I am 100% a proponent of getting out of one’s comfort zone. I believe in the truth that is humbling oneself, and growing pains and expressing oneself and taking actions in ways that may be unfamiliar, but honorable to the higher self that is calling.
That being said, I have not always been the first in a group to do something outlandish, and I am, in my most natural state, a creature of comfort.
The magic and at times, exhaust of traveling is that it pushes you endlessly further outside of your circle of “known.”
And on this continent of South America where I speak little of the official language(s) and dance even less of the local movements, there have been times where I’ve found myself feeling a bit out of place!
To counter these feelings of discomfort (paired with the mysterious, nearly constant feelings of light nausea- from brushing my teeth with faucet water?), I decided it was time to do something that really made me feel like me again. For any of you who have read this past post, you shan’t be surprised… I set my eye and heart on checking out the botanical gardens on my handy city map of Lima, Peru.
I grabbed my journal and a cold botella de agua and headed to my park, only to find that with my limited Spanish speaking skills, I could not confirm with the man at the information desk whether or not the gardens were still open and if they were indeed worth the 20-minute taxi ride.
Alas, my next move was simple: set up in Kennedy Square, a park full of bright scarlet sages and orange zinnias and- to my pleasure- stray cats and kittens!
Upon approaching the park I found a circle of people and some Latin music sounding. I was hoping to stumble upon a live concert, only to see pairs of elderly couples dancing salsa and meringue in a small rounded pit surrounded by the crowd! Feeling warmth in my heart, I decided to watch a few songs.
At the start of the third song, I was startled by a Spanish offer.
Granted, Spanish-speakers communicate ridiculously fast and my comprehension skills are below the average first grader’s, I could only assume that this man was asking me to willingly volunteer myself as token gringa in this dance party of wiser, older, more coordinated Latino hip-swingers.
While my own dear gringo man and world-adventure partner has been so kindly coaching me in meringue movements whenever we’re out (he’s a much better dancer than I am; I told him once and he’ll never let me forget it), I was by no means feeling confident enough to showcase my skills amongst these naturals.
“No, no, no,” I said in my best Spanish accent, shaking my head and gesturing at my full hands.
But whether it was my already existing cultural discomfort (what more do I have to lose!), the young Peruvian man’s incessant requests, the middle-aged woman grabbing the water bottle and journal out of my hands and waving me to go, or a combination of the three, what finally came out of my mouth was an exhaled, “Ok… Vamos!”
Into the pit I went, where I discovered the song required Cubana dance skills (which I also didn’t have) and I giggled half-nervously, half-without-inhibition for the next three and a half minutes, making smiley eye contact with other dancers and older folk who were sitting on the surrounding stairs.
Whether they thought I was crossing barriers of age, skin tone or dancing skills, or imposing on cultural traditions or merely a Sunday evening routine, we were all laughing.
Because, when honest with yourself, it is impossible to see someone throwing themselves humbly outside their comfort zone without it affecting you as well.
The good-natured heart in us all knows deep down the courage and strength that vulnerability takes, and the beauty of that alone is infectious.
I found that that song alone was enough to fuel me in my pursuit of comfort, which was really after all a need to feel the greatness that I have, and have had in me all along.
In doing something that felt a lot less of me, I felt a lot more of me, because I was feeding the parts of expansion, the parts of myself I didn’t yet know were there.
I thanked my partner and the kind woman who guarded my belongings and I walked across the park. I sat myself beside a bed of scarlet sages and cats, opened up my journal, and I smiled. Because I realized that no matter where I am in the world, I can find a little bit of me, and I can fall a little bit more in love with it every day.