The comfort zone

I’ve never written a newspaper column before. It’s out of my comfort zone. Which is exactly why I’m doing it, in the hope that I’ll grow and learn while sharing some interesting stuff along the way.

Well within my comfort zone, however, is my home town of Prince Albert. I was born and raised in this city. I left P.A. a few times but always returned for (a) the people and (b) the trees. After a year spent in a small town on the bald prairie I discovered that I missed being near the forest. Driving home for a visit one summer weekend, somewhere between Duck Lake and Macdowall, I felt compelled to roll down the car window, stick my head out and breathe in the aroma of evergreens. It was a classic case of “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”.

The trees, for the most part, are still standing. As for the people I chose to stay here for, many are gone now. Some passed away, others moved away. Losses have a way of tossing you out of your comfort zone, making even familiar landscapes look different. When the pandemic came, our landscape was full of losses: lives, relationships, human connections. Comfort zones had a radius of six feet.

Enter technology. Some of us (okay, me) had a steep learning curve to climb if we (okay, I) wanted to see familiar faces up close, without a mask, albeit it on a screen. Pure stubbornness, combined with time on my hands, prompted me to step up my tech game. I set to work on my fairly new, but according to the repair guy, almost obsolete laptop. Things quickly got uncomfortable and stayed that way.

Eventually, thanks to numerous phone calls with patient individuals, some online videos and blogs, and despite random links down rabbit holes, progress was made. Each week opened new vistas, or should I say windows. In the process, however, I tore out half

my hair in frustration, ground my teeth so I required a mouth guard at night, and started screaming at inanimate objects like computers and cellphones, entertaining the bizarre notion that they would listen and behave. Hah!

But I was determined. Take a break. Breathe. Get out and smell those trees. I burned off my frustrations by frequent fast walks along the Rotary trail. There was no conversing with fellow walkers, even from six feet away; I was working off an acute case of TISD – Technology Induced Stress Disorder. (It’s a thing. I just made it up.)

A day or two later, I’d be back at my laptop, a sucker for punishment, but with a sense of accomplishment every time the computer screen did as I instructed, with no annoying pop-up backtalk. I got onto Facebook and everything! I set up two email accounts! So what if one was by accident. I participated in online chats, and had virtual appointments with health care professionals. I was practically a technological genius!

Well, I may be exaggerating slightly. The point is, I got out of my comfort zone. It had exacted a cost (although my hair has mostly grown back, I still need the mouth guard), but it was worth it. The benefits have far exceeded the price I paid in stress.

Having the opportunity to write this column is one of them.

Lorna Blakeney is an avid writer who enjoys photography, history, travel, and genealogy. She was born and raised in Prince Albert, earned a B.A. from the University of Saskatchewan, likes to walk, and loves coffee shops. Her column appears the first Friday of every month.