Filling out a questionnaire the other day, amidst the formulaic questions, I was struck by one that stood out: What’s your super power, real or imagined? How much easier my days would be if I could blink myself to another location. Or if I could Jedi mind control my boys to getting along with each other. If I could function without sleep (or food or illness) to slow me down. How about twitching my nose and be-witching my way to a completely made meal, perfect in nutrition value and pleasing to the taste.
Alas, I’m just me, plain, ordinary me trying to get through the day. Forget super-powered, lucky at all if I’m not running on fumes. But not one for leaving questions unanswered, I couldn’t stop mulling until I had an answer. If I had to approximate something that’s like a superpower, kinda, I say empathy. Yes, empathy is my imagined superpower.
I feel. A lot. All the time. It’s as if my entire body has feelers that send messages straight to my heart, every bit as real as any sensory input. I anticipate my children's needs before they tell me. I instinctively grab hold of them almost always right before they stumble. I sense my husband's desire without his having to say or do anything. In passing I feel a girlfriend’s tension and touch her arm. I sense another driver’s distraction and make way or slow down, safely avoiding many an accident. When a friend tells me a painful story, tears well up my eyes, even while his stay dry. In a group dynamic, I sense who's holding court, who's into the group think and who's not. And who's left out, that I feel most keenly.
When I stop to think about it, my empathetic power is very real. It has been there with me for as long as I can remember. Throughout childhood, I refrained from group play because I couldn't handle the different signals coming at me all at once. Empathy has repeatedly drawn me to reach out to newcomers or outsiders, my sensing their vulnerable status. Since becoming a mother, I see that my empathetic power has amped way up. I sense even more reflexively and vividly, perhaps biology’s way of helping me move through the vastly different spheres and responsibilities of my life, to nurture all that I care for.
Acknowledging that I have a superpower that’s actually more real than imaginary feels freeing and empowering. I have a secret strength, and it can and has been giving me an edge all along. To my own Peter Parker becoming Spiderman moment - where I go from here all depends on how I wield my empathy. Instead of being oblivious, gonna try leading with it. Gonna try leading myself with it.