Thirty-eight Minute Crisis
Panic! Fear! Your life as you know it might be ending in a few minutes. Everything around you will be destroyed. There is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. And there is nothing you can do about it.
This was the reality the residents of Hawaii experienced this past week. An emergency alert was broadcast across the island, warning them of an impending ballistic missile strike. Thirty-eight minutes of fear, panic, and confusion ensued. Thirty-eight minutes of what one can only imagine as pure terror and helplessness.
In those moments, the most precious things in life instantly became crystal clear- friends, family, loved ones. Nothing else mattered.
Not FIRE. Not 401K plans. Not savings rate. Not mega backdoor Roth IRAs. Not anything else.
And no one was spared. Anyone with a cellphone, from the multimillionaire in the beachfront mansion, to the homeless sleeping in the park; all were in the same boat.
We all experience crisis situations. It may be imminent danger, an illness or death in the family, or some traumatic event. Thankfully, crises don’t occur that often. But when they do, they have a way of triaging our priorities.
My personal crisis happened many years ago after the birth of my son. He was not yet a year old when we noticed a lump in his groin. Being a physician, my first thought was “What’s the worst thing this could be?” A cancer? Lymphoma? Sarcoma? Oh my god, chemo?! I’m not ready for this.
Thankfully, the pediatrician diagnosed it as an inguinal hernia, but he would need surgery. We had to wait a few weeks before our son could have his surgical procedure. During that time, he was colicky, cranky, and clearly in discomfort. As a new parent, it was difficult to just standby while time stood still.
Nothing else mattered during this time. Not work, not friends, not finances. They all took a back seat.
On the day of the surgery, the hardest part was saying goodbye to my son as we handed him over the the anesthesiologist. The second hardest part was waiting the two hours until the surgery was done. Again, being a physician, I ran through all the potential medical complications in my head. Nerve-wracking I tell you.
Today, my son is a healthy and happy nine year old boy. He plays Minecraft and basketball. Looking back, it wasn’t a huge deal, but at the time, it was the world to me.
“Well, of course nothing else matters”, you say. “We should all put loved ones at the forefront in our lives”, you say. Obvious, duh!
But do we? Do we really? It is so easy for us to forget and take for granted the things that are most dear to us. What holds us back? The Creep. The Creep is insidious, subtle, and gradual. What is the Creep? It’s a basket of many things that steals time from us, and holds us back from maximizing our life.
It’s work. Just a few more hours of work each week. Several more late night sessions and the project will be complete. Another extra shift for spending money. A side hustle to boost our income.
It’s our ego. It’s her turn to call me. I’m not talking to him until he apologizes. I’m still mad.
It’s our excuses. Vacations cost too much. No one can do my job as well as I can. I can’t go because there will be a mountain of work when I get back.
It’s our distractions: Our cell phones and laptops need to our attention. Blogs posts need to be read. Youtube and Netflix videos need to be watched. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook clamor for our eyeballs.
It’s our fears: Fear of appearing weak or vulnerable. Fear of rejection. Fear of failure.
Sneaky things these are. They create a mirage, distorting our perception, and substituting the important things with non-important things. Let us not be misled.
So here is an exercise in mindfulness. Call it a self-imposed “crisis” if you want. This month, wipe away the fog, see clearly, and do something for someone you care about. Just one.
Take your parents to lunch. Set a date night with your spouse. Eat dinner at home with the family. Make it to your kid’s sporting event. Call a friend you haven’t spoken with in years. Set aside a grudge. Take a walk with someone. Buy some flowers. Send a card. Put down the phone or laptop for an evening. Plan a vacation.
You don’t need a crisis to be mindful and focus on what’s important. You just need to be present. Be here. Be now.
Invest In Life.