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Life in Crisis

It’s a beautiful sunny day. I wave to my darling young son and his father as they ride off on one bicycle to school. It sounds like a picturesque family portrait worthy of Rockwell, yet we all know too well that any moment the silent storm brewing underneath could rear its ugly head.

I am not taking my son to school on this day because I can no longer manage the desperation of his cries when I leave him at school for the day – his kicking and screaming has reached such a pitch over the past two weeks that we are now in a full-fledged crisis.

Crisis is a word we hear a lot these days in the news. Banking crisis, climate crisis, mid-life crisis…but what does the word really mean?

The word crisis come from the Greek word κρίσις, or ‘krisis’ meaning critical. A crisis describes any event that is, or is expected to lead to, an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, community, or whole society. More loosely, it is a term meaning “a testing time” or an “emergency event”.

I am fortunate enough to have seen several personal crises through to the other side, which means that I have learned that a crisis is always temporary. Since it is not a sustainable situation by definition, something eventually but inevitably will always happen to either disrupt the state of emergency to annihilation, or back into stability where strength can be regained. It is easy to say this now about challenging past events, however, a crisis can be debilitating, destabilising and devastating, and often long periods of time can get swept under the carpet as feelings of stagnancy, frustration and even depression set in.

So when does a crisis become a ‘crisis’? In our family’s current situation, it started on a return from a long holiday. The re-integration process back into daily life at school has seemed to trigger some long stemming separation anxiety between my son and I dating back to illness and then liver transplant two and a half years ago. The year prior to my transplant I was in and out of the hospital, gone from home for weeks at a time, culminating in a three months stay in hospital after the main event. My son was only three and at the time he seemed to take my absence in stride, however, there is no mistaking that his current anxiety stems from this time. He doesn’t remember the history, so for him understanding why he worries about being separated from me is very hard to understand, and even more challenging to find a solution.


In a crisis, we often have lost sight of the ‘why’ and are so focused on the emergency situation that we can’t see the forest through the trees. Working backward to see how the state of emergency came to be can sometimes hold a key to finding the ‘how’ of resolution.

All of us, at some time in our lives, are likely to go through a crisis. Whether it is losing a job or a loved one, becoming ill or uncertain about our path in life, the element of crisis to highlight is the movement through a crisis. Although it may seem that things will never change or the rut is too deep to get out of, all it takes is a little movement to begin to finding solutions. Those solutions may not come in the form you think, and may even require some tough love from trusted friends of family. All I can say is that if one approach doesn’t work, find another, and another, and another. In between, take time to be quiet, reflect and get out into the world to take heed of the little things in which you can be grateful. Eventually, a mental shift in perception will allow for a change to unfold.

Going through a crisis never feels good, but it does unveil wonderful and important inner resources, and reinforces support systems. After all, the challenges of life have sculpted the modern society we live in, as well as mother nature herself.

Over the weekend, my son and I planted seeds on our balcony. We spoke about watering the seeds to help the plants grow. I noted that our thoughts are a bit like those seeds – when we water certain thoughts they grow bigger, and even can grow out of control. Together we chose some thought-seeds worth watering, and we found a box for the seeds that that we would rather not get bigger.

Helping a six year old to help himself find a way out of anxiety has been one of the biggest challenges of my adult life, yet I am aware of the profound importance of teaching self-reliance and independence, and I know we will see this to the other side. Keeping my awareness on the big picture – raising a loving, capable person who knows he is loved and supported and who is empowered choose which thoughts he will water each day – enables me to keep going on this marathon of a journey with my family as we move through (yet another) crisis.

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