Thursday, October 10, 2013

Comfort Zones And The Power Of Yes

Status Update:  drinking a new (to me) variety of coffee which tastes a little too sweet and vanilla for my blood, even though I'm drinking it black and without sweeteners. My tastes in brew tend towards the pitch-black and crazy strong: coffee which could charitably be described as "Satan's Blood". This is a bit light. Not bad, though. Otherwise, no story yet. More free time than usual over the next few days, so odds of a longer story looking good.

Looking back on my life, from the lofty position of thirty-mumble-mumble-SHUT UP I'M NOT FORTY YET, one of the things I notice is that I have a tendency to stay within my comfort zones far too much. I don't really stand out in this respect from the average joe/jane. Most people do this. And it's a shame.

I think one of the best things you can do for yourself is to knock yourself out of whatever rut you're in. Even if it's a good rut, it's occasionally nice to escape. Hang out with different people, see different walls around you, if only to see what's good in your own life. Sometimes you wander off the path and find things to improve your own lot. Sometimes you don't.

I'm being a little hypocritical here. Hell, my comfort zones have a fifty mile high fortified wall with armed and pissed-off giant robots guarding the top. I think they have lasers. If I were to be damned to a layer of Hell, just one, it would probably be the fifth circle, where the slothful bubble fitfully at the bottom of some fetid swamp. Satan's henchmen (band name!) probably already have a section taped off for me with buoys, right beneath a particularly depressing tree. Really, I'm awful. I'll mentally bookmark something to do, then life happens and two weeks later I'll wonder what the hell happened.

I try to be proactive when I can. One of the better habits I've gotten into is saying "yes" by default on things or jotting down crazy ideas as they hit me. A few years back, I had a small windfall of money and turned that into a scuba certification. Do I still scuba dive? Hell, no, it's expensive and eats up a disturbingly large amount of time on your weekends. But I'm glad I did it, because it was an interesting experience I'll never forget.

Likewise, if friends are going off to do something bizarre (as the right kinds of friends are wont to do), I'll tag along if it's within my budget and it doesn't crash into my work too much. You never know whether an adventure is worth it until you try. And even a lame adventure is better than sitting on the couch, wondering if something fun happened while you were engaged in a state of intense vegetation.

Sometime's it's worth it to make a habit of saying "yes" a lot or doing crazy shit just so you can later say you did crazy shit, like that time we took out my friend's grandfather's Styrofoam Kool cigarette boat for a sail. You can't buy that in any travel agency and if any travel agency offered that experience they'd probably go broke.

None of these people are me. I was manning the chase-photographer position in a canoe, just in case the crazy idjits sank we'd have some documentation to give to the survivors' families. It actually worked really well for a thirty year old boat bought with traded-in Kool cigarette points.

Breaking out of your comfort zones is a good habit to get into, in more areas of your life than one. I occasionally get into these moods where I like to blow things up, figuratively speaking. Break habits, whether or not I'm entirely sure they're habits I want to break. Throw stuff out, see if I can get by without it. Take a different way in to whatever the hell I'm doing. Heck, sometimes I don't even brush my teeth the same way from day to day.

This carries over into writing as well. I have a tendency, if I let myself, to write and to read the same stuff, over and over. I suspect it gets even worse once people start giving you money for your brain-junk. There's a very real natural tendency to only write what you perceive as your strengths, in much the same way that people who exercise avoid things they suck at. Runners don't lift weights, dudes who work on arms a lot don't work on their legs. It makes sense, after all, even more so if it's your living. Nobody likes to be bad at anything.

You really have to avoid that. The only way to really grow is to transgress against yourself, give those walls around your rut the occasional righteous shit-kicking. So, this is why I occasionally write weird stuff, experiment with things that anybody with a lick of common sense knows will only turn out poorly. But who knows, even if something is an abject failure, there's usually a takeaway there ("don't do that again" or "flee the scene before the cops get called").

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