Discomfort is the call to set yourself free.
While sitting in the hotel in Donauworth Germany, listening to the endless traffic rolling by, I realized that I was actually BORED.
This is something most moms never get to experience. What is that? And we all would love to experience it, until we do.
Boredom sneaks in when there is nothing we have to do and nothing we want to do. Staying in a hotel I had no cleaning or cooking to do and no kids to take care of. And frankly, at the moment, there was just nothing I wanted to do. I’d read, done yoga, journaled, showered. Nothing to do.
The obvious thing would be to head out into the world. Walk through town and explore. See the shops, the architecture, the bike path, and the people. I had already done all of those several times and found myself not wanting to do them again. I was just bored.
This is a word I don’t allow at my house. If the kids say they’re bored I’ll give them something to do. The house always needs cleaning and piano can always be practiced.
But since I so rarely experience boredom, I decided to sit with it and see what happened.
I was edgy, fidgety, and started even getting angry. Angry? Why angry? I was so uncomfortable in this space of having nothing to do, I would find myself picking up things and moving them around in the pretense of “cleaning”. It happened without me even noticing. So I’d sit back down and just try to BE.
When we truly have nothing to do, nothing to DISTRACT us, all the things that we try to keep at bay begin to come forward. The thoughts, the fears, the worries, the memories, the stuff we don’t always want to face within ourselves. In our busy lives, we can move those things to the side and not address them head-on. Some people can keep this going indefinitely, even their whole lives. They’re constantly on the run from the things inside.
We all know those people, the ones who fill their lives with constant activity. They move from one function to the next, they over commit, never have time, and are always late. If there is ever a pause or a quiet moment, they’ll fill it. It could be social media or texting, reading, a phone call, cleaning, TV, anything at all. But they will fill it. Without ever realizing that if they actually sat for even a few minutes with that quiet, they’d find a treasure trove of information about themselves.
The problem is it’s uncomfortable.
Actually, it can hurt like hell and it can feel very, very lonely.
Here’s the crazy thing. I assured myself that I was NOT one of those people. Our time is very balanced with activity and down time. I have empty spaces in my day. So do my kids. The thing is, we still fill them with SOMETHING. I will pick up a book or magazine. Maybe study or read. Clean out that random drawer that’s been bugging me, go through the girls’ growing art collection. Things that feel like I’m doing nothing, when really I’m not.
So here I was with nothing to do, alone, and so uncomfortable. I had to physically fight the urge to get on my phone or computer. To read, write, move. Why was this so hard? What was I running from? What was I trying to distract myself from?
And then the fantasies began. Something I’ve learned about myself in recent years is that when stressed or unhappy, I will resort to fantasy to escape. These fantasies vary greatly but always have a general theme – they are me, doing something of my own, and succeeding. It could be Yoga, or flying, or finishing college, learning martial arts (and of course being Wonder-Woman-good at them) or a myriad of other incredible accomplishments that I haven’t actually attained.
As I sunk into fantasy land I instantly began to feel better. The anxiety and fear subsided and I again felt calm and normal. And then it hit me. I use my fantasies to distract me from some deeply buried sadness, fear, or regret. Or all of the above. There was something there that really wanted me to look closely at it, because it obviously wasn’t going to go away anytime soon.
In all reality this feeling was nothing new, however I’d never had or taken the time to really sit down and examine it closely. When forced to be with it for awhile, I realized this has come up many times before over the years. It shows up in the form of a malaise, a funk, that I can’t quite shake. It never stays around long and it doesn’t leave me incapacitated. I always assumed the feeling came from the season, my diet, my hormones, or some other outward source that would make me feel generally bad about everything in my life. The reflections upon my life would begin with “I wish I would have…” and they wouldn’t stop there. Internal negative dialogue would flow freely as I beat myself up for not going to college and having a good career, or following my dream to be a pilot. It’s a slippery slope though and once started I would slide down through regret directly into a sticky, smelly pit of self-pity, blame, fear, anger, and despair. It’s a toxic bubbling soup of nastiness that doesn’t make one joyful or kind.
