Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Driving out of my comfort zone

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about my comfort zone. Or, more specifically, whether I leave it often enough.

Soon, we'll be packing our youngest kids into the car and driving 1,200 miles to spend the rest of the holidays with their big siblings and their grandparents. While I love my in-laws and my big kids dearly, I will readily admit that I am seriously questioning my sanity right now. Because the last long drive I took was from Syracuse, N.Y., to Hilton Head, S.C., and at the time I was 18 and did not require sleep.

Also: For that trip, the car was packed with four college kids, a fancy Walkman on which we recorded an audio journal of the adventure, and adrenaline. This trip? Two overworked, middle-aged parents, two pre-school age kids, and a dog. Massive difference.

Needless to say, this trip is way outside my comfort zone. And that is pissing off my husband. Because it's well within his.

"It's basically just a two-day camping trip!" he points out, exasperated. "Yes, but in a car!" I shoot back. And I don't camp, I think, silently, in my head. Which, given that we're a.) married and he's b.) my best friend, he hears anyway.

"And you don't camp!" he adds, as if he just remembered.

(Why don't I camp? Long story, but basically it has to do with a dozen irritated 13-year-olds, a tarp, and a very long, very rainy, very cold night on a mountaintop in Pennsylvania 25 years ago. Scarred me for life. I do like long walks in the woods, though.)

Interestingly enough, while tend to stress out (really, really stress out) about travelling, he tends to stress out (really, really stress out) about having dinner parties. Last weekend, we had 11 adults and six kids under the age of 7 in the house for early Christmas dinner I felt absolutely fine about it, even though the house was nowhere near as tidy as I'd like and, the night before everyone arrived, I was sitting up at 2 a.m., working, instead of prepping the dinner or making the appetizers or finishing all of the goodies I need to put into the gift baskets I make every year.

This stressed my husband out even more.

"Why are you so... not lackadaisical," he started to ask, choosing his words carefully. "Why are you so, um, mellow, about it, when there's so much stuff to get done? Is it because they're your family, so you don't feel any pressure?"

It's a good question. But no... I felt pressure. It's just that I knew that once we sat down to dinner, no one was going to wonder why we decided to serve pork instead of beef. No one was going to think about whether I fussed over making blackberry vs. strawberry jam, or wonder why they're nibbling on shortbread instead of biscotti. We would all sit at the table and eat and laugh and talk and watch the kids try to sneak pie, and time would fly by all too fast, and next thing we knew it would all be over and done with. I've done it before. I know it works. It makes sense to me.

And it occurs to me that maybe this is how he feels about the long car ride. He's done it before, he knows how it works, it makes sense to him.

Maybe part of feeling OK outside of my comfort zone is understanding that I can still be safe in someone else's. I don't have to be in charge of it all, all the time.

Where's your comfort zone?

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