In Your Dreams: Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

She yells it to me through my television screen at least twice a week:

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable! Right now, this moment! This is when it counts! When you’re tired and you don’t think you can do it and you want to give up- THIS is when you make change happen!”

It turns out there’s more to learn from Jillian Michaels than how to simply not die during a high intensity cardio session.

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Remember back when we talked about how sometimes creative work feels impossible? I confessed that I’d gotten to “the hard part” of my project and how I’m learning to sit in that tension instead of struggle against it?

Well I thought “the hard part” was being brave.

Brave enough to step out, brave enough to share that journey with you, and brave enough to be honest about it along the way.

Because all creative work requires bravery.

We know this. 

We love to talk about the bravery because it’s noble and grand, but we don’t speak much of the aftermath that almost always follows. The wake of those unsorted and far less noble feelings of confusion, doubt, and disorientation that come after the bravery.

The questions of, “Wait, did I do that right?

Should I be embarrassed right now?

Was that really true and helpful and good?

Or was it self indulgent and foolish and cringeworthy?"

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There is a natural ebb and flow to the creative process, but because I am so new to all of it, riding that wave often leaves me feeling a bit seasick.

See, my whole life I operated under the assumption (the lie) that I’m simply not a creative person. I wasn’t even mad about it, really. It was okay. “It just wasn’t my bag, baby.” (Name that movie.)

But in the last couple of years as I’ve woken up to my creative self and begun to pursue my dream of writing, I’ve wrestled long and hard with all the wonky feelings that accompany such a process.

I am DOING THE THING.

I’m bravely entering the creative arena.

I’m boldly claiming my words as my gift, my calling, and my art.

I’m out there leaving my blood, sweat, and tears on the ground.

So why isn’t it getting easier? Wasn’t I supposed to have a thicker skin by now? Why do fear and uncertainty almost always pull me back after a sure step forward? 

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I wasn’t lying when I said I was a huge fan of my comfort zone. For most of my life I’ve been all about playing it safe. As one of my blogging friends, Leanne, once put it, “I’ve only been sending out the invitations that I know will RSVP with a “Yes.”

I write a piece that feels too real and too tender, so I backspace and delete until it feels safe again. I blurt out a fledgling new idea for a book, suspect it’s the literal WORST, and promptly request everyone pretend I never spoke it aloud. Even when I know in my knower that I should probably chase it down.

I retreat.

I toe the line.

I invite all my inner critics over for tea so they can roast me while I eat scones and pretend to be unphased.

I keep it light and funny and sarcastic because that’s easy and it doesn’t require any risk. I laugh it off. I play it safe.

The only problem with playing it safe while chasing your dreams is that IT DOESN’T WORK.

A dream, just like art, requires bravery – but it doesn’t stop there. It also requires vulnerability. It requires you to feel the aftershock of discomfort brought on by your own bravery and to STAY with it instead of run from it.

To lean into it, even.

When we create something, labor over it, and then share it with the world, insecure feelings will almost always follow. Sometimes we need to stop and listen to those wonky feelings because they’re there to push us to do better work, but more often than not, we need to turn away from them because they’re just an involuntary reaction to stepping outside of our comfort zone.

The trick is learning to tell the difference.

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The first time I was in labor (Men, stifle your eye roll, okay? Yes, us women love our labor and delivery stories and we will take any opening we get to talk about it. Because once we birth a human we are in a club, and we got in BY BEING A TOTAL BADASS. So just let us have this one, okay?)

Anyway, the first time I was in labor there was no time for all the medicine I had counted on having. There was no numbing. They didn’t even have time to throw an aspirin at me. It was time to push and there was no way around it.

The pain was so unbearable that I began to retreat into myself. I closed my eyes and with each contraction I curled up into myself in a futile attempt to get away from it.

I whimpered and trembled and panicked.

Finally there came a point when I realized that the only way I was going to survive this, much less get a baby out of it, was to lean into the discomfort. So the more it hurt, the harder I pushed.

And it ushered me over the threshold from labor into delivery.

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The payoff comes when we dig in, lean into the discomfort, and do the scary thing. The laboring might last longer than we were prepared for and it might take everything we’ve got to push through.

