From crisis comes opportunity

I feel like this is such a time of change, transition, crisis, closure. In my life, in the world, all around me. It’s incredible how I can’t imagine a time when this wasn’t the case, and when I look back at before, when I was so unaware of all of it, I think how narrow my perspective was, how I didn’t even know how good I had it in some ways. It’s difficult to imagine these times of transition and it is such a struggle to keep my mental state in check.

I’ve struggled with anxiety most of my life, with a significant peak in the last few years. The realities of adulthood, figuring out how to live in healthy ways, how to build community, sustain adult relationships, it’s all really brought my issues to the fore.

The period we are in now has heightened things. I don’t actually think I’m more anxious, I may in many ways actually be less anxious than a number of other points in my life, but in many ways my anxiety feels so much more rational and logical these days. Listen to the news, read any blog or newspaper and there is an overwhelming sense of doomsday lately.

In many ways it’s justified. Institutions (financial, political, journalistic) are crumbling around us. The status quo is shifting, like an earthquake, and it’s difficult to see what will be rebuilt from the ashes. I struggle to keep myself from going down the slippery slope of anxiety and catastrophe on a regular basis, and then the media and general political sentiment echoes these feelings and it’s even harder.

But I feel like I’ve turned a corner. After six months of closing down, holding my breath, retracting and steeling myself against each piece of news and each change that has come my way, I think I can breathe again.

What I need to understand, to believe, is that from crisis comes opportunity. That what we had before, what we are SO tightly holding onto now, while it feels safe, wasn’t that great either. And that now we have the potential to build something new and better than we could ever have imagined. Maybe one day we will look back on those things whose loss we are mourning and feel grateful for what came out of it all.

We’re so afraid of change, so afraid to adapt, to conform to a new reality. Yet haven’t we all been working toward just that: a new reality, a revolution?

We can’t expect to transform the world without some of the old structures crumbling. There are lots of ways to make change, and I think we’ve all been focusing so much on change from within existing institutions and structures. This is the chance to rebuild them from the ground up. We’ve all been doing this work together, chipping away at the foundations of institutions that haven’t served us, and now we are seeing the result of much of this work. The institutions are crumbling.

Now the work begins. Brick by brick we must rebuild with the vision of what we want to see. What did we want when all we could see was what we didn’t like about existing institutions?

I want to embrace the opportunity in crisis, the opportunity to rebuild the world according to our wildest dreams.

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2 thoughts on “From crisis comes opportunity

  1. annajcook March 31, 2009 / 10:43 pm

    Awesome post. You articulated a lot of what I’ve been feeling about the current world/economic situation. I’ve been resisting the characterization of what is happening as a “crisis” because of the fear associated with that word, and in part because of the way it emphasizes trauma rather than growth and change. I really identify with your movement from retreat to cautious re-engagement with the world (for example: I stopped listening to NPR about six months ago because it was giving me panic attacks, and have only just been re-introducing it into my daily life the past few weeks). Though not optimistic, I am hopeful that out of this turbulence will come a healthy and more equitable world.

    (P.S. awesome panel at WAM! this past Saturday. I was particularly impressed with the way you fielded and diffused the question about “second wave” influence, which so often leads to tension and reductive categorization.)

  2. Karl April 1, 2009 / 11:38 pm

    It is a great read, and a pleasure to find an honest post that doesn’t feel like a dear diary.
    I’m not much of a comment buff, but I wanted to say that there is nothing to be afraid of; change is a beautiful thing. I’ve known nothing but war in my life, and watched cities (and lives) I’ve loved break apart and come back together; without exception they’d come back stronger and better.
    And there’s nothing to be afraid of at rock bottom either. Will society crumble? The economy? The power companies? It doesn’t matter, it’s all just, well, stuff. You can live on nothing but family and a slice of bread for decades, guaranteed (or your money back.)
    It’s late, and I’ve had one too many coffees. I will brave a few more of your posts before I hit the sack though 🙂 Lovely read, and I hope you have a good day.

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