I have been teaching figure skating for the last three years at my home ice rink in Northbrook, IL, where I grew up. Every year for the last 43 years the Northbrook Park District has put together a first rate ice show, always over Mother’s Day weekend. It is a huge production for everyone involved from the skaters, parents, and coaches to the production crew and ice arena staff. I’m not sure how, but somehow I had managed to avoid the show my first 2 years back at the ice rink after my 18 year hiatus. Something in my schedule just didn’t allow me to work at the show however, this year I was able to sign-up and work the curtain backstage for all of the dress rehearsals and the show.
Working the curtain was fun and easy however, with ice skaters gliding off the ‘stage’ at 5-15 MPH, you have to be quick to open the curtain or get run over by the skaters! While I was feeling physically lousy that weekend (headache, body aches, extreme fatigue), I was focusing hard on ignoring my body and enjoying myself and feeling the upbeat, positive energy that was enveloping the entire ice arena. Great music. Great costumes. Happy kids. Happy adults. I was really soaking up the good stuff and enjoying myself when, it hit me like a ton of bricks!
I had some time where I did not need to be on curtain duty so, I decided to go out by the audience and watch some of the numbers. (The view from behind a black, velvet curtain isn’t much of a view!) At that moment, the music was from Beauty and the Beast. The costumes were yellow, the lighting was soft, the music was gentle, and I had realized that this was my first ice show since I was 19…..and it was Mother’s Day weekend!
My mother had passed away unexpectedly last November. It had been about 6 months since I lost her. I had be plowing my way through my life ever since. I had been ‘sucking it up’ and moving forward and did not give myself time to let it sink in that she is gone. I know there is a process to grieving and I am aware of the process, but I was not aware of where I was in the process. I was doing exactly what we all do. I was shoving my emotions down and they were manifesting in physical discomfort. This particular moment standing there watching the young ice skaters in their soft, yellow costumes perform under the lights brought on a flood of memories of 15 ice shows I had skated in as a child. Fifteen ice shows where my mom sewed my costumes. Fifteen ice shows where my mom took me too/from my rehearsals and lessons. Fifteen ice shows where my mom had helped out in the changing rooms where I changed into several costumes for several different numbers for each ice show. This ice rink was a second home to me when I was growing up and this moment brought out all of the little things as well as the big sacrifices my mother made for me when I was a child. As an adult, I now had a whole new perspective of what my mom did for me; of how my mom loved me; of how my mom supported me, with very few ‘thank you’s’ from me. It was not that I didn’t appreciate her; I was a kid. I had no idea all of the things she did for me until this moment. This moment, I REALLY WANTED MY MOMMY!
In that moment, I could barely contain myself. Tears were flowing out of my eyes and I was fighting them hard! I work with some wonderful people and I felt that if anyone knew what I was feeling, their sympathy would only make it worse. Now, as a coach, I know that there is nothing better than to let the flood gates open and let those emotions out, but being human, and being taught what everyone is taught in society, I fought it. I held them in until we had a break between shows when I went to my car and called the one person who could completely understand and share in the emotional roller coaster I was experiencing; my sister.
My sister grew up 7 years ahead of me at the same ice rink and shared a very similar experience to mine. She, of course, was also dealing with the loss of our mother so, who better to call and share in the tears and the memories? I called her from the privacy of my car and had a good cry sharing our stories and feelings with each other. The flood gates had opened and the raging rapids were taking me, and now her, for a wild ride. Truthfully, it was a huge emotional vomit that my body and mind desperately needed. And don’t you always feel so much better once you’ve expelled the toxins from your system?
These days, I am now crying more and feeling more of the loss of my mother as well as the joy of who she was and the incredible way she loved her kids. I had been shoving /denying any emotions around my mother’s death deep down into the crevices of my body; my soul. They were shoved into a dark place that I did not want to go. Now I was experiencing what I preach to my clients.
1. If you shove it down, and keep shoving it down, it will become spring-loaded and pop out at some point when you least expect it.
2. Those emotions have to come out of your body. If you don’t work on letting them out, they will manifest in other ways such as drinking, smoking, drugs, or dis-ease.
3. When you shine light on the dark places, they are no longer dark, and there is great freedom in the release of those emotions; in the new light!
In coaching, we call this ‘Process.’ We are trained as coaches to help our clients Process the emotions they are experiencing. To run toward them rather than away from them. It is something I need to work through with my own coach.
What emotions have you been denying yourself? What have you been shoving down? Ready to examine them? Share your story in the comments section below. I shared mine so that it would inspire others to take the next step forward. Perhaps your story can do the same?