I used to love them. Pete and I were at Disney eons ago and I sort of tricked him into going on Space Mountain – by tricked I mean, he didn’t know what the ride was and I left out details while we stood on line. And then the moment of truth came when he realized he was getting into a little cart that not only was on rails but the rails were headed into the dark. He tells this story way better than I ever will. The bottom line for me was that he stayed on the roller coaster with me… that day and all the days that followed.
It has come to my attention recently that I don’t like roller coasters anymore. It seems like the average adult body would natural reject something that violent – aging knees gripping for something steady, backs that go out of line a lot easier than when we were younger and then there’s the lurching ups and downs of a stomach that knows there will be consequences to such ups and downs. I prefer to stay off roller coasters.
But the ride of life? The roller coaster of life? We don’t get to choose the ups and downs. I’ve been meditating on a Frederich Buechner quote this week, “Here is the world. Beautiful and Terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid.” 13 words. He said all of that in just 13 words.
Here is the world – up and down we will go. Sometimes as expected but most of the time unexpected. Our knees will grip, our backs will bend and our stomachs will lurch. Beautiful and Terrible things will happen.
Recently, a truly beautiful thing has happened for me. I’ve met a beautiful, gentle man. And with him came a healthy amount of emotions. Expectation. Elation. Delight. Comfort. Fear. Panic. Wonder.
My heart was crowded for the first couple weeks. All of these emotions had begun to mingle around in the living room of my heart, mingle with all the other emotions that had already made a home there. Contentment. Happiness. Sadness. Anxiety. Depression. Joy. Full joy from a life that has been filled from having been loved and having loved. My heart was crowded.
Over time, I’ve rearranged or redecorated a bit to accommodate the new emotions that are steadily mingling with the old ones. The crowded feeling has subsided – to keep the metaphor of my heart as a living room, it is as if the emotions have stopped their initial “mingling, small talk” with one another and now have sat down to have full on conversations. And those conversations sometimes create a roller coaster. And again, I used to love them. Used to.
The contentment of who I have become is discussing the differences and similarities of the comfort I am beginning to feel. The anxiety that is grief is offering explanation to the new fear I feel as I open my heart again. The joy that is true in my heart is comparing notes with the wonder that has just entered the room. Up and down. Up and down.
These conversations are rich and complex. I am not 24 anymore, like I was when I met Pete. I cannot un-see the terrible things that can happen in this world. Ernest Hemingway said it this way, “This world will break all of us. Some will become strong in the broken places.” Terrible things can happen. Terrible things will happen. My heart has broken in so many places. And while I want to see the light that the cracks lets in, more often than not, I just see a mangled heart. And this mangled heart is what I’m left with. It is not a “new, young, vibrant, ready-for-the-roller-coaster kind of heart” anymore. It is a fragile, bruised piece of flesh that mostly wishes the roller coasters of life can be avoided. But at the same time, my heart has hard earned resilience for what may come. So… to this beautiful, terrible world, I say, “Bring it. Apparently there is room for you in my heart.”
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