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The Fine Line Between Discomfort and Suffering

I have embraced being uncomfortable. I’ve given this feeling so many hugs that I have grown to enjoy it immensely. I love being uncomfortable. I thrive in discomfort. Discomfort is the space from which I grow and evolve. I’ve put myself in so many uncomfortable situations that I'll admit I seek it out. Life even feels a bit drab when it’s comfortable.

Discomfort is not to be confused with suffering.

The distinction between the two is almost indiscernible.

In discomfort, there is growth and evolution and transformation.

In suffering, there is darkness and confusion and stagnation.

Allow me to walk you through an example.

I live in a yurt. A 250 round feet Mongolian yurt with my partner and an adorably loud siamese cat. We’ve lived here together for over two years. In those two years, we’ve both been committed to personal development and trainings in nature connection with different angles. Mine is nature connection with Life Coaching. His is nature connection with indigenous ceremony (Vision quests, fire quests, bird language, tracking, sweat lodge, canupa pipe.) We’ve both had some gigs over the two years to pay the bills, but for the most part, we’ve both enjoyed ditched the 9-5 while pursuing our respective trainings. Living in a small space without jobs to go to everyday, we’ve had our fair share of discomfort. In the realm of physical discomfort, we don’t have hot water, nor running water at all. We fill our water jugs from a hose outside the yurt. Within the latticed walls of the yurt, we have a composting toilet but no real bathroom, no shower, no tv, no refrigerator, no microwave. We cook on a green Coleman campstove, so haven’t enjoyed the fabulous dinners I used to love hosting for friends. In fact, we haven’t had many friends over. It’s not in town and without a bathroom, it makes for an awkward experience. Only the brave ones have visited. We’ve learned to live here as comfortably as possible, dialing in the heating and cooling, or whatever systems needed to be implemented to make it livable.

Despite all this discomfort, I wouldn’t say we’ve been suffering. Far from it. We’ve enjoyed the luxury of not overworking while pursuing our passions. We’ve enjoyed the labors of the homestead with fresh veggies straight out of the garden. We’ve been surrounded by progressive thinkers and DO’ers who live their values. I could happily live here forever and ever in mild discomfort. Until the day I started suffering…

I knew we needed a change when discomfort slid subtly across the line into suffering. It was sinister. It began after a a few weeks working in Costa Rica and returning to a changed partner. When living in a small space it’s imperative both partners are invested in their own self-care and pursuit of a purposeful, soul-driven life. When that stopped being the case, everything went to shit. The suffering began. His mental anguish. Mine. The getting triggered. The loss of my confidant and go-to best friend. It was the mental torture that did it. He was lost in his thoughts of the past. I was lost in the idea of our future. Lost in what we had planned and now seemed unattainable. Nothing in our physical environment changed. We headed into our third winter and what had been tolerable in the past was now unbearable. The seeing my breath in the cold air, the frozen to death houseplants, the hands I just couldn’t get warm, the inability to hop in the shower and warm up and clean up. It was all too much. The moment discomfort turned to suffering, something had to change.

Because of our mental states, our physical environment had become unbearable. We can change our mental states, but then the vicious cycle had set in - my physical environment began to affect my weakened mental state. So I decided to change our physical environment in hopes that will trigger an improved mental state and the thought work can continue from there. I wonder at the psychological effects of living in suffering. I began to feel less than. I began to feel like something was wrong with me for choosing this lifestyle. I began to forget that I had CHOSEN this lifestyle. I began to feel like this lifestyle was the only option I had. I began to feel helpless and hopeless. My partner did not need me to fall into his darkness with him. Our relationship couldn’t take it. What our relationship needed was for one of us to shake up our rut. I needed to take care of myself and be the support at this juncture, as when he’s been my support when I needed him. I simply did not want to continue suffering.

In the moment I decided to make a change, the solution came swiftly. A random text from my former roommate that she'd be moving out of the house we used to live in together. Funny how divine timing works. Tomorrow we move from the yurt into the sweet little cottage I’d lived in while finishing my graduate degree. 

Everything indicates we will have a fresh start. New floors, new businesses, new us, new me. I am a changed person from who I was two years ago when I left. My life has become almost unrecognizable from the inside. The work I’ve done has been transformative, although I know it will never be done. I’ve given up suffering while opening my arms wide to discomfort. Please stay with me discomfort, pushing me to grow and evolve. But suffering, oh suffering...Please show yourself up front without pretense, so that once you come knocking on my door, I can make a swift change.

I’ve given up suffering while opening my arms wide to discomfort. Please stay with me discomfort, pushing me to grow and evolve.


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