XXVI - Much Better - Embracing My Discomfort


When should I embrace feeling uncomfortable or otherwise out-of-sorts?

I’m afraid.

I’m feeling exhausted.

I’m feeling pressured by others.

I’m feeling angry.

I feel like I don’t belong here.

I feel too old (or too young).

As a man, it feels uncomfortable being among so many others who aren’t men.

If I don’t pay attention constantly, I lose track of what’s being said.

I complimented them, so why are they criticizing me?

Why am I being asked to leave?

-        -

I face a lot of situations where I feel I’m an outsider.  Others often welcome me.   Sometimes I even feel embarrassed by their positive words about me which don’t feel deserved.    In such situations I can feel “in” sometimes, and as an outsider at other times.   Validation does feel good!

There are plenty of times where I feel like an outsider.   Sometimes I deal with my discomfort being a silent observer.   At other times it feels like I babble on endlessly.  Often in such situations I recognize my discomfort, noting that I was talking “too much”.

Being uncomfortable can be really horrible in some situations!    Hearing of horrific acts of others - cruelty - sadism - troubles me greatly!

Eva explained.  ‘You’ve created a big problem for her.’

‘What?’

‘You were educated abroad, your English is fluent, you hold a higher position than hers, you make more money than she does, and she can’t handle it.  You’re not the Arab she’s been told about, the backward, illiterate savage who lives in a tent and keeps camels.  She doesn’t know what box to put you in.’ (p.348)

(Stranger in My Own Land: Palestine, Israel and One Family’s Story of Home - Fida Jiryis)

I am bothered greatly - by the obvious oppression that Palestinians face.  Fida Jiryis, and fellow Palestinians, deserve respect.  As a Jew who cares, I’m  particularly troubled by how systemic oppression is glaringly visible in much of such personal stories.

I’m also troubled sometimes because of the impact of my words upon others.  My intent may have been good, but when another person is hurt by what I’ve said, it doesn’t feel right.   Additionally, I sometimes really screw up in various ways.   Regret is most appropriate then!

I have a privileged life in some very important ways.   The most important person in my life lacks some of the most important types of privilege that I have.   My significant privilege impacts my feelings and thoughts more and more over time.

Working as an abortion clinic escort in Chicago was very meaningful for me.    I felt uncomfortable there for multiple reasons!   Being a cis male in a female dominated environment often made me feel uncomfortable.     Chatting with other escorts often felt awkward.  My poor social skills frequently embarrassed me.   More significant were the feelings that arose watching a lot of the girls and women entering the clinic.   

Seeing the fear in their eyes made me very uncomfortable!   

Seeing the look of physical and emotional exhaustion in those early Saturday mornings brought significant discomfort.

-

I can be very uncomfortable dealing with the entire breadth of reproductive justice issues.  Working on them can make me extremely uncomfortable.     I am a Total Outsider!    I know very little!    The “experts” are 99.9% women - a lot of them Black Women - a lot of them Queer and/or Trans.

I make mistakes.   I’m inefficient.    I see urgency in the work.  Few men, particularly white men, are visibly, significantly supporting the work.   Our invisibility tacitly supports the mounting efforts to greatly expand the patriarchal control of women and trans people.   BIPOC - already greatly oppressed, face greatly increased pressures each day as we move forward.

Decades ago we should have begun serious work!  Nearly all of us are either totally inactive, or doing very little.   Patience is Not my strong-point!

This is all very uncomfortable for me!   My feelings are intense!   While I don’t feel guilt or shame, it’s not that far away!

-

This type of discomfort feels most healthy!  

I want to model such behavior.  It is important to me that we privileged white men take such things deeply into our hearts and spirits.    We, the privileged white men who say that we care, should behave very atypically - now.  

We should be:

1.    doing the personal work,

2.    building our political work, and:

3.    delving deeply  here - learning more and more.

I am trying to expand my horizons as I move forward!   I am significantly expanding my efforts.

Being an ally - as an outsider - is important also in my Anti-Racism work, as well as in my solidarity work in support of Palestinians.

Such discomfort is personal in my life.   My partner is Black.  She faces racism every day of her life.   Yesterday - she asked the medical assistant  (BIPOC) whether the physician she was about to meet was “a good white doctor”.   She wasn’t referencing his “medical competency”.   )Black women are 30% more likely to die in childbirth than white women (when taking class into context).   Hypertension - is more likely.   Subconscious (often) stereotypes persist in the minds of white medical providers.  

Racism and sexism - needlessly kill many people who don’t deserve the systemic oppression that they face.  Living can be dangerous!

