February 11, 2010 by panicpony
I recently read about something in my textbook that I’m very familiar with. I’m taking a class called Intro to Chemical Dependency; sounds easy enough. Not only is it easy, it’s like someone wrote a textbook of my life and forced me to read it slowly for three months and then write response papers. Somewhat like torture, and sometimes surprisingly reaffirming. I’m not saying I know everything there is to know about this topic. It’s just hard to have lived through something that you had no choice about at the time, and then find that there is almost so much information on how to deal with it that it’s stupid. Where was this book before? Would it have done any good during the times in my life when I could have walked it around handing it to various people, including myself, and said, hey, look, THIS is what we’re supposed to do. But, that is not the point of counseling. (Ha! It is however the point of codependency…..).
To come a bit closer to the refreshing part: a trait I have used almost on it’s own to get through the worst times. Resilience. It glared out at me as if in extra bold font. Resilience and survival pride are used to help at risk youth and is becoming a more widely explored tool. Only about one paragraph was devoted to the topic, but I felt like, hey, maybe I did do something right. I’m testament to this technique, whether I knew it or not. Maybe I wasn’t just this unhealthy, child-of-alcoholic, hungry, abused, passive soul being tossed around without choice. Because I was RESILIENT. I AM resilient. It’s been my primary tool.
This is a word that defines the innermost parts of me, often the parts that people don’t want to understand. It’s the part of me that starts fights, that fiercely hangs on to the survival mode, and fiercely grips everything I have survived. If there is anything I am proud of, it’s of being resilient. The lack of people I encounter who have needed to be resilient only provides the word more worth. I’m not saying people don’t have their problems. And that people’s problems aren’t worse than mine. But I’m also saying exactly that. When someone has survived, survived day in and day out, and I mean SURVIVED, really actually fought to live through each day and sometimes pulled others through to live with them, it’s a whole different story than “going through” something. There’s no real way to truly explain it to people, unless they’ve been through it too. It’s something quickly established; a short, quick comment or a joke and eyes meet. You realize, you’re one too. You made it. WE made it. It’s so comforting to find that. At least one other person in the room made it too, and I’m not the absolute weirdo asshole I feel like for having slept in trash at several points in my life. Phew. There is nothing like that shared knowledge, and there’s also nothing like trying to explain it to someone who could never share it, unless maybe they went through a war or a famine or several violent crimes.
The value we share most, my husband and I, is resilience, and our identities, both individually, and as a couple, are perhaps too wrapped up in the pride of our survival. Lately I’ve gone through a phase of nostalgia for those days, thinking of all we were dealing with in different states, different counties, learning it at the same time. It’s easier to think about if it was all for some purpose, a romantic idea that we went through all we did just to meet each other. We were listening to music that reminded us of our youth, and remembering how often these little things are all you think you have, and the hope of a song makes you feel like you can survive. I felt little, tattered, homeless, and proud. I felt proud of him and saw him in tattered pants and with a hostile expression, the way he looks in pictures of his teenage years. We both smile a lot more than we did back then, and it’s nice to know the real meaning of those songs. I’m not from the ghetto, but Jeff is. I’m from a ghetto of sorts, if it’s possible to transfer all the values of a ghetto life into the forest. I’m not trying to appropriate, but the more I see of the world the more I realize I could pretty much survive wherever I needed too.
To the people who have never felt what I’m describing, I can only childishly quote my most recent trip down memory lane. “If you aint never been to the ghetto, don’t ever come to the ghetto. Cause you wouldn’t understand the ghetto. Stay the fuck out of the ghetto.” To all the people who don’t know where I’ve lived, you’re invited, but only if you REALLY want to see where you’re visiting. And to the rest of you who know the meaning of resilience, we have something to be proud of; something we can use forever.