“Which do you prefer, adventure or comfort?” I was asked recently, matter-of-factly, as if the two were mutually separate entities, and I, given the option to choose only one.
I closed my eyes and I wondered. Now, at the age of 53, I see clearly that my answer is remarkably different than the answer I would have certainly given in my 20s.
“I am seeking comfort,” I shot out too quickly, “…and adventure” I added, clearly coming across as someone who has trouble making decisions.
This question brought me back to my youth. As I scan my childhood, though many aspects of it were really quite marvelous, I always felt a bit trapped, slightly suffocated. I was born into a conservative enclave, surrounded by a more staid lifestyle, in the suburbs of the ever-declining motor city. In some ways it was wonderful. I felt safe, my parents were involved and provided solid structure, and I had plenty of fun with my mostly-friendly seven siblings.
But I remember always longing for adventure, and I would feel my heart stifle just a bit when I thought of staying in that area my whole life. But why? Certainly vast swaths of people never leave their hometowns. Now, as I look at it, it must be very comforting, staying put. Same friends. Predictable patterns. Predictable comforts. This was something I found irritating as a kid, but now, it all looks quite charming and soothing, actually.
Fortunately for me, my early wanderlust sent me on the road. I couldn’t wait to see the world, taste its glorious flavors, breathe in the sea air, and smell the exotic scents found in only in faraway places. I am remembering now that I have learned from a small, kind, white-haired German woman on my first train trip from Amsterdam to Paris, a message I no longer remember, but whose meaning still lives in my tender heart. I have sipped wine in formal gardens and kayaked the voluptuous, seductive seas along the Na Pali Coast in Hawaii. I have bathed in holy waters in Bali and I have steered a huge yacht through a thin, needle-like waterway between the dusty, Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia.
In all of this, my spirit danced, but perhaps even more importantly, my mind and heart opened. And what I learned from all these various experiences was that humanity is diverse, much more diverse than I had known in my small town. Adventure has softened me, and taught me self-preservation and fortitude. It has taken me time and time again to my edge, and given me a direct experience of wonder and awe.
But what of adventure now? Now, at 53, after I lost the love of my life (and the whole world that went with it) and subsequently lived in a jungle hut in Hawaii for a few years, without plumbing I might add, just in case you think it’s glamorous, I now crave comfort. Is it a seducer of passion? I don’t know. But after such a craving, I have to ask, why? Why do I long for comfort? Is it selling out? Have I thrown my adventurous spirit overboard, thrown out the baby with the bath water?
I don’t think so. If I were to go beneath the surface of my life now, which has finally steadied out a bit, I might find a different type of adventure that has been calling altogether, an adventure of the heart, or is it of the spirit, that continues to beckon me into unknown regions, unexplored territories. That is, if you can call healing grief an adventure. But then, why not?
Yet in this adventure to explore my grief, I wonder, am I simply longing to go back, back to the long red couch, with the soft, cushy white comforter, and the sweet, soft and happy dog on my stomach? Back to the tall glass windows that were like living art, light constantly moving around us, as if we could reach out and touch it, the sun, the rain, the clouds. Back to the vista of wild geese on their migration south, allowing my morning coffee to become something more than silent. Jeff, in his constant and steady friendship, his enduring love, even in the darkest days, that was my comfort, and I long to go home to it. But that adventure is no more. All true adventure is in the looking forward, not back.
Adventure is the yearning of the heart to know more, and in this, our adventures are never ending. Adventure takes courage. We go to those places that challenge us, where we are shut down in fear, and experience them. We experience our fears and move through them. And it changes us forever.
And in all of this newfound inner territory for adventure, we can be reminded that the experience of our own inner life, our humanity, is infinitely diverse, much more diverse than we might have been taught. Time itself reminds us all that everything changes, and in that discomfort, we find the great adventure of life itself. Yet the results of adventure remain the same. We find an openness that allows us to live a more honest and authentic life.