If you have followed my blogs for any length of time - say, anywhere between 2009 and just a few weeks ago - you know that I try to use humor to talk about the "universal truths" of skating framed in my perspective and through our experiences over the past 29 or so years. Humor is important in keeping sanity, and in getting a message across. It has been my savior - and my shield - for a long time.
This past weekend, however, I had something happen that I wasn't expecting. I had a bit of a breakdown. Actually, it wasn't just a "bit," it was a full-blown I-don't-know-what's-going-on-or-what's-wrong-with-me breakdown/meltdown, whatever one chooses to call it.
Being - well - me, I had to try and figure it out. In doing so, I came to the realization that what we don't talk about - except in whispers to ourselves amid tears at 2AM - is what happens to us when the stress of however many years, is gone. Pile on top of that all the things that happen at work, at home, with family members, with finances, and what is left is a very large bucket filled with a mixture of anxiety, uncertainty - nothingness, and everything-ness.
For me, things went from survival to feeling like the story about Lemmings and the cliff. However, this cliff was atop Mount Everest. I'm not quite sure how I made it to the summit, but now I was looking down from 29, 029 feet with no oxygen and no clear egress. Apparently, I packed a lifetime of emotionally gunnysacking over the past decade or two, and the weight was crushing. My mother passed away in October leaving us all with volumes of papers and a warehouse full of collected "stuff" to sort through. Several weeks before she passed, I was crushed with finishing a book, as both an editor and contributor, one that exacted a year-and-a half toll out of my life. The week before, our daughter came home to see her. The day before, our son had MOHS surgery for basal cell carcinomas on his head. He made it home hours before she left us. A few months after that, I gave my work a year's notice to my retirement at the end of this year.
With the end of the quadrennial and the naming of the Olympic team, work changed for our skater and many of the shows he had the great fortune to do for the past eight years evaporated, going to the next generation of skaters who had now earned their way.
Everything I had known, for the 69 years of my life, and the past 29 years of my life on the edge of skating, was either drastically changing - or gone. Disquieting does not adequately describe that realization. Terrifying may be more accurate.
There has been a lot of conversation about helping skaters who come to the end of their competitive careers without a goal, or even a plan. It is a problem that is being examined and, hopefully, addressed. But no one is talking about us. I suppose it is because, as parents, it is expected. We are the "skating moms" and "skate dads" who stoically sat on metal bleachers, who quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly) did our jobs so our kids could reach their individual levels of success. This competition thing - this sport - takes its toll on us, too. And when it is over, we are faced with different lives because of it. We are older. For the most part, our kids are grown and gone. For many, our families are divided - either by distance or by choice. We are faced with that universal question of "What do I do now?"
The answer to the question is as individual as the people who have gone through it and are now seeking the answer to what we do. It is not as simple as just moving on. That gunnysack has a lot in it that needs to be sorted through, and purged.
So, there I was over the weekend, not knowing what was wrong; crying for no seeming reason; unable to verbalize out loud the flood of emotions that were overwhelming me. In whispers, I spoke to my husband, who listened, understood and did not think I was falling off the cliff, just teetering on the edge.
I'm fully aware that not everyone has that kind of support, and I could not be more grateful. However, all of you who have children who are athletes, or prodigies that required nurturing - and lives that we have either put on hold or ones that have gotten in the way- there will come a time, sooner or later, when you will reach that that point. It is our rite of passage, I suppose.
The only constant is change. The question is how to prepare for it - or if you even can.