Healing and Discomfort
I have a friend who regularly and repeatedly compares me to Winnie the Pooh. I’m ok with this and feed some of these inherent Pooh-bear tendencies. I’m ok with coming across as a little bit simple, often confused by cultural references and clueless about politics. I’m good at seeing patterns in humans, but I’m terrible at remembering dates and facts and history. Likely I will ask you your name a bunch of times before it sticks if we meet casually, but if you tell me your story, I’ll remember you immediately – “Oh, you’re the one who grew up in the Okanagan whose dad disappeared when you were six…” Like Winnie the Pooh’s accidental insights, my hope is that some of the things that I see and speak can actually make people sit in their Thinking Spots and, well, think.
Also, like Winnie the Pooh, I’m willing to be wrong now, which was definitely not always so.
When I was in my 20s, I did what I thought was a huge amount of healing work on myself. It probably was a huge amount, given that I got to age 19 pretty fucked up. I got clear about a lot of things in those years and my relationships with many people improved hugely. My relationship with myself was still judgmental and not tremendously kind, though, and I had a tendency to be arrogant out of fear that I might not actually be all that special or important. It was defensive arrogance so that no one could see the gibbering, quivering mass of insecurity that I was on the inside.
In my 30s, as I’ve said elsewhere, shit fell apart in a monumental way. The healing that I did to climb out of that devastating depression has been more whole and more satisfying than any of the patch-up repairs that I did in my 20s.
I’m thinking that this is how healing goes. We do what we can to reach further into wholeness from wherever we are. So when we are hurting but we can’t see the roots of the pain, we fix what it is that we can see. Then from that new place, we can see deeper into the pain. Maybe we have more resilience now, or maybe the taste of wholeness that we have had invites us to reach for more.
Not much of this is comfortable.
If you want comfort, then you have to be ready to tell yourself some lies and keep on believing them. And still sometimes the framework of belief that supports those lies will wobble and you’ll have to scramble to keep the façade intact, or else have a look at those belief systems.
Also: happiness and comfort are not synonymous. Both are transitory emotions, and happiness is this mythological measure of success in life that we hold ourselves to. The epic search for happiness is an illusion and a delusion. There is endless dissatisfaction available here. Neither of these is something to strive for. You can be uncomfortable and deeply satisfied and in the flow of your life.
And of course, it’s not all-or-none. This stuff goes in waves. Discomfort and humbling interactions this week, radiant joy next week, ordinary and mundane the week after, and washing dishes, brushing teeth every day…
Turns out that I prefer to cultivate an intention of being in love with my life and being interested in the places and interactions and conversations that humble me or show me up as an asshole or make me really, really uncomfortable. If I can be in love with those, then all of me can breathe a sigh of relief because all of me gets to be here in my body.
So we heal what we can heal at the time that we can heal it. The greatest thing that we can do for ourselves is to try not to go to sleep when discomfort arises and be lulled back into that trickily easy place of the lie of comfort and the myth of happiness.
I find on a personal level that staying awake and in discomfort are hardest with family of all kinds. We can go to a meditation retreat and be feeling all enlightened and when we get home to real life it all falls to shit. We can learn how to be a calm, Non-Violent Communicator and still find ourselves shrieking at our children. We can feel like we’ve really got a handle on being the child of the parents that we have and still throw up our huge walls of defense when the phone rings and the caller display reads “Mom and Dad”. Of course this is so. This is the complicated business of being human. These are the people whose love and acceptance or lack thereof can make or devastate our lives. No one can blindside you with hurt like your family.
Collectively, in many places in the world, it feels like we are coming around again to heal another layer of our deep European-descendant wounds, and specifically the ways that we have hurt and continue to hurt other people. I speak here as a European descended woman living in North America on land that was forcefully and violently taken and kept by people of my collective ancestry. I think that in the past century we did a certain amount of healing on our collectively held insanity around racial supremacy and gender inequality and bringing to consciousness the atrocities of how we Europeans treated the people we stole from their homes in Africa and the people whose home we stole here. And then we White Folks fell asleep again for many years. During those years we got to feel comfortable. “There’s no racism. There’s no systemic violence. Women have the right to vote. All is fair.” But this was, of course, only an illusion.
So now we delve into the next layer, my friends. We can choose to be comfortable assholes or we can choose to be uncomfortable and open to this life and these lessons. There’s no shortage of role models for the comfortable asshole, either, just in case you needed reminding of the extreme manifestation of this illusion. But just be aware, as I will try to be aware, that it takes much waking up and waking up again to stay open to useful, ultimately clearing, discomfort.
And, just to be contrary, I shall say that after a couple of very uncomfortable weeks where I had to say and hear things that were decidedly awkward and hard and humbling, I think that it’s ok this week to just sit and eat honey and stare at the sky for a while in my Thinking Spot to recharge before taking on the next layer of waking up. Actively Doing Nothing is sometimes useful and necessary too, so that we can be still on the inside and have enough oomph available to act when it is called for. I know that it’s a privilege to be able to put the struggle down and walk off into comfort that is available to me.
As a beautiful human I know says, “Stay woke, friends.”