They were somewhat unlikely surrounds for my mind to meander into a psychotic violent fantasy. Eating breakfast, as I was, in the luxurious grounds of a Southeast Asian hotel - proper holiday of a lifetime type stuff, if you will.
I was sitting on an open air, shaded veranda with monstrous fans gently encouraging a cooling breeze through linen drapes to counter the rising tropical daytime climes.
I should have been gazing upon the sweeping manicured lawns as they flowed seamlessly into the white sands of the resort’s private beach. But I wasn’t. What I actually was doing was imaging my thumb crushing the windpipe of the man who sat two tables away.
My violent fantasy had emitted the detail of how my ten-stone disabled body had managed to manoeuvre itself into such a position, what with him being a 20-something, bronzed, athletic, muscled type, or indeed, why his matching female breakfast companion had done nothing to aid him.
His crime? Well, the fact that he had used the hotel’s unfathomable toaster with some aplomb had put me on my back foot, but it was his T-shirt which tipped me into such ire.
‘Life Begins Outside Your Comfort Zone,’ it read.
‘FUCK YOU,’ my inner monologue raged.
The slogan was complemented by an extreme sport graphic of, what I am going to refer to as a ‘dude’, doing something ‘extremely’ ‘sporty’.
Of course the kneejerk reaction is to contemplate that if you’re happy doing it, then it is not really outside of your comfort zone. I think what he was actually trying to convey was that he is someone who likes throwing himself off cliffs, or whatever, and the garment was worn with the intention that the person noting the wording will be impressed.
My counter T-shirt might read: ‘Extreme Sports Are of Little or No Interest to Me’.
Besides all that, is that what ‘comfort zones’ are really about? I normally hear them in the contexts of public speaking, job interviews, stage performances. Maybe the image on his T-shirt should have depicted an empty rostrum and an awaiting audience.
As my fantasy ensued and he gurgled pleads for me to stop, I start to consider when I have been the furthest outside of my comfort zone.
Having been temporarily blind, spent around two years with both feet in casts, been on kidney dialysis, and had a double organ transplant, I’ve got my fair share to choose from.
Here’s just one:
After my kidneys failed, I was placed on peritoneal dialysis. It meant I could dialyse at home overnight while I slept. Cycles of fluid were repeatedly pumped into me where they stayed for an hour or so, before being drained out via a tube which had been inserted into me just below my navel. The waste fluid was then collected in a large bag that I disposed of the following day.
The insertion of a tube into the peritoneal cavity is considered rather routine. But not for me. After the tube was inserted, I started dialysis only for most of the blood cleansing fluid to stay in my gut. I returned to the hospital after a few days looking like I was 15 months pregnant and an emergency decision was made to insert a new tube.
I was given a local anaesthetic and a strong sedative, which promptly knocked me out. A general anaesthetic was not required for such a simple and quick procedure, I was assured.
However, I woke up with a surgeon seemingly wrist-deep in my guts. “I am awake,” I pleaded. “Almost done,” he insisted. I could now feel the pain as the anaesthetic faded.
The reality of the situation engulfed me. I was awake, ably conversing with a man who was fumbling around with my innards. To add insult to injury, I had not changed into a hospital gown and the fluid which had inflated me had now leaked out onto the bed. I was having this conversation while effectively lying in five litres of my own piss, which was slowly soaking into my pulled down jeans and rolled up jumper.
All things considered, I was outside of my comfort zone, and at no point did I think: ‘life is beginning’.
Life, in fact, felt very much like it was drawing to a close.
Take that, surf dude.
But then, as my imagined death grip on his throat loosened, and his sobbing partner composed herself, something did occur to me. After almost a decade of ill health, I was now sitting in a beautiful spa retreat, healthy and happy.
Maybe those excursions outside of my comfort zone were where a life was beginning after all, or, at the very least, restarting.
Still a fucking stupid T–shirt, mind.