So I have been thinking about discomfort.
We have all have different relationships and comfort (haha) levels with being uncomfortable and those relationships and levels change throughout our lives.
We are set up to be uncomfortable all the time when we are young. We experience it so often, however, that we don’t even label it as discomfort. We go to preschool or kindergarten, we grow out of cribs and clothes, we enter a new grade, we switch to a new school or start thinking about what to do after school. As I said to one of my high school students this past week, we expect things of young people that we no longer do ourselves “Here is something you’ve never done before, go do it!” “Here is a subject you have never studied before, go learn it!” or “Here is another group of kids you don’t know, go make friends!” (Or, in my case, here’s a new song/band/ensemble/venue, go create!)
So it seems that the older we get, the fewer experiences we have that cause discomfort. Perhaps we are even trying to avoid discomfort? (Not you, of course, but sometimes I do. *wink*)
Feeling comfortable is easier; we know what we’re doing and what is expected of us. It can also be hard to notice. Comfortable is/feels normal. So, in a sense, it is the absence of feelings. Discomfort, on the other hand, is definitely noticeable. It feels itchy or unsure or makes us mildly anxious.
For the past couple of months, I have been trying to observe when I feel uncomfortable. For example, I took a workshop last month and, at the beginning, I noticed that I was uncomfortable. I knew about half the folks, but we were there to learn/explore a new modality and I didn’t know what to expect. More of an issue (for me) was that I didn’t know what might be expected of me.
I realized it had been a while since I had felt this way.
In fact, I’d been feeling pretty comfortable for a while. I figured out how and what (and in what order) to teach my students, I understood the in’s and out’s of my many job(s), and I’d been getting to work with the same singers and players pretty regularly. All pretty comfortable.
So if everything is comfortable and working, why change anything?
Well, we can miss opportunities for growth and learning if we’re comfortable all of the time. If everything’s good, then what makes us seek out new friends, move to new cities, or start new jobs? Why learn or write new songs or work with new players? (Why quit your day job and go to music school?)
I think we have to practice being uncomfortable. That, when done often, being uncomfortable keeps us flexible and makes us more empathetic to the needs and comforts of others. We can take a broader view of situations and consider that others may be feeling discomfort, too. (I will definitely think about my experience in that workshop when I teach my own workshops later this month.)
Most important, we learn that feeling comfortable is not the same thing as being safe.