Among other things (heart-shaped rocks, vintage globes, miniature chairs) I collect female action figures. It began, of course, with Wonder Woman, and I have several versions of her. I have Bat Girl, Spider Woman, She-Hulk, Elektra, Princess Leia, and about 20 more, including a few villainesses. Also, the more loosely defined action figures: Rosie the Riveter, Marge Simpson, Nico the Barista, The Librarian (with push button shushing action), Jane Austen and Marie Antoinette. My favorite, representing moms everywhere, is Mrs. Incredible, with elastic arms to reach and protect her kids, no matter where they are, or how fast they’re moving. I have a whole section devoted just to her.
My wall of action figures delights me, and most people who visit my studio get a kick out of it. Often it leads to a discussion of favorites, but always the pretend favorites.
My true favorites are the real life action heroes, the girls and women who are inspiring forces for good and justice, fighting with courageous voices and mighty hearts. Their dedication and passionate work creates waves of change, making a difference for all of us. Madame Curie, Anne Frank, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rachel Carson, Rosa Parks, Jane Goodall, Maya Angelou, Wangari Maathai, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Diana Nyad, and Malala Yousafzai. I’ll bet you have your own list, too. They each made an enormous impact in our world, and eventually received the recognition and respect they deserve.
They make me proud. But I also have another set of action heroes who make me smile.
These are my personal action heroes, who show up my life, unaware that their actions are making a difference to me, right now. My mom, who at 80, has a lending library for her homeless friends at her church. She wields the power of reading. My two daughters, Kate and Alex, are soaring where I never imagined they could go. They prove the power of dreaming and doing. My sister-in-law Sue, who as her nest was emptying, adopted Bariza, who is 13. She demonstrates the power of an open heart. Our Aunt Pat, who as she was dying of cancer, allowed us to be part of her journey, sharing her power of acceptance and grace. My cousin Wendy knows how to score a beach chair and umbrella at the most magical moment–she has the power of getting stuff done. K.B., who started out as Alex’s softball coach, and now is our good friend. She’s the truth teller and the calmer of nerves. She owns the power of “let’s get real.” And our cousin Kathy, makes each of us feel like the most special person in the room. Joyful love is her super power.
Super powers…they aren’t imaginary. We all have something to share, to give, and to do. We all have a few super powers and we shouldn’t be shy about using them. While I joke that mine are making lists and that I’m always on time, I know I have more. I am not afraid of emotion, and I can often find the words to express love and gratitude. I try my best to be a devoted and attentive daughter, an enthusiastic and supportive mom, an energetic and fun wife, and a loyal and honest friend. Also, while I am not sure how to apply it as a force for good, I am honing my superduper extra special power of the ponder. You know, sitting and pondering… fueled by coffee and curiosity. Stand by and I’ll let you know where my Ponder Power takes me.
What about you? What are your super powers? Goodness knows, the world needs everything we can muster up right now, all action heroes welcome. If we’re lucky enough to have the time and circumstances to hone our powers (and if we’re in our fifties, that counts as plenty of time), it’s our obligation to use them to tend our corner of the world, no matter how small and humble it is. I really believe this.
Are you ready to be your own action hero? What are we waiting for? There’s work to be done, my friends.
For some fabulous real life super hero inspiration, check out The Reconstructionists.
Photo by Kim Tackett