How crises, spirituality and age can transform dread to appreciation
I have clear memories of the moments and days after September 11th, 2001. I remember, after a long and dramatic day, wandering home with my partner and watching people play tennis in the shadow of smoke and ash — New Yorkers can be dead ass cold. I can recall vividly the walls of posters covered in the missing, and my own grief at the fact that I would never know their stories.
And I thought, too, ‘I don’t know what’s happened, really, but I know the world is about to change.’ And change it did. America demonstrated a willingness to waste untold resources and lives in the name of revenge against anyone but those responsible.
I panicked too- I continued to close and open doors without looking too far behind or ahead. I bought a house at the peak of the housing crisis. I went back to school and lost what I knew about the American dream. I separated from my wife and was terribly, ashamedly unkind to her.
Ten years on and you could be forgiven for thinking that I had righted the ship of my life. In fact, I was a bit embarrassed by how average my life had become. But along came a pandemic and the response, and then an unspooling of that dreaded normalcy.
I quit the best paying job I ever had in an effort to leave the sector I was in once and for all. I fell into it and had pretended for years that I was ok — maybe even good — at it, but the truth was I hated it. I never sought to improve, only to find ways out. And with the reality of 20 or 30 years left of work ahead of me, I knew that I had to figure shit out quick. So I found an excuse and left. It felt like closing a heavy door to a basement. And now I believe whole heartedly that my transition into spiritual care was the right choice and that it can see me through the rest of my working days.
I also found myself in a relationship with truly “irreconcilable differences.” We have children, though, which was the initial draw. So another door closes, but this one is a swinging door, opening to the possibility of friendship through co-parenting. Beyond that is a door I have never really knocked on- singlehood. Being alone, in a positive sense, doing work on healing and improving and not tying my peace and well being to another.
With these changes there is also potential. I have learned that in the midst of crises, like death, life goes on. And for me, it has not just been the experience of crises that have helped me to appreciate them. Ease has come through a smidge of wisdom that I have gained by growing older and a deepening of my spirituality.
It’s possible that my former take on closing doors comes from the trauma in my life. Always looking backward, forever dwelling on the wrongs and what-might-have-beens. But frankly, after being through so many changes, I now know that life goes on, regardless of my obsessive thoughts.
As a child, what very little guidance I had was garbage, nothing shaped like wisdom. Now that I am nearing 50, I am finding myself in a position to play the adult that I needed as a child. Sometimes I find it hard to accept that many things I should have learned early I will either only learn through “hard-earned” wisdom or that I may never get there.
Just before the pandemic wandered in to Australia last year, there was a story about how the age 47.2 was ‘peak misery.’ This was exactly where I was, and it was oddly reassuring because it was reported that everything improves after that. My growing capacity to appreciate these decadal doors are evidence.
The increasing depth to my spirituality has come from three sources: my commitment to working with it (as in, paycheck working), getting older, and the way that Spirit works in my life.
By choosing to work in spiritual care, I now have the right to bring my full self to work — ok, well, maybe 87% — which is something I was never able to do before. I not only have permission to participate in professional development that talks about the inner life, I get paid to do it. It has been energizing and exhausting. Inspiring and overwhelming. And every day, I get a nudge, an experience, a message, something, that reminds me that I am where I am supposed to be, even if everything else is on fire.
As I’ve aged, I can more easily let go of the things that are NEVER going to happen. I don’t treat my relationship to Divinity like a vending machine (much). I have enough experience to know that reality is not what we think and I don’t need the inexplicable to remind me of it. I can explore my beliefs and practice with a depth that has, until now, eluded me due to distraction or worldly concern. Now I appreciate that I am loved, I am provided for, and it has always been so. With that, I can look for depth rather than breadth. I don’t imagine that I could have gotten to this without the years I have behind me.
While I don’t need the inexplicable, I still get spiritual gifts, messages and invitations. The way God works in your life is yours. But when you know… For example, in 2019 I began to get invitations to participate in spiritual actions. This had been after a gap of over six years. I said yes and the more I agreed the more doors began to open. This experience reminded me that I was still “in the game” even when I wasn’t leaning into it. The game asked me to play, and I am reminded that I matter, I am valued, but I am not the one running the board.
It is only with this new depth that I am able to step back and appreciate what is behind without dwelling on it. It is also an essential component of my capacity to understand that the possibilities are wide open and known only to the One. One door closes, as the saying goes.
I can preach with confidence that a practice of gratitude and appreciation will move mountains. Speak appreciation for what has been and what is to come, no matter how unclear it may be. Express gratitude for everyone on your journey, known and unknown. These acts, done regularly and sincerely, will assist you in your own closings and openings.
I wouldn’t be where I am without the crises of years past. I can’t imagine where I will be in another ten or twenty years from now. But I know that it will contain beauty, joy, wonder and learning. For that, I am grateful.
No matter what the polycrises close for you, remember that you are supported and loved and that the door moves both ways.