I’ve always hated roller coasters. As in, really hated them. Last year, on our third day at Disney I finally capitulated to Matt’s endless teasing of me and conceded to go on one roller coaster with him. Our guide promised it wasn’t “that serious” a coaster. Sure. It was all inside, in the pitch black, first of all. It’s also one of the only roller coasters in the world to go from 0 to a zillion miles a minute in 3 seconds. No slow clacking ascent for this coaster. As we sat in our seats, waiting to go, harnesses snapped down over our shoulders.
“Why are there restraints over our shoulders, Matt?” I asked innocently. I’ve been on many mellow coasters with the kids, which have always entailed a mere seatbelt.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said, smirking.
Well, I soon found out we needed the full-body harnesses because we went completely upside down. Multiple times. After the ride came to a stop Matt looked over at me sheepishly. “You’re kind of green,” he ventured. Then he admitted that was the most hard-core roller coaster he had ever, ever been on.
I still haven’t forgiven him.
So, I still don’t like (serious) roller coasters. I’m totally fine with the ones where you only have to be 36 inches tall to ride them. II actually like those. But the crazy, upside-down, twirling, lose-your-lunch (not to mention your bag, your sunglasses, anything not nailed down) rides? No thanks.
For some reason I was thinking about that this weekend. Probably because we just went to Santa’s Village over Memorial Day with our dear friends, and because Storyland and Legoland are on the horizon this summer. It is easy to ascribe my dislike for roller coasters to my desperate need for control. Which is real, of course. My white knuckle grip on the handle of the universe is exhausting, but essential to assure that the earth keep rotating. Surely this means I hate being strapped into a carriage without any ability to control my speed, direction, or orientation.
But it occurred to me as i thought about roller coasters that there could be another reason I don’t like them. Perhaps the swooping up-and-down movement along the tracks is simply too close to my own internal topography, which is already a kind of roller coaster. I climb to outrageous joy and plummet to tearful heartache every single day. Hell, I do that every hour. Just inside my own head and heart. Maybe it’s too overwhelming to also have my body do this.
I know that there is great excitement and learning to be had on life’s roller coasters, both literal and metaphorical. In 2010 Whit refused to go on anything at Storyland and Legoland. Literally, anything. Last summer he gave in to Grace’s determined pleas that he go with her (and me) on the flume ride at Storyland. He went, wrapped in my arms and frozen with anxiety. As we neared the top of the rise, as the steep slide down came into view, I gripped him tighter against me, worried about his reaction.
At the bottom, sputtering, our shirts damp from spray, Whit turned to me. I was nervous to see an expression hovering between terror and awe on his face. But then, over Grace’s hoots of laughter, he whispered, “Mummy! My stomach was full of butterflies!”
Yes, Whit, it is. My stomach is full of butterflies every single day. Every day of my life I rise and fall, I climb and plummet, I ride a sine curve whose specific contours I neither determined nor can anticipate. I should focus more on the butterflies and less on the panic and fear. I will keep trying.
Do you like roller coasters? I think the world seems to be split into those who do and those who don’t. If you do, or don’t, why?