When I was about eight years old, my father took me to a carnival. This wouldn’t have been my first choice of how to spend our time together. I have never been one to get excited when the carnival comes to town and I have a somewhat unhealthy fear of clowns, but I loved being with my dad. So if that meant hanging out with questionable characters from every possible walk of life while riding rides that spun me around in circles until all my organs were shuffled and relocated, so be it. Some friends of my dad’s friends came with us, as did their daughter, who was a little older than me and seemed quite put out that she had to spend her Friday night with an awkward pre-adolescent with glasses and not much to say. I can’t recall her name, so I’ll call her…..Bozo.
My dad purchased enough tickets for me and Bozo to ride the rides for hours – things were looking up. My new founded excitement quickly ended when my dad told me that Bozo was in charge and we would all meet up in an hour or so. I thought to myself that this night couldn’t possibly get any worse but then Bozo quickly grabbed all the tickets from my dad and announced that since she was in charge. she would be choosing all the rides. That was my first lesson in realizing that yes, things can always be worse. As Bozo and I set off into the carnival chaos, I remember thinking that it would be a cold day in hell before I let some prissy pre-teen tell me what to do. After almost an hour of riding all the rides that Bozo had chosen, I told her I wanted to choose a few. Bozo reminded me that she was in charge and proceeded to list all the rights that came with such an honor. I’m still convinced she has a genetic connection to Hitler.
While waiting in line for another Bozo chosen ride, she dropped some of our tickets – I wasted no time in picking them up and running off with them. What a sense of freedom I felt – I had tickets, almost $5.00 in my pocket and no one to tell me what to do. The world was mine – this certainly must be what it felt like to be an adult. It was wonderful. What an idiot I was.
Not exactly sure what to do with my independence, I got in line for the Ferris Wheel. I had never been on a Ferris Wheel before and I certainly don’t remember holding a deep desire to ride one, but I was clearly on my way to adulthood and this must be what adults do – make decisions sans any thought as to their outcome. Yes, I was going to ride this enormous circular structure that was operated by a man who had more chins than a Chinese phone book and had never been introduced to a dentist, a razor, or a bar of soap. Regardless, when it was my turn, I handed him my ticket and took my seat. I waited to see who would be sitting with me, but instead, the Ferris Wheel moved in reverse so others could get on. I thought someone would be seated with me. I thought someone would be by my side. This wasn’t at all like I had imagined, but it was too late now to change my mind. In my eight years of life, I couldn’t remember feeling this alone before and I didn’t like it.
Finally, the ride began and a rush of excitement mixed with a touch of “what in the hell am I doing” came over me. The unknown was frightening to me and it took about three complete turns of the wheel before I realized that I was going to be just fine. Closing my eyes, I loved feeling the summer wind against my face. I felt like I was flying, I lived in the moment and it was wonderful. Then, without any warning, the unthinkable happened, the ride quickly stopped. I was at the very top of the Ferris Wheel – the highest point and my seat was swaying back and forth. From my vantage point, I couldn’t even see much of the ferris wheel, I felt like I was suspended in the air. The most intense feeling of fear came over me. It actually paralyzed me. I closed my eyes and wished that I was at home in my bed with the covers pulled over my head. Even now, sometimes at the end of a horrible day, I cannot wait to climb into my bed and burrow under the covers. For some reason, that gives me a feeling that everything will be all right when I wake up in the morning. If only it were that easy.
What I’ve just shared with you really happened to me. This long forgotten memory found its way into my dreams one night last week and it has been in my thoughts every day since then. I’m not a psychologist, I don’t know anything about analyzing dreams, but given the past few years of my life, I’m not surprised that one of my earliest memories of being afraid has resurfaced.
I suppose one could use a Ferris Wheel as a metaphor for life. We start out on our own, a little afraid, a little excited and unsure of what lies ahead for us. Life goes on, at times monotonous and predictable, other times, wonderful and breathtaking. And then out of no where, something happens that we didn’t see coming, it’s completely unexpected and we don’t know what to do. Our world comes to a screeching halt. Everything seems out of our control and it scares us to our very core. This isn’t what we had planned for. We grasp tightly to what we can, close our eyes and hope that when we open them it will all have been a bad dream, but it isn’t. We then have a choice – there is always a choice. We can have faith that this too shall pass and soon things will be moving along smoothly again or we can let what has happened consume us. Leaving us to live our life in fear, afraid to hope again, afraid to fall in love again, to have faith that things will soon be as they were, or perhaps even better than they were. The first time something in our life happens that we didn’t see coming, we recover rather quickly, picking up the pieces and moving on. But repeated jolts, constant unwanted surprises, abrupt, unwelcome changes to our lives – that begins to make us overly cautious, afraid to take chances. We begin to hold on to what is safe and familiar with a grasp so tight that we miss what lies ahead. We second guess instead of taking those leaps of faith. What lies ahead is no longer anticipated and exciting. The unknown is now frightening and something to avoid at all costs. It takes longer for us to trust, longer for us to try something new. We may still get on the ferris wheel, but our eyes are shut so tight, we miss out on the spectacular view. There will always be bumps in life, sudden jolts that toss our everyday life into a state of mayhem, but we must remember that it’s temporary, it may not seem like it at that time, but it is. We have to remember how wonderful it felt when things were going well, the rush of living in the moment and enjoying the breeze on our face, the feeling that everything will be fine again one day. Because it will. No, I don’t know that for sure, but I have faith that it will.
This post is longer than I had planned, so if you are still reading, you have my sincere gratitude. I feel as if I’ve reached some sort of epiphany and after what I’ve been through the past nine years, when you reach a point in your life when you realize that you just have to let go of some things and not worry about the unknown, well that’s a rather large milestone, it is for me anyway. My life has been eventful to say the least. There was divorce and all the drama that goes along with that. My daughter and I have survived verbal and physical abuse. My little boy has a terminal illness and I’ve watched him suffer horrible seizures, undergo countless operations and have been told during many of his hospital stays that he wouldn’t be coming home. I’ve been the product of severe media scrutiny, ridiculous rumors and idle gossip. I have lost friends that I thought would always be there for me, bu t have made new friends that I know I can count on. It’s been hell, it really has. But I’m a survivor in every sense of the word – with a touch of bad ass and a lot of sass. Yes, I cry, my feelings get hurt, I have felt alone and scared and sometimes I feel beaten down. There have been moments where I didn’t think I could go on another day in my life. But I’m still here and I intend to be for quite some time. I’m going to get back on that ferris wheel and enjoy the view from the very top.
“…in this world, lots of people will try to grind you down. They need you to be small so they can be big. You let them think whatever they want, but you make sure you get yours. You get yours.” ~Holly Black