By Troy Headrick
It’s funny how my memory works. I can recall long-ago glimpses of things and fragments of conversations. I am able to conjure up sounds, smells, and feelings associated with past experiences. These must have made a strong impression because they got stuck in my memory bank (very much like a kind of mental deposit) and can be retrieved whenever I want to do so.
Many years ago, back when I lived in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, a then-good friend said, while we were lounging on a lovely beach on the Persian Gulf, “All I really want is to be comfortable. I can’t think of anything more beautiful than comfort.” I don’t recall what he said immediately before or after this. And I can’t tell you with any certainty why these otherwise inconsequential sentences registered so deeply and permanently.
My friend, I think, was speaking for lots of people. Comfort is generally something that many, in many countries, put a lot of value on. We sit in rooms where the climate is controlled, spend long hours lounging on relaxing furniture, keep electronic devices near at hand so we can watch, listen, and surf effortlessly. Comfort and ease are things we covet and spend lots of money on.
Don’t get me wrong; I love that my comfortable bed promotes restful slumber, but comfort can, by its very nature, lull us in ways that are stultifying. It can “put us to sleep” in a more metaphorical sense. That’s why I’m going to tell you about something I did one time, several years ago now, that was very hard and how much value I gained from the discomfort that was associated with the experience.
In 2011, I was living in Cairo, Egypt. As some of you may remember, toward the end of January of that year, a revolution kicked off in North Africa. Very soon after the tumult got started, many began to refer to that momentous time as “The Arab Spring.” Almost as soon as the country began to destabilize, almost all foreigners left the country. I, however, much to the chagrin of some family members, decided to hang around and witness history firsthand.
It was a terrifying and inordinately difficult time in Egypt. At the outset, there was no phone or internet service or even food in the grocery stores. People were being killed and hurt and disappearing and everyone felt overwhelmed by a feeling of paranoia. On more than one occasion, I was put in situations where I easily could have been killed, especially since I wasn’t a local. (At the time, non-Egyptians were being looked at with great suspicion, especially since the regime, in an attempt to hang on to power, was pumping out xenophobic propaganda.)
During the ordeal, I began to discover a kind of courage within that I never realized was there. I found out how calm I could be when things around me were going to hell. I felt more connected with my fellow revolutionaries (and with Egyptians in general) than I had ever felt before. I felt that my senses were heightened, that I was able to see more deeply into events and people than had hitherto been possible. Of course, I’m pretty sure I contracted something very much akin to PTSD, but even that was a learning experience. I learned about how pampered most Americans have been. How people, in many places, live precarious lives and are buffeted, hither and yon, by economic and political forces that are way beyond their control. I witnessed the beauty of the act of sacrificing for others, for humanity, for freedom and self-determination. I learned that heroes come in all shapes and sizes. I learned how interconnected we all are.
For weeks now I’ve wanted to write something about the value of suffering and hardship and of facing terrifying challenges. Though there’s something to be said for comfort, it’s important that we don’t allow ourselves to become addicted to ease, thus avoiding discomfort at costs. For those who rest all the time run the risk of dozing off during the best parts.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found at Thinker Boy: Blog & Art.
26 thoughts on “Do Something Difficult”
Never get to comfortable. Going through bad times only makes us appreciate the good times more. Definitely makes us more compassionate.
Thanks for the response. Yes, empathy comes only after one has suffered and therefore feels for those who are suffering. The most difficult times I’ve had have always been of great value to me. Growth follows hardship.
I truly needed to see this, although I wouldn’t say I shy away from hard work. But the news of the world has put me in dire straits for today, and I needed the reminder of how truly blessed we are, my husband and myself. Comfort is very important to me, as I suffer from CPTSD. So sorry to hear you suffer the same. However, the very situations that led to my trauma are the same that gave me courage, empathy and unshakable faith in God. You truly reap great rewards for facing life head on, one day at a time.
I very much admire your spirit~
Thank you for sharing your story. We are blessed; I totally agree. I was thinking how beautiful the sunrise was this morning as I was driving in to work. In my blog, I wanted to remind everyone to stay awake, to stay engaged, to ask questions, to look deeply and study mightily, to seek out hard things. Dark nights always give way to bright mornings…
I love this reminder. Comfort can equal callousness to reality. There’s always something to learning.
I totally agree and thanks for your comment. Too many people sleepwalk through life because they choose the somnambulist’s path. Let’s stay awake; let’s stay engaged. Let’s speak out when we feel that something important needs saying…
Thanks to all those who are reading my post, liking it, and responding!
