Thursday, July 11, 2013

Rule #7 - Learn to Forgive Yourself

People ask me what it's like to face my fears. Is it like staring down a tiger? Is it like going to battle perhaps?

In my mind's eye, I once envisioned conquering a fear would be like needing to take a leap of faith across a ravine that was so deep, you couldn't see the bottom. And the area was so full of mist, that one could not see the other side. Regardless, you still needed to make that leap and just had to trust that the wings on your back were enough to carry you over.

However, facing fear is not like that either - I think facing your fears is like looking yourself in the mirror.

Think about it: the person looking back at you is the only person in the entire world who knows everything about you. S/he knows your every secret and your every thought. There's no hiding, there's no lying. S/he has seen you naked in every sense of the word - physically, mentally and spiritually. There's no hiding from yourself... and that can be a scary thing.

Fears are illusions; they are manifestations from your own mind, in order to protect yourself. So when you face a fear, you are in essence, facing yourself.

My morals and my actions are all guided by one basic premise - the ability to hold my head up high and be able to meet my own gaze in the mirror unflinchingly. To me, there is nothing worse than disappointing myself. Nothing. It's the worst feeling and there's no hiding it from myself. I'm my best friend and biggest critic - I don't want to disappoint myself. I mention this because giving ourselves forgiveness is often one of the hardest things we do. And sometimes, it just manifests itself into a fear.

My greatest, deepest, darkest fear is relationships. The type of phobia you wake up screaming from nightmares about it. Really, it's more like 5 fears wrapped up into one (fear of commitment, fear of intimacy, fear of vulnerability, fear of losing self and fear of losing control), which makes it quintuply hard to conquer (but not impossible). I've read what others have written on the topic and they say, by far, it's the hardest thing they've ever had to overcome. Some, it takes them 20 years...and some never do.  It's so difficult that for the longest time, I kept it because it protected me. It protected me from pain and heartache. I think emotional pain hurts far worse than any physical pain. Physical pain I can handle; emotional pain I cannot. So I built it and kept building, like a giant fortress around me. Even though I was a Fear Conqueress, it was just too big to handle and too scary to face. Maybe I didn't want to face it.

I've always kept it a secret, mostly out of embarrassment - come on, I ride roller coasters, go ziplining, fly airplanes and run obstacle courses, but I can't have a simple relationship like everyone else? What kind of Fear Conqueress am I? And you always hear of men having these problems, what the hell is wrong with me??

I've mentioned before that you need to be ready to get rid of a fear before you are able to conquer it and although I don't think I'm quite ready, I did feel a crack in the foundation of that fortress shift this past weekend, after facing the fear head-on and letting go just a little bit. Another step is being able to come clean about it so it doesn't quite have the same hold on me anymore. And yet, another small step is forgiving myself for the past.

Part of my fear with relationships is being unable to trust myself and forgive myself for the past. All those times I didn't see a Jerk before it was too late and all I was left with was holding the pieces of my broken heart in my hands. All those times I didn't see the signs until after. All those times I saw the signs and didn't heed them. All those times I let myself get hurt because I was too scared to act. All those times I stayed in a bad situation because I didn't think I was good enough for anything else.

What's done is done and there's no going back... unfortunately and fortunately. "Unfortunately" - because it was horrible, "fortunately" because I wouldn't be me without it all happening. and I wouldn't change that for the world. I love me exactly the way I am now- bruises, scars and all, and wouldn't change me for the world.

So, from this day forth, you are forgiven, Heather. Forgiven for everything you thought you did wrong and thought you did to cause the pain. It wasn't your fault and I don't blame you for what happened. You did nothing wrong.

"For what I've done, I start again,
whatever pain may come,
today this ends.
I'm forgiving what I've done.

I'll face myself to cross out what I've become,
Erase myself and let go of what I've done."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Nikapotamus Rex

As a kid, my biggest fear was dogs. And fear as in all-out kicking, screaming, crying, running, etc. I've later learned that it came about from a fear of motion (roller coasters, anyone?) and later became a fear of dogs. It's no exaggeration to say that when I'd hear a dog barking off in the distance, my eyes would go wide and I'd climb up the closest thing to me, whether that be tree, car or human.

When I got older, I was able to tolerate certain dogs, namely the quiet ones that stayed still. The hyper ones still terrified me.

In college, there was a pet store next to one of our favorite college eateries. We'd go in to pet the puppies, with no intention of buying (they were all super-expensive).

