By Sue Ellen Haning
If you have been reading this column for a while, you have been introduced to the event that helped me understand what getting outside my comfort zone would do for my life.
This was my three-month Italian backpacking experience with my then 21-year-old daughter.
I would not be writing this column, living in Pagosa Springs, riding horses or enjoying a myriad of other new experiences had my daughter not kept me stretched outside my comfort zone for three months. Three months can be a long time, and this particular three months was a crash course in escaping the noose around my neck, my comfort zone.
My fears were turned inside out, upside down and examined closely during those three months. I learned that I am a bigger person than I ever gave myself credit for being.
Since my CZ transformation, I have met many people who, just like me, shape their lives around their fears. Our prayers are even spoken from our fears rather than our faith. We ask, even beg, God for what we want, rather than asking in faith that our prayer is already answered. And then we wonder why things don’t go our way.
This was my awakening, the big one. During my Italian adventure, when I had no choice but to trust (most nights at midnight I had no idea where I would be sleeping), I experienced just what asking in faith means. Yes, those three months were one wild adventure, and one for which I will be forever grateful.
The following is taken from Chapter 18 in my book “Two Nuts in Italy.” I had a choice, a choice that was some distance outside my comfort zone. My daughter and I had spent the weekend in Murren, Switzerland — an indescribably beautiful little village in the Alps void of motorized vehicles, and the only way to Murren was a gondola ride or a hike.
In this scene, I want to stay in Murren and it is time to go back to Italy. My daughter convinces me to ask for a job.
“What do you have to lose?” She reminds me. “The sign says they need a nanny. Go ask.” My giant must have stepped in without my being aware because I walked in a hotel and asked a complete stranger for a job. Quote: “May I speak to Francine?” An attractive, slender woman in a gray-green suit rises from her desk, walks out of the area, says in a gentle voice with German undertones, “I am Francine. Can I help you?”
“My name is Sue Ellen and I saw your ad for a nanny in the hostel in Gimmelwald. I would like to apply,” I say with surprising ease.
“The position is filled,” she says. A rush of relief consumes me, but instead of thanking her and leaving, what I say next comes from a place within me that until now I did not know existed. “I love your town. This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I have to stay here, but I have no money for a room. I am willing to do any type of work in trade for a bed. I will cook, clean, pull the weeds from the gardens. I’ll do whatever you want. Can you help me?” Without a moment’s hesitation, as if she had expected me, this petite German woman says, “Yes, my husband need help in restaurant on mountain. I call him now. You go there.” Adrenaline, nerves, vigor, and verve all engulf me. I didn’t move a muscle. I couldn’t.
The long story you can read in “Two Nuts in Italy.” The short story is that I spent three weeks alone in Switzerland in this one-block-long village, something I never could have dreamed of, but which forever changed my life. It is probable that, had our Italian adventure included hotel reservations, credit cards in our pockets and an itinerary, all sorts of extraordinary moments may not have availed themselves. My mindset was changing. I had learned to take leaps, trusting that the net would appear.
It always did.
Not only did I stay in a strange country by myself, my daughter went back to Italy by herself. When I think of this today, I can hardly believe it, but staying three weeks alone in Switzerland was my ticket to a new life.
I knew if I could do this, my life would never be the same. I had been so fearful all my life that I had never been alone. My daughter assured me I would have so much fun since I was enamored with Murren. For the first time in my life, at age 56, I was going to be alone.
How could I have fun alone? I had never had fun alone. I had always had someone to share the fun with. I didn’t know if I could have fun alone.
What I experienced those three weeks was different than fun. Movings and shiftings took place in my mind and body. One event had put me in a transitional state.
We have more power within than we know. That power comes through our ability to think and choose. The freedom to choose is the greatest gift. Try as I may, words cannot describe what happened inside me. In fact, it’s silly to even try and explain a personal experience, for each person’s experience is unique. I do know that our world will be very different in a great way when we all open to the possibilities life offers us.
I am praying for you. Praying that your “big one” will arrive at a time when you are willing to make the choice to pay attention. It does not have to have anything to do with travel. Your opportunity could be choosing to think differently, breaking a habit, moving, deciding you no longer choose negativity, disrespect or 10 extra pounds in your life … and the list goes on.
Have a great week and join me next time for “Process, Baby, Process.”
Until then, I leave you with words from William Jennings Bryan, American politician from the 1890s: “Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, but a thing to be achieved.”