Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Miss Nelson may be missing, but Viola Swamp is tired!

I say this often, I know, but I re-learned something on Friday.  I learned something I keep being taught again and again.  You know how that goes.

Friday was Read Across America day, Dr. Seuss' birthday, and an all-around awesome day for schools to promote reading.  I got invited by the third grade at my children's school to dress up and come in to read.  I was delighted to do so.  Since they said I could choose my character, I quickly settled on Viola Swamp. I guess it's possible that you don't know who Viola is (well, it's probably probable).  Harry Allard wrote a book called Miss Nelson is Missing, in which a sweet, demure teacher dresses up as scary old hag of a substitute to show her students how lucky they are.  To put it mildly, the kids DO NOT enjoy Ms. Swamp and can't wait for the return of Miss Nelson, so her plan works.

Viola Swamp is ugly, with a creepy nose, crazy hair, and a horrific personality.  She's awful!  She's loud, she's cruel and she wants no fun!  Playing the part of Viola was fun.  It was funny waking up, creating a creepy nose, giving myself a couple of horrible blemishes, applying the blue eye shadow and the extra-long eyelashes and donning the massive wig.  It was fun throwing my kids in the car and laughing with them when folks turned to stare as we drove down the street.  And it was fun, to be sure, to read to countless children, making them laugh and engaging them in a story.  (If you have never been lucky enough to read to a group of kids, to watch those wide eyes and happy faces, then you should try it.)

'Being' Viola was fun.  It was.  It was fun to play a character for a bit, to take on a different personality, to yell out in a voice I would never use.  It was fun.  And that was no surprise.

What did I re-learn on Friday?  I re-learned how very tiring it is to be somebody else.  I was reminded of how completely exhausting it is to try to be someone I am not.  I left the school, after all that fun and all of those classroom visits, and I was bushed!  I began to scrape off my make-up, threw off the ugly black clothes, pulled out the pillows and jumped in the shower.  I was ready to be me again.

Don't get me wrong, the experience was a great one.  I loved it.  I loved entertaining the kids, loved making them laugh and love hoping that they're checking out some of the books I read.  That's only possible for a short time, though.  It's too hard to be somebody else.  I can be Viola Swamp for a short time.  I can hide my own personality for a while.  But to be someone I'm not is hard.  It makes me tired.   It makes me relieved that I can be me the majority of the time.  I'm best at being me, and it's not such hard work.

I wish I could clearly explain that to my growing children and even to a few adults I know.  It's just too much work to be someone else.

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