Sneaker Story: Go on an upside-down roller coaster


Submitted by Lisa G.

“The increasingly loud pounding of my heart is only drowned out by the approaching car that stops right in front of us as the gates open to allow us in. Here we go…”



There I was, standing with someone’s mom at the exit of the roller coaster, patiently waiting for my friends to finish their so-called “fun”. It was like this at every birthday party that took place at a theme park. I would be the life of the party at the game booths or the spinning or scrambling rides, but when it came to actual roller coasters, I was out. I had never actually been on one so it wasn’t like I had been traumatized. I just knew that I would be too scared and therefore did not want to even try. (A recurring theme in my life.)


This continued until my 15th birthday, when some friends and I went to Disneyland. They begged me the whole way there to just try a roller coaster with them. I wasn’t sure how one would “try” a roller coaster. If you didn’t like it, I didn’t think you could politely raise your hand and ask to be excused. So, once, again, I declined. But this time my friends did not back down. Right up until the line at the Matterhorn, they were trying to devise ways to convince me to join them. I stayed in line with them, my resolve beginning to fade, but still incredibly wary. By the time we got to the front of the line, I got my “sign” that it would all be okay. My lucky number was “8” and that’s the number of the car that pulled up. So, I took a deep breath, got in the car with my friends, and strapped in for dear life. The ride took off and I screamed my head off. I still have no explanation for this next part. I must have reverted back to my early childhood days in my state of fear because while we were whipping around the side of the snow-covered mountain, I began to shout at the top of my lungs, all the lyrics to “I’m a Little Teapot”. My friend in front of me tried to turn around to look at me like I had lost my mind but luckily she couldn’t move her head with the car’s momentum. When we reached the bottom of the track, I felt an adrenaline rush unlike anything I had previously felt. I glanced over at the strangers in line and, in my peppiest and most enthusiastic voice, assured them, “That was fun! That wasn’t scary! That was fun!” I spent the rest of the day leading my friends around the park to the other roller coasters.


You would think that this lesson would have taught me to take that leap of faith and try something new, especially when it comes to roller coasters. But no, I decided to spend the next 15 years thoroughly enjoying those same few Disneyland roller coasters, and stubbornly avoiding the scarier roller coasters at other parks, especially any that go upside down. That was WAY too far outside of my comfort zone to actually imagine doing. So here’s the deal: I will go on an upside-down roller coaster.



Today’s the day. After 33 years of carefully avoiding all things scary, I have decided to go on an upside down roller coaster. I’m so nervous, I can barely breathe. I’m driving to Disneyland, (what should be “The Happiest Place on Earth” but at the moment is “The Most Terrifying Place on Earth”), where my brave brother has convinced me that the “California Screamin’” ride at California Adventure (Disneyland’s neighbor) is the perfect roller coaster on which to begin my life of death drops and upside-down spins. I trust him. After all, he’s family…he wouldn’t lie to me. Right?


I bombard my brother with questions about the ride. Information is power, right? The more I can find out about the ride, the less scary it will seem. But my brother isn’t playing. He wants me to trust him, take a deep breath and relax. Easier said than done. Especially when we approach the ride and I see the steep inclines and large loop for the first time. I’m not even on the ride yet and my stomach has already dropped to my feet. My brother sees my face and guides me forward, toward the line. The first thing I notice is the large “CAUTION” sign with a list of the type of people who should avoid this ride. I scan it, hoping maybe my name is on it somewhere. Sadly, it does not list “scaredy-cats” among those who should step out of line, so forward I march.


As we approach the front of the line, my brother and my friend are debating which section of the car is better. “The front is scarier”, my brother says, “you can see what you’re about to go down.” “But the back feels faster”, my friend counters, “and you can see the front section start to go ahead of you which is scary.” Neither of these sound like good options to me. But before I can join in on the debate, we are ushered into our stalls. I look down, quietly hoping that I’m in stall #8. No such luck. We are, however, in the middle stall, which, weighing what I just heard about the front and the back, seems to me like a good place to be. Relatively speaking, of course.


