A Super Hero in Each of Us

 

 

 Two weeks ago when I was in Canada, I was listening to the CBC at noon on the radio doing an interview about the new Wonder Woman movie. A caller said how meaningful the movie was to her, how the character inspired her as a child and made her feel that she too was invincible. You could hear the emotion in her voice, and her excitement as she recounted some scenes from the movie and how it made her feel, and how she would take her 11-year-old daughter to see it.

I smiled and thought back to watching Wonder Woman in my own childhood. I never felt any great affiliation for her. In fact, I liked watching the different super heroes but always felt Wonder Woman never had any real special powers. Her wrist bands, her shield, her invisible jet. I don’t know, she seemed a bit weaker to me. And there was the buxom Lynda Carter on the TV show. I think my father enjoyed the show more than I did.

I met the marketing director for iPic in Redmond a few months ago. We chatted about all kinds of stuff and he gave me some free movie passes as I had never been there before. Yesterday, I used them to go to see Wonder Woman with my boyfriend.

I was definitely ready to be entertained by the action film, and I reclined in my premium seating in the 64-person theater, wrapped up in the soft, coffee-colored blanket. The opening scene introduces you to the world of the Amazons, and their values, and their beliefs, and how Diana’s purpose is to destroy Ares, the God of War.

There was something about seeing these women fight. The special effects making them seem so goddess-like themselves. The strength, and capability. And the sheer brute force they used to wipe out the German soldiers. I found myself strangely wanting to be stronger, to be more athletic. I’ve been having a lot of health problems lately, and I just wanted to feel well again, and to get back to my workouts at the gym, and feel like my strong self once more. I also wished I had pushed myself a lot further when I was younger, too.

As the movie progresses, Diana is in a scene in London during WW1 where she has to find some appropriate clothes to blend in. She tries to throw her leg into an Amazon kick in a long dress. Tears it. She can’t balance in the skinny high heels. A high collar is itchy, and uncomfortable. So she ends up dressing exactly like her male colleague, but in a skirt she can move in. Sometimes it’s physically difficult for women to move in this world while trying to fit into society’s concept of being beautiful. I, for one, can’t wear high heels anymore, my feet long since ruined by life.

I think it was the war scenes which really affected me though. Her sidekick Steve Trevor takes her to the front lines; to No Man’s Land. Diana, new to the world of man, is horrified by the brutality and the flagrant disregard for life. She is emotionally overwhelmed and feels the war must be stopped. Steve explains that the soldiers have been trying for months to make progress against the Germans here, but they hadn’t moved an inch. Diana strips down into her Amazon outfit and leaps out of the trenches to take on the German forces herself.

There was something about watching her run alone, her shield out, her wrist bands deflecting the bullets zinging endlessly at her, the black and white background and the debris and dust and dirt flying around her. The intensity of the music and the sounds of war, the endless barrage of bullets, and her pushing forward, compelled by a desire to stop the God of War, to end the needless suffering, to stop all the killing. She was alone, in color, with her little shield and her wrist bands, pushing, pushing. And succeeding. Sometimes as a mother, as a giver of life, my soul feels horrified by the atrocities in this world. I thought about passionately protesting during the nuclear scare in my youth, about my dad fighting in the Korean War, about my friend’s son in the Navy right now, about all the conflict and the death and destruction of our current world. And here was one woman, powered by the concept of love, Super Hero as she is, on a mission to use her powers to stop it.

The intensity of the scene was like watching the opening of “Saving Private Ryan” all over again. My body was trembling with emotion, I tried to muffle my sobs, tears were streaming down my face. Not only because of this overwhelming feeling of hatred for man’s violence against one another, but for being a woman in a man’s world. Sometimes the work environment makes me feel disadvantaged, or that my personal values are not in line with traditional corporate values of making money, and being the dominant dog. But rather doing what is right, and trying to come from a loving place.

Apparently that scene almost didn’t even make it into the movie. The director Patty Jenkins had to fight for it, because no one understood the importance or the significance.

Not only that scene, but the whole movie meant so much to me. So much about motherhood, and integrity, and being a woman, and wanting love to prevail, and standing up for what you believe in, and triumph, and kicking some serious ass in everything you do while also loving ice cream and babies and dressing up for a gala.

I cried so much during this movie. And I felt so inspired afterwards. To be myself, to keep fighting for what I feel is right, to take care of myself, to push myself harder, to love deeper. Whenever I am asked what my favorite movie is, I’m not sure what to say. I don’t think I had a favorite. I do now. How unlikely that I would identify so deeply with the fictional character of Wonder Woman. But after a tough adolescence, traveling the world, going to college, having a career, getting married, having a child, getting divorced, and owning my own business, I don’t know, I guess I’m at an age now where I feel there is a Super Hero in each of us.

