Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Comfort Zone

Recently I described someone close to me as having a very narrow 'comfort zone'. I guess what I meant is that for this person to feel any sense of security in life, she needs to have things a certain way, all the time, and when things are not that way, she reacts. Not always in a constructive way.
I started thinking about the phrase 'comfort zone'. It can mean many different things from person to person. Aiming for prosperity, a fulfilling job, a certain level of financial security, all of these money matters are very much part of a comfort zone for a lot of people, and our consumer-driven, hyped-up world certainly reflects that. Love, happy relationships, friends, and a family buffer a comfort zone for many too. These are the more basic human desires in seeking comfort--acceptance, a feeling of belonging, being understood.
In an effort to understand myself, I have been examining my own comfort zone. Not just the positive sides of it either.
For me, my comfort zone begins within the walls of my home. The high ceilings, tall windows, light colours, and a collection of possessions I attach value to all provide a sense of serenity to me. This, in turn, fosters a sense of comfort, one that I can't really re-create anywhere else. Despite the sometimes obvious stresses that owning a home (in my case a refurbished loft) can bring, it also, for me, brings a feeling of calm, of being rooted, something I value very much for my own comfort zone. It relates, deep down, to a feeling of needing security, something that as I keep looking at comfort zones, I continue to explore. On the flip side of this, do I value my home too much? Do I personify it to a level where it can replace people? No, but it's a danger I try to be cognizant of. So many good stories feature a protagonist who ends up falling into the very trap they tried so desperately to avoid.
I use the example of my home because I've noticed that many people define comfort zone with a place--be it the actual physical reality of their home, a certain area of a city, a certain city or town itself, and the thought of moving, or breaking a certain 'barrier' for lack of a better word, is terrifying in itself. And people can't be pushed out of these notions they have. They have them for reasons they might not even be aware of themselves.
Another comfort zone involves my parents. They are living their lives as empty nesters, as grandparents, now, although it often seems impossible to me as I can't quite marry up this concept in my head as it forces me to consider their advancing age, and this panics me.
I tried, for so many years, to make them conform to what I felt they should be doing--be it
with their health, their spare time, you name it. Only recently did I recognize that all of my efforts, misguided though they were, invaded their comfort zone, which exists between the two of them, in their own home, and their own thought processes, as alien as they may be to me sometimes. I have no right to question them, really I don't.
I don't have the right to question ANYONE's definition of comfort zone. It is, as I described before, personal, private, and they will usually be very protective of it. Not in ways you can always recognize immediately, but in more subconscious ways, I've realized.
People who are nervous about their comfort zone limits may talk too much, repeat the same story over and over, trying to find their way back in somehow. People who are concerned about how much happiness they are currently not experiencing within a comfort zone that used to work for them may need to lay blame when none can really be shifted.

Perhaps in laying the foundation of my own comfort zone, I have often stepped on the boundaries of others. It helps me to remember to keep this in perspective.

I am breaking an old pattern.

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