I look up at my brother and he now has a mischievous smile on his face. He is rubbing his hands together in excitement for my upcoming experience. This behavior makes me more nervous than ever. I want to say something but I am suddenly at a loss for words. My brain is being drowned out by my increasingly loud pounding heart. The pounding is only drowned out by the approaching car that stops right in front of us, as the gates open to allow us in. Here we go…


I sit down in the seat, tuck my purse in the Velcro pouch by our feet, and, as instructed, pull the handles down on the device that is supposed to stop me from plummeting to my death. I check that it’s tight several times, then glance over at my grinning brother, who is now looking less and less trustworthy. The car begins to slowly move forward on the tracks and then comes to a stop. My brother explains that the magnets are lining up. I barely hear him. The music in the background sounds like something out of a demented circus horror movie. Not the most comforting sound. As I’m trying to remember how to breathe and swallow, a voice comes over the speakers saying, “Screamers, get ready to launch in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!” I’m bracing myself and, after a moment, I realize that we’re not moving. I look cautiously over at my brother who seems honestly confused, then go back to thinking happy thoughts (this is Disneyland, after all), and am slightly jumpy when the voice repeats its countdown. This time he meant it and after the “1!” we are off! This is a sensation unlike anything I have ever experienced. The ride goes from zero to excruciatingly fast in less than a second and my head is thrown back against the headrest. We are zooming forward and I am having second, third, and tenth thoughts. We begin to slow down as we creep up a tall and steep hill. I have never dealt well with anticipatory anxiety and this is the ultimate form of it. Unfortunately, the worst has yet to come as we get to the top and then everything changes. The incline is so steep that I am absolutely certain that I am going to fall straight down out of my seat and into the coaster. You know those dreams where you’re falling and you have to wake yourself up in order to avoid hitting the ground? That’s what this feels like. Except I can’t wake up. We get to the bottom of that hill and I do my best to glare at my brother before we begin to take off again.


The car zooms up, down, and sideways, all at horrible speeds. And then, we approach the loop. We’re zooming toward it and I hear my brother say, “This is it, Lisa, here we go!” And we’re going. Up, over, and down again. I close my eyes for a second toward the top. The sensation of being upside down is too strange for me. I do not like it at all. But there is no time to ponder that feeling as my teapot-worthy screams continue as we encounter more ups, downs and sideways twists. Finally, we slow down as the car begins to track back toward the station. I carefully detach my fingers from the brace and hold my hand up. It is shaking uncontrollably. I look straight into my brother’s twinkling eyes, and though I have a shocked smile on my face, I say with utmost conviction, “NEVER AGAIN”. Although I am definitely proud of myself for trying something new, something I stopped myself from trying for many years, I solemnly swear that I will never ride another roller coaster of that caliber. It was far too terrifying and nauseating to ever intentionally put myself back in that position. And now that I can say that from experience and not speculation, I’m happily sticking to my Disneyland coasters from now on.



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Sneaker Setup: Fiscally Fearful


Submitted by Mandy H.

I am an actor. That means I have lived my entire adult life learning how to SURVIVE the ups and downs of unstable work. It has also taught me that stretching my last dollar to pay bills is NOT a fun way to live.
Living this way means that I tend to play it incredibly safe at the expense (no pun intended) of possibly earning a lot more money. The concept of spending money to make money is something that makes sense to me, but also scares me. So the idea of gambling with my finances is way OUTSIDE my comfort zone.
I’m not sure how to approach this Sneaker in a risky but safe way, but I’m willing to try. Any ideas?

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Sneaker Story: A Tango Tale


Submitted by Amy W.

I started Tango in my 40’s but wasn’t ready- was so frustrating and difficult — the only dance i couldnt conquer – the woman must give up control to Tango. There’s no beat, no counts, and forget going with the music.  The man decides everything! It’s a metaphor really.

