Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rollercoasters vs. Merry-go-rounds

I've never been one for rollercoasters. They go too fast, too high, then too low. The twists and turns are stomach-dropping and vomit-inducing with names like "The Mega Beast" or the "The Death Spiral." Not to mention those little tiny bars that come down to allegedly hold you into place while you are hurtling through space at tops speeds in a supersized slinky... upside down. No thank you, no rollercoasters for me. They are just too scary.

I'm sure I inherited the anti-thrill seeker gene from my dad, who also chose to keep both feet firmly planted on Terra Amusement Parka Firma. While my brother and my cousins soared into the stratosphere on the Blue Demon's Revenge or some other equally terrifying contraption, my dad and I would make our way over to safer ground. Past the spinning tea cups (vertigo, anyone?) and the Ferris wheel (if wheels were meant to be this big then I'd like to see the cars that go with them) to our happy place: the merry-go-round. Dad would stick to the big bench seat but since I was such a wild child, I'd pick a nice, tame looking horse somewhere in the middle row- enough room to roam but still pinned in by his pals in case he got any funny ideas. 

That tinny, canned music (which did well to drown out the screams from the coaster around the corner) would come on and off we'd go. Up (just a little) and down (gently), around and around (not too fast), I'd hold onto the pole and feel the wind in my hair. After a few rotations I might even feel bold enough to let go, turn around, and wave to Dad in his seat behind me. But mostly I kept my eyes closed and tried to will that ride to keep going. One more time around, I'd think to myself, and smile when my silent prayer was answered. I never wanted it to end. 

Once when I was about 8 years old, my dad and I were wandering through a festival of some sort when we came upon what we thought was a gentle boat ride and decided to hop on. Little did we know it was the Pirate Ship Of Doom that may have started out gently but picked up steam (and height, and velocity) with every SWOOP to the right which was followed by a WHOOSH to the left, leaving us briefly suspended and staring perilously at the ground at each terminus before it plunged back into action. "GET ME OFFFFFFFF!" I screamed. But he couldn't- we were both helpless until the ride ended. 

Lately life's been feeling too much like that ride. We've been traveling far too fast, crashing down way too hard. Feeling so helpless as one too many giant hills left my my stomach in a permanent state of drop as we hurtled through a dark tunnel with no end in sight. Illnesses, injuries, work stress, family stress, home stress, it's all felt like a rollercoaster and I wanted to get off. 

And then I saw a merry-go-round and I wanted to get on. 

My husband and I were celebrating our 10th anniversary in New York City and taking a morning stroll in Central Park. The weekend had been lovely, albeit somewhat weighed down by the mental baggage I had stowed in the overhead bin and under the seat in front of me. We had reservations for brunch and I knew we might be late but there was just something about that music, something about the carefree smiles and the little girl holding her daddy's hand as they stepped off the carousel.

"Please can we ride it?" I asked him a little too desperately, trying to keep my voice steady.  

And so we did. 

Middle horse for me. 

Up and down, around and around. 

Tears streamed down my face as I closed my eyes and prayed it would never end. 

But of course it did and when the music ended and the merry-go-round slowed to a stop, I knew it was going to be OK. 

I knew that somehow, whatever came next, we'd make it through the ride. 


  1. I think it is important to understand how the merry-go-round works. There are always ups and downs, there is always a slow pace. But the things we don't see that often, are when the horse does come off the track. Remember, it can never run forever the same. It comes to a stop for maintenance, and getting it up and going again, they may have to get those horses galloping to make sure they are safe for the rest of the time.

    I think your perspective could easily become a mantra for you. "I closed my eyes and prayed it would never end" Remember that the high points of the ride are only valuable because you have the experience gracefully sliding to the bottom first. When the carousel feels like the Pirate ship of doom, simply remember your mantra, remember to keep perspective, and remember what is important. "We were helpless until it was over" You are never helpless, just sometimes it is too scary to see that you are simply during the period of maintenance, or the testing that needs to happen to make sure you keep moving forward safely. I wish you the best.

    1. So true, so true. Thank you for your insights!