Thursdays with Deb J ~ Leaving My Comfort Zone

Deb J

Deb J

All of us have varying comfort zones. There are just some items, people, ideas, and/or places that mean home to us. That doesn’t mean that home can’t be moved but when that happens there are certain accoutrements to making up “home.” This is our comfort zone. The things we fight to not change. If this is going to happen then this has to happen too. We tend to set those Comfort Zone (CZ) items in concrete. Unfortunately, many times this hinders us rather than helping us. In fact, it tends to keep us rooted in the past.

Along comes change. Someone/something wants to take us out of our CZ. We fight it. We drag our feet, wail, throw a fit, or just plant ourselves in one spot. Our CZ is just that. The things/people that bring us comfort. They give us a feeling of safety. But what if that safety is all a hoax? What if you were to find that the best time of your life was on the other side of the change you are fighting? What if you were to find that your present CZ was actually stunting your growth as a person, couple or family, was weighing you down so you couldn’t soar in your job, hobby or life, was preventing you from having the money for those bucket list items, or was just keeping you from something you never dreamed of?

I learned a lesson about this several times. Once big time was when my father died and I suddenly had a mother and her bills to take care of. It meant moving, keeping jobs I was not fond of at the beginning because I had to have a job and having less money than I would have liked. But it also led to living in places we loved, making friends we still have, and having 3 jobs that used my talents to the fullest and made me very happy.

The second time was when I went from having an upper middle class income, a challenging and interesting job, and fairly good health to a poverty level income, no job and diseases that make every day a challenge. I quickly lost many things that had been part of my life for a long time—season tickets at the symphony, enjoying a night out with friends, having a new car every two-three years, having whatever furniture or clothes I wanted. Not that I was into things that much but your lifestyle tends to follow along with the income you make.

Suddenly I no longer had any of those. In fact, I had way too much that no longer fit my life. So I started to declutter it all. Some of it was easy. Why have fancy work clothes when I didn’t need them? Some of it I fought. Why do I have to give up the symphony? Why do we have to move? Why can’t I have the doctors I want instead of having a small list to choose from? On and on it went. It has been 8 years since I was blasted out of my last CZ. It has not been easy and some of the changes have been very hard. Yet, here I am living in a new CZ. Things in my life are much different. Yes I am content. I have found I don’t need all those things I no longer have. I have found that little is much and enough. My CZ is different. It is no longer based on the things I have or how much of them, where I live, who is there. It is based on knowing I have enough to live. Oh, sure, there are some things I miss and would do again if I could but they are not so important that I get upset without them. I have a happy life because I have chosen it. All of those things I had were a way of keeping me from a path that is much more satisfying. I know that sounds odd but it is true. With fewer things to drag me down I am able to fly. It’s wonderful.

Perhaps your stuff has clipping your wings, think about it. Is your comfort zone smaller than you realise?

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Love it or heave it (Revisited) As you may have guessed, due to the lack of them, I struggle to come up with new posts these days, mostly because I declutter much less now, therefore the inspiration for posts isn't […]
  • The endless to-do list Isn't it baffling that no matter how much you reduce your belongings and simplify your life, there still seems to always be an endless to-do list. I think it is highly possible, at least […]
  • Large area declutter ~ Minimal disruption This post is all about breaking down, into steps, the task of decluttering a large cluttered area of your home without causing undue disruption. I am going to use the kitchen as my example […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. HI Deb J. – this is an amazing post and thank you so much for your thoughts on this. My household (including my mom two states away) has kind of been struggling with developing a new CZ since my step-father died in April. I feel as if I am being pulled in so many different directions – my husband, my mother, weather-related damage to our home that I’m trying to fix, my job, my husband having unexpected back surgery decreasing our income – but increasing expenses with medical bills – I feel like I am taking care of everyone else and no one is taking care of me. I’m trying to do the right thing, trying to be comforting and supportive, but it is draining me. Sometimes I wonder when it’s going to be MY time. I don’t know. Maybe it never becomes about just me. Maybe if it was just about me I’d be lonely.

    I don’t have the answers on this sort of situation. I suppose I could simply embrace it . . . . nope . . . . don’t think that’s gonna work because I am most definitely not happy right now. I am working on finding humor wherever I can, so that’s something.

