Bob MacArthur

Her doctor found a lump. His boss fired him unceremoniously. At midlife she realized that in putting family first she had neglected other important parts of herself.

Episodes of loss of direction, health, livelihood or relationship – when the old ways are no longer available or no longer serve us – can literally be life changing. If we don’t let them overwhelm us, they can redirect us to a path that is more true and fulfilling.

Exiled by his brother, the duke in As You Like It reflects on his humiliation and new way of being. He concludes that the disheartening elements of his crisis

…are counsellors that feelingly persuade me what I am. Sweet are the uses of adversity; which like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head. (Act II, Scene 1, 10-14)

In the lore of Shakespeare’s day the toad had venom associated with its ugliness. It also held healing power in its temple, the precious jewel of which the duke speaks.

What can we learn from the circumstances that challenge us to our core? Having been dealt a few setbacks in my life, I see how much those times served to persuade me who I am today.

Calamities provide the opportunity to re-imagine and redefine who we are and why we are here. They impel us to return to the basic questions of what brings us meaning and joy in life. Facing into these difficulties with a sense of inquiry can lead to new, forgotten or neglected answers. These are the jewels inherent in the anguish of crisis. We can discover them, if we choose.

What precious gems do you see for yourself in your times of adversity?