Roller Coasters

I rode the roller coaster again:  not the kind I like in parks, but the kind I hate in my daily life.  Good and bad, up and down, everybody deals with it in life.  The trick to managing an unwanted roller coaster ride is to keep perspective and create a funny image to go with it.

My latest roller coaster:  I was in San Francisco for a week of long days and poor sleep.  Finally back at home, I awoke Saturday feeling fantastic.  Not only that, but rain had cleaned the air and washed the trees and flowers.  Everything sparkled.  I took Troy for a walk, making sure to walk slowly and for only ten minutes–just long enough to feel that good air all the way to the bottom of my lungs and to marvel at the blue sky above the mountains.  Back home, I behaved:  I read the paper and resisted doing house projects so I could recover from the walk.  I felt great and was not going to blow it! 

I took Abbey for the same little walk.  Every cell in my body felt happy. Oops. Lost in joy, I walked too fast up the hill and kept going when I knew I should have stopped.  I just didn’t want to face reality. Wrong decision!  It took hours to recover from that little mistake.  The roller coaster changed my plans for the day. Keep perspective, Barbara:  now you have a good reason to watch football and read a mystery instead of doing laundry.

While I was resting on the sofa, the roller coaster hit a vortex curve.  Here’s background for those unfamiliar with CHF:  Heart failure causes fluids to build up through-out the body, most visibly in the ankles and fingers, but in the lungs and other organs, too.  This happens when the heart isn’t pumping effectively enough and is part of what makes CHF so dangerous.  Most CHF patients take medication to compensate.  My CHF is sufficiently under control that I usually don’t need those meds.  I forgot to take them to San Francisco.  By the time I came home, I had retained six pounds of extra fluids, equal to a gallon of water.  During my wonderful night’s sleep, my heart recovered enough that I lost all six pounds of fluid in three hours on Saturday afternoon.  It felt like intestinal flu. I can’t count the times I ran to the bathroom.  What a vortex!  Damn, I hate this roller coaster.

Keep perspective, Barbara:  it’s good news my heart’s rested.  Getting these nasty fluids out of my system is essential to long-term health.  In two more hours I’ll be able to zip my jeans again and feel comfortable in them.  It’s not flu, so it will only last a little longer, isn’t contagious and I can still go to the party tonight.  No one will know I spent part of my afternoon recovering from walking my dog and was in agony on the bathroom floor for the rest of it.  Hooray for make-up and a good haircut. Perspective, Barbara, it’s all about perspective.

I went to the party, and having just lost six pounds, ate lots of appetizers.  Perspective!  I loved being with the people at this party and had such a good time that I wore myself out again!  Dang.  Thank goodness Mark was driving or we might not have made it home.  Back on the roller coaster again, I needed something to bring the car into the station and slow down for the night on a level surface.  I watched an episode of Law and Order where the bad folks are punished, the nuances of life addressed, and justice served—all within 60 minutes. Worked for me.  On that note, I went to bed.  Perspective.

I’m writing this on Sunday and feel better this morning.  I’m going to church in a few minutes where I can sit side-by-side with other people who are on the roller coaster and be surrounded by the great invisible cloud of earlier generations who rode the roller coasters of their life with faith and trust.  I want to feel our shared presence on that roller coaster and know that somehow we make it through together.

A weird image just came to mind.  I’ll share it with you because I’m certainly not going to share it in church this morning.  Remember how, when riding a roller coaster, your fanny’s on the seat part of the time, and part of the time you’re almost standing?  In church, we do lots of standing and sitting, too.  This morning when I’m standing up and sitting down at all the right times, I’m going to imagine that we’re all on a roller coaster together, and that’s why we’re standing up and sitting down in unison.  God’s on that coaster with us–standing and sitting as we are, but also serving as the safety bar, the cushion on which we rest, and the station into which we return at the end of the ride.  I can’t keep myself from smiling as I write these crazy words.  I’ll have fun in church today, smiling my way through worship as we stand up and sit down.  A new perspective granted by the gift of imagination.

Learning:  Perspective and imagination can keep you going.

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