Squeezed out of your comfort zone…


Last week I boarded a plane to head out on a work trip.  It was a Southwest Airline flight which meant that I could choose my seat versus having one assigned to me.  So I mosied on towards the back of the plane where there was an aisle seat still open.  I was thinking to myself, … this is great,  an aisle seat, right next to the restroom… all is good!  As I was settling into my seat, I looked up and there standing to my right is the Incredible Hulk an extremely large man in both height and weight and he decided to take the middle seat between me and the guy in the window seat.  No, not the middle seat!  C’mon Mister,  no way you can fit into the middle seat!  As he got seated, it was clear that it was going to be a very uncomfortable flight.   My seat partner’s body is spilling over into my seat,  leaving me pushed over to the side, hanging out into the aisle.  He was all settled into his seat ( and a portion of mine) but I was pushed totally of out of my comfort zone

I was not a happy camper with this situation.  I started ruminating in my head about the injustice of having paid the same price for a seat on the plane as this guy but he gets to invade my space and take up a portion of my seat.  I was thinking to myself that large people should have to buy two seats to be fair to us little people… or airlines have to re-design their planes to have a section for big people who have larger seats and leg room… frankly,  I was doing a great job attending my own little pity party during that flight…

As I look back on this situation,  I realized that there are many times in life when I have been squeezed out of my comfort zone (figuratively vs. literally)…

The first time that I recall being really uncomfortable in a situation was when I was a little girl in my Girl Scout troop. We went to visit a local facility that housed people who had severe mental retardation (the term used at the time).  I remember how uncomfortable I was (frightened is probably a better term) being surrounded by people who had severe mental disabilities.  I was afraid when they would come up nose-to-nose with me to stare at me… I was afraid when they grabbed my hand or arm to have me go with them… I was afraid because they were different.  I remember going home and being so upset that my mother was concerned about the impact this experience had on me.

Fast forward to the age of 16 when my best friend wanted me to go to Iowa for a week with her to visit her aunt and cousin… a cousin who had Down’s Syndrome.  Memories of my experience back when I was a little girl started to surface and I became apprehensive as our bus travelled down the road bringing us closer and closer to our destination.  As we departed the bus and were met by my friend’s family,  not only did she have a cousin who had Down’s Syndrome but her other cousin’s daughter had Down’s Syndrome and another genetic issue that caused her to age rapidly… and she was STRONG… when she grabbed my hand, her grip was like being in a vise!  There I was being squeezed right out of my comfort zone once again…

Within hours,  I was in love with these two girls!  They were full of life with huge smiles and the true innocence of children… they were the epitome of unconditional love.  I was no longer uncomfortable… I was no longer scared of being around people who were different from I.

Being squeezed out of my comfort zone changed my life!

I became a nurse and cared for many people who had severe physical and mental challenges… they became some of my favorite patients.  I married a man whose sister had a severe brain injury as a child.  A brain injury which left her with limited impulse control which can be scary if she gets mad … but I am not afraid because she is my family and I love her unconditionally.

I no longer am ruminating about the large guy in the seat next to me… in fact,  I would like to thank him for being in the right place at the right time… for reminding me that being uncomfortable allows me to face and overcome my fears… for reminding me to be less judgmental and to be more loving and kind…

When have you been squeezed out of your comfort zone?  What did you learn from it?


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