Tiny Revolutions №57: Some Things Are Just Hard
the discomfort is the point 💊
Hi, I’m Sara, and this is Tiny Revolutions, a weekly-ish dispatch of personal writing and links about becoming who you are. Reply anytime, I love to hear from you.
Last week after writing about having had a nervous breakdown, I had what the queen Brené Brown refers to as a vulnerability hangover. I felt like a walking wound for the better part of the next day. Never mind that this happened a long time ago. Never mind that I’ve written about it before and that I’m in a 100 times better place now.
Some things are just hard.
When I was writing the above, I went off in search of a link where one could find a definition of “vulnerability hangover.” It seems self-explanatory, but you know, clarity and all. I couldn’t find one that was succinct – mostly I found articles about how to avoid or survive one.
Which, ha! The whole thing about a vulnerability hangover is that it sucks! But the discomfort is the point. Without taking the risk of revealing something sensitive, you cannot be rewarded with the deeper connection that is possible in its wake.
Given that Google searches return links that are most often cited by other sites on the topic you’re searching for, I think it’s fair to say that this is a perfect encapsulation of a larger problem: that we want everything to be easy. Instant ease and comfort, all the time.
I’m guilty of it. I didn’t Google “vulnerability hangover” in search of a cure for the vulnerability hangover I was experiencing, but I did soothe myself in other ways. I skipped out on work for most of the day on Monday in favor of a long walk and then driving around just for the sake of not being in my house. I skipped a deadline and got an iced coffee and took in some late afternoon winter sun.
I am constantly trying to strike the right balance between work and not work. The lines have become more blurred in recent years because of the fact that, for the most part, I love what I do. It’s just that it’s often hard.
As are most things that are worth doing. When I skipped the deadline all I really did was make things even harder for myself; it meant I had to spend the next morning cramming to get the draft done before a meeting with the client.
I got it done. I was glad I got it done. I was proud of the work I did. And it still sucked!
Anyway, I’m rambling. I’m not even sure I have a point. I just wanted to say that sometimes things are hard and that’s all there is to it.
But since you’re still here, it begs the question: if we know that many things that are worth doing are hard, why do we still want them to be easy? Why do we think we should be able to learn a language/write a novel/run a 5k/whatever in five minutes a day? Why are we always trying to remove the hard parts when we know that there’s meaning and reward in the struggle itself?
Which is not to say that just because something is hard it’s worth doing. No ma’am. But we know on a deep level the stuff that is. And still we do everything we can to try to get out of it.
So that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. Finding the distinction between hard things I’m avoiding because they’re painful and pain sucks vs. hard things I’m avoiding because I don’t actually need to do them/they aren’t in some way necessary. Life’s hard enough without adding to the pile.
I put writing about being a head case in the former category, by the way. So thanks for all your kind notes and comments in response to last week’s email. I’ll keep sharing if it keeps helping.
On to some links n’ things for ye.
This poem by Marie Howe.
“Remember that you do not live in a bubble. The cost of staying put does not only affect you. It also affects those around you. By falling for the fear of failure, you are depriving your loved ones of the benefits that come from pursuing your fullest potential.”
Nice piece on overcoming the cognitive distortions that keep us from pursuing what we want. I like the idea of framing it as an ancillary benefit for the people you love. Five Thought Patterns that Fuel the Fear of Failure
Thanks to reader Andrew L., who sent this delightful thread of terrifying thinkers.
Lyrics of the Week
“Two dozen other stupid reasons
Why we should suffer for this
Don't bother trying to explain them
Just hold my hand while I come to a decision on it”
Speaking of hard things, sometimes it’s hard for me to decide what to write about. Send help! Make life easy for me I beg of you!!! (Anonymously if you want.)
Tuesday Night Zoom
The Tuesday night silent work sessions continue. Join us for an hour of using our Zoom powers for good.
A Tiny Assignment
Think of something you do that is hard. Is it the kind of hard thing that’s worth it? If not, can you find a way not to do it anymore?
See you next week.
p.s. Thanks for reading! You’re the best.
Sara, this is great. I have two answers. First: years ago a guy named Mark Jenkins had a column in Outside magazine called "The Hard Way." The essays were collected into a book that I enjoyed. But it was kind of bro-tastic in the way that much of that magazine can be, but the point I've carried with me is that sometimes it is good to test ourselves against the world, rather than constantly seek the more convenient path. I'm not a hardcore thrillseeker, but I do like to do hard things just for the sake of it being hard. It's usually testing myself against the weather, extremes of temperature, just living a little more inconveniently. The stairs instead of the elevator. One trip with a heavy load instead of two. Hard, hands-on work like splitting and stacking wood.
But then there is emotional hard. Setting boundaries. Saying no. I'm not good at that.
And larger things? Like desires for spending my remaining years doing things that don't jibe with how a partner's life choices are playing out that make just about anything more difficult? Like reckoning with a growing desire for more personal space, a small cabin or shack to spend time living alone in? Longing for more multi-day solo wandering trips? The realizations are really, really fucking hard. I may never face that excruciating conversation and will probably suffer for it, because I don't know that I have the courage. And living through not doing it is hard too.
Sara thank you for writing this! It couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been writing something for the last few weeks that I’ve been scared about sharing and am going to post it tomorrow ... knowing about a vulnerability hangover will help me anticipate it so I won’t be surprised with how I feel afterwards.