I used to ride roller coasters not because I enjoyed them, but because they had something to teach me. See, I hated them. I hated getting on that steel monster, I hated buckling in, and I hated surrendering control. Hated every hill, every plunge, every moment. Hated the “click click click” as the chain dragged us through the safe moments on our way up the scaffold, because I knew they would end. And we would fall.
I rode the twisted metal beast for two reasons. One reason was that I was the mother of two young sons and we lived near Busch Gardens in Virginia so we went there a lot, and I was determined that my boys would not grow up thinking that only men rode roller coasters. I was the sole representation of the female gender in my house, and I had to set a strong example. The other reason was that the roller coaster scared the shit out of me. So I had to ride it. (See: triathlons, handstands, mountain bike racing, and love for other entries in the “Things That Scare Lisbeth So She Does Them” studies.)
As stupid as this sounds, I had certain words I repeated to myself every time I strapped in on the tracks. A mantra. A way to keep my head in the game and to survive this frightening experience I chose to put myself through time and time again. “Let go of the need to be in control. Let go of the need to be in control. Let go of the need to be in control.”
I would repeat this mantra and try to loosen my death grip on the bar in front of me. “Let go of the need to be in control.” Try. I don’t think I ever succeeded. But I went. Upside down in the loop, other people were throwing their hands up and laughing, but I was still in my head, trying to let go of the need to be in control. Roller coaster. Life. Same thing, right?
I haven’t ridden a roller coaster in a few years now. My boys are older and don’t ask to go to amusement parks much. But they’ve grown up knowing that women won’t back off any challenge, or at least their mom wouldn’t.
And me? I’m still trying to give up the need to be in control. My hands are only loosely on the bar of life now. One of these days I’m going to toss my arms up and scream with the others.
How about you? Where are your hands on the bar? Or, what ride are you avoiding?
“It is our attitude toward events, not events themselves, which we can control. Nothing is by its own nature calamitous — even death is terrible only if we fear it.” — Epictetus
“I will be calm. I will be mistress of myself.” — Jane Austen, “Sense and Sensibility”
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