However, on one fateful day, I was introduced to the most precious Pomeranian puppy. He fit right in the palm of my hand and curled right up against my stomach to sleep. How on Earth could such a precious little guy be scary?? I fell in love right then and there and called him "Gizmo". He looked like a little bear. It was even cute when he sneezed on me. I needed this little guy in my life.

Unfortunately, he was $600 - something I could not afford. My boyfriend at the time said he wanted him too and we'd try to save up (wishful thinking for a college student). So we went to the local pound to see if anyone had dropped off a Pomeranian.

A Pom we did not find, however, he became smitten with a Spitz mix named Makita. She was beautiful, standing up on her hind legs, leaning on the enclosure to greet everyone. I wasn't convinced. She was bouncy and considerably bigger than a Pomeranian.  The owners of the pet rescue shelter said we could walk her around to get to know her a little. They said they called her "Mickey" or "Nikki" for short.

So off on our walk we went. She was easy to control and was overly curious - wanting to sniff everything and greet everyone, although she didn't answer to "Makita". She seemed to prefer "Nikki". After that, we had an interview, papers were signed and she was ours.

I had to go to work afterwards, so I didn't get to spend much time with her. She liked to chase cats and could even "point" at them. The next day, however, was our first day together. I remember distinctly sitting on the opposite side of the couch from her as we both stared at one another, with a "now what?" look on both of our faces. I know I was thinking it at least...

She was very, very bouncy and loved to play - being only about a year and a half old. I'd take her on walks and she'd run around me to tie me up with the leash. She loved to lick so much that I called her "Lickey Nikki". I hated it... and she knew it, which made her do it all the more. When I sat on the floor in front of the couch, she'd hop up on it, sit behind me and lick the back of my neck. Even to this day, she likes to surprise me by licking my nose when I'm not expecting it.

We began to get closer when I took her to puppy training classes. Even the teacher said we had quite an amazing bond after the class was over.

I even remember the very moment when I knew that my love for her was different than any love I've ever experienced before -  She was staying at my then boyfriend's parents house and somehow got hurt. I wasn't there at the time, but either she tried to escape under the chain link fence or got attacked, but she was covered in gashes. I got the frantic phone call from the Emergency vet that she was in trouble. I zeroed in on her as I entered the Emergency vet's doors and sat on the floor next to her. She was dripping blood everywhere, looking quite morose. I firmly asked the nurses to help her to stop bleeding as we waited, but knew not to yell as to not upset Nikki. Then, me - the girl who was afraid of blood and fainted at the sight of it - scooted closer to Nikki, took her in my arms gently and never broke her gaze. I knew I couldn't freak out because it would freak her out. I stopped thinking about myself and only thought about her. I didn't faint that day.

My Nikki is also plagued with seizures. The vet says they aren't bad and they only happen once in a blue moon. She's only lost consciousness once - during one of the first ones she ever had. I wasn't sure what to do at first and tried to make her lie down. She went out and her legs started to shake. Now I just keep her where she is and just sing to her. Somehow that snaps her out of it. One of her favorite songs is "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas". I started singing it in the car (as it's one of my favorite songs too) on our way to the puppy classes. She loved it when I inserted her name into random songs, so before long, it became "I Want a Nikipotamus for Christmas", hence her nickname. When seizures hit, I also know not to freak out because it will freak her out, although those are the times when I'm reminded the most that she won't always be with me.

I think we've grown the closest after I tossed my ex out. She keeps me safe and I keep her safe from Thunderstorms. People steer clear of me because they are afraid of her and she's a great judge of character. Anyone she doesn't like, I steer clear of - PERIOD. Likewise, anyone that doesn't like her, I also steer clear of.

I may complain about it, but it's kind of nice to wake up in the mornings to see her furry head on the pillow across from me. Even more perfect when she licks my nose. She wakes up every morning with enthusiasm. We can all learn a lesson from that, I think.

We love to play 20 questions. She loves it when I talk to her, so I'll ask her yes/no questions. "Yes" is a wag of the tail (and there's different levels of "yes" - little wag = maybe to full on tail wag - "YESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!")

Anytime I'm not feeling well, she's at my side. She thinks petting her and sitting on top of me will cure any ailment I may have and if it somehow doesn't, then there's no hope for me.

