“Crisis” is defined as an emergency, disaster or catastrophe. However, it’s also defined as a turning point, crossroads or moment of truth. The Chinese have a symbol for crisis that contains two characters, one meaning “dangerous threat,” the other “opportunity.”
While crisis holds the threat of loss on many levels, it also holds the opportunity for transformation. Caregivers face crisis as an on-going challenge throughout all stages of caring for a loved one. In fact, it’s the doorway through which most enter when they first take on the role of caregiver. Unprepared and perhaps in denial, we all find ourselves in the tortuous domino effect of reacting and losing ground as each event unfolds.
So how exactly can we turn a catastrophe into a transformational experience, from being completely overwhelmed to becoming more at peace than ever before?
What you will learn throughout years of caregiving will depend largely on your focus. If every turn brings more tension and blame, the experience can ultimately destroy a family. But caregiving can also magically lift you above issues and circumstances if you are in the right state of mind or should I say…heart.
We’ve all witnessed people who have been through natural disasters emerge with a renewed spirit—pulling themselves out of crisis by focusing on the community as a whole instead of their own personal loss. When fired from Apple, Steve Jobs stated that the time following this unimaginable loss was the most creative time in his life. He was ultimately reinstated. How do we explain this? How do these people seem to thrive in the face of their biggest and most threatening challenges?
It’s the focus beyond ourselves, beyond our own needs that makes us thrive; that gives us a distinctive place and purpose in the world, where we can reveal our unique ability to contribute.
In crisis we are forced to draw on our inner strength and spirit. In this most vulnerable and raw state, a rare clarity emerges about life’s priorities. It becomes clear that our usual fears and obstacles or even excuses have been perpetuated, not by others, but by we ourselves. Crisis accelerates the choice to move beyond these obstacles. If channeled, this new energy can transform our circumstances, our relationships, our minds…and most of all our hearts.
In caregiving, crisis comes in a slightly different form. Although caregivers face life-threatening events, their crisis is not event driven, but driven by the hours and hours of isolation, grief and even loss of identity. When you sacrifice your own goals to care for a loved one, you may feel as if you’re trapped with nowhere to turn. You may feel haunted by the question: Who am I? Unless you choose to focus inward on this “hero’s journey,” you can surely be lost, perhaps forever.
What saves a caregiver who is facing this dilemma? Living in the present moment, even though the present moment pretty much stinks?
If hour after hour, day after day, year after year you can learn to see the beauty in a father’s smile radiating his love beyond the Alzheimer’s, beyond the next emergency, beyond the next poop; if you can find compassion for another’s limited capacity to help; if you can obtain peace inside your mind…then you can rise above the circumstances, the fears and probably some very old demons. Within this so called prison, a freedom is found, a freedom perhaps never felt before.
This freedom is not a transient feeling. It is knowledge that circumstances do not define who you are. Forever transformed, a caregiver’s life can go from “dangerously threatened” to knowing ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the mighty ocean in one drop.” – Rumi
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