I recently visited my sister in London for a few days.
One evening she asked me was there anything I'd like to do, anywhere I'd like to go. I had never been iceskating so I thought ‘let's do that’.
After a fast paced walk we arrived at Somerset House’s grand 18th-century courtyard. A mesmerising location for an outdoor skating session. After tying up the skating boots, we were quickly stepping on to the ice along with a huge crowd, which for some reason I wasn’t expecting!
Firstly, I couldn't actually believe how slippy the ice was. That may sound ridiculous but I did not know that just standing up on ice was going to be so difficult. So much so, I was afraid to let go of the railings. My sister took off skating straight away. My visions of her linking me around the ice were quickly fading. I realised that she is a really good skater, something I wasn’t aware of before this.
I held on to the rail with white knuckles, smiling knowingly at other people doing the same, all the while screaming in my head:
‘Crap, crap, crap, I can't do this ! , why did i say I wanted to do this ! '
Trying to remain looking nonchalant while wearing skater boots and holding a railing is quite difficult.
Realising I better do something, I made a concious decision to just let go of the rails for a second. I tried to block out the sudden fears of someone running over my fingers with the blades if I fell and took a leap of faith. After a while, I even started to 'walk' a little bit, quite pathetically but better than nothing.
Then my sister appears again.
“You have to stand straight Julie” she said, “just listen to the music, ignore everyone else, you got this”
So, I did, I just went for it. All of a sudden, I actually skated surprisingly ok. But, I noticed that every time I doubted for even a split second that I could stay upright, I would immediately start slipping. It was unbelievable how each time I doubted I could stay standing up, my thoughts affected my ‘performance’ immediately.
I know people talk about thoughts being powerful all the time but I had never seen it in action so clearly in front of me.
Thought: 'I can do this' - skated well
Thought: 'But what if I fall?' – started falling
Thought: 'It doesn’t matter if I fall, just enjoy it'- skated really well
Thought: 'That person is so much better than me, I probably look like an idiot' - bang, hit the ice.
You get the idea.
I stood still at one stage, looking at everybody and I just laughed because it was so clear to me.
Watching everyone on the ice was just like a metaphor for how they manage their lives.
Everyone was at their own pace, just doing their thing, but the biggest difference between all of us was confidence levels.
I know confidence is usually a result of, maybe repetition; obviously some people had done it before. But for other beginners, they just seemed to have no fear. By having no fear, some of them even found out that they were actually naturals.
Others, never once let go of the railings. For the full hour, not once.
The remainder hardly skated, but instead, concentrated on getting the perfect ‘selfie on ice’. The skating wasn't the important part for them, It was capturing themselves looking like they were for sharing to social media.
I made a concious decision to just keep going round and around until the hour was up. Partly because my sister would have given me the dreaded disapproving look and partly because now that I saw it as a metaphor, I felt I had to even more!
At one stage I nearly grabbed a tiny little child to break my fall, I'm not sure what that symbolises! :-)
My usual reaction to fear is to shut down and retreat, so as ridiculous as that sounds I was proud of myself for persevering.
My point is this though, if we never let go of the railings in life we will never find out what we are capable of. I’d rather fall and get back up than never find out what it actually feels like to let go.