If I'm sad, she's there too. Nothing gets her to come running quicker than when I start to cry (well... maybe food. She's very food-driven). One time I was in a baaaaaaaaad, bad mood - all curled up in a chair and pouting. She came over and sat on me. Grumpy old me tried to push her off and I was annoyed, but she wasn't having it. She pinned me down and licked my face until I couldn't stop laughing. Then she made me take her on a walk, and an extra long walk at that, too. I thanked her for trying to get me out of my mood, but I really think she figured she wouldn't get fed unless she got my grumpy butt out of the chair. ;)

Sometimes, I'll just sit and pet her, telling her how thankful I am to have her in my life and how I think often about how my once -greatest fear is now my greatest love - her!! :)

The other night, I was faced with my now-greatest fear (yep - Fear Conqueresses still have them, believe it or not). I was crying and on the verge of having a panic attack. She came over to me, sat in front of me and looked directly into my eyes.

"What am I going to do, Nikki? I'm so scared", I sobbed uncontrollably.

Her gaze never broke mine and she placed a paw on my arm. Call me crazy, but in an instant, I knew what she was trying to tell me - she (or animals like her) were once my greatest fear until I took a chance and now look what happened - I couldn't imagine my life without her. I smiled and hugged her. It was just the advice I needed to hear at that moment. I stood up, petted her on the head, wiped my eyes and walked out the door with my head held high to face my fear.

In February, Nikki and I will celebrate 10 years together. Her 11th birthday is in August - she's just as bouncy and hyper as the day I met her.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

From Chicken to Roller Coaster Enthusiast Indeed...

I've got a little update on entry, Rule #5 - Hands up! Let go!:
Yesterday, I participated in Coasterthon at SFOG - a fundraiser for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. 44 riders had to raise at least $150 and tried to ride Mindbender for 9 hours.

Together we raised over $14,500 and individually, I raised $253. I was just shy of lasting 2 hours on the ride for a total of 27 laps. Later, when I felt better, I went on to ride Superman, the GA Scorcher and the Cyclone. 30 roller coaster rides in one day total.

Not bad for a girl who once had to be fireman-carried, kicking & screaming onto The Great American Scream Machine. ;)

You know... it's hard to believe I'm even the same person. It's almost unfathomable that there was a time I wasn't absolutely head-over-heels in love with roller coasters; they are just so much apart of my identity now.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Something to Believe In

In a book I was just reading, Divergent, one of the characters mentioned that the fearless ones in their world, the Dauntless, weren't actually without fear but actually just didn't let their fear stop them.
I've been called a Daredevil (and sometimes even crazy) for doing the things that I do. But there's actually very little risk at all in everything I do.

It occurred to me today, while listening to the song I posted below, that there are two different elements at work which allow me to do the things I do.

Number 1 (in more ways than one) - complete love for myself and trust in myself.
I joke around that I'm invincible, but one of the dangerous attitudes in flying is believing that bad things will never happen to you. By all means, be positive in your thinking but also realize that bad things can and do happen Realize that they CAN happen to you and prepare accordingly for them. Ask yourself "if A happens, what is my plan?". Be prepared by believing in yourself and in your training.

Number 2 -  Trust in others.
In these type of situations, one must also put their trust into others and give up at least a little bit of control. Others include other people of course, and also animals and the tools I may use in my endeavors.

The pilot prepares in case of an emergency. He (or she) need to trust in themselves and their training to get out of potentially hazardous situations. Also, he needs to put his trust into that airplane as well. Without either of those, he will not make it. The risk element of flying in an airplane will also go down because of all the time the pilot has put into his training, all of the maintenance that goes into the airplane.

The aerobatic pilot has all of the above and also prepares even more by having a parachute. He must put his trust in that parachute, in addition to everything else a normal pilot must put his trust into.

When I went ziplining, the only thing holding me onto that zipline was my hand weighing down the pulley. I had to have trust in myself and the zipline in order to do it. We were even given a little bit of training before we went up in the trees.

Same thing getting into the water with a beluga whale - I had to trust myself, the trainer and the whale. Again, we were given a little bit of training before we got into the water.

Roller coasters are no different. Have to trust myself that I will be okay, trust the restraints and trust the engineers. I did my own training by watching Youtube videos before I went.

Even walking on a high ropes course - I was attached to the line above me the whole time. Even though it felt like I was free when the rope was slackened, I was firmly attached and not going anywhere. I had to trust myself and that line/hook I was attached to.

