Let me tell you a deeply personal thing: I hate to exercise. I really do. I have never enjoyed it but on my bucket list is to experience “a runner’s high” which sounds totally absurd to me. It feels like such a thing is a galaxy away from my normal life. I am a cerebral person and I have never been given to exercise and if I start an exercise program, I usually abandon it within a couple of months and it make take me another two years to get moving again. But at my age, I know it is critical for my health and longevity so I keep at it.
Miraculously, last year, I started walking with a friend. We would go on weekly hikes and then I realized that those Thursday morning hikes would be so much easier if I just went for long walks during the week. Lo and behold, I started prioritizing daily walks so that I would feel strong and enjoy my weekly walk with my friend. I would fall off the wagon and take two weeks off, especially when I was travelling and then I would miss it and get back on track. This has happened multiple times. Therefore, today, I can say that daily walks and exercise has become a normal part of my life. I get off track especially when I travel but I actually begin craving it again.
And then, if I think about it too hard, I start dreading that first walk after a few days off. I automatically feel the stiffness in my knees and lower back. And the heat. I have become very sensitive to heat so if I go for a walk, ideally, I want it to be around 75 degrees, otherwise, it feels so uncomfortable in my chest. That anticipated strain of that first walk after I have fallen off the wagon is enough to send me back to bed.
But if I go through with this first walk, and more often than not, I do, my joints eventually loosen up and I adapt to that heat and I go through this “uncomfortable” phase and voila! I am enjoying it and I am proud of myself and those weekly hikes with my friend are so much easier. That discomfort is temporary and there is a reward as I push through it.
Ditto for anything “new” I want to do. For instance, I remember wanting to launch my coaching practice and how challenging it felt – website, newsletter, email, video, blogposts, Facebook page, update Linkedin profile, etc. Yet, bit by bit, step by step, I did it and I continue to do it, over two years later. Weekly, I publish this newsletter and weekly, I blog. This year, I added more graphics to my newsletter and even had a photo shoot to get some professional shots going (totally uncomfortable for me) and now, I have also launched a podcast with a friend.
Beloveds, what am I talking about?
I love my comfort. My home is cozy and comfortable. My car is comfortable. My bed, my chair, everything about me is all about my value of comfort. Even the breezy, chatty way I deliver this blog post tells you that I am all about gentle, comfortable softness. Yet, the growth, which is ultimately what I want, comes in the discomfort.
I am taking my time to get you to think about why discomfort is a great value to adopt. I don’t mean a destructive form of discomfort. I don’t mean pain. But I do mean “don’t get cozy and comfortable where you are in life.” Discomfort is about disrupting your own personal status quo. I could do a very brisk 20-minute walk and that increased to 30 minutes and then 45 minutes and then one hour. That was not comfortable, and I took my time, but I got there. It was not painful, but it was not comfortable. Then I have to now work on my speed. I cannot stay there. I have not arrived. Along with the increased discomfort, there must be consistency.
If we want to grow and improve, we must hold that discomfort hand in hand with consistency. Baby steps daily go a long way. To dismantle structures of oppression, we must be comfortable with our discomfort and be consistent with our actions.
Discomfort means you are ready for change. Be suspicious of your comfort.
Systems of oppression are designed to keep some people comfortable. There is a hypnotic lull that says, “This is the way it ‘should’ be.” Yet, it tries to lull you into thinking that human difference is irrelevant or anti-establishment. Yet this is not true.
Human difference is normal and healthy. Just like your DNA is different from mine, each person is unique. We live in a world where we put different people in different buckets for no good reason, other than to make them an “other,” a person whose human dignity is diminished or dismissed. Then we build systems for our businesses, governments, and organizations and somehow, people who are different, get excluded from any real access or power in those systems. Needless to say, in the US today, this is the most pressing urgent issue as we try to navigate difference and define who we are as a nation. I am defining difference with very broad strokes: gender (including non-gender conforming and gender fluid folks), race, religion, age, national origin and differently abled folk.
What qualifies me to talk about difference and systems of oppression? I am a straight cis-gendered woman. I am 53. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria to a white American mother and a Nigerian father. I have lived in the United States for 37 years and I only became aware of the nuances of my privilege in probably only the last 10 years. I am often mistaken for Latina but I consider myself Yoruba, my father’s tribe. I love my white mother and I am not here to beat up on white people (even though some of us humans of all races may need a
good spanking (Ok, no violence here) correction, every now and then. I have a unique experience of being called “White” for the first 16 years of my life and then I came to America where I thought I was “a mixed-race immigrant” and unceremoniously discovered I was “Black.” Nobody previously bothered to inform me of this.
I bring a unique multicultural and multiracial lens to this important conversation about systems of oppression. I am a recovering lawyer and I also have a Master of Divinity from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. My core values are compassion, communication and truth telling and it is my intention to bring a healing aspect to these conversations.
Systems of oppression cannot remain if we want to maintain being comfortable. It requires great discomfort to dismantle racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, Islamophobia and xenophobia. You have to step into that discomfort and do it on a continuous basis to learn what you do not know.
It is uncomfortable to let go of belief systems that are like old worn shoes but do not serve you anymore. It must be scary and uncomfortable for those with privilege to realize that it comes with a new awareness that their privilege is not blanket and universal, that it costs others their lives, labor and produces lack and problems for others, often unintentionally. It must be painful and uncomfortable for racists to realize that they are holding on to old paradigms of thought that limit their lives to a small box called “white” and that there is so much more to themselves than this narrow identity. It must be shocking and uncomfortable for us Christians to explore how we have exploited parts of the world with harmful dogma that subjugates people and has been used as an abusive tool for the cause of “Empire.”
Beloveds, it is uncomfortable to be expanded by Truth.
My invitation to you this week is to look for where there is some discomfort, and intentionally step into it. Look internally for your own discomfort around systems of oppression. And begin to create change in your spheres of influence.
- How are you complicit in building, sustaining or maintaining such systems?
- Where do you have an opportunity to embrace discomfort and create change in a system of oppression?
- Which communities or organizations do you support that have oppressive systems in place that you feel uncomfortable addressing? What is your discomfort trying to tell you?
Let me know how it goes.
Hugs, Beloveds. Hugs.