That’s my daughter and I on a roller coaster this past weekend in Santa Cruz.
As a child, I used to love roller coasters. I spent most of my adult life avoiding them. What happened?
In my thirties, when staying in my comfort zone was paramount, I went to an amusement park with some friends. They coaxed me (post-adolescent peer pressure) to get on a rollercoaster that challenged both my fear of heights and my biological ability to retain ownership of the contents of my stomach. I believe the technical term is “throw-up ride.” A bunch of young kids were on it too, and as the ride went up, way up, they were laughing, screaming and having great fun.
I wasn’t. My belly knotted in protest, and I was dizzy with fear. Suddenly, the ride went straight down. Fast. I hated every moment and wondered why anyone would pay money for an experience like this. I noticed that the younger kids screamed all the way down, and were totally loving it. What had I missed? What did they know that I wasn’t hip to?
This year my six year old daughter convinced me to ride all kinds of scary rides with her. I said yes mostly to please her, but also to give myself the chance to overcome some fear.
So here I am sitting down with her. She is beaming with joy and excitement. Me too, until I started looking up and contemplating what I had gotten myself into. The safety bar locked into place, but somehow I did not feel safe. We started going up at a snail’s pace, agonizingly slow. My knees began shaking. Panic gripped me. What had I gotten myself into? Damn my codependent tendencies! There was no turning back, and I was dreading it.
Just as we reached the highest point and were about to rapidly descend, Holy Spirit spoke and gave me the key to enjoying rollercoasters. The still, small voice was quite large and commanding: “Scream, Scott, scream! Express yourself! Enjoy the fear!”
I started making strange and interesting sounds at the very top of my lungs. I threw a primal tantrum and held nothing back. Very quickly, my fear transmuted to a tingling excitement. Laughter bubbled up and out. My need to be on the ground (and in control) dissolved into trust and exhilaration. Whee! I loved it so much, I wanted to ride again.
Perhaps the presence of fear can be a sign that we are courageously buying a ticket to the roller coaster of change, saying yes to the ride’s ups and downs and not paying allegiance to our ego’s plan to keep us small, grounded, safe, secure and unchallenged. Perhaps fear plays an accompanying role in any choice for greater aliveness, passion and healing. And, perhaps, it would behoove us to rediscover that childlike ability to accept and enjoy fear … deeply breathing, tingling, trembling and, yes, screaming at times.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I would take it a step further. We have nothing to fear. Not even fear. Enjoying ourselves while trembling is a wondrous step in the evolution of becoming free of fear.
I feel a passion to move, and to keep on moving. I’ve been around long enough to know that staying in one predictable place is not only undesirable, but downright impossible. We are always moving, changing and growing. Riding the roller coaster is what we signed up for on this planet. It’s non-negotiable. The more we say yes to the ride, the more we enjoy ourselves.
I wish you great delight in the amusement park. Enjoy the fear. Give yourself permission to scream. Have fun!
Scott Grace, also called the Spiritual Dr. Seuss, is a keynote speaker and transformational troubadour that is also a life coach by day, and does sessions via phone, Facetime or Skype. Read more about his coaching practice at www.scottsongs.com, schedule a session at 415 721 2954, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org