> Spirituality > Personal Growth

My Slingshot Ride

September 11, 2016 | by Debbie Gutfreund

Catapulting 240 feet into the air made me rethink what is truly possible.

A few weeks ago I went with one of my daughters on The Slingshot in the Six Flags amusement park. It is terrifying. You’re basically a human-sized pebble being launched out of a gargantuan rubber-band with a high-speed launch followed by an epic freefall. Once you’re strapped into the open-globe harness, the giant rubber-band cables will pull back until it feels like an invisible hand is pulling back the slingshot. Without warning you are released and shot up into the air like a bullet at 80 mph until you are 240 feet up into the sky, and then you fall back into a straight free fall.

The whole contraption looked like it was built by a teenager testing out a science experiment. The two spaced-out amusement park attendants who were running the ride started giving us all these warnings as we climbed into the harness: Keep your heads back the whole time. Do not move your heads. Put your feet here. Do not move your feet.

When my daughter asked them something about the speed of the ride, they said that they were in charge of setting the tension based on what they thought would be safe for our weight. This was not at all reassuring, and as we buckled our seatbelts, I turned to my daughter who had begged me to go on this ride with her and said, “Look what I do for you! I am going to catapult 240 feet up into the air right now just for you. How many other mothers do you think would do this?”

“None!” she laughed. “Thanks, Ima!” she shouted as the cables pulled back and we shot up into the sky.

I wouldn’t recommend flying like a slingshot to those who are afraid of speed, heights or free falling. But I have to say this: The view at 240 feet up in an open-globe harness is amazing.

As we were getting off the ride, I realized that the slingshot was not only a wonderful experience I had with my daughter, it had somehow changed me. Without even realizing it, I had changed my mindset when I buckled my seatbelt on this ride. I had used self-talk to overcome my fear of being slung into the air. I had told myself repeatedly: This is only a ride. It wouldn't be in Six Flags if it wasn't safe. The guys who went on the ride before us were fine even if they looked a little shell-shocked when they got off of it. And besides, I had told myself, it will be over before I know it.

I took control of my fear and let go of my idea of what limits me, tasting a new sense of freedom. I was able to fly higher than I had previously thought was possible. I was able to face the height and the speed and then emerge somehow more open, more courageous than I was before I catapulted 240 feet into the air.

It made me think about big changes and how reluctant I usually am to make them. I worry that I can't do it. I worry how the changes will fit into the life that I'm comfortable with. I worry about how it will affect my friends and my work and my personality.

This is the time to try one huge slingshot change.

Because of our fears, many of us settle on making small changes, safe ones that we know are within our reach and squarely within our comfort zones. But that cautious approach can also be limiting. The period of Elul is a time when we can try one huge, seemingly impossible change that we are almost positive we can’t sustain. A slingshot change.

For some people, keeping Shabbos is just not something they can commit to forever. But most of us can change almost anything in our lives for just 30 days. Elul is an incredible opportunity to try these types of 30-day challenges. Because during this month, God reaches out, like that invisible hand that pulls back the slingshot and catapults us forward.

Observing the Sabbath or eating kosher or making any huge change in our lives, even "just" during Elul, can change us even if we can’t sustain it. Even if it doesn’t fit into our lives as we see them today. Even if it seems impossible to us. At least we will discover that there are ways to fly. That the sky isn’t as far off as it seems. That the seemingly impossible changes in our lives may take a lot of courage to begin, but they are possible.

There are so many blessings in my life that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t catapulted into slingshot growth. When my husband and I moved to Israel, we knew that we might someday return to America. But what if we hadn’t gone at all because of that? We would have missed out on many precious years raising our children and building our marriage in the mountains of Jerusalem.

In fact when I think about any of the big accomplishments that I have achieved in my life, there were always slingshot moments that preceded them. Changing careers. Marriage. Having children. Even running marathons.

And sometimes when we catapult ourselves forward towards our goals, we discover that the finish line isn’t as far away as we once thought, and that the impossible is, in fact, possible.

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