The Wind Goddess
"Well, if you have a life like mine, then these experiences gradually accumulate until you become known as 'a survivor'. This is a term that I loathe. But, the thing is that when you are a survivor, which fine, I reluctantly agree that I am - and who over 40 isn't? -when you are a survivor, in order to be a really good one, you have to keep getting into trouble to show off your gift."
~Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher
I've been having an ongoing and wonderful online conversation with a friend. We've been comparing "war" stories. Both of us have been through a lot in this life, a lot of ugly. We're also the sort to see the beauty in pretty much everything. He shared that bit from Wishful Drinking with me yesterday, followed up with a sigh and, "I guess I'm a survivor." I said, "You're no survivor. You are intrepid."
Yes, I've had my share of fan-hitting shit in my life. But, like Carrie, I hate it when people tell me I'm a survivor. It just feels didactic and trite, as if it should be followed with a pat on the head and "there's a good girl." All too often when people are telling us "survivors" such tripe, they are, in effect, saying that they don't want to hear about our problems... "What? Your leg is still bothering you after that 20 story fall to the pavement? But you're a survivor!" Meh. When I'm having a bad day, the last thing I want to hear is, "But look at all you've been through!" I need to be reminded?! Oy.
Saying I'm a survivor makes me sound as though I was once a victim, and I refuse to be victimized. I refuse to grant any latitude to the people or events that engendered the harsher moments of my life. Granted, much has happened in my life, over which neither I nor anyone else had control. Do we ever really ask for the sky to fall? Sometimes the earth quakes and all is reduced to rubble - find your way out from under the concrete, or you die. So you survived the earthquake; you got lucky and didn't get beaned in the head with a brick. However, clawing and crawling your way out of the detritus wasn't about mere survival. No, it was a rage against anything trying to hold you under. Surviving implies passivity. Soldiers don't survive a war, they fight their way through it. They're alert, cagey, canny, and aggressive. I'd like to think that when the excrement hits the rotary blades that I'm anything but passive, that I haven't simply stood by and watched the walls get splattered.
Here are ten words I much prefer to any declension of the word survive: Persevere, Intrepid, Adapt, Undaunted, Mettle, Steadfast, Resilient, Defiance, Contravene, and Fortitude. Those words are all about action, rather than inaction. Those are words of consciousness and will.
The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.
So, I ask you. Are you a survivor... or... are you intrepid?
PS A special thanks to my intrepid friend Matthew.