Why You Work With Comfort & Discomfort to Create Masterfully
I started running on October 12th. If you had told me then or even two months ago that I would be running a half marathon on March 5th, I would have politely asked you how much Merlot you had before dinner.
What is even more surprising than the miles ran (60+ in January!) and the half marathon: running is making me into a more determined and courageous person. Running is teaching me to bear greater comfort and discomfort. To support myself to endure.
I believe to make stuff happen in life you must learn, in your body as well as your mind and heart, how to allow greater and greater goodness and support in while also learning to tolerate more uncertainty, fear, and power. I believe both of these make up the endurance you need to flourish.
But endurance can’t come from a locked-jaw, squinty-eyed, clenched-fist approach to your desires. Well, it can, but the health and life consequences rack up devastatingly fast – I don’t recommend it. You also can’t foster endurance if you keep waiting to create and maintain a perfect state of comfort, support, and ease. That’s just fear borrowing comfort’s bathrobe to fool you.
You need, like my running coach Jabe says, to work with both comfort and discomfort. To make a weave, a wobble, of both. To live in a dynamic give and take. To be in relationship with what you need to thrive and to keep moving forward.
Here’s an example from my running. First, I have to admit (still after all these years!) that giving myself comfort, pleasure, and support is harder for me than bearing discomfort. I can get squinty-eyed and locked-jaw with the best of them. That’s one reason I pledged that when I moved to Colorado I would make an effort to join our new community. I had previously excelled at exiling myself.
When I heard there was a neighborhood running group, I emailed Jabe. Can I join? (I was going to walk, not run, with the group.) This was difficult for me – was I welcome? Would anybody talk to me? Those kind of thoughts. But I did, and now? I have the comfort of a great group, which is why I’m able to stretch myself to run longer and longer distances. Which is making me feel so strong in other areas of my life.
Comfort is the foundation for stretching (however you define comfort, in this case: community).
The bearing of discomfort has also grown in me because of running. When my legs turn to concrete or I can’t get my breath, I think, “Won’t last forever. Just run to that fence post.” When my iPhone freezes up and I have 45 minutes more to run in the dark and cold with no music to keep my company, I think, “You got this, girl. Stay present.” When my running tights bag at the crotch every 1/4 mile, I think, “Keep going until that fence post. Then you can pull them up again.”
All of this then translates to working on my memoir, these blog posts, my teaching offers. “You said you were going to write 1200 words; you have 123 more to go. You can do it, darling!” Or to the more subtle work of owning my power, being a stand for what I care about in the world. Bearing discomfort actually helps me extend myself to others and be less self-obsessed.
Now we come to you – take a breath and ask yourself,
- What comfort do you need to do your best work in the world?
- What discomfort do you need to learn to welcome, breathe with, run to the next fence post with?
- Could you train in any complementary ways (so many options besides running) to foster both comfort and discomfort, to increase your capacity?
We need your voice and your strength in our world.
P.S. We may have one spot open in my upcoming writing workshop at my house near Boulder, Colorado. It’s called Writing Personal Stories for Fun and Profit. Hurry over and check it out, and apply if the description truly sings to you!
P.P.S. I recorded the BEST class (so proud of myself!) for a fr*ee series I’m part of entitled Being Enough: Writing Your Way to Fulfillment. It’s a funny, practical, and deeply nourishing experience that might shift your relationship to anything you are feeling overwhelmed about. Plus there are a lovely bunch of other interesting people offering sessions, too. Check it out by clicking here. It’s sponsored by one of my publishers, New World Library, so it should be great!