Last week, I talked about how we, who have endured difficult health issues, have been blessed to be born without a comfort zone. I shared how I feel it has strengthened me both mentally and spiritually. This week, I’d like to share why that’s especially important these days and especially during Covid Times.
Have you noticed how even though society has so many “modern conveniences,” people complain that life isn’t easy? People seem to be offended by everything. They can’t seem to cope well with things the older generations thought were just part of life. I believe most marriages end in divorce because the younger generations no longer view relationships as something requiring work. They lost that loving feeling and so they simply move on.
Success in anything takes work whether it’s a business, a relationship, or an education. Unfortunately, fewer people these days will put forth the energy required to do so.
When I first began writing this blog post, I was doing it from my iPad because my laptop hard drive was failing and I was backing up all my work. I was typing with a stylus because my fingers shake due to Essential Tremors if I use my fingers directly. I was working on changes to my site on paper even though I had a massive headache. Why? You just do what you can with what you have.
It’s how you look at things. If you look for the bad, you’ll see it. If you look for the good, you’ll see that too! You’re not entitled to an easy life. A lot of American young people think so but it’s not true. The founding fathers knew this. We with chronic illness know this all too well.
If I go back a generation in my family, I see a much stronger work ethic than I see today. My great grandparents and my grandfather came to this country from what was then Russian to start over with nothing. My grandfather didn’t speak the language, but he worked hard and eventually was Vice President of a large Union in N.Y. He provided very nicely for my father and his brother.
My husband and his family came from Mexico with nothing not speaking the language. They worked hard. Made a life. They came for the American dream, but that dream was an opportunity, not an entitlement.
A job is hard work. A business is hard work. Marriage is hard work. Life is hard work. I think most people many years ago used to understand this. I think the younger generation can learn a lot from our ancestors. I also think they can learn a lot from those of us with chronic illness who don’t have a comfort zone. But I also think we should stop and think once in a while to learn from ourselves.
No, life with chronic illness isn’t easy. But life never promised it would be. And sometimes, if we focus on the strength it takes to get through a day with chronic illness, we can be proud of what we accomplished!
It’s not easy having chronic illness, is it? Nope. It’s not something I’d wish for nor is it something I’d wish upon even those who “done me wrong.” I’ve written several times before about how I’ve found blessings inside the struggles: joys that were there inside the trials right along side the pain and fatigue. However, what I never wrote about before is how the struggle itself has strengthened me and my faith as nothing else could have!
Just like how working out builds a strong body (unless you have chronic illness lol) or how an athlete trains to be strong enough to win the big race, our struggles can strengthen us and mine have!
I’m sure you’ve seen those memes on social media about how “Nobody ever accomplished anything while in their comfort zone.” “You gotta get out of your comfort zone if you expect to do anything with your life!” Well, I’ll bet you were thinking, “I have chronic illness. I don’t HAVE a comfort zone!” And you’re probably right!
If you’re one of us (chronic illness/issues sufferers), you don’t think in terms of comfort. You think in terms of what is the least painful, the least energy zapping. You just work to make sure your pain or fatigue or discomfort isn’t as bad as it could be because there isn’t any real comfort inside the Chronic Illness Zone, is there?
Well, this got me thinking that so much of my life has be filled with not only pain and fatigue, but difficulties of various kinds. I was blessed to be born without a comfort zone. I was a painfully shy kid. What’s the worst thing for a shy kid? Having to meet new people! But that’s exactly what I had to do every few years. New town, new state, new school, new neighborhood…
I couldn’t look people in the eye when I talked to them. Shy people usually stay in the background: The Comfort Zone of the Socially Awkward. But not me! I couldn’t. I was always the new kid. The one dressed different, the one who called jeans “dungarees.” The one who pronounced SePULveda Blvd as SepulVEda. The one who was 4′ 10″. The one who had a NY accent in Virginia. I stuck out like a sore thumb.
And shyness wasn’t the only area of my life that was difficult either. As I’ve shared many times here on Life Beyond Surviving, I’ve had chronic illness and other chronic conditions most of my life. What I haven’t written about much is all the other ways in which life has been challenging for me.
I’m one of the only Christians in my family. I’m of Jewish heritage, but most of my family is either atheist or agnostic. Some are/were Jehovah’s Witnesses. It has always been a bit challenging at family gatherings.
In the 33 years we’ve been married, my husband and I have had quite a number of issues to deal with. My husband was born in Mexico so we’ve had some issues with racism and early on in our marriage we had some financial issues we had to overcome.
Several years ago he lost his permanent job and he’s been doing consulting work ever since. It is rather challenging, especially when the economy isn’t doing well or, say, a pandemic hits and jobs aren’t as plentiful. He’s had a lot of times in between assignments where we had to find alternative ways to make extra money.
Once, during a year of his unemployment, we had to work quite hard in our own business buying HUD homes and reselling them to real estate investors to fix up and resell. It was especially difficult to invest in real estate this way because HUD doesn’t like investors and they made it increasingly difficult for us to make a profit, but we persevered. We did earn a living doing this for a while.
We also worked for a while selling our own products on Amazon until we found that Amazon, while a FABULOUS platform for buyers, is very biased against sellers. I was constantly on the phone with a lawyer trying to resolve oversights where Amazon allowed scammers to spoof our listings and then sell subpar versions of our products or send none at all to the customer.
I’ve had to work 10x harder than most at just about everything. Maybe you have too. And yet, I’d still say I was blessed to be born without a comfort zone because I never felt hard work was an option. It’s just part of life. Knowing that made my adjustments easier because most of achievement is mindset, isn’t it?
