The Crucible

Twice in my life I’ve been through the crucible.

First when my Dad’s aorta exploded and second when I had a fundamental breakdown aged 30.

Each of those things tested me to my core. Pushed me to places I never wanted to go. Made me confront truths I never wanted to acknowledge.

Changed me

I’m going through the crucible again right now, with CFS/ME, an experience that’s transforming my life.

That’s what passing through the crucible does – it leaves you changed.

Like me, you will have had experiences that threatened to shake you to your very foundations, experiences that were either thrust upon you or that you entered into, trembling.

The crucible forces you to dig deeper than you ever thought was possible. It reveals what’s at your core, for good or ill. It shows you what lies ahead and it makes you responsible for your legacy.

When you’re in the midst of the storm it’s hard to see what the hell’s going on; sometimes all you know for sure is that it’s loud, chaotic, painful and sometimes tortuous.

And life will always have this stuff up its sleeve.

Not a thing you can do about it.

It’s only once you’ve passed through it that you can look back, using hindsight to derive meaning from what you’ve been through and to get a feel for how it affected you and how you see your life and world differently.

But with CFS/ME, I’ve regularly found myself facing the heat of the crucible over such an extended period of time that I’ve been able to find the calm centre of it.

I’ve been able to to sit inside it and breathe

I believe that crucible experiences are the universe’s way to test you; to see what you’re really made of.

I believe they’re a mechanism to make sure you face up to who you are, and own it.

As painful and disruptive as they may be, they might just save your life.

Don’t shy away from or hold back, and if you’re willing, I’d love to hear your crucible story in the comments.

  1. Write down the story of one of your crucible experiences. What happened? What did it feel like? Forget about creating a compelling narrative or even having it make sense – you’re not writing for anyone but yourself. Just write how it was for you.
  2. What did this crucible experience reveal to you? What parts of yourself did it show you, or what truths did it make you confront?
  3. How did this crucible experience leave you changed? What can you never “unknow” or “unlearn” having passed through it?
  4. What do you have to thank this crucible experience for?
  5. Write down one thing you can do this week that will honour this crucible experience, and commit to doing it.

  • I can relate. Im 24 and went trough hell. Jet I kept going on. Just recently, I expierenced so much pain. Such devestation.. But I survived. And now I made the diffrence. What my friends couldnt do. To tell the truth. To stand by it. Even if they hate me for it. I now see, who is a friend who your enemy is. With regards from Germany, where most of the people there are cowards.

  • It is true when one is in the crucible time becomes moment by moment and it can be easy to beat oneself up for not being capable of doing more. So it was good, even a support, to read your lines about letting oneself come through, and/or learn to sit in and breath until space opens to allow perspective.

    Just found your site a few days ago, so busy reading, thanks,

    • The word I’m finding more and more useful these days is “softening”. Softening into an experience is pretty extraordinary.

      So glad to have you here – holler if I can help out.

      • softening, letting the edges ease, allowing breathe between hardness. Yup, get soft. Letting the egdes blur.

        Love soft,,,,the glowof earthlight rising in the early, or lowering late, hours: the panopoly of sun colors (at a museueum in newport the docent allowed one of the great ilustrators said to his family: look for me in the levening ight left on the tops of trees, there you will see me.

        beautiful, really it is… but not always enough

  • “I believe that crucible experiences are the universe’s way to test you; to see what you’re really made of.”

    Your post reminds me of Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture in which he talks about the brick walls that keep people who don’t want something bad enough.

    I’m still young, but knowing “crucible experiences” are a part of life even if they haven’t happened to me better mentally prepares me.

    • I love the Last Lecture, so I’m thrilled that this post reminded you of that. The trick, I think, is recognising that you’re in the Crucible when you’re there, and having that fact alone give you some comfort.

  • Steve – I’m 53. Since turning 50 I’ve been travelling down the crucible road on a regular basis. It started out with being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, then some major work-related issues, then within the last year being diagnosed with prostate cancer, having surgery for that (fully recovered and so far cancer free), and, finally, my 26-year marriage falling apart. To say that those crucible experiences changed me is an understatement.

    But oddly enough, I feel more optimistic and mentally healthy than I have in a long time. Partly because I’ve survived it all without falling into bitterness or depression (mostly), but also because I find myself sitting here with an open future waiting to be defined however I want it to be. Certainly there are challenges, and I’m still trying to figure out some things, but I see it as a chance to have a ‘do over’ – fix the less than stellar things about myself, let loose some of the creative endeavors I’ve held back on over the years, experience new things, meet new people, etc.

    It’s still going to take work, and not all of it will be fun, but the crucible experiences have shown me that I’m stronger than I thought. And that motivates me to get out there and make my dent in the universe.

    Thanks for your thoughtful work and continued efforts!


    • Wow, Jeff, thanks so much for the comment.

      You’ve been through the wringer, and your strength, insight and outlook is to be applauded.

      Funny, I just watched a documentary on the BBC about children in the USA living in poverty. Not an easy watch, but this one girl – 11 year old Sera – completely blew me away. She’s in the crucible right now, but he spirit is totally inspiring. There’s a clip here to show what I mean –

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