Green River Star -

By Lu Sweet
Western Wyoming Community College 

Lifelong learning: Comfortable ruts and challenges


I teach classes at the college. In one class we talked about doing things out of the ordinary, or out of their comfort zone. I challenged my students to do something they wouldn’t normally do, like sitting on the other side of the cafeteria for lunch, or sitting in a different seat in class. I didn’t ask them to do anything earth-shattering, just something out of their normal routine and then report back as to how they felt.

We are all creatures of habit. Routine is comfortable and dependable. Many of us order the same thing most every time we go to a restaurant, even though we may look at the menu for several minutes first. Challenging yourself is something people are willing to do as long as it’s not too uncomfortable. This is kind of ironic when you examine the word “challenge.” A challenge is something that is difficult. It is something that should take you outside of your comfort zone. For me, accepting a challenge, means accepting an opportunity to grow and learn and I know that doing so won’t be easy.

I was watching a TV show recently and I heard the following saying by William D. Tammeus.

“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back.”

When I heard that I thought about how true this is for me. I always knew my child was going to come around, but I was celebrating fun and joy with my child which never grew old.

I admit to making the silly faces and noises, I know I embarrass my kids at times and I know I’m over protective. But, as they grow, I am mourning the loss of their dependency on me while challenging myself to accept it and help them in other ways.

I’m also mourning the comfortable rut I was in, with my oldest daughter, who no longer lives full-time at home this year since she started college. I can’t finish my normal bedtime routine with her any more. I always tuck them all in and kissing their foreheads even though they are asleep. It’s how I shut down my house for the evening-it’s my comfortable routine. But instead of moping and complaining, I’ve come up with a solution. Even though she lives just across town and I see her daily, I have to adjust my routine. She still gets a phone call or text , every night and I tell her I love her and to sleep tight.

Another one of my weird “Mom things” is that when I drop my kids off at school I can’t pull away in the car until I have watched them walk all inside the school door, or to their the lineup spot on the playground. I have to give them one last look. It comforts me while I am away from them. I haven’t figured out how to move past this one yet.

The word “comfortable” means warm, pleasant, agreeable and cozy. The word “rut” means “groove, habit or pattern”. And while some would argue that a rut can mean dull and unproductive, I disagree.

I don’t consider myself a boring person by any means but I do like some things in my day and my life that are routine and that I can count on. Having said that, I also believe what Neale Donald Walsch says that “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

So, I’m going to keep some routines in place like packing school lunches at 6:30 a.m., shutting down my house with kisses to the foreheads and a text to Aly, and watching the girls walk all the way into their school buildings. But I’m not going to set limits on myself for comfort sake.

I’m going to find, accept and commit to some new challenges– maybe nothing earth-shattering, but definitely something different, new and out of my comfort zone.


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