Years ago, I worked on a college campus near a wooded area full of walking trails. After a while, I started spending some of my lunch hours exploring the trails…which weren’t marked in any way. I suspect they were created with no planning by other people who liked to walk in the woods; in some places, there were “trails” that were so faint you could only see the slight depression in the ground if the sun was at just the right angle to highlight it.
Anyway, on one of my first explorations, I almost didn’t get out again. I walked, and walked, and finally decided I had definitely passed the same trees a couple of times before. So the next time a couple of paths crossed, I took what felt like the wrong choice, and escaped from the woods at last. Later, when I got familiar with the major routes, I realized that I had been walking around and around a loop. (But it was a nice loop, with a swath of ferns stretching downhill from the edge of the path.)
This past week I’ve felt like I was going in circles, without the pretty scenery to make it worthwhile. I’ve been doing pretty well lately finding time to write, even with the necessary several phone calls each day to keep my mother on track. But there wasn’t much time left over. And when you start out with Too Much Stuff and no talent for organization, chaos is never far away. By the end of last week, I could see things were out of control, and didn’t know what to do.
So I did nothing. I spent the first several days of this week neither writing nor organizing, making ineffectual starts on one problem after another and then going off and reading. It wasn’t a comfortable place to live, literally or metaphorically. And yet it was so easy to go on being stuck there, as easy as if it was a comfort zone.
I’m not as far out as I’d like to be, but by Thursday I realized that I had to force myself to stay in focus on one thing at a time and just go on until I got out of the woods. It didn’t much matter what project I worked on, as long as I kept moving.
Getting out of your comfort zone from time to time is a useful exercise. Getting out of that discomfort zone, by any path that offers itself, is vital.