Take a look at the picture.
That’s my daughter and I on a roller coaster in Santa Cruz, seven years back.
As a child, I used to love roller coasters. But not at all as an adult. What happened? Did I grow up? Did I grow down?
Or did I grow afraid of life’s inevitable ups and downs, and made some kind of vow to avoid moments when i didn’t feel in control?
Sometime in my twenties I went to an amusement park with some friends.
They coaxed me (post-adolescent peer pressure) to get on a huge 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.
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?
Flash forward twenty years to that photo taken in Santa Cruz.
My seven year old daughter had convinced me to ride on all kinds of rides with her. I said yes mostly to please her, but also to give myself the chance to overcome some fear practice being childlike and curious again.
So here I was sitting down with her. We had waited a long time on line to get our seats on this rollercoaster.
She was beaming with joy and excitement. Me too, until I started looking up and contemplating what I had gotten myself into.
Some young dude barely fourteen locked our safety bar in place. Somehow I did not feel safe at all.
We started going up at a snail’s pace, agonizingly slow. My knees began shaking. Panic gripped me. What the hell had I gotten myself into? Damn my codependent tendencies! There was no turning back, and I was dreading the ascent, the descent, the whole enchilada.
Just as we reached the highest point and were about to rapidly descend, my still, small voice spoke, and gave me the key to enjoying rollercoasters. The voice, usually gentle and quiet, was quite loud and commanding:
“Scream, Scott, Scream! Express Yourself! Move the Energy!”
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.
From then on I let the ride have its way with me. No protest. Just….Whee!
I loved it so much, I wanted to ride again. Aysia offered no resistance to my asking for seconds.
We mistakenly think that the presence of fear is a sign of weakness.
Perhaps the presence of fear can be a sign of courage, that we moving forward towards he unknown, the unpredictable, and on some level saying yes to the ups and downs, not paying allegiance to our ego’s plan to keep us small, comfortable, and unchallenged.
Perhaps fear naturally plays an accompanying role in any choice we make for greater aliveness, leaving our comfort zone, and saying yes to passion and possibilities.
And, perhaps it would behoove us to rediscover that childlike ability to accept and enjoy fear … deeply breathing, tingling, trembling and, yes, screaming bloody murder at times.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” said Franklin Roosevelt during World War Two. 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 place is not only undesirable, but downright impossible.
We are always moving, always changing and growing. Riding the roller coaster is what we signed up for on this planet.
But hey, the more we say yes to the ride, the more we enjoy ourselves.
I wish you great delight in the amusement park.
Tremble. Tingle. Enjoy the adventure.