On a bright and crisp winter day in January, I escaped- without knowing my destination, not even caring to have one, only choosing to follow a strong nudge of my heart to go north- so I did, in my car, head north. It was simpler than most things I seemed to be facing in my life, a welcome diversion and almost adventure that included, as usual, my camera.
My 31 year marriage was ending.
It was the kind of winter day when the sun was bright and the sky an amazing and exceptionally bluish blue, that made a walk in the woods with my camera sound like therapy, a therapy I was using frequently in recent months.
Two good people were making the hardest decision of their lives.
When I’m in the woods I often imagine I’m wearing a long red cape, the kind with a hood, just like Red Riding Hood. The hood covers my head, offering me protection from the dangers of the forest.
The fabric of my life was ripping in two.
The melody and words of a song suddenly caught my attention. It was called “Waiting for Superman” by Daughtry. Tears came. The lyrics were definitely me.
“She’s talking to angels, counting the stars, making a wish on a passing car, she’s dancing with strangers, falling apart, waiting for superman to pick her up in his arms…”
Uncertainty loomed ahead in every area of my life. How would I support myself after primarily working as a homemaker all these years? What would I do with the house? Where would I be living in the future? How would my children (mostly adults) handle the breaking apart of their parents?
The truth was, superman wasn’t coming, not the way I thought. A part of me still wanted someone to rescue me, give me the answers. The disappointment I felt letting go of that need broke my heart completely open.
And there, in that wide open place, I saw the other red cape.
Immediately I wiped my eyes and sat up straight, gripping the wheel of the car tightly. That cape wasn’t on the back of a man with blue tights- it was on my own back. Bold words flew out of my mouth.
“I am Superman.”
I repeated it several times. I knew it was true. I saw it, inside of me- the power to move ahead, the power to find my own answers, the power to rescue myself.
Later, when I returned home, I went to the basement. There I found it- a red cape that was part of a Wonder Woman costume my daughter had worn years before. I took it to my room and put it on, gazing over my shoulder at my reflection in the mirror. It looked good. I smiled.
That red cape now hangs over the post of my bed as a reminder. Sometimes I even put it on and dance around my room to “Waiting for Superman”. Except now I know who the real superman is.
What do the red capes represent?
The outer red cape, my imagined cloak during my moments of personal exploration through the dark forest, enabled me to become honest with myself, to safely look and see and admit my deepest needs. It gave me the guts to take my own photos and look at my face without feeling guilt or shame.
This cape represents my integrity and the courage to follow my heart, no matter what.
It was out of that vulnerability I discovered greater personal strength. Underneath the sorrow and confusion accompanying this major transition in my life, and the rocky path it took to get there, something new was emerging, ideas were coming, people were offering help. This cape didn’t mean becoming completely self-reliant, it meant also counting on family and friends to help me in practical ways, which included reminding me the cape was still there during the inevitable moments of doubt.
This cape represents God’s always available strength within me and through the people who love and support me.
At no time did I need my strength cape more than three weeks ago when my only running car died. I had another car, but it had been sitting for three years, and I had no idea whether it could be fixed. My daughter and her husband immediately stepped in and offered me the use of their second car, while my sister’s boyfriend offered to look at the car and hopefully get it running. I am happy to report there was a resurrection at the beginning of lent instead of the end this year- of my car. Grace was extended to me once again.
I have many difficult decisions to make in the coming months. I will need both capes to navigate wisely into this new season of my life.
And so I shall, wearing those red capes proudly.
By the way… If I am Superman, so are you.
Although Superman didn’t have an official partner (certainly Lois Lane qualified), Batman did have Robin, so I decided I needed an official sidekick too. My dog Lily volunteered. Guess I need to find another red cape just for her!