I had 9 days to finish “The Beauty of Discomfort” before it was due back at the library. I made it, thankfully it’s not very long.
And it did make me think. She went through a few other categories of people; first she had talked about people like athletes who chose to experience discomfort, then those who were forced into discomfort by things like ill health or early onset blindness. She discusses a bunch of entrepreneurs who choose discomfort/risk to make a living. She follows a (basketball) shooting coach who chooses to give up his day job as a mail carrier to live out his dream coaching NBA stars to greater shooting, and the NBA star he coaches into changing his shooting hand altogether ( I know nothing about basketball but it was very interesting). She talks about a man who was deported to Syria and tortured and imprisoned for a year on absolutely no evidence whatsoever. It was incredibly eye-opening for me to realize that I’ve been trying to weed out discomfort (change/danger/risk/excitement) in my own life over the last few years. I’m not sure when it changed, could be when I had kids, or even before. The goal became to be “settled”, “secure”, even “COMFORTABLE”. But I have felt increasingly like something is missing.
Is it truly discomfort? Being pushed and stretched in a way that makes me grow, even if it also terrifies me? I remember deciding that I just wasn’t a good traveler, because I was so often uncomfortable in new surroundings and longed to come home. This was after a 9 month trip with an ex, and though I learned some truly amazing things about the countries we visited and myself as a person, it was the last long trip I’ve taken, and I think fear has a lot to do with that. I spend a LOT of time at home, and I’ve realized it’s because I can’t control 100000% what the kids are going to do when we go out and that makes me deeply uncomfortable, so I’d rather stay home. I’m constantly asking myself, “Is it worth it to take them out?” and the answer is usually no. Stay somewhere safe, comfortable, kid proof. That’s stunting their learning as well as my own, and confining their experiences to the familiar, preventing them to becoming good with unknown or unfamiliar circumstances.
SO many times this week I’ve been in the middle of a crazy kid battle and wanting to just have my own temper tantrum about it. This isn’t what I signed up for, why aren’t they better behaved, why can’t this just be easy, why is it so hard! And I’ve taken a deep breath and reminded myself about the idea that discomfort breeds learning. That life isn’t always about being easy, and these moments teach me and the girls how to “behave” (spoiler alert: they learned the yelling from me).
As Amanda Lang says: “Reframing the feeling of discomfort as a positive signal – like positive training pain – can make it our ally, rather than our enemy…Manufacturing a sense of control – even if it’s only in our minds – can minimize discomfort dramatically”. She talks about different strategies for dealing with discomfort. They can be either avoidant or non-avoidant. Avoidant include denying, ignoring, or distracting. These “make a lot of sense when you really don’t have control over a situation”. Non-avoidant “include focusing on discomfort in order to better control your reactions to it, both physically and mentally”(as long as you don’t let yourself “ruminate” over the situation as dwelling on discomfort can just make it worse). Whichever you choose, simply having a strategy for dealing with discomfort lets you feel like you are in control of your thoughts at least. Like when I was pregnant with my first daughter, our doula sat me and my husband down and put an ice cube in our hands. We had to sit with it clenched in our palms for something like a minute. For the first minute we chatted, distracting ourselves with jokes and small talk or whatever. The second minute we focused on the pain, breathing deeply and not speaking. For my husband, he felt that the time went faster the first time, and for me it went by faster the second time. So, choose your poison when it comes to dealing with discomfort also.
Just identifying it for me this week has made a big difference. I can recognize that it’s just discomfort and then go on from there, taking a deep breath and power through. It’s also helped me to see that what I had previously crossed off the list for “careers” might still be on the list. I had crossed them off because of potential “discomfort”. Becoming a doula sounds amazing to me, but it seemed like it was full of late nights and things that make me cringe, like talking to people. Ick. Getting my masters sounds big and scary and awful and like I’d really have to put myself out there. Ick. I took lawyer off the list a long time ago because I couldn’t sit through the LSAT when I was pregnant for fear that I’d have to pee. I’ve been my own worst enemy, preventing myself from diving into so many things with a full heart because of fear of discomfort.I can’t promise that’s going to change overnight, but willingly denying myself the pleasure of shopping has sure increased my discomfort over the last three months, and October is going to be even tighter (as you can read about next week!)
What about you? What do you shy away from because of discomfort? What might you be capable of if you let yourself get a bit uncomfortable?