Copyright 2013 Pacific Northwest Writers Association. All Rights Reserved
Make Yourself Comfortable
Hunt and Rest and Everything Will Be Okay
Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.
Our cat Charlie likes to find new places to sleep. We have a part of our living room, which has evolved into the cat area, where comfort and casual accommodations are freely offered. But Charlie is on a hunt for something different – like an office chair, under the covers of our bed, or inside a closet. Once a spot is selected, he remains dedicated to it for several weeks – until the hunt begins again. Come spring, Charlie broadens his horizons to the out of doors – sleeping on hosing, across the deteriorating wooden cover of our crawl space, in the thick of dry weeds, atop branches, under a bush. Though selective, he doesn’t seem to seek inherent comfort. Charlie pursues choice and variety, and then makes himself comfortable by relaxing wherever he is.
I would like to relax wherever I am. Sometimes, however, I can’t, because I don’t actually like where I am – physically, emotionally, or both. Being comfortable in my skin sounds good, but also feels hard to consistently achieve. It might be easier to start with how a person could make herself uncomfortable, and then reverse the recipe. In order for me to be uncomfortable in my skin, I must interfere with my own comfort. I might try unfavorably judging my experience, mentally attacking anyone, anything, or me – even in small ways. Negative judgment is a form of resistance in which I mentally push against my life. This causes the discomfort. Tension and being uncomfortable are byproducts of a contracted state of mind – thinking that pushes against. When I stop scoring things as deficits and drawbacks, I feel greater ease.
Perhaps our natural state is comfort, and we don’t have to make ourselves comfortable – just get savvy about how we’re blocking our true nature – and knock it off. Then, we can be more like Charlie. Charlie brings the comfort and so seeks not for perfect conditions, but to like and enjoy.
When my younger son was eight, his class made Mother’s Day gifts. They were each given a tile to decorate. My son wrote on his, “I Wish You Like This”. I was taken with the sentiment. He had, inadvertently and cleverly, bypassed the gift as a thing and cut straight to its ultimate value: to inspire liking. In the liking, we appreciate, and in the appreciation we are happy. Seeking to like is a proper hunt and serves us well.
Finding joy is probably tantamount to finding yourself and being comfortable in your own skin.
~ Morgan Freeman
Once I taught a writing program to second graders in which I encouraged them to go on a hunt for ideas. They were to take note of anything that lit up for them – to have greater curiosity about what they liked. Sometimes, we know what floats our boats, but take those things for granted. Those small things can be overlooked and undervalued, and the creative, dynamic energy present in the connections left untapped. Those connections serve as seeds for new projects or can help us engage the energy that both comforts and inspires.
Therapist and author Barry Neil Kaufman once wrote of meeting with a client whose back pain acted up suddenly at the start of their session. The client’s discomfort was so intense he quickly removed a bottle of pain medication and took one. He immediately felt better. Kaufman noted the instantaneous change, aware the pill could not have taken effect so quickly. The man had soothed himself. The thought that the pain would go away released his resistance. His attention went to a solution and in doing so, abandoned the problem (the pain). He found comfort in the thought of feeling better – a thought he liked.
The source of comfort is easily misunderstood. It is not in the cup of tea or the blanket or even in the person offering them. Comfort comes as a soft perspective – a tender thought that invites us to like life again, to enjoy the hunt and the rest, knowing we can relax wherever we are. There is ease to be found in seeking choice and variety, and in seeking something to like. There is peace to be found in the inherently creative process of life; its changing nature can be relied upon for renewal; its diversity of expression guaranteed to provide interest and opportunity. When we go on a hunt, looking to appreciate, we join the natural movement of life, returning to our true nature and our natural state of comfort.
Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website at www.jenniferparos.com.