Monday, August 1, 2011

my rollercoaster revelation

No, this is not a post about the ups and downs of life. I’ve had quite a bit of time lately to think, and with a bit of perspicacity, I’ve made an observation. Bear with me as I explain.

I love rollercoasters! Many are true engineering marvels. I don’t actually ride these things myself, but I think it is loads of fun to watch others ride while I stand safely on the ground nearby. Rollercoasters tend to have some level of height involved in their design. I am afraid of heights, so I simply avoid them. It doesn’t matter what rational arguments one gives to help allay my anxieties; my fears are completely irrational and refuse to be allayed.

A few weeks ago I was given the “opportunity” to ride some rollercoasters at a theme park in Johannesburg. My son, daughter and daughter’s boyfriend gently encouraged me to face my fears. Okay, goading would be a more accurate description of their efforts. But I don’t like thinking of myself as a wimp, and it had been years since I stepped foot in one, so how bad could this be? The first rollercoaster was really great. Really great is defined by me as “not too high; not too long; and no upside down”. The second rollercoaster was not so great, in that it failed to meet two of the three criteria. Its good point was that it was not too long. I did not ride any additional coasters that day.

I’ve noticed that I have three responses while riding a rollercoaster, usually occurring in this order:

1. Laugh.
Laughing is good. It means I’m okay, and stems from some combination of fun, excitement and a bit of fear. This usually occurs before the engineering marvel begins to move.
2. Scream.
Screaming is good. It means I am still okay. This stems from excitement and manageable fear. Of course, my screams are much too early and much too loud for the rollercoaster aficionado.
3. Silence.
Silence is not good. It means my irrational fears have overcome my ability to laugh or scream. My brain is now fighting to pray (not kidding here) and make myself believe that I will not fall out of the rollercoaster, have a heart attack or otherwise meet some untimely death while trapped in the engineering marvel.

And here is my observation: I generally have one of these three responses to adverse circumstances in my life.

1. Laugh.
Now I may not actually be laughing, but at this first stage of facing adversity, I can still find positive things, funny things, and blessings around me. It means I’m okay. Stress is at a minimum; life has a sense of balance.
2. Scream.
This shows itself through any form of communication, from talking to screaming. It means I am still okay. At this stage I’m generally facing things, communicating with others, staying close to people, and getting help. Stress may be increasing, balance may feel elusive, but things seem manageable.
3. Silence.
Silence is not good. Silence can stem from a number of things like discouragement, fatigue, fear, doubt, or combination of them all. These are the very things I should “scream” about, so I can get help and pull out of it. But at this point my irrational self has overcome the ability to face things rationally. I simply shut down.

Silence happened the other day. A dear friend had been out of town and left me a voice message on my phone. Returning her phone call would have provided some much needed encouragement. However, I did not return the phone call, nor talk with anyone else for that matter. Fortunately, my silence didn’t last for too long. But if you notice that I am no longer “laughing” or “screaming”…if you only hearing silence…please know this is not good. I need you to get me.