EXPAND YOUR COMFORT ZONE.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch
My general philosophy is “be adventurous”. I came out of the womb with a healthy willingness to bend the rules. The older I get the happier I am to break with convention. Rarely do I regret pushing through discomfort to see what’s on the other side. Stevie-D is an excellent partner-in-crime.
We left Vancouver Island and caught a ferry to the city of Vancouver. I mentioned in my first post that our 20th Wedding Anniversary trip was a bit unconventional. Here’s why: we were joining my close friend K and staying with her for several days in a two bedroom apartment in Vancouver owned by a friend of hers. I don’t know how many couples incorporate traveling with a friend on a significant anniversary vacation, but we do. It totally worked for me. Traveling and hanging out with two of my favorite people was like partaking of a vegan feast with courses created by a genius chef and a master sommelier – indulgent but just this side of gluttonous, and satisfying on every level.
Lucky for us we arrived in Vancouver just in time to experience the month of Summer. The thing about being in a beautiful place with perfect weather is that all you want to do is live outdoors. We found the apartment where we would meet up with K in Kitsilano Beach. Its best feature was the panoramic view from this balcony. Long hours were spent there sipping coffee in the morning and drinking wine and talking and laughing late into each night.
I recommend crowd sourcing when planning a trip. Between polling friends on Facebook, a great NY Times article about Vancouver, and picking the brains of the Weird-eaux we met on the ferry our first night in B. C., we had a list of things not to be missed. As soon as we dropped our stuff at the apartment, we hit the town.
We covered a lot of territory but I’m just going to tell you about a couple of things we did. Suffice it to say Vancouver is a fabulous city with a ton to offer – funky neighborhoods, gorgeous scenery, amazing food (VIJs, Tojo’s, Guu, Thierry), and welcoming, open-minded, polite people. It was a refreshing change from the deep South.
Our last day in Vancouver was my favorite. We did two things that day that expanded my comfort zone. First, we took a seaplane tour of the city and surrounds. All week we watched seaplanes take off and land from the terminal downtown. I watched a lot of Fantasy Island as a kid, and all those times I heard Tattoo yell, “Da plane! Da plane!” from the bell tower and saw the seaplane come around the corner into the lagoon, I’ve wanted to fly in one. Steve and K did too, so we scheduled a 45-minute flight. After everything was set, K said, “I’m kind of surprised you wanted to do this since flying isn’t your favorite thing.” Me: “I’m a little surprised myself, but it looks like fun and who knows when I’ll have another chance.”
It’s not that I’m afraid to fly, I’m afraid to die. Actually, death itself doesn’t scare me, dying a painful, fiery death or crash landing in the ocean only to be trapped inside the plane and drown does. (I have a vivid imagination and sometimes I use it to disasturbate.) I was never a nervous flyer, but a few years ago this happened and now I don’t enjoy flying quite so much. It doesn’t stop me from flying, but if we hit moderate or sustained turbulence, my heart starts hammering and I have to have a calm, reasoned talk with myself and take slow deep breaths.
Just as we paid our fee and met the seaplane pilot, the Asiana 777 flight crashed onto the runway in San Francisco. Seriously. Every t.v. monitor in the terminal was tuned to the news, repeatedly showing the botched, deadly landing. We walked to the plane that was tied to the dock. It held six. There were four passengers plus the pilot – the three of us and an Indian guy, a multi-tasker combining sightseeing with eating a meal. He double-fisted it with a box of oddly fragrant lunch in his left hand and a large drink in his right, both of which he handed to the pilot (who rolled his eyes hard at us) as he awkwardly mounted the pontoon and pushed his bulky frame toward the copilot’s seat in the small, metal compartment (or flying coffin under certain scenarios, all of which were beginning to roll through my brain).
When we were situated, the pilot fired up the propeller and took off. The scenery was predictably gorgeous, and there was really no other way to see it. I located a barf bag just in case, and wondered if our Indian friend up front might need one, having polished off his meal as the cabin got increasingly hot and stuffy and we bumped around and dove steeply toward the water to get a closer view of a pretty waterfall. We hit some turbulence as we climbed up out of the harbor, just clearing the mountain tops, and passing through the churning zone where cold air crashes into the warm air from the leeward side of the mountains, but it was expected and relatively minor. Steve kept looking back at me and mouthing, “How are you doing?” I gave a thumbs-up, and meant it. We landed safely, and while it may not sound like much, it was a small victory for me. I was glad we had done it.
The second thing we did that day was more adventurous. (Mom, you are going to love this story.) “You HAVE to go to Wreck Beach!”, said the Weird-eaux (Ben, Charles, and Amine) when we met on the first day of our vacation. “It’s close to the UBC campus and you really shouldn’t miss it. It’s a cool place to spend an afternoon – a liberated hangout on the beach. And it’s clothing optional.”
