At one time or another all of us have donned The Cape.
You know the one I’m talking about – the one with the big “S” emblazoned on it; the one we use to first try and convince ourselves (and then others) that we are fully in control at all times; the one that whispers in our ear that there is no power in the Universe, let alone on Earth, so great that it won’t bend, if not break, before our will; the one that assures us there is no mind so sharp or clever that we can’t outwit it; the one that makes us believe there is no “boogie-man” so devious that we aren’t able to defeat it; and, perhaps most delusionally, the one that lures us and those “fortunate” enough to be within our sphere of influence into a false sense of security (i.e., that as long as we’re in the area they are out of harm’s way, insulated from the adversity and uncertainty that is so much a part of others’ lives). In short, it is The Cape, which, worn long enough and with just enough “good” results, makes us believe that we (and through us those we love) are invincible!
Maybe you’re one of the ones who put theirs on at work, where, in a misguided effort to prove your “corporate worth” or, better yet, your indispensability, there is no hour of the morning too early for you to arrive or hour of the evening too late for you to leave, irrespective of what you have to give up or what compromises you have to make to accommodate that level of commitment; there is no project too big or too complex for you to handle on your own – no matter how much more expeditiously, efficiently and expertly it could be handled by properly delegating aspects of it to a willing and trustworthy group of colleagues; and there is no amount of supervisory neglect, criticism or “abuse” that you are not willing to endure in the hope of future advancement or out of fear of losing your job – no matter how unfounded, misplaced, hurtful and/or inappropriate that criticism or abuse may be.
Maybe you put yours on at the bus stop or in the parking lot en route to school. Maybe your cape is the one that simply won’t allow you to tolerate even the slightest academic misstep no matter how inconsequential it may be to your future; the one that insists you not only take a full load of, but excel in the hardest courses your school’s curriculum has to offer, so that you will be uber-competitive when the time comes to apply for college; the one you rely on to enable you to put on a “brave face” so that you can appear to be unfazed when your peers bully you, bombard you with demeaning and hurtful comments and slurs or ostracize you from the “in group”; the one that demands that you not only participate in, but fight for a leadership role in every available extracurricular activity, so that you scarcely have time to catch your breath, let alone have a life outside of school.
Maybe you quickly put yours on in the garage before you step through the door at the end of an undeniably long day and assume the role of parent, so that you can create the illusion that you have unlimited stamina and strength; that you don’t tire like normal people; that your energy knows no boundaries; that you not only are desirous, but fully capable of being all things to all people at all times; that, unlike most, you have the seeming ability to be in several places at one time; that there is only one speed in the life of a super hero (full out, 24/7); that normal human emotions which might distract mere mortals from the task at hand (e.g., sadness, frustration, anger, hurt, discouragement, moodiness, etc.) have no place in the world where super heroes roam and, therefore, are to be “fixed” rather than felt. In short, The Cape that enables you to create the illusion that you’re perfect – or at least a perfect mom or dad.
Or maybe you put yours on first thing in the morning, while you’re still wiping the sleep out of your eyes – before you get to the bathroom mirror to make that critical first assessment of “you”. Maybe your cape and the expectation of superhuman perfection that comes along with it are what “prompt” you to look past the multitude of visible and invisible characteristics that make “you” inherently beautiful to the rest of the world and, instead, demand “answers” as to why your hair, your eyes, your complexion, your teeth, your nose, your lips, the shape of your face or jaw line, your neck, your figure, your smile, your eye brows or lashes or some combination of the above haven’t magically “adjusted” or “corrected” themselves overnight so as to more closely resemble the “super image” you (all of us?) have in mind for ourselves – The Cape that makes us oblivious to the reality that NO ONE meets that standard.
Don’t get me wrong: Having worn The Cape in all of these settings (and many others!) over the years, I will be the first to attest to how intoxicating it can be, particularly when you actually appear to be performing at what by most objective measures is a “super human” level. But, even on its “best” days, wearing The Cape is exhausting and, more often than not, it is downright unhealthy. Inevitably, we are reminded of our humanity (and all that goes along with it) – as well we should be – and we are forced to let go of the illusion that The Cape instills in us. Sometimes those reminders come in subtle, almost imperceptible ways – other times we are hit over the head with the Life-equivalent of a boulder of Kryptonite. In each case, however, the message is the same: There is a reason Superman/Superwoman have been relegated to fictional, indeed comic book, status – they’re fun to imagine, but no “fun” at all in real life. Trust me on this one.
From here on out, “Clark” will be just fine – thank you!