Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fear and Effort vs. Laziness

"Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.
~ Anne Frank

I have to admit that, despite being a yoga instructor I'm an incredibly lazy person. My favorite place in the world is my favorite chair...with matching foot stool...in the sunny corner of my living room. If left to my own daydream, I'd be content to read stacks of books (that would be miraculously delivered to my doorstep, free of charge) and have a self-refilling tea maker right next to me. As I'd read, I'd get so lost in my fictional world, that I wouldn't need to get up to do even the most rudimentary tasks. I envision just paying bills from my laptop (conveniently plugged in next to me), having meals delivered and having my dogs walk on a treadmill twice a day. While this may sound like the epitome of boredom to some, it happens to be a secret wish of mine to read, to sip Earl Gray, and never be disturbed. However, despite the tantalizing possibilities of Kindle readers allowing me to download books immediately, and the fact that I do have a dog door to let my animals out, I do realize that important parts of life exist outside my 'cozy spot'. During the time that I'm content to huddle under my favorite fleece throw and meander, in the literary sense, for days on end, the world continues to have importance outside my home.

But, where does one find the motivation to get up and try new things, to put oneself "out there" to be hurt, ridiculed or just to fail? Our lives feel so peaceful when we remain in our comfort zones...whether these are literal places, like my comfortable corner, or metaphorical ones; such as situations we'd prefer not to tackle. I had a long conversation with my daughter, Caroline, this weekend about trying new things. Despite being a bit of a daredevil now, Caroline used to have legitimate fears about trying a new activity if she felt she might fail. Whether it was beginning on a new piece of gymnastics equipment or getting up in front of church to sing a solo, her fear of failure was palpable. Over the years, she learned to ask herself what she was afraid of. She came to the conclusion that her fear was less about complete failure than it was of her terror at not being the best at any skill. A competitive person since her toddler days, Caroline was accustomed to finding success at most things she put her mind to; from learning to read as a 3 year old to skiing Black Diamond slopes by age 6, she knew what her strengths were and she was uncomfortable stepping out of them. I asked her if she felt that her Dad and I had put pressure on her to be 'the best'. Caroline answered that her pressure level is intense...and internal. So, it was with great humility that she picked up a new sport a year ago: tennis. Although Caroline had competed at gymnastics, soccer, skiing, ice hockey, softball and sailing, tennis was completely new to her. Other than a few lessons when she was 7, tennis wasn't her area of expertise, and Caroline knew that she'd be one of the few girls trying out for the tennis team who had never played before. She's still learning the game, the important skills and the timing. But, I have to admire her: despite her highly ambitious nature, Caroline's learned to move out of her comfort zone...to have gotten out of her metaphorical sunny spot by the window...to dive into a completely untapped dexterity. She's not the best. It's not an easy place for her to be intellectually. But, she was willing to put forth the effort to gain a new talent. Caroline is a natural athlete, but it still takes a great deal of moxie to be completely untrained to step out onto the courts each time.

I have to admit that I admire Caroline's chutzpah greatly. All the time I spend closeted in my imaginary world of reading, I am not allowing myself the opportunity to expand upon my 'real life' knowledge or experience. I have to ask myself a tough question: am I actually lazy or do I just lack the drive to make an effort to try new things? It's a hard query. Would I rather think of myself as slothful and apathetic rather than scared and cowardly? I look at opportunities I've had and missed. I wonder about the "road not taken." I've justified each of these side-stepped junctures as 'not being right'. But, how will I ever know if I don't just pick myself out of my chair, put on my 'big girl shoes' and give something new a whirl?

One chance I didn't let slip by was learning to ski. I have to admit, I was scared out of my wits. My husband is an accomplished skier, and our children began ski school at very young ages. I would have remained firm in my happy place at the Lodge, content to remain the designated mitten holder and hot chocolate maker had it not been for my friend, Debra. Because she didn't ski also, she spent the down time with me, in our cozy sweats, as we attempted to learn to knit (another skill I have yet to master). However, Debra had the determination to sign us up for grown up ski school. At age 36, I was sure I'd never even be able to stand up, let alone barrel down a mountain. After a couple of days of complete hissy fit tears and a great deal of drama, we learned how to navigate the basic slopes. Had it not been for my friend, I'd still be making a mess of dreadfully ugly knitted scarves in the rented condo. Yet, she gave me the motivation to dive, literally, over my fear of skiing. I may still ski with the baby class. I might even be passed by a toddler with a pacifier in his mouth. But, I can happily say that I do know how to ski...when, for decades, I was content to sit in the warmth of the lodge, allowing this opportunity to pass me by.

I have set a great many goals for myself only to have them remain shelf-bound. I'd love to learn to paint, but am afraid my work will be ugly and amateurish. I'd like to learn to sew but am terrified my designs will resemble a 4th grade home economics disaster. I'd even love to sky dive....and I don't even think it's necessary to relay my apprehension over that one. Most of all, I'd love to write a book, but am scared it will be laughed at so hard, by prospective publishers, tears will come out of their eyes. I think it's time I adopted more of my daughter's pizazz and allowed myself to "close my eyes and leap", as the song in "Wicked" implores.

I hope you'll try "Defying gravity" in some area of your life, too.