What’s in a comfort zone?

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Karen's Quest with Karen Smith

After writing about pushing myself too hard, I’ve been thinking a lot about working on a comfort zone. Comfort zones get a bad rap. They are blamed for all manner of averageness, from a baggy wardrobe, to never climbing Mount Everest. But there’s got to be an upside to having a comfort zone, like, I don’t know, being safe and comfortable. What’s wrong with that?

I remember one time, when I was a kid; I jumped off the diving platform, (the Olympic-height monstrosity) at the Saint John Aquatic Centre. I don’t know how to dive. I can barely swim. I’m pretty sure my shriek of terror was still bouncing off the walls when I surfaced. I didn’t do it for fun and I didn’t do it well, but, as a ten-year-old lunatic in a bathing suit, I felt I needed to do it. Other challenges I accept turn out more successful, but some, like that one, are pure embarrassment. It’s a mixed bag, for sure. Luckily, being embarrassed holds a certain fascination for me. It’s just another aspect life, to which I take a somewhat experimental approach anyway. At least it’s good for a laugh.

The trouble is, some risks result in more than just embarrassment. Some risks are downright damaging. Because of a pattern of challenging myself and viewing my life more like a science project, rather than a journey and an experience, I didn’t know how to back away from something unknown. (A bit creepy, I know.) So I got a few scars along the way. But, instead of taking my mistakes as lessons and moving forward with more wisdom about when to say yes and when to say no, I whipped myself into submission. I turned my risk-taking switch to ‘off,’ and for a very long time I took no more experimental leaps. I went from one extreme to the other.

Maybe it’s normal to take years to develop a multidimensional life with both risk and comfort, but I am starting to get it. I believe it’s what smart people call calculated risk. Doing this writing and being on stage are keeping my risk-taker happily on her toes. Having a safe, comfortable, loving place to call home makes me want to devote care and wisdom to the family life I’m part of. In a way, I don’t want to get too smart though, because I still get a kick out of what I can discover from flinging myself blindly and stupidly into the unknown. Come check out “Spamalot” this weekend and “The Unreal Housewives” next month and see what I mean.


Karen Smith is on a quest for personal truth and boundless consciousness. She feels lucky to live with her family in Truemanville. Her column appears bi-weekly in the Amherst News.


Organizations: Saint John Aquatic Centre, Amherst News

Geographic location: Mount Everest, Truemanville

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