How much discomfort can you handle? Say if you were to fly to a country half way around the world, come down with a sinus infection within days of landing, have your body treated as smorgasbord for mosquitos and other blood sucking bugs, develop a rash that anti-histamines don’t get rid of, eat something that didn’t agree with you and have spend an evening close to a toilet and on the same evening, have one of your roommates spy a large spider in your bathroom, would you a) turn tail and run, or b) would you take a breath and just chalk it up to experience and continue on?
Add in emotional shifts and you have some of the ingredients that made up my first week and half here. It would have been so easy to turn tail and run back home, and the thought did cross my mind briefly. I was lying in bed one morning and I just thought how easy it would be to just go home, cost be damned. Hello discomfort. How long are you here for?
When my sister and I were in Costa Rica, I was bitten by a bug on the brow line of my left eye. I woke up the day after I had been bitten and my left eye had swelled completely shut. I got on the phone with my insurance company and let them know about the situation and they sent me to the hospital in Santa Teresa, the town we were staying in. My sister dropped me off and I went in and had a doctor who didn’t speak much English, and I had a smattering of Spanish, but between the 2 of us, we managed to communicate. He checked my vision, which was fine, and gave me an antihistamine shot and said that the swelling should go down in the next few days. When it came to paying for the visit, I gave him my insurance details and he said it was easier for me to pay and then claim when I got home. I had just spent close to 40 minutes on the phone with my insurance company so I wasn’t sure if they would accept the claim if I paid. Not wanting to cause further stress to either of us, I paid and then phoned the insurance company back. The moment the insurance agent answered the phone in perfect English, I burst into tears. I was so far into discomfort that the first familiar thing just set me off. I immediately apologized, explaining that I was in a country where English wasn’t the first language and that I couldn’t see out of my left eye and that I was out of my comfort zone. She told me that it was fine and to just breathe and take my time. I calmed down and explained that I had paid for the hospital visit, and asked if it would affect my claim. She made a note in the computer and said to just send the paperwork when I got home and that would be fine. To be honest, it wasn’t really about the money, it had more to do with what I thought needed to be done, to have some structure in a moment where I couldn’t see any. I got off the phone with her, and then immediately called my Dad. I think I cried when I heard his voice too. He spent some time on the phone with me, and when we hung up, I felt much better and went and met my sister at the spot where she was surfing. She asked how it went and I told her I would be fine and that it would be swollen for a few days. She had felt a brief moment of worry that we would have to leave and go home early. (we still had just over a week left there). The next few days saw me wearing sunglasses to hide the swelling and if people saw it, I told them that they should see the other guy that tried to steal my spot in the surf line up.
Our vacation continued, the swelling went down, and we enjoyed the remainder of our time there and both left with new tattoos.
Once I could see (HA!) past the discomfort, I was fine.
Discomfort and uncertainty dwell together and we can either take them and shape them into experiences that will help us grow, or we can run back to where comfort and certainty dwell.
The sinus infection is long gone, though I still have a bit of the rash that showed up days after getting here. I have invested in natural bug sprays that seems to lessen the amount of bites. The tummy stuff has passed too. We think we still have a spider in our bathroom, so we named him Hank. I announce myself to him each time I go into the bathroom to give him time to make himself scarce. It is working.
The emotional shifts continue and I welcome them because they are steering me back to myself.
It’s easy to stay in comfort and certainty, but as Joseph Campbell said ‘The cave that you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.’
So, are you going to stay outside where comfort and certainty dwells, or are you going to enter the cave?
With my spelunking hat on and heading in,