Want to get an idea where the boundaries of your comfort zone lie? Test it by getting your middle-aged ass out onto a clothing optional beach and opt for taking off your clothes. All of them.
Steve did some research ahead of time to get an idea of the Wreck Beach scene, and found this amusing Vice article. It was spot on. As luck would have it, the day we were available to go was also the 32nd Annual Beach Day and the annual Wreck Beach Family Portrait day. Steve: “We have to go, and we should definitely be in that photo.” Me: “Really?!” K: “Hell yes, I’m in!” Steve: “In for a penny, in for a pound.” Me: “I’m in too.”
We parked and climbed down a few hundred steps to the beach and found close to 1000 people of all shapes and sizes in various states of undress. We picked a spot near one of the big logs set parallel to the surf, put down our stuff and stripped off our clothes when we noticed a naked guy in sandals walking rapidly through the crowd announcing in a hushed tone, “Cops on the beach. Cops on the beach.” Sure enough along came a group of uniformed officers, dressed sort of like this (slightly longer shorts though).
They were sweeping the beach to make sure no one drinking alcohol. Want to know how amusing that is? As soon as the officers left, the vendors came back out to work the crowd. Pick your vice – it’s available on Wreck Beach. There was a naked woman with a small cooler slung over her shoulder, strap resting between her breasts, selling beer. There was the overweight naked guy with a bike messenger bag selling weed. But my favorite was the tall, skinny guy sporting a shirt belted by a large fanny pack, naked from the waist down except for his sandals calling out, “Cigarettes! Chocolate covered mushrooms! Cigarettes! Chocolate covered mushrooms!” Chocolate covered mushrooms, isn’t that like dipping shit in chocolate? The crowd was definitely out to have fun that day.
Let me paint a picture of our little group. Steve may just be the most comfortable-in-his-own-skin person I know. Getting nekkid on a beach with a bunch of people around phased him not one bit. K has a bold personality, she’s never met a stranger, and her brazen directness gives her the uncanny ability to make people slightly uncomfortable yet simultaneously willing to do things they wouldn’t otherwise. When she was younger, she weighed close to 300 pounds. She’s half that size now, but she suffers from body dysmorphia. When she looks in the mirror, she still sees a 300-pound woman looking back at her, and thinks others see her that way too. Getting naked on that beach was a BIG deal for her. To her credit, she’s so damn courageous that she didn’t hesitate to say “yes” when given the opportunity.
Then there’s me. I work out and I’m in decent shape. I was fine with the idea of being topless on the beach (which is progress since I refused to go topless on an Italian beach in my late 20s when my boobs were higher and tighter than they are now – insecurities, go figure), but I was much less comfortable taking off my bottoms. Gotta draw that line somewhere, no? I suffer from what I refer to as Irrational Snatch Issues. Lying in one spot on the beach fully naked didn’t feel like too much of a stretch to me, but walking across the beach to the spot where they were taking the Family Portrait, naked snatch and all, was almost too much for me. Listen, your body changes after having children, and I’m far from my physical peak, and while there were many less-than-perfect bodies on the beach, there were also a lot of 20-somethings and college students too. I was feeling self-conscious.
I started to balk hard when it was time to go be photographed. Me: “I’ve decided I’m not going.” Steve: “C’mon. You have to! You look great! Your nethers are perfectly normal. Besides, no one is directly staring at your vag. C’mon, I’ll hold your hand.” K: “C’mon. If I can do this, I know you can. Let’s be bold.” So I grudgingly grabbed Steve’s hand and we all walked across the beach to the grassy area and posed for the photo. And it was fun because everyone standing in that group, which was only a fraction of people on the beach that day, was fully embracing themselves in that moment and it was liberating.
As we stood in the jubilant crowd, K started chatting with this really cute 29-year-old guy who had a hot, sculpted body. Their banter quickly turned flirty. After the photo, he grabbed a beer and found us and hung out and talked. Mostly, he told K how attracted he was to her and made a case for why she should let him come back to the apartment and show her just how much he appreciated her awesomeness. Steve and I chuckled listening to the guy sell. K was flattered and took in all the adulation being thrown her way, and ultimately decided that, fun as hitting the sheets with him might be, she was content to walk away in the glow of having had some hot, young thing let her know how desirable she is. It was a good day on the beach for all of us. An expansive kind of a day. K’s experience gave her a huge ego-boost and put her closer to seeing herself as she is and letting go of the specter of who she once was, I got a little closer to overcoming my Irrational Snatch Issues (let me know if I need to start an ISI support group or if I’m the only one who suffers from this), and Steve’s sweet open-mindedness deepened.
I couldn’t sum up any better why taking the risk to open yourself to being uncomfortable but pushing forward anyway is worth it – the Universe often rewards your willingness by showing you that you are stronger, more courageous, more desirable, more lovable, more worthy than you ever gave yourself credit for being. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
Our trip to Canada was a one-armed lob from half-court and nothing but net!