A person who is admired for courage or noble qualities.
It’s like this, you guys: We all need heroes.
Heroes come in many forms and often change as we grow through different stages and take on new challenges. A hero can be a parent, a teacher, a child, a friend. A hero can be someone we know well or someone we’ve never met but admire for their accomplishments. I’ve had spiritual heroes, literary heroes, yoga heroes and heroes that are a part of my daily life. It’s a uniquely human trait to need to have others in our life to guide us, inspire us and light our path. I believe having heroes is a vital piece of continuing to evolve into the best me I can be.
There is a famous saying, “Never meet your heroes.” I’ve thought a lot about that quote these last few weeks. Let me tell you why.
Last Sunday night I was exhausted. Exhausted from my week of life as usual–teaching ten yoga classes, taxiing daughter to and fro, managing my business, dealing with an upcoming remodel, a kid coming home from college, a leaky water heater, and the standard day-to-day neurosis of each member of our animal menagerie.
And then there was Amanda Palmer. You see, Amanda Palmer is my hero.
She was in town last week to host a series of private “house parties” as part of her Kickstarter campaign that she successfully launched about a year ago–six months before I even knew her name. For a tidy sum of $5000, you could get Amanda at your house, ukulele in hand, and for a few hours, hang out together. She’d play some songs or you could go bowling together or do jello shots off her naked body…really, she was up for about anything. Mostly though, people bought these packages and then asked friends to pitch in $100 each and have a great party with about fifty guests. And Amanda Palmer. Lest you think this was a ridiculous sum of money to spend, let me tell you these packages sold out completely.
Amanda Palmer’s fans are like that.
Truth be told, I have a Twitter account mostly to follow Amanda Palmer. She is a voracious tweeter, honestly sharing intimate details of her life with her followers, asking for help, engaging in debates and generally just connecting with her community. Her fans love her for her transparency, for her willingness to be boldly human and emotionally naked. She is my hero because through her art, her music and her writing, she has guided me back to my writer’s voice. A voice that I thought had been lost for good. A voice that I was afraid to speak. She shows me what creating courageously looks like. She reminds me that ultimately, art should provoke, come what may.
So there I was, lounging about on my bed on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, still in my sweaty running tights, mascara smeared into raccoon eyes, waiting for my new bronzy toenail polish to dry and thinking about baking a rhubarb upside down cake when I decided browse through my Twitter feed on my Kindle. I knew Amanda was in town, so I wondered if there were any new updates. There was. Lo and behold, I saw that she had just tagged herself at Lowell Riverfront Park. Holy hell batman.
This is ten minutes from my house. No lie.
I quickly wrangled Max the dog, waved wildly at the Mister outside mowing the lawn and shouted “I know where she is!” as I jumped into the car and hightailed it down to the river. The entire time I’m driving I’m enacting various scenarios in my head. I practice acting all casual as I run into Amanda on the trail. I rehearse what I’ll say to her. I imagine her falling in love with my dog. I wonder if she’ll mind that I haven’t showered today. I decide she wouldn’t. Finally though, I park, get out and ask my sixth sense which direction she might be. We head left, we walk, Max poops, we walk. It’s a beautiful, warm spring evening. After walking for about fifteen minutes, I begin to doubt my intuition and turn around. We amble around a bit more, hang out by the parking lot, practice looking casual and such some more. Finally, I decide to drive down to the playground at the north end of the trail. As I’m passing by a footbridge that crosses the railroad, I see two people climbing the steps of the bridge and something tells me it’s her.
Always trust that gut feeling.
I drive towards the playground and then turn around and head back again. I pull over to the side of the street because I am frantically texting my college kid in Arizona. He’s gamely giving me Twitter updates seeing as my phone is not of the smart variety. I wanted to make sure she hadn’t moved on to another location, another town. He makes some comment about me being somewhat “stalkerish.” I ignore his comment and look up from my phone and BAM! There she is. The two people I had seen crossing the footbridge are now heading towards me and one of them is her. Without a doubt. She’s walking with a guy and I recognize her immediately…her clothes, her scarf, her gesticulating, her gait. And suddenly, my kid’s words come to fruition–I feel like a stalker. Just like that, I’m no longer casually running into My Hero Amanda on a riverfront trail with my lovable dog Max, but now I’m sitting in my red Prius, trying to track her down. Holy shit. My mind spins into hyperdrive and I cannot figure out how to make this work and not look like a crazy lady. But there she is. Amanda Palmer. Strolling down a rural, two-lane road that I’ve driven down thousands of times. Ten minutes from my house.
