Out on a Limb
A Monthly Newsletter from Martha Clark Scala
Invest in bringing joy back to your life.
February 2013



Welcome to Out on a Limb, a monthly newsletter from Martha Clark Scala. This free e-zine is meant to invite and inspire you to maximize the joy in your life.


This month’s Out on a Limb arrives in your in-box a bit late because I had the good fortune to spend a week in Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii (otherwise known as “The Big Island”) last week. No, I was not staying in a fancy-schmancy resort, nor was I roughing it in a sleeping bag and tent. But I was comfortable. To be more specific, I felt comfortable with myself, with my fellow travelers, in the clothing I wore, and in the environment. It cannot be an accident that with so much comfort, I also experienced so much joy. There just has to be a correlation. Let me illustrate:

Snorkeling is an activity that goes with staying in a tropical place. Prior to departure, our leader encouraged us to purchase an excellent snorkel rather than rely on what you can rent or borrow on the island; her recommendation carried plenty of weight. What she and my fellow travelers did not know was that I had never really fallen in love with snorkeling in previous tries. There was something about it that was uncomfortable for me; I often felt claustrophobic. Fear got in the way of my enjoyment despite how much I love to swim. So I took my leader’s advice, and splurged on the $33 snorkel. I also bought my own $20 mask to pack in my suitcase. My first snorkeling experience on this trip was a breeze and a delight. I am convinced that this was in large part due to being in a comfortable setting (alas, there are some perilous entries into Hawaiian waters teeming with beautiful coral and stunning fish, but this one felt pretty safe), wearing a comfortable bathing suit (rather than trying to be a fashion plate as I may have done when younger), and I was amongst people with whom I felt very comfortable. How perfect, I thought to myself, because I had this topic in mind before I left on the trip, and the journey simply offered this as well as many other vignettes to underscore my intended message: pursue comfort and joy will follow.

Myriad experiences during that week in Hawaii helped me realize it is more complicated than simply seeking comfort. Given past experiences with snorkeling, I might have opted to forgo any further attempts, and I might have even justified that decision by saying, “I just don’t feel comfortable.” But oh, what I would have missed! From land, I got to watch one turtle grabbing his breakfast by the side of a pier. In the water, I was transfixed by watching a bigger, older turtle in the deep for quite a while. From the shore, I could spot a whale’s spout or majestic breach into the air. In the water with a snorkel, I got to concentrate more fully on listening for whale song, dolphin chatter, and the click-click-click of fish having their meals. So perhaps a more accurate suggestion vis-à-vis the pursuit of joy is to do some kind of waltz with yourself, where one “partner” or part of you is comfortable, and seeks comfort, while the other part of you leads the dance toward new sights, sounds, and experiences. It doesn’t necessarily behoove us to “just” stay in our safety zone, but why not ensure that we are comfortable as we peek outside, or take bold steps away from safety? Perhaps that is where much joy awaits. In this illustration, the joy I experienced came both from being comfortable in myriad ways, AND from stepping (or snorkeling, in this case) outside my safety zone.

The Comfort/Risk Waltz

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”

On the other hand, Treat Williams offers, “I define success as being comfortable with yourself and your life. And that is about as good as it gets, really.”

Now, what we need is for Eleanor Roosevelt to ask Treat Williams to dance! As a duo, it is possible to endorse the desire to be comfortable while nudging ourselves to look fear in the face. I find it easier to do the latter if I am wearing clothes that do not bind, shoes without heels, and if I am with people in a place in which comfort prevails. What about you?


Valuing Comfort

What makes headlines? What gets celebrated in YouTube videos? Expose yourself to these and other media, and you will see more peril, drama, tragedy, and tales of individuals overcoming great odds or danger than you will ever see about comfort. Some of these are incredibly moving, and have even been offered to you as Prompts for Joy! But where and when can comfort be celebrated? Is it only in advertisements for luxury items such as expensive cars, or hotels, which many people cannot even afford? What message does this send? What values are being promoted? I fear there is an implicit suggestion that comfort is only available to those with wealth, and that it in some way gets shamed as a negative force. How sad. Can we embrace and value comfort as an equal opportunity right for all?

Joy-Gram for February 2013

Take a mental inventory and ask yourself, Do I spend most of my days amidst people with whom I feel comfortable? And if the answer is no, ask yourself, what can be done about this, if anything?  

Your February 2013 Prompts for Joy

Click here for a stunning poetry performance by a 15-year-old young man who derives comfort from the family car. Don’t miss this: it is also a phenomenal celebration of love in all its messiness.

Click here to be reminded that we can find comfort in peculiar places.

This month’s PFJ contributors are Dee Vogel and Monika Hartwig. THANK YOU!

Do a Daily Dance: Bring on the Joy!

The 1st video on the D.D.D. playlist was recommended to me by Danielle Potheau and if it doesn’t make you feel happy, I don’t know what will! Click here then click on the 1st video in the playlist.

Pictured Above

One of many dramatic sunsets at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii.

Archives Available

To re-read or share past Out On A Limb newsletters, click here, or type the following url into your browser: http://www.mcscala.com/html/EZineArchives.html.

By no means do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!


Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·

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