There I was, sitting in the passenger seat of our car for 6 long hours as we drove towards our destination. With each mile past, I was that much closer to a reality that I had tried not to think about for years. Maybe I thought that by avoiding thinking about it, I could somehow prevent it. Turns out I was wrong. So very, very wrong.
As we approached our destination, I decided it was probably time to look up from my distractions and take in my imminent reality. The view required a few deep breaths. Even though we weren’t yet close, I could see it towering above us in the sky. Only one of the horrors I might have to endure in the next 12 hours.
As we neared, I took note of the steady sound of screaming and of many gut dropping ‘whooooosh’es in the air. I put on a smile and a brave face when we got out of our car and joined the crowd of other sheep, all herding from their cars to one point. Cedar Point. A renowned rollercoaster park in Sandusky, Ohio.
Ever since my husband B went there 6 years ago, he has been telling me that he wanted to take me there. He raved about rides like the Millennium Force, a 93 mph rollercoaster with a 310 ft peak, and the Top Thrill Dragster that only lasted 17 seconds but went 120 mph.
All of the rides looked equally scary to a wimp like me, so I swallowed my good judgment, and went on as many roller coasters as I could. Within the first 2 hours of being at the park, my throat was raw from screaming so much.
As was clear in the oh-so-flattering mid-ride shots, I was far from a relaxed rider. Every muscle in my body contracted as I dug myself as deep into the seat as I could. I was envious of the riders who looked so careless and comfortable, smiling with their arms up in the air around each slow climb, deadly drop, and unpredictable turn. I decided that maybe if I could just relax my mind, my body would relax too.
So on the next ride, that’s what I did. I took some deep breaths, I affirmed that I wasn’t going to die, and voila!… Just kidding, I was just as tense as before. It seemed that the power of my mind was severely weakened in the prospect of a rollercoaster. But alas, my pride couldn’t handle another embarrassing picture, so I tried again.
The next rollercoaster was the Maverick. It’s known for its many, many, many twists and turns and the 400 ft long speed launch down a pitch-black tunnel. Even though it looked pretty terrifying, I was determined to feel this “fun” everyone was talking about, and quite honestly, my voice didn’t have any screaming power left.
This time I relaxed my body, right from the start. As the slow climb began and I felt myself tense up, I forced myself to relax. Since that worked, I decided that I would keep my eyes open too, and try not to scream (much). It was as scary a ride as the others I’d gone on, maybe even scarier, but guess what? I had FUN! I relaxed enough to have fun on a rollercoaster. This is big news, peeps!
This experience was an eye-opener for me because I realized how little control I have over my mind, especially when it comes to relaxing in the face of fear. I knew my mindfulness wasn’t perfect, but thought I had it pretty well under control. It turns out that I could still use some real-life practice.
And of course, there is much real-life practice ahead of me. After three years of living in the states, I’ll be moving back home. The move brings with it many unknowns. I don’t know where we will live, or what I will do for work. I don’t know what it’s going to be like to be back in familiar scenery after I’ve changed so much. I really have no idea what I’m going to do with my life or what is going to happen next.
But I choose to surrender to the prospect of the unknown and throw my hands up at this unpredictable turn. I’m going to relax with open eyes and an open heart. I’m going to trust life, go with the flow and soak up every ounce of joy there is to be found on this huge rollercoaster!
What kind of rollercoaster rider are you? Do you have trouble relaxing in the face of fear, or do you find it easy to go with the flow?