I have often been asked who my heroes are - the non-family ones.
There are obvious ones - like Joseph Campbell - for his intelligence, charisma and ability to draw patterns that connect various points of reality in a way that makes sense to me on a very intimate level.
Musical ones - like Freddie Mercury - who I still consider the best singer of the last two generations.
Peter Gabriel - whose 'So' concert I saw a week ago and walked away feeling like I had just had the best sex of my life, for three hours straight. Doesn't matter how old he is, he's got it. And that show was arguably the best I had ever seen.
Sting - for his life lived gracefully, and an ability to keep evolving - from a rockstar and Roxanne - to an album of songs performed on lute - a lifestyle of yoga .
My producer Greg Wells became, through working together, somewhat of a musical hero of mine - he is a multi-instrumentalist, among other things, and able to play piano like a god without ever practicing. He says he does it in his sleep. I believe him. He can also do that with drums and guitar. Uncanny, but there you have it.
Then, there are people like Tina Turner - whose life and career are testament to strength, talent and perseverance - in a woman. If you never saw the film 'What's Love Got To Do With It', do it. Angela Bassett is fantastic in it, but moreover, her story is inspiring because it demonstrates that it is possible to overcome some of the direst circumstances, including straight-out abuse, and achieve your dreams. Even if you have to start over more than half-way through.
It is logical that we often admire those who possess qualities we, ourselves, feel we lack. Strength, charisma, talent or an effortless ability to be themselves without need for validation. In relationships, we often end up being attracted to these people and sometimes it works and sometimes it backfires. If you do not work on those qualities within yourself, and your partner possesses one or more of them in abundance, chances are that it is those same things that drew you to them in the first place, that will end up repelling you. Still, we need those becons that remind us that there is another way to be: freer, louder, stronger, brighter burning, effortlessly creative - you name it.
But there is a different kind of admiration and another type of hero - for me.
I go to the gym, here in the area, and it is a branch of YMCA. Every day I go, I see old women getting together for fitness classes and also frequenting the swimming pool. There are a few who are really quite old. A couple of them have to use walkers in order to move around. I watched one of them make it to the pool the other day and it took her a very long time until she was able to actually *be* in the pool, where she tread water back and forth for an hour - again, very slowly. I then saw her again - in the locker room - and she was all smiles. She could hardly walk and needed her walker for every step she took, but she told me how wonderful she felt after her workout. I asked her how often she came - she said it was 3-4 times a week. She came by herself because she wanted to stay independent, she said, and also took another fitness class with her friends. Then she laughed again and wished me a wonderful day.
That, to me, is being a hero. So many people, in her shoes, would not have a smile to spare, besides making a gigantic effort four times a week; the self discipline required to overcome her physical limitations must be enormous. And yet, there was no bitterness or self pity in this lady. I said to her: 'You are my hero'. And I meant it that day.
I find myself so often focusing not on what I have, but on what is missing. Perhaps for some people the glass is always half full by default, but I am not one of those people. However, it is also possible that it is an all-too-human trait to be aware of what we are missing and what we want. Maybe that is how progress is made - you find a vacuum and you fill it. But all too often I spin out of balance because all I see are potential pitfalls or limitations - and ways in which I am not, or do not have, or I can't or won't be able to, because... the list goes on.
That is why I find it so important to have heroes who are larger than life, but then also supplement that pantheon with regular people I meet along the way who achieve incredible feats with very little, save will power, discipline and intention.
Because it is really those people, like that lady at the gym, who make me feel grateful for all the bountiful things that are present in my life; for the progress made - even if sometimes it's at a crawling pace - for the tools I am given. For myself, even if I carry multiple bits of baggage and often feel rather imperfect. For being here, in this world, at this time, even if sometimes it can feel somewhat overwhelming.
My ability to stay present and grateful for what is may not be inbuilt, but I trust that through daily practice it will evolve, as all things do. And then I can sometimes be my own hero.