Surgery - I had to trust that I was strong enough to make it through and trust the doctor who rooted around near my brain. We did tests ahead of time to make sure I'd be okay and they hooked up tons of monitors/cameras to me to ensure that.

Spartan Race - had to trust in myself enough to know I was going to make it and trust in the others who helped me over obstacles.

There have been many more, although lining them up like this it's easy to see that they aren't that different at all. Just a simple formula of trusting myself and trusting others and like P!nk once aptly sang in one of her songs - "Ever look fear in the face and say 'I just don't care'?"

Maybe, just maybe ... I am much closer than I ever thought of conquering my greatest fear. One that I thought I might never be able to face ever again, even after all of my "fear conquering".

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rule #4.5 - "Never Say Never"

This one isn't really a "no fear" rule, per se...

I just needed to make an update to Rule #4's entry. One year and one week ago, I wrote about finishing the Run For Your Lives obstacle race and how miserable I was. I conquered fears and did something I never thought I could do, but I said I never wanted to do it again. There was oceans and oceans of mud that I couldn't scrub out of my skin for days and I was in the worst pain of my life. Good experience, but never, ever again - I had said.

Six months after, I apparently forgot about the pain and signed up for the Spartan Sprint Race... and still wondered about my sanity. 3 weeks before the race, I thought I may have to back out as I was hit with the worst flu I had ever had and it brought it's friends, bronchitis and a sinus infection, with it. The illnesses kept me in bed for about 5 days and took a week after that to recover. I don't think I've still recovered from the sinus infection. All the strength training I had done in my arms had faded. I didn't know if I could catch up in time.

However, two days ago, on Saturday, I finished my first Spartan. Once again, mud covered every part of my body. I even found some trapped in my belly button. And once again, I was in the worst pain of my life. My legs are a bruise farm and I have teeny-tiny scratches all over. Yesterday, I had trouble keeping food down all day. Whether from the stress of the race or from accidentally swallowing bacteria from the mud, I don't know.

I had just barely finished the race, covered head to toe in mud, wondering if I'd ever get warm again, just starting to notice the pain in areas that I bruised/cut, and ravenously hungry. A person on my team said "See you next year?" and without a second thought or hesitation, I gave a thumb's up. THAT'S insanity right there. Not signing up for the race, but seriously considering doing another one while you are covered in mud and miserable. haha

So far in the running world, everything I've ever said "Nope, I will never do that", I've ended up doing. Started in high school when I had to run 3 miles in PE class. Our teacher was the Track Coach and he wanted me to join track - "Oh no, I will never do that". I joined track - just for one season, I told myself. At the end, he told me I could increase my speed by running longer distances for XC in the off-season - "Oh no, I will never do that" and I signed up the next year, as well as another year of track. My 18th birthday, I ran a 10k and was asked if I wanted to do longer distances. I laughed and said "Oh no, I will never do that. A 10k is long enough for me". The following year, I ran my first half-marathon. After the half, I wondered just how far I could go and did a marathon. Fast forward to more recently, the obstacle race craze hit and I thought "Oh no, I could never do that". Although, it DID look kinda fun... I signed up for the Zombie one last year and said an emphatic "never again" - and here we are. Gotta stop saying "never". Although, it's led to some of the best experiences I've had in life. :)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Rule #5 - Hands up! Let go!

This rule seems pretty self-explanatory, but it's important to realize that you cannot conquer a fear just by doing it. You must also be ready to let go of that fear. Sure, doing it regardless of being afraid IS the first step, but you will never, ever let it go completely until you are ready.

I had always been afraid of roller coasters. I hated the feeling that I might fall out and I hated the feeling of my stomach going up to my throat. Plus, I had motion sickness. Motion sickness and roller coasters aren't a good mix. Never could see how these crazy people liked the feeling of being tossed up, around, over and under, like a piece of laundry in the dryer. However, as I got older, they intrigued me a little bit. I really liked how the Superman ride at Six Flags Over Georgia (SFOG) could simulate what it was like to fly.

