Uncomfortable in Your Comfort Zone

Nobody wants to be uncomfortable. If we all had our druthers, everything would feel just right all the time.

That, of course, is not possible. It wouldn’t be possible in utopia, assuming humans ever manage to develop a utopia. Even in a world where things are fair and systems work, people will still misunderstand each other or fall in love with someone who doesn’t love them back or disagree on the best way to deal with a problem.

Besides, even if we manage to survive and thrive and shift things so that climate change doesn’t do too much harm, the weather’s still going to be awful a good bit of the time.

Plus people are still going to get sick and die. We may figure out how to live longer, but I don’t think immortality is in the cards.

We’re nowhere near utopia at this point, so there’s a lot of discomfort in our world.

Of course, there are things so awful that the word discomfort lacks all meaning: war, other violence, disasters, hunger, brutal authoritarian governments, a whole raft of diseases that could be treated or prevented, but aren’t.

Some of those awful things are happening to people nearby. People are living on the streets – pitching tents on a concrete sidewalk – because they have no place to live. They are sick but can’t afford to go to the doctor. Their kids don’t have enough to eat.

They are worse than uncomfortable, but their presence should make those of us who are getting by very uncomfortable.

But of course, as I said before, no one wants to be uncomfortable. We look away, we pretend it’s not happening. Some people go so far as to encourage brutal policies against refugees or the homeless, working themselves into a state of righteous anger – “They brought it on themselves” – so that they don’t have to feel uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, people who have the means to insulate themselves from a lot of the problems in the world never get very far outside of their comfort zone.

I have since childhood been made uncomfortable by my awareness that I have so much more than others. This has been true even when I’ve been flat broke, because even when I was broke, I had some resources.

These days I’m made aware on a constant basis of the inequities and evil in our world, inequities that I don’t face, except, of course, as a woman in a world that favors men (and certain kinds of men at that).

And since I’m no longer a young woman, the overturning of Roe v. Wade – a touchstone from my youth – doesn’t affect me directly. Angers me, yes. Reminds me that some don’t consider me a real human being, yes. Not being able to do more about this travesty makes me uncomfortable.

I want to advocate that people defy this taking away of the basic right of women to control their own bodies, but it makes me uncomfortable to say “resist” to the pregnant and their doctors, the people who will go to jail or worse to fight this injustice. It is not my risk to take.

Even the things I’m proud of in my family heritage make me uncomfortable these days. I come from a long line of strong pioneer women on both sides of my family, which means that my ancestors were part of the destruction of much of the indigenous way of life.

And while I’ve abhorred racism my whole life, was raised to think it was wrong, I keep discovering things I should have known before.

Then there’s climate change. As with many of the other issues, it’s hitting the people least responsible for it first.

Where I live, the most obvious symbol of climate change is smoke from wildfires. We are able to afford devices that will help keep us comfortable the next time that happens. Many people around here are not.

All this is combined with the knowledge that I can fix very little of what’s wrong out there and that I never feel like I am doing enough.

I am always uncomfortable.

I don’t think this is a bad thing.

2 thoughts on “Uncomfortable in Your Comfort Zone

  1. Working in downtown San Francisco, I get my daily dose of uncomfortable before I get to work: there are homeless people–and folks who might not be actually homeless, but wander the streets out of touch with the consensual reality–all along my walk from BART. I share that feeling of never doing enough–I’m not even sure where to begin. I cannot give money to everyone (although the number of people actually asking for money seems smaller than it used to–maybe they’ve just given up?). I don’t know what to do. Occasionally I call Homeless Connect to summon people who can offer services and help to deal with a particular person. But beyond that–I don’t have the knowledge or the understanding of where in the system I should look for assistance. All I’ve got is discomfort: I can’t look away. And while looking and seeing might be the best I can do for these folks, it feels like a damned slim reed.

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