Friday, February 13, 2009

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

My husband had some serious reservations about me posting the photograph of our study on Wednesday. Frankly so did I. It took me firmly out of my comfort zone, but I figured honesty was the best policy. It’s all this pretending we have got it all under control when we have not that makes it so hard for women. We end up making each other feel inadequate as we hold our own achievements up against those of our friends and acquaintances. Funny how we always come up short when we do that! Housewives are particularly prone to this problem, and it can only make us feel utterly miserable. You walk into a house that looks absolutely perfect - completely tidy and spotless - and compare it to your own - not even considering that the woman whose house it is was probably a frenetic tornado of activity getting the house like that (there may even have been tears), children will have been threatened with dire consequences should they mess it up and well, if it is anything like my house used to be, I really would not try opening any of the closet doors for fear of serious personal injury. None of us is perfect, and if Wednesday’s photograph gives you any comfort, than I will be very pleased indeed. I do feel compelled to add that it is looking quite a lot better in there after a bit more effort. I will post a photo before long to show you just how much better - but not yet! I just hope it helped to be reminded that no one is perfect.

This is why stepping out of your comfort zone is a good thing. It almost always helps someone - be it yourself or someone else. Sometimes it does not seem very helpful at the time, in fact it can be downright painful depending on the circumstances, but it is SO worth doing. Take the photograph above for example.

This was me, kissing the Blarney Stone last year. It was not an altogether pleasant experience, climbing up a narrow spiral staircase to the top floor of a medieval castle nearly 90 feet above the ground, only to be hung backwards over the abyss to kiss a dirty old piece of wall. Until the installation of those bars you see underneath me, it was very dangerous indeed. Seriously - people died.

And why would you want to kiss a dirty old stone? Well, it allegedly gives you the gift of eloquence. My Dad used to talk about the Blarney Stone all the time when I was a little girl. I don’t know why he would have needed to kiss it actually as he already had the gift of the gab. I like to think I inherited that gift from him and would have no need to kiss the stone for that reason either. I did, however, want to do it in memory of my Dad as he had never had the chance and the story had been such a big part of my childhood. Let me tell you I had some serious doubts, particularly as the elderly Irish gentleman who holds on to your hips as you hang over the abyss lifted me further backwards so I could get closer to the actual stone (which is part of a wall and very hard to distinguish when you are hanging backwards some ninety feet up). I appreciate it would be difficult to fall through iron bars, but hanging back as far as your waist being hung on to for dear life, you cannot imagine what goes through a person’s head.

The best bit is, I had to do it twice as the 21st Century Teenager’s photo did not turn out first time. I was quite happy to leave photo-less but both he and the Irish gentleman insisted I do it again. As I had not yet risen up from the stones, I was in no position to refuse as he forcibly lifted me backwards once again. I breathlessly protested we could just pretend, but no, I was lifted further back than the first time and kissed the stone for the second time. Let’s just say I am NEVER doing that again.

But the point is, I did it. I stepped out of my comfort zone and I am really glad I did. It was so satisfying to do something tangible to remember someone special and I’m less afraid of heights than I was before. It’s hard to get much scarier than leaning backwards over a 90 foot drop as far as I’m concerned. I also reinforced my own conviction that if I want something, I go for it. The other times in my life when I have stepped out my comfort zone have been similarly productive.

Immigrating to England by myself at 23 was a huge step out of my comfort zone, but it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Climbing up Mount Vesuvius, and continuing as close as we could get to the top when a blizzard started, was another step I will always be grateful I took. I leaped miles away from the edges of my comfort zone when I spoke the Eulogy at both my parent’s funerals, but I felt satisfied that they were given the best send off I could possibly achieve, and let me tell you I will never be even remotely nervous speaking in public again. Even if I had to speak in front of statesmen or princes, it could not possibly be as hard for me as those two speeches were.

Now there are steps outside my comfort zone I will never take - like skydiving and bungee jumping. I will never understand the point of those two activities and frankly I’m happy to stay ignorant of it. I’ve never been an advocate of doing things that are truly physically dangerous and I would never advise anyone to do anything that threatens life and limb.

But, and this is a very big but, I highly recommend seeking opportunities to step outside your own comfort zone - and if you are presented with an unwelcome opportunity in difficult times - embrace that too. You will be stronger, more content and a better person for it.

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