It’s chapter 12 of Surviving on a Whisper. Arie is sitting on a rooftop next to a new supposed ally. They are discussing difficult parts of their lives. Arie describes how she doesn’t know what she’s doing–she’s a wreck. She doesn’t know what to do or how to handle her situation. And the supposed ally turns to her and says, “Sometimes surviving is all you can do.”
It’s November of 2012. I’m lying on my bed next to my younger sister. I’ve got two rods in my legs; she’s got two in her back. Neither of us can walk without assistance. The computer on my lap is blasting my playlist, a solid mix of Taylor Swift and Evanescence. I look at the way my life has seemed to fall apart with no hope of coming back together again, and my fingers type the words, “Sometimes surviving is all you can do.”
Cripplehood has taught me a lot of things: how to open your heart and how to harden it; how to love and how to hate; what’s actually important to me and what really isn’t. And it’s also built a strong empathy link in my brain and in my soul (not as strong as Percy Jackson’s, but you get the idea).
I’ve spent some time in a hospital–a children’s hospital, no less. I’ve seen little boys who can’t walk, little girls with tubes stuck all over them, and little kids screaming for their mom and dad to make it stop hurting, begging the nurses to let them go home.
I’ve seen cancer take lives and change them drastically forever–and not just for the patients. I’ve seen unexplainable physical conditions suck the life out of people I love, taking some too soon. I’ve seen marriages crumble as children seek refuge on a wayward path. I’ve seen people attempt to battle mental illnesses, some continuing on and others giving up in the end. I’ve seen parents lose their job and kids sitting alone at the lunch table. I’ve seen friends walk out on each other, family turn to strangers, and bonds as durable as steel break with just one word. I’ve seen the strongest people I’ve ever known be brought to their knees, tears in their eyes, as they ask me–just a kid–to tell them everything will be okay.
I’ve seen a lot in my life, and I still haven’t come even close to seeing it all.
There is a lot of suffering in this world. Too much, in my opinion. There are way too many people fighting, this very second, the battle of their lives in one way or another, and the thought of it makes me sick inside.
Just the other day, I had the opportunity to go talk to my little sister’s fifth grade class about my surgeries and books and how they connect. Once I got into the problems with my legs, over half the class had their hands shooting up in the air, fighting for a chance to tell me their story about how their brother broke his arm or their mom had to have surgery. One little girl even got whispers of tears in her eyes as she told me about how in first grade she started crying on the playground because she didn’t know if her mom was going to be okay.
Those kids reinforced the lesson I’ve been learning for the past three years–everyone has a story. Everyone’s got highlights and good times, as well as dark chapters they’d rather not talk about.
It’s been strange, scary, and strengthening these past few weeks as I’ve shared with you parts of my story. But just because I’m the one that ended up in the newspaper or on TV doesn’t mean I’m the only one with a story to tell.
So I’m asking you to share with me your story.
I don’t care what it is–physical or mental challenges, death in the family, moving to a new city, overwhelming parental duties, bullying, college finals, disgruntling job, sending your baby off to kindergarten–I want to know. Maybe you’re just starting out on a long and painful road, or you’re just closing in on the path of healing.
With the power invested in me, by me, I deem September as Survivor’s Month. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting updates on social media and my website about how my recovery is going (make sure to follow me on Facebook (Emilee King) and Instagram (@emtheauthor)). I’m asking you to do the same. Take a selfie or any picture you want, really, and post it with the tags #whatareyousurviving and #wesurvivetogether. Do one once this month or once a week or once a day–as much as you can! I’ll also be doing spotlights on my blog, so if you or someone you know is a survivor with a story, message me.
Here’s the deal: I’m not looking for complainers, sob stories, or pity parties. The internet has plenty of that already. I’m looking for people who get up every day and do what needs to be done. I’m looking for people who have a story to share–and everyone does–about what it takes for them to survive whatever is in their life, big or small. I’m looking for people who are willing to share in order to connect with those who have had or will have the same experiences.
I’m hoping to fill the internet with strength–not with inspiration or heroics, but with stories that show it’s possible to keep going and it’s okay to stumble and fall. And I hope it helps some people out. Heaven knows I’ll be needing it this month (I’m heading into surgery once I finish this post), and I’m willing to bet there are a few others who will need it too.
So round up the troops, call in the team, and assemble the Avengers. Channel your inner High School Musical because we are all in this together. There’s no escaping darkness and pain in this life, but you should know that you’re not alone.
And because it’s me, let’s insert a quote from Agent Coulson: “The world is full of evil and lies and pain and death, and you can’t hide from it. You can only face it. The question is, when you do–how do you respond? Who do you become?”
This is it, people. Are you with me?