have felt my weakest, there was no power (supernatural or earthly) to help me overcome adversity better than vulnerability. It is knowing that I can be broken, bruised, heavily injured, when I can be on my knees, when I can’t stop crying that I start building myself up. It is by knowing that fear is inevitable that we regain our power because fear constricts, like the boa, but when when we see it straight to the eyes and tell him “I know I am broken now, I know I can fail terribly, I know I can loose what I hold dearest to my heart but I will survive,” that is when fear looses its grip on us. It does not necessarily leave, it can be watching for afar.
Vulnerability is in a way the anti-shield. It is like being naked of all protection. I always envision it as being dragged by a forceful river and suddenly deciding that we are not going to fight anymore and the moment we calm down is when we discover we can float to the shore. Years ago, my husband fell 35 feet down from a climbing wall. The fall was so quick that he did not even had time to panic. On his mind, somebody was going to stop his rope just moments before he hit the floor on the best The Matrix style (I know, boys and their super powers!) When he hit the floor his ligaments and tendons got injured and took years to heal, but he did not break a single bone. When the doctors x-rayed his whole body, they told him that what saved him was The Matrix image he was playing in his head. Because he trusted somebody was going to save him at the last minute we kept his body relaxed. If on the other hand he would have been (naturally) overcome by fear, his body would have tensed up as a board and he would have shattered many bones and probably not even survived.
Some of my friends tend to tell me that I am very strong because even in the most difficult moments of my life I keep smiling. Those words actually make me smile because I do know I am as human as I can be. I live with fear and with pain, with love and with hope in the master plan. Fear debilitates me but does not break me. My super power: vulnerability. When I know I am weak, it is when I regain my strength back. So when my son wants me to read him his super heroes book and surprises me by knowing the name of every super hero and every villain with its particular power I imagine I could be in that book too. Not that I would make a very commercial super hero, but I know that no matter the kryptonite I will rise after I fall, and sometimes I would loose too, and that would be OK, and even then I will survive or how Maya Angelou would say…”I'll rise.” In the meantime, I will enjoy the way my son looks at me as if I was the real deal-maximum-invincible-super hero”. After all, that will change once he gets to be a teenager and notice everyone of my flaws. For now, all I have left is to pray that he does not make me dress as cat girl.