Calling All Tutus and Capes: Heroes and Heroines Unite
It’s not about Kansas, Dorothy.
But it istime to get back to Oz.
As kids, many of us had an obsession.
The favorite story we begged to hear again and again.
That one movie that we knew all the jokes to
(and the exaggerated pauses before said jokes).
That 80s song that played on repeat on our double-sided cassette tape. The superhero that became a trajectory for our lives. We didn’t analyze these things; we just loved them. We collected all 4, we begged for more, and always was never enough.
Then puberty hit and made us awkward.
We forgot the things that made us unique and focused instead on our acne. By the time we emerged with cleared skin, our moms had cleared away most of the toys as well. We no longer read that book. We donated our VHS tapes to Good Will. And the Halloween cape was now a bedroom curtain, blocking daylight so we could sleep in ’til noon.
And then, a lot of us got very sleepy ourselves.
As adults, we were asked to grow up. To make decisions. To plan our lives. In hopes of acting responsibly, we put away childish things, confining our trinkets to sock drawers and our My Little Ponies to our dark basement boxes.
We didn’t want to scare away our “prospects.”
Nobody likes a girl who still wears a tutu.
Nobody likes a man who still plays with action figurines.
You want to raise children; not marry one.
Or do we?
There’s only one problem with childhood toy burials:
the relics we relinquished knew something. They held the truth of our journey and the keys to our future mapped path.
And without them, we may get lost. Or try to live someone else’s story.
And ignore the quest we are actually on.
Call it archetypes or meta-narratives, our childhood spirit entered the world yearning for adventure and meaning. We were born ready to traverse plains, fjord rivers, and scale oceans for the unique love gift only we can offer. As kids, we were little, but we accepted our grandeur, just giant pawed pups bounding for glory.
We didn’t yet know our limitations and we made that our strength.
We could fly, we could disappear;
we could make magic in the palm of our hands. Why?
Because we were the rule makers for our made-up game. Every one we met was our latest best friend.
We had treasure chests of gold and we dined daily with heroes and stars…
because we knew we were ones ourselves.
We were close to the dirt and grounded, ready to ask for help. We existed in clouds, ready to save the world.
We lived the Serbian proverb:
Be humble for you are made of earth.
Be noble for you are made of stars.
Many of us grew out of this.
We learned we couldn’t fly and gave up.
We gave too much and felt pain, and vowed to protect.
We guarded our independence and became solo travelers, for fear that someone steal our capes and our glory. (Or even worse, peek under them and expose us in spandex.) Way scary. So we grew up. We bought ordinary clothes. We set up small town lives. And soon found ourselves staring at the office clocks, wondering how we got so bored. Outside, summers passed, but we were no longer the sparkler holders. Our childhood sandboxes far from our fingers. Our color filled sidewalks no longer had chalk. And somewhere, we started planning our journeys without any of the tools for our aid. But dear friends, its time to dust off the art kits. And unbury the treasure maps of yore.
You see, to accurately enter adulthood, you must actively excavate your roots. It’s a Back to the Future progression, where you turn up the ballads and dust off the mixed tapes to reveal the soundtrack of your lives. You open nostalgia.
And decorate yards with plastic doll heroes.
And run through the night. With a mask and a mission.
And remember the story of our lives.
When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with the The Wizard of Oz. Completely and utterly infatuated. I memorized it, recited it, reenacted it to all who would listen – which was mainly my couchful of Popples, Care Bears, and Breyer horses. I lined them up in a row – the only captive audience that dared brave my purple clip-on feathers and ribbon laced shoes, as I crooned Somewhere Over the Rainbow in my thick Brooklyn accent (from my New Jersey living room home.) Shortly after, my parents drug me to the psychological nuns, thinking there was something gravely wrong with their daughter’s constant need to perform a movie script about munchkins.
“She just really likes this film,” the nuns said. “There’s really not much more to it.” I’m sure my parents left that day, wishing my photographic memory had been spent on more noble ventures, like memorizing the dictionary. Instead, I poured all my efforts into representing the Lollipop Guild.
As a 33 year old woman, I am far from couch performances. I no longer have Care Bears nor a plastic horse audience, nor do I have a photographic memory. That all went away before junior high. And I haven’t watched the Wizard of Oz in 20 years.
I felt this was progress.
Yet, in a recent life inventory,
I realized the Oz story had followed me.
In fact, I’d spent decades conjuring the characters.
And saw I had collected all twelve.
