Today I have to do something that will push me far outside my emotional comfort zone.
I would rather have a root canal. I would rather have a flat tire on the way to an important meeting. I would rather a million other angst-inducing experiences than having to step this far outside my emotional boundaries.
I have no gut to rely on outside those boundaries. Every decision looks like every other one. With no experience to guide me, I might sense what is hugely ridiculous, but I can’t tell what’s smart from what’s less smart, or even moderately dumb. My instincts are of no use. I am naked in every imaginable way.
And then I realize – everyone feels this. Everyone in our lives who we tell to “buck up and just do X” feels this. They, too, have no gut to rely on, no touchstones for their decisions. They, too, feel the sheer panic that I am feeling right now.
Suddenly, compassion swells. I know what kindness is.
I know that when I am trying to help others, that maybe the greatest gift might be to simply show them a first baby step, to begin to stretch the boundaries of their comfort zone ever so slightly, and to patiently wait while they step into it, try it on for size, play around in there. Perhaps the greatest gift is not showing them how to step outside that comfort zone, but how to begin to expand it, how to slowly create the path as they walk it.
Which makes me immensely grateful for this thing I have to do today, that I have absolutely no choice about, but that will push me to a place that, if nothing else, will be fertile ground for my compassion to grow.