Last weekend, to celebrate her birthday, my mom decided that she wanted to go to an amusement park. This is a fantastically fun idea, except for the fact that I am slightly terrified of roller coasters and thrill rides in general.
My husband has this theory though. He believes that we humans need to experience fear every once in a while to remind of us of our own humanity. He claims that humans have evolved so much that we do not often encounter things that make us fear for our lives like our Stone Age ancestors might have – which in many ways is a very good thing. Yet, we need to face such fears to show us that we are not invincible, but we have extraordinary potential to overcome terrifying circumstances. In doing so, facing the fears, he concludes that it helps us appreciate the ordinary relatively fear-free existence of our everyday lives.
I agree with this wise man; on a figurative level. Yes, I can be brave and vulnerable and face those emotional things that bring me fear. But literally? I’ll just stay on my carousel thank you very much.
No, my husband persisted, that’s not how it works. He was referring specifically to the physical fears we must face, propelling us out of our comfort zone and towards a sense of accomplishment. In other words – get on that roller coaster missy!
So with trembling legs I climbed the steps to the Wild Eagle – the newest, fastest, steepest roller coaster at Dollywood. As the friendly attendant strapped me in, she took one look at my panic-stricken face, gave me a knowing smile, and asked, “Scared?”
Then the coaster was off, scaling the slow vertical ascent to the peak. As we hung suspended, Andrew kept reminding me – deep breaths, just breathe. I inhaled as we crested the metallic summit, bracing for the worst, and wooosh.
I loved it.
As we soared and dipped and inverted and whirled, my anxiety melted away and was replaced by a refreshing feeling of accomplishment and, dare I say, joy.
My whole body was shaking as I emerged from the ride – pulsing with a delicious mix of adrenaline and pride. I was still terrified the second time I rode, and the third. But I also now knew my husband’s words to be true – it’s not just the rush of the ride that makes the thrill worthwhile, but the way that your feet touch the ground afterward with enhanced appreciation for the security of our ordinary lives.
Facing our physical fears forces us to get out of our own minds and bodies, too often hung up on meaningless modern worries, resetting our perspective on life. Bonus: you might just find you actually enjoy doing something you fear.
Have a fantastic weekend of facing fears and finding joy!