The Beyond the Comfort Zone Expedition

I’ve always favoured the idea that adventure begins at the edge of our comfort zones, but until now I didn’t know I could experience such a matter quite so literally.

Yesterday I was tired. Unusually so. I was in that mood which hits everyone at some point, eventually, where it feels like both your mind and your body are against you, and thus all you want to do is curl up in bed and sleep until you’re on talking terms again. Everything becomes an effort, and functioning on a basic human level is beyond means. Yet, somehow, due to having the status of ‘rational adult’ you have to continue to earn your way in life, and thus work your usual late night on Monday, anyway.

Needless to say, I didn’t relish the idea of fighting through until 20:00 before I could relax, and then spending the night in a strange bed so I wouldn’t have to walk the dark streets of Plymouth at stupid o’clock at night. In fact, I was all out dreading the idea of having to do so, because I knew, even digging deep into my patience and determination resources, I wasn’t going to last long. Sleep deprivation does not look good on me. Shameful as it is, I was actively searching for an exit clause. I’m not one for faking illness or lying my way out, but I was on the cusp of doing both. Morals were seemingly unimportant to my wake addled brain. After a lengthy argument with myself, I decided against it, and resided myself to my fate, trying to encourage myself all the while. Still, I did little to console myself. I didn’t want to do it and I had to, and all I could manage was to take my pills like a petulant child.

And then the Universe responded.

My usual late night work had been reduced to standard hours, and therefore I wouldn’t be required to stay the evening to avoid the goblins and murders* of late night walking. Hazaa!

You cannot imagine my relief. I let out a breath so long I was surprised I had any air left in me. Honestly, I don’t ,mind hard work, and it takes a lot to get me to that desperate level of reluctance, but I was that tired. Mostly I think it was the road-bear dream** which did it to me. Something in me had been on the cusp of snapping, and I really didn’t want to imagine what might happen when it did. And I knew it would if I had to work late.

I suspect the Universe knew it too – I’ve never been forced up against something I couldn’t handle, even when I believed otherwise. Given the sudden rescue, I knew I was right. Despite being grateful, I thought the Universe sort of owed me one, anyway, which is a terrible thing to express given the magnitude of knowledge it has, but hey, this was not one of my brightest moments, and the Universe must have known this too.

In any case, reprieved of my duty, I rejoiced in the feeling of only having to push through a few hours. I had a plan: get through, get home, eat, read, bath, read, sleep.

Foreshadowing: the universe doesn’t seem particularly interested in my plans.

I repeated it like a mantra or a really irritating pop song, all through the first phase. I gave it a tune, for goodness sake. With fewer clothes and better choreography, it could have hit a relatively high number in the charts. It fueled the remainder of my working day, and kept me rational. When able to leave, I just let all the exhaustion in, and dazedly followed the plan.

I cooked, ate, and relaxed. I took a long bath, shut down all electronics, and read until bull-clips could not keep my eyes open. All that was left was the final stage, the moment when I could just let go and rest.

The dark sanctuary of my bedroom loomed protectively around me. Warm and quiet, the chatter of my head ebbed away. No sheep were needed, no abstract ideas of possible dreaming. The haze of sleep was already upon me, night whispering it’s humble lullaby into my soul. No more was required of me, no less accepted. I was carried to the boarder of sleep and ready to pass into night’d realm…

And my phone rang.

I was blasted from my sanctity with all the force of a nuclear explosion. The sudden noise set my heart to racing, and I was on autopilot as I searched in the blackness for my phone, slammed around for a few minutes as light impeded my ability to slide the button and answer the call. My brain barely had time to begin processing before my boss was in my ear, desperate and guilty, trying to explain the sudden intrusion on my rest. I was like a deer in headlights, the deer was primordial ooze, and the headlights were a hysterical women needing to get to A&E. Fortunately, the words ’emergency’ and ‘hospital’ are often enough to kick my functioning mind into gear.

The problem was simple enough, someone needed relatively urgent medical care, and minors could not be left unattended. Therefore, someone had to drag themselves out of bed, dress, walk the ten minute gap to work, and stay with the children. As painful as it was, I didn’t really take issue with the ‘drag-self-from-bed’ part. The last part didn’t bother me so much either. Earlier it might have done. Now, I was just as tired, but necessity trumped exhaustion. There was no time to bemoan the circumstances. When life throws you lemons, put jeans over your pyjamas, quickly pack an overnight bag and head out into the cold, dark streets, I suppose.

It was no ones fault, it didn’t require anger, or even frustration, however, the Universe was not in my good books. Truth be told, I felt a little tricked. Lead me into the belief I would be granted clemency, then haul me from my comfort, and throw me at the horrifying prospect of walking alone at almost midnight. Reasons be damned. I get having courage at unexpected times and meeting your fears like an enemy at the gates, but come on. Talk about trail by fire, this was trail by blazing lava pit. Yet there was no circumnavigating the obstacle; no other solution or wiggle room for delay. It had to be done, and it had to be done then and there.

