"You look tired, Josh. Did you sleep poorly?"
Such was my Aunt Tomme's assessment of me when I came down to her kitchen one morning during a visit years ago. What gave it away? Was it the circles under my eyes or was it the heavy sigh as I plopped into the dining-room chair? I was in Missoula for a few days in June interviewing applicants for a hard to fill position while one of my five children was at an area band camp.
"I haven't slept well the last few weeks," I replied.
"Let me guess," said my Aunt Tomme. "You fall asleep all right, but around 3 A.M. you suddenly find yourself wide awake and thinking, and you just can't get back to sleep."
"How did you know?" My puzzled look amused her.
"Josh," she said, "3 A.M. is the I.H.W."
"I.H.W.," I queried?
"I.H.W. stands for the "International Hour of Worry." Half the world is unwillingly wide awake at 3 A.M., stressed out by what is going on in their personal and professional lives."
"I'm not alone?"
"Hardly," she said, continuing, "Now I don't know if any scientific studies have been done to support this, but I've been around awhile and came up with this theory I call the International Hour of Worry. Most people end up mulling things over at 3 A.M. at some point in their lives. And, believe me, I've had a great life with a wonderful husband and three fine kids. But there have been bumps in the road every now and then that have often caused me to be wide awake at 3 A.M. wondering how in the world things were going to work out. In the end, however, despite some difficult times, heartache, and loss of sleep, I've had a wonderful life. I haven't known any real troubles."
“What should I do about it?” I asked.
"You are a school-district superintendent," she said. "You have five kids. Get used to it. Just remember how fortunate you are and appreciate what you have in life. The things that you are worried about at 3 A.M. may loom larger than life itself, but most of them are everyday troubles that will disappear if you are patient and wise."
Everyone deserves an Aunt Tomme, someone who can empathize with you while sharing nuggets of wisdom to guide you through.
She helped me realize that, while it may be universal to lose some sleep due to life's setbacks, applying patience and wisdom will provide clearer solutions rather than stewing about them at night.
The truth is, there will be bumps on our paths, (sometimes for some of us huge mountains) but it's how we accept and deal with these bumps (or mountains) that often determines how quickly we get back to enjoying sounder sleep and more fulfilling days.
As a person I can take comfort that: Statistically, the cause of our anxiety rarely results in the worst-case scenario that our imagination conjures up. Therefore, attempting to live our lives above reproach with the right motives can give us an inner peace at the end of the day. As school district stakeholders -teachers, parents, students, staff, administrators, and community members- when our duty and passion is focused on students and improving student learning, our motives and peace are in alignment.