    At any rate, I’m going to keep thinking on your post because I it is very relevant in today’s ever-changing atmosphere, so thanks again!

    • Michelle, it’s sounds like life is rough for you right now. This is the time when decisions are better left to minor ones because your mind has to be in a whirl. You do need to take time for yourself. Even if it is just small amounts of time to get away and take a deep breath–like going to a park and having an ice cream or sitting on a couch in Starbucks people watching. I’m praying things improve quickly for you. In the meantime, look for the good things–you still have your mother, your husband is recovering from surgery not facing it, while you have some weather related damage you still have a home. That’s what I try to do to help me in times like this. Look for the many things I still have. God bless.

    • Michelle, I know that feeling of being in a tidal wave of problems … good luck. A sense of humour will take you far.

      • Thanks ladies. Don’t get me wrong – I am not completely woe-is-me. 😉 I just wonder when this is going to calm down. I am foreseeing some issues up through Christmas though. There are limitations to what exactly I can control. The only thing that I for certain have control over are my own feelings and how I deal with these struggles. And there is MUCH gratitude for the good things in my life. Today is September 11, my flag is out, I am reminded of those who died and I am appreciative for the good people in the world.

        • 9/11 just makes me sick even after all this time. I have a dear friend’s son in Afghanistan and that makes me very aware of how blessed we are.

  2. Interesting post, Deb J. You are definitely a cup-half-full person … my hat is off to you!

    • Jo H, thanks. I just know that it’s easy to see only the bad when we really do have a lot of good in our lives. I try to dwell on that.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this post. I find that you have been able to display courage and willingness when you could have so easily taken a much different route. We always have choices in how we react to situations and you have certainly chosen the higher road again and again.

    My CZ has drastically changed with one more child out of the nest. I know I can and should look towards all the positives of that, especially when it comes to living more simply (less stuff, smaller grocery bill, simpler meals, more time to do what I have been waiting all these years to do!) but missing what was sometimes overtakes me. I know this will pass soon but…not yet. So thanks for helping to point me to the need to build a new CZ and expect that it will be full of new and wonderful things.

    Michelle, I am sorry for the loss of your father. That grief is real and so new. In some ways your present situation is forcing you to keep going when it would be much easier to want to get off for a while. I agree that you need to take care of yourself as much as you can. I don’t know if you are good at telling people your needs, in a clear non-emotional way but it would be a great time to try. : )

    • Hi Grace – thanks for your encouragement. As far as expressing my own needs, I’m not really good at that. Work in progress. 🙂

    • GracefromBrazil, thank you for your words. It takes a while to work through the changes. Don’t think you are going to be able to be totally up right away. I just know that eventually you can look at things and make the changes.

  4. Slightly off topic, my CZ isn’t very comfy anymore… I think like a cocoon a CZ can be outgrown even without external forces. Leaving the familiar can be very hard even if the familiar isn’t comfortable anymore, and that is the rub.

    • Creative Me, you have that right. It would be very easy for me to just stay all nice and comfy in my CZ and not look for ways to improve it and myself. The whole comfort zone idea is that it is comfy. Too comfy sometimes. Maybe I need to do a post sometime on learning to be comfortable where we are too. Sometimes we need to do that too.

  5. Creative me, you are so right.

  6. Thank you for sharing this inspirational post.

  7. This was great today, Deb J. I really needed it. Too often we get used to certain things being the norm and we do not want to be pushed beyond that. Even though you were forced to give up stuff, in the long run, doing that allowed for your life to become that much fuller without them. If we are willing to take that chance, out of necessity or desire to live with less, it quite possibly will turn out to be what has been holding us back all along.

    • Jen, I’m glad this resonated with you. Your words show that you have absorbed the point of the post. Hope it helps you in the coming days.

  8. What a thoughtful and thought-producing post, Deb J.
    So generous to share your experiences and help “make it real” for us with examples.
    Thank you.

  9. Spectacular post, Deb J! I have not faced the difficulties you have, but I had my share, and I admire people that, when faced with difficulties, rise to the challenge rather then bow to it and let depression take over. I have been taken out of my comfort zone by my own free will and, now, by my health. I think that, like you said, change is good. And I hope that I have your courage to face the ever-changing life.

