Discomfort is a Good Thing

[Note: This is the first publishable thing I’ve written in a month or so. That’s why I hope you’ll forgive that it’s got nothing to do with writing at all. Well, directly. The main point is applicable to writing, too.]

The other day my boyfriend said something to me while we were walking around town. He said, ”Well, in any case, being out of breath is always a good thing.” It was such an innocuous comment; I didn’t think much of it in the moment. I don’t even remember what we were talking about.

In the following days, that little comment started coming back to me. I’d be walking to the store after work, for instance, and notice I was slightly short of breath. Now, you should know I don’t do any cardio at all. I hardly move at all except for when I have to, to be completely honest. It’s a bad habit that I’m just beginning to notice has been with me for a long time.

I particularly notice because I can hardly change the bed sheets without working up a slight pulse. Any little activity makes me breathe faster. And walking up steep hills? It makes me huff and puff no matter how short the distance.

I’m in bad condition, and I’m becoming increasingly miserable about it. Losing my breath over the easiest of tasks has just served as a depressing reminder of how bad it’s gotten.

Until my boyfriend said what he said, and something in me finally clicked.

Being short of breath just means I’m pushing my body. I never thought of it that way. In my mind, shortness of breath reminded me of how hard shaping up would be. I never once considered that my discomfort not only shows me my limits, it pushes them. It’s pushing them every single time I feel it. What is that if not a good thing?

Since then I’ve begun to appreciate not just physical discomfort, but any kind of discomfort. I’m a creature of habit and will avoid changes not because I’m afraid of change in itself, but because I know that what’s tried and tested is already comfortable. Why risk discomfort for the sake of trying something new? I kid you not when I say that any little change, like shopping in a new grocery store or trying a new recipe, will linger in me for the rest of the day. But it will usually linger in a good way. That’s why I decided to risk the discomfort. Make a little gamble. Mix it up, if only by discovering a new café in town.

When you’ve created a tiny little world for yourself where you do the same things in the same way every day, you eventually start to become subconsciously afraid of doing things differently. At least that’s what happened to me. I never saw just how tiny my world has become. I’ll make the big changes when I need to, but my day-to-day life basically looks the same. Sticking to the known provides the same kind of safety you get from walling in your house ­– inside feels safe, while the outside begins to feel scary. Outside is unknown. It seems like anything could lurk out in the streets so long as you never see them.

That’s why discomfort is a great thing. A fire alarm will beep only when there’s a fire. It won’t tell you that you need to do some cardio, or that you don’t like being catcalled, or that you hate writing essays. Discomfort is like your body’s own alarm tailored to show exactly what is wrong. It’s an alarm telling you what you might need to change. That’s a frickin’ awesome tool we could all probably stand to use more.

So, being short of breath is always a good thing. So is all the other shitty feelings your body throws at you.

They’re tools. Work with them.

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