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(Dis)Comfort Zone

As the years pile on, I am losing my grip on a critical skill - the ability to move out of my comfort zone. The preference is to stay in. It is easier, safer, and, um, lazier. At 35k, with my legs safely on an imaginary ledge, I gave myself the antidote of recounting what makes me anxious and how I succeed or fail to cope.

#10 Seeing Panhandlers.

They are showing up more frequently at intersections near our home. The perpetual struggle between give and don’t give causes much confusion. "It promotes bad habits and it’s not effective," says the dude on the left shoulder. The one on my right asks, "Who died and made you God?" To be transparent, my comfort zone is more conservative than liberal on this. And that is precisely why I like to give randomly. It reminds me that I am neither judge nor jury.

#9 Confronting Gender Spectrum in Public Restrooms.

The science-buff in me knows that genes drive our sexual, gender, and alphabetical alignment but I admit to feeling restless when I see a partially-transitioned person in my restroom. I told my friend about this and he asked a simple question to reset my thinking: “Where do you expect them to go?” Exactly! Where is she supposed to go if not in the women's restroom.

#8 Being Physically Daring

I lovvve the adrenalin rush and racing heart while climbing a 25-foot wall or going down a steep hill super fast on my bike. But Tarun has drilled safety into my head and caused anxiety. Having said that, I thank him for convincing me that safety is a necessary condition for aging. I try my best to do these things with great care which I think helps him cope with his anxiety.

#7 Losing my Wallet.

I was (am?) a chronic loser of things and there is constant fear that this annoyance will resurface any second. We can agree that few things are more depressing than hearing the staccato drone of “Now serving A24 at window number 7” at the DMV. Being without plastic is show-stopping scary too. So I compulsively use a cross-body purse and things remain in their designated spots.

#6 Encountering Microbes.

Yup they are everywhere and if my brain had its way, I’d be an obsessive germaphobe. Public restrooms kill my confidence. Fear crushes me. So I force myself to stay calm. I refuse to wash my hands excessively or worry about touching the door handle. I tell myself I’m so much stronger than the microbes. And then I read about the superbug called acinetobacter and I am back to sitting with my legs crossed!

#5 Ride-sharing in the Dark.

This one pushes my boundaries in more ways than I can count. The alternative is to rent a car and risk having a breakdown in a strange part of the country in pitch blackness. No, thank you! The safety center feature in the Uber app is bringing much-needed relief. Now Tarun and I can GPS-track each other from afar.

#4 Forgetting the Details.

The brain ain’t what it used to be and now I rely on Tarun to remember. Together, we are like the deaf leading the blind! Recalling names, details of events, or the total I saw on the restaurant bill two seconds ago takes ginormous effort. I write down what I need to remember or take a pic or memorize a mnemonic. Sometimes I like to tell Tarun what I know I will forget but then I forget before I can tell him. Oy!

#3 Traveling the Friendly Skies.

As the airplane takes off and lands I diligently pray to the universe to keep me and my loved ones safe. Who knows how effective it is but it calms my nerves. In the somber moments when the giant piece of machinery is hurtling down the tarmac, I remind myself that flying remains the safest way to travel and that the odds are in our favor.

#2 Making New Friends.

It's soooo much easier to hang out with the folks I know but the reality is they won't always be around. Being able to reach out, open up, and make friends is definitely getting harder. Plus, opportunities to meet new people are thinning as I safely rest in my cocoon. It's a self-feeding kinda thing - me and my Netflix. To compensate, I ask my "new friend questions" at parties. This is a stock of who, what, when, where type triggers that gets the conversation going. But first, I have to haul myself off the sofa which is easier said than done...

#1 Getting to 100.

I’ve seen what age does to the brain. It’s not pretty. Prebiotics, probiotics, superfoods, big pharma, and interventional care are our friends on the journey to triple digits. But what if #4 becomes a permanent thing? What if no amount of help restarts the motor? This is precisely why I constructed this list hoping to entice the giant muscle atop me to stay oiled and hip. If it knows I am trying, maybe it will hold off on rogering out. Maybe.

In the meantime, there's only one way to be Earl and that is to safely hang over the ledge while knowing both feet will land safely. Yay Tarun, you win!

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