The song is already in your head, isn’t it? Top Gun. Kenny Loggins. All good things from the 80s.
But I am not talking about shirtless men playing volleyball right now. Last night, I taught week three of a Life Skills class in the Orange County Jail and I helped the women in the class identify their own “danger zones”. This comes from a diagram one of my supervisors showed me referring to our comfort zones, and how in times of joy or in times of depression, we will subconsciously self-motivate or self-sabotage to return to our own personal level of comfort. I call the areas between the spaces our “danger zones” because that is where we will be tempted to rely on old habits to get us back to “comfortable”.
I asked the women how this applied to them with jobs and, as always, they were sharp as knives. They told me stories of how they would obtain really good jobs on the outside, but eventually they would get bored or frustrated so they would purposefully create situations to get fired or cause chaos. They related to each other and admitted that when they feel “low” they would try to get sober only to relapse, or when they would feel good about life, they would use substances to get comfortable again. One young woman said, “How come every time I have a good job and a good place for my kids to stay, I ruin it?” I asked her if her home growing up was stable or chaotic. She said chaotic and then the lights went on – “OH! Chaos is my comfort zone! So that is why I hate stability!”
It was a good night and it was so encouraging to see the women light up and start connecting the dots. Then, of course, I was left to connect my own dots. The kicker of this job is that I can’t really teach someone else without looking at my own stuff. I thought about my weight and how when I get to a goal weight, I inevitably self-sabotage in some way to get myself back to where I am “comfortable” because I know what it feels like to be overweight. Being thinner is scary to me. Being in shape is scary to me – bad things have happened and I have made bad choices when I was at a goal weight. My danger zone is in between overweight and healthy because I start to question my “comfort”.
Life isn’t about being comfortable. No one ever said, “You will be comfortable in this life.” Finances are uncomfortable. Relationships are uncomfortable. Jobs are uncomfortable. If I am comfortable, I am usually at risk of losing something. The Comfort Zone is The Danger Zone. God forbid I ever wake up and say, “I’m good. I don’t need anyone or anything today.” That sounds terrifying.