Every problem solver has a Superhero Streak. It comes with the territory. In a fantasy often playing just below the surface, my logoed bodysuit occasionally peeks through a buttonhole as I wait serenely at the bus stop. Seconds after a toddler across town whimpers his need, I swoop in to comfort, protect, and rescue from dangerous speeding cars. After days of pouring rain, I devise a water-diverting tarp salvaging the year’s crop and sending the precious liquid to the drought-dried country next door. Standing humbly atop the capital city’s dais, I accept the supreme award for service lauded by the admiring crowds.
Maybe these are not exactly your fantasies, but let’s be honest, any person who truly believes he can change the world has a streak of crazy. Just enough crazy to make her believe that she can make a mark of good to counteract the bad or bring justice to replace injustice. This is a healthy kind of crazy as long as that streak stays in check. The danger comes when I start to believe my own fantasies and forget to attend to my flesh-and-blood realities.
The razor thin line often gets crossed when I hit some mark of success. The thrill of victory can easily feed the fantasy leading to my own villainous behavior. I see my victory as mine alone and start to believe that I don’t need others. I stop listening and start giving commands treating those around me as minions placed here to carry out my wishes. I work and work and work obsessing over the work ignoring all else. Easily offended, I snap under criticism lost in my own self-importance. Having tasted the sweet fruit of success, I keep moving forward at all costs fighting again to savor the sweetness.
And then I crash and burn.
Because I don’t live in Marvel world; I live in the real world. And I’m more real, more human than I care to admit. So what do real people do to keep from crashing and burning or from believing their own Superhero fantasy? I can’t speak for everyone, but these are four things that help me stay in the real world. They ground me, not in the “You’re grounded and can’t leave the house for a month” way. They ground me in the sense that they remind me of my humanity. They help me to problem solve at a sustainable pace, a pace that honors my humanity.
One of the most vital practices in my life is a regular time set aside for reflection. Most often this happens first thing in the morning as I sit with a Bible and a journal. This reflection tends to fall into three categories.
1) I think over the previous day, giving thanks for its joys and accomplishments and I write them down. This combats my tendency to forget the good in the middle of the imperfect. Some dark seasons, I stop my reflections there. This is especially helpful when I find myself complaining more than celebrating.
2) Most days, I move forward to think about the day ahead. What do I feel must be done this day? What are my priorities amidst the daily to-do list? I write them down. This is the time when I try most to be silent. To listen to the still, small voice of God who may have a unique errand for me to run and a different perspective about what is important.
3) Some days, I also take time to thing about what is not going well. What just doesn’t seem to be working? Is this something I have to simply persevere through or can I make a change? What is one action I can take toward making that change?
Many more articles and books can give you all the reasons and benefits of a regular exercise plan. I have never been an athlete. I’m much more attracted to books than I am to weights. But I have discovered a few things. My body aches when I don’t move it. My children don’t go to sleep well when they have not used their muscles. I like food and my Superhero physique is starting to show it. I am a slave to my body. If it is tired and sick I can’t change the world the way I so desire to do. In light of all of this, I have adopted an exercise regimen that works for me. Move my body every day for at least 30 minutes. Find something easy to do. When the township built a paved path that started three houses down from mine, I took it as a special invitation. I walk, bike, and (wonder of wonders) even jog on it as much as possible. It is free and takes less than a minute to get to and it keeps me moving.
That same walking path also connects me to the great outdoors. I have not previously tried to put into words what being in nature gives to me, choosing instead to take pictures. Standing in a virgin forest under towering trees reveals my so-much-less-than-Superhero size but rather than demeaning me I somehow feel comforted. Drinking in the vast sky with its ever-changing shapes and colors calms and overwhelms me. It is only outside where I feel I can truly breathe deeply and feel filled and refreshed.
It took me well into my adult years to learn to truly laugh at myself. Anyone can laugh at a funny joke or a silly scene but to take the time to stop taking myself so seriously? This is where some truth for life lies. Mark Twain was on to something that I am still just at the cusp of practicing, “Against the power of laughter nothing can stand.” Speaking of Twain, the actor Hal Holbrook went on to say, “…you can push at an injustice, move it a little, century by century. But only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast.”
Several years ago, attempting to stand in Warrior One position in a yoga class, God spoke to me. “You are not Super Woman,” He said. I looked in the big mirror at my ridiculous Warrior stance and it was all I could do to not laugh out loud. He was right, obviously. But it came with such sweet release to my fighting heart. Because his statement of truth was meant as an affirmation, I was real. He didn’t expect me to be any more than that. Seeing myself clearly, accepting fully, and laughing. This was real power.
I still have that Superhero streak. I fully believe that I am on this planet at this time to do something I was made to do. But when I take a walk out to drink in the glowing sunset and ruin the best picture ever with my thumb in the corner that I do not notice until the moment is gone and I am ready to post it on Instagram, I laugh.
What do you do to keep it real?