Monday, March 16, 2009

It takes more than Charles Atlas.

Oh Joe, you are a real he-man after all!
-Girl in comic book body-building ad.

I've written a number of posts on preparedness/survival. Suggested gear, assorted skills, tricks, tips, and even the occasional rant. In all these I've always neglected the most vital thing needed to survive. Without it the chance of living through a devastating emergency are just about nil no mater how prepared, smart, and even lucky you are.

The one thing you MUST have?

Simply the will to live. The deep-down strength to push on no matter what blocks your path. The fire to hold on to life no matter what pain lashes at you. The drive to return to your family, your friends, uh, your readers no matter what obstacles lay on the path.

Spending as much time as I have in hospitals I've been able to talk to lots of doctors, nurses, and orderlies. trust me, emergency room staff have the best stories! One thing that several ER docs have told me is that they can tell right away if a trauma patient will live or die simply by the attitude the patient has. Even when the patient is unconscious they can tell who is a fighter and who will just let life go. The doctors do everything they can for both types, but in the end it's as much up to the patient as it is to the blood transfusions, adrenalin shots, and emergency surgery.

A prime example of this just happened off the coast of Florida. Two NFL and two college football players went out for a day of deep sea fishing. Only one made it back. Their boat flipped. None of them were wearing life preservers, but they were able to get them on while in the water. After about five hours the two NFL players gave in, removed their life jackets and drowned. Two days later one of the college players hallucinated that he saw land and tried to swim for it, drowning in the process. Only one person survived. He was found huddled on the capsized boat 48 hours after the accident.

All four would have survived if they had just held on, not given up. One would think pro-football players would have the guts/never give in sort of attitude needed to survive something like this, but alas often that is not the case. Titan's quarterback Vince Young is another prime example of a physically strong but gut weak football player. People who follow the game were not surprised by Vince's actions. His college coach has a reputation for making great players that were emotionally weak. They lack the inner strength needed to handle hardships and failure.

This problem isn't limited to sports. I see it every day at work and among friends. Some people go to pieces when things go bad. Some just withdraw and do nothing. Luckily, some step up to the battle and push on, never giving up their belief that they will succeed. And of course they DO succeed. They may have to work through hundreds, even thousands of failures but they stick at it and eventually create something marvelous. The question is why do so many people give in rather than keep fighting?

I think it has something to do with our lifestyle, especially our childhoods. If a person never has to struggle, deal with hardship or adversity, and has everything handed to them it's unlikely they develop the internal fortitude they'll need later on in life. Childhood irresponsibility continues far longer than it ever has in the past. Many kids are not taught how to be responsible adults so when they need to be they just fold.

I don't want this to be the case with Mini and Mambo.

No, I'm not going to beat them and work them like children of Sparta. But they will learn how to hang in there, they will learn not to give in (Mambo pretty much already has that down!), they will learn what it takes to truly be consider an adult.

I started on this years ago through bathtime stories. In these tales Princess Sparkle and Princess Glitter overcome great challenges such as being captured by an ogre, becoming shipwrecked, having to escape the castle during war, etc... The princesses overcome these dangers through perseverance, smarts, trial/error, and bravery

But it's not just the telling of tales. Mini and Mambo know at some point they will have to make The Crossing.

Other cultures have had trials that a child must pass before they can be considered an adult. Vision quests, fasting, killing a lion with a spear, etc... all have been ways for children to leave the home and adults return.

No, I'm not going to make my girls kill a lion with a spear. Do you know how much a lion costs these days?!

At age fourteen they will have to go off into the wilds by themselves for two nights. They will have a knife, a poncho, poncho liner, clothes, a cooking pot, and a walkie-talkie (hey, not a complete hard-ass). They'll get a bit hungry. They'll probably get a bit afraid. But they'll survive and they'll know they can survive being hungry, being afraid...

Of course before The Crossing they'll have plenty of experience in the woods. Miniwether is already very good at identifying edible plants/bugs and catching frogs and fish. Both girls love to go camping. They are learning proper knife handling, fire building, knot tying, and shelter building.

But they are also learning that we won't let them give up on stuff. Misseswether is one hardass homeschooler. Miniwether has learned that she can't slide through her classes, she has to work and think and keep at the problems. if she gets really frustrated she can take a break, but the problems will be waiting for her.

Just like "real" life.

Miniwether understands what we expect of her and why we hold her to these standards and she accepts the challenge. She's admitted she's scared of The Crossing but at the same time she's looking forward to the adventure. Currently Mambowether just likes the outdoors time and the stories of Princesses Sparkle and Glitter. She listens with rapt attention, unaware that I'm telling stories about her.

Hopefully my plan will work and these two wonderful little girls will become strong, resilient women capable of anything they put the mind to. Wish me luck!

Adventure! Excitement! Success!

p.s. Two books that have helped shape my plans are:
Deep Survival: Who lives, who dies, and why by Laurence Gonzales.
Outliers: The story of success by Malcolm Gladwell


KG2V said...

I think it's possible for anyone to get into a situation where they don't really care one way or the other.

I know I've ben chronically ill for almost 2 years now, and had an acute illness on top of that early this year. At the deepest, darkest time, I really didn't care too much one way or the other, I just wanted the pain to STOP.

Once we were past the crisis (some pain killers did wonders), then I was able to fight to hold on again. I learned where my breaking point was that day

(Typed while sitting here waiting for the pain killers to kick in for the chronic problem. The good news is I'm down to 1-2 pills every couple of weeks)

J. David Boyd said...

'The Crossing'
What a wonderful idea. It shows how much you care about your children, and how honestly dedicated you are to providing them with the tools they need to succeed in life.
I commend you, and Misseswether, mightily, for your wonderful parenting techniques...

MikeH said...


Did you post this on equipped, or at least a variant of it? I know that a similar discussion was bandied about, but this was a great post.

I hope to be able to teach my son a similar lesson. I know that I'll be fighting with my wife through some of it too. I'm a country guy, she's a city girl.


Izzy G. said...

Good article.

thseng said...

"At age fourteen they will have to..." Strike "have to", insert "insist on".

C'mon, Mini's first thought at seeing a reptile is to wonder what it tastes like! You'll have to hold them back.

Anonymous said...

I am pleased to know that you guys homeschool. I live in arizona I am the oldest of 6 kids all of which are homeschooled I am in highschool. And I wish I had time to read your wonderful blog