« | Archives | »

The Wilder Rides of Life

March '09

I don’t know about you, but roller coaster rides have never been a favored pastime of mine. I managed to avoid them until college, when to impress a date, I said, “yes” to his invitation for a ride on one. By the third down slide, words came out of my mouth that I had never uttered before. My date didn‘t ask me to go for another ride and I have stayed away from roller coasters ever since.

You may love roller coasters with their breath-stopping up’s, down’s and around’s. In which case, you may be weathering recent events with aplomb. But the up’s and down’s we’ve been experiencing of late recall that stomach-lurching roller coaster ride for me and feel like a sizable, sea change as well.

Giant transitions like this one, and the one that occurs at midlife, evoke confusion, disorientation and frustration in many of us. You want affairs to be different, but you cannot see a clear path ahead. Worst of all, things are happening over which you have no control. Frankly, that scares the devil out of most folks.

Perhaps, because I’m an instinctive “toe-in-the-water” kind of gal, I have been thrust into some exotic adventures. I say “thrust” because I rarely chose such rides consciously. One of the wildest occurred on the Alpine Slide Ride in Winter Park, Colorado, one summer afternoon. It had taken me three days to summon up the courage to try the Slide. My passion for heights and spectacular views finally won out over my aversion to its sinister, roller-coaster looks.

As I headed up the mountain in the gondola, I told a friend beside me that I would take the “slow side” down and meet him at the bottom. We parted company as he opted for the “fast side.” I hopped into my sled, or more accurately, slowly maneuvered myself onto the seat in the sled. I listened carefully to a young man’s instructions on how to control it and was relieved to learn I could slow it down and even stop it, by applying the brakes. On a count of three, he let go of the sled and it began to rain softly.

Off I went, braking before the first curve, while I held my breath. By the second curve, I was breathing again and marveled at the gorgeous view from my height of 3000 feet above the base and even admired the tiny, white, alpine flowers scattered in the crevices of the ledge beside me. I braked for the third curve, but my sled did not slow down this time.

In fact my speed was increasing, as the rain grew stronger and stronger. When I finally comprehended that my brakes no longer worked, I pictured a painful death, as my sled catapulted out of the slide and smashed onto the ledge. (I later learned my brakes had failed because the rainwater had eliminated the friction.)

On the next curve, my sled jumped out of the slide, as I had imagined, but miraculously left me behind, lying on my back – body surfing down the slide at an alarming rate. The increasing moisture of the pelting rain and, now hail, propelled me even faster. The next curve flipped me over onto my stomach and my eyes closed.

Out of the darkness, a calm inner voice said, “You can do this.” Hmmm… This encouragement was followed by a clear command from my yoga teacher, “Focus on your breathing.” I followed this directive immediately, and considered the possibility that I might actually make it to the bottom.

After schussing down the slide for 2000 more feet at about 30 mph, I reached the end as my feet hit a sandbag. Other than a few scrapes and bruises, I was in “good shape” according to a doctor who checked me out later. He had seen my wild ride down the mountain and remarked that I was “very fortunate to have made it in one piece.”

My reaction to this experience was different from my response to my roller-coaster ride. I went back on the slide a few days later – just to prove that I could do it. This time I traversed it more slowly than the oldest grandmother, but down I went.

Years later, I still treasure the words of those life-saving voices inside my head. They seem relevant to the gyrating world of today and to navigating the sea change that occurs at midlife. I commend them to you: “You can do it; focus on your breathing!”

What are your mantras for living through challenging times? I’d like to hear them.

Happy Spring,

Get a free consultation with Bonnie LeonardP.S. If you’d like to discover how the coaching structure can empower you to become “more” of who you are, while navigating the turbulent midlife transition, you can contact me for a free consultation.


  1. Kay Flynn said on March 29, 2009:

    Bonnie – What a story!
    Yes, I guess I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under
    me during this economic crisis. However, I am an optimist and therefore think all will get better!!! Hopefully I am not on a ship of fools!

  2. Marna Krajeski said on March 29, 2009:

    “All is well. I’m trusting.”
    “She knows as she goes.”

  3. Bonnie said on March 29, 2009:

    If you are, Kay, a lot of us are with you!

  4. Bonnie said on March 29, 2009:

    These are great, Marna; I’m adding them to my repertoire!

  5. Kit Weston said on March 29, 2009:

    I trust that I signed up to be alive during this lifetime–and specifically during this period in history–just to have the opportunity to experience it. Like a number of situations we find ourselves in, this will eventually be one of those times it is good to look back on. I look forward to that feeling–so, I am glad I am busy creating it right now. 🙂

  6. Janette Young said on March 29, 2009:

    My mantra is “Let Go and Let God” “Breathe”

  7. Bonnie said on March 30, 2009:

    Hi Kit! You go, girl!

  8. Bonnie said on March 30, 2009:

    Thanks, Janette! More mantras – I love it!

  9. Roberta Taylor said on March 30, 2009:

    Times of great change are also times of great opportunity. But you must be open to seeing those opportunities, rather than mourning the past.

  10. Bonnie said on March 30, 2009:

    Hi Roberta! Fun to think of hunting for those glints of opportunity.

  11. Jacqueline Gildersleeve said on April 1, 2009:

    Bonnie, your newletter appeared today and I am thilled to be active again. They are not to be missed.JMG

Leave a comment