Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Comfort Zone

The Battleship, Grand Canyon
On our second date Dave showed up with a magnet for my refrigerator that said, "Life begins outside your comfort zone."  I identified with this immediately.  But lately I've been thinking, what does it actually mean to me?

I was in a comfort zone for 34 years while I was married to Jim.  That kind of depth and time in a relationship certainly has you pretty comfortable.  And living in the same house and town for 24 years was also very comfortable.  We had our routine, our friends, our family and a schedule that fit and was very comfortable.

Jims' illness took me far beyond my comfort zone.  Set me into the stratosphere of discomfort actually.  Losing him so early whirled my little zone into a complete chaotic state. Like a once serene woodland after a microburst has hit; the rampage and intense energy of this wind storm can explode and topple trees into a jumbled mass of toothpicks.  As I looked at my life in the after math of my storm, the landscape was completely changed and I realized there was no longer a familiar zone at all .  It had been blown to smithereens.

On the Battleship, Grand Canyon
I guess we could say a whole new life began outside my comfort zone.  Being at mid-life and embarking on a brand new relationship isn't easy!  But certainly the connection Dave and I had from day one started to set up a new set of cones for this new "zone".  But he has pushed me beyond the barriers of comfort many times in the two years we have been together.  He has challenged me to rock climb in the canyon of the Colorado river as well as the Grand Canyon.  He always assured me I was safe, and I knew I was with him.  But it didn't mean I wasn't scared, and I was pretty uncomfortable when I clung to a rock and struggled to find that next hand hold.  Speaking to the rope that was tied around my waste, ascending up in front of my face and disappearing over my head, "I can't do this!"  And the rope responded, "I'm here, I can help you! Grab the rope and just walk up the rock using the rope" ... and then I felt that rope tighten and begin to pull and lift me.  As Dave hoisted me up I grabbed the rope and my legs scrambled to find a toe hold and then I was able to find the next hand hold too.  Feeling more secure I was able to keep going on my own power.  But that rope remained taught and comforting.  At the top of this rock formation the view of the Grand Canyon was amazing.  It had not been easy getting there, but I have always understood that this is where the biggest rewards come from; that not-so-easy climb.  On that outlook post, I felt alive and exhilarated having pushed beyond my comfort zone.

Terri, Alice and me, bushwacking
Recently two girlfriends came up to visit us in our mountain town.  We had promised them that we would take them out snowshoeing if the weather held.  I had warned them that snowshoeing with Dave means bushwacking ... that is, never following a path, only a ridge line with a destination in mind.  OK, they had said.  While we sat in the truck and viewed the dense forest of Evergreens we listened to Dave explain that we would snowshoe up into this area ... could be steep ... and from there we would be in open ground and could get up to that ridge and have some great views of the Bigelow range, Mt.Abraham and Sugarloaf mountains. 
There was silence in the truck.  Then Alice said, "it looks pretty dense right there."  I added, "and steep!"  Dave turned to all of us and said, "Well, we could go back a half mile and take that logging road up into the same area.  It will be longer and, frankly, boring. We can always turn back if we aren't comfortable with this ascent."  Silence in the truck again. I sat quiet as I didn't want to push anyone to do something they didn't want to do.  The big difference between Dave and I.  And then Terri said,  "OK, let's give this a try, if we can always turn back!"

It was a challenging climb.  There were moments when the steepness of the slope, the ice and sliding crust under foot defintely asked a lot of the three of us at times.  At crucial moments it seemed Terri or Alice would turn to me and say something that would get me giggling ... and as I lost the grip I had on a tree or watch as my snowshoe lost it's grasp in the ice I'd get laughing harder.  We all would get laughing and thus delighting in this moment.  As we came out into the clearing on the ridge and those mountains blossomed in front of us with their white peaks standing in contrast to  a robin eggs blue sky, Terri turned to Alice and me and said, "damn, he was right!"

On the Colorado River
I guess this is what the saying on that magnet means to me, that I am one who is more content demanding more of myself and my life than what is comfortable and familiar.  I want to be asked to reach deeper and climb higher.  I accept the risk of tying a rope on and starting to ascend a rocky pitch, or throwing things into a box and making that move to change my job, my town, my entire life.  That all of this keeps me alive.  My life can be altered to become an empty canvas and it is possible to make it whatever I want it to be.   I can begin to throw new splashes of colors into this new life. I can step off the old canvas, step out of those familiar shades that are comfortable and choose to grasp for those brighter more brilliant shades that life has to offer.  It's not easy.  I challenged my family and some of my friends by all these changes that I embraced so quickly.  I have to wonder if my new life was taking them outside of their comfort zone?  And this is OK.

I know now that all the times Dave has pushed me beyond my comfort zone that this has been my response ... damn, he's right ... this is where life begins.

Loving you all back,