” Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
I bought this message on a key chain about a year ago, and thought it was the most clever reminder. Take risks, be brave, and push yourself. It has also been a surprising tool of self forgiveness for my reactions.
I have a beautiful friend, who does beautiful things, and who has always pushed me to question myself, to check myself, to love myself, and to forgive myself. I don’t think she ever realized how much I wanted to be her friend when we met 20 years ago, and how big of an ass I was, letting her down in many ways in the early years, not always “showing up.” like she did for me. But still she was patient, and we supported each other through times of heartbreak. And she chose me to be one of her boys godparents. Such an honor. She became part of my family, my tribe and I love her and I love her children! Her children are kind, loving, and genuine, and as my Olivia puts it, ” a real inspiration.” I tell you all of this as a precursor to understanding why the key chain and my beautiful friend have a connection. What it really means, and how another adventure with this group, this past weekend, pushed me to once again push myself, check myself, love myself, and forgive myself, and being able to experience life beyond that comfort zone.
What did you do??? Well, we simply went camping. I know, what you’re thinking, “check yourself sister!” because camping is camping. It is in no way, beyond a comfort zone. Stop being dramatic.
However, If you know me, you are scratching your head, and silently mouthing.. “Sara, is not. a camper.” and you would be right. SO right that it took my father, about 15 minutes of clarification on the phone, once we got home, to understand how this came to be, and if we would be doing it again ( as he laughed, and laughed a lot). I’m still not sure he can wrap his mind around it. I’m not sure I can either.
My husband on the other hand loves camping, grew up doing it, and would say its something he hoped our kids would want to do as well. He also knows who he married, and though I am one to go with the flow, he often didn’t push the idea, and settled for “camping,” at a cabin on the edge of the woods, as close to the city as it could be. Our kids however love adventures, and new adventures at that, and they love my friend and her boys. So we did, with my beautiful friend and her significant other as camp directors, and suppliers of all camping equipment (Thank you friends significant other)! With cars packed up, gear in tow, we entered into the weekend expecting nothing and everything at the same time.
Get to the point Sara!!!!
The first night was a success, outside of the vault toilets and bugs. Everyone slept and no one murdered me or my family, in our sleep as I feared.
Day two however is where the true “digging deep,” “going beyond my comfort zone,” and offering self forgiveness and grace felt way bigger than vault toilets and bugs, or “its just camping.”
We drove to Devils Lake, a beautiful hidden gem to me, but clearly a well known place of happiness to others. We were packed with food, drinks, and inflatables, lots of inflatables for the kids to love the beach, and enjoy the water. I was also emotionally and mentally packed with self doubt, self loathing, and shame, however didn’t quite realize it until I came to that edge, and here is where it gets real….
Discomfort #1: ME IN A SWIMSUIT. Dumb I know, and all women at some point or another don’t love this piece of summer attire. I go straight to self defeat, negative self talk, and humor. I am not in the body I know or and I do not feel comfortable in my own skin, or my yoga pants for that matter. To be honest, ‘m feeling a bit stuck in this place. However instead of moving on, I found myself making jokes on how I looked, just to ensure everyone, that I knew, that they knew, that I knew, I had no business being in a swimsuit. I also had no business being on the paddle board (that I really wanted to try) until I was 40 pounds thinner, and could confidently stand and paddle. So I would gracefully sit and watch everyone with my yoga pants and tank top in the blazing heat, opting not to remove it to display my swimsuit underneath.
Lession #1: They didn’t care, no one cared for that matter. My family wanted me to show up, and to experience the day, the (damn) paddle board, and the moments that don’t show up over and over again when we let them go. My beautiful friend also has a gift of not enabling my self loathing, looked me in the eyes and said, ” we all have our things Sara.” That’s it, plain and simple. “We all have our things.”
I realized that discomfort was keeping me from being in that moment,
with my family, WITH MY KIDS, especially my kids, who just wanted me in the water. And who really wanted me on that paddle board. To go beyond my comfort zone, and have an experience. SO I did! I walked out into the water, and each step became easier, I became less internal and self loathing, and I got on the paddle board with my friend. Just the two of us out on the water, paddling around a snapping turtle, talking, laughing, and taking in the moments, the day, a day we would never get back again, and I saw my kids smile. I saw my kids see me doing something that felt brave to them, something different and exciting, and confident. Which hopefully allowed them, allows them to do the same.
