One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time — André Gide
Ironically, the most dramatic change in my perspective came when I had lost sight of the literal shore, a day when I was roughly a thousand miles out into the Pacific Ocean, heading west along an unmarked route. That day, my husband and I were two years into a planned circumnavigation of the world in a 37-foot sailboat, a journey that required me to abandon a successful New York career.
Throughout our cruise, we’d often had to trim our sails to unpredictable winds and set our rudder to compensate for erratic currents. We sailed as close to our intended course as we could, but all too often, we ended the day someplace other than where we’d set out to go. As good sailors on a well-fitted sailboat, not much could go very wrong, but we knew that if something did, we would probably die. Life and death were pretty much out of our hands.
That watershed day, a sunny afternoon with clear skies and calm seas, it struck me that sailing was a metaphor for life. I suddenly understood that I’d had no more control over my life and death when I lived and worked in New York City than I did while sailing on the Pacific Ocean. And it seemed obvious that if I couldn’t control my fate, I might as well spend my days doing something meaningful and satisfying, rather than wasting precious time and energy trying—all too often in vain—to meet the expectations of others.
It seemed equally obvious that if I hadn’t decided to sail away from the metaphorical as well as the geographic shore, I’d still be living under the illusion that I could actually control my life.
It is this last concept—that you grow the most when you step outside your comfort zone—that has been the leitmotif of my life as an author. My memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam starts with my decision to step out of my comfort zone from a professional and cultural perspective. It ends as I begin a new, more purposeful way of life that has sustained me for a quarter of a century.
But few people have the option of quitting their jobs and heading off into the sunset. I wanted to write a novel about “every woman,” to explore the growth that can take place even if you never leave home. Just as sailing was a metaphor for a life out of control, “A Fitting Place” is a metaphor for learning how the pieces of one’s life fit together.
In A Fitting Place, Lindsey Chandler is hurtled out of her psychological comfort zone by the betrayal of those she most trusts. Her journey to emotional maturity finally begins when she begins to re-examine her entire value system, including loyalty, marriage and gender roles.
How has stepping out of your comfort changed your life?
My blog today is adapted from a piece I wrote for “Plain and Fancy,” Marian Beaman’s delightful website on the challenges and opportunities of a life that started in a Mennonite community and took her to a wide-ranging career in academia, with a stint as a neighborhood activist.
I will continue to blog on other aspects of universal human relationships in the weeks to come. I welcome guest contributors whose own experiences offer another perspective.
If you’d like to contribute, please contact me at http://marycgottschalk.com/contact/