I don’t like to be uncomfortable. My husband can sleep perfectly fine on the surface of the earth with nary a blanket, waking up with a smile & feeling refreshed. Even in my own home, on my own bed, with a fluffy pillow & the feathery down-embrace of my blanket, I can still find myself uncomfortable. Especially if I don’t have my socks. If my feet are cold, it is all over for me. I will not sleep. Cannot sleep. Yes, I have sensory issues, but my obsession goes beyond the 5 (there’s actually, 7) senses. I cannot rest if I am uncomfortable.
Because I am obsessed with comfort.
My life isn’t the dream I thought it would be. There are moments are levity. Yes, but also extreme, cascading dives into heartache that border, & at times, dip into & linger in, devastation. And when I’m there, in that moment, I feel as though I’m destined to drown, choking on deep, deep sadness.
And when these moments happen, I forget the good, the levity. I forget cycle of things; that old truth of what goes up must come down, & what is down, will, eventually, come back up again. I only remember the hurt, & my only effort is in attempting to dismount the dive, & run, full on, away from it.
My aim isn’t always back towards the good. I run blind most of the time, & heavy & hard, towards whatever dream I think will make me more comfortable. And I just keep running further
until all I have left is the memory of what I was running from. It clings to me the way the scent of a restaurant stays in my clothes. Every time I move, the discomfort wafts itself at me, & I remember.
I don’t want to go through hard things. I don’t want to process them, or experience them. I want to be happy & buoyant & blithe. All the time.
Though I have always sought comfort, there was a period in my life that I didn’t cling to it so desperately. I read this book, When Things Fall Apart, 13 years ago. It was shortly after finding out I was pregnant. I was 20, & single, & it was finals week of my sophomore year of college. I felt like not only had the rug been pulled out from under my feet, the floor itself was disintegrating.
I wanted to run, hard & fast, in any direction that wasn’t the one I was standing in. It was through reading this book, though, that I finally began to realize it was my mindset that needed adjusting, not my circumstances. Pema Chodron helped me understand that though I can’t control my circumstances, I can control how tightly I hold on to them.
She says, “Thinking that we can find some lasting pleasure and avoid pain is what in Buddhism is called samsara, a hopeless cycle that goes round and round endlessly and causes us to suffer greatly. The very first noble truth of the Buddha points out that suffering is inevitable for human beings as long as we believe that things last—that they don’t disintegrate, that they can be counted on to satisfy our hunger for security.”
I thought my freedom would last. The freedom to go & do as I please, the lack of accountability. The security I had in the knowledge that I could leave any relationship that made me uncomfortable. I never, ever imagined myself being responsible for another life.
I felt like the only responsibility I would ever have for another life was to not take it & to not eat it. Suddenly, I was faced with the prospect of having to give it & feed it. It was terrifying, & I was decidedly quite unqualified. I was so afraid, & felt so hopeless, that this really stuck out to me, too:
“Hope and fear is a feeling with two sides. As long as there’s one, there’s always the other. This is the root of our pain. In the world of hope and fear, we always have to change the channel, change the temperature, change the music, because something is getting uneasy, something is getting restless, something is beginning to hurt, and we keep looking for alternatives. In a nontheistic state of mind, abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning.”
I began to see this stage in my life as a beginning, for both my son & myself. I remember writing in my journal that I needed to Abandon Hope. That there really wasn’t an unseen hand to hold, & from that place, I began to settle a bit. I began to accept what was & allow myself to hurt when I was hurting. I was able sit still when I was uncomfortable because I began to believe that life is cyclical, that it wasn’t some huge obstacle I had to keep pushing through in order to find joy.
I didn’t have peace, I’ll be honest in that, but I did have disciplined, intentional thought. There’s a big, long story about my stepping out of nontheism, into agnosticism, & finally into Christianity. But along that path, I am beginning to realize, I have gradually become less disciplined & intentional in my thoughts. I know I have a hand to hold. I know He cares about me. I know He’s steadfast & never takes His eyes off of me, & with that knowledge, I’ve become a spoiled, complaining, comfort-seeking brat.
I want Santa Christ. I want to always be comfortable & always get my way, & never have to consider that it’s my thinking that needs adjusting, not my circumstances. I still believe that life is cyclical, but I fell into the false gospel of comfort. I struggle with thinking that if life isn’t comfortable, then either God isn’t really all good & all powerful, that He doesn’t see what’s going on, or I’m not being good enough for Him to want to make me comfortable.
But the truth is this, To live is Christ & to die is gain, & in my pain, He will never leave me. He will hold me in His hand on the descent, & He will bring joy in the morning. And to complain as I do, even when I’m just grumbling to myself, it solves nothing. Do I do well to be so angry? No, I do not.
As a believer I’ve become lazy in mind. I’ve become a passive participant in life, & I’m grieved that I haven’t really noticed it until now. So, hope & fear are not a feeling with two sides. They’re feelings on opposing sides. With salvation secure, I can be devastated & still have hope. I can be swimming through sadness, & still have an undercurrent of joy. I don’t have to feel like I am going to choke, & when I do feel fear, I have the power stop that thought. It’s incredible that I haven’t taken the time to develop that discipline in my faith.
Just because I am no longer a nontheist, I can still be disciplined & intentional in my thinking. In fact, as a believer, I am commanded to do so in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” I don’t have to be conformed. I don’t have to be overwhelmed & want to jump off & run away when life’s levity starts dropping. My sense of overwhelm can be transformed through renewing my mind by focusing on the will of God, & remembering His character… I can stand firm in the fact that He is with me through all of it, that He is good & cannot fail, & all will be used for my good & His glory.
In 2 Corinthians 10, we’re told to take every thought captive. My slipping back into desire for comfort, I can take those restless feelings, those needs to change my situation, those thoughts that whisper “it shouldn’t be this way,” “or it shouldn’t be this hard,” I can capture them. Hold them captive & compare them to truth. It’s empowering, & yet, I’ve lived, now 8 years a believer, & have not celebrated this gift. I’m thankful that His mercies are new every morning & that He’s always teaching me more about myself & growing me to be more like him… even if it’s a little uncomfortable.