After my now ex-husband wanted a divorce I started lessons again- was doing a lot of subconscious work- very difficult work at the time – I was working toward giving up control- as much as a Jewish girl can- 🙂

I now can Tango- quite well. I always say Tango is a metaphor for giving up control. Just close your eyes and let yourself be led. Only way you can tango.

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Sneaker Story: Up, Up & Away!


(Risk letting go and trying something new)
Submitted by Henry A.

“I had to sign a release form that said that I understood the risks…uh oh…

          I have never broken a bone or had a stitch. I am a cautious person and try not to put myself in physically risky positions. Along those lines, I never thought jumping out of a perfectly good airplane made any sense. My son had tried indoor skydiving and showed me pictures. While it looked like fun, I thought it was out of my comfort zone. Then again, maybe it would be good to push myself a little further physically in a situation that really didn’t present real risk.
          We booked a reservation for ifly indoor skydiving.  When we got there, a number of younger kids were in this giant blender looking thing—and acting like they were enjoying it! I felt a little anxiety about it – honestly, the scariest part was signing the Release Form. I had to say that I had consulted a doctor about my fitness for this activity and that I understood the risks and would not hold them responsible for any problems. Uh oh…
          It was so much fun! Such an adrenaline rush! It really felt like I was flying! The closest I think I will ever come to actually flying on my own (skydiving is still out of the question). Being put into a flight suit was cool and added to the experience. And having my son with me made sure that I didn’t get cold feet. The best lesson for me was when they waved the hand signal in front of my face that meant “relax”. Once I obeyed, everything got better. I was steadier, my control over my motions actually improved, and I was able to enjoy the experience more! A great lesson for my life…
          It was a great experience to do something new (whoever said that line about “old dogs” didn’t know what they were talking about) and was a great adventure that will push me to try other things that are outside of my natural comfort zone. As long as they don’t involve jumping out of a plane.

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Sneaker Setup: Enjoy the NOW

(Stop being such a worrier)
Submitted by AJ

I am a worrier…so much so, that I often miss out on positive joyful things because I am so full of worry about the future. 

You see, I LOVE my dog but, sometimes my husband will look at me looking at her and say…”STOP IT”…because instead of a look of joy on my face there are tears in my eyes….thinking about when she won’t be around anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I do have lots of wonderful happy times with her. 

So, my sneaker: to enjoy the now. I am going to take a class with her to train her to be a therapy dog! I think this will be a wonderful opportunity for me to concentrate on the positive and share her “wonderful-ness” with others.

Thank you so much for this wonderful blog. I am looking forward to reading how others are getting their sneakers dirty and I promise to update you on my progress…so many things to work on and such a fun way to do it.



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Sneaker Story: Last Minute Trip


(Stop being such a planner)
Submitted by Sarah I.

“It was just over 24 hours before we would be leaving for the airport. How was I going to be ready in that little time?

          I’m a planner. Now, when I say “planner,” I don’t mean that I choose what I’m going to wear the night before and lay it out so it’s all ready in the morning.  I have calendars and lists and notes on footnotes to those lists and calendars. If something is going to happen in my life, it is usually scheduled out well in advance. Spontaneity is NOT my middle name.  My husband and I are living overseas, and we found a website with last minute deals to European destinations.  “Last minute” can sometimes mean that you have about three hours to pack up and get yourself to the airport. So on a Thursday night when my husband asked if I wanted to spend the weekend in Prague, I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to get my sneakers dirty.
          We booked our tickets.  By the time we got our confirmation from the airline, it was just over 24 hours before we would be leaving for the airport. How was I going to be ready in that little time?  What about all the things I already had on my list and my calendar? 
          The truth is, it was all fine.  I spend a few minutes sending some emails to move a few things around, and the world didn’t stop. I packed a backpack (a tiny one!) with three shirts, some underwear and socks, and a pair of pants.  I grabbed my camera, and we were off. I didn’t have time to worry about if I had exactly the right clothes and shoes for each and every kind of situation I might find myself in.  In fact, it was literally just me and my sneakers. We had a fantastic trip. To be honest I did buy a guidebook and do a little reading and preparing of all the things that we would see and do, but I realized that it was ok to jet off to a new city for the weekend without a plan of exactly what we would see, do, and eat at every moment of the day. We had fun.  Tons of fun.  When we came home three days later, I realized that my once-white sneakers were actually dirty. 


