“Bad things do happen. How I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most valuable gift I have – life itself.” Walter Anderson
I have just hit one of those times. We all have them: times when life gives us an unexpected slap in the face. Due to state budget cuts, I have been laid off. This is the second time in five years for me, so it is not unknown territory. Yet, while I can negotiate the terrain, that doesn’t make it easy and certainly not fun. For me, this also comes at the end of a tougher period in my life and after more than one bump in my road. This, well, this feels like hitting a big pothole
Still, it has long been my philosophy that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. So, while I am updating my resume and searching want ads, I’ve also asked myself, as I have before, what is the good I can extract from this? Where is the life lesson?
I probably first began to look at this thought years ago when someone showed me this picture and said that it was the Japanese pictogram for the word crisis. They explained that the upper figure is a partially opened door and the bottom swirling waters. They finished by saying so Crisis = Danger (the water) + Opportunity (the open door).
Well, it was years before I learned that this was someone’s invention, that it is neither Japanese or Chinese. It is more like an Urban Legend…untrue, but it feels true. I think that is because it does capture truth. Every crisis is fraught with danger…the swirling waters can wash us away. At the same time, I have found over and over in my life that it is in and through these swept away times that we can be carried to new and unexplored paths, new opportunities, new ideas, new ways of being. Some of them we may know in our imagination. Maybe, we wanted to explore them but held on to the safety of the familiar. Once that is no longer possible, when we are compelled to explore where life is taking us…we may find where we really want to go.
Five years ago, while I searched for work, I used the opportunity of losing my job to finish the book I was writing but hadn’t had time to complete. Perhaps using my new “opportunity,” I can find the way to sell it. I don’t know. I do know I won’t be defeated by this and I will wrestle with this crisis until I extract the possibility, or the blessing if you will, that is in this situation somewhere. I will also take some quiet time for rest and introspection. Sometimes the best answers appear in quiet moments.
Crises come to us all in big ways and small….but a crisis doesn’t have to be a catastrophe. The trick is to find the hidden door to opportunity…and to find it you just have to make up your mind to look. Of course, that is step one. Then, your second step is to make up your mind to open it and walk through. Be advised, it may be locked. If it is, step three is to ask what is the key…and set about acquiring it. Do you need help from someone? Do you need an education or training? Are you prepared to start over and work hard to traverse this new path? Can you defer what you’d like right now to have this better thing in the future, clinging to the door until you can pull it open?
Like most things in life, the struggle may not be easy, but it will be an exercise of character. Shannon Adler said, “Before you can live a part of you must die. You have to let go of what could have been…and accept that you can’t change the past…When you recognize that truth you can finally understand forgiveness…and you will finally be free.”
Finding the door is half the battle….letting yourself walk through it is the rest. The waters won’t defeat you….only you can defeat you. Trust yourself. Breathe. Think….pray. Look for the answers…they are there. Crisis? It’s ok…the door is waiting, the opportunity is there. Let’s open it together.