I used to be afraid of roller-coasters. I remember as a child I rode on one or two rides called the Wild Mouse – zooming bullet shaped cars with a person in the front and the back, reeling around rickety corners on thin metal tracks. It always felt like I was going to be thrown off the tracks at every turn. As I got older, that ride became even MORE scary to me and I stopped riding it.
The first time I went to Disneyland as a child, I managed not to ride on Space Mountain (dark and scary) but I did ride the Matterhorn – a roller-coaster that ducks in and out of the sides of the mountain and has a couple very precarious drops.
When I went with my friend and her niece and nephew to a county fair, she said, ‘I’m glad you’re here so you can ride on all the sick rides with the kids.’ Being given that assignment, I was forced to ride on all the rides that I had previously determined were off my list. There was the Ferris wheel, a winding roller-coaster with a loop in it, the ride that pins you to the inside walls and the floor falls out, and two or three others that I have since wiped from my memory. They were truly the ‘sick’ – as in, makes you nauseated – rides.
The next time the carnival came to my town, I found myself in the front seat of a Salt and Pepper Shaker. This is a ride in which the bullet shaped cars actually spin around at the same time as they drive you face first into what looks like sudden death by crashing into the earth. But that is only half the ride, the other half it reverses assuring that at the end of this ride there will be a short period spent with your head between your knees in recovery.
But that’s not what happened to me. On this occasion, I spent the ride observing my behavior. It was as if I was given this opportunity to truly evaluate what part of the ride was the most disturbing. I was in some carnival ride trance and listening and paying attention to the various parts of my body. I found that if I closed my eyes and didn’t see the ground coming, I enjoyed the thrilling speed of the ride. I found that the constant spinning in a circle was unnerving and my stomach was not happy about that part. I also discovered that I was actually laughing with joy more than I was screaming in fear.
Conclusion? If the ride was fast and furious, I could do it with my eyes closed, but if it spun around too much, it just made me nauseous.
Again, as an adult, I had the opportunity to take my kids to Disneyland. They all decided to ride Space Mountain. I wanted to test my theory. There we were, zooming through the dark, as the panic started to rise in me, I merely closed my eyes. What a thrill! I enjoyed that roller-coaster immensely although I must say I didn’t see much of it.
When they were determined to ride one of the famous sick and spinning rides (the swing that rolls out and smashes the person on the outside against it's walls, for example) I chose to bow out.
Next stop, a challenge. In Nevada, we have a roller-coaster famous for its first drop – 1 mile straight down. As the roller-coaster climbed, I felt the panic start to rise in me as well, and I remembered - ‘close your eyes’ – which I did.
Tons of stories of childhood came flooding into my memory both positive and negative. Closing my eyes to get a shot, surprise me. Closing my eyes at funerals with open caskets, spare me. Closing my eyes in a warm embrace, hold me.
And when it was done, we whooped and hollered and cheered our success!
So I figured out that for me, if it feels like it's going to make me sick, I avoid it altogether. But if it’s just scary, whatever it is, all I have to do is close my eyes and get through it. Take the ride and when it’s over, celebrate the outcome!