I’ve never much liked roller coasters. I prefer to keep my feet on the ground. I have only ever been on one roller coaster, and peer pressure alone is what coerced me to ride and what pressured me to say I liked it. The reality is that I’ve never been on another. I don’t even like the ferris wheel. A few years ago, my husband and I took our kids to the local carnival, and my over-active imagination kept picturing my small children slipping through the guards and falling to the ground… Nope. Heights and carnival rides are not for me.
Then why is it that my life tends to resemble one? Perhaps not quite as cliché as the metaphor of a roller coaster, but I think my life could be compared to a carnival. The whirly-twirly rides which make me want to return my last meal; the crazy house with the shifty stairs, conversely-moving sidewalks, the mirrors which make me question who I know myself to be; the sugar-laced and grease-laden food which makes you roll your eyes in ecstasy but you know you will pay for later; the multitudes of people of all kinds; music of the concert in the arena or of the rides beckoning the crowds to give them a try; the sales pitches of the carnies, coercing passers-by to try their luck at the rigged game; screams of delight, cries of laughter, tears of toddlers hyped up on sugar and sunshine.
I’m not going to pretend to be prophetic; every person’s life goes through cycles of highs and lows. Perhaps I’ve just been taking stock of where I am currently standing, and the noisy carnival describes the turmoil and delight I am battling with.
I am standing dead center of the midway at the carnival, and it is early evening, just before the sun has gone down. The lights on the rides around me blink and wink in time to the music of the chaos around me. I stand still, unnoticed by the masses which pass by hand in hand or in tightly formed groups. The heat from the day begins to subside as an evening chill settles on the crowds, and the sounds which surround me drown out anything that makes sense. The tinny music from the fun house, the laughter of the teenagers who just passed me by, the clank of the mettle as gates are opened and shut, safety harnesses are buckled and clipped.
If I close my eyes, I can still see it, but the horizon seems to tip and roll. My brain won’t turn off, can’t just take in my surroundings one at a time. It is receiving everything at once, and it keeps me glued to my spot on the pavement. Just as I consider surrendering to the chaos which threatens to swallow me, I take a breath. I take a step. I smile.
I can do this. It’s just a roller coaster.