“It is startling that we desperately hold on to what makes us miserable. Our own woundedness becomes a source of perverse pleasure and fixes our identity. We do not want to be cured, for that would mean moving into the unknown. Often it seems we are destructively addicted to the negative.”
- John O’ Donahue
So, for the first time, I have someone else reading an entire draft of my novel (you know that little fiction novel I’ve been working on for, oh I don’t know, the past two and half years or so? Yeah that one.)
I have to admit: the idea that my work is out there, in someone else’s hands, and their eyes are on it (not mine) makes me feel a bit uneasy. The book has been in my hands for so long, and has been under my complete control. But now I am being asked to be patient and let go while someone else helps me bring the story’s final incarnation to life. Having survived the wrath of rejection before, and having nestled those wounds until they have healed, I must drop all those old wounds now, and move into slight discomfort by having someone else read my novel (while I wait).
I know that in order to keep my story growing, I really need to become more comfortable with discomfort.
Becoming Comfortable With Discomfort
In fact, I’ve been doing a lot of uncomfortable things lately. It’s the only way I know how to not fall back into my old skin. Because falling back into my old skin would be counterproductive.
The only way I know for sure that I’m growing is if things feel slightly uncomfortable. If I am too comfortable, I’m in a dangerous place because there is no way of knowing if I am growing or not. If I am comfortable, then for all I know I could still be in a prison of my old wounds, and it’s just that my eyes have adjusted to the darkness.
Therefore, the only way to know for sure that I am truly free is to slam myself up against the shadows. Sure, I might get a little disheveled in the process (maybe even bruised up a little), but that’s the only way to know whether my shoulders will slam up against more rusted bars, or if whether they’ll fall straight through a hidden escape route.
For the time being, I have to reach through the shadows to find my way out of my old wound prison. It may be awkward and messy, but that’s just part of growth: there’s no way of knowing where it will lead me.
Wounds, Wounds, Wounds
In his book, Anam Cara, the late poet and philosopher John O’ Donahue notes that sometimes comfort can become a very deadly thing for us: comfort can keep us stuck in our old wounds.
In their raw, crude form, our newly hatched wounds start off as chains that keep us shackled and trapped. One day, we finally learn to pair our wounds down with our healing attention, so that they become lighter to carry. But after a while of working on our wounds, a strange thing begins to happen: the more we work our wounds, the less of a burden they become, and the more they become our necessary “accessories.” Our wounds become sunglasses. Become bracelets. Become baseball caps. A wound starts off as a burden, but through the healing process, ends up being part of our very wardrobe—a part of our identity we have serious trouble shaking off.
But as much as we want to keep our wounds with us, our wounds must be dropped as soon as they are healed.
Too bad dropping an old wound isn’t such an easy thing to do, right?
Who knew it was so hard to drop an old wound we both cuddled and punched, both sliced and patched up, both flung and cradled? How can we leave the wound when we have become so familiar with it that it’s become like an old jacket to us, one that has already been fitted to us and slips on so perfectly? How can we leave the wound when we’ve become so accustomed to the wound that we have now become the wound?
Who are we without the wound? Who are we without the adversity that shaped us? We don’t know and we don’t want to know.
Keep us here, in the wound, we beg. Keep us in the comfort of that old wound. For it is all we know.
We know fear, but don’t show us love. (We don’t know what that is.)
We know strife, but don’t show us abundance. (We don’t know what that is, either.)
We know suffering, but don’t show us healing. (We don’t know who we are when we are healed.)
We know darkness, but don’t show us the light. (It is blinding.)
Comfort: the silent threat keeping us stuck and miserable.
Comfort: the last guard on watch as you make your final escape from the prison of your old wounds.
Comfort: the cleverest of all the guards: he’s not the one who threatens you with a bludgeoning, or with firepower. He’s the one who opens his arms to you, brings you up close, and whispers into your ear:
“I’m not going to hurt you, old friend. But why would you ever want to leave this prison, when this is the only home you’ve ever known?”
“Stay,” he adds. “The prison gets warmer as time passes. I promise. “
Surprisingly, instead of ignoring the guards pleas, you nod and, just as you were about to make your final escape, you retreat back into your old prison: the wound.
And it was Comfort who was the one who convinced you to stay.
And so there you wait, in your old Wound Prison, waiting for the temperature to become a little less cold.
But it never does get any warmer, does it?
Comfort lied to you.
Stuck In The Wound
Our wound once needed our attention, but now we won’t let it go. We won’t let it go because we don’t know who we are without the wound.
It is damming isn’t it? That we fear the unknown more than we fear the suffering that has been plaguing us for so long? It is damming isn’t it? That we will fight tooth and nail to stay stuck in our woundedness, because, secretly, we don’t want to leave it?
It is insanity to fight for the old wound that needs to be dropped, and, in that moment, we are insane. We are not our best selves, and we are ashamed to admit it. God forbid anyone should see us so desperate–so desperate not to grow, but to stay the same! So desperate to remain unchanged, to stay stuck in the old ways (even though, deep inside, we know the old ways won’t work anymore).
We are self-destructive, and the kicker is, we know it.
As much as we try to leave our old wound, a part of us will fight for it—oh, it will fight. This part of us is driven by fear. This fear-based part of us will thwart our every move toward positive, progressive change.
This part of us does not do this out of malice. No. It does it because it is way too comfortable in its old, destructive ways. It welcomes the fires of strife because the fires of strife feel so much like home to it. To someone who has grown accustomed to the fires of strife, fire now feels like rain and a drop of water feels just like a flame.
Yes. A person who wants to hold on to an old wound is this lost.
Comfort: the silent threat keeping you stuck and miserable.
This is why, once you have done everything to heal the wound, once you’ve given the wound as much time and attention as you can, you must embrace discomfort. Because it is only in embracing discomfort that we can know that we are growing, that we are free, and that we are finally making our way towards the light.
Drop The Wound
For those of you who have exhausted The Wound, who have done everything in their power to heal The Wound and give it your attention, do this with me today: drop the wound.
Drop it. Today. Let it go.
It is no longer you anymore. The wound has done its job to grow you into the person you are today.
But you don’t need it with you for the next part of your journey.
Your wound wasn’t “Failed Heart,” it was “Bursting Appendix.” You must extract it from you, and once it’s extracted from you, you must leave it on the surgeon’s table to explode without you. Then, you must go home to get your life in order.
Go get your life in order.
You deserve freedom from your Wound Prison. Don’t let even the kindest of prison guards stop you.
Move forward with slight discomfort, instead. Let Slight Discomfort be your next best friend. He’ll guide you to the next step.