I admit it. I have an unusual penchant for chairs. Old chairs, child’s chairs from the 1800s, mid-century modern chairs, and sleek millennial creations that are, for me, pure objects of desire.
I have several diminutive chairs from other centuries, tucked in corners of the living room and on top of bookcases. There are adult chairs as well – too many, I know. But they’re so human, and welcoming.
I love to sit in them, to touch their worn surfaces or nubby fabrics. And I wonder about their stories, especially those that were crafted two hundred years ago.
What gives you comfort when you are alone?
Chairs are connective, and they comfort me.
Other things comfort me as well: coffee, hot and strong; writing, almost always; potato leek soup, just one of several comfort foods. There are my favorite films on DVD at night; I know the dialogue nearly by heart and the voices feel like friends. And there are passages from much loved books; words uplift and offer well-worn flights of fancy.
What is familiar soothes. It doesn’t question or provoke. We feel safe, less alone, cradled in aloneness rather than isolated by it.
Do you know your comfort zone?
We talk about our Comfort Zone in so many contexts – often relative to professional objectives, but also in terms of the way we live, our environments. It is human nature to seek comfort, to find ways to comfort ourselves, to define ourselves within a framework in which we are not at risk, or stressed.
When we’re young, we march off into the future with some trepidation, but filled with eagerness and bravery. We are enthused by adventures because they are new. Our bodies encourage it; our limbs surge with energy and capacity.
As we get older, like children, we have greater need for comfort. Reality can be harsh; we seek physical ease and logistical simplicity in a complex world. Perhaps we feel we’ve lived enough adventures. With coupling and parenting we have a tendency to “nest.” We settle – in all senses of the word. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But what if your comfort zone is holding you back?
The familiar versus the unknown
I chose to raise my children these past several years in a tiny home in order to remain close to where we once lived, keeping my sons in their same school system, and relatively speaking, near their friends. I purchased a house that resembled the former family home, but in miniature.
My sons responded immediately to this place; it felt familiar to them, which made the transition easier. As for me, I readily admit that I needed familiarity as well, then. To drive the same streets, to shop the same stores, chat with the same cashiers I’d known for years by name. While some say that stress makes you choose the less familiar in certain areas of life, when it came to a home, I chose familiarity during a time of turmoil to offset unwanted change.
It has been the right decision for my sons. For me, it’s not so simple.
New choices, personally and professionally
I believe that change is good, pushing ourselves to change (for the better) is good, but too much or too fast or poorly timed change… that’s another matter.
In challenging times, choosing the familiar over the unknown is about much more than where you live or how you make your home. Do you dare to try a new career, even at 45? At 60? Can you toss out stereotypes and patterns in your choices of partner, and try something new?
There’s no question that the prospect of change is more difficult as we age, but does that mean it’s impossible? Is clinging to the comfort zone preventing us from achieving, or even, from being happier?
Is your comfort zone holding you back?
I am no longer 20 or 30, or even 40. I enjoy my comfort zone, but I’ll just say it. I’m stifled in this city. I long for something different, a place and people that challenge me, that fit me better.
My home is cozy and welcoming, and I love my zig zag chairs and my Barcelona chair and the tiny children’s chairs from other centuries. But I am alone a good deal. I have filled these rooms with children, but not adults. As consoling as my small comforts may be, are they enough? Will I be brave enough to leave behind the familiar when I can, or will I allow my comfort zone to hold me back?
Analyze your comfort zone
When you think of your comfort zone, what does it entail?
- Have you created a comfort zone to feel accepted and safe?
- How do you comfort yourself when you’re alone?
- How easily could you relocate, if necessary or desired?
- How much harder is it, when you’re a little older?
- Is your comfort zone holding you back, personally or professionally?
- What prevents you from pushing beyond your comfort zone?
Theoretically, in two years I could start over – professionally and personally. I’ve done it a dozen times before, but it was easier when it only involved me, when I was not the caretaker for my sons’ sense of “home,” and when I was younger.
I have no idea what options will be available in a few years’ time any more than I can know what my mindset will be.
I suspect I may not have a choice about leaving the comfort zone. That will mean emotional goodbyes, not so much to people, but to dreams. Still, where ever I might go, there would be room for some of what comforts me, including a few chairs.
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