I went to Six Flags with some friends and a crush of mine when I was 16/17. I REFUSED to ride any coasters, besides the Mine Train, and of course, all they wanted to ride were coasters. My crush was tired of me not having any fun, so he picked me up, carried me over his shoulder to ride the Scream Machine. I stood in line, watching this monstrosity with wide eyes and counted how many seconds that first drop was. Just 5 seconds; not so bad. I could handle 5 seconds. We got into the car and I pulled the seatbelt as tight as it could go. The ride up the first hill was torture. I just watched us climb higher and higher and felt the car tip at the top of the hill. I screamed, "I HATE YOU, BILLY!!!!" as we plummeted and counted - "onetwothreefourfive". I opened my eyes and we were only halfway through with the first hill. Towards the end, it actually got kind of fun with the bunny hops. Poor guy next to me couldn't hear for the rest of the day because of my screams. After that, I would ride the Scream Machine, since I had been on it once and survived, but I didn't like it and was still afraid of coasters. Perfect example how you can continue to do something, yet be afraid. I wasn't ready to get over the fear and that's okay.

After my sinus surgery, the doctor told me that I wasn't able to go swimming, flying or riding upside on roller coasters for 3 months post-op. No problem - I hated roller coasters, usually only flew in December when I visited my parents for Christmas and it was April - still a little cold for swimming. Ironically enough, I took his words to heart and ended up doing all three... just because I could. In July of that year, I bought a season pass to White Water and went every weekend until they closed for fall. A year later, I rode all of the roller coasters at SFOG. A month after that, I took my first ever flight lesson. Odd how things end up, huh? Life's cool like that sometimes.

Anyways, back to roller coasters. It had danced in my head ever since I started the resolution to do things I was afraid of, but couldn't make myself act on it. My palms sweated at the very mention of them. After the doctor brought it up, I thought "why not?". I ended up planning a celebration for getting well again at SFOG to celebrate. Between scheduling and other delays (yes, I even admit chickening out), it kept getting put off until their season was over. I was determined not to let the next season pass without conquering this.

I set a date on my calendar. It wasn't set in stone, as schedules can and do change, but it became more physical at that point. It became more of a reality. It was something I could work towards and prepare myself for. It sounds silly, but one of the things I'd do was go on YouTube and watch videos of the coasters I had planned to ride. And yes, at first, it wasn't my plan to ride them all. I had picked 4 I wanted to conquer - Cyclone, Mindbender, Batman and Superman. It made the goal seem so much easier. The videos made my heart race and my palms sweaty, but I played them over and over and over until I knew every twist and turn of them.

I also had motion sickness to deal with, so I armed myself with ginger ale and non-drowsy Dramamine. The plan was to take one pill of Dramamine, and another one in my pocket if I needed it. I'd take two maximum this time, go down to one the next two trips and then finally none at all. I figured that by doing so, I could trick my body into thinking that I didn't have motion sickness.

Finally the big day arrived. I was excited to get this fear out of my system. As one friend remarked, "How funny would it be to go from being afraid to turning a 180 to becoming a roller coaster enthusiast?". I laughed at the irony. He was joking, but at the same time, said he was somewhat serious. He had a feeling I'd love them.

We got to the park. As we drove into the parking lot, the Batman ride loomed over us. My stomach sank into my shoes. What have I done? Could I really do this? Youtube was one thing, but these coasters are monstrous! What if I throw up in front of my friends? What if I don't make it through my goal?

My two friends and I stood in the parking lot, applying sunscreen. I watched some of the rides that I was able to see from that point and felt the roar of the coaster train in my very bones. I laughed, saying how the roar of the coaster sounded much like the roar of a F-18 jet. One of my friends jumped up and down, all excited, because he was sure that was a sign I'd like roller coasters because of my love for airplanes. We walked towards the front gates, passing two other coasters on the way. With each step I took, I kept thinking, "What have I done?". I wanted to turn back. My palms sweated and my heart raced. There was no way I could do this. Those monster coasters were HUGE and dwarfed me in comparison. I thought about my goal. I thought about how I wanted to get over my fear. I thought about how maybe my friend was right and I'd become a roller coaster enthusiast. My friends had already said that they wouldn't care if I got sick to my stomach and more than likely, it wouldn't happen. I felt a bit better, and marched towards the gates, questioning my sanity all along the way. I thought about how good I'd feel once I conquered my goal.

We entered the gates. The plan of action was to start small - we'd begin with the Cyclone. No loops, just hills. I thought I could handle that. Although my palms did not stop sweating the entire time I was in line. I watched car after car go through the tracks with wide eyes. That hill looked much smaller on Youtube and still didn't even seem all that small on there. I must be crazy, I must be out of my mind. I tried to refocus, I tried thinking about how this is something I wanted to do, something I wanted to conquer. Besides, if I didn't like it, all I needed to do was hold on and then I'd have 3 more coasters to go after this. That didn't seem so bad. I can do this, I can do this, I can do this. All I need to do is sit there and hold on; the coaster does the rest.

