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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Tag: comfort

Day 219: Discomfort over Comfort

I get this funny feeling that a lot of people’s lives are spent figuring out how to be comfortable. How to have a comfortable home, a comfortable job, live with a comfortable person, eat comfortable food, wear comfortable clothes, etc.

And I’m all about comfortable stuff—especially clothing—but I think it’s really important to be uncomfortable sometimes. Here’s why:

Discomfort opens up entire worlds that you’d never know about otherwise.

In yoga, for example, there are lots of weird, uncomfortable postures that appear to be designed specifically to make the practitioner feel like a total failure. But if you stick with those contorted shapes long enough, you start to understand the difference between pain (which is something that should be avoided like the plague that it is) and the uncomfortable sensations that come with growth. If you’re gritty and patient, interesting things start to happen. Muscles you were certain had deserted you kick back into action. Stiff joints become relaxed. Hard stuff becomes easier. Dark things become lighter. And once you’re comfortable again, you’re ready and eager to try something new.

Discomfort challenges you to define yourself. 

I don’t mean “definition” in the sense that you can say with conviction that you love dogs and hate mean people. On a much deeper level, discomfort forces you to turn inward and conduct an actual self-examination. Determining why discomfort rears it’s ugly-ish head in certain situations or with certain people helps you learn more about your insecurities and passions. And acting on that knowledge puts you on a path to actual happiness, not the comfortable, “these sweatpants feel awesome” kind of happiness.

Discomfort helps you grow. 

Humans are magically built to morph. Our neurological systems are constantly learning, reorganizing and building new pathways, and our bodies can alter themselves based on what we consume and what we expend. We can adapt to new stimuli and make snap decisions based on information that is never, ever static. We’re amazing, growing creatures up until the day we die.

But without challenges and pressures, our growth opportunities diminish. The beautiful nuances of life are left unexperienced and unexplored. A life of comfort is the life of an orchestra playing the same song over and over—never exploring all the other harmonies, melodies, dips and dives it’s designed to play.

A life of comfort literally sounds terrible.

Day 110: Sleeping Soundly

I still sleep with a stuffed animal.

He’s an adorable, well-kept and not-too-soft but not-too-firm white bear, about 12 inches long from head to toe. He has a disproportionately large head, black circles for a nose, ears and paws, and black caterpillar-shaped eyes that seem both kind and sort of absent. His legs bend forward at the hips and his arms open gently with a little pressure. The tops of his feet and nose have worn away slightly, revealing the beige knitted pattern beneath his fur.

He’s 27 and a half years old. I know, because I got him as a “we-still-love-you-but-you’re-no-longer-our-only-child” gift when my middle sister was born. She got Bun Bun around the same time—a floppy pink rabbit that barely survived toddlerhood.

My bear doesn’t have a name; just a gender. I think he made it through the tough years because I never played with him or dragged him down store aisles or up trees—I just tucked him into the triangle of my chest and upper arms each night and slept soundly.

A few days ago, my mom shared an article with my sisters and me titled A Firm Grasp on Comfort. In it, Dr. Barbara Howard, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Johns Hopkins, posits that as many as 25 percent of young women going off to college take their childhood comfort objects with them. At 18, I was one of those 25 percent. At 30, I’m guessing the percentage of us has dwindled significantly, especially since many of my peers are giving comfort objects to children of their own now.

Although I don’t travel with the bear (he just looks so sad when I try to squish and cram him into luggage), I’ve grown seriously accustomed to him. In Australia, I bunched a travel pillow into his general shape and snuggled it into my shoulder every night. On the occasions when I don’t have a travel pillow, I usually roll up a sweatshirt instead.

It’s unclear to me whether this is out of habit, ergonomics or nostalgia, but the fact is that I just sleep better with my arms around something.

So, I’m curious. How many of us are still out there, hugging stuffed animals and sneaking peeks at ragged silk blankets? (Blanket people—even though I am not one of you, I think we’re part of the same category here.) I’d love to read your comments if you have them.

BearThat’s him.