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Sneaker Story: Close Your Eyes and JUMP!


(Let go and trust that someone will catch me)

Submitted by Lisa G.

“My biggest concerns are trusting I can do this—
and believing I won’t hurt myself if I do.”


They didn’t take my picture. There I was, 12-years-old and flying through the air, my little hands holding onto the swinging bar for dear life, then letting go as I was lowered into the net…and they didn’t take my picture. WHEN was I going to do that again? I wouldn’t be going back to camp, and there weren’t many flying trapezes in the real world. True, I didn’t do it full out. I didn’t let go and hang from my knees and trust someone to catch me as I untangled myself from the bar. But still!  That was a big moment! When I think about doing it now (as an adult) and I picture myself flying through the air, feeling such utter freedom andassurance that I can let go and will be caught… it seems impossible. To let go and soar would be a miracle in my world! (Both literally and physically.) Well, it happens I live in a city that offers flying-trapeze classes. 

So here’s the deal:  I will let go on a flying trapeze.  As an adult.


I’m actually doing this. In a few hours, I’ll be sailing through the air. I’m thrilled and terrified. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to fly. Whenever kids played “what superpower would you have?” I always chose the ability to fly. Holding onto a bar and flying through the air would be a dream come true. However, the anxiety-ridden part of me ignores these marvelous images and focuses on the negative: My core and arm strength leave much to be desired, so the thought of hanging by my arms and tucking my legs over a bar is disconcerting—and what if I’m the only one in class who can’t do it? How embarrassing! Furthermore! Then there’s the issue of having the fortitude to let go, especially while flying through the air. That alone is a huge relinquishing of control. Yes, I’ll be in a harness, but I still have to trust I’ll be safe. Reaching out to catch my instructor and letting go of the bar is a HUGE leap of faith (no pun intended)— that he will catch me, that I will catch him, that the timing will work out. So I’m going to have to do all I can to focus and make it happen. My biggest concerns are trusting I can do this—and believing I won’t hurt myself if I do.


I’ve never been this petrified. Stretching in the trapeze studio, I look at the monstrous contraption in front of me. The platform is 20 feet off the ground. Underneath, there’s a five-foot squishy mat. As I look up the tiny ladder we’ll climb, I feel a little sick. Jay, one of three beautifully sculpted instructors, guides us to a static rig, basically a trapeze bar on the ground. He shows us how to grip the bar, put our legs over it, let go, hang upside-down and look back with arms outstretched. My panic rises. It looks like you really need arm and core strength—neither of which I possess. I let go and hang okay, but Jay needs to help me back up. 

THIS does not bode well. 

He explains that the static rig is more difficult than the flying one, where momentum helps. He tells us we’ll swing upside-down with arms outstretched then catch one of the instructors (or really, he’ll catch us). But we won’t be doing that until the end. Mostly, we’ll practice backflips off the bar. I must be making a “you’re out of your mind” face, because Jay sees me and cracks up. He assures me it will make sense in the moment.

As the other students perfectly execute the moves, my palms start sweating, my heart pounds, my stomach is in knots, and I consider bailing. But I don’t. Instead, I take a deep breath and start up the ladder. Each step feels like an eternity. At the top, Todd, another instructor, is waiting. I explain my terror to him. Then Jay appears, giving encouragement. Todd hooks me to the harness, grips the back of my belt and instructs me to lean forward and grab the trapeze bar. Utterly terrified, I’m having flashbacks to camp years, when they made us do ropes courses and I’d be in tears. But the memories make me more determined. So I steady myself, bend my knees when Todd says,“Ready,” and jump when he says, “Hep!” 

Taking the phrase “high anxiety” literally.

And then…I’m flying. I’ve done it! 

Look!  I’m smiling!  And FLYING!

