This has been a day a great highs and tremendous lows – a “rollercoaster” day.
At amusement parks, one of my favorite rides is the rollercoaster. The slow building anticipation on the ride up, then the speed of the first drop that sends you careening through loops and dips. Never quite knowing which direction you’re headed you move right, then climb, then thrust left before dropping down and immediately sliding into a corkscrew turn that twists you around and around. The speed at which change comes is exhilarating and exhausting and thrilling. The altered push and pull of gravity against my body (or is that the other way around?) is exhilarating and disorienting and thrilling. I could ride them over and over.
It is an engineering marvel: a hunk of metal that allows us to feel, if only for a few moments, as if we are soaring, weightless. It is an exercise in the laws of gravity and energy – a scientific experiment come to life. We are filled with potential energy as we climb, changing to kinetic energy as we fall and speed through the remaining loops and turns. The mathematics involved to ensure there is enough energy to continue through to the end of the ride amazes me. How high can a hill be? How many turns can be added? Where does the friction max out? How many cars and how much weight can be added? It boggles the mind and excites the senses.
In my everyday life, this rollercoaster effect has much less appeal. Today my son called me from school with a slowly emerging message, cryptically wrapped in his own potential energy. When he finally shared with me why he called, it was like hitting the top of that first hill. I was elated and excited. I wanted to hold him close and ride that energy to great heights. Not long after the good news, I received some disappointing financial news that would change the next ten decisions I make. Up, then down. Eventually, I even out and ride the straight-away for a while.
Two more phone calls later and I’ve run from a high on a new employment hill to a crashing low of dire family health. The corkscrew was not far behind – stuck in an endless loop of he said/she said or A must follow B but not before D and only when F is in retrograde. It’s dizzying. The day continues with notes not getting to teachers, then hitting all the green lights, then stopped behind endless school busses, then a good doctor’s appointment, then hunger meltdowns and relief with finally being home. The energy continues up and down through the night and then one more message: my friend has died. The jarring end of this rollercoaster ride. That moment that takes your breath away, when life stops with such a jolt that you become intensely aware of your insides, unsure if they will stay where they are meant to be.
I don’t want this rollercoaster anymore. It is not exhilarating. It is not enjoyable. It is no marvel of engineering. It is an overwhelming emotional hurricane.
At the amusement park, each dip is exciting because of the expectation of the high to come. The speed changes frequently through the ride. But one thing is sure: the speed picks up at the bottom of the hill. Did you read that part? At the BOTTOM. What if we apply this same understanding to our rollercoaster lives? What if we ride out the downward falls with the knowledge that we will soon pick up speed and climb to a new high? What if we allow ourselves to trust in the energy we have stored – trust our potential – to climb again?
Remember the joy of getting off a rollercoaster at the park and running back around to ride it again? There was no hesitation. You knew it would throw you around, twist you in and out, leave you disoriented and, perhaps, a little nauseated. But you ran to do it again. The joyful parts were enough to keep you coming back.
Remember that when your rollercoaster starts to feel out of control. Remember the joy that is a part of that ride. Don’t focus on that big hill that scares you. Close your eyes and ride that out until you reach the bottom. Because there you will gather your potential and begin to soar.
Ride your rollercoaster, knowing there is joy.
*Rest in peace, dear Thora
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