I said this in a conversation the other day and someone corrected me and said it wasn’t a word; what I was really talking about was called discomfort. That discomfort was the correct word. I didn’t argue in the moment, I think I said something like, “No I really meant uncomfortability.” We didn’t argue, we both just moved on with our day.
However, it stuck in my craw - I am not even sure what a craw is or that I have one - there has to be a better turn of phrase...
Ok, I had to look it up - craw refers to the crop of a bird - the phrase meaning that something would get lodged there and the bird would have to act out in an irritated manner to get it out.
Ok, moving on. I was not really irritated with this person’s correction of my word but I do disagree that discomfort and uncomfortability are the same thing. Discomfort is something that happens. It connotes mild irritation in a somewhat passive manner. Uncomfortability seems harder, longer lasting, more of a process over discomfort’s event.
Discomfort is what we all endure on a plane ride or a long car ride, or getting up from being seated for too long. It is mildly unmanageable for a short duration. For me, it refers to something short lasting and relatively benign.
Uncomfortability is harder, longer lasting. The duration of which is not readily ascertainable or changeable. Uncomfortability is a process over time. It requires a willingness to be in discomfort again and again and again. It is a feeling that one comes to understand as a process rather than a solitary event that requires physical and mental dis-ease for a period of time.
For me, there is discomfort in spiritual growth for sure. It is hard. It is edgy. But it is more than just a passing dalliance with discomfort. Uncomfortability refers to a commitment to the process of getting to know discomfort well. Really finding out where and how the discomfort manifests in daily living. It requires being ok with being uncomfortable over a protracted period of time.
Why is this even a thing?
It is a thing because I believe my willingness to be in discomfort over time is the one thing that has forged me into a better, more enlightened version of myself. There have literally been a million places where the pain of where I was could either cause me to open or close. Closing the easier option because it had the capacity to shut off the pain sooner. Opening, much harder, because it was counter intuitive and required my willingness to stay open to the pain with no agreed upon end date.
Uncomfortability has become the process by which I grow now. I move forward in my life by recommitting daily to the growth process by being willing to be uncomfortable all the time. I no longer spend my energy looking for the safety zones and all the places to hide. Instead, my life, is now more about running around and pulling my covers all the damn time. It is hard. It results in a great deal of discomfort and causes me to be in a certain degree of pain more often than I would like.
Does this make me masochistic? No. It makes me willing to grow along spiritual lines. I have come to believe that pain is the touchstone of all spiritual growth. Pain the greatest teacher, not something that I need to avoid anymore. I can just welcome it in because I know that the payoff from pain’s visit, huge for my spiritual wellbeing.
My willingness to live in the uncomfortability of life, the best thing that I can commit to everyday. It has made the vagaries of life, the ups and downs less of a thing. More of a “of course that is happening” rather than a “oh shit, this sucks, this must end right now” kind of thing.
Getting to know oneself is not an easy process. There are many places where we can linger and get stuck. Reaching places where we stay safe because growing seems too hard, we are too tired or just don’t feel like we can endure one more minute of being in pain or discomfort.
However, this is where the magic happens...at least for me. My willingness to stay at this place of pain and discomfort is what has given me access to the insight and intuition. Which has resulted in me loving what is, what was and what will be. Being willing to be uncomfortable repeatedly has provided me a workable blueprint for living a relatively painless life. The pain that does come is exquisite, its properties deep and penetrating but fleeting. Not in the final result, but in the intensity of the feeling. Somehow my willingness to stay in the discomfort as a process, giving me a reprieve in the mental shitshow and moves me through the process with deeper understanding which allows the mental reprieve to come earlier and with less mental gymnastics than before.
So I am standing by the made up word. Discomfort is part of uncomfortability. But uncomfortability is not just discomfort. The former requiring a much longer commitment than the later. For me, I have found the most delicious and tantalizing notions right there on the edge of my willingness to feel the hard stuff. My willingness to lean into the painful despondency. Something miraculous happened when I became willing to stop gate keeping all the “negative” emotions and only allowing the “positive” ones entrance. Almost as if the act of just flinging wide the gates, freed them all and decreased their severity and intensity in the simple act of setting them free to be whatever they needed to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I like feeling happy and positive and joy way more than I like feeling sad, depressed or angry. But I have come to see all the range of my emotions as the best teachers about my life and how that interacts with others. My willingness to stay with the hard emotions, feelings and thoughts, the process by which I wake up to me, to life and to the lessons that I may have been getting for a very long time that I could not seem to learn. Uncomfortabiltiy the process by which I grow, I change and I learn. It isn’t to be avoided, after all. It is to be welcomed. It isn’t to be endured, but instead celebrated. It is the process by which I get free. And who wouldn’t want that?