I’ve always been equally drawn to, and repelled by, change.
I don’t know if I can explain it except to say that, every so often, I feel a very strong urge to shake things up, while at the same time another part of my psyche clings desperately to whatever comfortable, familiar status I’ve reached.
I experience this conflict in my work. My personal life. My choice of surroundings. Heck, I could probably chalk up a baby or two to a sudden and impossible-to-ignore need to complicate my sleepy, steady life.
In my recent post about our family plan to spend time abroad, I wrote:
The thing is, I do love our life. We’ve actually held a pretty firm line against the modern-day craziness, the go-go-go of one activity or sport after another. We eat dinner together as a family most nights, spend leisurely weekend days with close family and friends, laugh together, and don’t stress too much….We live in a beautiful, cozy haven filled with friendly people and great schools.
That’s just it. Sometimes I feel like we’re too comfortable. And then I think: am I nuts? What’s wrong with comfort? Isn’t that what humans are supposed to work toward: peace, prosperity, quiet nights in the rocking chair?
Or is there something to be said for making sure we’re really awake?
Recently I started to read Jeff Goins‘ book, Wrecked: When A Broken World Slams Into Your Comfortable Life.
The book focuses on experiencing, really experiencing, the world and the lives of people in it, so that we can allow our perspectives and mindsets to experience a radical shift…rather than staying cocooned in the comfy, protective bubble of relative wealth and luxury that most of us who possess high-speed internet and access to Target occupy.
I’ve read enough of Jeff’s stuff to know that he is a well-respected, talented writer who seems like a genuinely nice guy. I’d liked his writing enough to buy his book, after all.
But as I read it, I first felt vaguely on edge, and then that edginess turned to annoyance. By the time I got to the middle of the book, I felt genuinely angry. Why?
I think it’s because what Jeff was suggesting – leaving behind the blurry veil of ignorance to embrace something much grittier and less shiny and palatable – was darned uncomfortable to contemplate.
While in one part of my brain I acknowledged the truth in his words, I also found myself mentally resisting what he was saying, like a toddler kicking her feet and clinging desperately to a toy.
Only in my case, the “toy” I was clinging to was the idea of a comfortable, easy life. I’ve worked hard to achieve it, after all. Isn’t it supposed to be mine for keeps?
I think Wrecked made me uncomfortable because I it made me recognize the fallacy in that idea – that I deserve a certain way of life, and that I can hold on to it, make it mine, for good. If I just ignore the reality of the rest of the world. If I just earn enough money.
But nothing is guaranteed. And while a certain way of life may be earned, that doesn’t mean it’s deserved.
Or that it can’t go away. Or that it’s all there is.
This isn’t a pre-midlife crisis. I’m not living a life of quiet despair, trying to “find” myself, or wondering “what’s the point of it all?”
Rather, I think I’m recognizing that comfort and ease will only get me so far. And that, if I get too comfy-cozy, I run a real danger of living the majority of my adult years not fully awake.
Things that I never imagined in my much-poorer existence ten or fifteen years ago have become mine, and I barely even notice the difference. Things I never imagined my kids would have are just an assumed part of their life. Things I never thought I’d care about – like what people might think if I did X or drove Y or lived in Z – now weigh heavy on my mind, much as I try to shake those thoughts and comparisons away.
I don’t begrudge us any of what we have – which would seem quite modest to many, and unbelievably lavish to others – but I want to have my eyes open wide enough to see it for what it is.
So that’s why, though my life is happy and good, I look for ways to shake it up. To stay awake. To make sure I’m not sleepwalking through these days and months and years.
Kristen Tennant, a blogger I have respected for years, recently wrote a post called Not Playing It Safe. While I love the whole post and the sweet story she shares, this is the part that jumped out at me most:
No, it can’t be the promise of branches that will hold or fruit that is ripe and sweet that motivates us to take risks. It can only be the promise of adventure—of some motion that wakes your life up and takes it from where it has been slumbering to some new place.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
There is no guarantee in adventure, except that it will be often uncertain and occasionally uncomfortable. And that it requires your attention and focus and participation. It requires you to stay awake.
Maybe to really keep my eyes open, I need to challenge the side of myself that would really rather stay riiiight here.
And whether it’s a small adventure – a new friendship, maybe – or a big one, like an international move, it’s worth stepping outside of my wonderfully peaceful life to open my eyes, wake up, and get living.