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.