Feeling Alive

It all started with the county fair beer garden. No big thing, really, just a few friends, meeting up for a drink or two one evening, enjoying the fair while it was in town. Seeing as how we are elderly now, inside the beer garden was far to loud for conversation, so we found ourselves sitting outside, within view of the midway.

Somehow the topic of rides came up, and I shared an unfortunate story about myself and the zipper.  It involved pee. In my pants. AHEM. [Edited to add: this unfortunate experience happened when I was very young. High school or early college. A lifetime ago, really.] Anyway. The next thing I knew, someone (supposedly moi, but I don’t remember actually proposing the idea) suggested the four of us should go ride the zipper. Did that sink in? Ride. The. Zipper. RIDE IT. THE ZIPPER. That…. you know, zips around, all upside-down like.

And not like “Hey, someday we should ride the zipper!” No. We found ourselves propelled toward the zipper RIGHT THAT MINUTE.

It was crazy and silly and weird because none of us really wanted to ride it. In fact ONE of us very vocally DID NOT want to ride it (Hi, C!). But there we were, and it was clear that tonight night was for making a story.

Why? WHY would four grown women choose to do such a thing, especially when none of them really wanted to? I’ve been thinking about that a great deal, and the only answer I can come up with is that it had been too long since I had really felt alive.  You know, like, A-L-I-V-E. Adrenaline. Not knowing whether to laugh or scream or run or maybe do all three. A thrill. Taking a leap when every single sensible brain cell in my skull was calmly explaining why I should NOT do that very thing, while something else was urging me to do it… DO IT. It’s the kind of feeling that should not be ignored.

As a young person, I felt that alive feeling fairly often. Or, at least, often compared to now. Thinking back to childhood and collegehood, there were so many of those moments.  Jumping off the high diving board at the community pool the first time. Sneaking out of a friend’s sleepover party and walking to a park in the middle of the night. Riding my bike down that super big, super steep hill despite being told not to by my parents. Getting ready to go out with friends wondering if so-and-so might just hold my hand that night. First kisses, and the first time driving without my parents in the car. Breaking curfew, going on my first road trip with friends, cliff jumping, and buying groceries and some new! coasters! for that first apartment. [Insert vaguely legal and blatantly illegal antics from college here.]

These days though, not much gives me that feeling, save for maybe finding out about a new pregnancy (no, not pregnant) or buying a new house/car. Life is good, so good, here in the safety lane, where everyone is wearing  helmets/seat belts/mouth guards, it truly is. It’s steady and calm and predictable. But once in awhile it’s also good to experience that feeling again, to feel really truly alive for just a few moments. To do something that almost-quite-literally scares the shit out of you. You know?

I suspect this is why so many 30-40 year olds take up running, marathoning, triatholoning. It’s probably also why people everywhere have bucket lists packed with things like sky diving and bungee jumping. As adults, there’s no going off the high dive again for the first time. For many of us, there are no more first kisses, first dates, new engagements, new babies. So we make lists of things to do that make our hearts pump in our throats. Or we go, unsuspecting,  to the beer garden with our friends and end up on the zipper. You know, either way.

Riding the zipper, by the way, actually was NOT on my bucket list. I didn’t even KNOW I wanted to do it. Nay, I didn’t want to do it, not really. But sometimes when the opportunity presents itself to feel alive, when the very idea of it scares you silly, you just have to go with it.

And the actual ride? Honestly, it was pretty awful. I laughed and laughed throughout it, but about halfway through I was ready for it to be over, and realized I a) didn’t know when it would end and b) had ZERO control over when it would end. I had no idea if we had one more time around or 20… or 100. The only way to survive that realization was to accept the fact I had no control (a lesson, of itself) and keep laughing. And try not to barf/pee. Man that cage jerks you around, and you never know which direction it’s going to spin next. Crazy.

So tell me– have you done something lately that made you feel alive? When was the last time you did something that scared you, just for the sake of doing it?