Alicia Keyes proudly sings about her, many women emulate her and others berate themselves for falling short of the hemline of her cape. I too have fallen foul of believing the hype that superior multi-tasking was a gender advantage. I have recently crossed the picket line and resigned as General Manager of the Universe.
Is there any wonder why women are morphing themselves into action heroes? Here is a definition, available online, by the Free Dictionary by Farlex :-
1. A woman who performs all the duties typically associated with several different full-time roles, such as wage earner, graduate student, mother, and wife.
2. A woman with more than human powers.
Superwoman is a fictional character. Note the word, fictional. Lois Lane dreamt she was super human, infused by blood taken from Superman in the plot of the Action Comics, Issue #60 in May, 1943. Was this merely a transformation of Freud’s ‘penis envy’ into a more sophisticated modern context?
Lois had several forays into heroics, including demonstrating temporary superpowers in several issues from 1947 onwards. Perhaps a case of you can strap one on sister, but it ain’t yours to keep? Her costume, mimicked Superman’s with the addition of a skirt. As time marched on predictably, Superwoman substituted her skirt for a snugly fitted leotard and flashed more cleavage.
2013 American songstress and Superwoman, Beyonce may well strut her derrière and declare liberation and wedding rings in the same breath. I’d like to see her stripped bare of her indulgent millions and fawning minions, and battle alongside real women trying to juggle complicated lives full of disappointment, financial constraint and compromise. No one it seems envies loads of washing, sticky films of dust, 24/7 on call nursing duties, and all other tasks that are promoted as performed consistently better by humans with XX chromosomes.
I have known many women throughout my life that have cared too much, whose standards have been exemplary, who have strived too high and surrendered too much of themselves. I have been right there alongside them. I have questioned other peoples capacity to settle for less as if in doing so, they have short changed themselves and the visceral experience of human existence. I have felt the gaze of pity from others, convinced that I was born defective, without an ‘off’ switch.
I concede now, they may have been right. I ask myself, from whom do I seek approval? I belligerently snap ‘no-one’ but I’m not sure that is the truth. The usual suspects are trotted out. Father? Mother? Teacher? Perhaps someone from my childhood who passed judgement which I believed as fact, long forgotten is entrenched in my synapse, stubbornly flickering. A diagnostic dilemma, but one that needs a simple disconnection or cognitive rewiring.
I wonder what pearls of wisdom I have left like crusty cow pats? I pray that I have sown more flowers than weeds. My sons may follow in pursuit of achievement as a barrier to dealing with emotion. My youngest below donned this emergency costume to walk the streets of Launceston, oblivious to the embarrassment of his brother. My adult sons, focused work ethic is carved from both parental models and societal expectations.
Meanwhile, I am examining my addiction to productivity. Those that know my past work context will be in no doubt that I am in need of serious rehab. I am like many disillusioned government workers across sectors who have spent their youth working against the lack of recognition in creating abundance from lack. One of the two things that I have in common with Lindsay Lohan, is that I am a repeat offender.
I have found challenge addictive, like an enticing curiosity that is to be solved, to be conquered by grit and determination and in thrilling and satisfying victory to be savoured with one eye only on the prize. Not satisfied I am forever searching for the next mountain to climb. Perhaps the human fly who clings to high rise window sills has simplified the objective? I think it is risky behaviour, but whom am I to judge?
My challenge is to do less and rein in my insatiable intellect, that sees opportunity like a flash of almost buried silver in the sun. When cancer entered my reality, it was as if the rest of my working life as I had known it, had been frozen mid frame. I heard myself say, ‘ I am too busy for cancer’, so did my GP who in her moment of déjà vu, stared intently at yet another Superwoman.
I have been reborn into my life, post cancer with a new awareness. This does not prevent the rhythms of past thought beating a familiar tune of career options, or to lure me back with whispers of possibility, success, status, power and admiration. I remind myself of the cost each morning when I make peace with myself in the mirror.
I need assistance to make the transition from over achiever and over worker to living within new boundaries of health first, family next, creative pursuit followed by sustained engaging work. Like Lindsay, I have sought profession help of a mental health mechanic. Maybe we just might both learn how to hang up the false cape of expectation.