If only....reflecting on the "House of M" and my life
I've linked to Marvel Comics Wiki explanation of the "House of M", but unless you're comic geek like me and know the characters and their backstories, it might not make much sense to you. But it is an example of the classic fiction story question: "what if"? Or specifically, the grief and remorse driven,"if only I had...." The central character of the story is Wanda Maximoff, who is also known as "The Scarlet Witch". She, like many characters in the pantheon of Marvel heroes, has had a pretty rough going in life. Her father is Erik Magnus Lehnsherr, aka, "Magneto". Major bad dude, one of the very baddest of the bad because he controls all forms of magnetism. Just let the possibilities sink into your brain for a moment. In one of those fictional Marvel Eastern European countries called Transia, Erik Lehnsherr married a woman named Magda. Long story short, she left Erik after she witnessed him using his powers to kill some folks. However, she didn't realize that she was pregnant with twins, and right after Wanda and her twin brother Pietro were born, Magda died. They were eventually adopted by a gypsy couple, the Maximoffs, and raised until their mutant powers manifested themselves in adolescence. At that point, the not-friendly-to-strange-acting-kids townsfolk decided that the fate dealt to Dr. Frankenstein's monster was appropriate for Wanda and Pietro, so they ran them out of town with the threat of a most unpleasant death.
That's basically as much backstory as needed to make my point. Wanda's life had been filled with tragedies, and they didn't lessen once she became a member of the Avengers. In fact, the losses and tragic events seemed to compound over the years, and poor Wanda completely lost control of her mind. And to make the situation even worse, she lost control of her powers, which was originally the ability to cast probability- changing hexes, but later morphed into the ability to change ALL reality. Her teammates were quite surprised when they discovered she could do that.
Imagine that. The ability to change reality itself. What would I do with that? That thought struck me. Would I restart my so that I never grew up fat and with an extremely heavy dose of "fear, doubt and insecurity"? Would I have pursued a career in journalism, followed by an equally satisfying turn at teaching English and journalism to university students? That was the path that I was on when my insecurities became monstrous, and I invested my considerable emotional energy in a "rehabilitation" project, also known as "making a bad man good". Like so many women who engage in such hopeless projects, I became exhausted and very near a Wanda Maximoff-level breakdown (without the reality altering ability, of course). I learned, however, that I have no business trying to change another person. In fact, I have trouble changing myself. But in my relentless pursuit of becoming another person's "savior" I lost just about everything--my career, finances, self-esteem. The only thing I "gained" was a lot of weight and a rapidly escalating food addiction. But somehow, I did emerge, albeit wounded and a bit more humbled. However, the thought did occur to me:, if I did have reality altering powers, would I have pursued my career rather than married with children? What effect would that have on my life and the people I love? Part of me says my family of origin and I would have been happier. But on the other we wouldn't have had my children in our lives, which has enriched all of us so much. In fact, I probably wouldn't have had any children at all. And it is doubtful that I ever would have married.
I did have a bit of insight into what it would actually mean to warp reality to suit my physical, mental and emotional needs. My family suffered a huge loss on December 12, 1988, when we lost Ricky, my youngest sibling and my only brother. It is an ache in my heart that has subsided with time, but has never gone away, A few years after he died, I had a very vivid dream that I still remember: Ricky was alive, and we were doing all the fun stuff that we had always done, and would have done if I had somehow been granted my self-centered wish. We went to the playground with my three children and his daughter, played tag and dodgeball, laughed a whole lot, went eat at our favorite Chinese restaurant, then came to my apartment to engage in one of our family's favorite pastimes--sitting around telling stories, laughing, teasing each other and dancing while to Parliament/Funkadelic blasting from the stereo. I remember feeling extremely happy and thinking, "I wish we could go on like this until Ricky and I are old and gray!"
Suddenly, Ricky started looking very ill, and I panicked. "Ricky, what's wrong? Does your head hurt? Should I call 911?" (It's ironic that I asked him that since he died of traumatic head injuries suffered after a car accident.) He got up and started walking toward my bedroom, with me following. He laid down on my bed, and I saw that he literally decomposing. I started screaming and crying, "No, Ricky, please don't go; please don't leave me!" With great difficulty, he turned to look at me and said, "Angie, you have to let me go."
I woke up sobbing. After twenty years, I still remember the details and the feelings that I had in that particular dream. It didn't seem fair or right. I just wanted to have more time with my little brother. Is that so wrong? I love him so much, and he was such a huge source of light and laughter in my life. Why would God take him away from me?
Over the years, I have come to understand a little more about the very useful spiritual practice of detachment. I am in no way perfect in this, in fact, I am very much a novice. But what I do know comes from a combination study of the Baha'i Faith and a 12 step program for food addiction.
Here is a section of a prayer that I have prayed out loud and studied over the years:
Lauded be Thy name, O my God! I entreat Thee by the fragrances of the Raiment of Thy grace which at Thy bidding and in conformity with Thy desire were diffused throughout the entire creation, and by the Daystar of Thy will that hath shone brightly, through the power of Thy might and of Thy sovereignty, above the horizon of Thy mercy, to blot out from my heart all idle fancies and vain imaginings, that with all my affections I may turn unto Thee, O Thou Lord of all mankind.
The part that I try to remember is that all times, I can fall deeply into my "idle fancies and vain imaginings", I and mistake them as being the true way of life for myself and others. This is not only very selfish, but unjust. Looking back at the many disastrous choices I've made and continue to make in my life, I can't say that I know what's best for me, let alone for anyone else. I have to pray every morning, noon and night for help with making decisions that would helpful to me and those who are in my life, and I also check in with people who are also in recovery from food addiction. Let's face, my default mode in life is death by food. Clearly, that isn't what God wants for me.
If nothing else, I am grateful I don't have Wanda Maximoff's reality altering powers. The world according to Angela would be pretty messed up, even more than it is right now. The fact that life isn't based on my own "idle fancies and vain imaginings" is truly something to grateful for! (I have no idea what happened to paragraph format. All attempts to fix it have failed. This is an appropriate demonstration of how powerless I am to control many things in life!)