Discomfort. Avoidance. Shutting the door on bad news. Too often, these are the knee-jerk reactions to things with which we don’t want to deal. Whether it’s because we just don’t know how or choose to look the other way, I believe that avoiding the things that make people most uncomfortable will come back to bite them in the derrière.
A decade ago, my friend D and I attended a charity event. Her husband had passed away a few months earlier. I can still remember how women avoided us, politely smiling but never approaching.
“It was like this all of the time,” she recanted to me recently. “I remember picking my kids up from day camp once and when a mother friend saw me in the carpool line, she ducked back into her car so fast it made my heart sink,” she told me. Stacey Feintuch wrote about a similar experience for BA50, “I was the woman whom people were staring at in the mall.”
Why don’t we value these uncomfortable opportunities in the same way that hard work, respect and loyalty are coveted entities? If we took time to explore our discomfort, and let it seep into the pores until the want-to-crawl-out-of-the-skin feeling passes, then maybe we could build bridges instead of breaking them. So many arguments linger on because people don’t want to have that awkward first phone call, so many families are torn apart.
Years ago, when my brother was sent to a rehab center, my parents did not invite me to the family healing weekend. I found out about the event a year later when my mother slipped, trying desperately to change the subject when she realized her mistake. When pressed, she told me that she and my father worried that I would say things to upset my brother. In other words, I would make him, and my family, uncomfortable with my truths.
I was angry, hurt, swollen with humiliation. I never wanted to talk to any of them again. I had wounds that needed healing and a heart that needed mending. By shutting me out, the scars that formed have never seem to go away. Eventually, I was the one who had to push the restart button in the hopes of becoming a family again, but it was never the same. I did learn an important lesson, however. Anything worth fighting for is worth swallowing a lot of discomfort along the way. Because if we don’t, things stay bottled up, regrets simmer under the surface resulting in a sadness that can taint our most coveted relationships.
Whenever we feel uncomfortable, we are at a crossroads. Often there isn’t a second chance to make things right. Recently, I reached out to a friend who wasn’t communicating with me. Months had gone by and all of my texts were answered curtly. I was afraid she had cut me off, but I didn’t want to avoid finding out so I took a deep shaky breath and called, asking her if I was in the wrong. As is the case with texts and emails and all of our modern technology, it was truly a miscommunication that was fixed in one phone call.
Do you fall prey to avoiding uncomfortable situations? Even though I might be better at it now, I still slip. I misread social situations, take texts to heart and sometimes lose relationships that I know are important because I just don’t want to sit in my own crap. Like so many other people, I want to pull the blanket over my face and hope that it all goes away.
“Let yourself live inside the fear,” my SoulCycle instructor and friend Erin said in class yesterday. This is definitely what I have to do more of, because telling people how I feel if they hurt me scares the shit out of me.
But if we weigh the result against that initial icky feeling, there is no question that being uncomfortable is worth it. Making that first move after a fight, stepping head into conflict, or reaching out to someone who just lost their loved one can lead to a better, more peaceful existence for you and for everyone you love.