Cowboys and Roller-Coasters


Truth Byte #13: Get off the roller-coaster.

Did you love the roller-coaster when you were a kid? Did you love how it went up and down, and twisted and turned, and then thudded to a stop, only to start up again over the next terrifying careening swoop? And then, finally, when it was all over and you docked back into the station, do you remember racing around the amusement park to get back in line again?

Every July growing up, we had this incredible festival that came to town. The tents would go up, the rides would come out, and there were mini-donuts to your heart’s content. Now, because I am from a town in the Prairies, they would mix in cowboy hats, hay-bales, and chuck-wagon racing, and they called the whole over-the-top-affair the Calgary Stampede. But all I cared about growing up was wearing my high-waisted jeans and riding the roller-coaster.

We would anticipate the kick-off parade for weeks, and save our money to buy unlimited passes to ride late into the night. We would visit the same rides over and over and over again until someone noticed the time and we all rushed on the C-train to get home in time for curfew.

But one summer, everything changed.

I was in my early twenties, and we had just spent the day lounging in the sun at this incredible cowboy festival that I loved, listening to some up-and-coming bands in the open-air theatre. We decided to try some rides, and all of a sudden, right in the middle of the mayhem, I found myself nauseous. This had never happened before.

The roller-coaster was no longer fun.

And that was the end of that.

In the years following, I still got swept up in the excitement. But now, instead of looking forward to the rides, I saved up my money from my summer job and bought myself my very own cowboy boots and a hat, and started looking at what other interesting things the Stampede had to offer. Including cowboys. But that is a story for another time.

Many of my clients have hit this transitional summer in their own lives. All of a sudden, the crazy drama of their roller-coaster life is somehow just not fun. Actually, when they look around at all the ups and downs in their lives, they feel a little nauseous. And so they take stock. They decide what parts of the festival of Life they like, and what thy have actually outgrown. Often, it’s time to let go of their “riding buddies”, those people they grew up with that are still doing the same thing, year after year, and never looking to grow or change. Often, it’s time to explore the more subtle aspects of the Life festival, such as stillness, self-reflection, and (God forbid!), even mediation.

Stepping off Life’s roller-coaster means you are ready to slow it all down. Stepping off the roller-coaster means you understand that you only have as much drama as you are willing to tolerate, and when your threshold gets lower, the riding buddies just start drifting away. Stepping of the roller-coaster is a necessary step in maturing into the life you were meant to have.

My son is getting older. Pretty soon, he will be asking us to ride the roller-coaster with him in a new park, in a new place. And my husband and I will “paper-scissors-rocks” it to see who is the lucky loser. And one of us will ride with him. With butterflies in the stomach. And it will be fun…kind of.

So every so often, you may have to step back onto the roller-coaster, because Life requires it of you. Usually some big loss or change will churn the drama out. But now you will know which parts to just close your eyes for, and you get to choose whether you get on for another round.