And I wonder: what am I grateful for this season?
I could list the usual, because this year has had its full share of blessings and accomplishments. Grateful for healthy kids, who are doing well socially and academically, for an amazing husband who loves and supports me, for a business that continues to grow as we grow with it. For staring nutrition school, finding a newfound passion, for being able to afford memorable family vacations and a few key household items that have made our lives better. For time spent with my extended family this year, for knowledge gained and experiences created.
But these blessings, wonderful all of them, are surface level blessings that should never be taken for granted. The experiences I tip my gratitude hat towards are the most, however, are the ones that didn’t always show up as glowy, shiny moments of joy. They started slowly, sometimes painfully, sometimes shrouded in doubt. These are the ones with staying power.
I am most grateful for allowing myself to experiences moments of discomfort this year, when I let myself be uncomfortable. In being uncomfortable, I found deep pockets of joy. The joy of becoming a better person, through better and for worse.
For coming home from day 2 of teacher training for a new yoga program I am auditioning for, depressed, down and self-critical. I haven’t been to a YTT in 11 years, and rewiring this ol’ brain to learn a new sequence with new wording, phrasing and coding took a lot longer than I thought it would.
Humbled, I started to question my ability to teach at all - allowed a psychic “stamping” of the foot, internal dialogue of “I am not going back tomorrow,” until I came out of it enought to push pause on myself. I basked in that moment of discomfort and self-criticism, let it run its course. Then I told myself “you don’t give up on things,” and went back the next day. I felt quieter, self-aware, determined, observing with deep interest as discomfort turned into a healthy respect for my own growth.
2015 has been a year of such moments, most notably in a few therapy sessions when I wanted to flee. When, realizing something was scratching at the surface from deep childhood, affecting my daily interactions with my husband, I grudgingly accepted it. Before delving into it with my therapist, I allowed myself to admit out loud that “I just don’t want to be here,” letting that negative, uncomfortable moment have its due. Julie nodded, acknowledged my discomfort, and said “let me know when you want to dive back in,” as she settled back in her chair.
I remember sitting there, tensed up, staring at a string of paper mache butterflies that hang from her ceiling. Almost whispering, daring myself to feel the intense discomfort, I said “I want these butterflies to take me away.” Before, I would push this feeling aside, put on a cheery face, go along the surface of whatever needed reckoning. But not now. I stared that emotion down and let it take over. Then, as quickly as it came on, the discomfort turned to acceptance. Then knowledge, humor, and understanding.
I walked out of that office feeling high on life, proud of myself and clear headed. Like something lifted inside me, a question mark that dictated a pattern behavior, now that I made some peace with it.
I deal with my kids differently, too, through uncomfortable moments of parenting. I hate having to wield the hammer of Thor when it comes to discipline, but I am not afraid to go against my usual pattern and be uncomfortable for a moment, to man up and call them out when they’re being inappropriate or disrespectful. The ping of awkward discomfort leaves faster now and I feel stronger afterwards, stronger than I could have before.
I believe a lot of people in our society shy away from allowing themselves to be emotionally uncomfortable. We hate to let ourselves be hungry for even a minute, though the clarity one receives from a light fast can’t be denied. It’s deemed ‘impossible’ by most people to sit quietly, silently, in meditation without a phone, music or headset nearby. It is uncomfortable, being silent with ourselves, looking at something awkward head-on.
It’s hard in relationships, to allow that space of vulnerability when a partner shares something personal and deep, and you let the wave of discomfort have its space. There’s something enlightening and peaceful afterwards, going through that with another person, or with just yourself, that you never would have gained had you continued to block out moments of discomfort.
I am grateful for discomfort, for clarity and slow wisdom. My instinct is still to shy away from discomfort because it sucks when that wave hits you, even though I now realize the calm and peace that will follow. I feel blessed to learn this lesson now, in my old(er) age, now that I can better accept it. Thanks to Jesus I’m past both the frantic stage of my 20s and the trenches years of the early-childhood parenting 30s.
I won’t go so far as to say “bring it on, discomfort,” because I love harmony and balance and everything going well, everyone getting along. I am a peacemaker Gemini, after all. But I think I am stumbling upon some grace, knowing that harmony can’t be reality every minute of every day. I see that we as people really don't become better, stronger, or more graceful if life always provides gentle waves and temperate breezes.
Through the storm of discomfort, the real works starts. And how sweet it is, those calm sunsets, when we can look back and marvel at how much we went through to be able to appreciate them.
So thank you, 2015, for weathering that storm with me . For teaching the joy of discomfort which will, I believe, provide a deeper comfort with myself. I invite everyone to seek it out and see what amazing things you can accomplish by sticking through it, trusting it, and learning from it.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving, in a weird, wonderful way.