who is approached by people who can't speak English and need help. And I am always willing to do whatever I can to help. I put myself in their shoes and think how scary it must be to live in a new country and not know the language. I'd be lost in Moscow. Or Ho Chi Minh City. Or Beijing. I'd be searching out the first friendly face I could spot. Maybe that's what it is. Maybe I look friendly. I dunno.
The other afternoon I was at Fred Meyer in the Cold Remedy aisle...everyone in our family has been sick this week with a crummy cold and I was stocking up on Nyquil and Dayquil. Or attemtpting to, I should say, since their supply was nearly wiped out. A lot of sick people in Portland, that's for sure. In fact, I'd gotten down on my hands and knees to look waaaaaaaaaaaaay back on the bottom shelf to see if I could spot any more Nyquil...doing stuff like that never embarrasses me. As I turned my head out from the nether regions of the shelf, another head was there by mine, peering in. A woman in a kerchief, bending over and grasping her rather plump knees. I began to chuckle and said, "Well, at least by getting down here I found what I wanted" and brandished a couple of bottles of Nyquil. She smiled and several others around me commented on how sick everyone was. As I got to my feet and started to walk away I heard someone say, "Excuse me, Madam." and I looked to find the woman in the kerchief holding two bottles of Vicks cold remedy. "Which better?" she asked me. I looked them over. One was for coughs only. The other, multi-symptoms. So I pointed to the first one and said, "This one...." and then I proceeded to fake-cough. "This one," I pointed to the second bottle, then coughed, sneezed, grabbed my nose, grabbed my throat, waved at my face like I was hot, and did 'runny' motions for the nose and eyes. Everyone stood there watching in mute fascination, I guess, because no one moved. "Ahhhh!" she said, smiling and nodding her head vigorously. "Thank you, thank you!" I smiled and nodded and went on my way. Did the rest of my shopping. As I approached a checkout line I heard a familiar voice: "Madam! Madam!" I turned to find the lady in the kerchief hurrying towards me, both bottles still in her hands, coming to a stop beside my cart. "Which one better?" she asked, pointing at her head and shrugging at me...she'd forgotten. I pointed to the multi-symptom. "This one," I told her. Her gratitude made my day.
Now, what if I'd been rude? What if I'd shrugged her off or made a motion like I was too busy-don't bother me? Helping people comes naturally to me...I've been in the role of the nurturer most of my life. It's my comfort zone. It doesn't make me uncomfortable or feel conspicuous. It makes me feel good.
My basic innate nature is to be on the shy side. Maybe shy isn't the right word. Maybe it's quiet. Maybe it's solitary. I was a very social little girl, but back then I was in my comfort zone, the small town I'd lived in most of my life where I was accepted as I was. My teen years I retreated for several years...kind of like fallow ground. I put my personality to 'rest', only to experience rebirth after I graduated from high school. And then I went dormant again when I became a Christian. Sad to say, at least in my church environment, I stayed dormant for a long, long time. Coming for an almost non-existent knowledge of anything religious, I was way out of my comfort zone there for years, having no clue what was expected of me or how I was supposed to act...oh, it was mostly in my head, I realize now. I stood back. I kept very quiet. I wasn't sure about how much of my 'true' self I was supposed to let out, as far as my basic personality was concerned. I got involved in a lot of different 'ministries', did a lot of writing...but it was mostly behind-the-scenes stuff. God knew, and that was sufficient for me. Then, 10 years ago, I had an 'epiphany' year that I've written about a few times here...and I began emerging from my shell. And I began to put forth a few 'feelers'. And I began to feel like I was starting to fit in. A little bit, at least. Then I got complacent. And I just kind of...sat....there.
And then....along came my friendship with Karen...you can read our history here...that happened by whichever one of us who took the courage to step out of our comfort zones. Because Karen claims to be rather reserved, too. In fact, I mentioned in an email to her today, "Just think what we would've missed!" We'd still be in the land of "No Know!" I can't imagine it.
I had an interesting conversation on the phone the other evening with Marianne, the woman I mentioned not long ago who'd tried calling me at 8 pm only to find I was already long in bed and said she knew I went to bed early but didn't know it was that early. Well, she called again...this time around 7...and we ended up talking for about an hour. She's another woman at church I've only known on the periphery for many years. Someone who seemed very nice but our paths rarely crossed. Circumstances you can read about here changed that to a degree. At least to the point where we'd even seek each other out here and there to do a little chit chat. As we talked the other nite and opened up on a more personal level, I was amazed to find out she considered herself very shy, that approaching people is very hard for her. And I said to her, "You know, I think that's true of just about everyone." Isn't it, really? When you think back to your school years, how many were there who were truly popular? Most of us just showed up and did what needed to get done to get out of there. At least that's the way it was for me. Sure, I had my friends but the whole school didn't know who I was, not by a long shot. Now, if I hadn't stepped out of my comfort zone and sent Marianne that note and card, we would've never had such a conversation and gotten to know each other on a deeper level.
As I get older I can feel myself growing more mellow. It's like you shuck off a lot of the layers you hid under most of your younger years to find your true self sitting fallow...just kind of sleepy and slumbering but ready to burst forth with a little encouragement. So much of what seemed so important in our youth seems kind of silly now. You begin to come to terms with the thought of your own mortality and you realize time is growing shorter, that you need to step back and put your priorities in order. You get up and are thankful for a painfree day. Or a glorious sunrise. For a peaceful cup of coffee. Enjoying the birds out at the feeder. You learn to....relax. And my comfort zone? It seems to be expanding. And I find that if I reach out, most people are ready to meet me halfway.