I have become preoccupied with survival. The art of endurance, of strength, of balancing precariously between life and death and miraculously making it. I pour over manuals to learn and re-learn wilderness navigation techniques, insurance against getting lost. I do presses and pull ups and push ups in the rediculously-early morning, a rehearsal in pulling myself up and out of impending disaster. I lose myself in memoirs of surviving avalanches, plane crashes, sinking ships. I run down city streets to prepare myself for climbing mountains. I tie myself on to ropes and learn to climb on delicate foot holds, squeeze precarious handholds, and fall, when necessary, safely, gracefully. I practice breathing deeply, so when I feel fear building up I can just as easily let it slide away, the back and forth of waves crashing on a beach then being pulled back to sea. The study of survival is a preoccupation which eats up, in its various permutations, most of my free time.
My degree of obsession seems funny to me because I am already a survivor. I have fallen, bruised and bloodied, to the lowest levels and climbed back up again. I have lost myself in the darkest realms and found my way back to the light. I have worked through searing pain. I have made it, am making it, again and again.
Survival isn’t an endpoint, but a gateway. It only matters if there is a promise of life beyond the blackness of the rabbit hole. Every battle needs its prize. So perhaps these survival exercises I perform in relative comfort are more than preparation for future challenges. They help me relive the story of my life and unleash the wisdom loosely folded in the challenges and the failures and the victories of my past. In the consuming rituals of knot tying, trip planning, pushing and pulling and repairing and strengthening, I am reminded daily that I am a warrior, and mine is a life worth fighting for.