Discomfort #2: HIKING. Now let me preface this a bit, I enjoy hiking, but I DO NOT ENJOY HEIGHTS! And if I’m being real, I’m terrified of heights. I however work constantly to not “give in to the fear,” and will admit probably push myself more that I need to, fearing that my children and family will miss out if I give in to it, or that it will become an unnecessary fear of theirs. We had planned on hiking and spending the day at the beach, and when the trail idea was originally brought up, the description from my beautiful friend and her significant other was, ” its up hill most of the way, but its amazing.” Her significant other also added in later ” I kept myself close to the side when taking pictures the last time we did it, and I’ll wait for you all this time around.”
Mistake #1 on my part, not asking clarifying questions.
Best choice #1 on my part, not asking clarifying questions.
This hike was indeed up hill the entire way, and not only up hill, but climbing up rock formations, that appeared to have trail like qualities. Repeat that last part, trail LIKE qualities, but not a trail in anyway shape or form.
Discomfort #3 : Remember how I told you I hate heights, this was high, and there were no rails or structures around to be supported by, if you take a wrong step, danger is very real.
Discomfort #4: My 9 year old and 7 year old were climbing as well, and I was frozen in a way that I questioned how I could help them if I couldn’t help myself. Emotionally that is.
Discomfort #5: I’m out of shape, and embarrassed at being so in front of my husband, children, friend, and her children.
Discomfort #6: I am climbing this trail up and this climbing down no matter what because I will not let fear win. I also am so stubborn, that no one is going to see me give up, especially my kids.
SO… we kept moving, me behind everyone, feeling shame for not holding my kids hands and keeping them close to protect them, shame for my husband having to take my son, and my beautiful friend and her boys taking my daughter. and at one point in a small enclosed pocket of rocks, shame for beginning to cry, beginning to get so caught up in my head that I felt my throat get heavy, my body freeze, and fear and panic take over. My husband looked back, and could see what was occurring, and yelled back to me, “Baby, how are you doing.” This angered me, and through the panic I thought ” Don’t talk to me or ask me that out loud! I’m strong and brave, and I can do hard things.” but truly was angry at him for not being scared, and for the shame I felt in not keeping up, and not holding on to my kids. I tried to take a deep breath, and answered back, ” I am fine, keep going, and let me be, I’m taking it one step at a time.” At this point I looked up, and saw my 9 year old and 7 year old crying, and became even more self loathing and ashamed, thinking what I was taking away from them in that moment, how I was making them scared, and had limited ability in that moment to react differently.
Lesson #2: My beautiful friend said it best, ” all of them, all of us are amazing. I think we they give something of confidence to the other, big or small, older or younger… they just fit together so well. We climbed all the way up, and we climbed all the way down, and instead of thinking, “this is okay, I am not feeling strong right now, I am scared, and its okay that my babies see that, even if it is in their mom. I went to shame, and shame is not supportive, its destructive. Through that experience, my kids were also seeing me offer myself time, grace, and the ability to succeed despite fear, to keep moving, even if I needed to release the fear and stress in tears. And my husband was offering me the ability to be vulnerable on my own time.
My beautiful friend’s youngest son was encouraging, supporting, and comforting my kids, while her oldest, my godson, was my walking stick, my support down the rocks. And we did and do all fit together, offering strength and confidence to complete the goal. We, I walked close to the end edge that day, feeling so much discomfort as a person, a parent, a friend, and spouse, but the outcome was so worth it. And as we came down, each was waiting for the other with hugs and high fives.
Lesson #3: What is bravery to me, will be second nature to someone else, but we all get a choice in what we push ourselves to be. Personal expectations, and the ability to feel fear, shame, pride, joy, and accomplishment, all in the same day, hour, and moment is possible. And everything is temporary, we can change our minds, we can participate, and we can take a pass. Choose wisely. Take a breath, go all in, let go, and know in doing so, ” life does begin at the end of your comfort zone.”