…at the END of your comfort zone.
How curious. It seems like so much of our lives are consumed by efforts to make life more comfortable. I want a comfortable wardrobe to wear both to work and around the house; a comfortable car to drive from point A to point B every day; a comfortable couch and a comfortable bed to rest my tired body; a comfortable husband, a comfortable baby, and a comfortable puppy to snuggle with.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with comfort. I’m not about to advise everyone to go find a wardrobe two sizes too small, a car on the brink of a breakdown, a mattress whose springs have lost their bounce, or, heaven forbid, family members who don’t like to cuddle.
Unless you’re into those sorts of things, of course. And then…you do you, I guess. I’ll enjoy my leggings and my down pillow while Annie and I snuggle under the blankets with a book we’ve read so many times, I can recite it by heart.
But I digress. The comfort I’m trying to avoid is the comfort of routine.
Why, you ask?
Well, you see, a life staled by routine…isn’t really a life at all.
Don’t get me wrong; routine is awesome. In fact, so much of the time, especially when demanding careers and packed calendars and small children are involved, routine feels like LIFE, all caps. And yet, while I frequently cling so desperately to predictability and order at this stage, I find myself constantly rediscovering the best moments — the true life — comes when my circumstances nudge me beyond my comfort zone.
As a classic introvert and a major homebody, I can’t say I can think of many times I’ve pushed myself in this way, but for me, that just means each item on my short list is pretty memorable and significant: auditioning for new teams, making new friends, transferring to a new school, studying abroad in a new country, embarking on new relationships, moving to new places, applying for new jobs, and adding new members to the family…those situations sure didn’t feel like the perfect-fitting pair of soft, broken-in jeans at the time. Rather, they dug into my waist too much at some points and then, just hours later, were stretched out so much they could probably fall right down in front of all the people I least wanted to see me in my underwear, if you know what I mean. The probability of being tired, lonely, embarassed, or just downright frustrated was, at the very least, higher than if I had stuck with my trusty standbys, and at worst, inevitable.
However, paradoxically, when I think back on the highlight reel of my life, so, so many…most, in fact, of the greatest moments in it so far — those times I felt most alive and grew in dramatic ways — are from the not-so-comfy times on that list.
Life with a newly mobile, highly persistent, daredevil of a baby girl makes me hyper-aware of this lesson on a minute-by-minute basis. I find myself constantly overwhelmed by an urge to pad every surface, lock every cupboard and drawer, and generally enclose her precious little self in the most secure, most perfect place possible. Yet, when I put Annie in her playpen, the cushioned frame and stretchy mesh sides promise me her safety…but not her happiness. She is content for only a few minutes before she starts screaming for her freedom — a freedom accompanied by the possibility of toppling over into furniture, yes…but also the potential for squeals of glee as she learns a new skill or discovers a new favorite activity. Bumps and bruises still aren’t fun (especially not for me!), but they usually mean she’s learning. That, more than anything, brings Annie joy.
As I write this post, I am on a trip with 18 high school students, sitting on the floor of a *moderately clean* hotel room, watching my baby play with the three toys we could fit into our one suitcase. Very little about traveling with a baby is comfortable. For us, it’s a carefully orchestrated operation that involves a lot of list-making, clothes-folding, packing, and hauling…all to arrive in a destination far, far less accommodating of life with a small child than our home. But again, paradoxically, our family thrives in these situations. In the midst of the forgotten baby spoons, bad sleep, scratchy hotel towels, and many, many spilled drinks, we live. We eat new food. We see new places. We make memories.
Best of all, we return home with a renewed appreciation for its many wonderful comforts.
Hopefully this chalkboard’s presence in our home will remind all of us to do something a little uncomfortable every day: to fight the comforting trap of an overly predictable existence in order to truly live.
What do you think? Does this ring true, or is this crazy trip causing me to think crazy thoughts? What little things do you already do (or want to do!) to add a little life into your life? Please add your ideas to the comments!