like most of america i sat holding my breath while watching the super bowl episode of this is us. i was right there with everyone else shocked and amazed once again by jack pearson’s heroics. i thought surely he’s not going back in that house. surely he can see the complete look of horror on his family’s faces and just climb down off that roof and join them in safety on the ground. he’s not going to do this thing that will ultimately kill him, he’s just not going to do it. right?
but of course he did. of course jack pearson, fictional dad, rushed back into a house engulfed by flames to save his family’s momentos and his daughter’s dog. of course he risked life and limb and gave the last breath in his body to bring them comfort and the last remnants of his person. of course he did.
i mean who among us wouldn’t? which parent would not run into a fire to save their children? which parent would not sacrifice all for the comfort of the ones they hold the most dear? who among us would not have run back into the fire maybe not for a dog and a few trinkets but surely for our children?
i’ve been thinking a lot about that fire and the meaning behind it. i know for a fact that i would have gone back in. i know for a fact that there is nothing that i would not do for my own family. when it comes to them i recognize that my limitation is that i have no limitation.
most women are like that. most women are superheroes. that’s not an overestimation. in fact when it comes to their children, to their families, most women take extraordinary measures on ordinary days. most women run into fires both literally and figuratively to do what they must so that the ones that they love can live in comfort and peace.
black women are especially prone to this standard. black women are so prone to this standard that the primary stereotype held against them is that they are superwomen. literally, america thinks that black women are superwomen. they think it so much so that no one even believes us when we say we are in pain. no one blinks when we bleed because they figure we have some kind of self healing mechanism that will regenerate any limb we have lost.
so we walk through fire and on fire to save tokens and prescriptions and pictures. we smile through horrors and steel our faces against fears. our children remember us as omnipresent and omnipotent. and we do whatever we can to maintain that facade.
our vulnerabilities are kept secret. our humanity is our alternative reality. they don’t know that we sweat because we don’t allow them to see it. we hide our exhaustion. we disguise our overwhelm. we smile through the stress and say things like ‘it’s just a little headache’ when the sharp and invisible spikes piercing our brain wants to send us running into darkened rooms to hide under cool covers but instead we sit through recitals and basketball practices.
at 47 years old, i’m coming to terms with my humanity. i’m waking up to the realities of my own limitations. and i am making peace with these truths. i know that my nature is to be jack. i love so many and have sacrificed much for the comfort of a select few. i’ve been the one walking with pneumonia. it was me who took a cross country trip nursing a kidney stone but singing on the van ride. i’ve also gladly given over $20 when all i had was $15.
our children, our families, the people we love who love us deserve the gift of our humanity. they deserve to see the truth of who we are completely.
it’s not that we’re overwhelmed and grieving all the time. the truth is most days we are superwoman. hell on our worst days we save the world. literally and you’re welcome alabama. we don’t flinch when the work is hard and the day is long. we don’t run when we get weary, we fly. not because that’s how we’re made. we do it because we can.
we are amazing balls of light who hold in ourselves the infinite possibilities of tomorrow. we are all that and a bag of chips and we demonstrate that everyday we draw breath. so really it won’t be a big deal if on sunday we need a nap. the world can take it if we lie down in the beds we made for a minute and take respite.
our children won’t break if they see us sweat or cry or catch our breaths. seeing the humanity in us will help them recognize the humanity in themselves as well. it also grants them the gift of empathy. they need to know that others have needs that have nothing to do with them. and we can’t teach them that valuable lesson if we are so busy putting on airs while holding up the sun.
these last few months i’ve made myself sit down. every volunteer opportunity that came my way went by the way. it was the first time in life when i said no so much eventually people just stopped asking. i’ve taken naps and i’ve also caught up on the nonsense television i thought i was missing out on (hence the newfound connection with the pearsons) and i’ve become overly familiar with my friends’ facebook personas.
those facebook, snapchat, and instagram images of life perfecta amuse me. i wonder and worry about us. how do we move into the next phase of our reality if we are so grounded to the illusion of our otherness?
hello, my name is wanda. and i am human.
and what i know for sure is…that’s okay.