Embracing Discomfort for Gray Growth

“Your position is being eliminated and today we are separating you from the company” are undoubtedly dreaded words that have the power to disrupt most lives, including my own. But on that day in late January 2019, what should’ve been a very bad day for me, turned out to be one of the best days of my life. Those words reverberated a sense freedom, relief, and life-giving discomfort in the depths of my soul.

Many years ago, I had a great mentor who taught me the priceless value of embracing discomfort. Through my journey I have learned that the comfort zone is a mirage. Complacency and ‘good enough’ reside in the comfort zone, but nothing of value grows there. Yet if not careful I can end up setting camp there, even when that zone is anything but desirable, let alone comfortable. The ‘comfort zone’ prevents me from embracing authentic discomfort, the kind of prickly, itchy, sometimes gut-wrenching discomfort that leads to growth and a fully engaged life.

“Your position is being eliminated and today we are separating you from the company.”

I’ve learned to thrive in discomfort. Every major growth in my life has come from a place of discomfort. A place of “oh crap, what do I do now?!”

So on the day in January when I became a casualty of a company RIF (a Reduction in Force), I thanked my employer, smiled, closed that chapter, and launched my new career and business, Life on Life Coaching.

For the last two years I had been working on a career transition strategy which included formal training and certification in ‘helping individuals move past their circumstances and into their strengths’; commonly called life coaching. Helping individuals is something I had been doing through my church setting for more than 20 years. The RIF gave me an opportunity to embrace it full-time.

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Since then I’ve put in countless hours in building my business. I’ve studied for certification exams, as well as maintained enthusiastic involvement with the non-profit I serve with. That’s a lot of discomfort. But I have a passion for helping people move from surviving to thriving, and now I am released to fully do that. And I can’t stop smiling.   

“Raiza, you have a way of constantly reinventing yourself.“

My husband Gary is a great sport and is very supportive of my discomfort adventures, however most recently I made drastic hair change which may have done him in. The decision to discontinue dyeing my hair and return to my ‘roots’ was a prickly decision for me. But considering the discomfort-palooza I had been living in, this may have been my final crossover decision symbolizing my fresh start.

It turns out that my new look also made others very uncomfortable.

Here are some real questions and comments I’ve received regarding my hair color:

1.      You lost your job, should we start a GoFundMe for your hair appointments?

2.      Why do you want to look older?

3.      Are you having a mid-life crisis?!

4.      Are you letting yourself go?

My responses:

1.      We’re good. But if you want to start a GoFundMe to send me on a trip around the world, I’ll take it!

2.      Full disclosure… I do not want to look older! I think that’s too much discomfort even for me! If I could keep my 35-year-old physical appearance until my 100th birthday, I’d be thrilled with that. But there’s more to youth than the color of my hair. Overall well-being is key to youthful longevity.  

3.      Been there, done that. And yes, I’m keeping my husband! Seriously, have you seen how hot he is?!!

4.      Oh, heck NO!! Fitness, clean eating, and a whole lot of style are the staples of my life. They are all in! I will continue making what I have a whole lot better!

As it turns out, there is a movement of proud and gray women who are embracing the discomfort of breaking this social hair dye norm. These fierce women are challenging the status quo that gray on men looks distinguished, but on women, well it ages you, honey. That the fountain of youth is found in a bottle of hair dye. More profoundly these women are saying, ‘let’s accept each other as we present’. Instead of judging each other, let’s invest our time into looking deeper into each other’s souls and supporting each other. 

For me it was all that, and that spending 43 hours annually at the hair salon chasing the ever-eluding white line, was a ‘process’ that no longer served me. Maybe this is an outward physical manifestation of all that has been going on in my soul.

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After my latest hair change a friend said to me, “Raiza, you have a way of constantly reinventing yourself.”

Truthfully, I don’t know if he said that as a compliment, a non-committal statement of the obvious or as a diplomatic way of saying “goodness woman, what have you done now?!!” 

Or all the above.

I received it as an affirmation. In my spirit I heard,

·        “I’m not sure what you’re doing, but I believe in you.”

·        “I’ve seen you make huge transitions in your life before which have caused you to stretch and grow.”

·        “I’ve seen you embrace discomfort and tackle it to the ground. You’ve got this.”

I don’t know and I’m not about to ask! But this I do know; I’m going to continue pursuing life-giving discomfort. I’m going to keep growing and reinventing.  And I’ll be doing it while proud and gray.