Tag Archives: car

The Comfort Zone: Are You In or Out?


by Lillian Csernica on September 5, 2017

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I’ve been reading a lot lately about how writers need to get out of their comfort zones. Apparently better writing is achieved once we leave our comfort zones and venture out into the wild terrain of ideas that scare the daylights out of us.

I’m not talking about horror per se. There are subjects that we all find distressing. The kind of material that people these days label with trigger warnings. Facts and stories and ideas which will hit us where we live, push on old bruises, maybe bring fresh pain to old scars. Such subjects are intensely painful and could be trauma triggers.

A trauma trigger is an experience that causes someone to recall a previous traumatic memory, although the trigger itself need not be frightening or traumatic and can be indirectly or superficially reminiscent of an earlier traumatic incident.

(Relevant tangent: If you’re interested in the debate about trigger warnings, I recommend reading The Trigger Warning Myth.)

While I can appreciate the need to test one’s boundaries and stretch one’s literary muscles, I do have two problems with all of these articles urging writers to get out of their comfort zones.

  1. The people giving this advice have no idea what’s outside my comfort zone. I might have some very good reasons for staying in it.
  2. There’s a crucial piece of information missing. Maybe it’s just the debate team in me, but I don’t see anybody defining the term “comfort zone.” (That’s why I keep linking to the definition every single time I use that phrase.) To me the proper starting point is figuring out precisely where our comfort zones begin and end. Once that’s mapped out, we know where to find terra incognita. We can point to the spot that says “Here there be dragons!”

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Time for painful honesty. For years now people have told me I should write about my experiences with my older son Michael. Bed rest in the hospital. The terror of the day he had to be delivered via emergency C-section. Every day and night of the three and a half months he remained in the hospital, coming close to dying time and time again.

Why don’t I write about that? Simple. I’ve been too busy living it. For most of Michael’s twenty-one years on this planet, my husband and I have considered it a good week if no medical emergency forced us to call 911.

Same with John. Sure, I could write about the day he got out the front door while I was changing Michael’s diaper. I had to dash out after him before he made it to the busy street. I tore my right calf muscle doing so. Then I still had to get up and run after him. I wound up in the ER that night, and came home on crutches. That added a whole new layer of difficulty to being primary caregiver for two special needs children.

What’s outside my comfort zone?

Miscarriage. Babies dying. Whether or not to turn off the life support.

Wondering if I’ll ever know the joys of being a grandmother.

Who will look after my boys once I’m dead.

And a few other matters that I’m not ready to talk about to anybody, even myself.

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Yes, I agree that “growing our comfort zones” is a worthwhile goal. I also think people who dish out such advice should be mindful of the dangers of doing so. These are hard times. Telling people to go rummaging around in the darker corners of their psyches for really juicy writing material is not a smart or a responsible thing to do.

For me, getting my own car again was a big step outside my comfort zone. I didn’t drive for years because of a Gordian knot of anxieties surrounding the subject of driving. Now I have a car. Now I drive all the time. Oh look, here I am writing about it!

For once I don’t mean to sound sarcastic. You decide when and if you want to step outside of your comfort zone. You decide just how far, and how often. It’s good to tell the stories that only you can tell. It’s more important to respect your own pain and your own right to privacy. You’ll know when the time is right.

For some excellent thoughts on why there’s nothing wrong with staying in your comfort zone, go see what Darius Foroux has to say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under autism, Depression, doctors, dreams, Family, family tradition, Fiction, frustration, Goals, Horror, hospital, Lillian Csernica, mother, neurodiversity, parenting, PICU, Self-image, Special needs, surgery, therapy, Writing

My Personal Chariot of Fire


by Lillian Csernica on January 20, 2016

“Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17). All around them, but beyond the capabilities of the five human physical senses, was all the protection necessary. Elisha would be no prisoner that day. His would be captors would be.”

Today I picked up my car.  Today I drove it home from the dealership.  Today I stopped at the grocery store, I put gas in the car, and I drove home.

I was not afraid.  I did not have an anxiety attack.  In fact, I was happy and excited.

I have been a prisoner of my own fears about driving for a long time now.  Almost thirty years.  It’s called learned helplessness, and it’s born of a vicious emotional cycle that includes hopelessness and depression.