In search of Kansas, I followed a yellow brick road from the Empire State to the Westward expansion of poppies, with my little Yorkie in tow. Here, I own a lioness cat, live on a farm with actual scarecrows, and my metal tin roof resembles the Tinman. I’ve braided my hair, worn blue flannel dresses, and adopted good witches (in the veils of one British godmother and two Jewish yentas). Monkeys quite scare me, even the cute ones, and I’m still as short as a munchkin. A believer in rainbows and forever en route, I’m in search for my return one-way flight.
But I repeat, poppy friends: I’ve never taken opiates.
And I don’t inhale.
I wanted to see the Emerald City clearly.
“There’s no place like home,” became my life quest.
Granted, I’ve never quite known where that was.
Before I could legally drive, my family furnished 10 different houses in the tri-state area. Tri-states lead to bicoastal, and soon after, I’d done a quadruple bypass around the world.
Change became my constant. I moved to California to “start fresh and settle down,” whatever that meant, but I’m still new, having lived longer beyond American borders than I have in the state of the poppies.
Home became this endless search that no one,
not even my Rainbow Bright White Sparkle Pony
could tell me how to find.
Suitcases smelled more familiar to me than most permanent things,
the constancy thing that never left, as I kept on skipping away.
And, on my search to find Kansas, I was recently told by a therapist that I had it all wrong.
It’s not about Kansas.
It’s about the shoe collection I’ve worn all along.
And suddenly, my quest for a mid-Western state shrunk to revelry in red sparkle shoes.
Which was precisely the point of the story.
You see, Dorothy thought her journey was about getting back home to the country farmlands, to the place that displaced her and began her exile into wonder. She thought it was about melting the witch, stealing a personal broomstick plane, and pulling the curtain on the wizard god, exposing all that he must and must not be. If she could only conquer these things, she could go home. So she collected her allies and completed her tasks, laying down her crowns and glories at the foot of the wizard…
Who does not take her home in her story.
In fact, he sets sail without her.
Distressed, at the end of an around-the-Oz quest,
Dorothy looks to the good Witch, asking for help.
But the Witch neither helps nor consoles her.
“You don’t need to be helped any longer,” she said.
“You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas, Dorothy.”
“Then why didn’t you tell her before?” the scarecrow angrily chimes in.
(i.e. wouldn’t that have prevented a lot of grief
and saved the film producers a lot of money?)
“Because she wouldn’t have believed me,” Glenda says.
“She had to learn it for herself.”
You see the quest we think we are on is not our actual quest.
It’s just a decoy, a motivational mask.
It’s not about Kansas, or returning there.
It’s about becoming the fullest version of yourself.
It’s about embracing the subplots as the real story,
the tertiary characters as our soulmates,
and the power under our feet as our own.
The hero journey is not from A to B.
From Oz to Kansas. From the Shire to the Mount Doom.
From the heights of the Universe back to Smallville.
It’s not just about becoming a Jedi Knight and saving the universe. Or defeating the Matrix. Sure that is the outer journey of the hero, which begins with a call to adventure and ends with a resurrection and a full return home.
But the real journey is an inward one,
beginning with change and fear but ending in mastery.
It’s about stepping into the shoes that have been with you all along and could have always gotten you home.
But you weren’t ready to believe in your power.
So you had to take a little walk.
A yellow brick detour.
Our real quest uses the outward geographical journey to open ourselves up to the fullest version of who we can be.
It’s not about getting from A to B.
It’s about unleashing the selflessness of A in all its bounty.
Its about becoming the Shera of You where You = A1000
You see, it’s not our smallness that scares us.
It’s our greatness. It’s our kryptonite, our truest fear.
That someone will find out our magic.
As Marriane Williamson writes,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
It’s that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.”
We are all meant to shine, as children do. As children knew, when they clung to these stories and believed they could fly.
(and probably, on some levels could.)
So, dear friends, what was the literature of your childhood? The heroine that your 5 year old self duly worshipped? That plot that you relished in wonder?
That Neverending Story (Artreyu) ?
That Christmas Story? (Ralphie)
The ____ _____ Story. (Insert your full name in lights.)
Because it’s time to remember it.
And reread it.
And step into it.
To stop playing the assisting characters and become the protagonist of our own lives.
We’ve got the shoes. We’ve got the cape. We’ve got the fairy dust.
We’ve got everything we need and always have.
It’s now time for the mastery. (And the sparkle boots darlings).
So blessings on your journey, world changers.
Go light up the world, Cinderellas.
Your pumpkin carriages awaits you without expiration.
And Toto too.