No Avoiding It
Discomfort is here to stay. Or rather, it's here to pass through periodically, and you must step through it on your journey, sometimes daily. Are you willing?
You'd better be. When we set up our lives to avoid discomfort, there's so much that has to be shut down, so much to be denied, dreaded, warded off. We're also likely to have an irritation response, anger, or a sense of something gone wrong when discomfort shows up. In other words, in failing to embrace discomfort, we increase it. It's not that we need to go looking for it—discomfort gladly comes to us. Nor do we need to make an ascetic religion of never setting things up so that comfort is an option; creating comforts and minimizing discomforts is part of self-care and care of our loved ones. Hyper-preparing, though, to be ready for any eventuality, makes us a slave of avoiding discomfort. The trick is to be willing and able to meet it whenever it passes through.
And pass through, it will: a chill wind, a sheet of wet rain, a season of heavy pollen; the food that sits wrong in your belly (and wait, how much did you eat?); the shameful memory, out of the blue; the mom being horrible to her kids at the store (and you think, I'm never that bad, but the problem is she's just an exaggerated version of your most exaggerated fear about your worst self); the outfit that never came together (but you're no longer home when you notice); the niggling thing that you don't deal with, and it won't shut up; the person whose rolling glance in your direction and away tells you, with utter clarity and no actual rudeness, that you just don't make the grade; that overbearing tendency that just took over again, in that precise moment when some oddly universal lull in conversation took over the room; those sudden false insights that tell you you'll never have the X, Y, or Z to get through this life gracefully; the tiresome, compulsive second-guessing; the thing happening to your kid that you just can't prevent and can't even see how to address; the realization you're outside of the group, even though everyone's being lovely; the financial predicament you're in, again (or worse, still); those 10 pounds you're so tired of gaining and losing again you're thinking of throwing out the juicer and just succumbing to fat, sick, & nearly dead. Got discomfort? A human being can only answer yes.
So how do you get comfortable with discomfort? Start with expecting it; embrace that it's part of life. When any thought moves through that would suggest it's a problem or something coming in that shouldn't be here, notice the thought. Notice the absurdity, the lie of it. If you're in the right space, it could even make you laugh. Your sock shouldn't be twisting into an imprecise ball inside your boot? That's a good one. Your kid shouldn't be using that tone or that volume or that urgency to express those woes? Another good lie to throw you off and keep you from getting present. ...
Come in Close
Be still with it. Pause when discomfort strikes, instead of moving away from it. Bring it close; expand it. Turn the light back on if you just extinguished it to keep from seeing what's there. Someone recently told me about shutting off the light to keep from seeing her body since she's gained weight. This is as good a metaphor as any and, for plenty, there's nothing metaphorical about it. Maybe the body idea still works for you with something other than weight: for me it's the one more varicose vein that just pushed through to the surface or the next squiggly purple capillary that ruptured there—and Goddess knows I already had a religion of keeping anyone and everyone's eyes off my legs. What if you allowed the light? What if you looked directly toward what you want to look away from? Can you gaze at what you find ugly, right on your own person? Can you find the beauty in it and the beauty in spite of it?
Responding to the Critic
If you tell me I have truly ugly veins in my legs, I'll agree with you. Tell me they're beautiful rivers that flow through my body's terrain murmuring a woman's story of … okay, I'm getting queasy, and I don't believe you. But if you tell me those veins make me ugly, I won't believe you either. I know they don't, though I still need to work with this in some moments. I can sit with them and walk myself through from hideous to human body doing something human bodies do. I can pan away from them, with my legs still in the picture, and see beautiful human being, imperfections included.
Working with the Mind
How else to get comfortable with discomfort? Work with your thoughts. Does fat keep you from creativity or love? Are varicose veins a liability for a single woman who's hit fifty? Only if she's a commodity. Working with my thoughts, I can remind myself that in all my life these legs haven't kept me from love. Why would they suddenly do that now?
This paragraph is brought to you by my love of The Work of Byron Katie. Sometimes I remind clients to just take a blank sheet of paper and write down every thought you have about whatever the current discomfort is. Those who've tried this, when reminded to do it again, say, “Ah, yes, it's so helpful when I do that.” When you've got the list of thoughts before you, you can see that your painful thoughts on the topic at hand are finite. You can take in that they're thoughts—just thoughts—not a narration of reality; not truth. You can notice how universal they are (as Katie says, they're recycled); how any human being sitting with the same discomfort may have a nearly identical list of thoughts. If you don't have time to question those thoughts or turn them around (i.e., look for how the opposite could be just as true, and find concrete examples of that perspective), then at least you've begun to tame the dragon by naming it: Just Thoughts. Thoughts, Byron Katie says, are the source of all the suffering in the world. They're certainly the culprit that brings on any suffering related to discomfort.
Another way to get comfortable with your discomfort is to take action. The action we most often take in response to discomfort is either to move away from it or to make it go away. Either one of these may be just fine as a workable response, but another possibility is to look for the invitation. What's my discomfort inviting me to do? If I'm uncomfortable about clutter, instead of telling myself I don't have time to deal with it, I might take ten minutes to file things away or make two phone calls on the to-do list or consolidate several lists into one, shrinking it as I go by simply dashing off the email I've made a note about. My parents, who have some quaint forms of speech that, like them, originate in Arkansas, often use a number we don't have in the Northlands: the fascinatingly imprecise number toorthree, which itself has precisely two syllables. They use this number all the time. In their world, hardly anything happens in twos or threes, and innumerable things happen in toorthrees. And truly, there's hardly anything calling for you to deal with it that you couldn't give toorthree moments to in order to do toorthree things to move them along—thus clearing your discomfort.