I don’t have long to enjoy the sensation, as below, Chase, the third instructor, is telling me to lift my legs for the knee tuck and wrap at the top of my swing. I try but don’t have the strength—my knees don’t make it up. I keep swinging, and Chase keeps shouting instructions, and I can’t do any of them! He lowers me, and I slink off, giving my “I’m just not strong enough” excuse. Chase says flying has nothing to do with strength—it’s all momentum and timing. I have to stop thinking and just do it. Ha! If only he knew how hard that is for me! He shows me what to do with my body to get the knee tuck to work, then I go to my chair, embarrassed. I watch the class do it again, one by one, flawlessly.

Then I’m up. This time, I’m calmer, determined to make it work. “Hep!”—I’m off in the air again! I follow Chase’s timing precisely. And guess what? I nail every move! Perfect knee tuck, perfect release and upside-down stretch, perfect back-flip! When I hit the mat beaming, everyone bursts into applause. I repeat the routine and nail it again! The terror is still there but decreasing each time. The best part is that at the end of each turn, I have no recollection of what I did because I was so in the moment. That has NEVER happened!

I’m beginning to feel really good when Todd announces we’re going to do catches, the part I was dreading. I wait my turn, take my swing, and miss my knee tuck. Again, I‘m back in my head, and my body doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. Luckily, we have time to try once more. I want this so badly. I want to know I can push myself past my limits and let go. So, off the platform I jump, through the air I sail, and around the bar I wrap my knees. At the top of my swing, I reach out and feel Todd’s hands grip my wrists as my legs release the bar. The entire studio cheers as I soar through the air holding onto Todd. Then he releases me, and I land exactly as instructed. I could not have a bigger smile as Chase says I’ve earned my wings. Jay says he knew I could do it, the whole class knew. I was the only one who doubted myself.

He caught me!  I let go and he caught me.  Amazing!

Once I got out of my own way, I did great. Now if I can only keep applying that lesson to the rest of my life…



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Sneaker List: Establish Expertise…

Establish expertise in my area of interest…
Submitted by Ariel R.

GOAL: Establish expertise in my area of interest by continually demonstrating (and gaining!) knowledge

EXPLANATION: I avoid doing this at home, at work, at conferences, at social gatherings. I lose sight of the point, and thereby my motivation. I lose sight of the bigger picture and get mired in day to day tasks. I lack confidence in my knowledge. I am naturally introverted.


1. Spend at least 15 minutes a day reading news and blogs

2. Spend at least 10 minutes a day talking to someone I don’t usually talk to

3. Write a blog post

4. Go to a show

5. Go to a lecture

6. Go to a meetup

7. Read an essay

8. Complete a new solo work

9. Complete a new work with coworkers

10. Obtain a speaking engagement

11. Submit to a festival


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Sneaker Story: Drive on the freeway


(Life is a highway, now get on it!)

Submitted by Marianne H.

“That lady is not chasing me. She has a baby in an infant seat.”


I cannot, under any circumstances, no matter how much in a hurry I am, drive on the freeway or highway. It always seems to me that everyone driving behind me is chasing me. To catch me. For what reason? Can’t figure that out. It just feels that I have to drive faster and faster to get away from the other drivers.

It gets worse. I have no patience with people who don’t drive well – or, at least, don’t obey the law. So as I am driving to get away from the people who are chasing me, and am already anxious, I get mad when drivers change lanes without signaling, drive while talking on the phone, cut me off to make turns while honking angrily – you get the idea. Somehow, when driving on streets, with everyone in slower motion, I can deal with the thoughtlessness of others, since the resulting danger would be easier to avoid. And the stop and go traffic makes the whole process more human. Hard to feel that someone is chasing me when they are driving 35 miles an hour, and stop and go to get there.


I cannot spend my life taking an hour to get to my destination which is, in reality, only minutes away. It is inconvenient. It is silly. And it is becoming increasingly difficult to explain to others why I have to leave so early to get someplace, or why, when I drive a friend somewhere, I can’t take the highway. I am not a child. But I feel like one when it comes to living in a world where it is nearly impossible not to, at some time during the day, drive on a highway, and I can’t do it. 

