We all need comfort – whether it is after a long hard day, after an anxiety attack, or on a cold and lonely day – comfort is appreciated. Of course different things bring different people comfort. When I think of comfort my immediate associations are related to soft and warm things like fuzzy blankets and pets. As I tried to come up with additional things to add to a comfort list I had trouble defining the word comfort without using the word comfort.
Merriam-Webster defines comfort in two ways: (1) “to give strength and hope” and (2) “to ease the grief or trouble of.”
I really like these definitions. It not only articulates the soothing quality of things on my comfort list, but also adds empowerment.
Some people are fortunate enough to be surrounded by comfort - people, places, and things. However, comfort might be harder to come by for others. In moments of distress I find that it can be more difficult to identify things that could provide comfort. So by creating a comfort list, soothing and empowering things can be at my fingertips when most needed.
For me, my comfort go-to’s include: tea, cute animal pictures, warm blankets, fuzzy socks, chatting with friends, music, candles, coloring, and I’ll continue adding to the list because sometimes things on the list work and sometimes things on the list don’t.
What brings you comfort?
New Year. New years are interesting. There tends to be a lot of hype about New Year’s Eve. People ask what you are going to do New Year’s Eve – do something to celebrate the end of one year, and the coming of a new year. I suppose it is a way to put the past behind, and look forward to what is ahead. But that which is ahead may not always be exciting or exhilarating for people. Or leaving the past behind might feel sad and bittersweet. I suppose it is a way to unite humankind. People all over the world acknowledge this shift and many set resolutions for the new year.
The thing is, every day we leave yesterday behind, and look ahead to today and tomorrow. Setting intentions for a new year can be meaningful and impactful. But what if we set an intention each day, big or small?
Perhaps setting daily intentions is a bit too much – perhaps weekly or monthly or quarterly intentions could be helpful. If you so choose to start setting intentions, one way is to make them small and concrete. Often times we set lofty goals. Big goals are not a bad thing, but they can become overwhelming. Breaking down large goals into small and concrete steps makes goals more feasible. And then when we accomplish one of the small and concrete steps, we feel all the more motivated to set another small and detailed step.
For example, one of my intentions is to blog more, which feels big. Thoughts in my head include: how will I come up with topics, what will I write about, and the thoughts keep turning. But I will start with this post, and will brainstorm more ideas today and hopefully come up with 3 other topics for the rest of January.
So to all of you, Happy New Day!
I think it would be fair to say that at some point we have all been haunted by something - a past mistake/regret, a past relationship (romantic or not), maybe it is your own shadow, or perhaps it is something else entirely.
For some, the haunting might be quick and fleeting. For others, it is a long and arduous process, with intense periods of pleading with whatever that is haunting you to leave you alone for just one night.
The tricky part about the things that haunt us is that the harder we try to get rid of them the more they stick around. These things typically follow us wherever we go. So then what?
The pithy and psychological part of me whispers “acceptance” - learn to accept the things that haunt us. But the cynical part of me argues that this is so counterintuitive and who wants to “accept” being haunted. When I say “accept” I don’t mean resigning yourself to being haunted, but rather learning to accept the fact that the things that haunt us are present.
If we use an analogy and call the things that haunt us “monsters,” the more we attack or threaten the “monster” by trying to get rid of it, the more enraged and threatened the “monster” feels and is more likely to attack to preserve itself. But if we approach the “monster” with a sense of openness and curiosity, try to understand why the “monster” is there, the “monster” doesn’t feel so threatened or feel the need to attack.
This isn’t a perfect analogy, because I’m sure some of you are thinking, “well if I approach the ‘monster’ with openness and curiosity, without being armed, it’s just going to eat me alive.” That might happen…but it might not. But if you attack, it will most likely attack back.
How do we accept the things that haunt us? How do we allow space for the darker things of ourselves and life?
Here’s the thing - the darker parts are already there whether you accept them or not. So what do you have to lose in trying on acceptance?
Acceptance is a continuous act, a continuous choice of learning to come back to a posture of openness and acceptance. It is an action that we will all miss and have to come back to again and again. And we have to learn to accept that sometimes we don’t want to accept the fact that we have to accept things.
It is a haunting case of acceptance for us all ...
Courage and Fear.
When I think about courage and fear, memories of fear emerge more readily. I remember being terrified when I had unintentionally offended someone in a meeting and then had to do a presentation to the same audience the next hour. I can’t tell you how the presentation went, because it was all kind of a blur. I vaguely remember being told that I was courageous after the presentation. I remember feeling surprised because I didn’t feel courageous at all. I remember feeling like a mess and was simply relieved to be done. But I think this highlights the relationship between courage and fear. Courageous moments are often born out of unexpected moments that don’t feel courageous at all. In this instance, courage was born out of fear.
Life is a paradox, and despite having told myself that since I was a teenager, I feel like I’m constantly relearning that life is a paradox. Brene Brown addresses one of life's paradox in her book entitled “The Gifts of Imperfection.” She writes how courage has become linked with heroism, but at its core, courage is about vulnerability.
Speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage…Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.
So with that lens it makes sense to me that my courageous moments have come out of fear. It’s when I’m not thinking about being courageous, that courage appears. Though sometimes it doesn’t. But maybe it’ll help me be less afraid of my fear in the future if I remember that courage has been birthed from my fear.
Courage and fear ... fearfully courageous
Fear. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of missing out. Fear of failing. Fear of the unknown. Fear of fear.
Fear has become pervasive in society, especially with all the recent disasters and tragedies. Fear seems to have escalated depending on where you live and how attuned you might be to local, national, and world news.
But what is fear, and how did it seep into the daily fabric of life? Webster defines afraid as “filled with concern or regret over an unwanted situation.”
A lot of times we seem to spend time trying to avoid “unwanted” things, and by doing so, miss out on potentially “wanted” things. What is so bad about unwanted things? What is so bad about mistakes? What is so bad about missing out? What is so bad about failing?
Sure there are epic failures and mistakes that can lead to severe consequences, and those are best to be avoided. I am not proposing we all go out and live life haphazardly without regard for ourselves and others. But as Anne Lamott wrote in Stitches,
It’s much better to wake up now in deep regret, desperate not to waste more of your life ....Because you will have finally awakened
I think to desperately not waste life involves making mistakes and failing. So my hope is that the fear of wasting life is larger than the fear of making mistakes and failing. That way, we all can go forth and make some beautiful mistakes that create a life well lived.
Beauty is a miracle of things going together imperfectly
(Anne Lamott, Stitches, pg.82).
May my life and yours be stitched by mistakes and failures that imperfectly yet beautifully create a life desperate not to waste more of life.