"I was just amazed you said Yes!" my friend Pat responded when I thanked her for inviting me along on her annual Ladies Only outing to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. Inwardly, I was taken aback just a bit by this remark. Have I become so reclusive that my friends are surprised when I agree to go places with them? Admittedly, I do tend to stick to myself, often choose being at home with my dogs and a book over going to movies or parties. Once again, I go back to my roots as an only child as the reason for this. I've always been perfectly happy with just me, myself, and I for company, and tire easily when I'm "in society" too much.
But I didn't realize my habit of hunkering down alone had become so noticeable .
Of course, one of the things at which my friend Pat is particularly skilled is getting people to step outside their box. She taught high school music and drama for two decades, and that definitely requires major expansion of one's comfort zone. Although I was an adult when I met her, no one had ever done much in the way of encouraging me to push the boundaries of my safe little box. Working with her for 15 years provided me lots of opportunities to stretch those walls I'd always lived so comfortably within. Performing dozens of times every year and in all kinds of places; being ready to cope with less than stellar conditions or changes in program at a moment's notice; forming relationships with students and their parents ~ these are the kinds of things that built my confidence and gave me the courage to leap outside the parameters of my small, insular life.
Even though Pat and I maintain a lasting friendship, we haven't worked together on a regular basis for the past several years. Those years have been a bit traumatic for me - I've been through some major losses in terms of people I love, and some rather stern lifestyle changes as well. If I'm honest, I can feel myself retreating back into that safety zone I once knew so well, that tiny safe place called home where I can huddle into a metaphorical corner. I need someone - or something - to encourage me to step outside of the box again.
Because the two days I spent in Stratford this week with Pat and several other friends were just amazing. We saw some breathtaking theater productions, but we also had great conversations and shared some really relaxing moments. I'm surprised by just how much events like this mean to me. They are rare, so they take on a quality of preciousness in my mind, like some small, perfect jewel of experience in my memory.
It was good to have some quality time outside the box this week.
How about you? What (or whom) can get you to step outside the boxes you've built around your life?