This week Vancouver, British Columbia was smacked with a rarity – a snowstorm. Not just the light dusting followed with the creation of muddy snowmen and snowballs filled with gravel. A real snowstorm that went on for days. A snowstorm that wreaked havoc with the roads and put heating systems into overdrive. A snowstorm that even closed down Vancouver schools to all but the principal and the janitor / custodian for a day. A snowstorm that coloured clouds pink, dusted local ski hills and delighted both children and the young at heart.
The response to the snowstorm is determined not only by levels of job responsibility but also basic personality. As a school principal, you have ultimate responsibility to ensure safety of your school, staff and students. Even when the schools are closed, you make your way to the school to ensure no one is left outdoors with nowhere to go. The snowstorm triggered an immediate response for me to analyse the data and devise a plan to conquer adversity. For others, it was an opportunity to get out and play. For still others, it was an opportunity to plug in the kettle, and settle into the warmth of cozy spaces and wait it out.
The valiant fight with the storm would begin just before 6 am for me. The snow on the hills and side streets was compacted to slick ice by the snowboarders and people with sliding apparatus of many shapes and sizes the night before. My wonderful RAV4 SUV was designed to battle this kind of beast. But no, I did not want to subject the deep red paint to the ravages of Vancouver drivers in the snow. And yes, the chances of being sideswiped or rear ended had just increased exponentially.
No longer living in the suburbs, I had a variety of transportation options – partial drive on the warmer road by the seashore, foot, SkyTrain, bus, and by car on the final day, mostly because treats for staff and visitors took priority. However, the upside of doing battle is the realization that you can. I had already discovered that riding my bike to school was a great option on sunny days when I don’t have important meetings and have factored in some extra time. However, in battling the “big snowstorm”, I discovered, yes, I can walk to school. The SkyTrain from Cambie is only two stops and drops me off right beside a Tim Horton’s. Bonus! I love walking down Main Street from 23rd Avenue after school and checking out the restaurants and shops. My favourite restaurant, The Sandbar, has a great Happy Hour. Snow covered branches on side streets are gorgeous. People love to be thanked for shovelling the streets in front of their houses. Yes, challenges bring new learning, surprise encounters, and joy.
Yes, on those long walks this past week, I have had time to ponder life and celebrate the resilient heroine in the audiobook of my February book club selection (Where the Crawdads Sing). Being “right” or “being just” or “bullied” in my life has led me into impossible battles and lots of learning. Defeats are not always decimating. Victories are not always empowering or celebrations. The trick seems to be deciding which battles are worth fighting. I now have an emerging set of rules to guide the decision.
Perhaps my most significant learning was not to engage in battles with those people who live for the fight. The saying “Never fight with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it.” True. True. True. Those are the times to walk away without a response. If people choose to listen to the pig, it is because they have their own motivation to do so. This is what my pretty, wide eyed mother never understood. Document your truth in a journal, with a therapist, or in your own notes, but never waste the effort on the pig.
Growing up, my Mom always had a copy of Desiderata, on the wall: “Speak your truth quietly and clearly”. Appearances mattered to my mother and as a young, divorced woman with limited resources, her goal was for her and her girls to be treated with respect. Her truth was buried behind the iron walls of a vault that she kept closed, until she could no longer contain it. It took me a long time to understand that the lies she kept, burdened her heart, robbed her of joy and empowered those who lied. Yes, truth matters. It is worth the battle.
Sometimes acquiescing to daunting power results in a sense of unhappiness, powerlessness and futility in the face of unfairness. Sometimes you need to stand up for yourself or others even though it may come at a cost. You may not always experience victory, but you will experience the satisfaction of a battle well fought on your own terms. Sometimes you need to do battle to maintain your belief in your own self- worth.
My perception of myself is that I am far more mellow since I turned 50. Perhaps only those who knew me in my youth will agree. Even in the midst of the more mellow me, I will choose if I will battle the beast. I will continue to fight for a world in which respect is a common denominator. I will be an Amnesty International member for the rest of my life and fight for human rights. I will speak my truth and weather the storm. Or if on this snowy Saturday morning, I decide to just make another cup of coffee and delight in the snow and my cozy condo in Kits, I will.