Living the Soulful Life
Of Fear And Rollercoasters
By Scott Kalechstein



One fine day the great past president Franklin D. Roosevelt channeled the future Tony Robbins and issued a peppy platitude that uplifted a nation in the throes of the Great Depression without ever lifting a Prozac:

ďThe only thing we have to fear is fear itself.Ē

That was 1933. I would love to say that in 2005 I am finding the phrase a great source of inspiration and encouragement.

But Iím not.

I do fear fear. Most of us do. Fear is scary. Thatís what makes it fear. Iíd much rather arrange life so I never have to partake of the stuff. Oh, Great Bartender, give me a tall glass of the usual ó easy on the risks, heavy on the familiar!

Here is a short inventory of the various ways that I run, not walk, away from fear, semi-successfully convincing myself that Iím not afraid: resisting a risk, resisting a rest, judging what I donít understand, over-eating and drinking, pretending Iím not angry, pretending Iím not hurt, pretending Iím not scared, and on a more subtle level, purchasing platitudes that fit snugly over my ability to consider, and possibly even learn from, points of view other than my own.

In Websterís dictionary/Kalechstein edition, a platitude is defined as a sentence, and often found on refrigerators, designed to shield humans from the raw vulnerability of life. Platitudes may contain some relative truth. Yet they are often held as absolutes, thereby becoming dogma. For example: God never gives you a challenge without also giving you the strength and means to overcome it... mental institutions and graveyards are filled with people who would beg to differ!

With my no-latitude attitude on platitudes, you would be correct in assuming my refrigerator door has plenty of space for rent.
There are times when I look fear in the eyes and march forward bravely and platitude-free into the unknown... like now, I hope! Iím presently fixing to move my body and my life five hundred miles north to Marin to take the next step with my beloved. That step isnít marriage, mind you, or even living together. Itís being neighbors. Sharing the same zip code. You see, Iím a big fan of proceeding slowly and wisely in relationship... taking small, steady steps, gently dealing with my fears that arise along the way.

Some minuscule fears have been coming up for me lately ó like suffocating, losing my sense of self, and having to relinquish my grip on the remote control!

My girlfriend, who gives me all the space in the world, has been very understanding. She too has had her terrifying contractions of claustrophobia in this relationship. She knows periods of processing are purifying precursors to powerful, positive changes.

On a few occasions Iíve trem-bled in her supportive presence and thoroughly unloaded my worst-case scenarios and dramatic Ďwhat ifí fantasies. She offered me hugs, kisses, empathy, compassionate listening, and some wise words. Sheís a keeper!

Relationship is quite a ride. As a child, I used to love rides.... What happened??

A few years ago I went to an amusement park with friends. They coaxed me (post-adolescent peer pressure) to get on a ride that challenged my fear of heights and my biological ability to retain ownership of the contents of my stomach. I believe the technical term is Ďthrow-up rideí. A bunch of young kids were on it too, and as the ride went up, way up, they were laughing, screaming, and having great fun.

I wasnít. My belly was knotted in protest and I was dizzy with fear. Suddenly the ride went straight down. Fast. I spent the time hating every moment and wondering why anyone would pay money for an experience like this. I noticed the kids, screaming all the way down, totally loved it. What had I missed? What did they know that I must have forgotten?

Last month I found out. My girlfriend convinced me to ride a roller coaster with her. I said yes mostly out of wanting to promote a fearless (macho) self-image. It was only after sitting down in the front car and looking up that I realized I made a big mistake. The safety bar locked into place; somehow I did not feel safe. We started going up at a snailís pace, agonizingly slow. My knees began shaking. Panic gripped me. What had I gotten myself into? Damn my co-dependency and macho tendencies! There was no turning back, and I was dreading it.

Just as we reached the highest point and were about to rapidly descend, my higher self spoke and gave me the key to enjoying roller coasters. The still small voice was quite large and commanding: ďSCREAM, SCOTT, SCREAM! EXPRESS YOURSELF!!Ē

I started making strange and interesting sounds at the very top of my lungs. I threw a primal tantrum and held nothing back. Very quickly my fear transmuted into a tingling excitement. Laughter bubbled up and out. My need to be on the ground (and in control) dissolved into trust and exhilaration. Whee!!!! I loved it so much that I wanted to ride again.
Perhaps the presence of fear can be a sign that we are courageously buying a ticket to the roller-coaster of change, saying yes to the rideís ups and downs, and not paying allegiance to our egoís plan to keep us small, safe, secure, and unchallenged. Perhaps fear plays an accompanying role in any choice for greater aliveness, passion and healing. And perhaps it would behoove us to rediscover that childlike ability to accept and enjoy fear... deeply breathing, tingling, trembling, and, yes, screaming at times.

ďThe only thing we have to fear is fear itself.Ē

I would take it a step further. We have nothing to fear. Not even fear. Enjoying ourselves while trembling is a wondrous step in the evolution of becoming free of fear.

I feel a passion to move, and to keep on moving. Iíve been around long enough to know that staying in one place is not only undesirable, but downright impossible. We are always moving, changing, and growing. Riding the roller-coaster is what we signed up for on this planet. Itís non-negotiable. The more we say yes to the ride, the more we enjoy ourselves.

I wish you great delight in the amusement park. Enjoy the fear. Permission to scream. Have fun!

ďLife is a daring adventure or nothing.Ē
ó Helen Keller

Scott Kalechstein is a modern day troubadour and inspirational speaker. Please visit to read more about his work or to sample songs from his nine CDís. E-mail him at  to receive articles like this one on a bi-monthly basis.

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