I always managed to pull myself out of it, although I’m not sure how. Some of it was my husband’s reassurance that I HAVE done well, I’ve just done it differently. Some was the reminder that the years I have spent with our children are precious and priceless and they have reaped great rewards. Some is just that it’s not in my nature to be that negative. I’m generally a happy and positive person. But I think a lot of the way I pulled myself out was through my vivid imaginings of THE WAY IT COULD HAVE BEEN. I could perk up my mood with these thoughts of a past I did not live enough to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. All without looking deeply at the issues underneath.
From my journal during those days of alone time and loneliness…
“Alone again. Traveling to Sweden. Traveled to Munich by train. Now on the plane. Being alone is such an interesting thing. Sometimes so luxurious. Other times so frightening. But what is there to be afraid of? Strangers? Missing a train or screwing something up? That’s not alone. That’s just navigating without help when you don’t know the language. Alone. Alone with your thoughts and fears. The voices in your head. Alone in the quiet. Or the noise. It can be a place of rest – Alone. Or a place of torture – Lonely. A place where you start to think of the things you try never to think about. The things that you stay busy just to avoid. The things that you don’t speak aloud but that come roaring back to you in these times when you are lonely.
These are the things I hear. That my friends don’t care, or like me or that they are actively trying to hurt me. To plunge the knife in my back. I hear my faults ticked off one by one. I question my abilities and talents. I run for the safety of fantasy. I create a world in my head where I am the master. Rather than sit in discomfort, I imagine these things. It’s hard to drag myself back to reality – so attractive, addictive and seductive are these fantasies. It gets to where rather than return to the world, I would prefer to stay in the false “safety” of my fantasies.”
When I started reflecting on the feelings, this is the pattern I saw. Sadness and anger, mixed with regret, fear, and blame. I looked back upon my life and was so disappointed in the choices I made – or WHY I made the choices I made.
- I didn’t go out for high school volleyball or track because I didn’t think I would be good enough.
- I wanted to be a pilot, but I looked at the curriculum and decided it would be too difficult and I wouldn’t be able to handle it.
- I wanted to go to college, but repeatedly found, or made reasons to put it off.
- I wanted to do something on my own after high school, but not only returned home for awhile because school was too big and too scary, also ran to Colorado to be close to my boyfriend who was still in high school.
Essentially, I look back at my life with regret. I wanted to do so many things and I didn’t. I didn’t because I was SCARED. Scared of failure, scared of success, scared of a challenge, of being alone, of being lonely, of being seen, of being heard, of following my dreams because they might be crushed, of following my heart, of doing those things that burned brightest inside of me.
You know what happens to that light inside when you don’t follow it? It flickers and dies. OR, it burns brighter until it consumes you in a giant ball of flame. Either way, it will demand your attention at some point in your life. It will knock at the door of your subconscious incessantly driving you to really examine it, or be driven crazy by it. I realized I am at the point of examination bordering on insanity. I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT IT.
And this is where the discomfort and pain come in. To look back at your life and feel regret for your decisions – or for the reasons you made those decisions, is a terrible feeling. It feels like failure. And not failure like, “I gave it my all, I tried, but it didn’t work out.” No, it is the ultimate failure of not even trying. Of shirking your duty, your calling, your life’s purpose. The reason you came here to play this game. It is a hole in your very heart, a broken place, a deep well of sadness that weighs you down and threatens to drown you.
So I find myself here, wondering what to do next and how to access these feelings of fear, failure, regret, sadness, and anger. How do I access them, but more importantly, how do I ERADICATE them? Well, the obvious answer is to start listening to my fucking heart and do the things that are burning in my soul. I wanted to fly? Fine, I’m going to fly. I’ve gotten my medical and my student pilot certificate. I’m studying for the written test and Johnny quizzes me every week. I want to write? Here I am, writing. I want to teach yoga to a bigger audience? Well, I JUST submitted my application to Yogafort. I guess, as they say, the rest is history.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Neale Donald Walsh
Have you done anything lately to get out of your comfort zone? Have you taken a new job or switched careers completely? Learned something new? Took on a new hobby? Spent time with new friends? Started working out? Expressed yourself fully to a friend or family member?
How did it feel?
Uncomfortable? Scary? Exciting?
Did it reaffirm your need to stay within your comfort zone or make you ache for MORE?