Riding the Rollercoaster

-written by Hearth Founder, Miranda Aisling

This past week, while recovering from my second illness since Labor Day, I managed to cajole many a well-intentioned friend into the long-winded conversational introspection that serves as my primary form of processing. As an extrovert raised in a family of introverts, my favorite past time has always been a long, deep, slightly invasive conversation.  Followed by another, and another, and another, at which point hopefully I will be tired enough to sleep.

My most recent conversations have continually circled back to the same question: is it better to be ignorant and blissful or aware and riding the roller-coaster?

This question has plagued my thoughts since the dark days of middle school when, filled with angst over my father’s bankruptcy, my sister’s depression, and my internal turmoil over whether to skip high school or stay the course, I penned many a sad song and overwrought journal entry wondering whether I would be happier if I just didn’t pay as much attention. It seemed like so many people were, as my grandfather described, “Just dumb enough to be happy.”  They floated their way through the hallways that threatened to engulf me, although in retrospect my adolescent hormones might have contributed to this sensation.

What I wouldn’t give to live life so simply, so easily, I thought to myself.

One of these same conversations turned to the role of an artist, which I have always seen as an observer, analyzer, and attempted translator. Those of us who have devoted ourselves to creative pursuits spend our time sitting with the things that make us uncomfortable and wondering why. Then, to drive the point home, we spend hours struggling to best capture and express that discomfort so that when other people feel the same thing, they find a piece of art that says what they feel but can’t say.  Think of the poet who penned the poem of your break-up or the musician who wrote the song about moving to a new city.

These uncomfortable feelings aren’t just the sad and gloomy kind either. What about the photographer who captured your lover’s knowing look?  Or the writer who wrote the elation of your first adventure? Extreme levels of joy, affection, and elation are often just as disarming as depression, loneliness, and anxiety. Us artists spend our time sitting with both sides, riding the full gambit whether we’d like to or not.

And, I guess, in the end that’s the answer to my middle school angst. For those of us who’ve embraced our roller-coaster lives, it’s because there never was another choice. Each question has led to more questions until we find ourselves as equally blinded by the bright light in front of us as by the darkness it illuminates.

I’ve spent the beginning of my life walking the tightrope between being just dumb enough to be happy and just awake enough to live fully. Would I be happier to leave the observing and the expressing to someone else? To snap on the blinders that always seem just out of reach? Absolutely.

But, at the end of the day, even at the end of a series of very, very long days like I’ve had recently, I find great satisfaction from surviving the last wind of the roller-coaster and a tingling addictive thrill at the thought of what’s waiting just around the next bend.

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