I just fell into the Instagram hole – scroll scroll double-tap scroll. As I blinked my way back to the real world I had a thought: no one ever takes sad selfies. That, or I don’t follow those people on Instagram. I follow adventurous outdoors-people, travelers, artists, creators. Their feeds are full of rad things, which is probably why a recent post stuck in my brain: someone I follow posted about his sadness at saying farewell after a visit with his son. And you know what I did? I felt uncomfortable. Uncomfortable at his public sadness. I wish my gut response had been different. I wish I’d felt admiration. Sharing your sadness, whether with one person or a collection, takes vulnerability. Vulnerability requires courage. That guy is brave AF. He inspired me to be braver. If you haven’t seen Brené Brown’s TED talk, The power of vulnerability, I highly recommend taking 20 minutes to watch it. (I still put it on once or twice a year as a pep talk.)

This summer I did a lot of moody trail running. Charging uphill and breaking my body to make it stronger was an escape from the intense stress of my workplace.  If I took pictures, they were to share with a spirit of “woohoo look how awesome this is!” On one rainy, particularly upset run, I came around a corner to see golden evening light spilling through storm clouds down the valley. Adding “awe” to the pile of emotional shit swirling in my brain broke my control and I burst into tears. I was compelled to take a selfie in that moment. (hashtag 21st century, right?) I wanted to know what I looked like in genuine distress. I didn’t like it. It made me uncomfortable. I was tempted to retake the picture with my face contorted into what I thought sad Cori should look like. In the interest of sincerity, I resisted.

Sad selfie.

Sad selfie. Excavated as an exercise in sharing vulnerability from the file called “things I don’t want people to see.”

I’m historically terrible at sharing my painful feelings, but I’ve been working on it. Just over 4 years ago I began learning about and practicing mindfulness meditation. A concept that comes up constantly is to lean into uncomfortable emotions, rather than avoiding them. Practicing that lean is insanely difficult. Our brains are programmed to avoid pain, whether it’s physical or emotional. But my pet theory is this: in the physical realm, we’ve learned to differentiate between good pain and bad physical pain, why not mental pain as well? I hang out with a bunch of people who devote their spare time to running, biking, skiing, and other-ing up and down mountains. Our hobbies HURT. But we know it’s a good pain, the kind of pain that makes us stronger. With the mind, moving through self imposed discomfort preps it for real world challenges. I think mountain challenges fulfill some of that requirement for a lot of us. Additionally, even a few minutes of meditation a day makes positive impacts in stress levels, focus, and memory (look, science!).  I notice that when I meditate regularly (10 -ish minutes) I am calmer and less impacted by life triggers – uncertainty, sadness, anger, jealousy. I have an easier time letting go of the things I have no control over. I am peaceful, stress-free, and full of compassion for myself and others. When I slack on my mental exercises, those same triggers do what they used to: send me toward a spiral of self-criticism and anxiety. The same pattern happens with my physical self: when I’m fit, climbing mountains is a bajillion times easier than when I’ve been a slug for weeks. I aspire to more consistently maintain a fitness base in both mind and body. Life’s boring without goals.

This post is about leaning into discomfort, being vulnerable, and demonstrating solidarity with anyone who relates. I’m leaning. I feel vulnerable. I think that means it’s working. I’m not advocating dwelling on the tear-jerking, gut-wrenching aspects of life. I just think that we should occasionally acknowledge them, if nothing else than to be reminded that suffering and uncertainty are universal experiences.

On that note, I’m going to give the optimistic side of my personality free reign. Here’s a stoked selfie from early in my first winter as a ski bum:

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I LIVE HERE??!?!!

I don’t know where my life is headed, but I’m proud of the progress I’ve made so far. I’m proud of bailing on a career path that didn’t speak to me. I’m proud of saying “I love you” first. I’m proud of getting better at letting go of the things outside of my control. I’m proud of shifting to a seasonal lifestyle that lets me be in the mountains and focus on the activities I love doing. I’m proud of and inspired by my friends who’ve molded their lives around the things they love rather than the things that are expected. I’m STOKED to spend another winter of daily ski adventuring. So here’s to being courageous and chasing fulfillment in life, and now and then nodding to (or maybe blowing raspberries at) the shit along the way. I’m pretty sure that’s normal.

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