Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Discomfort In the Comfort Zone

I write these personal viewpoints based on, well, my own personal experiences.  Sometimes my thoughts spin from a conversation, a fleeting feeling, an over the top reaction, current events, some serendipitous happenstance, or perhaps of late, a fully launched visit right close to crazy.  Just for giggles and squeals I like to look into the how and why of life’s ordinary, predictable, developmentally normed stages and phases and how I appear to be moving along in a rather ordinary and predictable clip even if I occasionally have a twisted viewpoint, a colorful rendition, or a blackened scowl at the I saw this coming-ness of it all.

Today I decide to take a close look at my comfort zone.  I start thinking about other zones.  Work.  Twilight.  Safety.  End.  Attacking.  Free.  Climate.  Time.   So it appears that me in “the zone” works a little like this;  I have worked my ass off to get out of the attacking zone, I think , it's a hockey term, which means ummm, nothing to meBut it might just indicate I might have been in the attacking zone for a reason, all that working so hard at it and all.  I am hoping to land in the end zone, which will mean that I have scored big.  I usually stick to a fairly odd, but fairly tight safety zone, staying out of trouble, doing the “right” thing, so on and so forth with the  attacky thing that gets me in trouble and kind of interferes with the reality that I am generally behaving and safe, nearly dull in the scheme of things and far from the danger zone.   I am sometimes in the Twilight Zone, maybe frequently because I have to say, there is quite a bit of strange out there and I seem to get a little too close to it just to remind myself that the safety zone is my comfort zone.  Except….I am tooling down the path of middle-aged divorcee a little too close to the free zone, but not quite, due to my rather restrictive comfort zone.  I am at great odds with myself in the world at this time.

I am attempting to get myself in sync and in the zone.  And due to the restrictions of my comfort zone, whenever I make any attempt to move out of it, let’s just say Jim Carrey’s facial contortions have nothing on me.  I start to act and look like I have been pushed out of my skin.  Intense exemplified.  Fear morphed into acid induced spits of hold on for dear life as I scream my way through this.  Comfort.  Zone.  I am realizing they are there for a reason.  I am realizing some of mine are actually handy, if restrictive.  And although I don’t like to share my self-incriminating findings out loud, I might have even discovered, I could maybe move out of my comfort zone with training wheels, or in small steps.  I don’t actually have to cross several time zones to push out and attempt to try new approaches or activities.  

Discomfort is not something I hide well.  It pulses up and down my skin and breaks itself out in hives.  It chokes down my words until I have to spit them out in razor sharp missiles or hrumphing grunts.  Or breaks into sweat as I count inside my head and threaten myself inside that same head to speak-up in 1, 2, 3 seconds- GO!  Crack, squeak, hrumph, bite, drymouth, sweat, drool.  What?  You couldn’t understand that I just wanted to know if you were free for lunch?  You didn’t realize I had an opinion about the scheduling of parent conferences for working parents?  What?  You thought I wanted to hurt you?  Oh No! Of course not, it’s because I am insanely socially awkward, or shy, or uncomfortable in groups of people that I don’t know well.   So in order to function in the world, in the many different areas that interest me, I sometimes FORCE myself out of my comfort zone into what looks and feels like crazy.

As I continue on this life-long dedication to the Anthropology of Me, I start poking around to find out more about the comfort zone and how others relate to it.  I came across an article in The New York Times.  It is interesting in its viewpoint and its plea to urge the newly college bound to choose college based not on their comfort zone, but maybe try to push their skin right off and out of the range of comfort.  I wonder if the author is recently divorced?  Hmmmm maybe even available…… No I mean, I wonder if the author is maybe considering his own comfort level and is looking back wistfully or with regret.   Frank Bruni discusses looking beyond conventional choices or choice-making when deciding on a college.  

If you’re among the lucky who can factor more than cost and proximity into where you decide to go, college is a ticket to an adventure beyond the parameters of what you’ve experienced so far. It’s a passport to the far side of what you already know. It’s a chance to be challenged, not coddled. To be provoked, not pacified.

… And treat your undergraduate education as a rare license, before you’re confined by the burdens of full-fledged adulthood and before the costs of experimentation rise, to be tugged outside your comfort zone. To be yanked, preferably. If you’ve spent little time in the thick of a busy city, contemplate a school in precisely such a place. If you know only the North, think about the South. Seek diversity, not just in terms of nationality, ethnicity and race, but also in terms of financial background, especially if your bearings have been resolutely and narrowly upper middle class. You’ll most likely encounter a different economic cross-section of classmates at one of the top state universities than you will at a small private college. Doesn’t that have merit, and shouldn’t that be weighed?

….I hope they ask themselves not which school is the surest route to riches but which will give them the richest experiences to draw from, which will broaden their frames of reference. College can shrink your universe, or college can expand it. I vote for the latter.

Ah, choosing college, that time so long ago when the world was fresh and clean, Studio 54 was attempting it’s 3rd or 4th revival, Xenon was attempting something mod-a-delic, and Danceteria was bumping and grinding toward a gritty edge of punk-infused-pre-hip-hop urban funk.  Well, at least that’s where I was.  Happy.  Care-free.  Young.   Assymetrical, of hair and clothes, but solid on my feet, unless I was dancing all light and in the groove zone (at least I like to remember it this way).  Somehow the burdens of full-fledged adulthood found me anyway.  Or quite honestly, I seemed to march right to those burdens in some lock-step allegiance toward comfort and safety.  Insurance. Paychecks. Marriage(s). Mortgages. Minivans. Lock step safety.  

I felt the pressure of wanting all things good and “normal” in spite of my initial comfort in the carefree zone of my own individualized take on the zone of proximal functioning, somewhere between independent spirited lone wolf and I kind of like to have someone around me to share the good times, and the bad too.  But still within safe.  The zone of proximal development being that place between knowing how to do something independently and having support and encouragement as you reach mastery.   I associated my free-thinking spiritedness with all things dangerous.  Rebellious.  Black sheepish.  Disobedient.  Stubborn.  Maybe wayward and naughty.  Well, I wasn’t really very naughty.  I had a few fun moments.  Early on, long ago, when for heaven’s sake we were all supposed to just be a little less burdened, darn-it!   I'm not sure it was all so safe for me though.  I may have needed a little more encouragement and support before assuming I had reached mastery and independence.  I was married at 22.  There was not a great deal of time devoted to independence or mastery it turns out.

I like safe.  It lets me know how far I can travel just right up to the edge of it.   I think I can let go of some of the adult burdens I've collected at this point.  It turns out, being weighted down might have been restricting my growth, or my potential towards that end.  I have also discovered that letting go of all of the burdens at once might have launched me a little quicker and higher than I was ready to go.  I might have also thrown some of those burdens up and not gotten out of the way of them, a few may have landed right back on me, in different shapes or sizes.  

Safely finding my voice here has helped me articulate a little more clearly out there.  Comfortably.  Not so many outbreaks and hives. Maybe just the one, or two.  A few sweaty, pulsating surges, but those could just be the hot-flashes….that middle age womanly march toward carefree with temporary discomfort as I position myself in the strike zone- gearing up to hit a home run right out of the ballpark, just off center, enough.  For me.

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