A few weeks ago, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I went to the market with my mom. I wasn’t feeling strong enough, and was a little light-headed, but felt like it was no big deal, and that I would be able to swing it. Plus, as a renowned foodie that I am, I desperately needed to cook (and eat) white soup. An hour into my market run, just as I was buying vegetables, the world tipped over, my eyes became blurry, and my ears started ringing. I was literally about to faint. Thankfully, my mom supported me to a shaded stall in the market, where I had a cold drink and was able to get myself together.
I would remember this incident with startling clarity, this past week, when all of the media was agog with the news of Hillary Clinton being sick. I must confess that when I first read it on social media, I was a bit irritated; like “Why can’t these people just leave this woman alone?” I thought it was all a storm in a teacup, an addition to all speculation that had been circulating around for weeks, about how unfit she was to be President because of her “failing health.”
That was until I saw the video. I watched the 90-second video with a curious mix of surprise, shock…and understanding. Surprise because, well, it’s Hillary Clinton for crying out loud – it almost seemed implausible to me that this vibrant, energetic wonder-woman would crumble on the side-walk in broad daylight. Shock – because there was an almost desperate need to re-assure myself that Hillary was not sick…she couldn’t be sick. Super Women don’t fall sick. And finally, understanding, because, guess what? She’s human and humans do funny, surprising things like fall sick in broad daylight and faint. After all, I had my own fainting-knee-buckling episode in the market a few weeks prior.
Moments later, Hillary would emerge from her daughter’s apartment, waving at the world with a fresh coat of lipstick, stunning shades on, and with her signature energetic strut in place. Her seemingly “normal’ re-appearance would fan a slew of different conversations – some happy that she was on her feet so quickly, others dubious about such a speedy recovery, and a few more even hinting about a body-double. The world would later receive an official statement from her doctors stating that Hillary had pneumonia.
I keenly followed most of the conversations around this incident, and a few things struck me:
- Why do we have a strong aversion to public officials falling ill? What is it about them that makes us bestow them with super powers? Why do we view public officials falling ill with a distinct lack of trust?
- Why did Hillary feel the need to immediately “bounce back” after her fainting episode? As though she needed to re-assure us of her super-human qualities?
- Why do we view rest or illness as a sign of weakness? Isn’t there a quiet strength in admitting that we can’t do everything?
As I pondered these questions, I also thought about my life, and the times when I’ve felt the need to juggle everything and keep it all together. I thought about the past month, and how I’ve been stretched thin – mentally, physically and emotionally – and how I’ve struggled to balance it all. Ironically, in trying desperately hard to maintain my balance, and the status quo, I have lost my balance. I thought about my friends – other women who have bought into the “I must be a superwoman” mentality. Where did we learn that from? To build till our bodies bleed? To nurture till our spirits break? To press on till our minds snap? Where did we learn to view our own humanity with shame and disdain? Why have we become trapped by “bouncing back” and “snapping back?” Can we all just collectively take a deep breath and rest?
Yes I agree. In the words of Beyonce, that we came “to slay.” But we don’t slay every day, and quite frankly, we shouldn’t; because that equals burn out. It’s okay to let your legs crumble. It’s okay to put up your hands and say “I can’t.” “Not now” or whatever pause you need at any given time. Because being a super woman is good; but being a Super Human is not only better, it’s healthier. Trust me, I would know.