Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Discomfort Zone: Where Life really Begins

No, this ain't a post about contraception :-) For more on that, turn to your preferred media outlet, which  greedily catalogs the Republican presidential nominee race.

Have y'all noticed? Spring is here.

Flowers in the Anza desert
I hate to be cliche, but I'm working on sharing honest opinions. In this case, my thoughts toward spring probably mirror most other folks'. Spring is alive. It's hopeful, and it's bright. It's blue, shiny, green, laden with scent and fluttery animals. Shoot, out here in the SoCal desert, even our cacti bloom, exhaling radiant colors into our atmosphere.

And, dare I say it, I come to life. I admit that I kind of hibernate during winter. It's a time to hunker down and pull into myself. (An aside: I think there's a reason our major holidays are in winter. We've gotta put dates on family celebrations, or else it's likely we'll sink tragically into ourselves for the remainder of the dark months.)

Don't get me wrong. I love me some introspection. Enough about yoga as an Olympic event: if Rumination were a contest, I would take the gold medal.

I guess you can imagine my relief when daylight savings time arrives and the weather starts to tick upward a few degrees. I'm propelled to get outside and out of my routines and out of my head.

It was at this moment of springtime appreciation that I saw a delightful fellow blogger's FB status update that she was going to make adventures a priority. Not just any adventure--as she put it, she's looking for adventures that put her "out of her comfort zone." A ding of recognition went off in my head as I read her post. What if I did the same? What if I identified actions that would put me out of my comfort zone, and then, drawing upon the inspiration of this beautiful spring, tackle them one by one? What would happen if I actually went through with this little experiment?

I am tempted to try it out. 

So, the first step is to identify just what constitutes adventure for me. It's not as easy as it sounds. In my case, I do not need to sign myself up for more traditional occurrences that would be labeled "adventurous." I have been spelunking. I have bungee jumped. I dove off cliffs into cool pools of water in Belize. I climbed rocks and rode horseback in the Rockies, I've swum with sharks; I traveled to South and Central America alone; I have ridden across the border into Mexico on the back of a motorcycle, my arms around a man I hardly knew.

Those aren't the kinds of adventures I need. For me, those are comfortable adventures. Although I plan to get back to Asia one day, perhaps to stay in a monastery in Bhutan or to soak in hot springs in Japan, I don't have to rev myself up much to make that a possibility.

The kinds of adventures I need are the ones that will knock me off balance. I am one who walks through life as if on a tightrope. As you can see from the list above, I can manage some real feats! However, those feats are accomplished under a microscope of minute calculations--none was taken up as a result of true spontaneity. Everything is planned, analyzed, evaluated, and teased apart for potential complications and consequences. Don't want the week to be too exciting--tomorrow, I might get exhausted and behind on work. Don't become too much of a recluse--boredom and anxiety can breed under such conditions.

What I need to do is take myself off balance. Below are actions, listed from simplest to most complex, that would do precisely that. This would get me into the discomfort zone.

  • Stay up late doing something I love, the night before I've gotta do some heavy-duty teaching or grading. Enjoy myself without worrying about the consequences for once.
  • Tell students, point blank but with compassion, that they simply will not pass this time. Feel the discomfort and tell them anyway. 
  • Have a drink when I'm out with friends. Don't have a drink when out with friends--do what's more uncomfortable.
  • In yoga: do not leave the room. 
    • **Unless staying in the room is something I'm doing out of fear of the teacher's disapproval. In that case, leave the room.
  •  After lying in bed for two hours, trying desperately to sleep, mind stuck like iTunes on repeat, get up, and do something I love. Do not worry about the consequences.
  • Do something really, really loving for someone I'm related to. It has to take the form of an act of love not typically expressed in my family (i.e., money-bestowing or letter-writing). 
  • Say no--repeatedly--when I am asked to do something I'm not up for. Say no, especially to men. 
  • Get uncomfortably intimate (emotionally) with someone I care about, knowing full well that doing so will feel like inhaling water. 
  • Do not make important decisions without knowing how I truly feel.
  • Be who I am, who I really am, around the people I'm often not.
  • Recognize that this list might contradict itself and make decision-making even tougher.
  • Sit. (Meaning, meditate. On a regular basis.)
This may not be your list. But if I could get through this, even once (except for the yoga/meditation ones: those have to be regular), I would be taking a long stroll through discomfort. And as they say, life begins when we leave our comfort zones.

So. How do I proceed from here? Well, some of that stuff can't be scheduled, so I'll have to keep 'em in the back of my mind and act when the moment arises. Others, like yoga and meditation time, are easier that way. I recently bought tickets to a concert that will take place on a Tuesday evening. It's almost mandatory that a couple of adult beverages will be consumed at this show, and wouldn't you know it? Wednesday is my longest (and earliest) teaching day. But I won't worry about the consequences--at least for that one day.

Part of me wants to keep writing and address questions like, "for how long is this experiment an actual focus of mine? How often will I report on it?" But I think I've done enough obsessive planning. I'm trying to do less of that, after all.

It's in the name of science that I undertake this little experiment. Does life really begin when we leave our comfort zone? And what would be on your "discomfort zone" list?


La said...

Oooh E! Your post made me laugh out LOUD so many times. I've been in bed trying to compose a response for you, but your post covers most of it haha!

And yes, thank you for pointing out that our adventures in the past, in fact, have been 'planned, analyzed, evaluated, and teased apart for potential complications and consequences.'

And just in case this discomfort wagon is too easy to fall out of, I shall point out that your tag line says 'Just do it. You know you want to.'

Oh it's so on. We can do this!

Martina said...

Elisa this is brilliant and you know I love it for so many reasons! I am so proud of you my little spring chickie what a fun experiment, bringing the poet to mingle with the scientist. I am intrigued to try something with you but I would have no idea what...but whatever it is youve inspired great excitement!!!

feralchick said...

Oh, E, this is great! So many great questions from different angles. . . . Oddly enough, it's also helping me rethink my current relationship with yoga. The comfortable (or semi-comfortable) thing would be to keep going, despite the wear and tear I feel in certain places, because I "need" someone to boss me around to do it. What if, instead, I devoted a couple hours a week to doing the parts that feel okay (which is most of it)? What if the real challenge was just getting myself to do it? Can I even approach that discomfort? . . .

Henry Aronson said...

Thanks for this, Yolk-girl. I'm stealing the first two. Also the one about getting out of bed if I can't fall asleep. I am opening up to the willingness to start sitting again. Thanks for the inspiration.

Yolk E said...

Aww, you guys are so sweet :-)

Yeah. FeralC, it's so tough to know when we truly don't want to do something. I think we've been programmed since childhood to go with the flow, not listen to ourselves.

Henry, the getting up when you can't sleep thing tends to work really well. The trouble is that it can take so long for me to realize I'm not sleeping that by then, I'm so tired and cranky I don't wanna ;-) But it really does help.

Anne said...

I am reading this on a night i cannot sleep but still have to wake up for work the next day. I decided to get up, have tea and toast and not watch the clock. Then I decided to read and found your post. Are you sure you are not related to me?