Reprinted from February 29, 2008
I love this picture. I love it on several different levels. It just this second occurred to me, for example, that I’ve never seen any Benedictines on a roller coaster. There isn’t much “ora et labora” in an amusement park. ‘Letting go’ is a concept that Buddhists ‘get’ immediately, viewing attachment as the source of suffering. I love this picture, too, because it reminds me of what my friend Dana says about faith. Dana has had a really, really hard year. She has had loss compounded upon loss for months. She has come into the rooms and cried on dozens of occasions. She has leaned on the group and on the principles and on the people who love her and she has stayed sober. Things are finally looking up in Dana’s world and the other day Dana said that being sober is like being on a roller coaster. “I’m finally getting back to the fun part where you throw your hands in the air and yell ‘weeeeeee’!”
Life really is like that. It is for me anyway. It’s like I’ve been on this really scary roller coaster for years and I’ve been hanging on to the side of the car. Every time the car starts rolling down again I grip tighter and scream all the way down. When I get to the bottom of that hill I loosen my grip a little and congratulate myself on having hung on so well, having navigated the descent so expertly. Then the whole thing started all over again. If the roller coaster would just stop and I could get off then everything would be fine. It isn’t like that, though. As long as I’m breathing I stay on the ride.
Coming to believe that there is a power greater than myself and making a decision to turn my will and life over to it was like realizing that there is a track beneath the car and a safety bar holding me in. I can see the track. I can feel the safety bar. But haven’t I done very well to hang on to the edge of the car? Couldn’t this flimsy thing collapse under me at any moment? I suppose it could. But isn’t acting in faith acting with the belief in something about which doubt is possible? I’ve slowly been able to stop gripping the side of the car. I’ve realized that if there were a real catastrophe that holding on to the car wouldn’t save me anyway.
Now I pause. I breathe. I pray. I tell people how afraid I am. I try to let go. I try to gain faith by acting in faith. I still scream when the car is barreling down the hill. I do. But more and more I’m screaming with my arms in the air. More and more I try to let myself enjoy the ride. Sometimes I even think about getting on a bigger roller coaster.