You are now entering the Discomfort Zone

When I was a kid, my parents watched “The Twilight Zone” on TV. Every week, Rod Serling would introduce his show with the famous creepy music and Dali-esque screen sequence. Some of those episodes scared the crud out of me and still occasionally feature in my nightmares. But I also remember reasoning that if Serling bade you enter the Twilight Zone, then by definition you weren’t already in it most of the time. So where were we? Were we in the Daylight Zone? The Sunrise Zone? This issue was never clarified to my satisfaction, and any reasonable suggestions are welcome in the Comments section provided below.

Of course, we all live in various zones. For example, both Spain and Texas are in the northern Temperate Zone, the Temperate Zones being the areas sandwiched between the Polar and Tropical Zones. Too, everyone lives in a time zone. Spain, by the way, is in an awkward time zone, using Continental Europe time even though geographically the country fits better with the U.K. time zone. We’re told that, despite the fact that Spain was technically neutral in WWII, Franco changed Spain’s time to match the one his buddies Adolf and Benito lived in. Perhaps this is one reason Spaniards eat dinner quite late by lots of people’s standards.

My favorite zone, though, involves neither space nor time. My favorite zone is my Comfort Zone. While I’m up for most intellectual challenges, my general attitude towards physical risks spans the gamut from “You go ahead, and I’ll hold your coat” to a hearty Monty Python “Run away, run away!” My idea of a ski weekend, for instance, is a black diamond couch, a book, and a mug of hot chocolate. No doubt this predilection is genetic; Ancestry says I have some Scandinavian blood, and apparently the bit I inherited is the hygge gene. Indeed, I chalk up my line’s survival over the millennia to risk aversion and the ability to bear children easily.

So living in my Comfort Zone has served me well for decades, but it occurred to me about ten years ago that I might, in fact, be missing something by virtue of my reticence. My mother’s closet is what got me thinking along these lines. After our folks died, my sister and I went to Beaumont to clean out their house. My mother’s closet contained not only the few clothes she wore most days, but also a great number of items that still had the price tags on them. When we were kids, we were enjoined to save our new clothes for best, and Mom definitely practiced what she preached. After my closet encounter of the third kind, I started making it a point to wear new shoes out of the store and carrying out the ones I wore in in my shopping bag. Then I started doing that with clothes, although buying swimsuits and formal wear sometimes requires passing on the wear-it-out-of-the-store practice. Sometimes  discretion really is the better part of valor.

So after I had been doing this for a while and patting myself on the back for not saving my new clothes for best, I started to wonder what I was saving my life for. I’m not saying people should go out and do stupid crazy things, like ride motorcycles without helmets or vote Republican. But surely sneaking out of my CZ for the occasional adventure wouldn’t be that disastrous, as long as I kept my head about what those adventures might be. And then late one December, I hit on my solution: I would resolve to do one thing outside of my Comfort Zone every year.

And so the last decade has seen me undertake my annual one thing. The first year I went through a cave. We were on a tour in a relatively big cave, and there were lots of lights, but that was a big deal for me. One year I climbed up onto the roof of our house and actually stood up. It may sound trivial to you, but that was a real wowza for me. A couple of years ago I hired a personal trainer and worked with him every week. And it’s funny. I wouldn’t say that I’ve gotten braver, but I have gotten more comfortable with a little risk in my life. This year we began splitting our time between the USA and Spain; if that weren’t enough, I bought two dresses with hems above the knee, smiled in every picture even though I have crooked teeth, danced like a crazy person till the wee hours in a venue where I actually knew people, and appeared in public in a bikini top. (And img_1546now I’ve told somebody I know that I wore a bikini top in public!) This all may not sound like a lot to most folks, but for me it’s huge.

So how’s all this going? Am I better off with the occasional foray outside of my CZ? The answer is clearly yes, and there’s no better proof than our recent parasailing adventure. While it looks scary, really your job while you parasail is to sit in your harness. I’m good at sitting, so this was a natural area of competency for me. It’s lovely and quiet up in the sky, and you see vantages you’d never get otherwise. It was beautiful, it was fun, and I wouldn’t have tried it ten years ago. So may there is a risk-taking muscle, and using mine a bit at a time has made mine a little stronger and my Comfort Zone a little wider. Maybe this is the Sunrise Zone after all.


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