Wait—May I Speak to Procrastination?
Let me address procrastination directly, as it's the ultimate discomfort that thinks it's keeping you from discomfort. And doesn't it only compound it? Procrastination is possibly the best example of Byron Katie's “The hell you're trying to avoid is the hell you're already in.” I counseled someone who avoids her art to stop, welcome, and be still with the discomfort of procrastination when it shows up. Go sit in your work space with no thought of doing art. In that space, fully allow the discomfort of not doing it to take you over. Locate it in your body. Connect to the sensation, and give it your breath (the balm from within). Ask yourself, Is this any harder to face than the discomfort of the blank canvas? Notice that you can stand the discomfort, even if you don't like it. (It's not bigger than you. It won't take you over.) And being willing to meet the discomfort of procrastination, you may find yourself willing to meet the canvas, page, email, phone call, clutter, financial reckoning, yoga session, or that thing you told someone you'd do that you don't.
Sometimes when my clients and I have covered their thinking and their emotions and their action plans, it seems that what's left, if a bit of a furrowed brow remains, is this simple, can't-get-away-from-it truth: just get comfortable with your discomfort. It's okay.
love & blessings, Jaya
Free Exploration Sessions:
from 60 minutes to 30
For the past three years, I've built my business in part by offering free 60-minute sessions to give people an experience of my work. I also consider it a time tithe, as I offer the session to anyone who wants it, even if they have no intention of coaching with me. I love these sessions and find it deeply gratifying to sit with someone, anyone, and send them away with a new perspective on life, themselves, their circumstances—whatever—so that they can do it differently, connect to all that supports them, come closer to self-love. ...
It's come to this: more people show up wanting these sessions than I can properly make time for in the context of my client load. I've therefore cut them down from 60 to 30. It works! To get the free session, just fill out the contact form on my website.
The Practitioner Is In: Try 15!
Even half this time span works. I'm doing 15-minute sessions at my wonderful food coop in Ithaca, NY, as part of their new The Practitioner Is In program. I'm one of the rotating practitioners showing up on a Wednesday night every other month from 7 to 9. I'll be there again on April 10. Call 607.273.9392 to sign up for a 15-minute slot.
Get Over Her!
May 9 (internet program): I'll be the featured guest speaker on Lesbian Love Talk, Barb Elgin's weekly internet radio show, which airs at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday nights, with programs posted online to replay anytime. I'll be addressing the importance of letting go of a past relationship. Come hear (and if you wish, call in and ask) about not being a victim, getting to forgiveness, creating closure by yourself, and more. Check out Barb's Lesbian Love Talk show!
Note: If you're a straight woman or a man, there's little I'll say on this show that doesn't translate--switch the pronouns as needed.
Fun with Facebook!
I had such a great time in February creating posts about the whole romance-sex-relationship thing. When I declared this theme, I had no idea what a project I was launching or how much I would love playing with it. Below are the posts that got the most LIKES. I'll proceed in descending order from the top favorite. I was sort of stunned that this one was the winner, having expected it would get minimal LIKES. It did cause a few people to UNLIKE my entire page. There. I've been written off. (More proof that life is good if you simply stay in good standing with yourself.)
#24. On knowing your nonnegotiables: I think it's funny when people try to talk me out of wanting to be with a butch. They worry I'm narrowing my options. Quite right. You should see the rest of my nonnegotiables. It took a good while for me to be free enough to so fearlessly narrow my options. It may be that only one person fits through the opening that's left. Until she comes roaring in on her bike (horse? broom? Prius?), and if she never does, I'm having a great life. (P.S. Know your nonnegotiables.)
#25. Your love life is not meant to be a distraction; it's not meant to take you off course. You are here for a purpose that will or does in some way bring healing to the earth and its beings. Whether you've fully figured it out or (more important) properly honored it, there's some beautiful gift you have to give the world. Are you conducting your love life in a way that squanders your attention, energies, and time? This keeps you from your purpose; it dilutes the force of who you are and who you have the potential to become.
#9. People coming to from lifeless relationships wonder, How have I put up with this for so long? Some answers: You didn't believe you deserved better (you do; you do; you do). You thought this was better than the possibility of being alone (then pause, be alone, and learn how amazing you are). You were staying for the sake of someone else, probably children (but no one benefits from a bite-the-bullet approach to love). You were actually working on it, on yourself, on other things (and now it's time to close that loop and open to something else).
And here's what I posted on Valentine's Day:
#14. A day for love! See, hear, feel, smell, taste your vision of love; remove or post a profile, get off a fence and land on your feet, catch the spark & kindle the flame; take the right dose of chocolate; light candles with a dear one or no one; gaze into her eyes, his eyes, a cat's eyes, everyone's eyes; give hugs, roses, smiles, winks, words of true praise & appreciation; laugh & create levity all day; love yourself & count the ways. Valentine's Day is a human construct, so don't use it to make yourself feel bad about relationship, romance, or sex. It's just a good excuse to scooch in closer to love.