“Everyone has a story to tell, and if you don’t tell yours, someone else will.” -Said by Lots of People
This is my story.
This is me…I’m Allison. I’m going into my 3rd year as school principal, 7th year in school administration and 17th year in my educational career. I am a mother of 3 amazing kids, a wife of an adventurous husband, and now I am apparently a blogger.
This April I experienced a deep yearning to change my career; the only career I know. Sure, I am turning 39 in a week…which means 40 in a year…but it wasn’t the feeling of a mid-life crisis. It was stress. It was pressure. It was lack of control of my daily calendar. The tasks of solving problems I did not create. It was an urge to do something…easier! And the sad thing is, it wasn’t the first time I felt this way.
Somehow, I made it through each day in the month of April and was able to celebrate our students and teachers with excitement in May without a glitch. This summer, I have taken great time to reflect and consider my goals, my future, and most importantly my purpose.
What did I do? I studied…and I continue to do so. This last year the administrative team in my district studied “Strengths Based Leadership.” After taking the survey, the results spit out that I am: an executor (I like to get things done), a relator, and a learner. That is true. I have never tooted my own horn as the smartest person in the room as I often feel the opposite. I often find that I need to know more, to learn, to read and to grow.
So, I turned to the self-help section of the local Barnes and Nobles. The first book I bought, read, and finished on the topic of mindfulness was, “10% Happier” by the Good Morning America host Dan Harris. It was a book of meditation for skeptics…and that is exactly what I was, a skeptic. After reading the book, I downloaded the meditation app as well as another meditation app I had read about in an article about most influential women called “Simple Habit” created by Yunha Kim. Both apps made meditating seem possible, simple and most importantly to me, normal. To me, meditation was weird; for people with time on their hands. Oh, how a few weeks can change a person. I bought what Dan was selling and I began to practice meditation for 5 minutes most mornings and at times an extra time during a stressful day. I really wasn’t sure why I was doing this.
As a former athlete I believe in exercise, persistence, and eating well to be healthy. Meditation reminds me of the scene in “The Natural” where Roy walks out during the Losing is a Disease talk from the team psychologist. Meditation was still not working for me. I still didn’t “get it.” As we would say in education, I may have been “on task” but I most certainly was not engaged.
Then, one lesson on “finding my meadow” stuck with me.
During one of the expert led meditations lessons, I was asked to walk down a long dirt road eventually ending up in a meadow. During this mindfulness activity, I could so clearly see my meadow. Although I was literally sitting on my back porch, in my mind I was at Woods Canyon Lake in Payson, Arizona walking through a beautiful meadow with my family. I could so vividly and so calmly see my youngest child, Josie, walking through this meadow as captured in the photograph below. I found that during difficult meetings, I could actually “go to my meadow.” I could see Josie, Carter, Mae, my husband and even my dog bounding through the tall grass. And I was calmed. I was rational. I was able to actively listen. I was serving as a better leader than I normally would have.
It wasn’t until a trusted co-worker made an observation that actually made me a graduate from a skeptic to a believer causing me to want to learn even more. After a meeting that normally would have sent me over-the-edge in argument and emotion, she said, “well you handled that well.” I hadn’t overtly thought about how I “handled” the stress of the meeting, but the fact that my co-workers could see me reacting more calmly had me hooked. Keep Calm and Carry On, that’s what the British tell us, right?!
Although I have no plans for a book, or a company, or even a clear direction from here, I absolutely know I want to tell my story. As I meet with people on the topic of mindfulness I am continually reminded of how important it is in today’s society, especially for our children. As an educator I feel a deep commitment to learning more to help our kids; some would say that is literally my job.
I hope, that sharing my learning and my struggle will help others. My hope is to teach. My hope is to one day support leaders who experience similar emotions find “their meadow” without laughing or cringing at how awful that statement would be for a skeptic…including me before…but not now.
“The Buddha once asked a student, “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?” The student replied, “It is.” The Buddha then asked, “If the person is struck by a second arrow, is that even more painful?” The student replied again, “It is.” The Buddha then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. The second arrow is optional.”