The only thing I wanted to experience last Friday was the anonymity and peaceful comfort of the rainy urban woods. Ajax and I took our 24th ramble of the year through Ravenna and Cowen Parks. Following a recent dream in which I got hopelessly mired in mud, I’ve come to recognize the necessity of struggle. That doesn’t make it any easier to face discomfort to grow.
The past three years have been physically and emotionally challenging. Uncomfortable. Painful. As a trainer familiar with physical challenges, I’ve thrown everything into recovering from a broken right wrist. Now that it’s healed, I have to confront the emotional rollercoaster of midlife career changes, a pseudo-empty nest, and changing family dynamics, all while the world continues to feel angst around COVID.
But life is all about struggle and change, right?
That doesn’t mean we have to enjoy it. Or can we?
Prior to March 2020, I was heavily involved in our community. I used to help at Mary’s Place, shelve books at the local elementary school library, lead outings for the Seattle Mountaineers, and volunteer weekly at Woodland Park Zoo, in addition to working 20-30 hours a week at my company. We also traveled internationally every other year.
The pandemic changed everything. I’m sure it has for you, as well. What have you given up? What would you take back, if you could only summon the courage to retrieve it?
Right now, nearly all of my coaching remains virtual. I’ve retained two volunteer positions, one on Write On the Sound‘s steering committee, and the other writing a quarterly column for the Mountaineer Magazine. If we travel, we’ve been driving, until our debut flight to Texas last November.
It is no wonder that I’m feeling anxious about two upcoming airline trips. One, solo, will be to visit family in early April. The other will include birding in Arizona with my husband and a few friends, several weeks later.
I can count solo trips I’ve taken in the last three decades on one hand. And we’ve never flown to bird with friends. Both represent new challenges that will push me way outside of my comfort zone.
Patience Around Fear
I know I’m doing challenging emotional, spiritual, and psychological work, but part of me feels like it’ll never be fast enough. Susan Jeffers, in her book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, writes, “Patience means knowing it will happen . . . and giving it time to happen.” Is there something in your life that you know you have to change but wonder if it ever will?
Part of me feels like I’ve already spent plenty of time. But just like grief, which has no limit or expiration, facing fear has no limit or expiration, either. As a good friend recently reminded me, “Be the buffalo.” It would seem that the faster you tackle it, the sooner the discomfort will be over.
But man, sometimes it is JUST. SO. HARD. Sound familiar?
According to Jeffers, “The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is … to go out and do it.”
So this spring, I bravely face the future, knowing that I have tremendous support, a capable mind and resilient body, clients and readers who cheer me on, and a message to share.
Don’t just dream it, LIVE IT.
If we rest on our laurels, choosing only what’s comfortable every day, we’re simply existing. And I don’t know about you, but I want to reach the finish line for the second half of my life without any regrets. I don’t want to just coast.
Embrace and Face Discomfort
Things we accomplish easily don’t feel as meaningful or as important as those that we agonize over. In the world of writing, deep in every story comes “the dark night of the soul.” It’s the point at which the hero feels like all is lost. Hope is gone. There’s no point in going forward.
No way can I become a wellness coach. It’s way too scary. May as well just keep doing what I’ve been doing.
But close on its heels, the other famous storyline whispers in my ear: The heroine can never return.
Pre-COVID life is gone. For good.
All we can do is charge forward into the future.
Something has shifted. I joke with my critique partners that I’m still waiting for my story arc before I write my memoirs. Could this be my arc?
Cliches race through my mind: One step at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough. Nobody is perfect. And suddenly, hope returned.
I like to think of myself as courageous, having survived natural childbirth unmedicated and three reductions on my wrist that hurt far worse than the break itself. Launching our new Total Health Coaching track has me terrified. Who do I think I am? But, here we go.
Challenge Yourself To Face Discomfort
Think about the changes you’ve faced in the past three years. Have you resumed most pre-pandemic activities? Have you fallen into a small world of comfort? When was the last time you voluntarily accepted challenges?
How might you challenge yourself to get outside of your comfort zone? Maybe you have a fear of public speaking. Can you find a Toastmasters group or start with a small Zoom workshop? If you are afraid to ask questions, perhaps you can set a goal to ask one question every day. When you find yourself putting up obstacles, or using the phrase, “Yes, but…” can you replace it with the more empowering, “Yes, and…”?
I challenge you to pick a challenge for this spring. It can be small or big, your choice. My Active Ajax Adventures was a project I knew I’d enjoy, but I wouldn’t call it a challenge. Flying to Arizona and North Carolina are challenges, but I know I can do them.
Launching a new branch of my business? Terrifying. Let’s see how many mistakes I make and what I can learn from it. Who knows, it may be the best thing I ever do.