By Dana Gornall
One of my favorite shows I watched as a kid when I was growing up was Wonder Woman.
I can remember sitting with my knees folded underneath me on the couch in my family’s living room, dressed in my pajamas after a bath, eyes transfixed on the screen as Lynda Carter saved the day once again. Golden bracelets gleaming, her tiara with the red star resting just on top of her head, and her red, white and blue superhero garb—complete with the bright blue pants and white stars—made her so much bigger than life.
I wanted to be her.
Whether she was rescuing a little girl from a burning building or disarming a bomb before it went off, she would return to work the next day as unassuming as ever with a smile on her face and go about her day as though nothing had ever happened.
I’m not sure if it was growing up in the age of 80s family sitcoms and cheesy superhero television shows with horrible special effects, but somewhere along the line I seemed to have gotten the idea in my head that there is a certain way things are supposed to go. You know the MO, a story line begins, everyone is fairly happy and content, something goes awry, everyone becomes upset, cue sad and meaningful music, then everything gets fixed and people are happy again.
That’s real life, right?
It’s been my personality for so long to try to stay within the lines. I’m not sure who created them (maybe I made them myself). Sometimes thin and almost imperceptible they outline the edges of every thought, word and action. I placed a preformed image of how things are supposed to go, how everyone is supposed to act, and then I dive headlong into that story with my imaginary tiara emblazoned with a bright red star on top of my head, expecting to fix everything.
This self-created pressure to be the one who carries everyone’s load can be crushing at times. After one too many nights of my head resting heavily on the shower wall, tears streaming down as the water flowed over my body and circled the drain, I decided to start letting go of those lines I had created.
Maybe it was okay to drop the ball once in awhile, as long as I could find a way to pick it back up eventually?
This shift in thought didn’t happen overnight. It took awhile to begin snipping the threads of all the ideas of who I was supposed to be and who I was supposed to make happy—as a matter of fact, I find that it is still a work in progress. This thought occurred to me yesterday as I was driving home from a day spent with my kids.
I woke up in the morning like any other Sunday. I had some editing to do, a dog to feed and let out and a breakfast to make. An open day set ahead of us, plans were being made, thoughts about what we would do and when we would be doing them, all started to take shape and disassemble at the same time. I watched as the clock on my phone showed that the day was slipping away minute by minute.
So we changed plans.
We took the day and the sunshine and drove in a whole different direction to a place we had never been—no set time in mind, no one to meet, no real expectations. With the car radio turned up a little too loudly at times and the windows rolled down, the warm end of summer air blowing into the car, we talked and laughed and sang.
The kids fought. They complained they were hungry. They asked how much longer we would be in the car. And then when we got there they said they were bored.
We sat in the grass and listened to a local band of middle-aged men play jazz music and pulled blades of grass from the ground. We shared secrets. We told stories and they asked me to tell them about when they were small. We bought three big cups full of shaved ice and ate them until our tongues were frozen and our hands were sticky from cherry flavored syrup.
And we watched in awe as groups of people filled hot air into amazingly huge balloons and floated high up in the air over the trees.
Driving home, the sun was setting, painting a soft orange glow on papery clouds and a rising moon. We turned the radio up a little too loudly and the kids asked me to tell them stories about when I was small.
Breathing into the now that was happening then, I smiled.
I was having an 80s sitcom ending to a kind of perfect day and while I may not have turned out to be the Wonder Woman I wanted so badly to be when I was a kid, I was feeling pretty content.
It was when I began to let go of those carefully constructed lines of what and who I thought I had to be that I became my own hero.
Of course this is not an ending. There will still be the nights when I find myself resting my head heavily on the shower wall and watching my tears and the water circle the drain. There will still be days when I drop the ball—or maybe even many of them. There will be moments when I just can’t be a superhero.
And I think that’s okay.
But maybe I’ll just fly by the seat of my bright blue Wonder Woman pants, and see where it all goes for now.
Editor: Ty H Phillips