Flashback to Flashforward

For book club, I am reading “What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty. Without giving away the details, the story opens with the main character Alice hitting her head and waking up thinking she is 29, newly married, and about to give birth to her first child. However, she is 39, has three kids, and about to be divorced. The catch is that she doesn’t remember the last 10 years and needs to reconstruct her life from where her memory begins 10 years earlier to where and who she is being now that has changed her life so dramatically.

It struck me that if I were to wake up in June 2017, and not remember the last ten years of my life, I would think I was 43, and on vacation in a hotel room in Paris, France, wondering where my husband John was. I would need to remember that he died in June 2007 in a hospital on the outskirts of Paris. I would recall the moment when the doctor poked his head into the tiny waiting room I was in, and said “Un problem.” I would remember as he sat across from me and started explaining the situation that he was babbling in broken French. I would hear him say the words, “…Cris de Coeur…” and I would ask, “Is he dead?” The doctor would respond, “Oui, I’m sorry.” I would remember the time, 2 am, and that I was now a widow.

Fast-forward 10 years. I wonder if I would immediately remember that I was no longer living in New York, but in Vermont. I wonder if I would remember that I had a new partner, Michael, who had moved to Vermont with me. Would I remember Chelsea, my dog? Or that my father was living with us in our new home? Surely, I would remember that I have a completely new lifestyle, that I left Corporate America and was now an entrepreneur! I would be amazed at how much my life had changed, and how different I was now versus then.

Talk about leaving your comfort zone! What happens when your comfort zone gets obliterated and there is no way to get back the life you once had, much less the feeling of having a comfort zone? When a life changing event such as death, divorce, or any major non-reversible loss, occurs, what once was your comfort zone becomes more of a no man’s (or woman’s) land. You don’t have the edges or boundaries of your life to define you. You don’t know who you are anymore because who you were is longer who you are, but you don’t know who you are becoming. Yet, it is in this place of uncertainty in which the alchemy happens.

Out of this kind of devastating loss is the opportunity for major transformation. The kind of transformation that if you were to look back 10 years, you would realize how much your life changed. The key is to allow the grief process and then to come to a decision point. From that decision point, you can make a conscious choice about how you want to Be in the world.

My wish for you is that you don’t wait for an irreversible loss to change your life if you are feeling unfulfilled. Be proactive in creating the life you really desire, minus the shoulds and expectations of others.

If you were to wake up as your 10-year-younger self and discover through her eyes who you are today, what would your reaction be? Would you like who you are? Or would you wonder how you ever got to be that person?

What shift can you make today so that when you look back 10 years from now you realize that you are truly living life on your terms? I’m talking about living your authentic life – the life that celebrates your gifts and allows you to share those gifts with the world.

Declare your shift and venture out from your comfort zone a little each day and see what a difference it makes in your life. Au courage

Lessons from My Dogs: Trapped in Your Comfort Zone?

The Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend, I got a text while working that my 10-year old Shih Tzu dog Chelsea was at the Emergency Veterinary Hospital. She had gotten trapped under a reclining lift chair and was inadvertently squeezed between the cross bars and bottom of the chair, resulting in a traumatic spinal injury. The good news is that she did not sever her spine or need surgery. She did have internal muscle bleeding and trouble using her hind legs. She was discharged with three pain medications and crate rest for the entire Holiday weekend. We canceled our travel plans and decided we could all use some rest at home.

I am sharing this story with you because of a larger lesson I see in it. Chelsea loves sleeping under chairs. She likes to be close to people and will often sleep at your feet, preferably under the chair you are in or as close to it as possible. This is true for dining room chairs, deck chairs, and yes, even reclining chairs. What makes this behavior potentially dangerous for Chelsea is that she can’t see when she is putting herself in danger of being trapped by her instinctual need for comfort.

We all have a comfort zone and stay in that space by habitually doing the same things over, and over, and over again – even when we know we have outgrown them or that they are not serving us anymore. We may know intellectually that we are at risk by this behavior, which could be anything from poor eating habits and no exercising, to staying in dead-end jobs or relationships. Essentially it is any behavior we are tolerating as good enough that is really hurting us.

We may not realize that we have trapped ourselves under the proverbial recliner until we find ourselves with emotional or physical pain or illness. We may have impaired our ability to balance ourselves, walk forward, or even stand up. We may need surgery, we may take pain medication, or find other ways to numb ourselves. We may find ourselves in a crate of our own making, walled in with a comfortable place to sleep, with food and water, but no place to move around, much less to move forward.

I invite you to consider what your comfort zone is, and how it could potentially limit you.  What habits do you have that keep you in it, and what risks are you taking by continuing to do them? Comfort food? Alcohol or other drugs? Too much or too little exercise? Not expressing emotions? Stuffing feelings?

What is one small change you could make to step outside that comfort zone and create a new consciously healthy habit?

I invite you to share one comfort zone habit you would like to break in the comments below.