Band of Survivors

I think we all deserve a round of applause. Hooting, victorious applause. Every one of us here [I’m envisioning cosmic collective humanity, all rallied together, handholding]. Why, you ask? Well, apart from being downright fabulous beings of Divine Light, we have all managed to make it to this moment, right now. This space, right here. This…existence. We’ve survived everything that’s come before this very moment. Think about that. I mean really think about it, for just a minute.

From birth. We were utterly helpless, reliant solely on our parents or our caregivers to nurse us, feed us, keep us alive. We managed to survive al of the harrowing emotional episodes we’ve encountered in our however many years. We beat all of the odds that have ever been against us in our lives, up till now, and there have been many every single day. Down to sheer statistics, to likelihood of getting into a car wreck or being diagnosed with cancer, of being the one person to react wrong to a vaccine or being struck by lightning [just had to throw the token “one in a million” statistic in there…]. I don’t mean to sound morbid, I mean to sound triumphant! We didn’t do anything better than anyone else but we have had Grace on our side. We have made decisions that led us to where we are now. Every little fragment of every little decision has had a part to play in the very physical and subtle space that we, for now, call the present moment.

We are one big band of survivors.

Slow clap.

It may sound like I’m teasing when I say that, but I’m not. What got me started on this train of thought was something I saw this morning as I was walking the dog. Or someone rather, but it was the situation more than the person that struck me as so very, achingly poignant. Archetypal. 

As I crossed the street I could see a figure up ahead, flamboyant with hunched shoulders. The closer I got I could make out that she was a girl, playing on what I thought was her phone. Fourteen, maybe fifteen. She was wearing leopard print onesie pajamas. I’m assuming it was meant to be ironic, but what do I know, I’m 25 and irony is not high up in my toolkit. The girl’s highlighted bun was perched on her head, straw like and irritated. The feet of her pajamas were in the gutter and she sat, knees knocked, on the curb with her eyes fixed on her hands. I got closer and saw she was picking at the already chipped black polish on her fingernails. She slid her eyes sideways to take in the dog and girl with the hustling gate rapidly approaching her, before shifting them back to the polish, her expression seeming to grow just infintessimaly more dismal. I had headphones in my ears but I imagined she let out a sigh right then.

After I passed her a look of damn I’m glad to be grown up flittered across my face, my eyes blinking for a second too long and then widening in the way that one does when one sees something almost disturbing. I felt like empathy and love were flowing out an open cavity in my back, showering the girl with hope that she probably couldn’t yet feel or identify. I just felt so raw, suddenly, for this child who I may never see again. Mind you, she could have been waiting for friends, she could have been getting air after a fight with her mom, she could have been older, or younger, than I thought (I mean, she was sitting on a curb in pajamas at 10am on a Monday…), she could have been home sick, she could have been pretty darn happy for all I know. But from the ten second snapshot I saw, I recognized the universal prototype of teenage uncertainty. We’ve all been there, in some way. At some time we felt we didn’t belong, or couldn’t quite pin down where this roller coaster of a life was taking us, or just plain didn’t know what the hell to do with ourselves.

The latter is what I read from this girl’s energy. It just made me want to tell her, whisper in her ear, it’s not so bad…someday this will be a charming memory, you’ll laugh and say I actually wore footie pajamas to be ironic and you’ll laugh. I didn’t, though, because who the heck am I? A twenty-something walking the dog in a Maui visor with an umbrella. Basically the kryptonite to an ironic teen in leopard print pajamas.

But it made me feel so human, that brief flash of a perfect stranger in a pretty ordinary situation. I feel like most of my teens, the earlier teen years, were pretty painless in that I was happy almost all of the time. But looking back I can pick out incessant body image issues and a tendency to worry. I remember the hormones and the confusion, the exaggerated emotions and I’ll just DIE if he doesn’t like me back‘s. You remember your own examples, I’m sure. Bad haircuts, acne, early or delayed puberty, bullying, self-consciousness, the desperate desire to identify, body image, the opposite sex, drug use, whatever is part of your own intricate fabric that you think of and say oh yeah, I remember that, I’m so glad I’m not a teenager anymore is what I’m referring to.

We survived all that. Pause for effect…seriously! That’s a big deal! It makes me cringe to think about going through my teens again, even though they were pretty fun. It makes me laugh too because I was so scared to finish high school, certain that those four years would forever be the “best years of my life,” years I’d pine over into old age. HA. Not just “HA” but “HA” with a snort and an exaggerated eye roll. That’s just adorable to think of now. 

There is no grand sweeping point to be made here other than…we survived. Everything…and nothing. All of the risks, obstacles, seen and unseen. All those “end of the world” moments and experiences. All of the misery, scattered about the [hopefully] vastly overwhelming contentment that has been life up until this point. We have endured. We have survived. From the unsure, wavering, knock kneed discombobulation of adolescence to adulthood. We may still be unsure, wavering and discombobulated at times, perhaps even knock kneed, but we’re here. We made it to now. We survived the fairly grueling journey of growing up. And that, in my opinion, deserves a round of applause, a moment of appreciation, a cheers [holding up my mug of herbal tea in triumph to us all]. Because, really, what is life about if we can’t celebrate every victory, big or small, conceptual or tangible? We can. We must. Tonight I make a [tea] toast to all who have made it this far [which is every single one of you]. All who have successfully arrived in the here and now, the past an irrevocable tapestry of ups and downs, highs and lows, wins and losses…all making us who we are now. Prayers for those who aren’t in the here and now, whose souls had different journeys. Perspective for us, this great band of survivors, to be oh so grateful for this life we have…to be sitting here sharing in this notion together. Grateful for the past we have, for the future we hope to have. We are one. We are on a journey. No matter how grim things have been, may be or will someday be again, we will endure. We are survivors. One big, connected tribe. Take my hand.



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