Oh mercy: it is hard to be uncomfortable—to just be it. Brene Brown says there’s a psychological definition of blame as the discharge of pain or discomfort; it sort of seems like that’s only her definition, but who cares, because oof it sounds right. When I have discomfort, I want to get rid of it, expel it, get the crap off and out of me, and it has to go somewhere. If I blame someone or something outside me, I can slide into the warmth of righteousness, and let’s note the etymology there: I get to be RIGHT! How lovely. –Eous = “in a state of.” And certainly pointing it back towards myself is a possibility, and then what I feel is just my own wrongness; that can be strangely tempting because at least it assigns responsibility and then I can do that clap-brush of hands: all sorted! We don’t have an –eous for this opposite of righteous, so I propose the obvious: wrongeous. The g goes soft, a nice companion to the [ch] formed with the [t]+eous
Anyway, it’s dang hard to not slide into one or the other of those. And that isn’t news; I have encountered that idea a thousand times this year, and I love that I can only now know it just a little. In applied linguistics, there’s a proposed order of acquisition, such that if I haven’t acquired x grammatical form, I basically can’t acquire y form that’s later in the order, even if it’s taught to me. Last night Bill and I were talking about existentialism, because in my self-tied knots of mess, at a certain point I keened “I don’t know what to do, I want someone to tell me what to do,” and he just looked at me and nodded, and I said in a very different voice “There is no one to tell me what to do,” and he nodded again, and it was like something had unclenched, and he said, “I’m pretty sure that’s existential…something.” We couldn’t remember if it was dread or something else (it’s anguish!…except it was actually awesome), but we got to thinking about how existentialism is something that has a reputation for being grown out of, but…well, it still seems pretty true that negative feelings can arise from the experience of human freedom and responsibility. What we landed on was that when you encounter existentialism in your 20s, you are excited because it seems like an excuse to be a certain kind of an asshole, which you really want. And we do grow out of that. Right now, it feels true and wonderfully unclenching, like, “well, yeah. Here we… keep going anyway.”
Anyway: The payoff to staying uncomfortable is a car ride like today’s, where at a certain point I found myself thinking of the magical people like Erin, Rio, Shelley, Rachel, Romey, Myra, Patty, Aurora, and of course Bill, who hold space, or my gaze, or my hand, or my hair back while I get so uncomfortable all over everything, and I was so flooded with gratitude for them that I had to grip the steering wheel and gulp for air so I wouldn’t just incandesce, transubstantiate, vaporize right out of my car.