I have a wee note here in my notebooky list of bloggy ideas: “discomfort.”
I wracked my brain trying to remember what this might indicate. I thought of advertisements for remedies for various discomforts and decided it wasn’t anything quite so gross or banal. Then I—sort of—remembered. It was an overheard complaint someone was making about not wanting to do something because it caused her discomfort. Or something like that. Ok, I didn’t exactly remember the referent, but I did remember my reaction.
Give me a break.
How many things cause us discomfort in the world. I mean, just right now, my feet are a bit cold, which isn’t totally comfortable, but you know, I can deal with that. The person’s comment, though caused me to ponder, in general, about how people seem to want to avoid any kind of discomfort or inconvenience whatsoever. Buying any little thing, taking any little detour to try to avoid the inevitable little discomforts of life.
I don’t, for instance, need any kind of foot warmer to avoid my little cold foot problem right now. Neither any special piece of apparel. Thank you, I already have a perfectly good pair of socks.
Granted, if something causes me enough discomfort, I generally try to do something to change it or to fix it. I’m currently wondering whether a pair of shoes over my lovely socks would be a good choice.
But it seems to me that the original referent was about avoiding an activity or a situation because of some rather minor discomfort. And to that I say again, Give Me a Break. I can count any number of experiences that caused me “discomfort,” things I knew ahead of time wouldn’t always be pleasant, but I did them anyway. Childbirth is an easy one. But perhaps a more colorful and exotic experience would serve here.
Hot air ballooning in New Mexico, let’s say in October, during the International Balloon Fiesta,.
Seriously. You have to get up really early in the morning. Predawn is best, so that take-off can occur just on the other side of sunrise. It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s damp. The high-desert air prickles the insides of your nose. You’re wearing eight layers of clothes because you know that over the course of the morning, it will warm up gradually, but dramatically, so that by lunchtime you’ll wish you were wearing shorts. The coffee or hot chocolate is altogether scalding in the flimsy cup that inevitably slops sticky and/or hot liquid onto your gloved hand and sleeve, which will later be caked with sandy mud.
The work of getting the balloon set up is hard. Lifting, pulling, lugging, yanking. The inflation fan is dead loud. Oh, and cold, if you have to help hold open the throat of the balloon for cold inflation. The propane burners: also dead loud. And hot. Really hot. Especially if you’re holding open the throat of the balloon for the initial hot inflation.
From here, there are two beautiful paths. One has you in the gondola, and one has you hanging onto the outside of the gondola with a dozen other people to keep the jumpy balloon from taking off.
In the gondola, it’s crowded. You’re squished very close to at least two other bodies in a small gondola. There is probably a propane tank or some other apparatus jabbed into your butt or your shoulder. The top half of you feels sunburned with each blast of heat from the burner, while the rest of you is cold. Especially your feet.
On the outside edge of the gondola, it’s crowded. All of those other bodies piled on to hold down a balloon that wants to pop up above the cooler air are squished and jabbing into each other trying to maintain a handhold. Someone’s face might be in your armpit. Someone’s elbow is almost certainly in your ribs.
Why would you endure these things?
Because when the pilot gives the go-ahead, and everyone let’s go… It’s like magic. In the gondola, the world floats away from you on a puff of air. You are flying like a bird, and in the long quiet moments between burns, the world of sounds is cushioned, peaceful. The tranquility is momentarily infinite. On the ground, this monstrosity of wicker and metal and fabric and fire that weighs hundreds of pounds, just gently lifts from the ground, lighter than a feather. And floats away like a bubble.
No matter your perspective, it’ll take your breath away. And without enduring the myriad discomforts, you’d miss it.
But the endurance of discomfort need not be so grand.
Sitting here at the computer, next to my window, enduring my slightly chilled feet, I just saw a little bird, a tiny brown fluffy thing that would fit into the palm of my hand. It’s shuffling around in the garden, rummaging for bugs, the remains of last year’s basil seeds perhaps. And then it just fluffed itself up into the sky. It’s likely much colder than I am.
Isn’t everything worth doing like that, though? Anything really worth doing is going to have moments, or eons of things that are not only uncomfortable but unpleasant or even undesirable, but once surmounted they lead on through to the goal. No thing that you love is without parts that you hate. But that doesn’t mean you quit.
I love to knit. I hate weaving in all the little tails at the end, or sewing bits together. But I do it. I love my children, but there are many aspects of child rearing that I’d love to take a pass on (shoe tantrums, just for instance). But they are all one. Without the discomfort, the experience is incomplete. The triumph less full.
Don’t quit when it gets hard. Don’t pass because it will be uncomfortable. Let’s figure out a way to find beauty, and value, and appreciation in those parts that we find uncomfortable.
Next Post: My presidential platform. ;)