Palindrome

February 6, 2020

Life creates thousands of opportunities to pause and say, “Huh. Really?” In the flickering moments after the “Huh, Really”, we find an opportunity to respond or react.

Sunday marked the year anniversary of my sweet sister’s passing.

02/02/2020. A Palindrome.

The same backward and forward.

Super Bowl Sunday.

The 49ers faced the KC Chiefs. As die-hard Niner fans, my la mia Famiglia hoped that they would find their way to victory. In the deepest crevices of my heart, I worried. I knew.

(And not because another Shanahan coached the team. That’s an entirely separate conversation. Suffice it to say, my very Italian grandfather provided much armchair commentary on a former Niner coach with a similar last name.)

02/02/2020. A Palindrome.

The same backward and forward. I knew they would lose. I knew because the 2nd of February would be a Palindrome both numerically and metaphorically. Sadness.

A year. 365 days. 365 opportunities to scatter kindness around like confetti. To choose love instead of hate.

It has been, by far, the hardest year our family has ever experienced. And we’ve navigated some brutal, heart-wrenching ones.

It’s challenging to navigate life on any given day demonstrating love to others. Grief invites a host of unexpected, unpredictable challenges.

There is no one, single way to grieve.

No manual.

No checklist or self-help book providing you an accurate account of how many days you should spend in each stage.

Grief crashes over you, sometimes like a tsunami after an earthquake. Other times, it’s a low tide. In those moments, it slowly and painfully washes emotions over your heart allowing a soothing balm to bring healing.

No one grieves in the same way, expressing the same emotion, in the same stage, at the same time.

The result-chaos, pain, and sometimes more grief.

I am not a stranger to grief. When Lisa passed, I knew the year ahead would result in more grief, created, unintentionally, by each of us as we processed our loss.

Blinded by our grief, we would as a family, each and every one of us, at one point or another, hurt another human being or even each other.

Each and every one of us did that along the way.

Predictable, but painful nonetheless.

I recognize and take ownership of the times that my grief created causalities along the way. When I was aware of the pain I created in my grief, I apologized and sought forgiveness.

I also recognize that due to my role as a principal, my life is lived out on a public stage. So, I, therefore, recognize that my grief clouded interactions, unintentionally.

At times, days passed before I realized my grief tainted my actions, thoughts, and words. To those of you left in the wake of those times, I extend my deepest and most sincere apology.

Grief changes perspective. It illuminates the pain and the hate around us. Time after time this year, I found myself saying to Paul, Maddy, or Hunter, “Don’t people realize the damage they are doing to each other? Don’t they realize without warning their lives could crumble around them?”

I saw a post recently that read something like, “Don’t trust your tongue when your heart is bitter.” I would add, “ Don’t trust your tongue when your heart is grieving.”

I suspect we were designed with 2 ears and one mouth because grief emerges in many different ways from many different things. When we are smack dab in the middle of our grief, our humanity often creates collateral damage along the way.

SkyView faces a transition. In my 8 years serving this community, I experienced many, many transitions. Some, I observed from a distance. For others, I found myself seated in the front row.

My mother taught me from the tender age of 4 and a half, after my father’s suicide, to face difficult things head-on. She always told Lisa and me that we could do difficult things. Those words gave me courage. Sometimes coupled with my personality that provided an opportunity for growth. Fourth grade. Mrs. Foul’s class. Valentine’s Day. Long story. Didn’t end well.

With age, I found reason. I discovered the importance of pausing. I fail. Every. Single. Day. But I committed long ago, when I started teaching, to address hard topics. I continued with that commitment when I became an administrator.

Thus, I reflect on our current transition. I again find myself observing, both from a distance and from the front row. I find myself reflecting on the times that I was the focus of the transition. Each time, the transition polarized the community. Many supported the transition. Many opposed it. In the immediate weeks and months during the transition, I found my inbox filled with the communication of both love and disdain.

I attended the parent meeting on Tuesday night. I again observed the polarized positions in the room. I processed the evening into the early hours of Wednesday morning and into the next day. I respectfully present my observations to you.

I observed a room of pain and grief, from each perspective. I observed anticipated grief and anger. I reminded myself that anger is a stage of grief. I observed as each position presented their perspective, their experience. I observed as the grief gripped the room.

It broke my heart.

As I reflected, I recognized that neither side would sway the other because neither side shared the same experience. I canvassed for common ground.

The human heart. The common ground.

Inside each beautiful life that filled the room Tuesday night is a heart. A heart filled with love, life, hopes, dreams, and pain. Each with core wounds that run deep. Wounds that weave our stories and fill the moments when we are alone.

Our stories matter. They shape us. Our perspective matters too. But, in my opinion, not at the cost of our humanity. While I observed heartache and grief, I saw a room filled with individuals who add value to our world simply because they exist.

My husband and I remain polar opposites in our political positions. Try as we might, we will never convince the other to transition to the other’s way of thinking. I implore you to consider this. I left the meeting Tuesday keenly aware that perspectives were set in stone. Hearts were filled with pain.

But I also left the meeting keenly aware that every individual in that room mattered. As we navigate this transition, I respectfully request that we do so remembering that while there are two perspectives, individuals hold those perspectives. Each individual matters. Tomorrow won’t be the same if a single one of us isn’t in it.

As we embark on another transition, I encourage you to consider that beautiful humans hold different perspectives. Each one matters. I recognize that perspectives emerge from experience. No two people experience a single event in the same manner.

I offer the challenge I offered my team in our weekly meetings. Before we speak and act, I encourage us to process the impact our words and actions will have on all who hear them, process them, and share them with or without our permission, with or without our intended meaning.

Perhaps in pausing, we can prevent this transition from becoming the same backward and forward. Forgetting that individuals exist behind the perspective and repeating the cycle could polarize our community beyond repair.

Honored to Serve You All,

Janet Worley