The Joy of Discomfort


On Friday we bought snacks at the train station, ate a fast food meal that I treat myself to whenever I travel, and got on the train. It left at 15:30 and by the time we were in the country the sky was darkening. An hour into our trip, the sky was pitch black.

Prague. Four hours of zooming through the country. Nipping a flask of whiskey. Four waters. Pistachios, lots of pistachios, more pistachios than a person should eat. Short spurts of reading punctuated by shifting and trying to make my well-padded ass more comfortable. Two long delays in the dark country somewhere in central Czech. Some complaining. Bratislava.   

I have a peculiar devotion to my weekend comfort zone. It’s decorated in televisions and lined with flannel cushions. My cat is there. Burke is there. A couch with a sign above it: Home is where the pants aren’t. In my comfort zone there is no place for stress or anxiety or the possibility of a curve ball or a chance I might not get what I want. There’s a strict No English Instruction rule. The Saturday a month I have to teach nearly kills me.  

But once I’m out of the comfort zone, I make the most of it. Whenever I complain that I have to go out on a weekend night when I’d far prefer to sit in my pjs and read, Burke always says: you’ll be happy once you’re there. And she’s always right. It’s the getting out of the comfort zone that seems to be the hardest part.

So this weekend I cast fate to the wind. I stayed out until 3 am on Friday, slept until 10:30 on Saturday, woke up and dined on bread and cheese. I did not comb my hair.   

We went to a Christmas market which was fully committed to food and hot alcohol drinks. There were virtually no kiosks selling the knick-knacks and tchotchkes rampant in Czechs markets. The scene was a classic. Cold air. Blue skies. An ancient town square. Little kiosks decked out in traditional and charming Christmas decorations.

My first drink is a hot mulled wine. Simple and delicious and on a relatively strict time schedule of tastiness. The very moment mulled wine passes from a steaming beverage into no-longer-hot it also passes into no-longer-good and you’re soon holding a cool-ish cup of grape juice and tart oranges.  

In any event, this is my rationale for pounding it.    

Still, there is a huge amount of joy that comes along with it and the atmosphere. It’s during my second hot beverage – a ginger, cinnamon, hard alcohol concoction – when I feel the unmitigated joy. Its components are all equally necessary. The cheery atmosphere, Christmas music, the just beginning holiday season, the cold, fortifying oneself from the cold with a warm boozy drink.

Even though there are people for whom standing in the cold with a drink would be the very definition of hell, it’s something that brings me a great deal of joy.

It’s interesting the number of joys that result from discomfort. There’s nothing quite as pleasant as the high I get after a vigorous workout. Or the quiet pleasure of a dark early morning, sitting at my computer with a cup of coffee and trying to remember why I write. Or getting out of my comfort zone and standing in the cold.

Next week I teach on Saturday, so Burke will have to talk me off the ledge. But until then I can sip this drink and drink in the joy of not knowing what’s coming in the next few hours.

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