Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

Stepping outside of my comfort zone or
How to become one Tough Mudder.

Last weekend my son and nephews entered in the Tough Mudder race in Southern Calif. For those of you who do not know what a Tough Mudder race is; allow me to explain.

It is an obstacle course – not unlike those Navy Seals use for training. You jump into vats of ice water, then hoist yourself over walls, army crawl through mud, while being zapped by electrified wires (NOT KIDDING). Some people actually run it as a race, some walk it. They are held throughout the country (Google it), but this one was at a snow resort, so I’m guessing fewer people were actually racing up Black Diamond mountains. The entire race took my nephews and their team of six, approximately five hours to complete.

Through poor planning on the part of the organizers, they ran out of bananas, parking meant taking a shuttle to the ski resort and then after the long tedious race, when all you want to do is lie down and sleep, they had a 2½ hour wait to get onto a shuttle to return to their car. Since the sun was setting and they were wet and mud-covered, they were handed space blankets to keep warm.

It sounds to me that this is not really a race as much as an endurance test. No one in their party attempted to be the first to cross the finish line, They just wanted to be able to have the opportunity to say they survived the Tough Mudder from start to finish.

Now, I am proud they did it and happier still that no one was injured. But, I pondered why anyone would push themselves to the limit.

Why must people climb the tallest mountains wearing oxygen masks? Why must someone swim across vast expanses of water (even shark-infested), if they haven’t fallen overboard? Why do people push their bodies to extremes?

Trust me: I don’t get it. There was a period of two years when I was working out with a personal trainer. I felt it was my duty to keep my multiple sclerosis in check, by being at my fittest. I worked with an excellent trainer who was well aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I did get stronger and I did lose weight. But, after my workout I went home and collapsed. Then I was in pain for the next two days. "But it’s a good pain" – that’s my husband talking. I gave him looks of daggers, because to me pain IS pain. Then I would return to the gym and begin the same routine all over again. Workout, collapse, limp around in pain for two days.

Well, I finally got it! If my MS was going to create pain anyway, I didn’t need to cultivate it in a gym. So, I stopped going. Lo and behold, I have been pain-free since. Not of course, free of my MS pain, which I will always have. But that good kind of pain that kept me grimacing for days on end.

I strongly advise most of you NOT to listen and follow my newly-acquired way of thinking. Exercise is good for people with MS. Just not this person. And that becomes my choice. I choose not to push myself to my limits. I prefer to stay within my comfort zone.

Now I may not be one Tough Mudder (as it were), but I am pushing myself outside my comfort zone in a different way. Not with my body - oh no, I’ve learned my lesson - but with my mind. My creative mind.

With my first novel, “Once in Every Generation” I was well within my comfort zone. Even though it was fiction, it was semi-autobiographical. I knew what it was like to step into the spotlight and I knew what it was like to get diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I also wrote within the genre of which I read. I like books about interpersonal relationships.

Here’s where I am leaping (giant leaps) outside my zone of comfort: the novel I am working on now with great intensity and excitement is a combination of contemporary and historical fiction. Though based on the life of a real person, it combines real life characters with fictionalized events. The research has been extremely inspiring for me.

You will read about a true person who survived the Holocaust, only to have to relive it in her elder years. There is mystery, drama, humor, and even a chase scene throughout the backstreets of London.

Totally outside my comfort zone! And as I type I can feel the adrenaline pumping. I look forward to sitting down at the keyboard and writing. This has become my Everest, my pushing the limits, my Tough Mudder race (without the mud). And I can finally understand why people push themselves outside of their comfort zones. I finally get it! Yes, I am one Tough Mudder, after all.

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