Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Coping as a superpower

It was somewhere over the Pacific when I was shaken from sleep. Momentarily disoriented, I clawed madly for my glasses case in the pocket behind the seat in front of me. I got my glasses on as the plane shook again. Dropping my glasses case to my lap, I clutched the arm rests for dear life. U2’s MLK played softly out of my iPod headphones but not even Bono’s reassurances could calm me down.

The flight was already nerve wracking: from thinking I forgot my passport at customs, to the attractive Aussie sitting next to me that wanted to talk about nude beaches, I was certain I was about to re-enact the intro scene from Bioshock but in the Pacific rather than the Atlantic. I was shaking under my itchy airplane blanket.

The plane shook violently and before I realized what I was doing, I was saying the oath:

In Brightest Day,
In Blackest Night
No Evil Shall Escape My Sight
Let Those Who Worship Evil’s Might
Beware my power: Green Lantern’s Light


Back in my undergrad, my developmental psych professor loved to talk about how important coping mechanisms were to children dealing with stressors. It didn’t matter what sort of mechanism it was, a kid could get through anything using them. I had my own coping mechanisms.

My grandma had strict definitions of what a girl was like and I wasn't it. As a kid, I would hide my butt-length hair under the hat I had taken from my dad and would pretend to be my own male twin. I spent most of my childhood angry at my mom for not letting me go as Batman for Halloween 1990 after she said I couldn’t because “Batman is for boys”. My grandma made a big deal once when she caught my grandpa taking a hockey stick out of the back of his truck that he had hidden from her. He had bought it for my birthday. I got the hockey stick but I think she was the reason I never got to play pee-wee ice hockey as a kid.

Since my grandma’s first language wasn’t English, she could be really blunt. I remember being hurt when she told my dad to stop watching hockey with me because it would “make me weirder”.

Looking back on it as an adult, I know she was worried about me. It was dangerous (and still is) to be a Native girl. I reckon she didn’t want me to draw attention to myself since the more visible you were the more likely you were to be targeted. But, being a kid, I just knew that there was something wrong with me. And it upset me that I couldn’t figure out how to change to make my grandma happy.

I think things would have been different for me if I hadn’t been sick in the car one day. My dad had taken me to The Pas and we were driving home. Before we had left, he bought me a Superman comic book. I started reading it and, as I did, I began to get dizzier, my head hurt, and saliva started to pool at the bottom of my mouth.

I got to a 2 page spread of green Kryptonite and my dad hit a bump as I did so. I threw up all over the comic book. As my dad stopped the car, a bit of green rock slivered through the bits of digested chicken fries into view and I threw up again. As my dad pulled me out of the car to clean me, I realized why I was so weird. I was Kryptonian.

I had seen the 70s Superman movies before this trip and knew the sort of effect Kryptonite had on a Kryptonian. The realization of my true origin was only solidified when my dad took me to see the burial ground near the rapids that gives my hometown its name.

The site around the burial ground has been blasted and driven over by heavy equipment for 40 years and looks like something crash landed there. My arrival took root in my mind: my dad had seen a light in the sky while he was out driving with my mom. They followed it and found my ship and me, as a baby, inside. My parents raised me as their child. My grandma decided she didn’t want people to catch on to my being an alien so she was always telling me to act normal.

Call it crazy but it helped me deal with my anger towards myself over never measuring up to what my grandma wanted. Though I knew deep down that I wasn’t the last daughter of Krypton, pretending I was helped me feel unique rather than weird and to not feel so bad when people called me the latter.

Some girls think they are princesses, others think they're Supergirls.


Imagining myself surrounded in an aura of willpower energy helped me deal with my turbulent flight the same way imagining I was a Supergirl helped me deal with my negative thoughts of myself when I was a kid. The moral of this story? Cope the way you want. And beware my power, Green Lantern's light.

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