I was 30 years old, the mother of a new baby and overwhelmed with panic. I remember the sheer desperation of that drive, knowing I needed to buy food.
After unstrapping my son from his car seat, I walked to the cashpoint in the chill of that November evening. I keyed in my pin number and waited: just as I feared, zero funds available.
I looked first at my son then around at the thinning bustle of customers making their way from the supermarket doors, back to their cosy cars with armfuls of shopping. My anxious breath was moist in the night air while blood orange street lamps obscured every trace of beauty in the murky and bleak darkness of the Autumn sky.
“How am I supposed do this?” I wanted to scream out loud – not to the shoppers and their smiling families, but to the divine, benevolent, formless promise of whomever was supposed to have come to rescue me by now.
I don’t remember exactly how I got through that experience, except for one unforgettable moment of clarity. In the silence that followed my unspoken scream, I learnt that night something that subtly was to change my entire perception, permanently.
There is no Superman.
That penny dropped more than two decades ago in one of the most frightening realisations of my reluctant awakening to maturity.
For two reasons, the story popped into my mind this weekend. First my son, now adult and impressively mature in many ways, made plans to see Batman V Superman on Friday. I’m sorry to fans worldwide if the truth of my damning statement regarding his non-existence is unwelcome. But, never fear, I’ve no intention of meddling with the important world of fantasy, I’m speaking purely literally about mundane real-life.
The second reason for mentioning this event and the quote that triggered my recollection of it was one referenced by my Hypnotherapy tutor Adam Eason on Sunday: ‘No-one is Coming’ – one of the Six Pillars of Self Esteem from Nathaniel Branden.
The comment was met with a mixed reception from the group. Of course, its natural extension is liberating: if no-one is coming then we are free to shape our own destiny. If no-one is coming, we can grow into the heroes of our own lives.
But I wondered how many people in that room of students had experienced the shock of waking up to that reality and to the sheer terror of realising we are entirely responsible for ourselves and for all who depend upon us, no matter how steep the obstacles in our way.
I couldn’t help but remember too the extraordinary generosity, love and support that surrounded my small family, especially while my wonderful parents were alive. Over the years there were indeed moments of feeling entirely alone and helpless but these paled against the surge of reassurance that with the kindness of strangers and the wisdom of loved ones there is always a reason for the sun to rise in the morning.
Eventually, I joined the final dot in the puzzle and recognised the value of helping others to discover and unlock their own full potential, even in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
Sure, there is no Superman but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t celebrate heroes in all their magnificent identities.
Fantasy and fiction are the worlds in which we can play safely, to learn how to make tough choices and how to build for a stronger future.
Now, if only I’d cried out for Batman…