I freak out. I panic. I react. I don’t want to be that crazy lady, that overzealous fangirl. Suddenly, I don’t want to meet my hero. Not this way. I can’t.
As they get closer, I worry that I’m looking suspicious. Stalkerish. I do a u-turn before they get to where I am parked and head back towards the playground. In my wildest dreams, I imagine them walking all the way back to the park where I can once again, casually run into Amanda, (“oh hey, Amanda”) walking my dog. I get out and Max and I venture back up the street in their direction, but sure enough, they’re gone.
And I wasn’t about to cruise slowly around each residential street, looking for her. Honestly, I considered it for a hot minute, but I didn’t do it. I do have some limits to my crazy.
I drive home, still exhilarated from being so close to my hero, fighting back feelings of remorse that I lacked the balls to actually meet her.
The next day, Thursday, Amanda tweets that she is hiking Mount Index. I could be there in an hour, I think. My friend texts me that my impulse to hike Mount Index “sounds reasonable.” Suddenly, though, I am convinced there is nothing reasonable at all about it and I stay home. Later that evening, Amanda’s playing bike polo at a park on Capitol Hill. On Friday, she tweets that she is heading south to Portland for another house party. Oh, Portland! My magical, beloved, home-away-from-home. It was in Portland that I first saw Amanda perform. A piece of my heart lives in Portland. Not even an hour later, she tweets that two tickets to her Portland house party have become available. My heart leaps. I can afford them! I could do it! Here’s my proverbial second chance! Except for one, small detail. I can’t. I had a responsibility that I couldn’t, in good conscience, get out of. I’d probably have to lie to make it work and bad karma would haunt me forever. I imagine the inevitability of perishing in a gruesome accident on the way there because of bad karma. And just like that, my heart lands with a thud to the pit of my belly. Fuck.
And it didn’t make me feel any better that all the tweets coming out of that Portland party that night told of an extraordinarily intimate, amazing, life-affirming and healing gathering. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Saturday Amanda drove back to Seattle, stopping in Olympia and tweeted “Where’s a good place to eat? Also, who needs a hug?” Gah!!! I am ninety minutes away. My emotions are ragged, my nerves are shot. Palpable regret is settling in. She does another house party in Seattle, hangs out blogging in a cafe on Sunday, goes offline for her birthday and finally leaves for San Francisco on Wednesday before heading back home to Boston. Done and done.
Hormones, fatigue and regret plagued me. Unbeknownst to me, Tuesday’s topic in our Livestrong cancer support group that I help facilitate was “heroes.” My face crumbled and I let out a deep sigh. I told my story to the group. I wondered for a moment if they would laugh at me, a grown-ass woman, chasing down this crazy-rock-star-hero of mine, maybe even tell me to “grow up and get a life.” But they didn’t. They listened, we laughed, I cried and we talked. Heroes are important, we agreed. No matter what they look like to anyone else.
My head has been full of all the woulda-coulda-shoulda’s from that week. Regrets, I have a few. I know now what I would do if I could do it all over again. On that sunny Wednesday evening, sitting in my car on the side of the street, with my hero walking towards me, I would simply get out and walk up to her. I would ask if I could give her a hug and likely crumple into a blubbering, emotional mess, perhaps even lapsing into the ugly cry. And you know what? I don’t think she would mind. Matter of fact, I know she wouldn’t. I would tell her how her music and art has inspired me to write again. To get published, even. How I am learning to be bare-assed-naked in my writing, in my relationships, in my life. And how I am living out loud, provocatively, come what may. And then I would remind her to never, ever stop speaking her voice, despite her detractors.
And I would say “thank you.”
I just want to tell her “thank you.”
And maybe…just maybe, Amanda Palmer would fall in love with my dog.