Lately, oh so lately, I’ve been able to sit with my own uncomfortable inner places much longer without turning away.

Because of this, I can stay with a good friend on the telephone for 78 minutes and resonate with her pain.  I will not shirk or abandon her.  I will stay with her in that dark underworld of suffering and regret and perhaps eventual grudging acceptance without turning too quickly toward the positive, the optimism, the la-de-da where it all feels okey-dokey.

Oh how I’ve sometimes turned toward optimism way too quickly in my life, grabbing hold of it like a snowshoe, begging it to keep me safe and navigating through deep drifts.

Others embrace the negative too quickly, resisting, fighting fervently against the way the present moment refuses to meet their expectations, digging their boots deep in snowbanks, paralyzing all ability to propel forward.

Lately, oh so lately, I just allow it all to exist, you and you and you, pain and joy and delight and death, negative and positive, the whole compost of it, the whole turning of the seasons.



Deep winter surrounds us with fierce white teeth, biting into exposed neck, face, fingers.  Don’t stay outside too long.  You’ll freeze in your boots overnight, a goner, a has-been, a victim of bitter wind chill.

Two snowmobilers, a father and son, walked over 22 hours straight in the Porcupine Mountains in -40 temps the other night.  Their cell phone, surprise, surprise, failed after a single text succeeded to alert family to their dire predicament.  They trudged through the long night with soaked clothes and frozen feet.  They survived their pain.



On my Kindle Fire I watch a movie, The Way Back, about escapees from a Siberian prison camp in World War II who walked all the way–all the way, mind you–to India.  They lamented the dire cold.  Some of them died. It’s based on a true story.  I marvel at what allowed their survival when so many others perished, feet frozen solid, hallucinations singing siren songs of warmth, warmth, warmth.

I think of my sprint to the mailbox at -6 (-21 C) today and how the breath clouds eyeglasses, how the cold knocks against lungs, how life feels like it might shatter like icicles if you pause for too long, if you don’t grab your mail and trek back through blowing sideways snow down the driveway of your life, feeling the pain and exhilaration of it all.

Can I sit, content, burrowed in a white blanket which smells slightly of distant fields and factories, wanting nothing but this?

You’d be surprised to know I haven’t met Cabin Fever and wrestled him to the ground this year, no matter what I’ve written in these blog posts.  I haven’t even broke a sweat struggling against him.  Haven’t jumped in Lake Superior like those wild & crazy polar plungers up in Hancock playing around with winter like he’s a feeble actor, taunting him to break their spirit, showing him what’s-what by plunging in that icy cold and yelping for the joy of being alive, no matter what.

One of those wild & crazy Polar Plungers

One of those wild & crazy Polar Plungers

February beckons on the horizon of the weekend with its groundhog sniffs and ticking moments of more sunlight every week.  Ten minutes more per week, I promise, if you believe in unofficial estimates based on squinting eyes determining quality of light.

Lately, oh so lately, I’ve been able to sit with my own uncomfortable inner places much longer without turning away.

Some day I dream of sitting with everything, simply everything, even numb fingers, even a scarred heart, without turning away too quickly to check email or munch another unneeded cookie, and I’ll feel life pumping like bloody feet trekking from Siberia, from the prison of our perceptions, and I’ll hold your hand without turning away from the imperfect perfection of you, your creation of self, and we’ll sip sweet peach tea and not be afraid to be our full selves.

Or maybe it’s simply OK, even now, to embrace our perfect imperfect selves, even our struggling.  We’ve survived so much in this journey called life. We’ve made it this far, haven’t we, my dears?

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in January 2014 and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Survival

  1. Dawn says:

    Yes we have survived so much to get here…all of us have a story. I’m glad you’re able to embrace yours and I hope you find some inner peace to accept what has to be. Hugs.

  2. I need to think about this post a little. I guess I’m wondering where the line is between sitting with the pain and clinging to it.

    • Heather says:

      I agree Lisa; there’s accepting, and then there’s wallowing. Finding the line is the key.