My comfort zone was rooted firmly at the front door to my building***, no I lie. My comfort zone was rooted firmly, at that point in time, in bed under a duvet safely bouncing around the land of dreams. Staring through that glass at the empty streets was enough to cause serious heart palpitations. I have a vast imagination, and it started to turn shadows into things hiding beyond the street-lights****. In the space of seconds I had already envisioned numerous ways I could be stabbed, mugged, attacked and killed in the witching hours. Trying to breath and rationlise it away, I came up with another plan. You know, because it worked so well the last time.

The plan was to walk fast. Beyond that my mind just went into overdrive. It wanted too many things from me. It asked too many questions which were liable to freeze me in a small spot somewhere until daylight. So, the plan was walk fast, focus on walking fast, and run like a mad women if you so much as glint something suspicious. Which I did twice, because of cats lurking in bushes. I’m not proud, people, but we all have our terror inducing situations. Mine is walking through the streets at night. I don’t mind being alone, and I am fond of the night, but don’t make me walk through a combination of these things.

I made my way through the quiet avenues on shaking legs, passing curtained windows, void of light. I placed one foot in front of the other, and whispered to myself. Every dark patch was either avoided or painstakingly investigated before entry. I clutched my phone in my pocket like a talisman of protection. One foot then another, mumbling mantras and yet completely ignoring the founding Buddhist teaching of being present. I was so far from my comfort zone, the boundary line was a dot to me (the Universe can be Chandler in this instance). Every moment felt like an eternity with the cold night pressing in on me.

About half-way through my journey, the gnawing terror in my gut started to subside simply through sheer exhaustion. I really think by that point I had panicked enough to drain my energy like water from a sink. I was using the rest walking so quickly my calves hurt. I wondered what the Universe wanted from me, in a teary, return of petulant child Alice kind of way, convinced I wouldn’t make it anyway, that something dreadful would happen to me. In that moment of defeated terror I don’t think Buddha himself could have talked me down to a rational viewpoint

Well, I’m not writing this from beyond the grave so clearly I was mistaken. Actually, something completely different and rather unexpected happened instead.

I was still on the watch for movement around me as I passed the school, when I caught sight of how the newly naked branches sat against the night sky. Stars glinted behind the prongs, as though caught in a cosmic spider web. At that point, I started imagining what cosmic spiders would look like. Do they spin webs between planets? Do they have eight thousand eyes, and do they eat cosmic flies? For that matter, what do cosmic flies look like? Or do they catch and eat the stars? I then recalled knowledge I had obtained about an insect’s size being directly related to the amount of oxygen in the air. So cosmic spiders would be really small, given the lack of oxygen in the air. Unless cosmic spiders grow in proportion to the amount of dark matter around them, then they would be gigantic.

This is what my head space does, people. It eats and feeds of random ideas. And thank the heavens it does.

By the time the cosmic spider train had pulled out of the station, I was on the final stretch and had the house in view. My stomach was still turning, but I could no longer hear the blood rushing through my ears. The outside light had been turned on. It was like finding the highlighted house in a video game, as the surrounding neighborhood was deep in sleep. With my target in view, I came back to the present a lot more. I relished the cool air on my warm cheeks, and the tranquility of being the only one awake, all the quiet and space, etc etc *****. I didn’t slow down for a moment, but given I was a shaking wreck two streets ago, I was actually doing much better.

Thus my adventure ended at midnight when I crawled into (not my, but none the less, a) bed and promptly crawled back to my comfort zone, which I had been longing for all day, and had never wanted to leave in the first place. Thus, as advertised, my adventure, however nerve-wracking, had begun at both my figurative and literal comfort zones.

In all honesty, if the Universe was trying to tell me something, I have absolutely no idea what it was. I have several theories, but I cannot peg it down, what I do know is that the excitement of having done it, beats the fear in having to do it. I actually looked forward to writing this post and telling you this story (hence the length) and recording it for posterity. Because, I think that’s how we figure out meanings really, by looking back and adding together. It’s like life is a really complicated mathematical problem. It takes time and effort to get pieces of necessary information to come to an accurate solution. I do know some of the equations can only be discovered if you go beyond what you know and are used to.

And if nothing else, going beyond often gets you a great story to tell. Emotions of a difficult or scary encounter with life fade over time, gifting you the ability to recite your tale, your adventure, to others who may benefit from it.

So, if the universe kicks you out of bed at stupid o’clock at night, just go with it. True, bad things might happen, but they might not.


*I exaggerate. I have no knowledge of murderers stalking in the shadows of suburban Plymouth. Jury is still out on the goblins.

** I was going to give this its own post, but the content is too brief. I had a dream I witnessed a teddy bear outside the window, possessed by evil. It started walking across the road with glowing eyes and dastardly intent. I closed the curtains but I knew he was coming. I woke with a start. I didn’t sleep again that night.

*** I live in a flat now. I moved during the summer of blog emptiness.

**** People, living just to find emotion

*****There’s a blog post about the night somewhere in my backlog.


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