Another condition I battle on a daily basis is anticipatory anxiety.  This robs the future of hope and positive thinking.  I told myself I wasn’t afraid of my driving.  I was afraid of everybody else on the road who drove like maniacs, speeding and changing lanes without signalling and coming right up on my rear bumper like they wanted to shove my car aside.  That was true enough.  I think the real truth was, I could no longer face the responsibility of being the driver.

When I was in the car accident that did in fact kill me, my driving had very little to do with what happened.  My employer had assured me he’d replaced the two right tires on the company car, which were worn down to the point of being dangerous.  He lied to me.  I trusted him, so when we loaded the car that night for the drive from Long Beach to San Francisco, I believed him and I did not check the tires myself.

“Put not your faith in princes and sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.  When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”  (Ps. 146:3-4)

Five years ago I took two sets of driving lessons to brush up on my driving skills.  My teacher said I’m a good driver.  I have good reaction time and I’m good at judging braking distance.  I have driven on Hwy 17 all the way down to Capitola and back in the car with my teacher.

And yet, I still couldn’t internalize that knowledge to the extent that I would agree to pick out a car and drive it.  My husband said he’d get me a car, but not until he was sure I would in fact use it, and use it all the time.

Why now?  Why did I suddenly stand up last Saturday and say, “Fine.  Let’s do it today.”?  All I can say is the time was right, and I was ready.  We found a car that was everything I wanted, at a price we could afford.  It was raining, but I didn’t let that hold me back.  I got into the car and I test drove it so my husband could listen to the engine.  I was alert, I was focused, and I kept moving forward through the process of evaluating and the buying the car.

My car has become my chariot of fire.  Just as Divine Protection was present but unseen for the Prophet Elisha, so I believe God is watching out for me.  I may not always have faith in myself, but I do have faith in God.  Just look at what we went through this past summer with Michael’s hospital stay.  When Michael needed a priest, Fr. Ninos got there before the ICU team took Michael to be prepped for surgery.  I still don’t know how Fr. Ninos got there so quickly, but he did, and I give thanks every day that my boy is still alive and healthy.

When the depression has been really bad, I have begged God to help me get better.  I have prayed for strength and for courage and for the determination to defeat all the symptoms that have crippled me emotionally, kept me from writing, and prevented me from being a functional member of my family.

“The Lord is my  light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?” (Ps. 12:1)

It’s time to move on.  No more thinking I’m helpless.  No more being afraid.

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How I Saved My Own Future


by Lillian Csernica on January 16, 2015

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In 1987 I was in a car accident that left me for dead on Interstate 5 in the middle of the night.  I spent a week in the hospital, then months recovering.

Two months after the accident, my boyfriend asked me to marry him.  I agreed, and worked three different jobs to help pay for our wedding.  This meant driving, something I had no desire to do ever again.  I stayed off the freeways, but I did it.

A few years after we got married, we donated my old used car to charity.  That meant our only vehicle was the one my husband drove to work every day.  If I wanted to go anywhere while he was at work, I walked or took public transportation (the bus).

For years now I have resisted the idea of getting another car.  At times it’s been a financial issue.  We did have to invest in a van equipped with a lift so we could transport Michael to his various medical appointments.  At other times, it’s just been a matter of my bone deep reluctance to get behind the wheel again.  There are a lot of crazy people on the roads these days.

This forced me to rely on my husband, my mother, my sister, or a friend when I needed a ride somewhere.  I felt like I was in high school again.  People kept telling me I needed to get over this fear of driving and just do it.  It’s so easy for people to say something like that when they’re not living inside the anxiety, especially anticipatory anxiety.  That kind of fear puts a real dent in rational thinking.

My husband and I have had more than one loud, hurtful argument about what a “burden” I’ve been to everyone around me because of my “selfishness” about driving myself around.  This resulted in me not going out at all except when I absolutely had to, or when a friend and I spent time together.   My depression got worse.

It’s horrible to be caught between relentless fear and the ongoing hostility and judgment from the people I look to for support.  With family or total strangers, the bottom line remains the same: I can’t change them.  The only person I can change is myself.

Today is a day of celebration.  Today I got angry enough to shove my fears aside, go to a used car dealer, and find a car we could afford, one that suits my needs and makes me feel both comfortable and happy.

Today I crossed a big bridge in my life, a bridge that leads to freedom, to independence, and to better mental health.

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This is my car, the Dodge Neon.

 

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