Does it matter that I closed my eyes, clenched my butt cheeks and pretended I was sitting on a quiet beach somewhere when I rode a roller coaster called “AFTERSHOCK” with three of my boys a couple weeks ago?
I mean, I DID it. Does it matter how?
I agreed to go on the ride because our youngest Mitchel, was still stating adamantly that he was “just not into roller coasters” despite relentless mocking and attempts at bribery from his four older brothers. So I felt like I needed to set a small example of fearlessness for the boy, who has worn a coat of anxiety armor his entire twelve year long life. It’s possible I was too still when I was pregnant with the boy causing him fear over too much movement outside the womb. Isn’t it always the mom’s fault? But in my defense being pregnant at 38 with five kids already born makes a gal want to be in perpetual nap mode.
Anyway. I rode the ride.
But I did bring a little shame upon myself when we were waiting in line and the ride zoomed past us at two thousand miles per hour and I yelled “OH HELL NO!” and bolted. The boys coaxed me back saying I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t overcome my fear. The words didn’t work on the twelve year old but throw them at the fifty year old mom and her internal selves are gonna talk…
“If you were dying right now you would be sad you didn’t do this with your boys…”
“We are ALL dying.”
“Yes but if you died SUDDENLY tomorrow and didn’t DO this you’d have regrets.
“You could die SUDDENLY on this RIDE. Besides you can’t regret shit when you’re dead.”
“Have you forgotten about “Ghost Whisperer”? The entire theme is about regrets from beyond the grave. Besides, the family would be taken care of for life with the lawsuit money if you die on the ride.”
“Except you would be haunting them for MAKING you go on this ride.”
…on and on it went until the next thing I knew I was snugly belted, harnessed and forced slightly against my will into my execution chair. My last words to my sons were “I’m wearing white shorts. If I shit myself we are ALL going home. So you know.” I’m pretty sure all of the people on the ride heard me. I’m just not the quiet sort when I think I might die.
UP UP UP we went, slowly backwards to one hundred and ninety one feet in the air where we were left staring straight at the ground for a brief anticipatory moment before BLAMO down we went at sixty five miles per hour twisting and then turning at a ninety degree angle and then hanging upside down in what felt like mid air and then silent CRYING (that was me) when we did the same thing all over again only BACKWARDS.
Now, in all honesty, I actually did not SEE or really feel any of this. The boys tried to tell me I would enjoy the ride more if I opened my eyes and relaxed my body. But I just could not do that. I was too busy trying to live through it by squeezing my eyes shut, attempting to put my body and mind into a state of quiescence so that when death came to me I would not feel it. Quiescence is a real thing people! Go ahead, use it in Scrabble. You’re welcome! It is when a body literally goes into a state of paralysis when the mind is faced with sudden terror, I think in hopes that the grim reaper will walk right on past, thinking you are already dead. The problem is that with this attempt at playing possum, your blood pressure and pulse rate can actually drop too low and you can potentially die ANYWAY if you stay in this state too long. A paradox, yes?
When my first baby and I returned from the hospital over twenty three years ago, the love that I felt for this tiny little person made me feel like my heart was going to literally explode. There really are not words to describe this brand new, all encompassing feeling that took hold of me and shook me like a rag doll. Because with the love also came the fear of the loss of love. For about two weeks I pretty much just stared at little Duncan, afraid to turn away for even a second should something happen to him. It’s probably why he has trouble falling and staying asleep to this day, because I was constantly waking him up because I didn’t see him breathing. I became a neurotic mess and complete hysteria loomed very near. Paralyzed by fear, I was for sure not enjoying the little guy one bit. Another paradoxical state.
Then there was this shift. Just when I was at wit’s end, sobbing from exhaustion and terror and darkness, a whisper came: “Darling girl. Your attachment to the gift has rendered the gift joyless.”
I remember hearing the whisper, breathing in his beautiful baby smell for a minute and then, much to the relief of my husband, putting him in his crib in the nursery so that I could actually get some rest.
Whispers are sometimes a sign of insanity…other times they are angels giving a little direction.
Regardless of where the whispers came from, I remember that moment as being pinnacle because for the first time I was able to flick this internal switch and ever so slightly detach myself from the fear of of loss just enough to be able to live in a state of quasi peace with knowing that while there was no way to completely avoid loss, dwelling on its possibility was like asking for double the loss without experiencing the joy of the very gift you want to keep and hold on to and love with all you are.
Enter me the SECOND time on Aftershock. I was still hysterically giggling from surviving the first ride and you simply can not clench your butt cheeks when you are giggling. At least for very long. So I was able to FEEL the rush of what felt like dropping off a cliff and the elation of rising back up again. And while I only opened one eye, I was able to see the joy on the boys’ faces and feel the pure euphoria of being alive. I’m so glad I got a do over.
So. Yes. One could say that it doesn’t matter how you ride the roller coaster so long as you actually get on the ride. There is for sure bravery in this. Roller coasters are fucking scary. But there is something to be said for letting go of the fear just a little in order to experience the actual ride a little more fully, in all its heart stopping glory. And the chances of shitting yourself are really not greater either way. But if you are worried that relaxing your butt cheeks could allow this to happen, well, simply avoid wearing white my friend.
P.S. Let it be noted that Mitchel eventually got on a roller coaster that day: and it was on one that was WAAAAY scarier than Aftershock.