The seizures were threatening to kill him, her only son. There was no choice. When he was in the hospital – having his skull opened to remove the tumor and during the long recovery that followed- she wore her wonder woman panties every day. Until they were as frayed and thin and worn as her weary heart. Because they were proof of what she needed to remember. She was very, very strong.
The night – when he took from her what should only ever be freely given – she watched it happen from the ceiling. When she could not bear to be inside her body for a moment longer, she left it behind. Floated high above.
Later, she kissed him goodbye, her lips parched and hard against his, aware that they were watching. After the others had long since fallen asleep the silent, shuddering tears began. She crawled up the stairs, her legs refusing to hold her any longer. Her knees scratched on rough carpet as she crawled across the bedroom in the dark, searching desperately for her overnight bag. She knew without looking that her pink lace panties – the first pair that had made her feel like a grownup – would be stained with blood. She closed her eyes, silent tears streaming down her face, and wished for a cape. Blue and red satin, she imagined, and powerful enough that she would not have to float next time – she could fly away and never return.
Afterwards, when it was done – when the choice was made and it was over and could never be taken back – she stood in the shower. Her frail shoulders curved around her grief stained soul. She held her body, one that so recently had held another, and she felt as if the earth might just give way beneath her feet. She waited for the hot water to scald the memories from her skin. She pounded slick tiles with her bare hands, a primal keening rising from the deep well at the center of her grief. She was broken open, cracked wide. It was not supposed to be this way. There is no superhero in the world strong enough to alter this one irrevocable thing that she had done. This time, she would have to rescue herself.
Lover, there will be days when there are no telephone booths to change in. Days when your own personal kryptonite has robbed you of your last bit of strength. Days when Wonder Woman panties and satin capes and scalding water don’t have near enough magic to transport you back to the core of your powers.
Indeed, there will be days when the most heroic act you can muster is changing the sheets on your bed. All of your energy focused on tucking and smoothing, as if meticulously formed hospital corners are the one thing that will save your life. It matters now at the close of the day, when everything in this world feels dirty and cloaked in shame, that your skin only be touched by something clean.
This is enough. This is more than enough.
No, you cannot really fly. There will be no single bound building leaps. You will not win a race with a speeding bullet. There won’t be a man in tights and a cape swooping down to save you. It’s just you. One person. Small and exquisitely mortal against the relentless pressing of the big, wide world.
But know this. Even without costume or talisman or amulet, you have power beyond comprehension. You have brokered peace treaties. You have kept intact that which was bound for disaster. You have held the hand of the dying and brought life to the world. You have brought down empires and built them anew, the right way this time.
To live this life. To live it with wholeness and gratitude and trust. In the pain and the glory. In the mess and the grace. In the sacred and the desperation. This is the stuff of which real superheros are born.
And you. I bow to your tender heart. Your fierce ownership of self. To the battles done in the name of health and wholeness and agency and truth. To the choices made that had to be made that nobody understands. To the judgement faced and the heavy grief cradled. To the ways you have continued, even in the face of great loss and sacred things stolen and all that has threatened your hard won peace.
It is no small thing to survive this world. And it is no small thing to stand tall and to claim this life and to thrive.
I bow to you, humble and awed.
Because you have been the saving grace of your own survival, again and again and again.
And in the end, there is nothing more powerful than exactly that.