You are absolutely Right. I live in the U.S. and know the lifestyle. I went through a few things in my life, NOTHING like you. You are a very courageous man and after this Comment, I will pray for you. I am not pampered or wealthy but I also live a better life that many in the world. Also, I am a true Christian and helped for 3 years an Evangelist that was from Pakistan and took care of their needs like food electrical etc. I am not trying to show off but I have heard from Fiaz, many stories and spent time online looking at progress in his build a small school and church within the School. I understand trials and pray I would have the courage of people like you in the suffering and danger. Thank you for this post, God, my Jesus Bless you.
May the Lord Jesus keep you safe healthy and with more than you need. Stay safe,
Thank you for your kind comments. It sounds as if you’ve had an interesting life and your share of challenges. I do agree that hardships teach us things about ourselves, the world, others, what’s truly important in life, etc. I wish you all the best!
That is so true. I would call myself a discomfort or an uncertainty seeker.
Whenever I get comfortable I feel my life stops, my development collapsed… I got remained with only routine.
It is infectious, if we don’t find the techniques to balance out this inner drive: we can end up keep destroying everything we have built every now and then… which means relationship also can be in danger…
I hear you, Krisztina! (By the way, I visited Budapest quite a few years ago and was enchanted by the city.) I don’t want to be too terribly academic this morning, but I’ll say just a few words about Freud. As you recall, he felt that all humans are driven by eros and thanatos, the love and death drives. I think this attraction to discomfort–I’m drawn to doing difficult things just as you are–is something akin to thanatos, a very powerful pull toward self-destruction. You are right. This is a hard drive to control and one that can cause chaos and catastrophe if we allow it operate unregulated inside of us.
I will check our your blog/website later. I think you’re part of some kind of business initiative that I find intriguing. I’ll learn more about it today. Take care and thanks for reading my piece and commenting.
Hey Troy, yes that’s exactly what it is about.
I’m not well informed (or forgot) abojt Freud’s theories but in nutshell you summed it up well to me.
I like to figure out things by doing them, but the key take away is not one end nor the other will is the right way. The best is balancing!
Also each life situation requires us to chose the right drive… or the right combinations of drives. That is what I found difficult to grasp even for myself: what is is exactly I need right now. And why it feels weird to being on one side in a topic when leaning towards the opposite later on, when I’m in an other perspective?
Yes I am. Still working out how to move my personal life around that, but I do have already social entrepreneurs over there who are in need to further develop themselves.
It’s not a short term plan so I try to place things into order and mainly connect the dots: figure out my own light first.
Thanks for supporting and reading my channel too. I try my best to figure out what is my purpose, how one can find it and how to learn to live life the fullest.
Very inspiring channel you have here! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼👌🏼👌🏼
I kind of had this thing in my mind the whole day what we were talking about.
This came out as a follow up: http://findyourownlight.net/2019/04/11/comfort-zoned-for-life/
I forgot to mention that I lived in Africa for seven years–in Cairo,Egypt, to be more precise and am married to an Egyptian. (I noticed that you live in Africa and are married–I think–to a man from Benin.) Am I right or mistaken? I think this moving between worlds–between continents, between very disparate cultures–is a wonderful way to live. Life always remains fresh that way and interesting and one learns so much about so many things.
Not married yet 🙂 and he is Ivorian but we met while we both been in Benin, that is right.
Well said! That is exactly what makes me keep doing this. Since I’ve started traveling I can’t stop. And my absolute favorite is the African continent.
I’ve just fall in love for the first sight in 2014 with ghana and then countries and experiences were just keep rolling in to forget discover.
Wonderful place, talented and kind people, amazing food, so much love and smiles and despite the challenges…
Got to love that place.
Interracial or cross cultural relationships are the best teachers I believe 🙂
That’s a beautiful post. It’s amazing how much strength we find within ourselves that was unknown before simply because we didn’t need to access it.
Hi, Athena. We have this view of ourselves when life is going along perfectly normally. This view creates our understanding of who we are and what we’re capable of. Then, suddenly, the bottom falls out and we find ourselves facing an unprecedented and terrifying challenge. Much to our amazement, we draw upon inner resources we never had tapped into before and discover, in the process, that we only thought we knew who we were. Finding out something utterly new and surprising about who we are is really a pleasant shock to the system. Thanks for reading my piece and responding with such insight. You made my point much more effectively and pellucidly than I did and in far fewer words!
I lived through a hurricane and in a shelter for 2 months so that was quite illuminating for me.
That’s cool, Minerva. That’s something I never had to do! I know that must have been a really hard time for you, but I bet you grew in all sorts of ways from such an experience.
It was one of many yes.
wow…beautiful experience and invaluable lessons hidden behind it…thx for sharing this with us!
Thanks for the comment! And thanks for your interesting contributions to Pointless Overthinking!
haha! ur welcome!