Photo by Kary Schumpert

Discomfort. I have been thinking about this quite a bit. Sometimes discomfort is a synonym for pain or numbness.

Pain brings to mind headaches, medical conditions, and emotional disconnect. Numbness isn’t the absence of pain, but more a state of no feeling. Discomfort can be pain, but sometimes it’s the anticipation of something that could be uncomfortable, like the minutes right before a dentist appointment. Sometimes, though, it is much, much more.

As I struggle to write these words, my stomach is full of gnawing nervousness, discomfort. There is discomfort in sharing something so personal and discomfort in trying to articulate something so vague, and yet so specific.

This spring there was grief and loss. My dad passed away in early March and more recently, I have lost a close friend, but not to death. Now, as spring turns to summer, I find that grief and loss are staring me down. There is discomfort in needing to deal with this loss. For a while, I just ignored it, or tried to put away the grief into a box deep into my being. As a result, I have not really slept in three months and the insomnia has only grown. I know that I need to face this. At the same time, I worry that focusing on my loss and discomfort becomes self-absorption

Facing and naming my discomfort is the first step. What is it about grief and loss that I don’t want to face? What is lurking in the shadows under the discomfort? What I am I afraid to confront? What are the steps in the grieving process? What am I afraid of losing? What is my attachment to this friend? Is there redemption in the loss of my dad? Is there recovery of a friendship? What are the tools that I need to face discomfort, grief, loss? What are the deeper steps to healing? What does it look like on the other side of discomfort? Is there more than just this discomfort? When does this become wallowing instead of healing?

Despite this discomfort, there are good things, too. I joined a running group and I look forward to workouts with women who are striding and training. A book club that I have belonged to since January has created some new friendships, and I love this group of smart, curious, thoughtful women. I am looking forward to a few weeks off for the summer and time for some writing projects that are beginning to take shape. I feel lucky that I love the job I found here; getting to teach about the environment in my home state is a dream come true and I can’t wait to get started again in August. I found an independent, local bookstore that feels more like an extension of my home. I forge new friendships with two women with whom there is something in common: one the love of coffee and vintage shopping, one the love of running and walking long distances and the care of our local ecosystems. I am renewing some long distance ties with old friends in rambling and engaging phone calls scattered over the last few weeks. I am falling deeper in love with Albuquerque, where I moved a few months ago. Still, though, there is discomfort.

Photo by Kary Schumpert

I begin to face the discomfort head on. I search. I pray. I reach for friends, family, support. I look for tools. I cry. I name my fear. I name my discomfort. I look for the void.

During a run, especially when I am getting in shape or training for a longer distance, as is the case this summer, I face discomfort. My heaving lungs, my pounding legs, and then there is relief in a good workout and the end of discomfort. There is a void.

All that is left in the void is breath and peace.



  1. First of all, the photo of that old west jail was colorful. Seems like you have a good eye for photography.
    The sting of death is potent but the Sage of Nazareth has significantly eased the poignant pain of the death (Hosea 13:14). The loss of friendship packs a powerful punch as well.

    We invest a 1/3 of our time (8 hrs.) per day rendering our anatomy much needed rest. At one juncture I was neglecting my sleep and paid heavily physically and psychologically-that will never transpire again-and it has not been repeated. Eight hrs. plus sleep is paramount to daily success.

    The overall blog was well written.

    1. Thanks, William for continuing to read and comment! It is appreciated very much. Thanks for the compliment. Taking photos is a relatively new hobby, that has now grown into a few years. I love that with digital I can take many and hope that a few turn out well. I like finding an image that somehow matches the blog entry. Yes, sleep is important and if I could just fall asleep, well that would help many things. Thanks.

    1. Thanks, Jan. I appreciate the article. I am tucking it away to read again and pray over. Yes, we are not supposed to be happy all the time and there is nothing wrong with sadness or discomfort. The ideal, I think, is to feel those waves, but not get undone by them. I am not sure how to say it. Thank you so much!! I appreciate this article a lot!! Thanks for friendship!

  2. Kary, so sorry to hear about these rough times you’ve been through lately. My prayers are with you as you continue working with and through the discomfort. There is a quotation I like from Henri Nouwen, Dutch-born Catholic priest and author: “We can be unhappy about many things, but joy can still be there… it is important to become aware that at every moment of our life, we have an opportunity to choose joy…”

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