I resolve to do it. My methodology seems so obvious to me – get on the freeway, and just drive to the next exit, and then get off. Do that several times. Then drive past and exit at the second exit. Get off. 
And I decide that at the same time I am driving, I will listen to my favorite, most soothing music , a song I love more than any other, a piece which makes me smile and gives me peace.
And I promise myself that I will make up stories for the other drivers, ones which do not include car chasing, but rather personal voyages which make sense to me.


Am getting into the driver’s seat. Seatbelt on. CD goes in – the song: Judy Garland (or Katherine McPhee) singing “Somewhere over The Rainbow”. 
Breathe. OK. Breathing. Start the car. Drive to the freeway entrance. I pull over. 
Breathing again. Judy is singing, “Bluebirds can fly.” Yup, I think, so can I.
I get on the onramp. Push on the gas pedal, harder and harder. Make it up the ramp to 45, then 50. Signal as I get  into the left lane. Am up to 60. I see the cars behind me. “Nope”, I tell myself “. That lady is not chasing me. She has a baby in an infant seat, so she is taking that baby to music class. She is no hurry. She is just intent on getting there. Safely. She moves up alongside me, and as I glance at her, she is singing, probably to her baby. As she passes me, she signals.
OK. Good. I can do this. I get off at the next exit, as she does, and pull over.
That was not so bad. I decide to get on again, this very minute, and try for two exits.
Getting on. Getting up to 60 faster this time. Judy is singing, “Bluebirds fly over the rainbow, why, then oh why, can’t I?” I answer Judy – ” I can. Watch me.”
I am now doing 65. Cars are still passing me (that man with the cap over his eyes – he is on his way to a baseball game, I am sure, and he is hoping to catch a fly ball), but I don’t care. They are not chasing me – I seem to be chasing them. Instead of watching them for signs of hostility, I see people rushing to get home. I see blue skies. I change lanes (signaling of course) realizing that here I am, 31, and this is the first time I have actually changed lanes at 65 miles an hour. And I am fine. Smiling, actually. I pass others, and some still pass me. But my hands are not clenched, and my heart is not pounding. 
Am I thrilled? Not quite. I signal, as I change lanes again, and get off at this exit. I see I drove past 4 exits. And Judy is, so appropriately, singing, “Dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true.”

OK. I guess you can say my sneakers are scuffed. Not filthy, but scuffed, nevertheless. First step – a big one for me. Next time, I am actually going to make it to the beach. Ten Exits. No problem.

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Sneaker List: Stop worrying so much about always being PERFECTLY prepared

SNEAKER: Stop worrying so much about

always being PERFECTLY prepared

Submitted by Laurie M.

GOAL: Stop worrying so much about always being PERFECTLY prepared

EXPLANATION: I find that I am so caught up in being afraid of being under prepared and terrified of having to “wing” anything, that I spend far too much time over-preparing to make sure everything is PERFECT before it ever sees the light of day. While this means that I present a good face to the world and impress people with my skills and professionalism, it also means that I am frequently exhausted with far too little free time. I need to learn to find a balance and trust that simply “preparing” is enough.


1. Draw a picture with my opposite hand (Note to self: It won’t be perfect and that’s okay)

2. Mess up my desk & don’t touch it for a week (Note to self: Just because there is disorder, doesn’t mean it is impossible to function)

3. Go to a meeting without a pen or any other writing utensil (Note to self: Learn to rely more on others)

4. Play a board game that I haven’t tried before (Note to self: I may not win but I can still have a good time)

5. Send an e-mail update to friends and family without re-reading it first (Note to self: Trust that there may be mistakes but friends and family won’t care)

6. Take a pottery class and create and paint an imperfect piece (Note to self: Live with imperfection)

7. Try a new sport (Note to self: Understand that I won’t win the Gold medal first time out)

8. Take an improvisation class (Note to self: Learn to be spontaneous)


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