    • Andreia, thank you for your kind words. I know you to be a brave person and have no doubt you will rise to the occasion should you ever need to.

  10. Deb J.,
    Fabulous “thinking” post. One of my favorite quotes is this: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. I so agree.

  11. Deb,

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that you have a happy life because you have chosen to. Our attitudes are the most important thing. We can choose to have a good day, despite the challenges. We can choose to be happy, even if we can’t do all the things we want. We can choose to be grateful for what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t. It really is a choice. Necessity is the mother of invention and the less you have, the more creative you can choose to be. As long as one’s basic needs are met and they have people who care about them, the rest isn’t what matters.

  12. I’ve faced many times of moving out of my CZ but almost every time it has resulted in wonderful changes. One example is when my husband was laid off and we moved. Then my work position changed and I was free to attend a class I wanted–and the end of that move from a CZ was meeting a young woman I introduced to my son and NOW she’s my daughter-in-law! If I hadn’t had those moves from CZ, they wouldn’t have met.
    Even changes we don’t like can often result in positive changes.

  13. Wonderful post Deb, you write so well.

  14. Dear Debbie,

    Thanks for your post – I am very familiar with the area you’ve described – worked for a company for 16 years whose aim (I think) was to go beyond comfort zones! Though I managed to make my own comfortable zone within it .. then became long-term ill and had to give up a lot of things to handle that and my finances. And as you say, you get used to having less, and though I would like sometimes to have a deluxe holiday in somewhere sunny, I am clearer on what I value which is love of friends and family, contributing to the community and being creative. I’ve retrained as a garden designer and I edit the village newsletter, and have fun. It’s easier now I’m feeling better and able to get out more – health is such a priority. I would say, go beyond your comfort zone for something more satisfying, however don’t do it for the sake of it, or just because someone else wants you to, or you may get ill. Do things you really want to do!
    Best wishes,

    • Jane Harries, it sounds like you totally understand. I’m so glad that through it all you have come to find a new comfort zone that fits but you aren’t stuck there because you know you can move on if you want.

  15. Apologies for the length of this . . .

    This is my first direct post on your amazing site. I discovered the site a couple of weeks ago, started reading from the original post, and have worked my way up to Dec 2012. So many things I would love to comment on, but fear no one will see it two years or more after the original post. LOL

    I decided to sneak a peek onto the current set of posts today and squirmed at this one. As any others have said, it’s just what I need to read right now.

    I’m going in for full knee replacement surgery in a month. I’ve been existing on heavy-duty meds that keep my pain to a dull roar, but also keep me so dulled I’m mostly drifting through the days.

    I’m anxious to be on the other side of this madness, but know I’m facing my greatest challenge — unless I push to do EVERYTHING I am capable of doing (and then some!), I may be out of the nasty pain, but still limited in what I can DO. I’ve never been a good long-term exerciser, with a few exceptional periods.

    Everyone I’ve talked to who’s gone through this (or has a loved one who has) tells me in no uncertain terms: I MUST DO MY STRETCHES AND EXERCISES EVERY DAY if I want to gain and keep mobility. No exceptions. Every. Day. No. Exceptions.

    I’m so afraid that once the pain of shredded ligaments, no cartilage in my kneecap, and a shifted leg bone, are gone, it’ll be too easy to be seduced by the song of a lull. “Poor dear, you are tired today. Didn’t sleep well. Take the day off and just work a little harder tomorrow. You’ve earned a little break. Don’t stress about it — you have lots of time to catch up . . . ”

    Only I don’t “catch up”. It’s like sleep — I’ve had chronic insomnia and sleep five hours a couple of times a week, then ten hours for one night. You can’t “average” them. What you don’t get you’ve lost forever.

    I am definitely moving out of my comfort (or, current dis-comfort) zone, since I should push harder now to do more strengthening exercises. And then change my mind-set about taking care of myself better than I have for most of my 65 years.

    I ‘m a writer and poet who cannot do much writing now. I’ve accepted that, and decided to not stress about it for now. I’m cleaning up and gathering my scattered work; my goal is to get it organized during the next six months, while working on my health, and getting my primary blog site going again.