When the movie was over, I quietly got my things together. My boyfriend hugged me and asked if I was ok. Normally I gush when I love a movie. But I didn’t want to explain or say anything. There were absolutely no words I could use to try to communicate the experience I had just had. There was no way he would ever be able to understand. The movie somehow demonstrates a difference between the world of men and the world of women.

Wonder

Doing research for this blog post, I saw a statistic that there was only 1 female super hero to every 4 male ones, and there were no super heroes of color. I wondered why that was. It made me think of the Greek and Roman gods. They had goddesses too; strong female figures. Or the goddesses of Hinduism. Super heroes, it seems to me, are the modern American religion. And there simply should be more female characters. That seems like a positive thing to me.

I texted my 13-year old daughter. I told her to go see Wonder Woman. I told her I would pay for her ticket. She is going today with three friends. I hope she enjoys it and I look forward to talking to her about when I see her after I get back from my business trip. I can’t wait to see the Super Hero she becomes.

The Cake Campaign

CakeNow that I’m a small business owner working from home, I’m realizing the advantages. But there are definitely disadvantages, too.

I worked in the agency and corporate environment for a total of 19 years. But now that I work from the solitude of my own little home, I have had to make some adjustments.

Of course, you hear all the time about the benefits of abandoning the corporate lifestyle. For me, these include:

–          Freedom: I can work from anywhere I want to. Whether that is my home, a coffee shop, in Canada, in Europe, wherever I choose. And if I want to take that afternoon pilates class, I can.

–          Time: The commute for the average American is increasing. I once had a job where my commute was 90 minutes. Each way. I spent three hours in a car every working day. If you calculate that time over the year, it’s like spending the entire month of July in the car. Plus, especially for women, think of all the time you spend each day getting ready for the office. Now, my hair goes into a ponytail and I’m quite comfortable in my yoga pants, thank you very much.

–          Attitude: I confess that this is the happiest I have ever been in my life. Particularly because I now have spare time to be creative. I was too tired and busy to pursue the hobbies that make me fulfilled, but now I can – like writing, and painting, and cooking more often. My friends have commented on the significant change in my mood.

–          Excitement: It might not be for everyone, but I don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from. There is something about the pursuit of new clients that is a bit exhilarating. For some reason, I love this part, and I can’t wait to learn about them and start working with them.

–          Master of My Own Destiny: This was probably the biggest a-ha I’ve had. I took time and thought – what do I want my life to look like? What is important to me? I love the industry I work in, I love to travel, I love to write, I love spending time with my teenage daughter and my boyfriend. So I’ve designed my life so I can do all of it.

–          Empowerment: It’s nice to know that all the hours and sweat I put into my work directly benefits me. There is also something special about being a woman and owning my own business.

Those are indeed some of the benefits. I am truly living my dream right now.

But what I wasn’t expecting was the isolation, and the loneliness. One of the best aspects of working for a huge corporation is the camaraderie, and the laughter. It’s hearing everyone’s stories and ideas. Commiserating sometimes, and offering a shoulder to cry on at others. Sometimes I look forward to going to the store just to be with people, and to have a two-minute conversation with the check out clerk. That said, the loneliest time of my life was also when I worked for a corporation, with thousands of other people.

The other thing I miss? Being perfectly honest? I miss the cake! I swear to you that we must have had a cake a week. For a birthday, or a promotion, a retirement, a going away party, an anniversary. Not only in my department, but other departments too. Sometimes they would leave leftover cake in the break room; that surprise piece of Costco white cake with its sugary frosting flowers is something really special. I don’t think I have had cake since 2015. Oh, wait. I had a client dinner in February. I shared some cake there.

It’s been predicted that by 2022, 60% of the office workforce will be working from home. I think they might be right. And I will make a prediction that the Costco bakery will go out of business. Without that office population supporting their cake sales…

I kicked off my new company recently. My “office of one.” I didn’t have a room full of coworkers to celebrate my launch. So do me a favor. If you are a friend of mine, participate in my Cake Campaign. Next time you go to the store, buy yourself a piece of cake. It doesn’t have to be cake really, maybe a cookie, or a peach, or a dozen happy sunflowers. Think of me, and wish me well in my new venture.

And if you don’t know me, I encourage you to do the same anyway. Enjoy your treat, and maybe think about a dream deferred. One that is sitting in the back of your mind somewhere. Maybe it’s those guitar lessons you wanted to take, or French classes, or maybe think about that quirky home you’d like to own someday. That old one in Seattle. Or Monterey. Or Tuscany. Let yourself daydream a little.

To dreams…

The Lunch Box

School Lunch.jpgI always thought that my choice to be a working mother was the right one, both for me and for my family. But my daughter recently recounted a story to me that made me question that decision.

