Billy Batson used to say “Shazam!” as a call to the wizard to invoke his transformation into Captain Marvel so he could face tough challenges.
I used to call out to denial to invoke the persona I needed to face the challenges in my life. Boom, I did that and a sly, witty, crusty character would appear.
That character changed over time, a little bit. The more I did my therapy, the less likely I was to scowl, or to fill the space with explanations. I became a bit softer, a bit warmer, and learned to step back from ego and self-expression. I learned how to fade into the background, how to support and serve.
The name of that last persona was “Concierge,” ready to assist at any time of the day or night. Go, monastic denial, go. Serve and only serve, even if it destroys you.
Now, though, I need a new call to invoke a new role.
I need to lead.
That means I need to want.
If I don’t have a vision of where we could and should go, how can I get us there? If I don’t invoke and fulfill my own desires, how can I stand up and stand out in the world, getting others to pay attention to me and share my dreams?
One of the most fundamental pieces I wrote around fifteen years ago is a poem called Look At Me. It is a window into my thinking as I alternately want the attention of others and as I want to duck that attention. That poem is still potent for me, still one of the clearest invocations of my experience.
I have spent more than a decade in the don’t look at me part of that cycle.
Now, though, I have to invite attention, invite scrutiny and by doing so, invite engagement and connection. I have to get back on the grid, but not behind the old curmudgeon face, or even the potent concierge one, but as something more naked, more revealed, more in service to a higher calling.
I need a new power persona, with a new invocation, that takes in all my skills and training to create a new space where I and others can come together to take care of each other, where we can get what we need.
And I need that persona soon. If I don’t have her, I will have to go back to old armor, and that will feel wrong and constraining. It will feel like a step backwards. But if I don’t have some kind of power persona, I let others control my life as I remain mired in my own pain and sadness.
I worry, of course, about the excesses of any position. The slippery slope argument is one of the most specious in human dialogue, because anything can be taken to excess, but if fear of excess means we don’t do anything, nothing will get done. The challenge for everyone is to find balance, extracting the best out of what we do and not taking it too far, into zealotry, excess, or even blind habit. Just because a position has potential downsides doesn’t mean it must never be explored, unless we have a commitment to powerlessness.
How can I be a transwoman without walking in a bubble of self-centered armor? How can I be a producer without being a manipulative turd? How can I be a shaman without being a new age stoner? How can I be a theologian without being a dogmatic idiot? How can I be a leader without just being an ego player? How can I be pretty without being ludicrous? How can I follow my heart without being stupid?
What is my new power persona, and what is the call to invoke it?