The Fair

We have come upon one of my favorite times of the year. Owning some of the best activities to partake in through the calendar. Being the lover of many sports. Fall provides the excitement of college football and the baseball playoffs. Another of the fun fall traditions has been the fair. The concerts, food, rides, games, and cheerful crowds converging on a sunny afternoon. With sites, smells, and sounds bringing feelings of joy. This year has been different from the ones coming previously. The baseball playoffs plan to take place, while some colleges have decided to cancel fall sports. But, the gathering to enjoy our traditional fair won’t be taking place this year. We seem to be living through a most unique time in history. While we all probably hope for a 2021 looking far more predictable. Remembering something bringing both joy and challenge felt applicable. The fair, has often fed into a fear carried for many years. Fear that reduced the ability to enjoy some intriguing activities. Activities causing joy can also become hampered by my disability. But, fighting through the challenges and the fear accompanying them, often encourages positive outcomes. The similar feeling fear that kept me out of airplanes, off the ski slopes, and away from rides dejected otherwise exciting times. It all seemed to involve the fear of heights. While also including the discomfort of close quarters and the relinquishing of control. Unhealthy fear can be gripping and destructive to relationships.

A concert at the fair has been worth the trip. With my fear of the rides elevating up into the sky. Going for the enjoyment of music had often been the draw. On the brisk fall evenings, they are an appetizing treat. Usually the fall brings us the best weather in western Washington. Where we spend most of our year concerned with rain. The late summer and early fall months bring our area to life. Often leaving us with the sunshine warmth during the afternoon. Enticing us to enjoy some rides and greasy food. Before, making our way into a bustling concert venue. Filling the air with excited anticipation for whomever might be partying the night away. The place usually in open air, allowing the fun to creep in from the exterior. When lights from the rides can sometimes be looked upon. Excitement pulsating inside and outside the grandstand. Providing the emotion that fun doesn’t end when the stage gets vacated. There could still be rides to ride and fun to be had. The lights being left on for the final hours of summer to be inhaled. The atmosphere having brought much happiness over the years. Though going to the fair was never a yearly event. Some of the trips have been relatively life changing.Bringing to light the amount of growth having taken place. Traditions often provide a good marker for our healing.

Dating in any form can be challenging. The nervous energy running through the body. Especially when spending time with the appealing. Cerebral palsy seems to add something to this endeavor. The natural desire of impressing someone who has become important. While battling the undeniable physical challenges. Attempting to reconcile myself to unavoidable facts. Facts of requiring assistance in situations where I wanted to appear strong. The concern can infiltrate the mind negatively. Especially in my late teens and twenties. When my emotions lead me to believe asking for help signaled weakness in a male. Even though having a disability made the situation of requiring help unavoidable at times. Especially when trying to make an honest effort at enjoyment. But, instead of accepting my humanity and unique circumstances. My absence of humility only stole from the possibility of fun. The attempts of holding it together and acting strong, hindered the ability to be present. Robing the curiosity of connection from having the space to flourish. It was many years ago, but the afternoon remains vivid in my mind. The state fair for a concert with someone great. A fall sun warming the afternoon, while we wondered through the crowds. Enjoying the excitement before the concert was to begin. The largest fear was going onto the rides. Wanting to avoid the largest of them. The ones traveling highest into the sky.

There were a couple of smaller rides ventured upon that afternoon. Nothing bringing about much feeling of fear. One of the rides discussed did evoke emotions of great anxiety. It ventured straight up into the air. Then, dropped at an unbelievably quick rate. Not moving all the way back down, before speeding back up toward the sky again. It looked terrifying and was on her list to accomplish. We decided to postpone the idea until after the concert had ended. Time would remain for us to take on the scariest looking ride of the fair. Plus, my mind was racing around things not yet done. We hadn’t gotten anything to eat during the afternoon. Time was ticking away before the concert venue was to be entered. Eating would be another challenge requiring attention during the afternoon. In my case, cerebral palsy has an impact of fine motor movements. Meaning eating can be a challenge on to itself. Whether having to use utensils not easily grasped and balanced, or holding onto and steadying food in my hands. Not to mention, the challenge of balancing food while walking. The apprehension of embarrassing myself in front of the person occupying my interest was terrifying. As we walked through the food court, my hopeful heart wished for something easily managed. Something easy to handle was found and before long, food rested inside my knotted stomach. Then, something to drink caught my eye. Strawberry in color, with whip cream encircling the top.

The decision of getting something sweet was natural. Unexpectedly, there was no lid in sight for the strawberry concoction. Leaving me attempting to balance the glass. From the moment, the plastic cup was lifted from the counter. Attempting to hold it steady was all that entered my mind. Feeling the nervous energy of having entered into an unwinnable situation. Trying to appear like the situation could be handled. Without wanting to place my pride aside and request help from my pretty companion. Believing with everything inside, asking for help would ruin any chance. Cerebral palsy and nerves had my entire body quivering. Much like it had been the entire afternoon. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was a scale to interpret the happenings in that moment. The scale called the manual ability classification system (MACS) looks at how much challenge becomes involved with handling objects. The fine motor ability of someone with my disability. Learning of this classification system just a couple weeks ago. Reading through the categories, it appears my severity would be level 2. Which would be different from my gross motor classification of 1. Meaning there was very little that could have been done about the challenge of carrying the strawberry treat. Only being made more challenging from my desire to impress an incredible lady. In the moment, my struggle with the drink had me feeling frustrated. Wondering why I couldn’t be smooth and strong like everyone else. Emotions leading to a helpless feeling of inadequacy. Not being good enough to be at this fair with someone I liked.

