There’s something about that moment when you find yourself way outside of your comfort zone. To the point where your comfort zone is no longer even in sight. When you forget what that comfort zone even is.
We are so often convinced by this scary world that our comfort zone is where we are meant to be. But it is in that place so foreign, so incredibly uncomfortable, that we are really meant to live. I’m sure of it.
This past weekend I found myself there. It was approximately 3:30 am, and I was running, alone, through an unknown (to me) section of the Appalachian Trail in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. The only thing guiding me was my headlamp and my own two feet, with the occasional trail marker assuring me I was on the correct path — whatever that path might be.
Now, this wasn’t quite as random as it might seem. It was part of a race that had been run (safely) many times before.
But to me, nonetheless, it was completely unchartered territory. I knew nothing of what was to come after each corner I turned. 4.6 miles of unknown, uncomfortable adventure.
And it was amazing. Aside from the occasional fellow runner I passed along the way, it was me and nature in all its beauty… beauty I did not need light to see. The sound of my footsteps on the damp ground. The wind humming loudly through the trees. The crickets singing their beautifully calming anthem.
It was humid and I was hot. The darkness did nothing to cool the air. This was run number two of three. I had already run 7 miles along the roughest terrain I’ve ever encountered. I hadn’t showered or slept since that first run. I was only a mile in and my knee was screaming. I could feel blisters forming on my feet. I had images of bears and serial killers and snakes running through my head.
And somehow it was the most beautiful experience I’ve had yet in this life. Despite the pain and discomfort and fear, I found a tranquil peace.
They say you never know your limits until you allow yourself to surpass them. Well I believe we don’t really have limits. That’s why I seek the uncomfortable.
To remind myself I can do anything. To remind myself I am only as weak as I let myself believe. To remind myself that I am limitless.
It is in the uncomfortable that we become raw to the world. Our layers of protection built up over years of resistance are stripped from our bodies. Suddenly we are free and eager, surrounded by nothing but the sounds of the universe whispering to us, “let go, open your eyes, your heart, to see, really see yourself from this place you’ve never been before.”
It is frightening, perhaps the scariest place I’ve ever been — not because in that moment I was vulnerable to nature, but vulnerable to myself. I could not hide for one second my truest thoughts, my deepest feelings even if I tried. And in that place I found another little, beautiful, strong piece of myself I could never find anywhere else.