A long time ago, when I was a teenager in fact, I decided to be a career woman. My father died of cancer when I was 14 and I watched my stay-at-home mother go through a lot of personal struggles trying to establish her independence afterwards. I made a resolution that I would never be in that position. Life holds too many unknown factors and you have to plan for the worst. In my mind, financial independence meant freedom, security and survival.

After college, I established myself in public relations and marketing and had a pretty good career going. I flew on private jets sometimes, had dinners in some of the finest establishments, and worked for executives in the Bay Area placing stories in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, for example.

Then I had Mackenzie. I went back to work in marketing about four months after my daughter was born. Despite negative snipes from some of my male colleagues, I needed to help support our family and I genuinely liked the work. It was emotionally excruciating leaving her every day at daycare, but I tried to remind myself of the positives: she will learn to be more social, they will give her stimulating activities, and she will have a stronger immune system from being immersed in a petri dish on a daily basis.

I always took a lot of care making dinner for my family, often putting in quite a bit of time making something both nutritious and delicious for the three of us. But I stubbornly drew that line at school lunches. I was NOT going to make lunch for Mackenzie. Period. I was too exhausted from working. Once she hit elementary school, I felt Mackenzie could buy lunch.

Personally, I always looked forward to buying lunch at school when I was a kid. That thick focaccia-like pizza cut into large squares and lightly brushed with sauce. If it was a good day, the cheese wouldn’t stick to the aluminum foil covering. And those chocolate chip cookies! The oversized, brown sugar heavy crunchy cookies that cost $.10 and were awesome alongside those tiny cartons of cold, Vitamin D milk. It was fun, and I thought Kenz might like it too. Wouldn’t a hot meal be better than the lunches in my memory: a baloney and butter sandwich, flattened by an extra heavy navel orange?

My daughter is in middle school now and as much as I encourage her to make her own lunch, she doesn’t have the energy or desire after studying until 10pm some nights.

Currently, I work from home, and I thought I might finally change my ways. On Tuesday I decided to make her lunch. I made a honey ham and salami sandwich on Dave’s Killer White Bread with some high-quality mayo from Whole Foods, a Ziploc baggy of red and yellow grape tomatoes, a maple white chocolate Think Thin bar and a stroopwafel cookie I brought home from Amsterdam. She had a week of school district testing ahead of her, so I also included a notecard with some over-the-top affirmations of love just to elicit that teenage-eyeroll. And it was all kinda fun.

When I picked up Kenzie from the bus, I asked her what she thought of her lunch.

“Oh yeah, that was great Mom,” she said sarcastically. “I went to go get some water and my friends went through my lunch bag and they found your notecard. Real hilarious. They bugged me about that the whole day.”

“You didn’t like my card?” I laughed. “I knew you were in testing and I just wanted to brighten your day.”

“Yeah, don’t do that.”

She got deep in thought for a few minutes and said, “I remember back in elementary school all my friends’ mothers used to make them these great lunches every day. They would have their little sandwiches, cut into perfect rectangles, and their mothers would all write them little notes and put them in their lunch bags. I always had to buy my lunch so I never had that. One day, I actually took a paper towel, and wrote my own note from you. I even put a piece of candy with it. Just so I could be like the rest of them.”

Insert knife into heart….

I had no idea. I think I was one of the few moms at Wilder Elementary in the Seattle suburb who had a full-time job. The other moms volunteered at the school together, hung out together, knew each other. They were all really nice ladies who were acquaintances that I might run into at a soccer game, or at a school play. This was a Microsoft-heavy community, and I was not one of them. My life was made up of meetings, and tradeshows and working with industry editors.

The role of the working mother is something that is pretty hotly debated. Some women don’t have a choice in this matter; they have to work. I did choose, and this story from my daughter brought up a lot of regret for me. It wasn’t the first time I had had those feelings, but I always quickly resolved them in my mind. This time really affected me though. Maybe because it was about food, and nurturing, and a sense of belonging?

Yesterday I told my daughter that I was going to write about this, and I told her how I was feeling.

“Mom,” she said, “I like that you work. I think that’s why I’m such an independent person. I know I can take care of myself. I wouldn’t be this way if you stayed home. I’m pretty sure about that. And when dad lost his job, you supported us. What would we have done if you didn’t have a job?”

The thing is, she is really independent. She always has been. She gets herself up at 6am every morning whether I’m up or not. She is the most punctual person I have ever encountered. She studies every night without me ever saying anything. I think maybe this was her way of surviving. She became this way out of necessity? And I don’t think that is such a bad thing.

I’m a working mom, and I’m not able to change that. I’m just going to press on, and continue to try to grow my business. But I think I’m going to be making lunches for her from now on. And I might just slip a notecard with over-the-top affirmations in every now and then. Even if it’s just to elicit the teenage eyeroll.