Discomfort is okay

I turn the shower off while I’m washing my hair. I use baking soda instead of shampoo so the process of applying the water with baking soda to my scalp and then rubbing my scalp for a minute takes a while. I did this before the horrible drought, and I’m definitely doing it now. 

The only problem is that now it’s cold, and every day it’s getting colder. A month ago, standing wet in my shower for a couple minutes was a perfectly pleasant experience. Now, it’s quite uncomfortable. Some days, especially if I shower at night, it can be really unpleasant . 

I was contemplating leaving the water on during the winter, at least at a trickle, or turning the energy-sucking space heater on while I showered, when a tiny thought formed and floated into my mental debate: it’s okay to be cold, you don’t need to make this better. The thought quite literally stopped me in my hair washing tracks. 

But the thought didn’t end there. It kept growing: people all over the world are cold all the time. Many of them don’t even have warm water. Heck, many of them don’t have indoor plumbing. Many of them pour freezing water over their trembling bodies to get clean, and they are probably lucky to do it once a week. It’s okay to be cold for two minutes while you wash you’re hair. It’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s okay to shiver, and to get goose bumps and for your teeth to chatter. It’s okay to be in pain. You don’t need to fix this. You’re doing to keep washing your hair with the water off, and without the heat

This might seem like the most obvious thought in the world, but I to me it was a profound realization. I’ve spent the past 35 years running from discomfort and avoiding pain. If there was some way I make a situation less uncomfortable or painful, you better bet I did it. If I was really cold turning off the water during a shower, I left the water on, conservation be damned. 

This thought reasserted itself last night, when layered my thick robe over my sweatshirt as I huddled on the coach, grading papers. As I started to consider getting the heating ducts fixed so we could enjoy our central heating, I stopped myself: It’s okay to be cold, remember? It’s okay in the shower and it’s okay here. Fixing the ducts will cost money. Turning on the heat will cost money. Just be cold this winter. So many people are so much colder than you, and they survive. You’ll survive too. (Obviously it would not be okay to keep the heat off if temperatures dropped so precipitously as to threaten harm, but that won’t happen where I live.)

And so I’m exploring this kernel or truth, that it’s okay to be cold, to be uncomfortable, to be tired, to be upset. These things are okay. I don’t necessarily need to fix them. Sometimes they just need to be endured. 


  1. True. And important to remember that it will get better and is not a long time event.
    Perspective is wonderful. Not always fun, but really wonderful and helpful.

  2. We are post twins today. I wrote about almost the exact same thing – except mine is about anxiety.

    I love this. Let’s keep practicing this, okay?


    1. I also thought before I clicked that this would be about mental discomfort! So this post was surprising and a really good reminder. I have gotten way too attached to my long hot showers since the mornings turned crisp & cool. But the hardest discomfort for me to live with is hunger. I continue to remind myself that its OK to be hungry once in a while, even to go to bed hungry. Still hasn’t sunk in.
      Off to read your post, Karen!

      1. Hunger is definitely a big one for me, and I have to remind myself all the time that it’s okay to feel hungry. Low blood sugar is hard to tolerate but that empty, stomach-grumbling feeling is totally manageable–I just have to remind myself of that.

  3. Ok, I’m straining not to sing that line from “let it go”…but seriously, I think these things a lot. I’ve been home with 2 sick kids for days and yesterday we went to the dr and I had to carry my 28 lb almost 3 yo and my arm hurt. Bad. And whenever I experience that I think of Syrian refugees and how they are carrying their kids for miles and here I am being a wimp (and I work out!). So yeah.

    As to hot water that is my biggest vice. We let it mellow if it’s yellow, use a bucket to catch the shower water til it turns warm etc. but oh how I love my hot water. And yes I do think while I’m in there how lucky I am. I once took a lukewarm shower at the Grand Canyon–I think it cost 50 cents for 3 min or something. And that was hard enough.

    Also as a fellow Californian I am a wimp about heat. I don’t think I could go without. We used to keep it at 64 at nite before kids but currently keep it at 67. Maybe when the kids get older and are better about blankets (the little one will only use the little 30 X 40 ones) we can turn it down further.

  4. Being able to control my temperature (something I didn’t get much of given my northern CA parents) is one of the reasons I spend so little money on other things. It is important to know what one’s priorities are so that one can align one’s spending with them. (Not that we don’t wear sweatshirts inside etc., but I do keep the inside at at least 68 degrees in the winter and 82 in the summer. That’s worth a whole lot of not eating out to me.)

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