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Catastrophe or Catalyst?

August 3, 2010

Teressa Moore GriffinEverything contains its opposite.  It’s inherent in the way life works.  My friend Pete, faced several situations – several Pivot Points – that brought this fact back to mind.

Pete’s wife announced she was leaving him, ending their 30-year marriage.  A few weeks later, his mother died.  Two weeks after that, he received word from his former employer that the company was facing bankruptcy, retiree’s pensions were in jeopardy, and all healthcare benefits would be discontinued beginning 2011.  This was a lot of major change to contend with – change for most of us – leads to stress.

Pete said, “This is all hard to take.  I’m facing significant change in what has been my life and primary relationships – my wife, my Mom, and my finances…my sense of security.  It all seems to be happening at once.  I don’t know why it bunched up on me like this, but here it is.”

I asked him how he felt.

“Shocked and unsettled.  Kind of like the ground is shifting under my feet.  Frankly, I’m a little scared.  I don’t know what all of this will lead to or how I’m going to cope,” he said.

Then, he surprised me with, “And I feel excited, expectant.  A lot of good can come from this too.  It gives me a chance to make a new life.  I don’t think I’ve ever been this free of obligation and responsibility, certainly not in my adult life.”  He sounded a little reticent, guilty even, about seeing and saying this side of issues we’re conditioned to view as sad and unfortunate.

His take on the impact of these major life changes stimulated thoughts about our tendency to identify with only one side of the matter relative to any change.  We ignore the other, particularly when “sad” or “bad” news is involved.  But not Pete, he didn’t get stuck in limiting LIES.  He acknowledged the negative – the shocking, sad, unsettling, scary – parts, AND the positive – the excited and expectant – aspects.  You and I might do well to apply his wisdom, whatever situation we’re facing.

Think about Pete when you face a Pivot Point, be it the loss of a job, financial hardship, a change in the status of an important relationship, a shift in the condition of your health, the illness or death of a loved one.  How might his example help you deal with the situation more effectively, especially when it’s not what you would have chosen to experience?  How might seeing all sides of what the situation can bring – the undesired and the opening of new possibilities – help you thrive as you step up to what heretofore you might have been deemed devastating?

While certain circumstances are hard to take, they can also take you to new places – places you would not have gone without catalysts that seem like catastrophes.

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