The Will To Survive

The inner strength to overcome adversity...

Inherent in American and British character, in need of restoration.

My sister has Scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that viscously attacks the body, of the worst variety. She has lived at least a decade longer than predicted and it was a decade ago this month she had a close call with death. Although she has lived with relatively minor inconveniences of this condition since we were in college, this past decade has been a long up and down, round the bend and back, ride of monumental fall backs and periods of respite. Throughout periods of extensive hospitalization, surgeries, treatments she has tigerishly fought to maintain her independence and survive as best she could.

Since the beginning of this year she has been battling another onset of a bout until this week she could fight no longer, going into the hospital one more time. It has been touch and go and she was given until today before they did another one of those uncountable invasive surgeries she's been through. This time she is so fragile it would be a dicey affair. Although very down and depressed about her physical afflictions she has maintained a thread of inner steel to avoid going through this again, mustering up enough strength to avoid surgery today. It will mean another long hospital stay but she had determined, no matter how weak she felt physically and mentally, that she would not go through another one again.

This got me thinking, this Independence Day weekend, that it requires a fiercely independent vein running though the soul to keep going against the odds others place against you. My sister and I are the products of a father who grew up in a family that worked to overcome and more than survive the Great Depression which was then followed his being a gunner on a US Navy ship during WWII. Our mother's teenage years were lost during the blitzes and bombings of Southeast England during the Second World War and her family steadfastly maintained the British coastal front as her father bravely headed Civil Defense. After the war and college both our parents left their countries for adventure and that is how they met. We are the products of fine examples of American True Grit and British Bootstraps.

Whether or not my sister and my will to survive is a result of genetics, upbringing or a combination of both is a heady matter I long ago decided was indecipherable. Far better to take advantage of the trait rather than study it. My lifelong difficulties have been the mental sort, a result of a creative mind struggling to rise above trying to fit a moody square peg into the round hole of a conventional world. It occurs to me that our parents held strengths that were not uncommon among either the American or the British people generations not so far removed from us. The largest problem we face today in this Great Recession and Era of Disruption is that of the mind and inner strength. We have for decades been decadently spoiled by too often getting our own way or what we want.

If we as individuals and as a people are going to get through this next decade of rebuilding and remaking our world anew, as the generation of my parents did after the Great Depression and the Second World War, we are going to have to fight being at the door of psychological death. It will require the traits that I believe are inherent in the American and British cultures but have been stored away and latent. They still remain and with all the might previous generations have done throughout history in difficult times, we must bring them out of the storehouse and implement them. All of the band-aids, chewing gum, baling wire, white glue of printing easy money, psychological pablum, escapism with psychotropic or illicit drugs and alcohol, wishing and hoping things would go back to happy consumerism, will not put the world right again. It is going to require the will to survive, thrive and inner strength to restore our common fortitude of good character and make ourselves socially, economically and politically healthy again.


  1. First, I thank you for referring to the holiday as Independence Day. I visited my parents today and my mom said, "It's not the Fourth of July, it's Independence Day!" and she's right. It was always Independence Day when I was a kid; I missed how subtly the meaning of those words had been dragged away from my ears over the decades until she said that. And then I read your blog and you say it, too. A very good thing, to have people who cause you to focus on what really matters. Your comments and blogs do that much more regularly than most. Thank you for that, JR.

    I read your blog maybe an hour ago and it makes me think what I've been thinking for a long time, in various ways: the major media lack all humanity. It's a joke. It divides and separates and then, when it has you on the "side" of your choice, it does what it always does and offers nothing but worry and anger.

    I used to watch Letterman and Leno and O'Brien (I mean 10-15 years ago) every night...at some point I stopped completely. It didn't hit me as a choice I made until very recently; it just seemed like I'd lost interest or couldn't stay up as late or...something. But even then I knew what the "problem" was: I had no interest in 95 percent of the people who were on their shows. I had no desire to have any sort of fake "stardom" shoved down my brain, especially at midnight. I don't want that ever but I REALLY don't want it then.

    I NEVER loved the "stars" on any of those shows...but I loved when Johnny Carson interviewed the best hog-caller, or Letterman called the girl in the building across from 30 Rock back in his NBC days (Meg, I think her name was). I loved the goofiness and non-star-ness of the people who showed up sometimes.

    I like the humanity of things, I guess.

    25 years later there's nothing of the sort, at least it's not showing it's face when I check. I'd LOVE to see a story about your sister. I would never wish her affliction on her; I'd just love to hear her story. I'd love to hear ANY LIVING PERSON'S story. And the media makes sure I don't. They're sure I'll settle for Charlie Sheen or Tiger Woods, or the latest cable murder-case discussion.

    They're mistaken.

    Everyone is born an individual. All a lot the same; all a lot different. Whoever decided to announce to us that individuality is uncool is no better than a junior-high bully. Just a lot of noise that 30 years later will give a laugh if you're strong. And there are some strong people still, your sister in the lead from the sound of things.

    As tough as life is: happy Independence Day to you and yours, JR.

  2. First, thanks for your great comment. I wish I could respond to it at more length but I'm in my hometown visiting my sister in the hospital and replying by smartphone is not the best.

    It is Independence Day. There is a video on YouTube by Mark Dice "Zombie Americans have forgotten why 4th of July is a holiday!!!" that is interesting.

    I too would love to tell my sister's story but by the nature of her independence and pride she is reluctant to share it. She thinks it would be making her a "victim" and I admire her for that. Still, I think she will eventually share it and I will be the one to do it.

    Happy Independence Day to you and your family and friends Mike. Thanks again...