On Comfort Zones and Stepping Outside Them

comfort zoneYes, it’s March.

No, I have not updated this blog since last November.

Yes, I realize this means I’ve missed three months: the entire winter season.  But I really do have a good reason…

…okay, not really.  But I can think up a pretty decent excuse.  I am a creative writer, after all, so I could probably give you lots of very unique and creative ideas about why I’ve been MIA.

But I won’t.

Instead I’ll stick to the truth.  The truth is one part “I was really busy” and one part “I couldn’t think of anything to write about.”  I’d like to address both of those truths in today’s very overdue blog post, however.  I’ll address the latter by posting something that explains a little more about the former.

Brilliant idea, that.

Anyway,  I have been really busy.  And I mean REALLY busy.  It’s as if I suddenly veered into the fast lane of life’s highway, and my days have been whizzing past like mile markers on the roadside.  I have no one to blame but myself for this, though.  You see, I’ve been busy stepping outside my comfort zone.

Comfort Zone.  I love the imagery of that idea.  It’s feels cushy and cozy and well-defined, like a comfy little nook in the chaos that surrounds my life.  But the irony is that a comfort zone can be more like a prison than a paradise.  It may keep out the chaos, but it keeps out the opportunities for growth, too.

Like most people, the new year for me brought plenty of circumspection and piles of wishes, which percolated and eventually popped up into a pack of new goals.  But I’d have to step outside my comfort to put any of them into action.  And so I’ve been slowly breaking down the walls of my cushy little prison in order to make room for the newer, bigger me (metaphorically speaking…but more on that later).

 

THE WALL OF FEAR

It’s probably not a big surprise, but this year I am doing much to focus on and improve my singing skills.  The big surprise has been how scary this has been.  In December I selected a vocal instructor and began lessons in January.  Twice a month I meet with my coach, who is an adjunct instructor at the University of Utah’s School of Music and has quite an impressive resume as a soloist and member of several professional groups in the state.  That resume, and each vocal lesson, is intimidating.

Hello, Assembly Hall. My, how big you are inside.

Hello, Assembly Hall. My, how big you are inside.

But I have been breaking down that wall of fear by showing up each time, ready to work, and by practicing on my own at home (and in the car, and pretty much anywhere I can sing and not disturb those around me–I find myself quietly humming a lot nowadays).

I haven’t stop there, however.  Singing isn’t exactly outside my comfort zone, but singing ALONE in front of real people certainly is.  So, to break down more of that wall, I promised myself that I would take every chance offered me to sing solos or duets/small groups.

So for my community choir’s Christmas concert in early December, I found myself singing a duet in front of hundreds of people at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City (and I repeated the duet at a second concert we held, and this time my family came to hear me perform).  And in February I sang a descant duet at church with our women’s choir.  And then earlier this month I performed a solo in front of my instructor’s students at our performance class.  And most recently, just yesterday, I stood up in front of our community choir and tried out for a solo.

I can’t say that I’m getting over the fear of singing solos (my knees shake and my heart pounds each and every time), but at least I can appreciate that sense of accomplishment that comes each time I face my fear and triumph over it.

 

THE WALL OF LAZINESS AND APATHY

It’s true.  There are some things in my life that I am apathetic toward (which makes me lazy), even though I know I shouldn’t be.  On occasion, one of those, I hate to say it, is homeschooling my kids.

"Laziness is a skill" image by https://www.flickr.com/photos/scottchene/

“Laziness is a skill” image by https://www.flickr.com/photos/scottchene/

Homeschooling is hard.  It’s time consuming, all-encompassing, and takes real dedication. It’s our first year back after several years of not homeschooling, and I think I am the one struggling most with the transition.  We had always homeschooled our kids, and I used to LOVE it, but I’d never experienced time to myself until my kids tried public (charter) school.  And now that I know what I’m missing (six blissfully quiet hours all to myself), I think I’m having withdrawal symptoms.

So apathy and laziness has set in at times.  And one of the ways they have been manifesting themselves was through my lack of interest in trying out homeschooling co-ops, activities, and playdates/park days with other homeschoolers.  I just didn’t want to get involved at all.

But I realized that wasn’t helping my children any.  So I’ve been working on breaking down my wall of apathy and laziness by forcing myself to get involved even though I’d rather stay home and read a book.  And so this January we created two homeschool groups for my daughters.  The first is a cooking club, where I teach cooking skills to homeschool kids (and their moms, too).  This is actually quite ironic, since I hate cooking even more than I hate homeschooling.  Yes, my apathy of cooking is also getting a few punches.

The second group is a sewing club, where I teach sewing skills to several homeschool kids (and a few moms, too).  This isn’t nearly as ironic, since I don’t mind sewing.  However, I’ve been to0 lazy to teach my girls to sew even though they keep begging met to, so this group is a sucker punch to the laziness in my life.

In February I took my kids to their first homeschool event, too: a Valentine’s Day party.  They handed out valentines to homeschoolers (mostly strangers) and did a bunch of games and activities.

And this month I started our third homeschool group: a Hero Club for my son.  We meet to learn about a “hero” from history, and then do a project based on that person’s life or work.

Oh, and we’re signed up for Spring Homeschool Soccer, too.

Take that, apathy.  And that, laziness.

 

THE WALL OF IGNORANCE

I’m not a stupid person.  Far from it.  Just look at my grades from school (college scholarship recipient). Or my IQ scores (borderline genius…with the caveat that I think all of them have not been the actual trademarked IQ test, so those scores are fishy in my opinion).  Or ask my friends or neighbors or people I’ve worked with (just today a person I’ve only met once told me she had heard all sorts of amazing things about me from people that I didn’t even know knew me!).  I have a reputation for being awesome.

I don't know where I'm going. Do you?

I don’t know where I’m going. Do you?

But, I will be the first to admit that there are some aspects of my life that are wallowing in illiteracy.  One of those areas, I’m sad to say, is in health.

I’m not a terribly healthy person. I never took much time to learn about how to take care of my body through diet and exercise.  When I hit puberty, I ballooned overnight (and at the time I was running track and field, so trust me when I say much of it was genetics).  And I stopped trying after that because that brain of mine had other things to focus on that seemed more important at the time.

And then having a gazillion kids (and homeschooling them, too) took up all my time and attention.  Years of neglecting myself have taken their toll. I am overweight, out of shape, and in need of some schooling of my own on how to reverse the direction I’m heading.

So I’m taking yet another crack at one of the walls in my comfort zone by working on a plan to improve my health.

It’s hard to start at the beginning, especially when you are my age and used to being amazing at everything you do (er, amazing at everything you focus on, at least).  But this year I’ve been taking the time to find and set up a workout routine that works for me.  And I’m learning to focus on the right things for once.  I’m already stronger and healthier than I’ve been in years, possibly decades.

Next up is making changes in my diet.  Remember how I said I hate cooking? Yeah…that means I eat pretty much anything that is easy to make (or takes no effort at all).  And that means more and more junk food makes it into me than actual real food.  Because once you get hooked on the junk, the good stuff isn’t as appealing.  But I’ve been taking baby steps in the right direction, and learning as I go.

 

STEPPING OUT

And so this year, I will continue to step outside my comfort zone as I break down the walls that are in my way.  I will admit that this year has been challenging for me.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Now you go take some baby steps outside your comfort zone, too.

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