Prior to embarking on my expat adventure, my husband and I engaged in a poignant conversation about adaptability. Being the experienced world traveler that he is, his simple comment struck a chord deep within me. He said, “I’m interested to see how you react to being away from the comforts of home. Will you adapt?” I don’t know if it is my obstinate, competitive nature that wants to prove how resilient I am or the possibility that I possess an authentic attitude of acceptance- but I have settled into this vagabond lifestyle quite comfortably. In some ways, I have reconciled with my surroundings better than he has. Could it be that a positive outlook is responsible for happily harmonizing with change versus grinning and bearing it?
To be fair, I have always been the chipper one of the two. Enthusiasm and positivity comes easily to me, while my husband is more of a realist. We tend to balance each other out, but sometimes I wonder about the misfortune of being a realist. Can a pragmatist access that same brightness and hopefulness of an optimist who remembers in the face of adversity that everything will work out?
My husband has faith. His own experiences have confirmed that the most puzzling and unhappy of situations can be resolved. He is logical and highly intelligent. He is like a Swiss-Army Knife: so versatile and resourceful. But now, as we face the ever-convoluted circumstances of Belgian life where it perpetually rains, the taxes are high, the traffic is crazy, and the most simple and basic of tasks are needlessly complicated- his sweet, thought-out, sensible approach to life’s challenges is not only futile, but is exhausting him to no end. What is a no muss- no fuss guy to do?
My darling husband has taught me about readiness, safety, the perks of stepping outside of my comfort zone, the necessity of knowing my boundaries, the importance of attention to detail, and even the art and value of listening to my instincts- all invaluable lessons for a traveler. But perhaps now I can return the favor by showing him-just as those in recovery have shown me- how to lean into the discomfort.
Prior to recovery, my life felt like an uphill battle with an occasional plateau. Today, if my life feels like an unwelcome climb, I know I am fighting or resisting something that is greater than me. It’s not easy to succumb to change or take a different, less desirable route, but sometimes the quickest or easiest way isn’t always the best way. In AA, we learn that change is not an overnight matter. One written fourth step is all the experience some of us need to remember that getting to the other side takes time and investment. The famous and talented Emily Dickinson once said, “The only way out is through.”
Half the battle of leaning into the discomfort is being willing to accept and confront the imminent challenges ahead. The attitude with which you choose to address the inconveniences and assailants of life may matter more than why or how you deal with them. Many a matter-of-fact person may claim that optimism is idealistic, but what’s so impossible about choosing happiness over unhappiness? Contrary to popular belief, my propensity for positivity has not made me any less qualified to withstand obstacles; conversely, it has made me stronger. So, whether you’re like us and you’re combating the Belgian bureaucracy; or you’re fighting with your insurance provider or noisy neighbors who are at it again- lean into it. Resist the urge to fight a losing game. There are more important odds at stake: your happiness.