Ahh, the comfort zone. It’s where I tend to live most of my life and no, I don’t necessarily mean a big, comfy leather recliner. The comfort zone is where life is easy and where I don’t take risks. The comfort zone includes lots of cups of coffee, tea, and diet cokes sipped while reading books, in isolation and silence. Unfortunately, the comfort zone can also be stagnant and limiting and in denial of the rest of the world. For me, it’s a withdrawal from life, seeking a sense of safety.
During this spring (and Lenten season), I’m trying to get out of the comfort zone. Out of the comfort zone includes writing for the blog. In the comfort zone is where I mentally write a post and then I’m not brave enough to share it. In the comfort zone is being alone and existing in my non-work hours as a bit of a hermit. Out of the comfort zone is going to lectures, concerts, meetings, and readings and really being part of the world. A lot of the time it’s really not that uncomfortable, but it still takes the act of participation to be out of the comfort zone.
Two weeks ago, I wrote and submitted an essay for publication in the Longmont Library’s anthology for local writers. I told my sister about wanting to do so, but often I don’t follow through. The Friday it was due, I finished work early and headed to the library for two hours of writing, giving me just enough time to finish before the 5 o’clock deadline. As soon as I plugged my laptop in and was tucked into the corner study carrel, I almost blew it. I was very tempted to just take advantage of the library’s magical wireless internet connection, but instead I settled down to work in the quiet and beauty of the library study room. I ran down the stairs and submitted my essay on CD with five minutes to spare. Pheww. Definitely out of my comfort zone, I felt a proud flush as I walked out of the library, not sure if it would be published, but glad that I had tried.
Last weekend, I went way out of my comfort zone to a spiritual retreat held at Benet Hill Monastery near Colorado Springs. I spent two nights with my sister in Colorado Springs, but spent the days and early evenings in silence and contemplation with ten strangers. The spot was beautiful, in the midst of the woods, and I came to truly enjoy another meaning of retreat. In this sense, retreat is not about withdrawal, but an opening up to the other. For me, it is awakening the divine. We spent time learning about contemplative prayer and another way of looking at scripture beyond the academic lens. The retreat was all about uniting those two. It was all about learning to sit still, opening up myself to God, and trying to crowd out my thoughts. I loved it when the leader of the workshop said that our thoughts often get in the way of God. Isn’t that just like life?
This Thursday night was another chance to get out of my comfort zone. I went to a reading in Denver at the Tattered Cover Colfax store. I had learned of Dimity McDowell’s reading a couple of weeks earlier and had noted it in my calendar. I scoped out which store location and checked out parking details. I calculated what time I would need to leave after work so that I wouldn’t chicken out at the last-minute (No offense to chickens, I find them to be a charismatic species). Even so, I was still a few minutes late and I had to talk myself into getting out of the car because I didn’t want to interrupt the reading with rude tardiness. I snuck into the back and became enthralled immediately. Dimity really shared herself and peeled away the layers as she laughed and cried and read her words about running and life. When it came to the question and answer section, no one in the audience spoke up so I raised my hand and asked. Later in the book signing line, Dimity thanked me for breaking the ice. Ahh, we all have a comfort zone to get out of at times.
Another attempt to get out of the comfort zone came this morning, but I failed. A local writer’s meet-up group meets every two weeks at a coffee shop and I signed up to attend. This morning I woke up with plenty of time to shower, gather my things, and get to the writers’ spot. I had my laptop, a notebook, a good pen, and a couple of crumpled ones to buy coffee. Instead, I psyched myself out and stayed home, drinking a gallon of home-brewed coffee while messing around on the internet instead. A few steps forward, a step back. Always a place to begin.