Finally it was our turn. I shook getting into the train and did breathing exercises as we slowly inched our way up the first hill. Omigod,omigod, the drop is coming, thedropiscoming!!!! I struggled to hold onto the bar in front of me, but was difficult as my sweaty hands had made it slippery. Did I mention we were riding in the first row? We reached the top of the hill and overlooked the drop. I repositioned my hands into a deathgrip that only a crowbar could remove, and squeezed by eyes shut. As we plummeted, I let loose a scream that someone could easily mistake for a warning siren. I actually had many of those screams, but began to relax a little as the ride wore down (and consequently as the drops got shallower and shallower as well). I got off a little bruised and battered, as Cyclone's an old wooden coaster. It knocks you around quite a bit. I was still shaking and not liking coasters anymore than I arrived. I was pleased I had gone through with it (and kept my lunch!), but was disappointed that I was not in love with the coasters.

Next on the list was the Mindbender. It would be my first upside down coaster EVER. I was a little bit excited and wondering if the adrenaline rush would kick in for this one. We were seated in the first row again and I'll admit I shook a little going up the first hill, although tried to focus on my breathing. We came around the bend and went into the drop, which would go into the first loop. I did my best impression of the siren again on the way down and all through the ride in fact. The loop was so quick, that I barely had time to register that I was indeed upside down and had no idea how high we went. We zoomed through and did our next loop. Something began to stir within me. Those loops. Feeling those G's. The adrenaline. Oh, the adrenaline coursing through my veins! The train came to an abrupt stop and I bounced out. I was still shaking, but with a smile on my face! I had done it! I was two for two, with two left to go, and had really enjoyed this coaster.

Conquering the Mindbender!!

We made our way to Superman: Ultimate Flight. I knew I was ready to feel the sensation of flying! But on the way there, one of my friends stopped in front of the Ninja. Nuh uh - No way, no how. This one was not on my list and there was NO WAY I was ready for a coaster like this one after just going on my first upside down coaster. I stood and watched it glide smoothly across the track. But maybe it was like the last one - I just needed to hold on and scream...

So onwards we went to conquer the Ninja. We slipped into the first car and the harnesses came down. It was a bit disconcerting because the harness wouldn't come down all the way. I had about 3 inches of daylight between my shoulder and the harness. Oh well, no big deal, right? WRONG. Ninja karate chopped my little rear-end and tossed me every which way. I stumbled off of that ride, coming close to tossing my cookies and had to take another Dramamine. We had to take a break for lunch. I figured with maybe a little walking around and getting re hydrated might help. It did.

Afterwards, we went on to see if I was David enough to conquer Goliath. I shook while standing in line. Before my little venture, I had watched this online on Youtube. The first drop seemed pretty bad, but it looked fun after that. It seemed MUCH bigger walking up to it though. Didn't help that the restraints on it were next to nothing. I HATED it! Darn restraint wouldn't come down all the way, so I got TONS of airtime, which I HATED. I shook like a leaf in a hurricane coming off of the ride, but regardless, I still had finished it. Two coasters remaining.

Next stop: Superman. My favorite by far. I loved it just like I thought I would and perhaps even a little more. It also produced one of my favorite pictures ever. I'm clinging on for dear life with my mouth open like a brook trout, screaming my lungs out. However, I see the traces of a smile in there, too, so I think it was a scream of fun.

Superman really did make me feel like I was flying and I got a HUGE shot of adrenaline. I bounced off that ride with a crazed look in my eyes, knowing then and there that I had fallen for roller coasters! The rush of adrenaline was better than any amount of fear. That's the key that I've mentioned before - you just need to find something you love and once that love fills up, there will be no room left for fear!

I was also excited at this point because we just had ONE more coaster to go and I hadn't gotten sick! Just one more and I would have accomplished my goal! That in itself it a pretty big deal.

The sun was setting and the park was about to close, so we ran to get to Batman in time. We were getting seated in the car when it hit park closing time. I couldn't see where we were going, as it was pitch black outside (and consequently I wasn't wearing my glasses), but I was still riding off my high from Superman and knowing that I would complete my goal that day.

I was tired, exhausted, and my hair was an absolute mess, but I did it! I conquered the coasters at Six Flags!!! There was only one that remained that I didn't ride that day. And as I rationalized it, it would be a shame to have only one coaster that I had no conquered, right?

