What You Really Want
A couple years ago I decided that I needed to expand my comfort zone. I wanted to do something to prove to myself that I could do anything. So I recruited a friend to go to Six Flags in order to conquer my fear of heights. I was all sorts of fired up about it. I was going to go on the Superman ride – the one that shoots you strait up in the air and then sends you plummeting back down at like 1,000 mph. I had played it out in my mind over and over and was sure I was ready for it.
So we arrived at the park ready to rock… that is until I actually looked up at the ride from the parking lot and saw how high it really was. At that moment I had a feeling with every ounce of my existence that there was no friggin’ way in Hell that I was going on that thing. No way. Wasn’t going to happen.
I didn’t have it in me to tell my friend though. I had built it up so much that I would’ve felt like such a jackass telling him that I couldn’t go on it – especially before we even got into the park. I figured I’d pitch the idea of working our way up to it so I could buy some time and figure out how I was going to get out of having to go through with it.
So that’s what we did, starting with the tamest kiddie roller coaster in the park. I white knuckled my way through it, trying in vain not to imagine any and every possible scenario that ended with us flying off the tracks and plummeting to our deaths. We went on one or two more rides like that and then took a detour with some low-stress water rides.
Eventually the time came for us to take the next step forward and get on another more serious roller coaster. I still didn’t know how I was going to tell my friend that I was going to sissy out, but I was trying to work it out in my mind. In the meantime I had to step it up a notch and get on the next ride.
Around this time the thought occurred to me that I needed a different strategy to keep myself from passing out, throwing up or having a complete breakdown on these roller coasters, because the white knuckle, freaking out, fighting reality approach wasn’t working for me. I made a conscious decision to guide my thoughts and emotions in the opposite direction, the direction of letting go, trusting and relaxing into the moment. I was able to do it for only a few seconds the first time, but after a couple more rides I got better at it at some point a funny thing happened. I actually started to enjoy riding on these roller coasters. Crazy!
We continued to make our way around the park until we got to the newest fastest roller coaster, the X2. I still had reservations about the Superman ride, but this was a big step. This was to be the final step before I would actually have to admit defeat or get on the damn ride. So we waited in line for like two hours and finally got on.
The freaky thing about the X2 is that they take you up the incline backwards so you have no choice but to look down – and you can’t see how far you have to go – and you keep going up, higher and higher and higher for what seems like forever. Then they whip you down at ridiculous speed and shoot fire at you and play loud music.
(skip to around to 1:30)
When we got off that thing I was so pumped that I turned to my friend and said – ‘fuck yeah! let’s do this!’ I wanted to get on that Superman ride more than anything. I tracked down the nearest park employee to ask for directions. She looked at her watch and to my dismay, told me that the park was closed! We couldn’t believe it. It was only 8 O’clock. Booooo!
So now I have some unfinished business to take care of. But I learned something very, very valuable that day. It’s human nature that if we feel something with every fiber of our being that we tend to accept that thing as the way it is, or the way we are. Because the feeling is so complete, it really does seem like it is ‘the truth’ – the way it is, was and will be. When I looked up at that ride I was sure that there was no way I could get on it. Absolutely no chance. By the end of the day I wanted to get on that thing so bad that I could barley contain my disappointment when they told me I couldn’t. I had proven to myself that I could feel a prohibiting fear or limitation and that by going through a series of baby steps I could change that feeling and actually do something that my whole existence once ‘knew’ was impossible for me.
I think this story parallels what a lot of us go through in our relationship with the things that we REALLY want. We get fired up about things that we really really want. We imagine them and believe that we can somehow, some way, some day make them a reality for us. The problem is that we inevitably get to that moment where we stand in the face of what it will actually take to make it happen – and it scares the shit out of us. This will happen to you at some point in the future and it will happen to me again too. And when it happens, even if you are absolutely, positively certain down to the very core of your soul that you can’t do whatever it is you need to do, then just know that all you really need to do is take the next step in front of you. And then the one after that, and then one after that and just keep going. If you do that then you can and will get somewhere that you once ‘knew’ was impossible.
Now please excuse me while I take care of some unfinished business…
[Update: Mission accomplished – 07/29/2011. I wanted to get the pic that they take of you in mid-action, but apparently they don’t do that on the Superman ride. It was actually a lot of fun! I would’ve gone on it more than once if the line wasn’t so long. Afterwards we went on the Goliath roller coaster, which I previously deemed even scarier than the Superman ride. No problem. I’m over it.]