Comfort Zone

Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have a comfort zone. A place in our minds where we feel comfortable, where we feel in control. Where we believe we know what’s going to happen and how we’re going to handle it. We all have that, and we all like it. There are people who thrive in chaos. People who are at their best when everything around them is falling apart and they still somehow seem to figure things out and make things work. For them, chaos is their comfort zone. A hospital is a good place to find people like that. Emergency medical technicians are like that. Army Sargent’s are like that. What it all boils down to is control. We like to believe that we have control. Over ourselves, our kids, situations, etc. Control usually means we are familiar with our surroundings, familiar with how others do things, and just plain familiar with whatever we encounter. Then we think, there won’t be any surprises that we don’t know how to deal with. That’s our comfort zone, and we want to be there.

I never really liked high school. I was kind of a quiet kid, I didn’t do sports, I didn’t join anything. I always wanted to be somewhere else and yet I breezed through most of my classes. I had maybe two or three friends. When I graduated I walked away and never looked back. Never, is a funny word. You’ve heard the expression, “Never say Never.” It was a smart person who made that up. They knew what they were talking about. A few years ago I started to get curious about my classmates. I hadn’t seen most of them for many years and truthfully, I’d forgotten many of them. When I found a Facebook group for my class, I joined. A step out of the comfort zone. A few months ago I started seeing posts for my 45th class reunion. (Yes, I’m that old.) One of the people on the committee said that they wanted people to join the planning committee. So I joined. A leap out of the comfort zone. I’m glad I did it. It’s fun catching up with people you haven’t seen in many years. None of us had any idea what we were in for when we left that school building for the last time and so it seems I had more in common with my classmates than I realized. Getting out of your comfort zone can be fun.

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I believe that, but it can be very troublesome for many folks. I knew a woman who said it really bothered her husband to hear people speaking a different language. Standing in the grocery line and listening to someone speaking Spanish or Somali really upset him. “You don’t know what they’re saying. They could be talking badly about you,” he would tell her. For him, this was way outside his comfort zone. Travel, especially to foreign countries, helps with that. Seeing how other people live, hearing other languages and experiencing new and different things helps broaden the comfort zone. I’ve traveled a lot within the United States but never to a country that has a different language. I plan to do that in the near future.

I think it’s good to be uncomfortable. Many people will avoid an uncomfortable situation at all costs. It gives you a prickly feeling. Makes you sweat a little, makes you uncertain. I think these things are good. They serve to open your mind, and heart to bigger and better things. The truth is, there is no such thing as control. I think I’ve written about this before. If we believe we have control of a situation, we’re fooling ourselves. Like the person who says, “My dog would never do that,” or “My child would never say that.” That’s believing you have control, and it’s false. We lie to ourselves in order to believe that we have control because we don’t want to be outside our comfort zone. When I was a kid I did all kinds of things my parents didn’t know about. But I never heard them say, “Our son would never do that.” They knew better. Maybe that’s how I came to realize that there’s no such thing as control. I knew my parents trusted me and yet I was out doing all kinds of things I should’ve gotten a beating for. So if they imagined they had control of me, I knew they didn’t. Now apply that logic to everything in your life. Control? What control?

So I recommend getting out of your comfort zone. Go do some things you’ve never done. When you hear people speaking a different language, listen to them. They’re not talking about you. You’re not that interesting. They’re probably talking about the same kind of things you talk about. Go to a different country where they use different money. Then you can figure out how their money relates to yours and if you’re getting the right change. Trying to figure out the bus routes in Edinburgh Scotland was a real treat. Yes they speak English, but their accent makes it hard to understand sometimes. It was fun. I’m going to Ireland soon. They have an area I will be going to that is called “Gaeltacht” where a large share of the population speaks the Irish language. I can’t wait to hear it and I’ll be leaving my comfort zone at home.

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