Monday, April 7, 2014

Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

As far back as I can remember...I've been uncomfortable.  Not every moment of every day, and certainly not because my loved ones didn't try to give me a lovely childhood...but because I've always been a bit uncomfortable in my own skin.

(Well, I WAS.  Not so much now.  But I'll get to that in a minute.)

I was loud, full of enthusiasm, and used to do cartwheels in the living room in front of the television...which annoyed my grandmother.  I was in every lesson imaginable, average at pretty much everything except reading (I was above average there), and had a knack for saying something stupid at the worst possible time.  In fact, I had to sacrifice show and tell for slipping up and saying something to some kid who was held back in first grade although what I said was actually encouraging.

Mean ol' Sharon Mason.  Of course, her family did come by and pick me up for Sunday school, so I probably should get over it.  Plus, my teacher knew I didn't mean anything by it and let me choose my own punishment.  I chose something I didn't really care about...but thought it sounded good.  Apparently I was right.

After all, I meant well.  I just had a gift for being boneheaded.  And too many times of being snubbed or being directly told this very fact meant that I learned that toning it down was really in my best interest.

Or so I thought.  That's really just the easy way out.  It is much harder to hang in there to find people who "get" you and your quirks.  But if you stay true to eventually happens.

I hadn't really thought about this a whole lot until one of my gym instructors, Allyson, pointed out that her goal for the class was to get us comfortable with being uncomfortable.  It is familiar territory to me from the past - but also especially these days - because everything I do seems to be uncomfortable.

I spent years giving up clothing that was constricting and instead chose items that hung on me and didn't cling anywhere.  I put the heels in the closet and opted for flats.  I have absolutely no desire to buy cute shoes anymore - unless, of course, I can wear them to the gym.  Black Mary Jane flats or even better - a pair of Tom's - work far better for me.

Clothes were not all that got comfortable in my world.  I got used to being fat.  Got accustomed to turning down invitations.  Didn't make plans that were out of my comfort zone.  In other words...I gave up anything remotely awkward with only a few exceptions (including, of course, the medical world which honestly can define "awkward" in an amazingly bold way...)

Those exceptions were anything that I feared.

Bear in mind, though, that I have no desire to jump out of an airplane or to climb a mountain.  No bucket list with feats of daring waiting for me to get up enough dollars or gumption.  I'm a first child - cautious - and really like my adventures to involve a guidebook or something that at least keeps both feet on the ground.

The things I feared were pretty common: public speaking, climbing lots of stairs, and squats at the gym.  Things that a lot of people take for granted and just do them.  I've found that when something makes me uncomfortable...if I face it head-on, then it just seems to diminish that fear over time.  I started teaching a banking class in 1995 so I could handle speaking in front of groups. I taught for ten years and loved it.  Took a Dale Carnegie class that forced me to give impromptu speeches on subjects that I'd have to come up with randomly.  Eventually, I was no longer afraid or even particularly nervous.  I would have never known had I not taken that step into the realm of the uncomfortable.  It was a far cry from giving a speech at Girls' State and then sitting down and asking someone if what I said was okay because I honestly couldn't remember a word of what I'd said.  Must have been okay...I was elected Chief Justice.

The stairs I addressed by going up and down 18 steps eight times until now stairs don't bother me.  Same with squats.  Just do them every day now, and actually like the fact that my legs are starting to look like legs instead of bread doughy cellular matter.  Sometimes with weights...sometimes without.  Doesn't matter.  Getting comfortable with it matters.

A few weeks ago I started working with a trainer.  I didn't want anyone to let me do what I knew I could already do...I wanted to be pushed beyond that.  Every day is an adventure, because I have no idea if I can actually do what is asked of me.  The vast majority of the time I can and surprise myself.  I've gotten comfortable being uncomfortable.  Working out in a gym full of people milling about.  Standing on a box.  Working with equipment that I never knew how to operate.  Doing ab work.  Adding more weight as I get stronger.

Works for me.

I think that really living life means that you are going to have to make yourself uncomfortable sometimes to get the joy of accomplishment.  Some people just hang it up and "go to the house" so to speak and leave a lot of untapped potential that they might look back on with regret.  You never know what you are capable of until you are willing to do something that you are sure looks stupid.  Never know the thrill of doing what you didn't think you could do.  The alternative, of course, is wishing life could be different instead of taking steps toward improvement.  I wish that I could win the lottery...but I can't win if I don't play...and most of the time...I don't play.  Same thing.

I am the poster child for being uncomfortable.  I don't like the idea of wearing shorts, bathing suits, clothes that fit, or dresses because I worry that everything is covered properly.  Being between two sizes is much more real estate in the larger sizes rather than the smaller ones when ten pounds can make a huge difference.  In bigger sizes, you can swing about 20 pounds or so and still stay in the clothes.  I wonder if something actually fits.  I tug and pull at my clothes.  I fidget.  But I'm getting better.  I really am.

Sort of.

I suppose as my body responds favorably to food that is good for it and a lot of exercise, I'll continue to enjoy the benefits of getting into clothes that I haven't worn in years.  Like this Hogan's Gym tee shirt I wore tonight that was purchased many moons ago in a lovely shade of coral.  Well, okay, FINE,  it is now faded coral.  But that's okay.  I kept it thinking that someday I would wear it again.

Someday is now.  And it totally rocks.

I don't know where you are in life...if you are comfortable with finally getting some rest after kids leaving the nest and before older relatives need you.  If you like the extra time you can commit to your hobbies, television programs, or doing good for other people.  Maybe you are fine with sensible shoes, comfort waist bands and no demands.  And you'd be right with being okay with that.  Life can be lovely when you are quiet and still and not stressed out.

But if you are the least bit not fear the uncomfortable.  Get someone to show you the way toward your goals.  Find people who are worthy of your trust and dedication.  Push yourself beyond the limits that you have conceived for yourself.  You might surprise yourself.

I know I'm surprising myself.  And I really love that.

Just know that it is okay to fail.  To be ridiculous.  Awkward.  You'll figure it out soon enough or you'll be able to honestly say that you tried.  Push yourself to do something worthy and admirable and healthy.  Something that makes your heart sing and your spirit soar.  Life is short and waiting until the perfect moment may mean that you will never get to it.  Paint or get off the ladder.  Decide.  Go.  Do it.

I have a long journey ahead of me filled with a lot of being it from realizing that I'm not as far along as I'd like to be some days and forgetting I'm as far along as I am other days.  Of having people be supportive and having people tell me I'm out of my mind.  I am really and truly okay with that.

I'm still a little uncomfortable sometimes...but I look at that more as an opportunity than a threat.

Maybe all of those years of being an awkward little kid are paying dividends now.  I have no idea.  I just know that I'm happy taking this journey...even with the downs that accompany the ups.

Find what makes you uncomfortable and consider changing that.  It might just change your life.

I know it is changing mine.

(Thanks, Allyson for the inspiration...)


  1. Good post Karen :) I enjoy reading your writing and hearing your revelations. Good stuff, keep 'em coming.
    Your mentality has definitely been changing over these past several weeks and as those layers come off you're seeing the physical layers come off too. Keep going. So glad I get to witness your transformation!! :D

  2. Love the post-you are inspiring me to step out of my comfortable and maybe make some positive changes. Thanks for being so honest.