Thursday, October 21, 2010

Race You to the Ferris Wheel!

There is a time in our life when we have a moment of decision, a moment of truth. A choice has to be made, and our fears must be faced – they must be faced with faith, and courage. They must be confronted if we want to live a life free of inhabitation of wonder.

The Age of Fearlessness
When I was my son’s age, I was fearless. I remember even if I was scared to death, I would still force myself to make an attempt. I failed many times, miserably, at various undertakings, but I still made every valiant effort to at least try.
As an adult, I have a fixation of fear that grips me, in many capacities – but especially when it comes to life decisions. When confronted with a change – in career, in geography, in friendships, in relationships – I bunker down in my fortress expecting the challenges and decisions to pass by and leave me unnoticed. Not forcing me to make a resolution or a necessary change …
However, the bunker only provides a fortress of defense; it is not guaranteed to provide safety and sanctuary. At some point we must have the courage to face our opposing forces – in this case, LIFE – and confront our fears in order to grow. Life is happening, and with it, decisions must be made – with or without you – so why not be a part of the assessment process and ultimately, the resolution?

Colossal of Truth
Over the summer, the day after my birthday, my present from my son was a Mommy / Tommy day. We skipped work and school, grabbed our backpack stocked with sun block and juice boxes, and headed over to Six Flags for a day of adventure mixed with funnel cakes and sprinklers. From the highway you can gaze upon the massive “Colossal”, and it was my son’s deepest desire to ride that damn thing …
All throughout the park, about every 7.3 minutes, he would ask me when we were going to ride it. I tried distraction, I tried bribery, I tried denial – all to my failure. He kept persistent on his heart’s craving to be fearless from 200 feet up in the air. Finally, I had to break down and be the bearer of bad news:

“We are not going on that. Period. Done. End of story. Oh look – another funnel cake stand ....” “But why? You said …”
“The truth? Because I’m scared. Terrified actually. I don’t like heights …I just can’t ride it, I’m sorry.”

I crushed his dream because I was a chicken sh*t. I don’t even know what that phrase means besides that it applies here – I let my fear debilitate me from fulfilling the wishes of my son, and furthermore from fulfilling my own inner need of achievement and acknowledgment. In fact, my determination to always conquer was neglected and betrayed by my own nervousness and anxiety. As we drove home that day, he slept in the backseat, and I questioned why I allow fear to get the best of me. My answer? Because it’s easier to hide behind fear than to deal with the matters at hand. Even when the resolution is one that can provide such benefit, satisfaction, grace, and enlightenment – it comes at the price of taking a risk and being brave … and that’s scary. It’s intimidating. And, it can be debilitating.

Don't let fear stop you
A few weeks back, we were at a fall carnival. Yet again I was face to face with a damn Ferris wheel … and I was asked the question “Can we plllllleeeeaassseeee ride it??” …. And at first, I tried to persuade by any means necessary …
“You want a puppy?? We could leave here now, adopt one, pick up dog treats and a leash, and still be home in time for dinner …”
Wise for his age, he was on to my tricks …
“Come on, I’ll hold your hand – you don’t have to be afraid anymore.”
Snap. Out of the mouth of babes – “you don’t have to be afraid anymore.” He’s right, I don’t have to be afraid. Of anything. Not a Ferris wheel, heights, or whatever life presents in all different packages and capacities.

We are negligent with our lives by making choices based out of necessity and not out of our sincerity. We are busy and distracted people. We struggle so much within our day to be genuine with our feelings that we rarely realize just how much we hold back from facing the tricky parts. We slack on what we owe to ourselves – to be honest and forthright – authentic and real. We are careless on our own needs – the need to face our fears. Confront our challenges. Make mistakes. But overall, not hide behind conformity and trepidation. The regret that will inevitably find a home next to that fear will eat you alive, and twice on Sundays. Fear does weird things to our sense of logic. And it can make us miss out on our greatest experiences, on our best achievements, on our fondest memories because we were too afraid to take a step forward, and get on the ride already. Nine out of ten times, we have been the ones to break our own hearts because we choose to blindside our desires, to allow apprehension to outweigh our requirements for our soul’s fulfillment in life.

We beg to be delivered from fear, shame, loneliness, despair – but are we willing to try? To face what needs to be overcome? To make decisions that could end badly, but take a deep breath and hope for the best resolution instead? In order to provide ourselves with clarity and peace, we need to have a transformation of self – one that sheds our insecurities, and confronts fear.

We are going to make mistakes – period. But it’s those mistakes that shape us, not define us. Flashbacks of regret will leave a scar no amount of fear can come close in doing the same irrevocable damage. The act of being emotionally reckless is an incredibly hard realization to make, but take heed – it needs to be realized. It’s more than time to admit our fear – and to face it.

That day, at the carnival – I bought two tickets for the monetary price of $6 and waited in line for what felt like eternity. With shaking hands, and a feeling of sea sickness, I took my seat. True to his word, my son held my hand, as the first turn of stops and starts began. To get my mind off of things, I began talking, about anything and everything I could come up with – and it hit me … I giggled … and through my giggles of remembrance, I spoke ….

“You know, when I was a little older than you, I used to spend my summers in Wisconsin. At the end of the summer there was an annual carnival. We would have entries in the fair so from open to close, for four days straight, I would be there walking the grounds, eating the food, and riding the rides. One of those, especially, that I could not get enough of was the Ferris Wheel. I forgot how much I loved riding, seeing the world from this angel and height.”

At that moment, I smiled. I wasn’t afraid any longer. I was enjoying the ride – seeing the world from a different perspective and looking forward to the next traverse. On that car ride home I had a different wave of thoughts -- If we don’t face our fears, we face the risk of missing out on some amazing memories, being able to relive them when we least expect it, and allowing them to show us a different perspective, a different view on life entirely. A breathtaking view we might otherwise never see.