So, I went on to do just that. I bought myself a Season Pass and went back again to conquer the GA Scorcher. I knew I had to do it soon because my record of conquering all of the coasters would vanish, as they were adding the Daredevil Dive. The GA Scorcher was a stand-up coaster and I wasn't too sure about it, but it was like all the rest - just hold on and scream. Plus, I found once I got on, that there was a bicycle seat you could kind of sit on, so I did. The restraint was a harness with a seat belt to hold it down, just in case. The train took off and with each loop, I would go forwards and backwards. So much so that I felt like I was going to fall out. My screams were blood-curdling. I hated that ride.

It wasn't until I rode it a second time on a later visit that I learned what happened the first time. Seems that the harness didn't lock into place and was ONLY held on by the safety belt. Kinda freaky, huh? The second time I rode the Scorcher, I didn't move an inch.

The time I went back to ride the Scorcher, some of the boys that were with me wanted to ride Goliath. Now, you remember my last experience with it and I wasn't too pleased. I really never wanted to see that ride again. But at this point, I had conquered all of the rides and couldn't back out. It'd be okay, just hold on and scream. It'll be over with soon.

I started shaking while going up the hill, although I was able to appreciate the heights this time and enjoyed the view of Atlanta while going up the hill. While shaking, I had a conversation with myself and it went like this:

"Heather, what are you so afraid of?"
"The drop. I hate the feeling of dropping when we plummet down a hill."
There was a pause and I could see myself smirking in my mind's eye.
"Hate to break it to ya, but you ARE going to go down that hill."
Odd, but I hadn't thought about that. Okay, point taken. No need to be afraid of something that was inevitable.
"What else are you afraid of?"
"I'm afraid of getting airtime. These restraints were built for a bigger person than me. I always get airtime and feel like I'm going to fall off."
"Again, let me reassure you: you ARE going to get airtime. No need to be afraid. It's going to happen."
Somehow knowing something was bound to happen actually did reassure me rather than wasting energy by being afraid that it would happen.
My rational side continued: "Do me a favor and wiggle the restraint"
I tried and it wouldn't budge.
"So even if you are going to move around and get airtime, that restraint isn't going anywhere. It's locked. So let go, no need for you to hold on. Hands up and enjoy the ride."

We had reached the top of the hill and my thoughts made sense. I took a deep breath, released it and shot my hands up in the air. We did drop, just like I thought we would. And I did get airtime, just like I thought I would. But this time, something had changed - The drop and the airtime were euphoric and I felt free. It was uncomfy to muckle on with dear life when nothing I could have done would prevent that drop or prevent me from getting airtime. Instead, in that moment of going up the hill, I learned that it was better to let go and go with the flow. Quite a nice analogy for life as well- "Hands up! Let go!".

Adrenaline came rushing back to me and I bounced off that ride like I was reborn. To this day, Goliath is my second favorite coaster at SFOG, tied with Mindbender.

Finally, Daredevil Dive opened up on May 31, 2011. It was the first EuroFighter coaster and I wasn't thrilled about that drop. 100ft, 95 degree angle. But it was the only one left in the park that I hadn't ridden on. I couldn't let one dinky coaster ruin my record. But geez, did my legs shake when I stood before it and looked up:

I tried staying in the present and not worrying about this coaster just yet. I built up more time on the other coasters. I was especially nervous this time because it was my first time at the park going without any Dramamine. On the way to the park, I held the bottle in my hand and was turning it over nervously. One turn, I noticed the expiration date on the bottom and noticed it was a few years past that date. It occurred to me that perhaps the medicine wasn't working as well as I thought it was all along and it had been (mostly) me who controlled my own motion sickness. So I didn't take one this time.

Finally, it was time to go to the Daredevil. Just hold on and scream, that's all I need to do.

Well, surprise - the line was so long that we were only able to get an arm stamp with our time to ride on it. We went up about noon and the time stamp was for 7pm. 7 hours, I can do this. That's enough time.

7pm rolled around and I almost didn't want to get on the ride. So what if I didn't ride all of the coasters? That's a HUGE drop!!! With barely a restraint to hold you in the seat! But the whole day had been a disappointment - all of the adrenaline rushes I used to get on coasters had gone away. My body was getting used to them and the only cure was to go on a coaster I hadn't experienced yet. Hmm...adrenaline rush might be worth it...

