“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
– Albert Camus
I’ve declared repeatedly how empowering it is to face my fears and bask in my newly expanded comfort zone, but I would have liked to skip my latest challenge: zorbing.
What is zorbing? Picture a gigantic hamster ball. Insert a woman who is worried she will vomit. Strap her in, and cue the soundtrack: “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.”
Roll her, ass over teakettle, down a bumpy hill.
Driving nearly three hours to reluctantly take a thirty-second ride gave me a lot of time to reflect on whether it’s worth it to put myself through the things that I do.
I’ve always been goal oriented, always pushed or pulled myself a certain way, finding meaning in the struggle. It wasn’t fun to put myself through college, several years of hovering near the poverty line with long hours spent hitting the books after working all day, but getting the degree made it worth it, of course.
What about choosing to do stressful things for fun? I am nearly through my list of completing 101 things in 1001 days, and some of the tasks are of questionable value.
I used to teach Camus’ essay “The Myth of Sisyphus.” Sisyphus, a character from Greek mythology who defied the gods, endures one of the most terrible punishments they ever doled out. He pushes a massive boulder up a hill, struggling through the pain, to see it roll back down again. Over and over. For eternity. And that’s life. We endure misery that accomplishes nothing only to do it again and again. That’s quite the message to lay on teenagers in high school English class.
This was all swirling through my mind as my husband and I arrived at the zorbing site. My queasy stomach turned over, and I considered backing out. My husband, who drove me all that way, would not even pretend that was an option.
I nervously got onto a conveyor belt that carried me up the hill. On the way up, I passed a sign — “Caution: Always be aware of other tubers” — and had a vision of an evil Mr. Potato Head attacking me in my zorb.
A staff member opened a creaky gate, and I started rolling down the hill backwards. My world was filled with blue sky, and, a split-second later, green grass. Then blue sky, then green grass, blue sky, green grass, blue, green, blue, green, faster and faster, while I bounced along disoriented on a pillow of air.
Then a guy poked his head in, asking if I was all right. He looked a little sheepish and explained that I really picked up speed in the end, that I won the award for fastest of the day.
I zipped out the hole like it was a playground slide, gasping, “That was crazy.”
The twist at the end of Camus’ essay is that, with the boulder settled at the foot of the mountain, Camus imagines Sisyphus happy. Life may be absurd, but we control our reactions to it.
So I too am happy when I check each challenge off my list. They’re all worth it: the good ones, the bad ones, the silly ones, the profound ones. Sometimes my challenges have taught me something, made me proud, let me share a special moment with the people I love.
And sometimes I’m just glad I didn’t vomit.
(Link to zorbing video)
#58 (101 things in 1001 days): Go zorbing.