One must.

June 17, 2016

one must

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

I used to say “invisibility,” because that’s often how I feel anyway. Off to the side, observing, cataloging details and picking apart the why behind a person’s every move.  

I have felt heavy with grief and invisible this entire week – from personal loss and from the tragedies sweeping our nation.  The buzzing in my head was loud, but my lips just couldn’t move. How can you even begin to comfort those who have lost so much? To inspire those who can affect change, but may not have the words? 

My friend Kristen challenged me to take another look at my superpower. She reminded me that it doesn’t have to be super human, but maybe just human. She said:

“Today I realized something about my writing – it’s my super power. When I write, I’m able to say things that others cannot say, provide a voice to people who don’t have one, give a face to things that people might otherwise ignore or stigmatize. […] You have a super power – and that means you have some responsibility to use it, too.”

At a funeral this week, I started to realize just how much our words matter. During my mother-in-law’s eulogy for our late grandmother, she talked about how Mima qualified her statements with the words, “One must…”

One must  do the right thing. One must  use her gifts to help others.

People who have a gift for words must use them to help others through their silence. We, the writers, know the very distinct difference between, “let me know if I can help” and “here, let me help you.”

Suddenly I became hyperaware of well-meaning people using their gifts to make sense of tragedy and to bring people together in times of great loss and sadness. If you look close enough, you can see the helpers – it’s subtle sometimes, but they are there. They let their love manifest through their own superpowers – whether it’s baking a broccoli casserole for a grieving family, playing a Nick Cave song in tribute to your late grandmother, or just holding someone’s hand while they weep.

I have been writing, because it’s the only thing I can think of to do.

I have been writing tributes and memoirs.

I have been writing letters to legislators, urging them to act, and thanking them when they do.

I have been writing notes to friends reminding them that I love them unconditionally.

I have been writing private what-the-fucks in my journal.

So yes, I’ll claim writing as my superpower – it’s the only thing I can think of to do – it’s my one must. I take comfort in knowing that even if Superman doesn’t exist – the Lois Lanes of the world still do.