Monday, June 21, 2010

Changing - Again...

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow.  If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” 
Gail Sheehy

     I had a chance to break out of another level of my comfort zone – A LOT – this weekend.
For a few months, I’ve been anticipating a weekend away at a friend’s house.  I can’t say that I’ve been eagerly anticipating this.  I’ve just been anticipating this in the way one might anticipate the removal of a mole or the filling of a tooth.  “Anticipating” as in:  it’s on the horizon.  It’s something to plan for.  Not getting out of it (without a legit excuse).
     In holistic health counseling, I often tell clients about the importance of getting out of their comfort zones.  Predictable routines can sometimes leave us routinely doing unhealthy things (ever notice that while on vacation you don’t really need that mid-morning cup of coffee or that late afternoon candy bar?  Smokers have a different smoking schedule during the workweek than they do on the weekend – and that usually results in smoking fewer cigarettes on Saturdays and Sundays).  Breaking routine can be a good thing.
     This past weekend was my opportunity to experience a break from my routine, but it was a break that made me feel queasy, sweaty and hoping for a miraculous lightening bolt to show me my way out of it.  The lightening bolt never came, so I went.
     The idea was that the girls from my graduating class would get together at a friend’s house on a lake for the weekend to “reconnect”.  Only thing is, the girls that were coming were not really girls that I spent much, if any, time with while I was in high school.  In fact, I did not really spend much time with any girls on a regular basis back then.  My high school years were spent commuting from another school district into the more academically competitive high school in our city.  It also happened to be in the more affluent community, as well.  As I was neither academically competitive (much to my parents irritation) nor affluent (much to mine), I was constantly feeling like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time - all the time.  I simply did not fit in (at least by my definition of “fitting in”).  I spent those years attempting to be as invisible as possible. 
     The hostess for this weekend was someone I’d connected with about 10 years after high school, and ours was a friendship not based on what neighborhood we lived in or what clothing we wore, but on common interests (and having kids of similar ages).  We’re friends.  We’ve kept in touch.  I wanted to be supportive to her.  The prospect of being with the others, though, was terrifying to me.
     The night before I left home, I packed and repacked my suitcase, finally filling it with a good mix of “me” clothing and “just-in-case” clothing (as in “just in case I can’t be ME”).  My husband thought I was nuts for packing enough clothing to last me a whole week rather than the 1 ½ days I was going to be gone, although he was so kind as to not exactly say that… I left home an hour later than I’d planned because I could not decide on what to wear.  Torn between “looks”, I decided on the “me” outfit and finally unpacked all the other stuff from my suitcase, disgusted with myself.  In “real-life” I am a confident, educated, articulate person, but in anticipation of this weekend I’d become the wishy-washy awkward, self-doubting, slumped-shouldered, wanting-to-be-invisible teen with bad hair that I’d been 26 years ago.
     After doing some breathing exercises to help get relaxed, I headed to the mountains of West Virginia with sweaty hands and TONS of conflicting thoughts running through my head.  I knew I could turn around at any time, but then I also knew that getting to – and through – this time would be a great accomplishment if I could actually do it.  I reminded myself of my oft-repeated mantra from my health counseling school:  Feel the fear and do it anyway.
     I stopped for lunch with a dear friend who lives on the way to my destination and she gave me a great pep talk.  My friend is ultra-cool, and I reminded myself that if I can have a friend this cool in my real life, then I must be an OK adult regardless of how I was allowing my teen-self to judge me.
Still sweating, I arrived at my friend’s house for the weekend and within an hour or so, all queasiness had subsided and I knew I’d made the right decision.  Some friendships were renewed and others were simply started from scratch – just like my “big-person” self does nowadays. 
     I’ve read that it’s a good idea for couples to have new experiences together to help strengthen their relationships – getting out of their “ruts” by going to a new restaurant, taking up a new weekend sport or beginning a new hobby.  Seeing their partners in unpredictable routines and new settings gives them a fresh view of each other, a new appreciation, even. 
     I think as an individual, it strengthens your relationship with yourself when you are able to view yourself in new settings, and gives you a fresh perspective of who you are.  When I overcame my fear of flying at the age of 39 and flew for the first time - by myself - I admired my ability to get out of my “rut” of fear that had limited me for years.  When I decided to follow my passion for healthy living and valuing this great gift of life itself, by becoming a certified holistic health coach I was impressed with the stick-to-itiveness that it took to complete my schooling in another state and launch my business while maintaining my family-roles and responsibilities at the same time.  My moves to different cities (6 such moves during my adult years), expectant of the new opportunities and experiences that awaited as a result made me see the choice I have had to feel excitement or resentment in many different situations.  I have chosen “excitement” most every time.  These types of experiences encourage me because I know that I am not static, but ever changing.  This weekend was another opportunity for that.
     Time after time, I’ve seen that that silly little doubting voice inside my head is simply trying to limit me.  Time after time, I have proven it wrong.

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird:  it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.  We are like eggs at present.  And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg.  We must be hatched or go bad.”
CS Lewis
me (on the left) waaaay out of my comfort zone


Anonymous said...

I think roller coasters fit the bill for getting out of your comfort zone.

Karrie said...

The problem with comfort zones is that they are so comfortable. But really, I don't think we are here on earth to live without new experiences. Susan Jeffers book "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway" really helped me to learn that, not just mentally, but physically too. Good for you for breaking out and connecting with new people. I, too, would have serious issues with meeting up with people from highschool since that is an experience I'd rather forget.