As the concert labored on for a bit. We decided on making our exit before the end. After darkness had descended on the fair grounds. Walking out, there remained some bustle. People continuing to enjoy the rides and food. The spectacle of lights added a unique characteristic to the night. Something we hadn’t experienced prior to walking into the concert. It was the moment of truth. An attempt to face my fears over the scary ride. Slinging us high into the air along the side of a tall standing pillar. Who knows how far up into the sky in total the ride climb.  Far enough to have me trembling in fear. There was hardly a line when we arrived at the ticket window. After strolling through the sound of laughter. Illuminated by the lights of games and rides alike. Causing the crisp fall evening to vibrate with excitement. I was thinking it might be possible on the way over to the ride. My fear could be managed and the risk taken. The tickets were purchased, as tension filled my body. When the excitement peaked, fear took an irresistible grip. We stood there for moments as she attempted to calm my fears. Her words warm and comforting. But, they could not be heard. Even with the sign claiming no refunds. The tickets became refunded. With the anxiety running through my body haven simply been too great. My emotions had become impossible to disguise. The disappointment hung in the air without doubt. An embarrassment rarely felt during my life. Our ride home was somber, as much of the possibility when starting the afternoon, vanished. Fear was allowed to win over the excitement of connection.

Whatever romantic interest occurring on the drive to the fair. Seemed to become extinguished in the moment of uncontrollable anxiety. Though on the surface cerebral palsy may not seem to play a role in that moment. In my experience with the disability, it does feel as though CP becomes a factor. Living in a world not designed for someone with my disability. The situation with the strawberry treat. Walking through the crowded fair grounds all day and sitting in the grandstands for a concert. All of these events cause extra stress for someone with movement challenges. Along with the natural pressure of wanting to impress a lady. All pointing to the unescapable fact that I didn’t know how to handle my disability. How to ask for help, or listen to someone providing comfort and encouragement. Life was about me and my fear was taking precedent over everything. Being scared was getting in the way of connecting with other people. So, when the opportunity came to return to a similar situation almost twenty years later. My hope was for a much better outcome. There would be similarities to this new experience. Going to the fair for the enjoyment of a concert. Remaining one of my favorite activities for a fall afternoon. With the company of someone who peaked my curiosity. The weather that day worked right into plan. Waking up to the crisp sunshine of a fall morning.

The afternoon had an idealistic feel to it. Making the hour drive down to the fair. Sunshine bathed the interior of the car. The temperature falling short of uncomfortable warmth. Scenes from the evening twenty years prior flashing in and out of mind. This was a different situation, was the thought running through my emotions. Along with preparing myself to welcome any help that might appear. The enthusiasm for a ride or two could bubble to the surface. Fun afternoons at the fair rarely feel complete without them. Though, this happened to be the final day of the fair. Between you and me, I secretly hoped it would be too crowded. Eating something would be an unavoidable hurdle. Telling myself to attempt trusting everything would happen positively. Trying to stay open to whatever might venture my way, as the evening progressed. Our arrival was met with crowded streets. As we wondered through the main gates and disappeared into the madness. The fair grounds were over run with people enjoying the final days of summer. The familiar sights and sounds filled my senses. Memories of years at the fair gone by, flashing quick pictures in my eyes before disappearing. There was an excitement around making new memories, fresh pictures to emblazon the mind. While still wondering about the anxiety that could creep into the evening. Hoping to find a new definition of strength.

The lines for each ride stretched beyond comprehension. We wondered through, dodging people left and right. Searching for open spaces to walk side by side. Enabling conversations with ease. Some slower moving areas were found away from the gathering around ferris wheels and roller coasters. Eventually meandering past the busiest sections of the fair. We decided to table the ride idea until after the show. With one ride of swings being pointed out amongst the chaos. Appearing to rise an uncomfortable distance into the air. Spinning patrons around at high speeds. It looked pretty scary from where I was standing. The swing rising higher than the gondola ride hovering above the fair grounds. The concept of having enough courage to get on those swings could wait. First, would arrive the challenge of getting through a meal. Followed by the excitement of a concert. We found our way into a small food court for some fair food. Searching the options, teriyaki was chosen for our meal. With the food given to us in containers. They would be challenging for me to carry with a drink. So, I was aiming for a compromise after noticing drinks were given in bottles. Carrying the drinks could be managed with the relinquishing of responsibility for the food containers. My date made a sweet move by stacking the food containers on one another. While I grasp our two bottles of water. The action caused me to feel safe and cared about. We made our way outside the food court area. Finding a circular picnic table to enjoy the food. Letting go of the preconceived notion that everything had to be done by myself. That in order to appear masculine, I had to carry my own things. I found someone caring enough to provide help. It didn’t take away from our connection, but seemed to add positivity to our atmosphere.

