What is the most important skill to develop?

Back when I was still drinking (and damn, I was good at it), something inside me would quietly whisper, “what are you so afraid of?” It was years before I really listened to that voice closely enough to become curious.
.
What was it? Why did I drink? What was I trying NOT to feel?
.
Eventually I decided to find out by quitting drinking and started to understand what Pema Chodron meant when she wrote “Never underestimate our desire to bolt.” She was describing our tendency to do damn near anything to avoid even the slightest feelings of discomfort – boredom, loneliness, uncertainty, you name it!
.
Once I’d removed alcohol from the equation, I realized that was only part of the story. Eating, dieting, shopping, dating, binge watching Law & Order episodes before they even called it that. These were all behaviors I used to fill in the spaces of my life that felt less than desirable.
.
Little by little, with the help of therapy, medication, and meditation, I began to experience my discomfort – I know, sounds enticing! And I’ve come to believe that this is the most important skill we can develop in our lives. Once I became less afraid of discomfort, once I was able to face it, turn toward it, make space for it, not only did I develop the capacity to make behavioral decisions differently (why did I want to eat, did I really need another pair of black leggings), but my capacity to experience joy multiplied, my ability to feel pleasure expanded, my compassion for myself and others sharpened.
.
As hard of a “sell” as it is to suggest feeling our discomfort consciously, intentionally, and with curiosity, it is the only way I know how to be in our actual lives and to stop running from them.