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.
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?"
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?
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 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.
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.
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.