Every year, starting mid-April and ending in early June, I “suffer” along with 20% of Americans the pollen allergy symptoms of runny nose, itchy eyes/throat, cough, trouble breathing, etc.
I like this kind of “suffering” in that it’s not at all “suffering” but rather just annoying discomfort. Over the years of trying to learn and get good at stuff, I’ve figured out a simple fact that improvement requires you to be always choosing the less “comfortable” option. In other words, as many people have said, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. That might seem ridiculous or even masochistic, but I think it’s just practical. Every day I step outside my comfort zone in a bunch of ways in work, in sport, in conversation, in thinking, etc.
Feeling like crap for a couple months due to an allergic reaction is yet another chance to deal with discomfort. No big deal.
I came across the following photograph (from Daniel Berehulak of AFP/Getty Images) and couldn’t help but be reminded that inner peace does not have to be a function of outer peace.
This is a Thai resident in his flooded home near the overflowing Chao Phraya river from October 2011.
Of course, I can’t tell what exactly is going on in his mind, but it does appear that he has embraced the situation and has been able to find some semblance of comfort in a circumstance that for most of us would be stressful and bordering on traumatic.
The cigarette, the Adidas swim trunks, the reclining pose all speak of higher peace to me.
No matter how small or big the troubles in your life may be right now. Perhaps, it may be constructive to face the storm head on in your best pair of swim trunks.
An excerpt from Dean Karnazes book Ultramarathon Man:
Somewhere along the line we seem to have confused comfort with happiness. I’ve now come to believe that quite the opposite is the case. Dostoevsky had it right: “Suffering is the sole origin of consciousness.” Never are my senses more engaged than when the pain sets in. There is magic in misery. Just ask any runner.
This gets at the idea that I usually try to explain to friends, acquaintances, girls when they ask why I live my life the way I do. I don’t watch TV, I don’t go to parties / bars, I rarely drink (though when I do, I drink like a champion). Things that most people consider “comfortable” or “relaxing” don’t make me happy. If I’m not challenging myself mentally and physically, it’s not just not worth doing, it’s simply not fun for me. I enjoy relaxing, sleeping not as an activity in itself but as preparation for difficult tasks ahead. Similarly, I seek balance in my life only in as much as it helps me be most consistently productive for long periods of time.
I used to be more apologetic about these values, but then I realized that apologizing for such things is absurd.