In three seasons out of four, I most often read and write under an espresso-brown fleece throw in my overstuffed living-room chair. Especially on the chilly days, I even have a space heater at my feet as the winter wind whips around the bare branches of the tree right outside my window. Inside, my home is dressed in a warm palette, with textured and inviting fabrics, round edges, fresh flowers and candles waiting to be lit in most rooms.
My place is a pillowed sanctuary from the occasionally-harsh conditions of the world for an introvert and one with more than her fair share of sensitivities. Too much light, noise, extreme temperatures, too many demands, stress, drama or chaos can all have me diving under the fleece for a reprieve. Can you say ‘high maintenance’?
While having this place of serenity has been my sanity saving grace on many occasions, I’ve recently discovered that I may also be using it as a form of self-medication. Not only to soothe my weary psyche after a long workday but to also wrap myself in a cocoon of self-talk about why it is unnecessary to indulge in anything that makes me feel bad. Uncomfortable.
Most recently, I’ve noticed that I’ve become quite elegant at avoiding the following:
- Beginning a task with a long-term deadline where progress is not quickly noticeable.
- Initiating a conversation with someone involving me asking directly for what I want.
- Allowing myself to fully express a hard, vulnerable feeling even when I’m alone.
Because of my well-developed verbal reasoning skills, I’m able to convince myself that I’ve been through enough stress through the working day so when I get home, I don’t want to deal with more drama. I simply want the comfort that is due me.
The problem with this approach is that the challenges I avoid only appear to disappear like a parent does to a toddler when his pudgy little hands are covering his eyes in a game of peekaboo.
So where do the hard things go? According to my bodywork therapist, I have a few holding points for them in my shoulders and lower back that are asking for my attention often.
Beneath the layer of avoidance of uncomfortable things, there is a deep river of grief and fear. Not having to wade into those waters is so much easier if I choose instead to focus on procrastination, choose solitude over relationships and talking myself out of feeling feelings even though I’m standing hip-deep in them. Grief and fear. The Big Discomforts.
Since storing unprocessed emotional material in my body’s cells is hardly a positive long-term solution, it seems that engaging in little discomforts might be a start. Breaking it down into manageable chunks. Looking beneath the surface irritation, panic, procrastination, the avoidance and the desire to cocoon for a glimpse at the dark flowing waters below.
This week, I began by allowing some little moments of uncomfortable, raw, exposed vulnerability in the safety of my sanctuary. Without trying to self-soothe and negotiate an express trip through the process. As unnerving as it is to begin, initiate and feel deeply, little by little, I’ve found surprisingly, they don’t consume. Under the panic, grief and fear are feelings. Just feelings. Feelings asking to be felt instead of hidden away as muscle aches and pains, physical tightness and exhaustion.
They exist whether I give them room to breathe or not. But what could be released, opened and nourished as a result of opening the door to little discomforts? Capacity to sit with The Big Discomforts?
I guess I’ll see. Little by little.