But ultimately it will birth something new. 

And that is where the magic happens.


Amber Salhus is a wife, mom, writer, house-flipper, comedy lover, and movie buff, which makes it sound like she has a lot more free time than she actually does. She lives in the Oregon countryside with her husband and their two tiny tenders. She writes over at www.ambersalhus.com where she is all about keeping it real, telling the honest truth, and finding the humor in all of it.

When Creative Work Feels Impossible

Some days having a dream to pursue feels dreamy. But some days it’s like an elephant is standing on your chest; you feel a lot of pressure and you’re acutely aware that you’re dealing with something much bigger than yourself.

Can I be honest? Today was one of those days. I woke up and before I even opened my eyes I remembered that I’m carrying around a dream. A dream that suddenly feels as if it weighs a thousand pounds.

I’ve tried putting it down, I’ve tried ignoring it, and I’ve tried shouldering it alone only to realize two steps further that I’m exhausted and not cut out for this nonsense because I’d definitely rather be watching Netflix.

As you might imagine, none of these tactics actually worked, so here I am with my book dream. We’re no longer strangers, startled to find each other there every time we turn around, but we still haven't quite figured out how to co-exist, either.

We’re sort of just chillin’ here together, except nothing is chill and The Book Dream and I are either madly in love or completely at odds, depending on the day.

It’s all very dramatic, you see.

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My friend Laura calls this “sitting in the tension”. I always message her to say that just when I think I have a clear, linear, outline for my book it suddenly disappears again, as if it were never even there at all. I tell her I feel I’m going crazy and she tells me to sit in that tension instead of struggle against it. Laura is very smart and sometimes she says things that accidentally “therapize” me in the best way. (Extra points if you caught that Kimmy Schmidt reference.)

Then I message Melissa to say that I’ve decided creative work is too hard and I suspect that I can’t actually do it. I say this book dream must be temporarily insane, because it definitely chose the wrong person and I’d probably have more luck moving to Hollywood and being an actress than successfully wrestling this thing into the world. Melissa is smart too, and she knows me well enough to know we will have this conversation more than once. She calmly reminds me to quit looking at the big picture, and to break it down into smaller bits that I CAN do.

She likes to call these “measurable goals”.

I like to call them annoying.

I tell Melissa my “measurable goal” for today is not to lose my mind and I tell my book dream to go home, because it’s definitely drunk.

The thing is, I’ve reached the part of the process that I always forget to remember is coming:

The hard part.

The seed has been planted, the idea has grown, and the groundwork has been laid, but all that momentum inexorably came to a halt. I’ve dismantled, questioned, and rearranged all my ideas at least ten times. I’m working hard to find that thread. You know the one. That silvery thread that weaves through all my writing, connecting all the most important pieces to each other and sifting out the parts that don’t belong.

It’s tedious work.

But that’s okay. It’s supposed to be.

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Creativity is tricky like a chameleon. Some days you catch it by the tail and hold it up to the light, profoundly captivated by all it’s colors. Other days it scurries across your path, only to quickly disappear again. Always just beyond your reach, refusing to be captured.

But the very thing that makes creative work so hard- it’s uniqueness, is the very reason why we shouldn’t give up on it.

Your art is your art. My art is my art. No one but you can do your creative work and no one else can do mine for me.

And yet the world waits, desperately needing all of it.

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This morning I drug my heavy heart and my book dream out on the back porch with me to spend a few minutes enjoying the quiet magic of sunrise.

Usually silence makes me nervous.

I’m a chatty gal. I like people and words and I like them in abundance. Maybe it’s because I’m a nervous-talker and I accept every lull in conversation as an invitation to awkwardly fill the space, or maybe it’s because life in general is so full of noise, but somewhere along the line, silence became intimidating to me.

I get restless.

I need to hurry up. I need to slow down. I need to be quiet but I also need to hear God. 

I’ve spent a lifetime training my ear to listen to my own inner monologue, which runs an endlessly obnoxious loop of fear and doubt, of hustle and pressure, of hurry up and try.