We stood in line and I was shaking in my boots. I can do this, I can do this. We got into the car and I was happy that the restraint was more than it looked, but my heart was beating out of my chest and I was trying to remember how to breathe.

I must say it was interesting going up that sharp incline. All you could see was the blue sky and it was quite peaceful. I closed my eyes the higher we got because I knew what was coming next. it gave a false sense of security when I felt the car even out on top of the hill. I couldn't even open my eyes and I just kept thinking, "ohgodohgodohgod". We sat up there for an ungodly amount of time and I just wanted it to get it over with already. Finally, we pitched down and we were off and flying. I barely felt the drop down and I maintain that the 200ft, 60 degree drop from Goliath was worse. The rest of the ride was fantastic and I bounced off of that ride like a gerbil on speed. It was blissful.

So that's basically how a chicken became a roller coaster enthusiast. Turns out my friend was right all along. Any time any of my friends think of coasters, they think of me. Me. The chicken that had to be fireman-carried over someone's shoulder, kicking & screaming onto the Scream Machine. Me. It seemed so odd at first. Although now, riding roller coasters is one of my favorite things to do and I wouldn't have never known how much I'd love them unless I had taken a chance and stepped out of my comfort zone.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rule #4 - "You will never know unless you try"

'To strive, to think, to find and not to yield.'

"I've been thinking about that poem a lot lately. And I think what it says is that while it's tempting to play it safe, the more we are willing to risk the more alive we are. In the end what we regret more are the chances we never took."

The first line is from a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. The paragraph referring to it was a quote I heard on the final episode of Frasier. To me, I think the Tennyson quote sums up the meaning of life quite nicely, although Frasier's quote also articulates my adventures yesterday quite nicely.

My friend Jen and I "ran" the Zombie 5k yesterday. I say "ran" because the whole course was full of mud, so not much running was had. It was also full of zombies and obstacles. The race was easily comparable to the marathon I ran 11 years ago: tough as nails, designed to mess with your head and brings you to the point of utter exhaustion, so much so that you don't have enough energy to have a sense of accomplishment. We had the worst time in the history of 5k's and never really want to see mud ever again, but we had fun.

This falls into the realm of 'fear conquering' because I was quite nervous before the race. I had thought one of the obstacles would have been:

And although that wasn't apart of this particular course, this was:

Although, I remember it being MUCH taller than the one pictured. Could be because I ran without my glasses. Could be because I'm afraid of heights. Either way, I made it over and am the most proud of making it over something like this. I climbed up okay and then sat on the top, not wanting to leave. It took my friend and some strangers telling me where to put my feet in order for me to come back down. I had to lay down on the bar on the top, muckle (spell check tells me this isn't a word. It means "to hold onto for dear life") onto it like it was a stuffed animal and swing my legs over. The point is that I made it over; fear be damned.

The quote I posted in the beginning of this entry struck a chord with me because as much as I was miserable yesterday, as much as I hurt today, as much as I never want to have that experience ever again, life is about taking chances and trying new things. It was highly uncomfortable and tested my determination to the limits... and beyond, yet I finished anyway. I can say that I feel very alive today and as I think back about all of the amazing experiences I've had lately, I think about just how amazing life is. It's about trying new things and stepping out of your comfort zone. Now you don't have to run around in the mud in order to step out of your comfort zone. That, I think, takes a little bit of insanity as well! (joking...mostly). But if I hadn't stepped out of my comfort zone, I wouldn't have gotten to know myself, I wouldn't have felt like I got to experience life to fullest, and I wouldn't have found some things that I really love.

Now I can say I don't love (or even remotely like) mud races and I will probably never do one again. That's okay! You don't have to love every new thing you do - just as long as you took the initiative to try it. But you will never know until you try. (That last line courtesy of my Dad, who used to tell me that all the time growing up. Thanks Dad!)

I never thought I'd like hockey until I went to a game. I thought I hated roller coasters until I rode them. I never thought I could fly a plane until I did it. I never thought I could be co-ordinated enough to do ballet and would fall over if I ever tried. A year later of ballet lessons, and I haven't fallen once. These four things I not only found out I liked, but I love them and they are apart of me I never knew was there.

 And I never would have known just what was missing from my life unless I had tried first. Sometimes in life, you serendipitously fall ass-backwards into things. Sometimes things just fall into your lap. But the best things - I am learning now - are the things that you took the initiative and courage to chase after and follow, just to see how far down the rabbit hole goes.