My comfort zone is a very lovely place. I consider it to be moderately sized and a very warm and friendly place. I like to think that it is average sized maybe even a little larger than average, after all I have performed on stage at the London Palladium, sung at weddings, spoken at conferences and been brave enough to teach primary, secondary and Higher Education.
I like to think I know my limits. There are some things that I physically can’t do now because of my condition (read more about Acromegaly if you are interested), I am not good with heights but I’m usually happy to try most things.
Or so I like to believe.
The reality is I’m very good at making excuses for not doing things if I know that I’m not really brave enough to push myself that far out of my comfort zone. I’m happy to flex my zone, to bend it slightly, but bursting out and running off over the hill…nope!
We’re all the same, to a degree anyway, we all convince ourselves that we are really pushing the limits of life, that we are doing all we can, going as far as we can go to really live our best life, that we don’t live only in our comfort zone. We encourage children to try something new; “you don’t know if you like it if you don’t try” then a friend calls to say they are starting a salsa class and would you go and your immediate thought is; “I can’t do that! I have no sense of rhythm, people will stare at me, what if I hurt myself, or worse still, embarrass myself!”.
Why do we expect more from children than we are prepared to do ourselves?
Well, we have learned that sometimes when we try something new it hurts, we discover we can’t do it, or don’t enjoy it. Once we are adults we honestly believe that if there is something that we are going to enjoy we will have tried it and know all about it by now.
This, of course, isn’t true.
So what can we do about it?
Well, we can take a gentle leaf out of Danny Wallace’s book and say yes. Danny Wallace decided to say yes to everything for a whole year and see what happened. If you aren’t familiar with his story there is a book and a Jim Carey film which tells you the resulting outcomes. I’m not suggesting you go to that extreme but make an effort to say yes more often.
Every day opportunities are presented to us, how many do we actually take?
Instead of finding excuses not to do something, do it. Don’t doubt your ability to take on that role or responsibility, take it. Don’t use work or your children as an excuse to not go out, get organised and go!
Life it short.
Don’t have any regrets.
Why are comfort zones on my mind at the moment?
Well, I have just agreed to break out of mine!
Back in March my husband was involved in the most incredible show at our local theatre, The Real Full Monty. A group of local men and women, who had been impacted by cancer, agreed to do the dances from ITV’s cancer fundraising programme for a local cancer charity (KMAC)
I go to the theatre quite a lot and we like going to concerts of all different types, but I can honestly say that this was the most uplifting and positive theatre experience I have ever had. Throughout the evening there were various local acts; singers, dancers, a magician, the usual. My husband had created incredible videos to disperse through the evening with some of the stories of the dancers who then brought the evening to the most life affirming ending you could imagine by doing these beautiful dances.
None of the people taking part were dancers. Some of had never stood on a stage before. Some had been personally affected by cancer and were sharing their scars with the audience. They were all defeating their insecurities, fighting their fear and doing something wonderful for an amazing cause. All this while raising over £32k and raising awareness of the struggles they had been through.
Well, the evening was such a triumph that within days the Gatehouse Theatre (who had provided the theatre and staff for free), were calling Richard (the organiser) asking if he wanted to repeat the show next year but this time doing three nights and over the weekend.
How does this affect my comfort zone?
Well, I have agreed to take part next year.
I am terrified. Can I dance? Well, once upon a time I did a few bits as part of shows I was in. I danced the Landler when I played Maria in The Sound of Music at our local theatre in Wakefield 20+ years ago. I had to dance when I did the show at the Palladium 18 years ago. But, I haven’t stepped foot on a stage or done more than dance round my handbag since I had two children and my diagnosis.
I have wanted to join local amateur dramatic groups but been scared of letting them down. Part of my condition is joint pain and chronic fatigue so I don’t know whether I could cope with rehearsal schedules.
As you can see from these images my body changed dramatically before I had my surgery and I still occasionally dream that I look in the mirror and the face in the middle photo is looking back.
I have joint problems and have had two children by c-section since I was last on stage.
The nearest I came to taking my clothes off in public was wearing a bikini on stage during a song from Miss Saigon. At the time I was 25 years old and in pretty good shape.
I’m now 42 (I will be 43 when we do the show) and my body has been through a lot, more importantly so has my mind.
I am a reasonably confident, happy person.
Do I love my body? No.
Are there things I would like to change? Yes of course. I want my joints to be the way they were pre-diagnosis so I can clean the hob without my fingers locking up.
Is this the perfect opportunity to get myself into better shape and discover what my body can really do again? Yes.
I am also passionate about raising awareness of lesser known illnesses like mine and this seems like the perfect opportunity.
When someone tells you they have cancer you are immediately affected by this news. You understand how serious it is, you have an idea of the sorts of treatment they may have to undergo, and if you have had personal experience before, you probably understand something of the physical and emotional scars they may be left with.
If someone tells you they have been diagnosed with a condition you are less familiar with you don’t know how to react. You don’t know how serious it is. How they will be affected? What might happen to them?
My body and mind were both affected dramatically by my diagnosis. In the space of weeks I was told that I had an incurable condition, that my body wouldn’t return to what it was previously and that I wouldn’t have any more children (which was the way we discovered that I had this issue).
Those are some pretty devastating realities.
There are no support groups. I wasn’t offered counselling. I was sent away and told to wait for a letter with details of my surgery.
After my surgery I received medical check ups (I still do, and the hospital look after me brilliantly) but no emotional support.
Now, 12 years on, I am perimenopausal!
This is a difficult enough time for any woman, but imagine that the symptoms of a condition you have are; sweating excessively, short temperedness, tiredness, being overly emotional… then imagine how many questions the symptoms of menopause might throw up.
So I am facing my fears head on and I will be rehearsing for 6 months and performing in front of over 1.5k people in our local theatre.
Will I be scared? Of course!
Will I regret not taking this opportunity more? YES! Definitely!
I want to show my children that you can face your fears, that if there is something you are worried about that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. I’ll take a deep breath and use every tool in my calming toolkit and I will raise awareness of my condition and hopefully raise lots of money for three amazing local charities.
I’m going to do this for all the people who haven’t had such positive outcomes from their Acromegaly diagnoses. I will be bursting out of my comfort zone and growing as a result I’m sure.
What can you do to expand your comfort zone?