A fun fact about life is that we often tend to go through it expecting things to happen in a certain way. When the unexpected happens, the emotions and stories that we attach to that event have the potential to significantly impact how we see and experience the situation.
As an example of this, our daughter performed her new tap solo for the first time recently. Her new dance required a new costume, which required new tap shoes.
We bought the tap shoes only a couple of days before the eisteddfod. Because they were brand new, we saw no possibility other than the tap shoes functioning completely as expected.
Ten minutes before our daughter was about to go on stage, the front screw fell out of the tap plate of one of her new shoes. The hole in the shoe had been completely stripped and the screw would not stay in the shoe. Suddenly, with 10 minutes to go before she was due to dance her new routine, we were faced with a totally new and unexpected possibility: the brand new tap shoes were not going to function as they were meant to.
I tried to remain calm and curious. We tried a couple of things, and nothing worked. I could feel myself becoming anxious and disappointed. Anxious, because I thought my daughter’s heart would be broken. This was a brand new dance, she was excited about it and she may not get to dance it because of a stupid screw in a tap shoe. Disappointed, because I am her mum and I could not fix this situation. I tried to hide it. I don’t think I achieved my goal.
Our daughter yet again surprised me. “I am going to go onstage with the broken tap shoe”. I tried to offer alternatives. I think my panic was quite obvious, because my daughter said: “Mum. Stop worrying, because I will start to get anxious and that won’t help me. I am dancing with a broken shoe. It will be fine.”
And so our daughter calmly tightened the remaining two screws as much as she possibly could, thinking that doing so would stop the front of the tap plate from flopping around too much. We had a giggle when one of her dance friends reassured her and said that her shoes would make the best jingling sound in the competition.
With her faulty tap shoes on, our daughter lined up at the stage door. I went to find a seat in the audience.
I have to admit that I was a bundle of anxiety. I started to picture every possible disaster that could result from dancing with a floppy tap plate. I missed one, but my darling husband took care of that when he whispered to me: “I hope her tap plate doesn’t go flying off into the audience”. I felt physically ill.
That dance was the longest three minutes of my life, I am sure. Throughout it, our daughter gave the best facial expressions she had ever given in any dance. Although she didn’t place, she danced her routine brilliantly. A lady went racing up to her afterwards and said “I LOVE your new dance! You did it brilliantly and oh my goodness! Your face! Your expressions were the best I have ever seen from you!” The lady was shocked when she heard about the broken tap shoe, and said that our daughter had hidden it very well. She then told lots of other mothers how our daughter had owned the stage.
I spent a lot of time reflecting on this later. I was blown away by our daughter’s response, and not so proud of my own reaction. What came to me is that our daughter could have created something completely different from this situation. She could have refused to dance. She could have been so anxious on stage that her dance routine fell apart. She could have interpreted this situation in so many different ways, each with different emotions and stories attached. Instead, she consciously chose how she wanted to be. Then, through the way in which she managed her emotions and stories, she turned her dance into something that she was very proud of.
I feel as though I learnt a lot from our daughter that day. I am left thinking just how useful it might be to be aware of the moods, emotions and stories that we attach to events, as well as understanding how those moods, emotions and stories might be serving us.
As a leadership and life coach, I help others to see new possibilities. If you feel that it would be useful to have a conversation with me, please feel free to view my services on the Leading and Being website.