Stepping Outside Your Circle

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Why are we afraid of new things?

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For me, the answer is because it’s improvisation. My sister is the great improv actor, not me. I like the script. I can go off-script once I know the boundaries but give me the script first, please. New things mean I don’t know the script. New things mean I feel uncomfortable. New things mean I might fail.

New things sometimes make me feel like this:

I’m not scared of my mom’s nose like Emerson is, but once, when I was feeling brave, I joined an improv comedy group’s open rehearsal.  I walked into the room of unfamiliar faces felt like a nervous, limp noodle on the inside – but I tried to put on an excited face. Something totally natural, like this:

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We stood in a circle and started clapping to a beat. The rules of the warm-up exercise were explained (I liked that), and the beat got faster. Each person was saying something funny at their turn – it was meant to loosen us up, get our creative, improv gears turning. But as my turn got closer I felt the opposite of loose – totally tense and terrified! What was I going to say? I couldn’t even plan it out ahead of time because I had to go off of the person before me!  What if I bombed? What if I wasn’t funny? What if I failed?  And the beat was getting faster…

So I said the first thing that came to mind. You want to know what it was? It was pretty weird and embarrassing actually. I just blurted out “poop!”  Yeah.  It wasn’t very funny. Unless you just think the word poop is funny, which I guess some people do. Anyway –  just like that my turn was over.  And the beat went on, and the game kept going.

I’m not going to lie to you – the rest of the night was still pretty uncomfortable for me. The “rules” of each improv exercise kept changing and it was hard not to compare myself to the other people there. But I walked out of there feeling really good about myself. Not because I mastered or perfected any part of the exercises. Not even because I managed to get a (small) laugh once, towards the end. I felt top-down-wind-in-my-hair-good-about-myself because I had just made my circle bigger.

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What circle?

Anyone who’s been to CLC’s High Ropes Course or Rock Wall knows what I’m talking about, right? The circle!

The circle is our comfort zone. (Think mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies after a long day at school…or reading your favorite book… or sitting with your best friends in the cafeteria…or [insert your own here]).  Our comfort zone is nice; it’s not scary. But it’s also kind of boring. Not because the things we like are boring, but because there’s no  variety in that circle – same ‘ol, same ‘ol.  And no opportunities to learn something new about yourself or others.

Taking one step (big or small) outside of our comfort circle makes it bigger  (ahhh, more space!).  When I walked into that improv rehearsal I expanded my circle. Now the next time I want to do improv, I will no longer be stepping way outside my comfort zone (which can feel scary), instead I’ll be participating in something that’s teaching me something new. Do you see the difference? The missing element is fear.

The Bible tells us:

“God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7)

If I could only say one word about camp because I lived on a different planet where there was only enough oxygen for everyone to speak in one-word answers, it would be expansive.

Every summer at camp left me with an expanded sense of myself and of God – even if I was going because camp WAS in my comfort zone; the place where I had great friends and knew what to expect.   And that was because everyone around me – the staff and other campers –  expected infinity. No limits. They expected healing, personal growth, and a deepening trust in God.  And more often than not that meant facing down some fears and trying new things, like a night hike, performing on stage, or leading my peers.

I invite anyone reading this to think about whether going to camp this summer might be a step outside of your comfort zone in one way or another. If it is, CONGRATULATIONS! I hope you embrace that challenge and run towards it like this:

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Answer: Make a comfort circle!

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