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When Uncomfortable is Good

How much do you push yourself out of your comfort zone? Enough to get uncomfortable?

Enough to provide yourself new experiences? To change your world in a good way?

Do you even try to go beyond what anchors you in place? Or are you content with where you are?

Pushing ourselves beyond what we may feel are reasonable limits is tough. We get comfortable. We convince ourselves we are good right where we are. We justify our hesitance to move into new situations with validity--we are too busy, too tired, too strapped. And the list goes on.

We are scared.

Change is uncertain. Risk is, well, risky.

But what if we operated under truth? Which is to say, what if we recognized that what's often risky is being comfortable? What if we understood that to stay right where we are is to miss so much of ourselves?

Now, lest you think me daft, I'm not talking about putting ourselves in harm's way, like leaving the house in a blinding blizzard to get on the road or deciding to not to wear a seat belt in your vehicle. I'm referring to those non-harmful challenges that may hold us back or cause us to stay where we aren't supposed to be.

Quilting ourselves in what's agreeable can make us comfortable with the uncomfortable. It causes us to seek to control what we ultimately cannot and find satisfaction in what has the potential to limit us, set us back.

Comfortable is often synonymous with fear.

When I was younger, I was, for the most part, fearless. In my 16th summer, I flew across the country by myself at night to surprise a boyfriend in the military. He was returning from deployment and didn't know I was coming so no one expected me and I arrived late to an empty Charleston airport. It was nearly midnight when I hailed a cab to an address I had for some friends of his, not a bit concerned for my safety. Most fortunately, I was able to rouse a friend's wife from sleep to let me in for the night by banging on her door until she opened it. (Evidently, my frontal lobe was not operating at full capacity yet when I planned my little adventure amidst my parents' divorce.)

Later, as an airborne traffic reporter in San Diego, I flew in small planes over busy highways, occasionally in circles, to spot highway back ups within tight airspace parameters, even after I'd lost my father to a commercial plane crash. As a journalist, I spent a night riding along with a San Diego police officer, at one point backed up against the side of a building with officers that had their guns drawn, again, without a concern for myself. In 1990, when U. S. forces arrived in Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Storm, I was thinking how great it would be to cover the story. (Not great, exactly, but I would have been down for it.)

In other words, I haven't always been a chicken.

Now, roller coasters give me anxiety. The highest slide at the water park makes my knees weak. And my husband's talk about sky-diving makes me want to throw up. I want what feels safe.

What on earth happened to me?

Wisdom happened to me. Years of accumulated knowledge, of hearing and delivering the news, of understanding what can happen. Of knowing the way life works. Of being a mom.

Motherhood makes cowards of us all. Even when what terrifies isn't exactly worthy of cowardice.

Say, for example, putting a swimsuit on and stepping out to swim laps with a bunch of teenage strangers.

With a cap on.

And goggles too.

Gracie had encouraged me to be the world's biggest dork for exercise.

Gracie is our youngest daughter. She's a competitive swimmer who's in the water nearly every day of the year and that makes her a terrific athlete. Me, not so much. Though I was once a fitness instructor, those days came to a grinding halt as our numbers grew and we moved to a farm in the country. My husband suggested I run the perimeter of our property when I was missing my regular workouts but anyone who's lived out in the country knows potholes and long prairie grass, not to mention creatures of all shapes and sizes, are no friends to runners. Let's just say exercise took on a whole new look.

It wasn't pretty.

Neither is wearing a swim cap.

But it really does keep the hair out of your eyes. Gracie was right about that. The goggles help too.

Once summer had officially ended and I was no longer walking at a nearby lake with my friends, Gracie convinced me to swim and work out with her. But she was soon back to practicing again with her winter team so I was on my own. Yesterday, while she was already swimming in another location, because heaven forbid I get into the water in front of her friends and at least we are both on the same page about this, I decided to hit a different pool to swim laps myself.

Alas, it turned out there were other groups practicing there. And they all looked like they knew what they were doing.

I almost backed out, making no eye contact with anyone.

I was honestly and truly terrified.

"This is never going to work," I told myself. I could get back in my car and find my local Starbucks, order my favorite drink and read or work until Gracie was finished. That sounded so good. So comfortable!

But then I heard myself say, "Just do it." I'd come that far, why not? So I did something unbelievable. I asked one of the instructors if there was a lane open I could use. I was told there was. By then it was too late to back out, I was already in, so to speak.

I was still considering an escape plan however, particularly as parents, along with kids, sized me up. It couldn't have been worse if I'd shown up for ballet class in a tutu and headed for the bar.

For heaven's sake.

Nevertheless, I took a deep breath, acted like I knew what I was doing, like I'd been swimming my whole life, and jumped into that pool. It felt so good! And as I swam, all my troubles seemed to melt away. My head cleared and my body recharged and all the things that had bothered me before I hit that water disappeared!

Until a fit, beautiful, young man of about eighteen asked if he could share my lane with me. "Absolutely!" I said, and then I high-tailed it out of there to head to the locker rooms for a hot shower.

I should mention that getting out of the pool presented somewhat of a problem. I was a little reticent to hoist myself up and out of the water pool side, due to humiliating visions which included all the ways I wouldn't be able to efficiently or gracefully accomplish the task, but in the end I just went ahead and did it, what with all the lanes near the stairs full of swimmers in stroke. As miraculously as I was able to swim those laps without serious effort or stopping for breaks, I was able to get out of that pool without falling on my face or getting stuck half way out.

All God, I'm telling you.

And I feel as though he was laughing in a good way at me. Shaking His head at my silliness. Knowing I'd make it out of my zone of comfort that day. Knowing it would all be good.

Though the risk of humiliation was great, I'd saved it for another day. And there are sure to be plenty more opportunities, one way or another.


Kansas City, Kansas l jm@jmhuxley.com

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