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I recently read Amanda Lang’s The Beauty of Discomfort. She explains that “As we learn to lean into our discomfort, it will gradually turn into comfort. Our zone of discomfort moves, in other words, as our comfort zone expands.” And apparently my comfort zone really needs expanding because uncomfortable situations keep presenting themselves.
Like when we were in Antigua for a family vacation. Every night the resort had some form of entertainment and our last night was a Christmas party with a steel band and a children’s Christmas choir. The choir was comprised of a dozen children from a special needs school on the island. It broke my heart to see children with various levels of ability and think about how challenging their lives must be – both for them and their parents.
When the show started it reminded me of some of the school Christmas concerts we had attended when our daughter was very young – cute but a little uncomfortable to watch and slightly painful to listen to at times. So, I plastered a polite, fake smile on my face and prepared to endure it. But the teachers and the kids were putting their whole hearts into the show and having such a good time that slowly my fake smile became a real smile. There were three older boys in the choir and the huge smiles on their faces clearly showed that they weren’t thinking about challenges or hardships. They were singing and dancing and loving every moment of it. Living their best lives as my daughter would say.
I think that if I had followed my urge to leave after the first scratchy, ear piercing, notes I would have missed out on something special. The more the audience clapped and whooped for the children, the more joyful and exuberant they became. When it was over, I realized that their performance was a real gift. I experienced something I would normally have shied away from and it left me feeling uplifted.
I’m learning that by allowing more discomfort in – expanding my comfort zone – I’m opening my life up. In The Brain Fog Fix, Dr. Mike Dow describes a “belief that we should never be uncomfortable in any way. On a much deeper level, this conviction comes from fear. Living life and making choices based on fear is no way to invite abundance, joy, and love. For human beings, it is our experiences that have the profound power to change the way we think and feel.”
My experience with the children’s’ concert changed me. Last year, watching the Hospice staff caring for my father lean into uncomfortable situations – when I wanted to run away – changed me.
Recently, my experience of helping someone declutter their house – when it was the last thing I wanted to do – changed me. I was with a group of new friends when one of them shared her overwhelm at moving her mom into a care home and selling her house, all while being a single mom with two kids. I had recently gone through a similar situation cleaning out my dad’s house and was still trying to declutter my own house of the extra stuff we’d brought home. When another member of the group offered to help clean and declutter her house, my initial reaction was “Been there, done that and didn’t particularly enjoy it!”
So, I stayed silent when the others said they’d help too. I really didn’t want to help. I was busy and didn’t want to clean another house. But when the emails started about picking a date to meet and the recipient of the help expressed her deep appreciation and gratitude, I couldn’t say no. So, I went. Reluctantly. Very reluctantly. But you know what? It was fun. I actually enjoyed myself. I liked being part of team accomplishing a goal and it felt really good to help someone. And bonus, I grew closer to my new friends in the process.
Once again, had I followed through with trying to avoid perceived discomfort I would have missed what turned out to be a fun and enriching experience. If I always try and stay in my comfort zone who knows what other cool experiences I’ll miss out on. Hopefully I’ll remember that the next time I feel a tinge of discomfort and lean into it rather than running away.