Friday, July 23, 2010
survivors guide to living
just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
suzanne the plans they made put an end to you
i walked out this morning and i wrote down this song
i just can't remember who to send it to
oh, i've seen fire and i've seen rain
i've seen sunny days that i thought would never end
i've seen lonely times when i could not find a friend
but i always thought that i'd see you again
won't you look down upon me jesus
you've gotta help me make a stand
you've just got to see me through another day
my body's aching and my time is at hand
and i won't make it any other way
* * * * *
in "deep survival" laurence gonzales writes there are two kinds of people. survivors and victims.
survivors, he says, are rule breakers. they are independent in mind and spirit. in a tough situation, they do better than people who follow the rules and stick to the plan, no matter how badly the plan has gone awry.
"when a patient is told that he has six months to live, he has two choices: to accept the news and die, or to rebel and live. people who survive cancer in the face of such a diagnosis are notorious. the medical staff observes that they are 'bad patients,' unruly, troublesome. they don't follow directions. they question everything. they're annoying. they're survivors.
"the tao te ching says, 'the rigid person is a disciple of death...the soft, supple, and delicate are lovers of life.' "
boys, quite often, don't fit that last description. not on the outside, anyway.
the boy at our house is soft-hearted and emotionally susceptible, but he wants
the world to believe he's wizened and grizzled and hard-shelled.
we're willing to play along, sometimes. to that end, we recently sent him to a
week-long ymca b.o.l.d. (boys outdoor leadership development) camp in the north cascades.
the idea is to cultivate confidence through the development of wilderness survival skills, some of which might be applicable elsewhere in life. or to just hike around and do some fishing outside the city. whichever.
the boy came back complaining bitterly about a week of privation and forced marches and giant mosquitos and an epic failure, fish-catching-wise. and yet on his return, he was inexplicably exhuberant, as if he'd passed a great test of pre-adolescenthood.
there's no telling what of any long-term value he may have internalized, but maybe he picked up one insight that'll help turn him into a survivor.
maybe somewhere down the road he'll stop and think, "you know, when i went in the lake with my boots on, my feet got wet and stayed that way for two days. that experience taught me that it may not be a good idea to pee on this electric fence, or to pet this pit bull, or to get in this car with my drunk friend."
all we can do is put him in position to learn, and hope for the best.
* * * * *
my friend kary was a survivor. life handed her a raw deal several months ago, but instead of accepting the bad news, she stood and fought.
she endured chemo and bone marrow biopsies and seizures. she ignored an indifferent doctor who told her she had a week to live, and lived on. she kicked a dangerous lung infection so she could undergo a bone marrow transplant, which was cause for much hope.
but acute myelogenous leukemia is a bitch of a disease, and eventually it fought kary to a draw. life's rulebook tells us that in case of a tie, death wins. but kary never gave up, never let the specter change who she was. she showed us what it means to be a survivor instead of a victim.
since no one gets out alive, that's about the best example any of us can set.