How Discomfort can be our Launchpad

The mistake we make is thinking our lives should always be comfortable.

When my grandfather came to New Mexico for my mother’s funeral, I asked if he’d be more comfortable staying at my father’s house or my stepfather’s. He said, “I’m not comfortable with any of this.”

His words were a declaration from a man who’d buried his wife of 56 years, and the lady friend who followed, after being an amazing caretaker to both.

My granddad had triple bypass surgery and came out of it to take up walking five miles a day. He’d spent his entire career working his way up in Mountain Bell Telephone Company—way before cell phones.

When this man said he wasn’t comfortable, it wasn’t a complaint so much as a clarification that life is often uncomfortable.

Comfortableness is a luxury of our modern society. Yet, it’s been in my least comfortable situations—such as loved ones dying and me divorcing men I once vowed to stay with until death—I dedicated myself to higher values.

I don’t believe growth only comes from life bitch-slapping us. Those are just the occasions our character is clearly called into play.  

Although I used to live by the motto, “What doesn’t destroy me makes me strong,” I learned pain isn’t something to invite and it doesn’t always ignite the positive.

Some people succumb to living a life of agony because they become accustomed to it. Change, even for the better, can be uncomfortable.

When I was flat broke living in a motel that kept me on high alert and distressed all night, I proved thinking and acting clearly in a state of fear can be a challenge.

My friend Sam convinced me to get out of there, not because she worried for my safety, but because she heard me telling myself it was okay.

I was becoming comfortable living in a space where I didn’t belong, where drug dealers argued in the hallways.

I even tried to convince Sam the situation was fine.

She said, “No, this isn’t something to become comfortable with. Don’t start thinking you deserve this and allowing it to become your identity. You get out of there or I’ll get you out, but you’re not staying.” Now, that’s a friend.

Like my other friend who responded when I set aside my ego and asked for his help to get into a safer place.

In a way, I put myself in that disturbing situation because I became comfortable in a job (retail) where I wasn’t growing and a marriage that was dying.

The comfort kept me from planning for a better future. After all, I made good money and my husband loved me.

I loved him too, but I how can we love ourselves if we stifle our truth on a daily basis?

The truth was even though my life was secure in so many ways, I wanted more.

I wanted more out of a relationship and as much as my husband wanted to be my hero, he wasn’t able to engage in the depth, intimacy and passion I desired.

Sometimes our longing for more is our soul showing us the way.

At work, although I was a top producer, I found myself bored and unfulfilled.

While many of my coworkers loved what they were doing, I craved a career with more meaning, even when I didn’t know what that might look like.

While living a life that looks good from the outside, it can be challenging to admit we want more.

With courage, we can invite the comfort we have to be our launch pad into growth.

We must be willing to stretch for more, to dive into the discomfort.

It wasn’t easy to go back to school at age 37 when I’d never been a good student.

It was difficult to sign up for my Masters in Technical Communication when I believed myself to be the least technical person I knew.

Then, uneasiness riddled me as I feared the adult college students I taught were smarter and worldlier than I was.

By stepping into the discomfort, I found my way to a life doing what I love.

Now, here I am, years later—comfortable. Once again, I must recognize where I’m unsettled—in order to rise.

See, I wrote my first book and although it was work, I enjoyed the process.

Now, it’s time for the hard work—marketing myself and my writing and seeking an agent to represent the most important project of my life.

At this stage, I acknowledge why I held back. I resisted the discomfort of potential rejection or failure. Don’t we all resist at times?

No more. I’m stepping into it so I can grow into the professional published writer I’m on the path to becoming. It’s a winding path and not without its pitfalls.

The mistake we make is thinking our lives should always be comfortable.

When my boyfriend died in March of 2016, grief became the uncomfortable, foreign, painful world I existed in.

Until I started to make peace with my grief.

Now, I’ve lost enough loved ones to know grief isn’t something we can take off like a winter coat just because it’s heavy.

Sometimes grief is the only thing that keeps us warm when it feels like our hearts are freezing.

In another chapter that began with “not being comfortable with any of this,” I’ve become accustomed to my grief.

This is the stage from where I move on and stretch once again into the uncomfortable, where I walk in the world without him and date men who won’t compare to the one I lost.

This is where I lean into laughter and joy, in spite of them feeling uncomfortable.

Because if we refuse to reach for more and better, if we remain where all is comfortable, we live in stagnation.

What was once appropriate transforms into an opportunity to expand, to live more fully.

Growth isn’t always comfortable. In fact, it often hurts like hell.

Know this: it’s worth the discomfort, the challenge and the ache. If we’re willing to become uncomfortable, we can grow forward through the discomfort of life into our better selves.

As for me, I refuse to die a slow death in yesterday’s comfort. 

 

 

4 thoughts on “How Discomfort can be our Launchpad

  1. Wow! Wow! Wow! This is such a strong piece, Alice! Heartfelt, and very clear where you have come from and where you want to go. Very inspiring! Some brilliant moments in your writing: ” Now, I’ve lost enough loved ones to know grief isn’t something we can take off like a winter coat just because it’s heavy.
    Sometimes grief is the only thing that keeps us warm when it feels like our hearts are freezing.”

    The topic itself, of what’s comfortable or uncomfortable, is very powerful–how much we humans want to feel ease and comfort, but how much of life is not, and what are we going to do with ourselves, because of that? A really important topic for our political situation, too, I feel, as well as personal. That wanting or expecting things to be “comfortable” is precisely what leads us to neglect our social and political responsibilities, and we end up with what we’ve got now as a result. Not having wanted to enter the “difficult” or “uncomfortable”. So this is so timely. Well done. I’d put exclamation marks here, but I’ve been told–and I know it–I tend to overdo it with those. 🙂
    Thank you Alice. An amazing piece.
    Shelagh

    Like

    1. Shelagh, thank you for reading and responding. Yes, discomfort in the political and social world is where we are, so far from where we want to be, and yes, an important evolution for us as a society. So, important!

      Like

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