“Why am I a survivor?” is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. The question was brought to the forefront when my son died recently. On the surface, I realize his death isn’t directly related to my survival. Having stated that, I understand the concern of many of the doctors, nurses and other professionals who have asked me: “How are you doing?” They would often, outwardly, express their concern about the well-being of their patient’s loved-ones, especially me, who survived. The professionals warned me about the difficulties I would encounter when trying to answer the question: “Why am I a survivor?”
An event, that happened in 1951, has provided another dimension to the question: “Why am I a survivor?” You see, my father died when I was five years old. Include the fact that my son died when I was sixty-five years old and both, my dad and son, were in their thirties when they died and you can most likely understand the “bookend” loneliness I feel.
I have always thought that when things are tough, some people fall under the stress, while others are made stronger than before.
Why is it that some people are able to handle tough times better than others? Are these tough times for me? Yes! Am I falling under the stress, or am I being made stronger? Both! Yes, I am falling more than I ever anticipated, while at the same time, I realize I’m gaining a deeper insight into life. You see, the death of my son has made me feel stronger in my thinking about living life now. Before he died, much of my thinking about life involved planning a better life and trying to live that life in the future. Even though I would often proclaim that the “future is now,” I generally used the “now” only for planning/dreaming a better future.
Another aspect of being a survivor is how the word, survivor, is used in our media. Consider the glut of reality-survivor television shows. Personally, I usually perceive these as shows that bring out the worst in human behavior. When I ask, “Why am I a survivor?”, I’m not asking about a “reality show.” Instead, in my case, I’m asking about why I’m in reality and my son isn’t. Or, is he???
The reality-survivor shows often display people trying to survive by wasting time complaining about what they lost and what didn’t go well. Real survivors, in my opinion, focus on creating a life that turns out well. In other words, survivors, interpreted in this manner, are those who take charge of their destinies.
So, in my case, is it possible to take charge of my destiny and answer my question: “Why am I a survivor?” Well, in order to take charge of my destiny, I can immediately see it won’t do me any good to be mad at the world – an emotion I have felt and expressed too many times lately. I think it would be better for me to laugh at the world and get rid of the madness. In order to do that I’ll need to find options for my life, other than the “mad-at-the-world” one I’ve been choosing lately. When I’m in my “mad-at-the-world” emotional state, I’m mad at everyone – friends, neighbors, family and yes, me! Too much madness and not enough laughter!
Am I a survivor? Yes, and at the present time, a mad one! What kind of survivor should I be? I should be a survivor who can laugh more at his problems, stop feeling sorry for himself, and think more about his options and less about life and death. It’s easy to tell myself to do it, but it’s very difficult to do it. In other words, it’s easy to talk the talk, but difficult to walk the walk. :-)
You see, thinking only about life and death is using “either-or” thinking. We, as humans, have many other options. The future is unknown and the person who can handle it must have a personality that allows her/him to walk into it with confidence, knowing s/he will find a way to make things work out. I suppose, it’s more about developing positive expectations and beliefs and dwelling less on the past.
Why am I a survivor? Because, “I’m present in the present,” is the only answer that I’m sure of. :-)