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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But Alright

Tonight I’m anxious.

But I’m happy too, in a really weird way. Like I’m safe in the knowledge that I haven’t made things worse for myself, and I’m not going to. I’m not escaping from my feelings. Just letting them be as long as they need to, and I’ll manage whatever happens.

It often takes me a while to realise that the indescribable sensation in my body is actually anxiety. When I do, I instantly feel calmer. When I know, when I’ve given it a name, I don’t even fear the anxiety attack that might come. Because it won’t kill me, and it won’t change my life. It’ll just be horrendously uncomfortable for an hour or two.

Before I realise it, though… I feel slightly crazy. Out of time, out of the world. Like I don’t belong in life, because life shouldn’t feel so insane, it shouldn’t feel so chaotic and messy. There’s too many thoughts and too few guidelines for what to do with them. I don’t know what to do with the thoughts or with myself. So I just wander restlessly around the apartment, looking for a way to make my mind sit down. It always feels like my mind needs to rest, but I find no ways of making it relax.

Mostly I just write. It doesn’t feel good, but it’s the only way I get to feel slightly in control of what’s happening to me. Oddly I tend to get stuck on my ambitions about blogging, writing out the many worries and problems I have with it, all the while feeling like something is trapped and trying to seep through my body.

Anxiety really is an unpleasant experience. But it’s not the end of the world. Books taught me that, and experience. Having lived with anxiety for so many years now, I hardly react to it anymore. At least not compared to how mind-bendingly shit scared I was of it when I was younger. Several times I thought I was going insane.

It feels good to write about it now, though. Just to throw out there that there is a place where you can feel almost comfortable with anxiety. I haven’t eaten much today, nor showered or really done any of the many things I felt I should do, but that’s okay. I’m home alone, it’s night and I’ll be making myself something shortly.

I’m anxious, but I’m alright.

Saturday Despair

Oh, how I’ve been ignoring this blog. Not that I’ve forgotten it. In fact the thought of it has constantly stirred the guilt in my stomach.

I know what happened: it became a chore. Letting people read my bad writing lost its appeal. Because why would anyone keep reading this? Right now I can’t see its value beyond training myself to keep writing.

I’m pushing out words now. Just forcing myself to keep saying something so I won’t stand still. Dance, dance, dance. Just keep dancing. Today I tried freewriting for ten minutes – hardest thing I’ve done in a long time. Losing control like that scared me half to death. I like to think before I write, but then when I just want to write without knowing what, I get completely stuck at the thinking stage.

Sometimes I wonder if writers ever just let the words flow out of them without regard for anything other than to keep writing. Does that make the writing better or worse? Does it make editing even harder? Does thinking before you write actually improve the writing? I have no idea, and right now it’s killing me. I feel so lost.

Thank God I’ve still got journaling.

This was difficult to write

I promised myself I’d post something today, so here goes.

Of course, I predicted correctly. What was an exciting new project turned intimidating in a matter of days. Last night I caught myself thinking “My next blog post needs to be amazing”.

Still, a couple of things differ from the usual paralysing anxiety. Since I’ve decided to keep blogging despite the discomfort of letting people read my writing, I have an easier time actually starting to write. I know now that even if I don’t like the result, I’ve made myself a promise that I don’t want to break. So I just write and see where it takes me.

I also notice a slight shift in my attitude towards writing about different topics. Usually I doubt whether my writing could do any subject justice, but knowing I can force myself to write about this makes me wonder if I can force myself to write about other things, too. Y’know, without trembling at the thought of not knowing exactly what to say.

I didn’t know what to say when I started writing this, but I’m still enjoying it. Worries about whether the writing is clear, concise and in my own voice still niggle at me, but I’m ignoring them and letting my thoughts flow a little more freely. As I become more comfortable with time, I suspect I won’t be constantly editing as much either.

It’s a weird project, this. For once I feel like my worries can’t stop me, because the whole point of this is to write through the worries. The biggest challenge will undoubtedly be to publish this, and I’m excited to see how I’ll feel. Relieved that I actually published something? Embarrassed that it’s not a stunning piece of prose? Experience says both.

‘Til next time!

Making blogging mistakes

I just wrote about my blogging history when I realised I’d rather write about making mistakes. More specifically, what happens when you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes as a blogger. I’m not very well versed in making them, as I’ve never given myself the chance to.

Instead of posting consistently to the same blog, I’ve been migrating from blog to blog since I was thirteen. My hope was that the next platform would inspire me to actually keep posting, but of course it never did. When you’re paralysed at the thought of making mistakes, you don’t keep posting. Instead you might do what I did, which was to create a fresh start for myself each time my old words felt stale and uninspired. And they always, always did after a very short amount of time.

Even though they still do, I don’t migrate as much anymore. Instead I keep silent. What’s the point in posting when I’ll be embarrassed by what I write immediately after I’ve written it?

I’d call that embarrassment growth, but growth happens over time. This was me wanting to be better before I actually was. I didn’t want those clunky sentences and the obvious self-consciousness to represent me, but that’s where I was. That’s the way I wrote. I just couldn’t face the level my writing was at, and my inner critic made sure I knew right after (and often during) writing.

So I was denied the blogging mistakes almost everyone makes and grows from, like not carving out a clear enough niche and not connecting with other bloggers, because I couldn’t keep a blog long enough to make them. I really wanted to be seen for the good, but couldn’t stand the thought of people seeing the bad.

Thing is, I really, really want to correct this. This time around I want to weather the discomfort like a friggin’ cactus in a sandstorm. I’ll live with bad to mediocre writing and try to become a serious blogger in the process.

Consistent blogging, here I come.

(If you want to try the same thing, please do let me know. Company is awesome.)