      • Sometimes I think that line is really difficult to find. And sometimes, when I am listening to a person go on about the pain and I feel like they are wallowing, then I instinctively go to the positive. Is that wrong? Sometimes, sometimes not.

        • Heather says:

          I don’t think trying to find the positive is ever wrong. Trying to pretend like there’s no negatives, or trying to cover the bad with good probably is. I do have a tough time just allowing those negatives. I also tend to go to the positive, even though I know it won’t “fix” anything!

  3. I love this! Truly beautiful writing, Kathy, thank you!

  4. Like the snow outside, this one is too deep for me. 😉

  5. Peach tea sounds good. And can we sit in Adirondack chairs and gaze at a lake at the same time?

  6. What beautiful writing in this post, Kathy. You are right, a balance between optimism and pessimism is necessary. I think I stay a bit too far in the optimistic direction. Stay warm, my friend!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

  7. lisaspiral says:

    I’ve been thinking about survival this week too. Maybe it’s these weather extremes that help us recognize the reality of our lives. I love the way you are embracing whatever the moment brings.

  8. Heather says:

    That is a long way for two people to walk in such cold. Not nearly as long as Siberia to India, but still. I think I would have built a quinzhee and warmed my phone up next to my skin. Not that I’ve had to do that a few times this year or anything. Hmm-mmm. 😉

  9. penpusherpen says:

    Would you believe it Kathy, I just sat down, clicked on your site, and the phone rang, ’twas a friend who’s going to have surgery on her heart, in the next month or so, a valve replacement. and if that’s not enough she suffers from Rhematoid Arthritis which complicates matters even more. Makes you thank your lucky stars for your own health being ok for the moment. ( I always add for the moment, just so’s fate doesn’t hear and intervene) So many things to prey on our minds and keep us low, pain being one of the soldiers to wrestle with, pain of the heart, soul and last but not least , the body. I have a problem which rears it’s ugly head every so often, and I try hard to ‘mind over matter’ type of thing, never works. If I’m trying to sleep, I just get up and switch on the PC and type away. Works more often than not after a time, We’re human, with so many human frailties, the joy is knowing we can survive each and every one of them. Mayhap with scars , but we can look at those as battle scars. proudly worn. xPenx

  10. Carol says:

    Yes, we’ve made it this far and we will make it further, holding on to that fine line between accepting and wallowing.

  11. Lovely writing here,Kathy. Inner most thoughts with insight and understanding perceptions. I often wonder how I’ve made it from “A to B.” And how in the world did I make it to this age? Where did the time go?

  12. We have indeed survived this far Kathy it is true and not without struggle. May we sip that sweet peach tea of yours slowly as it cools.

  13. john says:

    Everything needs a voice, even dissatisfaction, dissapointment and discontent. If you can address it head on, take sometime to mull it over and even share it, then when it has had its turn, compartmentalize it, put it in perspective and move on, you are healthier for it. There just are not silver linings to every cloud, but as long as you don’t chase it the cloud will pass.

    There are people I long to hold or be held by and it is simply impossible. There are opportunities that never come to fruition and opportunities that slip through my hands. If I don’t mourn them and shove them under, “Ain’t it a beautiful life”, they will fester under my skin like acne. Hopefully I will discover how big these things are by letting them run their course and I will find a suitable box to put them in and the right shelf to put that box on. They may never leave me, but I can then take on the next thing.

  14. sybil says:

    Breathing. Pausing. Avoiding my usual glib comment. More breathing. Thank you for being you Kathy. You give me strength. Did you know that ? I want to be more like you when I grow up. (damn — that was glib wasn’t it?)

  15. My father’s optimism kept him happy through many years of a number of illnesses that would have made many people give up. Though one must always guard against being too Pollyanna. But you’d need to have a positive outlook to jump in Lake Superior in the winter.

  16. Susan D says:

    My goodness, this is powerful. You rocked my afternoon in the best of ways. Wow.

  17. Lori D says:

    I just watched a mini-series on Discovery Channel about a gold rush in 1897 that took place in the Klondike! OMG, it was so dark, negative, and I froze simply watching the frozen earth on the screen. Sorry I watched it, as I was hoping for a more positive outcome for those characters. The freezing father & son you mentioned, reminded me of the tv show.

