Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Setting The Body On Fire

Since I became a principal a few months back, I think it's fair to say that my life is a smidge more stressful than it was before that moment.  Weekly yoga practice notwithstanding, the stress has found all sorts of interesting ways to manifest itself.  Of particular note is the fact that I am now (on and off for the past seven months -- mostly on) hard of hearing.  The stress has created a nearly constant ringing in my right ear that has spontaneously rendered me an old woman.  "Eh, what's that, sonny?"  I've taken to only holding the phone to my left ear and generally making everyone around me repeat themselves, which embarrasses me and frustrates them.  I'd fake it and nod more if I could, but virtually every piece of information communicated to me these days is new, relatively important, and requires my actual understanding.  The smile and nod just won't cut it.  "I'm sorry, say that again..."  This is all fairly amusing to me since parents and colleagues are constantly surprised when I introduce myself as the school's principal: oh, but I'm so very young to be principal, they tell me.

While I could do without the brain ringing, I'm finding that I can't imagine giving this up.  I know that sounds all simple and lovely and romantic, but let me assure you -- it's not.  It's painful and confusing and joyous and unexpected and exhausting and lonely and exhilarating and... it's not simple.  And I do not feel simply about it.  In fact, I find that I narrate my story constantly, as a means of trying to construct an understanding around this new identity and endeavor I've been thrown headlong into.

My weekend yoga practice helps me create the space in my life to do this.  A couple weeks back my instructor was giving a brief lesson at the start of class about Shiva, one of Hindu's three main deities.  Brahma is known as the creator, Vishnu as the preserver.  Shiva is the destroyer.  Destroyers often get a bad rap; "creator" or "preserver" sound so much more appealing.  But destroying can also mean transforming, a way to make way for the new.  My teacher explained it this way: "Shiva set the body on fire to find out what the soul was made of."  And that made so much sense to me.  It describes the way I've felt about this school year.

I don't mean to sound grandiose or dramatic, but so often this year I've felt like I've leapt belly first into a volcano, to be wholly swallowed by the molten ocean within.  My stress accumulates in my joints, I have bags under my eyes, it feels as though my skin will fall off, I can't hear anymore, and I wake up at 3 and 4am in a quandary of puzzlement.  I've set my body on fire.

But I am surely finding out what my soul is made of.  I feel myself shifting and being stretched.  I'm watching as I push people, share my vision, demand more.  And the school begins to reshape itself.  I have such a passionate rage burning in me that I can't sleep because I want it to be the next day so that we can do the next thing.  The next 87 things.  Immediately.  So the school can be better, so the children can be more prepared to face the lives lying in wait for them.  I want it now.  My soul is alight.

Maybe it takes a little destroying to make room for the transformation.  Maybe the pain and discomfort -- and the ringing in my ear -- are worth it, if it means that my soul can learn what it's made of.