I have a very wise friend. I’m sure you do too. You know, the one who would gladly answer your 3 AM phone call and listen as your pour your heart out to her. She tells you what you need to know, although not necessarily what you want to hear. Loves you with all her heart, but gives you the truth serum when you most need it. That friend.
The other day, I was on the phone for three hours with this person in my life. (These phone calls take time and have a life of their own!) Our lives have paralleled in many ways and diverged in others. We both value introspection and self-knowledge, we’re both willing and looking for ways to grow, and it seems as though the craziness of our lives had has us each on a roller coaster ride in the dark – kind of like Space Mountain at Disney World. If you’re going through a divorce, you know a lot about roller coaster rides in the dark!
During our conversation, my friend shared with me a profound question she asks herself every time something seemingly negative occurs in her life: What is the opportunity disguised as _______________ (fill in the blank with divorce, theft, pain, financial issue, conflict, etc.).
I love the question because it assumes, much like the I Ching symbol for chaos, that every difficulty bears a gift, an opportunity to see things differently. The question also reflects the concept that everything – even the really hard stuff in life – occurs for our highest and best.
The older I’ve gotten, the more I see that the universe challenges to get me to grow, often initially, against my own will or “better judgment.” Okay, most times I’m dragged in kicking and screaming. However, I have found that the more resistance I feel, the greater the opportunity for deep, personal transformation.
And yuck, right? I mean, who loves to get her purse stolen? Get into a car accident? Face a scary diagnosis? Or get a divorce from the person you thought was the love of your life? No one.
And yet, if we’re open to the question it allows us to see things differently, even if for just a moment. We can come back to the question again if we can’t immediately see any opportunity in what’s occurred. We can also ask our closest confidants if they can think of any opportunities inherent in our current trial. Because, let’s face it, many of us (myself included) do not warm quickly or easily to perspectives that challenge us: our status quo opinions of ourselves, our partners, how life is supposed to be, etc.
But, if our status quo opinions are disempowering who we really are, then our perspectives need to be challenged, and desperately so. When we’re deep down the rabbit hole of victimization, negativity and blame, this little inquiry can light the first step of our way out of the depths.
The question came in very handy for me today. I had a fight with my spouse, who thought that something I did was controlling. The NERVE! Because, let me tell you in forty-six different ways to Sunday, that I am never, ever, ever, ever, not-gonna-do-it, no way in Hell am I ever controlling. Okay, well, maybe once when I was twenty-seven.
So after my defensive rant, in the quiet time after our fight (also known by many as the “silent treatment”), I took a moment for a little reflection and I asked myself, “What’s the opportunity disguised as this conflict?” Actually, there were a lot of opportunities.
Looking back, I saw that my initial defensive rant was an internal one, not a productive dialogue with my spouse. When my partner returned home (our disagreement had occurred over the phone), I was in a place (after venting to myself) to actually listen to my partner. And I also shared my perspective, without trying to impose it.
We launched into a really lovely discussion about what’s important to each of us, and how we can help each other to grow. When I can get past myself, one of the ways in which my spouse helps me to grow is by seeing ways in which I can be more soft, more sensitive, and more curious about my partner’s needs, instead of just assuming that our needs are the same and seeking conformity (control!).
In the end, our disagreement provided opportunities to communicate better, heal the hurt of the fight, and learn about one another in a deeper way. Our relationship is stronger because of it!
Suzanne E. Grandchamp
UNTANGLE, UNPACK, & LIVE WISELY:
In what ways can your current challenges be reframed as opportunities?
How is the universe asking you to see things differently and to grow?