The Definition of Being a Survivor

Through the loss of her parents and other challenges, she learned how to survive and thrive.

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Photograph: iStock

To close this short story, I will flip back the proverbial pages to when I was 25 years old. After a tumultuous 10 years of surviving my parents' death through the aid of alcohol, you could say I struggled to grow up; instead of just grow wild. I married a good "Irishman," settled down and finally got my life more grounded. After fertility treatment, I had my first child at the age of 27—a beautiful baby girl. It was the happiest time of my life. Motherhood gave me purpose. A year later, my second child was born. I was so grateful that they were both medically healthy. My son, however, manifested some developmental difficulties, which sent me on a mission. I was going to be sure to conquer this. Afterall, I was the “child” who was going to attend Harvard and figure out how the brain worked and cure autism. So, i explored every opportunity to help him, and I'm very happy to report that BOTH of my children today are extremely intelligent, successful and overall happy and healthy adults. And, as a small footnote, I am 15+ years alcohol-free. It may sound cliché, but in essence, my children sustain my greatest achievement. 

I recently “survived” another challenge in life. After 29 years of marriage, I divorced. It was my choice, and I grapple with it every day. Needless to say, it has not been easy. Nor has aging and menopause been easy. But, as I recall, nobody said life would be. This is probably why I love running so much. It beats lying on a psychiatrist's couch (my apologies to all the therapists out there). It's cleansing and invigorating. Whether I'm running through the woods or on the roads, alone or with my partner, I'm taking so much in—all the elements and the sounds and smells of nature. When I run, my heart is beating; I'm breathing and experiencing what it means to be alive and to survive. I can't say what the future holds. Who can? But, I know I want to live, not merely survive (unless surviving means squeezing all the positives out of every negative experience). Yes, life is a series of ups and downs, and one never really knows what it means to be alive without knowing pain and pleasure. It's what separates us humans from machines. Machines break and get discarded or recycled. We live, we breathe, we die, and through our legacy and memory, we survive.

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