"Change, like a wedding or retirement, is  a singular event; transition, like the marriage or the rest of your life, is an ongoing process of adapting, inner transforming  and learning."

 

"In the middle of the road of my life I awoke in a dark wood where the true way was wholly lost."

- Dante  

 

"Life is much too short to stay stuck in the doldrums for very long."

 

"To your kids, it's a big deal that you are getting divorced, but how you get divorced is even more important.  Parents get divorced, but kids don't -- they need a healthy connection with both mom and dad."

 

"Life is like a 10 speed bike.  Most of us have gears we never use."

-Charles Schultz  

 

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

- Mary Oliver

 

"The idea is to die young as late as possible."

- Ashley Montague

 

"Perhaps your life is filled with secret possibilities you never imagined."

- Robert Fritz  

 

"I was going to stop procrastinating but I decided to put it off."

- Anonymous

 

When you feel connected to something, that connection gives you a purpose for living."

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

  

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« Divorcing, with Children | Main | Life Lessons from my dog »
Sunday
Nov232008

Crisis and Growth

"Often the experience of a personal crisis or a failure will constitute a basis for the creation of a personal vision, which in turn becomes the framework for a life of possibility."

                       - Zander & Zander,

                              The Art of Possibility

Oh how true!!  In fact, we often stay stuck in old ruts, with feelings of uncertainty, dissatisfaction and unhappiness, until some crisis or necessity forces us out of semi-denial and into action.  Whether we like it or not, a growth phase is thus triggered.  If you don't buy this idea, look at what's happening with our current economic meltdown, or with the global warming our lifestyles of excessive consumption are triggering.

I was fortunate on this score in my own life, although I sure didn't feel lucky when the crisis hit.  I was a young psychologist working with cancer patients and their families, which was an eye-opener in itself when young "kids" my own age came in for treatment of leukemia or some other life-threatening malignancy.  So when my first marriage fell apart around the same time my father suffered post-surgical complications and almost died from a gut infection, I was thrown into crisis.  A year later, my father went in for follow-up surgery and additional complications this time around did lead to his death after a long and lingering struggle.

I was devastated and confused by the end of my marriage, but like any good psychologist, I adopted the perspective that there must be something I was meant to learn by the loss.  Whether or not this notion is self-delusional, just adopting the perspective tends to restore some sense of control to one's life during a crisis, and I set out to learn how to live better, "with myself, for myself and by myself," so I'd be better prepared in my next relationship.

I was on this quest when my father died.  He had been healthy, clear-thinking and active, and at 75 years, wasn't exactly young but wasn't terribly old either.  A natural aspect of any intensive grieving process is a search for meaning, not only in the relationship and associated losses, but in the bigger questions such as "what is this life about anyway?" I was thrown into these questions in a big way, and did some serious soul-searching about what really mattered to me and where I wanted my life to go.

Over the next year or so, three priorities came up clearly.  I wanted to see more of the world, I wanted to develop my career, and I wanted to share my life with someone and start a family.  As my first priority, I knew that I didn't want to die before I had hiked in the Himalayas.  This dream set off a whole chain of events that taught me a profound understanding about the power of commitment.  I started scheming about where I wanted to go, saving money for the adventure.  When I approached my boss about taking time off, I was delighted to receive a year's Leave of Absence with about a year of lead time.

One of my colleague's gave me the following quotation as inspiration for the journey, and I've kept it close ever since:

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative (and creation).  There is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas & splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents & meetings & material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power & magic in it.  Begin it now.

                                    - Goethe

Over the next several months I continued to absorb the meaning of this lesson, as people I hardly knew told me about places to visit, connected me to family members who were also going travelling around the same time, and gave me names and addresses of people in distant lands who would welcome a visit from a Canadian.  I was amazed and inspired by the unexpected momentum.  What had seemed like an exciting but solitary adventure came to be a shared excitement, catching the imaginations and good wishes of many.

 

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Reader Comments (2)

Well??? Did you ever end up hiking the Himalayas?? Don't keep us in suspense, Doc!

March 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMo

Well??? Did you ever end up hiking the Himalayas?? Don't keep us in suspense, Doc!
Hey, I have that Goethe quote on a fridge magnet, I'm not kidding! It's always been one of my favourites.

March 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMo

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