On Discomfort

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We have been thinking a lot about being uncomfortable. Discomfort keeps coming up for us in different ways each day.

Everything from being uncomfortable with being alone, being uncomfortable with taking up space, and being uncomfortable with intense transition and changes in our everyday lives.

As we were driving up to the Catskills, we heard Erica Feldman, a leader in intersectional witchcraft and owner of the world-renowned Haus Witch, say it so perfectly, “If it’s making you feel uncomfortable, you are doing it right.”

We often pride ourselves in our individual and collective growth as womxn and as The Cauldron. However, something we’ve been thinking about a lot lately is that the option to opting in (or opt out) of discomfort is inherently a privilege. As two white cis womxn, we are unlearning and striving to interrupt white fragility by recognizing racial humility. Robin Diangelo says, “The racial status quo is comfortable for white people, and we will not move forward in race relations if we remain comfortable. The key to moving forward is what we do with our discomfort.”

What are the questions we are asking ourselves as we move forward from discomfort - why do I feel unsettled? How does my personal lens and experience affect the way I am feeling right now? Are there things I cannot see that are making me frustrated?

Last night we watched Beyonce light up the coachella stage in her film ‘Homecoming”. She brought black excellence to the forefront of a traditionally white festival and as she puts it, “she didn’t bring out her flower crown”. As happy we are to see Beyonce be the first African American woman headline coachella, we can't help but think how too damn long it took for white people to be ok and work through their discomfort to get her on that stage.

bell hooks speaks about discomfort in relation to love and how changing the way we think and act is necessary to sustainable cultural change. Men have traditionally been the makers of literature on love and when womxn write on the topic we are seen as weak and unprofessional. However, when we lose love or experience trauma related to love, and write on that topic, then we are taken seriously.

As two young professionals who have worked in multiple art institutions, we also cannot ignore unchecked institutional discomfort and how that can affect a community. Recently arts institutions nationally have been being well-deservingly called out for their colonial, racist, sexist, and privileged practices. In our opinion, some have dealt with the discomfort of these situations well and some have not. Often they take the ‘sweep it under the rug’ band-aid approach to get them to their next opening, program, or exhibition while ignoring the structural problems that have led them to this point. As institutions, they are not confronting being uncomfortable in difficult situations, and as cultural leaders, that is disappointing as fuck.

There is more to this conversation than being uncomfortable. We are just scratching the surface. But let’s stop and ask ourselves what we are going to do with our discomfort. Chani Nicholas says, “Discomfort isn’t a punishment, it’s part of any good growth cycle.”

We challenge you to grow. To sit with being uncomfortable. To recognize what has gotten you to that feeling and how you can step forward, through it.

Carlie Febo