“I need a hero,” Madeleine L’Engle writes in Glimpses of Grace. “Sometimes I have chosen pretty shoddy ones, as I have chosen faulty mirrors in which to see myself. But a hero I must have. A hero shows me what a fallible man, despite and even with his faults, can do: I cannot do it myself; and yet I can do anything: not as much of a paradox as it might seem.”
I know what she means and maybe most of us do. I need someone to look up to and to provide me with inspiration as to what is possible. I have a few heroes: Evelyn Glennie , Judy Heumann, Frida Kahlo, Carrie Fisher. Madeleine L’Engle, Maya Angelou, Oprah.
Most of my heroes have disabilities or difficult sexual histories, and all of them are women.
This, of course, is directly related to the fact that I have disabilities, a difficult sexual history, and am a woman – I need to see what is possible in and of myself. In some way with nearly all of my heroes, I seek a reflection of myself, or a version of myself that shows me what is possible.
In looking toward a hero, we are less restricted and curtailed in our own lives, A hero provides us with a point of reference. – Madeleine L’Engle
I think about that as I stand on this platform of my life: where am I going?
Looking out towards the bay of What Has Been Done, I see Carrie Fisher writing and performing through her own spins and drops, I see her being open about how hard it really is, and it is profoundly inspiring. I see Evelyn Glennie using every one of her senses and I know I can do that if I try. Kahlo, with her use of color and commitment to personal expression and honesty; Angelou at one with the perfect sentence. Oprah, reaching forward and encouraging us all to think outside the box. Heumann, boldly going where few have ever gone before.
These women inspire me.
And their disability is an intrinsic part of who they are, who they were. It defined them and it moved them forward in new directions, directions which they would likely never have traveled had they not had those disabilities. Or, with regard to difficult sexual histories, challenges instead of disability.
A hero is fallible and a hero is often changing.
The only two heroes I have had since I can remember are Frida Kahlo, Madeleine L’Engle and Wonder Woman. They have changed as I have grown and embraced who I truly am.
As I write this, I look up and see the photo of my brother Dana on my desk, and I know I need to mention him, too, because perhaps he is the biggest hero in my life. I love him unconditionally. I realize that he also loved most everyone in the same way: unconditionally. This is a profound gift, loving others in a way that requires nothing in return, and in which you can be yourself and know that you are still loved, faults and all.
I use his love as a reference point now to inspire me to love.
I use his love to try and forgive others – because he didn’t hold grudges the way I do.
I use his love to try and be more playful and get my freckly white limbs off the rock.
I use his love to push myself to make my life worth a little more – with his cut so abruptly and short, I need to make use of my time here.
Things in our world are scary right now, and I feel that I need my heroes more than ever.
The women I look up to and admire, my brother. It helps me stay a little strong and keep plodding on when I might want to dig a hole in some sand and stick my head in for a few years.
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.