I forgot my toiletries bag when I went to lead a 3-day training event this week. The other women there were gracious and offered to share necessities, but being young, natural beauties they did not pack nearly as much as I normally bring. I bought a toothbrush at the conference center office, but they didn’t sell much else. I’m one of those people who got her toiletries pulled out of the carry-on for a search, not because anything was bigger than 3 ounces, but because I had SO MANY 3-ounce containers! All filled with products that go everywhere with me. There’s some essential for everything and it seems that I own it. I’m always asking people what the deeper invitation in life situations might be, so I decided to heed to my own annoying question and suppose there might be something for me to notice in a few days without my toiletries. I took it as a good Lenten practice to abstain and so, I borrowed toothpaste and shampoo, but decided to live without everything else.
The first thing I noticed was that my lips were getting chapped. No lip stuff. Then there were strange clicks coming from my baseboard heater. No earplugs. I did my training in my much-more-natural-than-usual state. No make-up or hair goo. Things started to cascade after that. My run left my cheeks sunburned and my foot sore. No sunscreen, no Advil. My eyes started itching. No allergy drops. I even noticed my legs getting prickly and dry. No razor, no lotion. I was getting grumpy.
This short foray into simplicity had exposed my insistence on a life free of discomfort. I realized how much I avoid feeling annoyed, irritated, or self-conscious. All are unwelcome feelings and I would prefer not experiencing them. I was surprised how much I noticed and felt irritated by these seemingly small things. If I have this luxury of being able to live without discomfort, what more significant discomforts am I avoiding simply because I am able?
I can avoid thinking about the plight of the city because I live in the suburbs.
I can avoid considering racial injustice because I am often surrounded by people like me.
I can avoid wondering how products that increase my comfort are manufactured because no one’s holding me accountable.
Truth be told, I hate feeling uncomfortable. But if I don’t insist on it, what will become of my soul? And….what kind of therapist will I be? After all, the work of therapy is often inviting people into various kinds of discomfort. Perhaps little experiments like these are more critical than I supposed.
What discomfort is covered over by your life’s comfort?