It wasn’t until I started learning to breathe deeply the silence, that it became like a sacred space around me, pushing back the noise and the clamor, making room for my heart to open up.

I sat watching thick, lazy layers of fog rolling silently in and out between the trees. I watched the sun cast intricate shadows across the field as it rose, slowly illuminating the dark places without ever making a sound.

It’s funny how silence can often say things the loudest.

Today the silence reminded me to embrace my smallness in the world. It reminded me that some of the most beautiful things happen in the quiet, after the darkest time. It reminded me that creative work is hard and deeply personal, yes, but the good news is it’s not impossible.

So what’s yours?


Amber Salhus is a wife, mom, writer, house-flipper, comedy lover, and movie buff, which makes it sound like she has a lot more free time than she actually does. She lives in the Oregon countryside with her husband and their two tiny tenders. She writes over at www.ambersalhus.com (Did I Shave My Legs For This?) where she is all about keeping it real, telling the honest truth, and finding the humor in all of it.

Defining Success For Yourself

Define success. What does it mean to you?

I was speaking with one of my best friends tonight. It was one of those conversations that brings you closer and seems to make the world a little bit clearer. She shared…

“When I make music I feel like I am doing something that I need to do. It isn’t just playing music, it is fulfilling a need in me. Sometimes I look back and wish that I had done something more with it.”

She is a musician. She has a gift for song writing, singing and playing piano by ear. I used to be her roommate, so I know her gifting well.

I asked her, “Why not do something now?”

She proceeded to give an array of reasons why. She said she has family responsibility, that it takes time and energy, and that she feels too old to start.

I responded, “Yes, you do have responsibilities, and it does take up time...but what is really the reason that you don’t do it?”

She paused and then admitted something difficult. 

“My father is a musical genius. He is respected by everyone for his ability to make amazing music. Growing up with that, it is hard not to compare myself. What if I am not good enough? I think about the fact that there's already a lot of good music out. They don’t need my music.”

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What my friend said echoes in the hearts of many of us.
What if?
What if I put myself out there and they don’t like it?
What if I'm not good enough?
What if I fail?

So I asked her something I have to ask myself all the time.

“Ten years from now, which would seem worse to you? Looking back knowing that you tried and didn’t reach some cultural standard of success, or looking back and knowing that you didn’t try because you might fail?”

Again, she paused thoughtfully and answered.

“Well, I guess I would have to say looking back and not trying.”

This sparked an even deeper conversation about success. What is success? How do we define it individually? And if we have something that breathes life into us, what should we do with that?

Here is what we came up with.

If we find that there is something we do that brings life to us; we should give our attention to it. It's kind of big…even if it seems small. And there may be a responsibility to not only do that thing because it gives us life, but to also share it, because it may breathe life into someone else. 

Yet many times we don’t pursue that life giving gift, or we keep it hidden for fear that it may not be accepted. It may “fail”.

Measuring ourselves against the cultural standard, the standard of our fathers or friends, or even against the little negative voices in our heads is paralyzing. It is based in fear. When we measure ourselves according to what others see as success we are losing a piece of ourselves.

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Here is what I am realizing for myself. I do not fit into that 9 to 5-move on up the ladder-box. I am slightly jealous of those that do fit into that idea because it seems so clear cut. So American dream. But what I am seeing, is that we are all trying to cram into one box, and cramming millions of people into one box…well…it can become quite stifling in there. Maybe there are other boxes we haven’t thought of. Maybe, just maybe, some of us are better suited to be out of the box.

For me, I realize that knowing who I am and what makes me tick and then living without excuse within that; that is what my success looks like.

It is not our responsibility to measure success or failure according to cultural standards, family standards, or even the standards in our heads; that’s God’s responsibility. It is only our responsibility to openly and boldly share the gifts that are within us.


Jessica is a New Yorker, writer, photographer, life enthusiast and dreamer! Her blog is full of stories, annotates, and self discovery, and it's her hope that these narratives inspire others to be courageously open in their own lives. Take an adventurous journey with her as we all explore who we are and learn to laugh through the rain! Visit Jessica's blog at themisshappenstances.com.