I find myself, for the second time in as many posts, thinking about and quoting the movie "Parenthood". This movie is brilliant, as it portrays family life and just plain life in general. Not with an overly complex story line, but with sheer simplicity. After almost the entire movie has played out with its brilliant interweaving of plots involving one extended family, the great-grandma (who is perceived by the other characters throughout the story as being somewhat batty and senile), declares that she loves amusement parks, and in particular, she loves the roller coaster because of all of the incredible highs and lows. She says "some people prefer the merry go round. What's exciting about that?" This, of course, is an amazingly accurate analogy of life and the way that we all choose to live our respective lives.
I am all for buying the ticket for the roller coaster, standing in line to get on, and enjoying the ride - the tingle in the pit of my stomach as the coaster ascends, the breathless fear as it descends in a rush, and the exhilaration as it rushes around corners and sometimes even flies upside down in corkscrews. Life, however is a bit more complex than just choosing between the roller coaster and the merry go round. We have to make choices about the people we invite to take the ride with us. We also have to realize that some people choose to ride the roller coaster when they really should be on the merry go round - and vice versa. Some people are forced to ride the merry go round when they would much rather be on the roller coaster - and vice versa. People end up on the "wrong ride" for all sorts of reasons.
How do we react when we encounter these people? Our reactions, or lack thereof, are what can ultimately determine the quality of our own ride. The thing is.... it's all about the choices that each of us make - not just the choice of which ride to get on, but what to do once we're on the ride. Every roller coaster connoisseur knows that riding in the front car offers a whole different experience than that of riding in the middle or back cars. Even the merry go round has horses that go up and down and horses that remain stable. The other choice we have to make is this - who are we going to invite onto the ride with us? Sometimes even the people we care about the most belong on the other ride - but in the amusement park known as life, we have the ability to ride different rides and meet up at the game arcade after an hour or two.
Probably the worst scenario is when you are on the ride that is perfect for you, but you are stuck dealing with someone who thinks that they are on the right ride when they really are not. If you are someone who loves the roller coaster, you probably don't want the ride to stop midway and get stuck at the bottom of the hill. But.... that's exactly what happens when you are in this scenario. People who are part of our lives who are dragging us down will inevitably keep us at the bottom of the hill. Wouldn't it be great if we could just pitch them over the side? Sometimes we can...... <sigh>..... usually we cannot. When this happens, it is up to us to either allow these people to drag us down or to rise above them. How do we rise above them? By focusing on life at the top of the hill. If you close your eyes, and concentrate, what are your "top of the hill" experiences? Your wedding, the birth of your children or grandchildren - and all of their milestones, that excitement you feel as you line up and process into a concert venue - the feeling of an amazing concert performance when you and the conductor are of one mind and voice, or that feeling of satisfaction and that giddy high following that kind of performance. How about just being with family and friends who elevate your mind and spirit.
Sometimes nature will take its course, and the person or persons who are keeping you at the bottom of the hill will change rides of their own accord. Sometimes they will adapt to the ride they are on. And yes, sometimes the other people on the ride will oust the person from the ride for his or her own good. But in the end, we make choices - and we can choose to allow these people to drag us down - or not. We must always remember that there are people who were meant to be on that roller coaster with us - people who will ride that ride with us to the bitter end, sharing the incredible highs and lows. Focusing on these people can sometimes help us gain clarity to deal with the others - if not clarity, they at least make us feel like the ride is worthwhile taking - no matter where it takes us.
Great Grandma's amusement park musings brought difference reactions from the husband and wife (played amazingly by Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen). Steve Martin's character goes on and on about what a batty dim-wit Great Grandma is. Mary Steenburgen's character simply says "I think she's a genius." I agree with Mary Steenburgen's character.