I think it’s ironic that rollercoasters have become something of a metaphor for our lives as a 2e family. It’s full of ups and downs, wildly unexpected twists and turns, and a load of white-knuckled holding on for dear life. Yup, that’s life with 2e. A wild ride.
Practically speaking, you wouldn’t think that my family actually likes rollercoasters. They do, even the 3-year-old! Their anxieties and sensory issues seem to fade away when there’s a roller coaster in the forecast. The Engineer is still anxious about coasters that go upside down, but it’s only a matter of ….months? before he decides that they’re fun too. I have a family of little dare-devils.
As soon as I think I understand myself or my kids, we do something like this to completely turn it upside down. For example: I love rollercoasters. I always have, even as a kid. When my mom refused to ride anything scary, I was the one raring to go. My sister and I would go late in the afternoons to our local amusement park after work and ride coaster after coaster. Most people had given up, worn out in the heat and humidity of the deep South, so we were able to ride them over and over.
I also have severe anxiety over heights. I freak out if I’m even close to the edge of a safely fenced area. I have horrible intrusive thoughts about walking to the edge and casting myself off. I’m even anxious about those stupid grates that cover water drains in the city – you know the ones that drop an alarmingly long way down.
I actually had a panic attack in one of the DC metro escalators – one that goes about 4 stories straight up. I shut down, and my husband couldn’t get me to respond. I have no memory of those few minutes despite clutching a sweaty little kid’s hand in each of mine. Not my best day.
I do NOT do heights. But I’ll ride coasters.
I’ll ride the coaster so tall that I actually start to black out on the way down the first hill – in the front car! I’ll sit there and calmly wait as the cars make their agonizingly slow way up the hill, looking down at the amusement park. I’ll happily zoom down a hill and upside down without batting an eye.
I don’t fully understand it. Something about the security of the body harness that I’ve double and triple checked even after the ride attendants did too. Maybe it’s knowing that if something does go wrong I probably won’t know or survive because it happens so fast. Somehow my anxiety-ridden brain has checked off rollercoasters as acceptable. I don’t get it.
Some people would say that I don’t truly have anxiety if I can overcome this extreme fear to do something I love. I say that doing something I love helps me to overcome that fear. Sure, that last minute as the cars tip down the hill are torture, but if I do it enough the adrenalin overcomes the fear. It’s desensitizing. It’s reassuring. If I can do something so mundane and average as riding a rollercoaster, perhaps I’m not totally screwed up.
People probably think I’m weird – this middle-aged, muffin-topped woman riding a rollercoaster alone (we parents have to switch off for the coasters the kids can’t ride yet) but I don’t care. Rollercoasters aren’t just for kids. They’re for the dare-devil in all of us, no matter the age. And I’m facing my fears head-on – an act of bravery they can’t even begin to understand. Maybe one day they’ll get it.
What about you? What’s the metaphor for your lives, the thing that both makes sense and is completely confusing?