Wonder Woman

I finally saw Wonder Woman last night.

I’d read a bunch of feminist think pieces about it, heard glowing reviews, and last night at AMC Van Ness I settled into a crowded theater surrounded by the smell of stale popcorn and the familiar creakiness of movie theater seats and finally watched it.

I loved it.  

I loved watching these strong, beautiful women fight and battle and excel, turning superhero movie tropes on their head as the girl rescues the guy, the “good guys” are in many ways as fallible and messed up as the “bad guys,” and there is a deep recognition of the flawed yet redeemable nature of humanity.  

Many writers of the aforementioned feminist think pieces have commented that they didn’t realize how much they needed to see strong, courageous women doing battle until they experienced it.  I felt the same way watching these women embody strength – physical strength, yes, but also strength of purpose, of character, of resolve to fight for the good.  Watching Wonder Woman fight the good fight as someone strong and compassionate, brave and fearful, tender and fierce felt like taking big gulps of fresh air, like stretching my whole body wide after being cramped in a tight box.  It felt like being reminded of the truth that we can do hard things, that I can do hard things.

I was talking with a friend recently about being brave, and the quote that sprang to my mind was “Courage isn’t the absence of fear – it’s the acting in spite of it.”  As so often happens, I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear those words until I spoke them aloud to her.

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately.

I don’t think of myself as a fearful person.  I don’t spend much time worrying about terrorist attacks or natural disasters or the possibility I might get cancer.  I have accepted that I can’t control any of those things, so what’s the point in worrying about them?

What I do fear though is pain and loss.  I fear losing the people I love – fear borne of experience.  

I’ve been reflecting on this and realizing I have two options.

One option is to let the fear win – to shrink away and do anything I can to lessen it, avoid it.  Not take risks, not care, not love.  To back away slowly from the fear, hands raised in surrender ”Ok, ok you win! I won’t risk or dare or try – just leave me alone and I’ll back away slowly into my corner and we’ll call a truce.”  I get the appeal of that – I’ve tried that method.  It doesn’t work though – because to paraphrase Brene Brown, trying to protect yourself from the hard stuff – the loss and pain – also means shielding yourself from the best stuff – the love and joy and meaning and connection – the best stuff in life.  And I know in the truest part of myself that’s not the way I want to live.

Another option is to approach my fear with curiosity, to acknowledge that it’s uncomfortable and lean into that discomfort.  To take a deep breath and and say “I’m scared and I’m still here”- to not let the two be mutually exclusive, but to hold them both.  

Today is Father’s Day, a day I approach every year holding my breath, waiting for the emotional smackdown of sadness and loss and despair to hit, to pull me down into a place of darkness, a wave of grief I can’t fight.

But today I’m going to try a different way.  Today I’m not going to hold my breath and brace for impact – instead I’m going to take some deep breaths and still show up  – not as some slick, shiny superhero version of myself who isn’t afraid, but just as me, fears and all.

I saw this picture as I was scrolling through Patty Jenkins’ Twitter feed [because I’m in full on Wonder Woman #fangirl mode now] and it felt like breathing fresh air.  Seeing Wonder Woman – the stunningly beautiful Gal Gadot who plays her – in shorts and a t-shirt, relaxed with no makeup, not on a big screen but on a small one – that is also the image I deeply needed.  Because I want to be that version of Wonder Woman, too.  The real one – who doesn’t always face life with a shield and sword, who isn’t always protected, but still shows up just as she is, with an open heart to whatever life brings.

Grace

Grace

I’ve always loved that word – it’s one of those words that you hear spoken aloud and it sounds like what it means.  I’m sure there’s a name for that, not onomatopoeia but some other English major word that I should know but I don’t.

Grace

It flows from the tongue freely, grace-fully if you will.  It lands on the ear drums softly – a whisper, but with some serious backbone.  Grace is monosyllabic, simple yet elegant, strong yet tender.

Grace

Ok, so maybe I’m reading too much into a word, but words are my jam, my balm, my music. Words are my favorite form of art – always have been and always will be.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a Van Gogh or Rodin as much as the next girl, but they don’t stir the same feelings in my soul as a beautiful turn of phrase, a poignant piece of prose, a pithy quote full of wisdom and truth.

I’ve been thinking a lot about grace, mostly because I’m realizing I’ve been in dangerously short supply of it lately – for myself and for others.  This has been a season of stress and busyness, change and uncertainty [#notafewofmyfavoritethings] and I’m realizing those stressors have been slowly washing away my reserves of grace, like the waves of the ocean wearing away rock, imperceptibly but steadily.  

I got so caught up in the busyness of life that I wasn’t paying attention, and then I looked up and realized I was so focused on what I was doing that I was losing who I was being.  I lost sight of the truth it’s so easy to lose sight of in this topsy turvy world of ours, that what I do – what I accomplish in a given day –  pales in comparison to the importance of who I am and how I treat the people around me.

With kindness.  With compassion.  With grace.

I long to have grace toward the precious people I get to encounter everyday – which is really just a fancy way of saying letting them be human.  Which is contingent on letting myself be human – meaning fallible, imperfect, a broken yet beautiful mess.  To paraphrase Tim Keller – letting myself live in the reality that I’m more broken than I want to believe yet more deeply loved than I’d ever dare hope.

I’ve worn the same perfume for the last decade – Amazing Grace by Philosophy.  I wear it for the smell, sure, but even more than that I wear it for the ritual and the reminder.  Every morning when I reach for the bottle and put it on I think about living up to that name – what does it mean to be an aroma of Grace in this world?  

One of the dictionary definitions of grace is “the free and unmerited favor of God.”  Free and unmerited – how freaking counter-cultural is that?  I’ve spent the last decade of my life split between New York City and Silicon Valley  – two places synonymous with hustling and striving and proving yourself.  There is nothing free – literally or metaphorically – in either of those places.  You hustle, you strive, you prove, you earn – you merit the hell out of yourself.

And into those places, into my life, every day flows Grace.  What a scandalous notion that flies in the face of all my Type-A, achievement, perfectionistic, white-knuckle-grip-on-life tendencies.  Grace flows freely, lavishly, outrageously, like a babbling brook – No,  more like an unleashed dam, a torrent of Grace washing over everything and making us whole.

I am so deeply in need of Grace.

I am so deeply in need of a love that isn’t earned because when I think I need to earn it – to hustle and perform and perfect- I become a rigid, terrified, shadow version of myself.  But when I relax into grace – when I receive it and give it – I feel true peace and joy, and anything is possible.

Bit by bit, moment by moment, day by day I’m regaining my footing and coming back to myself and the way I want to live – the way of Grace.