Lean In and Listen

We came rolling into May and I imagine when you read our first blog of the month and discovered we were delving into Being Uncomfortable, your first instinct was to run and hide. Your first instinct was to find something else, anything else, to read. Your desire was to feel anything but discomfort because hasn’t that been the prevailing experience for weeks?

I would venture to say yes and no. Yes we are in difficult times. Some, by far, more than others. There are many who are in emotionally and financially crushing times. And then there are those of us who have, thus far, been relatively spared. We have been spared by no action of our own, no merit or earning just by sheer and utter grace.

And for those that fall into that latter category, it’s accurate to say we are not quite fully in our discomfort because we still have the usual things in our life to some degree that allow us to opt out. We can Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, Netflix, Hulu, eat, drink, work our way through this and the pain is pushed to the fringes, to the periphery.

We don’t let it close enough to change us. We don’t let it near enough to singe. We don’t let it within arms length for fear it may wrap its arms around us. This is what privilege looks like. This is also what denial creates.

Saturday morning I woke up with the same thoughts that have been rolling around in my head for days. The same pang in my side. The same heaviness in my heart. And for the first time, maybe since I was a kid, I let go of the resistance to a big emotional experience. I let it hit me. I let it wash over me. I decided, for once, I was going to soak all of the emotions in and let them tell me what they needed to say. It didn’t matter if they were true, or logical, or necessary, or all the many ways I have employed to talk myself out feeling my life fully.

We almost all do it with the way we half-tell our truths and when they get too close to the wound we say, “well anyway, that’s just how it is,” and we wave off the emotion both verbally and physically with our hands as if that’s all it takes to heal our heart. We excuse our emotions as if they are some sort of foreign invader that others would never understand with,  “Phew, enough of that.”  All those ways we deflect. All the ways we have learned to not let life hurt too much. All the ways we’ve learned to settle for a life that doesn’t feel too bad and by extension never feels too good either.

We learned these coping skills because we don’t have healing skills. We believe that time heals all wounds when all it does is allow us to become experts at deflecting our pain. And that is why learning how to be comfortable being uncomfortable is the key to growth. This does not mean the goal is always being in a state of strife and upheaval; it’s that when we are, we can sit in the storm and be the eye instead of being thrashed about by the wind.

As I was saying, Saturday morning it descended. I knew it as soon as I opened my eyes. And I thought to myself, what if this feeling is just pointing me to what needs fixing? What if this heaviness is pointing me toward a better way of being? What if it’s just pointing me to where I need to grow next? And what if I can do that, sit in it, let the emotional stew simmer its way to a place where I will know what is needed next. And I can leave out the shame and the guilt and the regret that so often talks us out of seeing where we could do better.

It hurts our ego and our pride when our once blindspot seems to have been healed by a 20/20 lens that you can hardly fathom how something that now seems so clear you have missed for so long. And that clarity comes with a knowing and a dawning of light so bright that you are left squinting. It hurts your eyes as much as  it hurts your heart.

I said to those who gathered with me for meditation Saturday morning, what if the discomfort we feel in our job, in our life, in our relationships or wherever is just telling us what needs our attention? What if it’s telling us where we are next called to go?  What if that’s what it means to be alive —  to always be growing, to always be learning how to do better?

But when we muzzle the messenger how can we possibly hear what it has to say? I saw an Instagram post Saturday morning that said: I believe what prevents us from stratospheric growth is that we’re afraid to admit negative behaviors in ourselves because it would mean we’re definitely less than, or weak or incapable. So we’d rather not see or admit those traits because if we see them, we’ve been conditioned to shame ourselves for them. The secret to fast growth is to LOOK AT IT ALL but without all the shame.”

It was like taking in fresh air after holding your breath. The idea that we can see the ways we’ve gone wrong and do it without all the shame was like having someone open the door in a darkened room and say, this way! Who among us hasn’t avoided dealing with something because we are reluctant to see “our part.” So we don’t. We refuse the discomfort and with it the growth.

As we come full circle to learning how to be uncomfortable it’s about being able to face the things that you already know lurk inside and give them a new perception. What if this pain, this grief, this sadness, this fear, this “whatever” you are feeling is merely a guide? What if it doesn’t have to mean that you are a terrible person but that it means that you are a deeply flawed human person who is being guided to bring the darker parts to the light.

That doesn’t mean you need to bring them to the light of social media. That doesn’t mean you need to tell anyone and everyone what you’ve been harboring. Sometimes it’s enough to tell yourself what you’ve been feeling and respond to your own need for acceptance. To be able to look at yourself and say, yes that hurts. Yes, that is painful. How can we go about this another way? How can we lean into this for the next clue to unraveling our own personal mystery of life?

Being uncomfortable, I am learning, is actually the great alchemy of life. It shows us what to release and what to pick up. It shows us how to grow and evolve. Without it we always stay the same.

Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G

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