How far are you willing to go?
How much are you willing to know?
This is the question that nobody knows,
Just how deep that rabbit hole goes…
Last year, while vacationing in the Dominican Republic, I was faced with a dilemma. We were at a small, out of the way park in which there was a really cool freshwater pool, called a cenote in Spanish, in which we were invited to swim.
A cenote is a freshwater pit or sinkhole, caused by the action of water, over time, eroding of the limestone and creating a natural pool. These pools are exquisite – sparklingly clear, vibrantly blue-green in color, and refreshingly cool. To the person who dislikes jumping into 25-26 deg. Celsius ( 77-78 deg. Fahrenheit) water the refreshment “shock” takes you out of your comfort zone.
Yeah. I am one of those people.
I had no trouble walking into the pool, immersing myself a bit at a time, but when the tour leader guided us to the rock from which we could jump (about a 6 ft drop) into the deepest part of the cenote, I declined. I watched my husband gleefully leap with the abandon of a child into the clear sapphire water. He shot me a wicked grin that conveyed his pleasure to be here, in this place, and to be able to enjoy the experience of jumping into the pool. An experience I did not share.
You know what? That sucked.
It was a tattoo moment for me, one of those moments that gets tattooed on your memory. It is a “snapshot” of time when I think of that cenote, I think of my husband’s wicked grin as he tried to encourage me to jump in with him.
A tattoo moment can serve as an excuse. I am no different than anyone else, there are times when I argue for my limitations. The water was too chilly – I don’t like jumping into “cold” water…the rock was “too” high – I don’t like heights…Why don’t I just do it?…because I can choose not to and I chose not to…
Cool. There was nobody or nothing to stop me either way. I missed out on that very cool experience because I was stuck in my comfort zone.
I will give myself some cred here…I have blasted my way out of many comfort zones in my life resulting in significant changes and personal growth, including addressing my fears around my personal death and dying in a profound manner. I have written a book about that process called Saving Your Own Life: Learning to Live Like You Are Dying, but comfort is a funny thing. It creeps up on you when you aren’t looking and causes you to be less than you could be. Less than your best.
I began exploring my comfort zone in more depth this year and discovered pockets of resistance. There are more but these seemed to be enough to begin to address at that time.
I found myself avoiding:
Unscripted public speaking.
Tightening up my diet.
Engaging in exercise even in cold, windy, winter weather.
Can you identify with any of these pockets of resistance? Where do you most defend your comfort?
I addressed my discomfort with unscripted public speaking by joining two Toastmasters clubs last fall. I threw myself into it by entering contests and speaking at every opportunity. My comfort level with unscripted speaking (without a memorized, prepared speech) is much higher now.
The other three on my list, I discovered, revolved around my beliefs about aging. As I have grown older and, I like to believe, wiser, I have realized the benefits of giving myself a break. I was really hard on myself for most of my life and bullied myself into strict diet and exercise protocols that I could not maintain in the long run. I felt I was too lean, and I exercised a lot of the time while injured. I stopped attending Hapkido classes due to pain caused by what I believe to be a serratus anterior (sometimes called the boxer’s muscle) injury. I kept injuring it over and over and had to leave the sport for a year in order to have it properly heal.
It was a reality check. I was 50 yrs old at the time. It stands to reason that I would not heal as fast as I did when I was 25. We still cycled, hiked and ran, but I had to limit my upper body exercises, including kayaking, for a while.
During that time I also began to eat more bread and pasta. I truly believe in the Mediterranean style of eating for optimum health and longevity, but at that time I began indulging more than was necessary for health and long life. I have a very healthy appetite. My abdomen expanded as I sat more working on my books, eating that second helping of pasta…indulging in more crusty bread and cheese than I had before. I was not overweight by anyone’s standards, but I felt dumpy and sluggish.
Not one to deny the subject of age, I began to consider the idea that perhaps this slowing down was natural…that the best of my years may be behind me…and that perhaps…it was natural to decide to ski and snowshoe and walk on sunny, nice winter days that kept me comfortable? Didn’t I deserve it?
Indulging in our just desserts…
How many times have you heard people complain about winter weather? Does it sound like you? Generally, we stay inside more in winter and steel ourselves from the biting winds and snow as we make a dive to the car and then into the nearest heated building.
However, life goes on. Days go by. And one morning you wake up, hating the snow and the below zero temperatures, even when the sun is shining…because it is -10 deg. Celsius…because it is too windy…because there is always tomorrow…
I decided this year to step up my game, and step into my discomfort. How? The solution was elegantly simple. With the exception of a driving snowstorm or sleet that covered everything in a veil of ice, I piled on the clothes and went anyway.
Here is a really easy way to begin blasting yourself out of your comfort zone – take a cool shower every morning. Work up to a cold morning shower.
Yeah. A cold shower works wonders. It certainly blasts you out of your comfort zone. It also saves on hot water, by the way, and saves on your water bill because I can guarantee you won’t stay in there any longer than necessary to get the job done, especially at first.
I begin with a cooler shower and before I got out, I began to turn the water colder and colder. I hold my head under it for at least 30 seconds and then spin around (for some reason it feels colder on your back!) a couple of times. Yeah, I grimace, but WOW! is it energizing!
And it is way cooler than the temperature of a tropical cenote.
This morning I found that I have become acclimatized to cold weather and cold water in a manner that is very satisfying. Cold water showers have many health benefits (see link below).
That, my friends, is truly cool.
I have addressed the items on my list and realized something interesting…it had nothing at all to do with getting older, but everything to do with mindset…I can choose to and I chose to…
Naturally, you can choose, too…
Consider your own list, your own tattoo moments…yes, a tattoo moment can serve as an excuse, but frig that… make it an invitation to jump!
What comforts are you defending?