21 February 2013

Getting out of my comfort zone

<note: I wrote this post back in July 2012 but forgot to post it!>

Today was our first big adventure into the city. After 3 months of being a Northern Californian, I decided it was time to venture into San Francisco for a trip with the kids. However, driving into San Francisco required me to really get out of my comfort zone.

First, I've been fairly terrified of bridges for years. (Back in 1992 I drove from Huntsville, AL to visit friends in Indiana and crossed the Mississippi during a HORRIBLE storm. Couldn't see much past the nose of my car - and have been afraid of bridges ever since.) So, a drive from North Bay to the city of course involves driving across at least one major bridge. In this case since we were going to SF rather than Oakland, it meant driving across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Our first trip across the Golden Gate was last month as we drove to the airport. But I wasn't driving, and it was a bright, sunny day. It was absolutely beautiful and I was too excited about being on the Golden Gate to be terrified about being on a bridge. But today was quite a different situation. First, I was the driver. Second, it was FOGGY. Thankfully visibility wasn't too bad at the bridge level, but about 15 feet in any direction, the bridge just disappeared. It was actually rather beautiful and I found myself wishing I were a passenger so I could just enjoy the view.

So, bridge conquered, we moved on to the next step in getting out of my comfort zone. And it was a big one. I am not a city driver. I'm a child of suburbia, and while I can deal with some traffic, city traffic plus city streets plus parallel parking combine to make my anxiety hit the top of Everest. I should clarify that a trip to the SF Zoo from where we live does not *normally* require driving in downtown. I had an errand to run that involved a brief visit to a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner. San Francisco is a maze of narrow, one-way streets that alternate inclines and declines in varying degrees that would make driving a manual transmission impossible. <Mentally relieved I no longer have a manual!> The hardest part was the street before I turned on the street for the office - the incline was about 45 degrees and every block had a stop sign or stoplight, a solid row of cars parked along the side of the street, and delivery trucks swerving in and out of traffic. Despite my terror and the many challenges ("Just pull in the driveway and come on up" - the 'driveway' was about 5 ft wide and 3 ft deep - how exactly was I to fit a station wagon in there?), I finally managed to find our way to the office, make my delivery, and get us headed out of the driving nightmare with surprising ease. I had to calm myself down a few times in my head with counting and deep breathing. But I was able to maintain a calm demeanor, which anyone with children knows is critical to prevent them from spotting your panic and jumping on the frazzled bandwagon.

Prior to my yoga teacher training, I would not have had the strength to handle either the bridge or the downtown driving. It's amazing to me how much those 6 months changed - no, improved - me. While I am in no hurry to drive in downtown San Francisco again, I've done it now and know that I have the skills to handle that challenge, as well as whatever else might arise to bar me from reaching my goals. (Dare I make a Harry Potter reference on a yoga blog? “I knew I could do it all this time," said Harry,"because I'd already done it...does that make sense?)

Getting out of your comfort zone can lead to amazing things - it's thinking out of the box in a literal sense.You just might discover you are stronger than you knew, like I did. Or maybe you'll discover you love belly dancing (try it! it's fantastic!) - or perhaps that new thing you try, you'll know for certain is not for you. That's ok too. Stretching your limits isn't just about finding new things you enjoy - it's about the effort, the stretch. Being mentally flexible keeps you limber in a whole different way than the physical practice of yoga (though I'll admit, they are related ;). Once you've pushed yourself a little, it becomes easier the next time you want to try something new but feel a bit afraid or uncomfortable. You've done it once, you can do it again! Go on now. Try something new today that extends you a little past your comfort zone, and let me know how it turns out!