    The funny thing is that I’ve written two long items I sent to Colleen*, triggered by what I read here. I wrote a post on my own (poetry) blog about 365 Less Things recently. So, you — the 365community — have provided the impetus for me to put words together again! Thank you!

    I feel like I know many of you even though you’ve never heard of me. Deb J, your journey with your mother and your friend “S” are awesome. Cindy, Moni, Lena, and lots of others — I’ve followed your journeys. Love some of the phrases, like “clutter amnesty”; have a slew of links I’ve saved to start working through archives on when I get caught up here. (Scares me to think I’m less than a year away from current here. What happens in those next chapters?)

    So, thanks for being here for me to step in to say hello, for sharing heartfelt and meaningful comments, and, especially to you, Colleen, for what you’ve done to create and nurture your international extended family. You are helping to change the world, one day at a time.

    And, if anyone has some magic fairy dust to share about my new life with a bionic knee, I’d be grateful.

    (*I sent you couple of things, Colleen, when you were going to be away for several weeks.)

    • Road Writer (Michele), Welcome to 365 Less Things. How great that you are reading through all the files to see what all has been said here on Colleen’s blog. Thanks for becoming a part of us. It sounds like you really have some good ideas for what to do while recovering from your surgery. I know it will not be easy but hang in there and do what you need to do to get back to 100% or close. I think it is a great idea to get all of your writings together and things like that while you are recovering. One thing I have discovered when going through things like this is that you can use your needs for exercises as a way to do other things like declutter. I have had 8 knee surgeries over the years and with each one I set myself some goals and a schedule. Each morning when I got up I made sure that part of my routine was doing the exercies I had to do to get my knee back to working correctly. I also did this in the evening. In between I tried to make sure that I was doing things to keep it working–like getting up and going to get something rather than making a pile beside me of everything I could think of that I might use. I hope you will find that being able to help yourself recover will give you the “want to” to do what you need to do.

  16. Thanks, Deb J, for the welcome. I’m so happy to have made it into the active group. I’m now into July 2013 on the archives — almost current. :-))

    And Wow about all your surgeries! I’ve followed your posts, and know you are fighting serious health issues, but you keep on pushing through. Quite a role model. Thanks for your kind comments, and the advice to remember to take it one step at a time, set doable goals, and have them as the FIRST and LAST tasks of the day.

    Right now, I have four major projects to do in the next two weeks before surgery, in order of importance:

    1. Redo our wills (the Nolo Press CD and book got here two days ago, so I can follow the do-it-ourselves template again. Later, we’ll deal with a more complicated system with an attorney)

    2. Bake and prepare about 45 lbs of fresh banana squash we picked up from the local grower yesterday. This is one of two veggies hubby will eat, so once a year, when the crop is in, I get a bunch, bake them whole (when possible), package them into servings and freeze them. I find it much easier to cook them whole and then cut. (Not the best timing, but it is what it is, and if this doesn’t get done now, it’ll be late Nov. before I can do it.)

    This requires me to be coherent, and get hubby to do all the lifting, turning, etc. I decided to do one a day, in the a.m. after breakfast, but before my meds kick in and make me groggy. By the time the giant squash has cooked and cooled, I’ll be at another lively moment to do the cutting and packing. Between dr appts, etc, it’ll take me the better part of the two weeks.

    3. Figure out what we will fix/eat during the weeks after I get home from the hospital. I’m like Moni said she was in the kitchen before she discovered she could actually cook. I should have something besides Cherry Garcia ice cream in the freezer for sustenance.

    4. Decide what small chunks of projects I want to work on, post-op, and have them ready to be brought downstairs from my office. I’m thinking about culling the easiest papers, and corralling “like” things.

    Thank you again, and know that someone in beautiful Oregon thinks you are one awesome lady!

    • RoadWriter, it sounds like you have your work cut out for you in the next two weeks. Goodness. Don’t make yourself sick from doing too much so you can’t have the surgery. Your hubby needs to learn how to fix his one of two veggies he likes. What is it with men and veggies? The meal problem is a big one too. Coming up with meals is not easy. We try to cook ahead but it means being on your feet more and that’s not easy. Thanks for your compliments. I’m really not awesome, I just have an awesome God who gets me through each day.