Not having ever had a comfort zone has benefited me greatly because I assume I’ll have to work hard…at EVERYTHING! I expect it. I plan for it. I embrace it. Life with challenges has taught me to endure, but also to see the joy not only in what hard work brings, but in what hard work does. It builds character and it builds trust and faith in the Lord to bring you through just about everything the world can throw at you!
I’ve said it before. God uses everything for our good and we can use everything for our own good as well. Just like the butterfly struggling to get out of its cocoon builds strength in its wings, our own struggles build strength in US. I choose to look at life’s struggles and difficulties this way and it has helped me to see more of the joy in life and build my own strength to be who I need to be while I’m doing it.
I wrote this quite a while ago back on another blog, but I had to go looking for it because I kept coming across these memes on Facebook and it got me thinking about this again. Here it is as I wrote it many years ago:
Comfort Zone: I had to look that up because I wasn’t familiar with the concept. I might have misplaced my comfort zone. I’m not sure I ever had one. This is something I often see online or mentioned in high-powered, self-help books and seminars:
“Ya gotta step out of your comfort zone or nothing will ever change in your life!”
“Nothing great was ever accomplished inside your comfort zone!”
“If you want to achieve incredible things, you HAVE to get out of your comfort zone!”
Where exactly IS my comfort zone? I’d like to claim this piece of real estate. In fact, I’d like to vacation there on a semi-permanent basis. I’ve been searching for it for the past 35 years, but I never have located it. I don’t remember ever being there, even as a kid. The only thing comfortable or stable about my life has been how often it changes.
Two weeks after I was born in Colorado, my family moved out of state. Florida was a two-year engagement, New York was an eight or nine-year gig, but part one was in the city for a while, part two was on Long Island for five years and part three was across town for another two. I did an 18-month stint in Virginia followed by several years in California. From 1977 to 2008 I lived in seven different California locations. I never saw my comfort zone there or in the desert heat of ARIDzona where we were for 5.5yrs and, so far, it hasn’t turned up in the 10 months we’ve been in the deep freezer of Indiana either.
I was always the oddball in school. I was the new kid on the block who liked to read, was very shy and didn’t know why the guy at Dairy Queen on the corner was the butt of all the jokes. I was the one who didn’t know how to get around school, couldn’t find her way to the mall or understand the latest fad. I wore the wrong jeans (which I called dungarees), had the wrong purse (which I called a pocketbook) and didn’t even know how to pronounce the names of the streets (SePULveda which my family pronounced SepulVEda for the first few months in southern California). Try using the “wrong” terms or pronunciation with teens and see how comforted you feel.
In college and just afterward, this shy gal had several sales jobs. I sold real estate, pay telephones, videos and teddy bears. Sometimes I had three jobs, but I wouldn’t describe any of them as comfortable. It was a bit scary and not only because I had to talk to people. Some of the people I had to talk to were in a part of town that was downright scary and the business owners didn’t easily give me any credibility. Ever try to convince a Middle Eastern male business owner to take you seriously when you’re a 5′ nuthin’ female? Not comfortable in the least.
I did time: 8 years in customer service. Got off for good behavior. LOL If you think that job is easy, remember how many people call customer service because they are HAPPY. But all that aside, a co-worker, for reasons unknown to mankind, decided I was a threat to her moving up in the company and took it upon herself to trash my work and reputation to the entire office. She stood up in the middle of the office and yelled at me about how I was doing a horrible job and how I was trying to keep her from getting promoted. Management came out and, instead of stopping her, they just watched. Later on, we were both called into the office where they told me that I was on thin ice there. ME?
She began putting notes in all my files accusing me of poor performance and talking about me to all the staff. I was eventually told they wanted to demote me. I told them they could fire me, but I wouldn’t take a demotion. I never retaliated as God told me to do what was right.
Later on, I left the company because I started my own business and could work from home and be with my daughter. A year or so later, I went back to visit a friend there and was told that the gal who trashed me had a nervous breakdown in the ladies room after they all realized what she’d been doing. Trust me, that wasn’t my comfort zone either.
I made many decisions that either weren’t very popular or were not easily understood. I was challenged to prove why I homeschooled and the fact that it wasn’t illegal or immoral. I was the only Christian in my family. Not a comfortable topic of conversation. In addition, I had to justify why I had my own business instead of getting a secure job with a steady paycheck like most people did. I worked my tail off at my business and built it up to where I was earning $3000/month only to have the bottom fall out of the economy in 2008 and virtually wipe out my income. Comfort zone? I think not!
You all know how our first year here in NW Indiana went. If you don’t, you can read it here. The weather outside is frightful and thunderstorms are not delightful…or comforting.
Then there is the matter of dealing with chronic illness. I know my readers are intimately familiar with this one! If you don’t know my story, you can listen to my video here. Chronic illness often leads us out of our comfort zone, if we ever had one. We struggle to do things most people take for granted. I talked more about this in my recent post, Looking Back: I Used to Run.
So all this to say, I think many of us who struggle with chronic illness or other chronic issues can’t find our comfort zone, but we wish we could! We wish we were comfortable, but the pain is too severe. We wish we could live at ease, but we struggle just to get through the day. How many of you would like to find your comfort zone? What would you do there?
For many years I was frustrated that I wasn’t afforded a comfort zone until I realized that God is my comfort zone. He strengthens those of us without a comfort zone. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28, Sounds like a good comfort zone to me. How about you?