The thrill ride begins with a jolt. It’s a combination of wooden rollercoaster and spinning teacups. It quickly reaches that not-so-sweet spot between gravity letting go and centrifugal force taking over. And the wooden rails are rotted and the teacups are cracked. And then the sound system cuts in and out with static and white noise and metallic clanging, jungle drums and jumbled voices. I see my arms, but they aren’t mine. My legs disconnect. My breathing stops, unable to resume. My heart is punched and crushed somewhere below my chest.
I am walking the dog. In my own neighborhood. In the middle of the street. I am having a panic attack. And I am, beyond all else, incredibly angry. Scared and wretched and angry. I want to get off this ride. But the metal bars keep me pinned inside. I want to sit down. But I don’t know which way is down. I might fall down. Or I might fall up. I will surely slide through the cracks and get splinters in my hands.
And then the thought edges and sidles into my consciousness … what will happen if I let go? Seriously. What will happen if I just let go? What if I decided to ride this thing as if it really were a thrill ride? It’s a thin gray line between fear and thrill, after all. What if I envision this paralytic feeling as stage fright and this is performance art? What if I break into song and dance? The dog won’t care. Nobody is really watching … unless I believe they are … out there in the dark, beyond the footlights. What if I actually embrace this experience?
I’m not sure about this. But I suddenly am thinking about my pink bathroom. My 1950s, pink, original-tile bathroom. I decided to embrace that in all its quirky, undeniable, pinkyness. To actually celebrate its pinkness. I hand-painted black-and-white checkerboard squares all around its edges – a design that says “look at me … come dance with me.” I hung fancy-framed wondrous pictures on its walls – pictures that enhance and reflect its almost sepia tonality. And I fluffed its towels and flooded it with light.
Perhaps that’s what we should do with all our oddities and imperfect things. Perhaps we are meant to find their celebration points.
Without this overly-tuned sensitivity that sometimes sucks away my breath and wellbeing, I probably wouldn’t be as empathetic to horses or able to read a dog or experience the feelings and energies of people who pass through me on the street and in my life. I suspect I wouldn’t feel as intensely the world at large in any form – its colors and music, its seasons and phases of the moon.
I was also told (by someone who knows about these things) that those of us prone to panic attacks are typically the calmest in actual crisis situations. We somehow are able to soothe others around us and lead the way to the top of the ship, up into the air, out of the fire, forward to safety. I find that an oddly reassuring realization, another point to celebrate.
There may even be an actual genetic connection between acute anxiety and creativity. As Nietzche believed: “One must have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” A compelling thought, a possibility to embrace.
I know there are many reluctant rollercoaster riders among us. And we search in very real desperation for ways to cope and overcome, to get through and work around and power on. But I suspect, in the end, we have been given our sensitivities for a reason, perhaps as an unwrapped gift. Perhaps we are meant to find ways to paint it pink and celebrate it. Perhaps we are meant to simply grab hold and ride.
© Marti Healy 2018