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November 18, 2009

I am not Superman

Someone told me that I should write something lighthearted and happy this month. Lighthearted? Happy? Mean old me? OK, I’ll try.

I’ll start my “happy” Message by talking about broken limbs and death. Don’t worry, it’ll end good (smile).

This year has been sucky. Doctors concluded in February that my grandmother’s cancer was no longer treatable. I fractured my fibula and ankle in a motorcycle accident in early May — busted up my beloved Ducati in the process. My grandmom died in June.

Like I said, sucky year! But there’s some good here.

Lately, I’ve gotten back into my non-work-related book-reading groove. The only hard and fast rule is that I must alternate between nonfiction and fiction works. The nonfiction stuff is to inform. The fiction is for fun. Every now and then a book may be both. My last two have been great. Book before last was Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers,” which theorizes that successful people aren’t successful just because they are more talented than everyone else. You should check it out.

I just finished Kevin J. Anderson’s “Enemies and Allies: The Dark Knight Meets the Man of Steel.” Immense fun! It just doesn’t get any better than Batman and Superman. My next book is Magic and Bird’s “When the Game was Ours.” This should be one of those nonfiction pieces that is also a lot of fun. It has something in common with “Enemies and Allies”: deep and abiding friendship.

Without a doubt, struggle is a bitch! There are few things worse than the loss of someone you love, or feeling that you are no longer in control of your own life. We all know what it feels like to have our insides ripped out, to not be able to sleep or eat, to live in perpetual sadness, to feel utterly alone even in a room full of people. We all have our crosses. But struggle has an upside.

These times imbue us with renewed strength when obstacles are conquered. They also provide great clarity. You no longer have to theorize about what someone who claims to love you or be your friend will do “if this happens” or “if that happens.” You can now see who is actually in your corner when it happens. To be sure, you will lose some people.

Struggle will reveal that some people close to you simply are not who you thought they were. Strife unmasks their selfishness and insensitivity. Trapped in self-absorption, they do not realize that you do not open yourself to their madness because you are weak or stupid, but because you care.

I recently had to let go of a person I loved dearly. Struggle showed me that this person was so self-consumed that nothing and no one mattered if it was not personally beneficial. It was heart-wrenching to let go, but liberating. People like this were always this way, but our affection for them blinds us to it. We must wish them well and leave them behind.

But, here’s the happy part: Tough times also open the door for people who really love and value you to step up. These stalwarts reach out every day just to see how you slept. These friends hold you up when you can’t hold yourself up. These friends know when you’re vulnerable and don’t prey on it — they protect you. They put no time limit on you overcoming your grief. See that light at the end of the tunnel? That’s your real loved ones holding flashlights and candles. They are your rocks, your soldiers. Love and value them.

That’s friendship, ya’ll. That’s Bird and Magic. That’s Superman and Batman. Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne both experienced great losses. Bruce lost his parents. Clark lost a whole doggone planet. They know each other’s weaknesses and secret identities, but would never tell anyone else. And even though they have different approaches to the world, they are always down for each other. Gotta love those guys.

One of my friends told me that my recent struggles were good because they gave me room to be human — to be taken care of by my friends and come to understand that I’m really not Superman. She’s right, I’m not Superman — I’m Batman! Yeah, baby!

Call a friend and tell ’em you love ’em right now.

Until next time, have no fear, stay strong, stand on truth, do justice and do not leave the people in the hands of fools.

Visit Ricky L. Jones at www.rickyljones.com.