This past Chanukkah, I was sitting around making homemade menorahs with some of my friends and we were talking about emotions. Not in the way you would perhaps imagine: a scene of the Golden Girls at their kitchen table, around a cheesecake. Sharing memories, laughs and tears. No, we were talking about how hard it can be to allow ourselves to be comfortable with our emotions. I thought if so many of my girl friends have this roadblock, what's going on with the guys?
A quick survey of a handful of my guy friends confirmed what I was thinking: they have no problem feeling their emotions. If anything, many of them had a hard time getting out of them, they were so comfortable in their feeling. Meanwhile, I work at keeping myself either happy or mildly annoyed. Sometimes when I drive or cycle, a third emotion, road rage, will emerge. But I'm alway working to get back to happy. I'm just uncomfortable feeling anything else.
Then, I came across an article on procrastination. I have always been motivated by deadlines, aspiring to be one of those people who lives by, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today." But, other than occasional bursts of productivity here and there, I tend to be motivated by: this has to be done now.
Or at least I used to be.
The author describes the main force behind why we procrastinate: because we are uncomfortable. The project we need to do is hard or we're scared we can't do it well, so we avoid thinking about it, seeing what's new on facebook or talking on the phone, until we're so stressed by the deadline that we don't have time to doubt ourselves. Panic overcomes all other emotions. I realized my discomfort with being uncomfortable wasn't only a dating liability, but a professional one too. I stopped what I was doing, walked over to the mirror and looked myself in the face: I hadn't left everything that was familiar and comfortable to made aliyah because I was scared of discomfort! What was I doing to myself? I was so caught up in my realization that I didn't notice my roommate standing next to me and asking me why I was talking to myself - now that was uncomfortable. I just smiled and went back to work.
And that's the strategy I've maintained over the past few weeks. When unproductive behavior starts knocking at the door I recognize what is happening, look for the emotion that I'm trying to avoid. Spend some time with it until everyone is comfortable, smile to myself, and resume work. I won't say that it's been easy, or that I haven't fallen off the wagon a few times since then. But the more I do it, the easier it becomes. I've gotten to know myself better, had more deep, meaningful conversations with friends, and my to-do list is shorter than ever. When it comes to life, whether it's with relationships or our professional life, the only thing to really be afraid of is the idea that we never really tried. That's an idea worth being uncomfortable with.