Comfort Zones

I’ve never been called a social butterfly. Not even close. I am a happy introvert. My Facebook “About Me” section says:  I have two sons, one autistic, one not. Both are more social than I am. So I started blogging.

But long before I started blogging, I noticed something happening that I wasn’t too comfortable with. Nigel’s diagnosis threw me into frequent meetings with various therapists, teachers, doctors, and other people. Then Aidan’s special needs became apparent, and I had to deal with even more therapists, more people. As my sons learned to talk, I noticed that they were not introverts. One got interested in Scouting (actually both did, at first), and the other one went to a lot of friends’ houses. I met the friends’ parents. I met the Scouting parents. Some of them even became my friends.  As the years went by, I met more teachers and therapists and other parents. The fact is that both of my kids, especially my autistic one, have gotten me out of my comfort zone. And I discovered wonderful people – and a side of myself – that I might never have known.

Even so, when I have to go to a meeting or call someone I don’t know, I still step outside my comfort zone on a weekly basis. But people with autism, whether introverted or extroverted, have to get outside of their comfort zones every day. Nigel, with his fear of bees and other flying insects, gets outside of his comfort zone every time he steps outside. He gets outside of his comfort zone every time he enters a public restroom and wonders if there’s an air hand dryer on the wall, and if someone will use it while he’s in there. He is outside of his comfort zone whenever a baby begins to cry or an alarm goes off or a light is too bright. How many times a day does he step outside of his comfort zone?

I attended a dinner party tonight, and I only knew one person there, someone I hadn’t seen for almost four years. I was definitely outside of my comfort zone. It’s not that I’m shy, it’s just that it takes a lot of energy for me to pull that off, to push myself to be social. But I’ve been doing a lot more of that in recent years, and you know what? I laughed and broke bread with these lovely people, and I talked about autism and homeschooling and my job and places I’ve traveled, and I really enjoyed myself. In fact, at some point during the evening it dawned on me that I couldn’t be out of my comfort zone because, well, I was comfortable. I really was.

It’s hard to get out of our comfort zones, whether we’re autistic or just introverted (or in some cases, both). But I think if we do it enough times, our comfort zones evolve. Nigel is now comfortable in grocery stores and restaurants, places that used to cause him such agony. He likes these places and asks to go to them. The last time we went to a movie theater, he didn’t even need to use ear plugs. Some comfort zones may always be difficult to step out of, regardless of how much we try. But others, with time and patient attempts, can change. It’s good to stretch ourselves, whether we’re conscious of it or not. We stretch a little bit, and our spirits are encouraged to keep going, keep stretching. The rewards are too great to miss out on.

18 thoughts on “Comfort Zones

  1. Michelle S

    This brought me back. There was a time that I didn’t want to call for a pizza! Now I am VERY social and know everybody everywhere. I think advocating for Daniel has helped me too. Besides the job I had before, but it brings us confidence which is really the key. Good for you!

  2. Tera

    What an interesting perspective. Somthing I haven’t really much considered. My lil guy is very introverted, while Kaeden is a total extrovert. I fall somewhere in the middle. But you are so right…stepping out of the comfort zone really does make a difference in how we experience the world. Sometimes it turns out to be wonderful and sometimes it’s a disaster. Always, it brings us closer to accepting something we are fearful of.

  3. Jenn Ethirveerasingam

    You were lovely in Boston! And after reading this that had to be way outside your comfort zone!

    Brave girl!

  4. mama mara

    It’s funny: my first impression of you upon meeting was “What a vibrant, outgoing woman!” I too find social situations both wonderful and draining, but I am learning that it’s worth the energy spent to get the benefits of connecting. It gives me hope that one day Rocky will get there too.

  5. Jan

    The way you describe yourself makes me wonder if you have read Elaine N. Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You. I’m guessing you might find it inspiring if you haven’t already discovered it.

  6. Alicia

    I too have noticed my comfort zones evolving and expanding with maturity, experience, and out of pure necessity. Each time we allow our boundaries to become more permeable and flexible, we let so much richness into our lives. With each discomfort we conquer, we develop a greater understanding for what others go through, including our own children.

    What a thought provoking post on the little things in life we often overlook: Our own growth, and the strength it takes for our children affected by autism to function in a world that challenges them daily on so many levels.

  7. Michelle O'Neil

    Wonderful post. The hair dryers. The bee phobia. The loud movie theaters. I SOOOOOO get it. And yes, it gets better with time. And yes, we have the bravest kids in the world who take us places we never expected to go.

  8. Pweshes Mama

    Every time my mind blocks something out simply because “I dont want to do it” I think of Raiyan and imagine how much he had to push through that mental block almost all of the time and then think how pathetic I am as a grown adult to not be able to do what Im supposed to do just because I don’t want to.

    Thanks for reminding us of what an inspiration our children are and how much we can just learn from them.


  9. Chun Wong

    I think kids are great at making us step outside our comfort zones! Obviously your sons’ autism has made you meet with and talk to people who you wouldn’t normally talk to and that has helped you grow as a person.

    It’s great that Nigel is beginning to overcome his fears – good news!

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  11. Sheri

    I find the world of Bloggers still so awesome. When I spend days in my little pool of pity, thinking no one else feels like I do, I read a post that brings me back to reality. Kudos to you for stepping so far outside of your comfort zone. I still find myself hiding behind my keyboard and monitor when it comes to the school.

  12. Rhemashope

    Ditto to what Jenn said. When I saw you in Boston, I felt like you had a serenity to you. Quiet, sincere, wise.

    It’s good to be streched, isn’t it?

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