What does it mean to get out of your comfort zone? Typically when we think of getting outside one’s comfort zone, we stray to the easy examples: traveling, skydiving, and any physical activity that involves an adrenaline rush. But not often do we think about getting outside of our comfort zone emotionally. Having an honest conversation with someone, standing up for yourself, and saying that you love someone are also forms of getting outside of your comfort zone. For some reason, though, this seems more difficult than the activities I listed.
I’ve been thinking a lot about getting outside of my comfort zone lately, particularly today as I travel to North Carolina to spend time with my friend Samantha. Actually, I really hope that she’s my friend, because we’ve never even met in person, only online. (This is probably a red flag for most people traveling, but I’ve talked to Sam on Facetime before and most people respect her, so hopefully I’m not totally insane.) Even if I had met her before, it wouldn’t change that much about the anxiety in which I feel.
I don’t know where we are staying.
I don’t know if her dog Maggie will be with us, though that is a huge reason why I initially signed up. (I don’t have a dog of my own.)
I don’t know what conversations we’ll have.
I don’t know if I’ll end up crying or revealing my deep dark secrets.
I don’t know if we’ll end up fighting because I really can’t believe how she can be so happy all the time.
I don’t know what I’ll learn about myself and whether I’ll be able to absorb it all.
There are so many unknowns that it’s surprising I even made it to the airport at all today. More predictable is what happens when such unknowns pile up — paralysis and posturing. Obsessive seeking of answers. To say that I like predictability and certainty would be a colossal understatement. Part of me still wants to turn back and go home, but there is no going back now. The only reaction to have is to embrace the feelings I have and understand that the anxiety won’t go away just because I force it to. I know that it will be a matter of time before the mood shifts and I’ll be excited to see Sam, and to experience all that we will do together this weekend.
Stress does incredible stuff to people. Since sitting here starting to write, two announcements have been made about lost possessions. The first, a ring. The second, an iPad. Considering that both are attached to people constantly it is not surprising (or is it?) that they were lost. It is understandable. The airport is just about the strangest experience one can have where no one really wants to be where they are — everyone is looking to go somewhere else. But then, isn’t life that way too? Just full of people who don’t want to be where they are right now?
It’s a strange realization, but a true one. People either feel like they are ready to take off, or they want to land. A few appreciate the time we have in the air but most want to just get to their destination. But I’d like to think that I am changing and would live a lively life in the clouds.
Edit: I wrote this in anticipation of my three-day trip visiting Samantha Faulhaber. I had no idea what to expect and was obviously afraid, and I love it. Below is a review I wrote to her approximately one month after my experience.
I’m ready to write what I think may or may not be one of many reviews for our three-day immersion experience in North Carolina. I do want you to use this review to gain more clients, so you can get, among other things, a new computer, or maybe a new toy for Maggie. It’s been a few months since we’ve met, basically as strangers, but not really, in Durham. I wanted to say first of all thank you for taking the time to offer such a service to your clients, which I think is quite unique, even in the mindfulness and wellness field. Typically the retreats I’ve considered going on have a lot of people involved, which doesn’t feel as personal to me. Here, I felt like I was your personal subject for the weekend. That sounds to me and may still sound to others to be quite scary, but in practice, it served me well. I tend to be more closed off to the world than I would like to, in the sense that even though I give a lot of myself, there is still more to me that I’d like to have the bravery to share. I think being with you that weekend has allowed me to be less closed off to others and to live a more free and honest life. Since that retreat, I’ve taken up photography in a way that I hadn’t dared to before–representing myself as a photographer and signing up for events to practice photography and my skill. I still have a lot of fear-based responses that I’d like to explore more, but I feel like it’s been getting better since I’ve spent time with you. I also have a stronger tendency to do what I want, and to not judge people for what they do differently. The last one has always been an immense struggle of mine, as I rely on outer feedback and extrinsic rewards to measure my self-worth, even at the cost of what I actually want to do. It’s something that I will need time to unlearn, but I probably never would have done so in the way I’d hoped to do in spending that time with you. Yes, it is true that I do still want permission to do a lot of things, but it’s a little less now. And it’s true that I still am afraid of tons of things. But I’ve also been able to take concrete actions in spite of that fear–things like signing up for a career coach, getting out of my comfort zone with respect to photography, writing poetry, and being more honest with my sexuality–that I don’t think I’ve done before. It’s been a wild journey so far, and in many ways, I have that to owe to you. I think the closest experience I can compare it to is either my experience with my acupuncturist or after I got my ulcer cured by my new doctor. In both situations, I had something that I didn’t even realize was bothering me and causing me intense pain. With my acupuncturist, the third session we had finally cleared out a knot in my neck that had been hurting me for some time. It had been so long that I had forgotten that it was there, and so I had forgotten the cause of my pain. That day I reached up into my neck and found that the knot was gone. And though there has been tightness in my neck from exercise, every time I think about that knot being gone and feel its absence, I smile. The ulcer was the same ordeal. It was caused by a bacterial infection, and honestly, I think I’ve had that almost my entire life. I had always lived with stomach pain and finally it got to a point where I could ignore it no longer. The day in which I took the prescribed medication was the day that I finally felt like I was a completely different person. All it took was 7 days of medicine to rid the infection once and for all. I didn’t know how miserable the pain made me feel until it was gone. All this time I had been looking for something to help me, but I didn’t realize that I had to get rid of the infection first. With my experience at the immersion, I felt the same way. I was stuck mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in a way that I could feel, but could not understand. Having the flexibility that weekend to do what I wanted, even if it terrified me, was freeing. And our healing session, where I felt a lot of pain that is indescribable to me even this day, cleared away the darkness that had been with me for a long time. From that experience I’ve learned to be more caring, kinder, and honest. I’ve also learned that action above all is more important to me than judging and commenting on the situation at hand. I continue to do CARs with some regularity, and I follow your work with great interest, when it is right for me. I want you to know that I care a lot about you, and I want you to succeed, because I love you as a person, but most of all that the world needs more people like you to shine a light where their darkness exists. So don’t give up, forward this review everywhere (if you want), and keep succeeding.