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  • michelle m. davis

Expanding the Zone

We’re driving to Boston to visit our oldest son, Jack, for Mother’s Day. Most likely this is our thirtieth trip to this city in the past six and a half years. It’s home to our kids’ college. And now Jack lives there, working at Wayfair. But, today’s trip is a first of sorts... we’re traveling in our new Sprinter van.

For those of you who are not familiar with the “Sprinter Community” and what the actual vehicles look like, think of a Fed Ex truck without the signage... that’s us! Many people use these vans for their businesses, while others actually convert them into mobile homes, designed for permanent living or for weekend getaways. In fact, Pinterest hosts incredible pictures of amazing ways to “deck out” your van. But ours does not look like that, at least not yet.

Agreeing to the GMC Sierra that we initially bought to accommodate tailgating at our sons’ school was a big step out of my comfort zone. Eventually I saw the benefits of a large truck, not only for football season, but also for hauling our kids’ stuff from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts. Surprisingly, the truck’s inside was extremely spacious and comfortable. But, never in a million years would I picture myself in the front passenger seat of a Sprinter van. At this point you may be wondering why we ever made the shift.

Let me explain. We spend a lot of time in Bend, Oregon. While it’s fairly easy to fly there, my husband, Scott, and I are graced with the presence of two awesome black labs in our lives. The bottom line is we hate leaving them behind when we’re west. Dogs love Bend! This place boasts endless trails, lakes, rivers, and an incredibly “dog friendly” town. And, there is a plethora of dogs everywhere! So not only do we feel guilty leaving them behind, but I also must admit that it becomes extremely expensive to care for them from afar. That’s the impetus of the Sprinter... unlike the truck, it allows us ALL to travel cross-country - with room to spare - for the entire 42,000 miles!

A silver lining of this new venture is that it’s become as a hobby for my husband. Scott’s been working feverishly on this new vehicle the past weeks. Our garage has been home to plywood, pipes, insulation, and objects I’ve never seen before. He’s been doing “work” on the van many evenings and weekends. It required a ton of insulation for noise and temperatures control because this vehicle is basically a cargo van, not a luxury passenger ride! After his long hours laboring in our driveway, we can now sleep, cook, and even utilize the portable toilet in this van! (Hmmm... something tells me that I’m going to need to learn to “adapt.”)

Anyone who knows me is most likely convulsing with laughter by now, wondering if we’ve totally lost it. While my husband possesses the “adventurous, outdoorsy gene,” I’m not exactly known for my laid back, “whatever” attitude. I admit it... I’ve earned this description. I prefer nice hotels...with fitness centers and good restaurants. I like to sleep in a 68 degree room each night with my comfy pillow. I have certain routines... and I don’t like deviating from them. I know what foods make me feel good, and I also acknowledge what doesn’t. My body needs exercise; otherwise, I become cranky. Yoga helps me maintain a balanced mind as well as a positive outlook. I prefer to interact one-on-one or in small groups. Large crowds tend to overwhelm me. I cherish “alone time”; it allows me to recharge my batteries. Still, while many of these quirks may still be part of who I am in twenty years, clearly some are beginning to morph. Slowly I am lightening up. In the past two years I’ve taken a close look at some of my habits, my limiting beliefs, those things that have confined me, kept me in my comfort zone. I’ve asked myself if they are helping me thrive or just survive. The answers have allowed me tweak certain ways, and I like the outcome!

It’s pretty evident that I’m not a risk taker. I’ve always planned things out, done my research, known my options. But, slowly, I’m attempting to take chances. Of course, they’re baby steps, perhaps just things that I’ve always shied away from. For example, my Valentine’s Day present to Scott was that I’d drive to Oregon this May (last year I flew while he and our boys drove the truck - couldn’t imagine 42 hours confined in a car) and that I’d try camping this summer. While this seems ridiculous to some, for me it’s one more effort to lengthen the confines of my comfort zone, to make a commitment to grow.

Not only am I making conscious changes, but also Scott and I are choosing new directions as a couple. Last year, we took a monumental risk, financially, emotionally, and socially. Fulfilling our lifelong dream of spending more time in the west, we took the plunge and purchased a home in Bend, Oregon. Spending our first summer in this awesome town provided the perfect opportunity to venture out of my comfort zone. After all, wasn’t this part of the reason we found Bend so attractive? Our new space was an entirely different from the home town that we’ve lived in most of our lives. There were so many opportunities to test the water. Everything about it was new and exciting! Whether learning how to develop friendships in a town where we knew no one, attempting mountain biking (I’m definitely challenged in this area), or writing my first book, Bend proved to be my playground, ripe for exploring!

Maybe you’re wondering why I would choose to expand my comfort zone now? After all, I’m fifty-four years old. Hasn’t everything in my life been working out, moving along nicely? Sure, but... deep down I knew that my controlling self inhibited my growth, preventing me from seeing, from doing, from learning, from experiencing. I recognized that this world has so much to offer, and I was focused on keeping myself safe and comfy, watching more than I was participating. While I felt secure, I wanted more. Yet, wanting something does not cause it to happen...our desires don’t magically appear out of thin air. Certain work must be done. Hence, I consciously began my quest to expand my comfort zone. Sure, parts of me will always want safety and security, and there’s nothing wrong with that. My goal was not to create a new, carefree persona; my hope was to widen my experiences and alter my attitude so that I could be more open to life’s amazing wonders.

Recently, on a trip to visit Grant, our younger son who’s studying this semester in Chile, I had the opportunity more than once to test myself, to see if I could let go and trust, two things that are quite difficult for me. Allowing these strange and uncomfortable notions to lead my actions, I found joy, an emotion that I do not regularly experience. I saw beauty, met incredible people, tasted delicious foods, and felt more alive than I have in ages. Colors were brighter, sounds were crisper, and scents were sweeter. This subtle shift in attitude made a world of difference during those ten days in South America. Could I bring this “new way” home with me?

Expanding these tight boundaries and limiting beliefs that I’ve clung to my entire life is letting in a lustrous light that’s enhancing my world. And, I think that in small ways, I’m changing. I’m not as rigid, I smile more, and I connect with people at a deeper level. Others have noted that I’m not the same person I was two years ago. When I hear this, a part of me softens, acknowledging the journey that I’ve traveled as well as the endless paths that await. The bottom line is that expanding my comfort zone, taking more risks, and learning to trust has helped me become happier with myself, and that makes it easier for me to be a better wife, mother, daughter, and friend.

Leaving my comfort zone and dropping the armor, even if only for a few moments, is actually exciting! It’s opening me up to new possibilities, showing me that my fears and methods of attempting to control my environment have, in reality, been keeping me from living. By working so hard to create a safe zone, a place where I could feel comfortable, I’ve bubble wrapped myself from the joys of life. Sure, I anticipate that there will be some thorns ahead, some roadblocks that will test my endurance, my resolve. But I now know that there will also be amazing opportunities, chances to witness the wonders on this Earth, glimpses of the world that my eyes did not have access to before.

No doubt, there have been numerous changes in my husband’s and my life. And, there remain tons of question marks out there, as our decisions have opened up endless possibilities for us to consider. What routes will we choose? I honestly have no idea, but instead of being anxious and somewhat fearful, I’m open, even excited, about what unknowns lie ahead. While I don’t have the answers or the “plan” that I normally crave, I do have faith and trust that the future will unfold exactly as it’s supposed to, filled with numerous lessons and beautiful opportunities...we just need to be awake and aware of what’s out there. And, my guess is that many of these unknown adventures will take place as we’re driving in the Sprinter, black labs by our feet, and blue skies ahead!


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