A day at Disneyland is a day full of dreams.
Where everything gleams, and life is in themes.
Where magical schemes conjure giggles and screams,
and every perception is not as it seems.
Some parallels between our day in the 'Magic Kingdom' of recreational delight, distraction, and diversion, and my months in the 'Tragic Wingin'-it-dom' of vocational discovery, discouragement, and discernment...
We started our day on 'California Screamin'...the roller coaster that instantly thrusts you from a peaceful stillness into a frenetic frenzy of ups and downs, flipping your sense of equilibrium (literally and figuratively) upside down, and leaving you wondering what just happened over the past 90 seconds.
I started this latest season of my life's journey in much the same way...with my life suddenly catapulted from a fairly stable existence into a surreal space where gravity disappears, and backwards is forwards, and upside-down is right-side up.
And part of me is still wondering what happened.
Next was the 'Toy Story' ride, a funhouse-type of experience where you ride past different characters from the movie, stopping at various locations to fling virtual 'rings' around different pop-up objects in hopes that some of the rings will stick and earn you points.
Not unlike flinging out electronic resumes all over the vocational universe in hopes that one of them will 'stick' to an opportunity for employment.
Our third stop was the 'Tower of Terror', one of those 'wonderful' rides that i 'love', where you elevate and drop unexpectedly, mostly in the dark...the kind of ride that can 'bring up' all kinds of fears from deep within your psyche (and food from deep within your stomach).
(In fact, the higher we climbed in the queue, the more i felt a lunch that i ate in 1978 starting to 'rumbly' in my 'tumbly'...)
This not-so-vaguely resembles the experience of unexpected 'drops' in my life recently that has brought up various fears from deep within my subconscious (and failures/insecurities from deep within my sense of self).
The 'happiest place on earth'?
NOT at THESE moments.
But thankfully, there WERE other moments of pleasant 'disguises' and poignant surprises...
In the new 'Cars Land' in California Adventure (more on that in 'Act II'), the highlight attraction is the 'Radiator Springs Racers'. Naturally, it was the longest line of the day for us, at the hottest time of day. But we had heard that it was worth the wait. And the 'themeing' (scenery) in the queue was amazing. So we waited.
And at one point, we could see the 'racers' zooming down the road and around a couple of hairpin banked turns. Looked like fun.
But as we continued through the line, the rest of what i saw of the ride didn't look all that exciting.
And i began having flashbacks to one fated night at Six Flags Magic Mountain in 1984. I had gone with a friend to a special 'all-night' celebration at the park for the premiere of a new ride - the 'Sarajevo Bobsleds', a 'thrill' ride meant to simulate riding in a bobsled, created right after the Winter Olympics from that year. The line for this ride was almost THREE hours long, and my friend and i waited...and waited...and waited...in the middle of the night...for this special 'thrill'.
But once we actually got on the ride, it was about as 'thrilling' as watching the white paint they used to replicate 'snow' dry.
And it lasted a whole 40 seconds.
FORTY FREAKIN' SECONDS.
And as i was gradually melting away pounds and inches from my body in the sweltering heat whilst waiting in this queue, i hoped to high heaven that this ride would not be a repeat of that 'debacle before dawn' from 28 years earlier.
And then we finally made it on the ride. And saw the wonderland that awaited us INSIDE...
And i was reminded of the old tried and true adage that things truly are not always what they seem to be, and that first appearances can be misleading (and actually lead to magnificent surprises).
In a season of life where the landscape before me has looked mostly bleak and barren, a desert of languishing and loneliness, where the emergence of oases can be easily cast aside and grieved as mirages, i have discovered whispers of hope amidst the waves of heat, and signs of life among the suffering and loss.
Surprising new friendships popping up like wildflowers out of the sand.
Enduring old friendships growing broader and more real like the roots of a cactus.
Even my fragile sense of self, having been exposed more fully by the harsh elements and conditions, slowly finding a more authentic foundation and fresh expression, like a joshua tree.
In the midst of daily struggles and sadness, there are small new signs of strength and satisfaction and faint new rhythms of renewal and re-creation that are emerging.
(And BTW...my ride on the 'Tower of Terror' didn't cause me to lose my lunch, or even barf my brekkie...
BUT...the disturbingly pungent aroma wafting from the armpits of the guy sitting behind me almost DID ;)