See what I did there? I would happily buy this book for every human being I know for Christmas this year…were it not for the buying moratorium. Sigh. My own copy is from the library and due back in something like 8 days, so I gotsta hustle.
If I had been organized and pre-written this blog like I was planning to, you would be getting a very different story. I was a mess last week. Call it hormones, call it transitions, call it just outright bitchiness, I was a mess. We are getting used to our new house, new schedules, new school routine for my oldest, my husband is working an hour long commute away (though only four days a week), I’m not working at all, we are considering the possibility of adding another child to the family, I still feel like I’m recovering from surgery, it’s just been seriously a rough few days. And I was falling apart at the seams a bit. I just felt like I didn’t have the energy, the resources, the mental fortitude for anything. I’m at a bit of a crossroads, not sure what to do next. I didn’t realize how afraid of uncertainty I’d become until this point in my life. And I don’t like it. I hate the fear, the lack of confidence in myself, the sort of feeling that I’ve got lead weights strapped to my feet and my heart and my head. Ick.
My husband and I went to see The Minimalists when they were here over a week ago, and on top of their rather charming banter and dialogue, they opened up the stage to audience questions. Nope, not me, but another lady probably close to my age, (I think she said she was 36, so like 5 years older than I am) got up and said that she had been raising her siblings, and her nephew for what had felt like years, and now she was moving herself and her husband and son into a house on their own, just them. She had purged and emptied and minimalized her way to a quieter life. And now what? She was getting quite emotional as she asked her question, Now What? What do I do next? They had some really great answers for her (not that I remember it word for word so I’ll try and piece together some of the ideas). And Joshua Fields Millburn basically said that she had lost her purpose. In this new phase of her life she needed to discover her purpose, and how to gain meaning in her life. As a caregiver most of her life she had been giving and giving and giving, but now she needed to find a way to find purpose in a new way. And to do that she had to go back to the things that were most important to her, and figure out from there what she wanted to do to reach beyond herself and do good unto the world (I’m paraphrasing remember?) That’s EXACTLY where I am right now. I keep thinking there’s got to be more to this, because I have been on this minimalizing/purging/not spending journey for around 3 months now and I’m still lost. Emotionally lost. Still craving the new shiny thing that will distract me, and worried that I really NEEDED those new shiny things to distract me from how crappy I feel some of the time.I was going to whine and complain about how hard this is and still is and has been and will continue to be and wonder if I should just hide in a hole for the rest of my life cause this shit is hard. Too hard. Insert crying emoji face here. (You know it’s bad when that’s my most frequently used emoji).
Until I realized this book (The Beauty of Discomfort: How what we avoid is what we need) was due in 9 days and started reading it really quickly. BOOM. The world lit up and I have hope again. It’s amazing. Discomfort. I HATE DISCOMFORT. In every manifestation. I hate hunger. I hate excessive physical activity. I hate heat. I haaaate being itchy or uncomfortable or dry lips or thirst or sunshine in my eyes. I hate being tired. Wake me up in the night and I am a BEAR. Wake me up early in the morning and I’m even worse. I hate being too hot or too cold. I am not so good at uncertainty either. (though that’s different from several years ago. I used to welcome it and jump into strange and new things willingly because of my slightly geographically scattered upbringing that trained me to be used to change).
I don’t even know where to start, I was telling my mom all about it today and we both realized how applicable this was to us. Amanda Lang starts with the idea of being able to adapt to change when necessary, to jump out of ye olde comfort zone when faced with an obstacle. She discusses how meditation and mindfulness help with addictions (Noticing the way cigarettes taste and smell helped them realize that they really didn’t enjoy it, they were just doing it out of boredom or habit or stress). She follows an ultra-marathoner as he pushes through pain to run something like a hundred miles in several days in the desert (ick). She looks at a man who overcame an autoimmune disease with grace and speed by being grateful. All these people encountered discomfort of some kind and reacted to it in a revolutionary way to it: they noticed it, welcomed it, and decided to be ok with it. Instead of fighting it or self-medicating it with something like food or drugs or alcohol or shopping or binge watching Outlander (oh sorry, that’s just me?) they accepted the discomfort as a necessary and NORMAL part of life, made friends with it, and decided to just keep going.
MY BRAIN CAN’T EVEN. This is amazing. I’m only like 93 pages in but I feel like all of a sudden my confidence and my mojo are creeping back in. I can do this. I don’t NEED to feel totally defeated by a day with my kids. Even though I’m exhausted I can deal with it and keep going. I can exercise through pain and discomfort and pudge. I just need to re-frame my mental processes to accept that IT’S NOT ALWAYS EASY. I’ve noticed this attitude with some of the mom-friends I have. While I’m weeping and wailing about how hard it is they are cheerfully having more babies or being perfectly content with their lack of sleep or the slightly more complicated nature of their lives now. They are ok with the discomfort of “mom-hood”. And their confidence and happy attitude make them a lot of fun to be around! They can be present and have a conversation as their kid or kids does something else. Because it’s fine. It’s not perfect, and it’s not always comfortable, but you just deal with it. (That didn’t come out totally right, but do you know what I mean? I want to be the strong woman who can confidently survive, rather than the tired and scared mess in the corner. Not to attack myself, but to inspire myself to embrace the uncertain).
While I’m trying to gobble this book down I’m also reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which has a very similar idea at it’s heart. Unable to deal with her emotional and mental discomfort after her mother dies, she turns to sex and drugs to self-medicate. After her divorce she heads out on a 3 month long hike, alone, to walk herself back to the woman her mother made her. She forces herself into extreme physical discomfort so that she learns how to manage her emotional discomfort. It’s so so so so interesting. Lorelai almost does it in the Gilmore Girls reboot and I love love love it. Seriously.
You probably all stopped reading like 5 paragraphs ago, but I just couldn’t wait to share this find with you. I feel like the world just opened up again and I found a whole new way of living and being and knowing that will really help me move forward. I hope it helps you too. I can’t lend you my copy of the book, but go get one from the library!