To me, survival also means resilience: not giving up in the face of difficult situations or unexpected outcomes, and finding ways to cope with disaster and move forward.
Yesterday I talked to someone who had injured his right hand and is under doctor’s orders not to use it because it will not heal properly otherwise. As a teacher, not having the use of his dominant hand would definitely be difficult, for both writing and typing would be incredibly slow. At the same time, it’s just one hand, and he has full use of the left. I try not to judge people I barely know without knowing all the facts, but I still couldn’t escape the thought that he gave up too quickly, without even trying to salvage the class or his job, over what would have been a difficult, but not deal-breaking, situation. In fact, I know many students, including a friend of mine, who have been in similar positions and have been able to figure out something to keep working, even if it was slow and frustrating.
Today I was wandering around listening to music, and two songs caught my attention. First was MacArthur Park, sung by Richard Harris. (As an aside, this is either the worst song ever written or a piece of brilliant songwriting –-I’ve never figured out which but it always amuses me.)
The refrain of this tour de force:
MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down…
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
’cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
So this made me think. What if something bad happened to you (not a cake in the rain, because really, that’s just absurd)? What if you got injured, or lost your job? Are you prepared for that to happen, and can you accept your fate and bounce back, or would you crumble?
And beyond preparedness, would you be able to find a silver lining in what might at first seem devastating? The most resilient among us might in fact not only get by, but would sing a different tune about disasters and injuries. For example, Cat Stevens offered a more optimistic perspective with Moonshadow:
And if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land,
Oh if I ever lose my hands, I won’t have to work no more.
And if I ever lose my eyes, if my colours all run dry,
Yes if I ever lose my eyes, I won’t have to cry no more.
And if I ever lose my legs, I won’t moan, and I won’t beg,
Yes if I ever lose my legs, I won’t have to walk no more.
And if I ever lose my mouth, all my teeth, north and south,
Yes if I ever lose my mouth, I won’t have to talk…
In this song, the idea is that even if something horrible happens, he can continue on, but accepts that he would have to adapt, and live life a bit differently in the future.
That’s what a real survivor would do: assess the situation as it stands at the moment; evaluate available resources and weigh the options; see out assistance if needed; and move forward with the new situation, whatever it might be.
In the meantime, let’s be sure not to ever take our hands for granted, because no matter what I’ve said, it is rather difficult to make do without both of them.
And let’s hand it to to Melanie, Aida, Bryan, Phillip, Jimi, Russ and John for the photos that illustrate this post – they also allow me to make a final point… when times get tough, you should always look to your friends to lend a hand.