Food at the fair can leave something to be desired. Our meal was no different, full of grease. But, it somehow served the purpose. We decided to purchase tickets for a couple of rides.  Thinking we could make use of them after the show. The lines would be far less toward the end of the evening. I was secretly hoping the concert would run long. Providing rescue from the possible embarrassment of overwhelming fear. After more time of wondering through the crowded walkways. Dusk fell over the final evening of the fair. We moseyed toward the grandstand stretching upward into the darkness. The structure could be found from a variety of points. We arrived in our seats in time for the main attraction. The glowing moon cast light over the night, hanging just to the right of stage. While the warm afternoon turned into a clear and crisp evening. They played all the hits, as the good time crowd sang with the decades old act. By the time, they had adequately rocked us into the night. Hours had passed in what felt like minutes. Providing the feeling everything on the outside had shut down for the year. Meaning the money spent for our post-concert rides would be lost. A disappointed apology cut through the air in chilly air in a realization the money had gone for not. But, my emotions were in a state of more relief than disappointment. Until, we were clear of the venue walls. Finding the rides continuing to move joyous people through the darkened sky.

Apprehension, making a clear path toward panic flowed quickly in my body. We headed for the swings pointed out earlier in the evening. There was a swing ride not climbing so high, maybe a third the height of the second option. Thinking the possibility might be ripe to jump aboard the smaller set. My internal hope wasn’t meant to be, unless I backed out of the “bigger” ride. The memory from years before raced into my head. As we walked up to the rear of the line, leading into the swings carrying their riders high into the darkness. I nodded in agreement to take on the adventure. Though not completely sure making it into the seat was going to be accomplished. The one thing in my favor was our shortness of wait time. There wasn’t going to be much time to consider backing out. The short line appeared to reveal we would be included in the following run of the ride. The downside was standing there watching the swings climb higher and higher. They looked to elevate more than had appeared prior. My mind was turning with speed, but not like in times of the past. The questions circling where much different. Involving how disappointed I would feel if I ran away in fear. Stood to the side as the people standing around me went up and came down safely. Exiting with huge smiles to fill their face. I thought about how much happier we would feel if the risk was taken. In that moment, it was worth the risk to feel excited about having done it, rather than allowing anxiety to ruin the evening. When we finally sat in the swing, this strange calm came over. There wasn’t anywhere else I wanted to be in that moment. There was peaceful excitement. We were in this together and whatever happened was going to impact us the same. The comfort from this incredible lady beside me could be felt. Presenting itself in the form of courage to take on one of my fears.

As the ride lifted us directly into the sky. The question was thrown out about whether I suffered from the fear of heights. My simple response was “yep,” thinking to myself, it was a little late for that now. When the swings met their peak above the lights below. We began speeding around in a circle with our seat tilting sideways with the speed. From the chair beside me a soft voice commented, this was a little scarier than remembered. In the moment, something inside turned. No longer the scared guy with the disability. I encouraged looking at the bright lights of the fair, as they flew by below our feet. How incredible everything looked and how cool it was to be up there spinning around. The fear and anxiety from the line had disappeared. While the comfort radiating from the seat next to me, allowed me to provide comfort in return. They were signs of the person I wanted to become. When the swings slowed to a stop, we were lowered back to the ground. Slightly chilled from the cool air blowing in our face at that altitude. The amazingly bright smile glowing across the face of this amazing woman was magical. Making the concurring of my fear even sweeter. While a skip of glee propelled her out in front searching for another ride. I jogged to keep pace with the jovial lady and we hopped onto one more ride before the night came to a close. This one didn’t elevate off the ground.

Fear can play a part in interrupting relationships. When the thought process revolves around our self to an unhealthy extent. Leaving the promise of adventure stilted with emotions of dejection. Feelings of disappointment in the possible growth of connection. Having cerebral palsy seems to contribute to the dilemma of chaotic emotion. My disability leaving short of full control over the movements of my body. Experiencing spasms seemingly made worse when in combination with anxiety. An emotion felt by many when in the company of someone we aim to impress. Though all of these factors can sometimes be taken out of context. Feeling like there can be no acceptance. That feelings could never be reciprocated if some help was needed. Help possibly not required by other people. The problem remains allowing the negative thoughts an ability to interfere. Instead of remembering the other person involved with the interaction. As the swing moved us around, those internal emotions began changing. An understanding of my value in comforting someone else. Placing my fears to the side in an attempt at letting the connection flourish. It felt good to realize the growth having taken place. The desire to experience the moment, won out over fears around CP and our height above the ground. As we live through a time when many things we enjoy can’t happen. I remember with fondness the lifting of those swings. Realizing more than one fear was being conquered. Growth was taken place. Connection was being given the air to breath.












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