Beyond your comfort zone

On Monday I had one of those “meh” days. What seems like weeks upon weeks of wet, cold, cloudy weather has really been taking a toll on my spirits. I was off work Monday for the Mardi Gras break, and I had just about decided that all I was going to do was sit around in my coziest clothes, covered in a warm blanket, with the dogs curled up by my feet and a book in my hand. Maybe there would be napping. Or maybe there would be nothing.

Browsing Facebook, I saw a post in my Louisiana birder group addressing this very issue. The person commenting had said she even had some new photography gear and just couldn’t bring herself to get outside in the wet and cold, and I and several others in the group responded how we are just “over it” with this weather.

But then the original poster showed a photo of herself all bundled up and said she was going to brave it anyway. Someone else remarked how much they liked the challenge of shooting in low-light conditions. Still another person suggested that even getting out in the fresh air just for a little while, no matter how dreary, would be helpful to one’s psyche.

I thought about it for a while. I didn’t want to go outside. The feels-like temps were in the low 30s, and it was overcast and windy. And, frankly, I kind of wanted to wallow down in my feelings.

But I finally, as they say, put my big-girl pants on, and my coziest sweater and my Uggs and a warm jacket and scarf, scooped up my cameras and headed out.

Tri-colored heron

Oh, how glad I am that I did! At the LSU Lakes, I saw my first-ever tri-colored heron. I saw two white pelicans working in concert to get a meal. I got chased by a goose. I stopped and watched a pair of wood ducks for the longest time. The male called out to his mate with a series of whistles, and the pair swam around and checked out the duck boxes there. I had to get back in my car a few times because I was so cold, but I was determined to stick around. While I was standing there, I realized that there were dozens of little birds flying in and out of the trees and bushes on the shore by the duck boxes — in fact, Tufty, my favorite bird (you may have read my story about him here) was right in front of my face, along with cardinals, robins, chickadees, and yellow-rumped warblers.

Male wood duck

I came back home for lunch with Brian, and by that time the sun had finally come out. I had heard that there was a bald eagle’s nest down on River Road, so I drove down there after lunch and hiked down the levee a ways and got to see a juvenile eagle preening, with mom or dad flying around off in the distance. I also saw, but didn’t get good photos of, an American kestrel and a red-tailed hawk.

All in all, it was an excellent day and a lovely adventure. I got some really nice photos, some fresh air, and a renewed spirit. It also got me thinking about what happens when we step outside our comfort zones. In my case, it meant braving some physical discomfort and digging myself out of my self-wallowing, all for a rich reward — a minor example, but a lesson nonetheless. Monday made me think about the possibilities awaiting me with my photos and the fears and self-doubts that are keeping me from taking that next step. I’m hoping that someday soon I’ll be able to put my big-girl pants on for that endeavor as well.

What barriers are keeping you inside on the sofa where it’s safe and warm? What’s keeping you from pursuing a new job or opportunity? Trying something new? Writing that book you’ve always wanted to write? A fitness or educational goal? A spiritual quest?

What’s waiting for you beyond your comfort zone?

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