How to Live in Limbo
Three strategies for getting comfortable with discomfort
“It’ll get better,” my husband says as I review our budget, which has become tighter and tighter during the pandemic. “We just have to make it over this hump.”
But what is the hump exactly? And when does a hump become so large that “hump” is no longer the appropriate geographical designation?
At first, the hump was April. Then it was the summer. Now the hump is 2020, and probably most of 2021, too. The hump has flattened into the plateau. We’re in the eternal now, as Kelli Korducki put it in Forge — with the future so up in the air that staying in the moment is about the only thing we can do. “In these uncertain times” has already become a pandemic cliché, and stories about getting comfortable with uncertainty have become its defining literature.
Here’s the thing, though: Uncertainty will always be uncomfortable. It’s just a bug of the human psyche.
A more useful skill is learning how to be comfortable with discomfort. To be cool with it, like an annoying roommate. To sit with it.
In fact, sitting with discomfort is a more, well, comfortable strategy than trying to move past it, says Alexandra Finkel, a psychotherapist and social worker in New York and the founder of Kind Minds Therapy. “We fall into anxiety spirals when we try to push a feeling out, and then get trapped in that feeling because we can’t will feelings away,” she says. “Discomfort thrives and multiplies when we try to push it away. The single best antidote to discomfort is permission for it to be there.”
In other words, the more we can wholeheartedly accept living in a constant state of in-betweenness, the better we can manage how scary that state can be.
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