Deep life lessons from blood-sucking mosquitoes

growth strength

Welcome back to a five-day workweek after last week’s shortened 4th of July week! It’s tricky when the Fourth of July falls on a Tuesday, isn’t it? 

I don’t know about you, but I barely knew what day it was most of last week, and I found myself pushing pretty hard to get five days of work done in about 2.5 days.

Yes, 2.5 days. Like many (if not most) Minnesotans, we go to our cabin on 4th of July weekend (and Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend and as many other times as we can between “ice out” and the first snowfall - which can be a pretty small window). 

This year, because 4th of July was on a Tuesday, the powers that be who put on the fireworks over the lake decided that the fireworks display should be Tuesday night (July 4). It sounds good in theory, but almost everyone with a cabin on the lake needs to get back to work on July 5. Which means that those of us who actually wanted to stay for the fireworks had to take at least another half day off on July 5 to drive two hours home - which is what I did.

On the evening of July 4, we loaded the family onto the pontoon like we’ve done for the last 20 years, and we chugged across the lake at dusk to catch the fireworks that started at 10:15 p.m.

We went to our usual spot which we knew always has a terrific view of the fireworks that were going to be launched over the lake. The weather was perfect (which isn’t always the case - we’ve had years we were sweating bullets and years we wore jackets and snuggled under blankets. Ahhh, summer in Minnesota). 

But what wasn’t perfect? The literal swarm of mosquitos that found us as soon as we dropped the anchor. Some of us (my husband and father-in-law) are not as “sweet-blooded.” But my kids and I are magnets for those darn blood-suckers. 

It didn’t seem like moving the pontoon was going to help much, and we knew from 20 years of experience that our semi-secret spot offered an unbeatable view of the fireworks and a quick escape to get back to our side of the lake after the show was over (and the hundreds of other boats were all trying to get home at the same time - there are 2000 cabins on our lake, so that’s a lot of boats going one at a time under a small bridge).

So we sprayed on some extra bug spray. We wrapped ourselves tighter in blankets. We got busy swatting away our predators. 

Because we knew it would be worth it.

The sun would set and the mosquitoes would abate.

The fireworks from our vantage point would be stunning.

We could tolerate a few bug bites that would be gone the next day in exchange for prime seating for this once-a-year treat.

We sat tight. We endured a little discomfort. And we were rewarded.

(A picture from our pontoon watching the 4th of July fireworks (while swatting away mosquitoes))

But how many times are we not willing to sit tight for a little while when we are uncomfortable?

How often do we see discomfort as a sign that something is wrong, rather than a sign that we are growing, learning, moving closer to something that means a lot to us? 

As Bill Eckstrom, CEO and founder of Ecsell Institute says: “what makes you comfortable can ruin you, and only in a state of discomfort can you continually grow.” (Check out his TedTalk “Why comfort will ruin your life.”)

Of course, you know that I want you to feel happy, fulfilled, engaged, on purpose, and content as much of the time as possible. But when you don’t feel that way – I want you to know it’s okay. Sometimes it’s more than okay – it’s exactly what you should be feeling as you stretch and grow and move toward something you want.

“Growing is often uncomfortable; we found that embracing discomfort can be motivating,” write researchers Kaitlin Woolley and Ayelet Fishbach. “People should seek the discomfort inherent in growth as a sign of progress instead of avoiding it.”

This isn’t to say you should be uncomfortable all the time (emphatically not), and I’m all for finding ways to minimize or eliminate suffering, but you don’t have to buy into what the $11 billion self-help industry is selling you either - that you should be happy all the time or you need to be “fixed.” 

So even when it feels like you are swatting away annoyances and wondering if you should just call it quits (like we were on July 4 pre-fireworks), remember that discomfort can lead you to personal growth, professional development, beautiful connections with others, and experiences that you never would have had if you turned the figurative pontoon around and given up.

Wishing you the amazing things that can come on the other side of a little discomfort.