On my overpopulated RSS feed reader, I follow this woman’s personal blog. She’s a professional blogger, writing for Web Worker Daily among other blogs, but I have really liked a few of the posts on her personal blog.
Her most recent post, reflecting on the past year, was really startling for me. She talks about “living at the border” – the border being the line where your comfort zone ends.
I have generally long aimed for this ideal. It’s how I became who I am. This year, certainly, I have several times (thought sometimes with coaxing) plunged right into situations that I have found frightening, unfamiliar, uncontrolled, and uncomfortable. When I take those kinds of huge, scary steps, I usually feel really courageous. I also often feel like I’m making strides forward in my life, growing stronger and better.
I think it works really well for me. I make mistakes, but I don’t cry about it, nor let it discourage me. Usually setbacks just motivate me to keep pushing on.
But sometimes, instead what happens is this: I falter. I chicken out. I get insecure. I fall backwards into dark but familiar patterns. Or I somehow decide that I’m being foolish. This retreat leaves me feeling unhappy. Or even like I’ve failed.
I don’t think this means I should give up on seeking to live on the border of my comfort zones. In all honesty, I think pushing boundaries is at least a piece of the whole point of living, and that people who live to tread the same familiar pathways over and over again are stagnating, wasting themselves.
We aren’t here to be comfortable. We are here “to be open fully to the energies and possibilities that are emerging, regardless of their threat to habit, comfort, and stereotyped expectations.” I’ll add to that, regardless of their threat to our understood perceptions about ourselves or others or our place in the world around us. We often benefit from embracing the things that we find difficult and scary and unusual.
That being said, recently I have been rethinking some of my latest attempts to exist “at the edge of impasse”. I don’t like admitting I have limitations, and I don’t like giving up on something just because it’s hard or uncomfortable. But in recently, I’ve just kept on failing and flailing. Should I continue persist anyhow? Or should I retreat from the edge to where I feel safe again? Give myself time to regroup?
Or could I just be wrong about what I am trying to accomplish?
I mean, sometimes there’s a reason to be uncomfortable. If I jumped out of a plane with no parachute, it would be exciting and terrifying and very uncomfortable – particularly when I hit the ground and my body became smashed and very very dead. Sometimes, discomfort is a sign that you’re doing the wrong thing.
Living at the border can mean pushing into new and wonderful territory. But you could also be flirting with self-destruction. Referencing artists, as Anne’s quote does, how many artists’ lack of borders have been tied to a relentless determination to immolate themselves? Is that where I want to go?
Oh, how to know when the border one is living at also happens to be the edge of a cliff…