Discomfort, Pain, Heartbreak & Surrender

by | May 17, 2024

It’s satisfying to be here with you, connecting, in between travels, tasks and touchstones. Our daughter’s wedding celebration is a sweet recent memory, the red eye flight home from the Financial Planning Association (FPA) retreat in Tucson was surprisingly hard (what was I thinking?), and soon I travel to Nashville for a program entitled, Touching Mortality. More juicy topics to explore in the coming months.

Meeting you with worthy words, I pause and ask what meaningful points of connection are of benefit to you. Discomfort, pain, heartbreak and surrender arrived as the answer.

Don’t worry. The conversation is not as dire as these words may seem.

Let me start with discomfort.

In a FPA retreat education session entitled: Balancing Relationships with Unbalanced Assets – How to Get to US, from ‘Yours’ and ‘Mine’, my dear friend and colleague of 25 years – highly regarded and accomplished – expressed his boundary working with couples and their money stuff as discomfort. When he feels uncomfortable, that’s his signal of going too far. He ceases the conversation and refers to another professional or avenue for continued support. For him, being uncomfortable is a metric he is beyond his comfort zone and expertise. For many like him, discomfort means not safe or qualified or harmful. His way of working is familiar, common and valid. I don’t question his way for him and others.

It’s not my way. And here’s why.

Far too often we humans mistake being uncomfortable with pain and the need to stop. Do something else. Pivot. Turn toward ease. I get it. I like to feel stress-free as much as the next person. But goodness gracious, me oh my… life and growth happens in pressure – happening all day long from tiny touches to full on whacks – whether we like it or not.

Money conversations are uncomfortable.

I said to my friend that I did not share his test point for boundaries. I offered my curiosity about the difference between discomfort and pain. Pain is a very clear signal to stop. And of course we are bound by ethics of competency in our individual training and clear discernment of when we are beyond our competency. As a Master Integral Coach, I know when to refer to a therapist. John Gottman’s four horsemen (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling) are some of my clear signals for referral to a different professional. Discomfort, and authentic skillful revealing of the same, can be a bridge to deeper connection and understanding.

Bridges are an invitation where we lead lovingly with our vulnerability; others receive a generous opening to be vulnerable too. So when I feel uncomfortable, (discomfort is felt somatically), I express the simple truth without fear, shame or worry. When I say I notice some discomfort – queasiness in my belly – my expression lets clients know it is normal to feel uneasy and uncomfortable. My reveal, with gentle query, welcomes relaxation. A few more breaths and we’ve shifted to new space with more awareness.

Again, feeling uncomfortable about money is normal. In one meeting we move from comfort, discomfort, uncertainty, doubt, fear, pause, reassurance, breath, clarity, ease, trust, connection and flow in a spiral, in different situations, over and over again.

Our body intelligence supports our ability to feel discomfort. My book, The Body of Money, along with 4 companion practice guidebooks, covers the landscape and territory in detail.

Discomfort is our signal to pay attention to the edge we meet. As we attend to the sensations of discomfort, we ask and respond:

  • Is this an edge I am choosing to strengthen?
  • Is this an edge I choose to strengthen right now?
  • Is this an edge that I choose to meet later?

Pain – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual – requires different attention depending upon the context of our pain. The range of attention held on one end –urgent – you are bleeding from a knife wound, get to the hospital emergency room – to the other end – pause – space for discernment of action paying attention to the true pain.

Heartbreak is the “pause pain” I have been facing. I was not aware of my true pain until the week of my daughter’s wedding. Prior to this event, for months (and years) I was circling in emotional stew of fear, anger, frustration, doubt, and navigating lots of mental stories about right and wrong, mothers and daughters, family ancestral patterns and IFS intervention. In parts speak and spiritual embrace, my “Good Mother” had several tussles with my “Professional Woman”. Physically my body spoke confidently – searing pain in the center of my chest and bubbling tears with no particular cause. I was moving through heartbreak.

I thought heartbreak was reserved for lovers.

I was wrong.

I’m a half a shade wiser.

I’m healing and whole and okay.

I embrace what has happened, where my daughter and I are today, and our capacity to love and heal our mother-daughter wounds and the wounds beyond us inherited, unknown, a mystery.

My Beautiful Daughter

For several years I have respected the boundaries my daughter requested of me. Living on two different coasts you might wonder how much more space can we get. It means our contact is limited. When we connect it’s FaceTime or email, text or telephone or my favorite the written word on paper. I’ve been humbled, challenged, and my legs pulled out from under me. Yet I have always trusted that some day we will be closer. Professionals and friends have said, it may be years or even decades Gayle, give it time. Patience has not always been my strength but the importance of my daughter offers unwavering consistent practice.

Her wedding planning, especially as she is a grown woman, brought intensity and complexity to our boundaries. The relationship triangle with my beloved and her father, never easy, became a quantum version of early years. Our differences in wedding values, the deeper why, what’s most important, became technicolor contrasts. I bow to my spouse for his devotion to both of us. To sustain our relationships, I mastered surrender.

The week of her wedding we attended to last minute tasks, and trusted the planning with vendors for our daughter’s desired execution. Friday night through Sunday evening, a beautiful blur, offered clear poignant moments – heart imprinted forever.

Below is one such moment, my only photo with my daughter on her wedding. Yes, it was the no photo with my daughter that jolted me to heartbreak.

Our morning hair and make-up preparation with the bridesmaids, mother of the groom and me was nearing its end. I stepped away from the scene and returned with tips for the hair and make-up artists. Unsure of my “duties” or what she wanted, and a schedule to be ready for family photos at the venue, I walked to the door to leave.

When I looked over at my daughter, she turned around to gaze at me with longing, the tenderness of a young girl seeking her mother. I returned to her gently touching her shoulder. I told her how much I loved her, and was so proud of her. She was beautiful, her wedding would be wonderful and I was so happy for her. We locked eyes. The moment is seared in my heart, forever. Her bridesmaid snapped this photo.

Los Angeles, California, wedding day preparation, April 27, 2024

A friend said to me, after hearing the story, this was his favorite photo because it was real, not professionally posed.

I love it too.

I know by heart this moment.

It’s one moment from her wedding I treasure along with another.

On Sunday, as a brunch for out of town guests was ending and they departing, I sat with my daughter on a couch. She looked at me and asked if I was angry with her. Why didn’t I return to help her put her dress on and get photos with her – just the two of us. Surprised and shocked, I said I did not know she wanted me. Of course I would have been there in a flash had I known. Nothing would have been more important or made me happier. We hugged and cried together, our separate heartbreaks merging to one.

Writing the words above a slender wave of heartbreak arises. Tears pool in my eyes as my breath halts. A precious opportunity to capture us together is gone, forever. Even as my daughter says we will don our dresses on her first anniversary for new photos, I crumble. It’s not the same.

In our individual healing we make our way back to each other. I don’t know all the ways back and what the future holds. My heart is alive and showing me how to abide in the unknown.

Surrender is my portal to the unknown, and my practice.

Surrender strengthens our capacity to be uncomfortable, our wisdom attending to pain, and our grace in heartbreak.

Whatever discomfort you experience, may you move through it your way, healing, learning, growing, connecting, and strengthening – what matters most in your life.

Mother’s Day Ikebana

Now practicing with Book#3, Composition and Line, Color and Mass, my enthusiasm for creating with flowers expands. With fewer constraints, my experimenting innovator takes the reins.

This arrangement celebrates all mothers – with or without children – standing tall, strong spines, soft hearts, expressing the best of humanity in love, beauty and joy.

Vertical Composition – May 2024