Toiletries and Global Justice

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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?

6 Comments

  1. Ohhh… now you’re getting personal, Janice!

    But, I’ve sometimes wondered if I kept going without those covers, if they’d keep revealing discomforts and covers down to a root cause… and ultimately leave me content. In other words, are my attempts to cover discomfort actually causing discomforts, too? If I stopped, would the ripple effect also stop and leave me more content than I’d expect? Would it leave me undefended before a gracious and generous God?

  2. SO much to think about here. thanks for sharing & challenging. going to think some today about just how much of my day I spend making myself more comfortable…. the route I drive in my car (ha! taking my car at all), what I wear and put on my body, what I eat, how I shop…. this could become a very long list.

  3. Talk about discomfort, the other day I unintentionally
    scheduled two pts at the same time and at the last minute received a phone call from a pt which put me on alert. Oh no!! I rushed in with my sunglasses, left my glasses in the car and no makeup Needless to say everything was blurry, I was uncomfortable and looked, well you know how, without makeup and had to do maia copa to both pts. So I had to practice what I preach to my patients “This discomfort is temporary and will pass,” and do it with a smile on my face.

  4. Great stuff here, Janice. All the questions of “how much is too much” and what state of “un-ease” may actually be healthy for us, come up for me? I was trained in my business to always go out looking “on”, but sometimes I don’t, and between the fear and the freedom, I eventually realize I am OK, whole and even content. Thank GOD for the lesson!

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