Monday, March 18, 2013

LEARNING TO LET GO & ENJOY THE RIDE

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Ride in Disneyland
Last year we bought Disneyland annual passes for Ray's birthday. In hindsight it wasn't the wisest decision in light of my financial makeover but it was a necessary escape from his reality. Soon it became his home away from home.

I avoided roller coasters and amusement parks because I suffered with cervical stenosis and vertigo. I either vomited after riding a roller coaster because of vertigo or I'd have neck spasms from my cervical stenosis. Of course, nothing affected Ray who insisted I was being a big baby. He was almost right...I was tougher than I thought but I had my limitations. After running around Disneyland for 8 months I discovered two things: 1) Big Thunder Mountain (which I don't consider a roller coaster) is my nemesis and 2) riding California Screamin' twice in a row is my downfall. 


The first time I braved The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror I was clueless, or should I say gullible, when Ray assured me it was similar to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Surre, no problem! You'll be fine! I HATE the sensation of free-falling so imagine my horror when I dropped down...down...down and then down again! I grabbed the lady's hand sitting next to me and wouldn't let go! I would've socked Ray with my other hand had I found the courage to release my grip on the seat handle! Since then we've ridden the ride numerous times and each time I've got a death grip on the handles and refuse to open my eyes. (See picture above.)


Life has always felt like a roller coaster or thrill ride with its hair raising twists, stomach dropping turns, and nausea inducing descents. The fiercer the grip to control my reactions to unexpected life events the more horrified I became. I wanted things to go MY way. I tried to please too many people and never learned the secret power of the word "no." I was addicted to the chaos of my life and never stopped to savor the present moment; constantly dramatizing every event and situation in my mind. I wasn't flexible to the surprises life lobbed in my direction. Every plan had to be perfectly executed, everyone had to act according to MY wishes, and I had to be in perfect control.


I vowed 2013 would be different and for the first two months I basked in my conceit. I believed I was finally in control again, wielding the power of no to everyone and everything, prioritizing wisely, managing my time realistically, and keeping my social life limited to Ray, my sister, my kids, my grandchild, my photography business, and volunteering for My Refuge House. But just like on the Tower of Terror ride I didn't expect the ground beneath my feet to vanish and plunge me into the abyss of uncertainty. 


In less than a month I've helplessly watched someone I love experience the trauma of caring for a rapidly deteriorating parent succumbing to the treachery of cancer. My sister who recently got engaged is getting married in a few weeks, then leaving me to live in Miami with her new husband. She's my confidante, my best friend, my ally in our family, and the only one who understands the ugliness inside me. Along for this crazy thrill ride are my full-time job, my photography business, my three kids, my grandchild, my aging parents, my dreams, my hopes, my goals, and my aspirations. I'm back to having a death grip on the bars of my seat while the floor vanishes from below my feet and my eyes are shut tight, ignorant of the steep decline into the unknown.


Last Sunday morning while riding California Screamin' I chose to relax, loosen my grip on the handles, and kept my eyes wide open during the steep decline. (See picture below.) Okay maybe not WIDE open but enough to view the scenery of the park as we crested the ride before I dipped straight down, down, down. My body flowed with the ride's twists and turns instead of resisting the centrifugal force. I allowed myself to ENJOY the ride...fancy that! As I wobbled...no, hobbled...no, walked off the ride I felt exhilaration for the first time instead of relief that the ride was done. Yes, I could have chosen the safe route and not plonked my butt on any rides. But isn't the enigmatic effect of life nuanced by our choices: the safe, easygoing, route or the challenging course marked with the unknown? 


Regardless of the path I choose I need to remember to enjoy the unexpected twists and turns of life. They CAN bring joy if I view them as such. My sister living in Miami is an open invitation to introduce myself to a new city and state. Watching my boyfriend spend 24 hours a day taking care of his terminally ill mother directs me to rely on God in my human limitations. I lack the power to remove the cross Ray has to bear but it's a daily reminder that when I'm free-falling God will always catch me. And He will direct my steps in the unknown. 
Eyes wide open on California Screamin'