Mom or Black Widow? Maybe both!

471359_3836720277415_1255246137_oIn May of 2012, I, at 46 years old, went out in public dressed as Black Widow, much to the horror of my children. “Mom, really? You’re not 20 ya know, you’re middle aged, and you’re dressing up as a superhero!” At the time, it was a fun thing to do with friends, kinda daring and off-the-wall, and it made me happy. What I really didn’t know then, was that part of me did become the Black Widow, or, rather, then I began to realize that I was, indeed, a dark, vodka-swirling, Russian (okay, I’m German, but I have Russian friends…) spy who had red in her ledger.

I think that was a turning point for me. I can be a superhero- not in the fact that I will avenge the world, but I can avenge MY world. Like all heroes, all humans in real life, I have to prove my worth, I have to wipe the red from my ledger, I have to fight a dragon (overcome a fear- you know, dragons have feelings too and aren’t all bad beings), sacrifice a piece of myself to achieve a greater good, and in the end, become the hero I was meant to be. No hero is perfect; if a hero starts out perfect or ends up perfect, that person is no hero: that person is not even human.

It’s been a long journey for me. One that I am still traveling, and a journey that will have more battles for me, but I can say that I have fought the biggest dragon in my life lately, and although I have some battle scars, I believe I have emerged a better person in the end. I have wiped most of the red from my ledger.

A friend of mine recently said he was scrolling through his phone contacts and said he came across “Black Widow” and he couldn’t remember why he had that in there. Then he realized it was my number, and decided to keep it listed as Black Widow. Oh, he thinks he’s the Hulk.. Okay, so, I have some weird, possibly delusional friends, but if I’m Black Widow, why can’t he really be the Hulk??

It may be very strange to some that a middle-aged woman would dress up in a superhero costume when it’s not even Halloween, but I’m thankful I did. In secret, I still put on my bullet bracelet when I’m feeling weak or vulnerable, and it helps. I CAN be a hero in my own world, and I shouldn’t be ashamed to be me.

We all are heroes by making right decisions, and if we are parents, we all start out being our child’s first and foremost hero. I’m sure I’m no longer my children’s hero, as they’re teenagers now, and are quite embarrassed by my strange antics, but maybe someday in the future they will look back and think, “Ya know, mom wasn’t crazy after all. She really became her own hero and that was really badass of her!”

After all, there’s always hope.

I doubt I’ll ever dress as Black Widow again, but the costume is hanging in my closet, and my bullet bracelets are in my underwear drawer, if ever the need arises for me to “suit up” again and avenge some wrong in the world, my world. For now, I think I’ll just pour myself a vodka and blend into the background as a generic woman and mom, live an average life, and be “normal.” After all, that is the perfect backdrop for a spy: blend into your surroundings, and don’t get noticed.
I found my inner superhero. Which superhero are you?

Three Sisters

“Robin Williams is dead” was the text my daughter sent me. At first, I didn’t feel much sadness. I was saddened because a human life was lost, but that was about it.

Like many my age, I grew up with Robin Williams. I watched Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, and watched and loved many of his movies. In fact, I show Dead Poet’s Society the first few days of class to make the point that students’ words and ideas CAN change the world, even if it’s their own world. And, being one who teaches English, I can’t help but fantasize that perhaps, one day, a student would refer to me as “O Captain My Captain.” But, I digress.

Then the day after he died, I learned what the world knew: he committed suicide and he battled severe depression. Oh boy, THAT hit home. I felt a connection with a man I only knew through a movie or tv screen. He, a man whose job it was to make people laugh, struggled with the same demons I do.

Depression. A very vocal, insistent, invisible demon that with therapy and sometimes medicine, her voice can become mere background white noise and manageable, but she never goes away. Depression doesn’t like to be ignored either. When ignored too long, she will demand my attention by overtaking my mind and body with a vengeance, usually a surprise visit at the most inopportune time, like in the middle of a movie, or in the middle of the night, or right before I am about to teach a class. She really is a bitch. I have no choice but to let her do her worst, and then I have to start training her all over again.

Usually depression doesn’t come alone. Many who deal with depression, also have to deal with her two sisters: Anxiety and Addiction. Like the three fates, or Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters, the main job of these three is to stop their victim from enjoying life and prolonged happiness in some way. One sister even holds a pair of scissors, letting the victim know that SHE is in control of fate. What these three bitches do is cast an ominous cloud over the victim’s entire life. Luckily, for me, the third fate has kept her distance, possibly waiting to pounce at a later date, like a cat toying with a mouse.

Because this illness is invisible, even the most well-meaning person usually cannot fathom that depression is, in fact, an illness. Many of my friends and family have told me “Get over it,” or “Stop being lazy; get your ass up!” or even, “You can’t be depressed. Every time I see you, you’re always smiling!” How do I even begin to explain that just opening my eyes sometimes is a herculean task? That, at times, having the will to live was almost out of reach for me? How do I explain to a person who doesn’t believe in psychiatric (gasp!!!) help that it is occasionally a necessity for me? “Oh, stop being weak! I never needed any ‘help,’ why would you?!?”

I hope that Robin Williams’ tragic end to his life will have a silver lining. I hope that people will realize that depression, and mental illness in general, is very REAL, and has the potential to be very deadly. Thank you, O Captain My Captain, for your many years of making me FEEL and laugh through your brilliant performances. May the light you brought to so many others continue to shine on in your memory. And to you, you three sisters, I work everyday to keep your noise down, and your scissors sheathed. And to your ominous forebodings , I say “Nanu nanu!” I see the fates for who they are, and I deal with them in the best way I can. Laughter and love shall always conquer evil.