    Glad you haven’t caught the nasty virus of cabin fever, Miss Kathy. It usually attacks me in the summer. 🙂

    I need to sit with the dark parts of me without going for the internet, tv or radio. I’ve had more anxiety lately. Not sure why. Probably cause I haven’t been feeling well.

    Glad you’re able to sit with Kathy in the moment and accept.

  18. Kathy — We’ve been without internet since Saturday afternoon, so I’m visiting briefly via iPhone to let you know I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed (as always!) your post.

  19. lucindalines says:

    Oh Kathy, you write such heartfelt poetry even when you disguise it as prose in a blog. I am glad that you haven’t had to wrestle cabin fever this year, but if you did, the poor fellow would be no match for you, so perhaps that is why he has gone else where to look for easier prey.

  20. Robin says:

    I’m going to give this some thought for a while. Thank you. ♥

  21. Yes, we will make it, because we write about the pain, the possibilities, the optimism and the pessimism, the wish for warmth in the deep cold stillness. We write and we share, and we survive.
    (Like you, I go toward the too-far-edge of optimism sometimes, but it’s a great survival technique!!).

  22. Bonnie says:

    Yes Kathy, we have made it this far. Sometimes I wonder ‘how’, then I realize it was one step at a time, through the joy and the sorrow, we carry on. Why? Because it is the only think we can do.

  23. Munira says:

    Wow. Beautiful words.

  24. Karma says:

    I’ve never survived anything similar to some of the scenarios you’ve described here and hope I never have to!
    I get a stomach ache from my uncomfortable inner places!

  25. Elisa says:

    I just thought I’d make a note to let you know that I am surviving working backwards through your blogroll. Wow! You have a lot of them and it is a temptation for me to rush. Today I got up to G. I am working from the bottom this time. Z has bronchitis and now so do I. I think that I am blessed to have the right medicines to treat us here, as I have COPD chronic bronchitis. I had, however, forgotten how much grabbing onto my internal states to settle tense me or anxious me is needed to prevent the tickle, doing this allows the rest of me to be free and to recall my favored state of grounding. I do not think yet that I am willing to say that I am grateful to be doing the hard to breathe thing, just that I am having to use skills that I have not been deploying as well as I SHOULD have done. F**k guilt! Don’t think just DO e!! We are warming a bit today and the sun is shifted enough that to simply stand in it, very still will heat the coat and face quickly! I hope you created today.

  26. P.j. grath says:

    Your thoughts about sitting “content” with all that exists around makes me think of a project I gave myself in 2012. Beginning in January and going through December, I tried to spend one hour a week, sitting quietly outdoors, either drawing or just soaking up the surroundings. I didn’t get in a full 52 sessions but logged a good number of hours with my “stillness project.” Can’t help feeling glad this year that I did it two years ago rather than waiting until THIS winter!

  27. debyemm says:

    Lately, oh so lately, I just allow it all to exist … the whole compost of it, the whole turning of the seasons.

    It really is amazing what people can endure, if the will to live is strong. I like survival stories too. They remind me that I am stronger than I think I am.

    Me too – “Some day I dream of sitting with everything, simply everything,”

    And I too, am blessed, to know you as that kind of friend who will “hold my hand without turning away from the imperfect perfection that I am” and love me unconditionally. What a huge task and what an honorable gift to Life itself.

    At this point, I feel I have “succeeded” at Life; and each additional day is simply a gift.

  28. Stacy says:

    It is hard to embrace all of who we are, but it is who we are, after all. The only way to get through winter is to go through it. ❤

  29. Dana says:

    Some days are better than others for me in terms of accepting all that is, Kathy. Most days I would prefer to hop aboard the very next Optimism Train and find it really difficult to hang around in Negativeville. However, I can see the value of not resisting “what is”, no matter what that ‘is’, currently is! 😉

  30. I love how you’re able to turn a trip to the mailbox into such a beautiful moment. 🙂 If we could all be so awake.

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