The Discomfort Zone


Comfort Zone

I’ve spent most of my life getting out of my comfort zone, because basically my comfort zone is being alone in a room with a book.

Yeah, it’s weird to quote myself on my own blog, but sometimes you don’t realize how true a thing is until you hear it coming out of your mouth. Mike and I were talking over dinner about a book he was reading, a kind of motivational thing about facing your fears, discomforts, and painful experiences, and pushing through them to make progress in your life.

Yes. I know what that means, because that’s what I’ve been doing almost every single day for as long as I can remember.

I have to qualify my statement somewhat by saying, my sweet spot is probably being alone in a room with a book AND other people elsewhere in the house. I’ve been really alone before, and learned that there is such a thing as too much aloneness, even for me.

When I was 25 I rented a studio apartment in Lower Allston, Massachusetts, where I lived by myself for one full year. I thought I would love it, because I’ve always needed and enjoyed more alone time than the average person. But the bloom wore off the rose soon enough, and I found out that coming home from work every night to an empty apartment was not only a little lonely, but eventually made me feel disconnected from reality.

I was surprised once, in my mid-20s, when a friend described me as “ambitious.” That was never a word I’d thought to apply to myself, but now I think I can see that the way ordinary life has always subtly, insistently, relentless prodded me to get out of my comfort zone – just to function, really – has its benefits. I am accustomed to feeling uncomfortable. Many of the most ordinary tasks and interactions of everyday life require me to overcome feelings of either fear or fatigue. But I do them because I have to, or in many cases because I actually want to! Pushing through is a way of life and I think mostly a positive adaptation to my personal challenges.

There are times, though, when I need to pull back and conserve my resources, and those times are not always easy to recognize. I never think of myself as a Type A personality, because I am not achievement- or status-oriented, but I do sometimes over-commit to things out of pure enthusiasm and excess creative energy. Creative energy, I’ve learned, does not always = actual energy!

Those are times when I need to retreat to my comfort zone and regroup. If I push myself too hard, I pay for it. If I go too hard for too long, I end up needing an extended hibernation period, and modern human life does not really allow a person to hibernate! Certainly, life with kids doesn’t. So I end up feeling like I am trying to sprint underwater for months at a time until things come back into balance. Which is about where I am now.

Still, I know that living in The Discomfort Zone has allowed me to do so much in life that I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t stretched past my fears and anxieties. Even living alone in Boston is something I am glad to have done, since during that time I managed to confidently navigate public transportation (I was a bus system regular), go out to eat or drink by myself without feeling self conscious, find a job, quit a job, cut my own hair, talk to strangers, start a business, start a blog, end a blog, meet my future husband. There were a lot of clumsy moments and some failures but a lot of accomplishments too. Things I might have only read about if I’d sat alone in a room with a book.


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