As a white cis man, I can easily be oblivious of Black People, women, Queer/Gay/Lesbian/Trans/ Gender-Fluid People.    Yes, I was held up at gunpoint twice - many years apart - both times by Black Men.     I feel very safe in our house in a diverse, working class neighborhood.   The others in our household, both Black, don’t feel safe here at all.    This is understandable to me!   I couldn’t possibly imagine - having experienced, as a child, someone trying to burn down our home- because we (they) were a Black Family proximate to white people (not Black People).

Walking alone in the dark, I look for (possible) women walking alone towards me.   I don’t “need” to cross the street, but I choose to do it.  

I’m not ashamed that I’m a man.   At the same time, it’s no simple - “right/wrong” type of binary set of choices.

When I start to feel relaxed and comfortable - for more than a relatively briefly, I try to reflect.  What is really going on?    Often - it’s just they way things have been.  At other times I realize that I’m “coasting”.  

I’m not being in the space I want to be in.  I want to be present - recognizing and reacting and listening and trying to grow.   Generally, this requires me to be in some discomfort.  

When I’m not really present, my “detour” - is probably “normal” for most of us.

Our - “coasting” - commonly shows how unexceptional we are.

It may come from basic apathy - not caring (enough).   It may come from the blinders - we willingly accept and live with.   It may come from our narrow world of “necessities” and “pleasures”.

Whatever our excuses may be, we often are in a calm, relaxed “world”, oblivious of the rising, raging waters, that are significantly attacking and threatening to destroy - those - “others” - we barely see, if we see them at all.

-

A different world - is the world - of deep trauma.   When I was mired in depression - especially my longest and deepest depression, I had no capacity - for really being,  and living a meaningful life.  I was mired in the bottom of a deep pit - that seemingly had no exit.

-

There is the world of the artist, as well as the world of “leader” - whether through business, a privileged servicer - such as the lawyer, the politicians and their enablers, those “successful” in the military, and/or the high level government employee - and more.

In such worlds - there is often - “the ends justify what I do”.   This really is:  “don’t rock the boat”

Or, more explicitly expressed as:

Don’t make me uncomfortable. 

I can, and will, shut you out of my life. 

Why threaten our relationship?  

Who wins?

-

These paths are different from “the worker bee”.   He may be in-between or near the bottom.   His privilege may be far less than ours/mine.  At the bottom - are the really deeply “imprisoned”.    They may be deeply medicated by prescription medicine.   They may be regularly at the bar as soon as the work day ends, escaping “reality”, drowning in their drinks.   They may be loners - emotionally detached from others.

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I’m troubled by those of us who lack real power, because of our laziness, lack of initiative, and/or our low level fears.  

We may be mired in our personal work - narcissistic in its depths.   Many of us - are “good people” - who mean well - and seemingly do positive things.  Such things tend either to be superficial - never threatening to bring us into more than token discomfort.   We may flip-flop between serious work, “attacking”,  and then shortly thereafter “pulling back” - into “safety”.

We learn to rationalize ourselves, our station in life, our essence.   Our spirit  - may be a sparkler - bright for a few seconds.   It lights us up strongly, dying down , disappearing within a minute or two.   It might, instead, be a “commercial premium bond” - so, so safe - nearly all the time.

We, of course, are rarely taught by our parents and formal schooling - to be - what I believe we should be.   We are taught to excel in school, in sports, in the arts and similar.   The success we learn to seek is based upon lots of money and lots of respect.   It is very narrow!   We are “the hero” - not the builder and sustainer of meaning-  of community depth - and/or of a strong spirit within us.

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I deeply welcome the wonderful examples I see around me!   There are incredible, wonderful people!   They nurture others.   They build - depth - helping us move towards meaningful change.   They inspire us - towards a world of respect, caring and a deep love - that embraces a just, fair, equitable world.

I am trying to grow!   I find meaning - deep meaning (some of the time).  I try to remain in my path - especially when it shows itself as a part of this world, I so admire.   I try to acknowledge my mistakes.   I try to learn from them .   The harm - I cause is (hopefully) minimal.

The young child - has great potential.   As an adult - I hope I am regaining - some of my depth - that I lost - early in my life.  

Healing my trauma is important.   My trauma came from my early life.  It also came from the deep traumas of my ancestors.  We can seek being present.   We can deeply listen to others.  Their journeys are (also) important.

It is challenging.  

Discomfort - can - (for some of us) - be a blessing.   It is important, and meaningful for me!

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