We all love to be comfortable. We love comfortable clothes, comfortable chairs, comfortable beds, and overall just really comfortable lives. Lives where things go smoothly, we’re not too stressed, things go our way, no obstacles block our path.
For me living with autism, being comfortable is something I search for after I have dealt with all the stress and overwhelming feelings that are just a normal part of each and every day. I come home from running errands so frazzled that I curl up in my favourite blanket and rock in my favourite chair and I strain to find that elusive “comfort”. I go to bed at night fearing that Mom won’t be alive in the morning and “comfort” only comes when I say goodnight to the world. ( if I don’t have bad dreams). I absolutely love going to church but attending a service often requires ear plugs, leaving when things get too much and a headache for the rest of the day from all the noise, commotion and interactions with so many people. Would I stay home?? NO, not on your life. My life, like this cup that I found does begin each and every day at the end of my comfort zone. I live in the zone of discombobulation, confusion, being overwhelmed, being stressed to the hilt, and extreme exhaustion.
My comfort comes in the fact that I made it through the day. My comfort comes in the fact that I stretched myself just a bit further than was “comfortable” and in the process I gained success. The success of overcoming, the success of knowing that I can do a bit more than I was able to do the day or week or year before. The success of knowing I am becoming a better person – a more patient person, a more self-less person, a more loving person.
I take for example looking after my elderly Mom. When she moved in with me 3 years ago, I at first found it very difficult. I was impatient, I was critical, I was self-centred, I was angry. As these years have progressed and I have daily supported my mother through all her activities, worries, medical issues. Every day I have been living beyond my comfort zone. I have had to deal with strange people coming into my home to help care for my Mom, I have had to deal with bathroom issues no one would want to deal with, I have had to deal with fears, worries, anxieties every day of whether she will fall, have a heart attack, or worst of all die. All far beyond my comfort zone. But I can honestly say that as time has gone on I was surprised to see that I have become much much more patient with Mom, I am not near so critical, I forget about my own wants, needs to do whatever I can to give Mom the best, and I am no longer angry. I have a new much deeper love for my Mom than I ever have in my life. She is like a delicate, fragile flower I must care for and cultivate and nurture. It doesn’t mean I am no longer living beyond my comfort zone. I am still there every day. I am so exhausted I think I could fall asleep standing up. I am so emotionally exhausted my brain feels like mush but when I think of what I have learned by being beyond my comfort zone – I would not go back to a “comfortable” life for an instant.
Life really can begin at the end of your comfort zone. And for those of us with autism, I encourage you to keep stepping beyond your comfort zone. Retreat when you need to but don’t shy away from doing those things that just stretch you a little but further. You’d be surprised at what might be waiting for you out there in the world. I have been stepping out into the world my whole life and I believe that it is only in doing that, that I have found “life” and success and yes, a bit of comfort. Life is not easy but it is worthwhile.
I found this quote that I think is fitting. “Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.” BG. And another one – “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek” Joseph Campbell.
I must say I have entered a lot of scary caves in my lifetime and I have found nothing but the most beautiful treasures that have enriched my life today. Be brave! Step out and experience something new.