Out of our comfort zones

September 8, 2013

Whenever a new school year begins, I take stock of my life. Like a new notebook or shoes purchased to begin school, it is a time for a new feeling of hope, change and accomplishment. In retirement we have an opportunity to break out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves a bit.

The most challenging thing I did recently was travel alone to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, an island off the coast of Spain where my daughter and her partner live. I was a bundle of anxiety for about three months prior to the trip just thinking about changing planes in Madrid with no Rayquest to interpret the signs or help me navigate the luggage.

Twenty hours later I saw my Lena waving to me in a crowded terminal, and I began to relax my neck and shoulders for the first time in months. Her sweet face made it all worth it. Then I drove a rental car with a stick shift out of the parking garage and I began to doubt myself again. It had been about 15 years since I drove a stick, and I had had about four hours of sleep in the past 24 hours. I could do it, I vowed.

I was OK until we got to her neighborhood and there was no street parking and she said to pull into the garage. There was a straight incline up with hairpin turns and I panicked, stalled the car and tried again. My knees were knocking together and smoke was billowing out of the exhaust as I tried to give the car gas, turn the wheel and see my way up the spiral corridor in the dark garage. The tires squealed louder than my heart.

A lady came running to my rescue and offered to park it for me. My daughter could speak Spanish well enough to explain our problema. Turns out the stranger owns the garage and it was obvious she needed to rescue me from the other cars. I was a tourista! In summary, I had a wonderful week with my girls. I conquered my fears and like Blanche DuBois, I could depend upon the kindness of strangers.

Helen from Pinewater Farm wrote me a letter about stepping out of her comfort zone. Her new challenge is a new computer! “My old computer was a dinosaur, but I loved it. The new computer gal recommended I get a new, updated computer. It was promised to be easy to learn. As she explained, I wondered if she thought of me as an old dinosaur.” Helen says she still loves to write cursive. “I like holding the pen. I like attaching things with paper clips and putting things into folders and filing in a cabinet, not a virtual one. I don’t even have a smartphone, just a plain old little cellphone which comes in handy when you lock your keys in the car or have a flat tire.”

Dear Helen, I think when it comes to technology it’s OK to hold onto whatever makes you feel comfortable, even if other people think you should change. If a smartphone makes you feel dumber, then who needs it? Sounds like you have embraced a huge change with a new computer, and you should feel proud that you made that leap.

My typing is so poor that if the computer had not been invented I would not have become a writer! But I love to journal too.

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