Book Review: Surviving Survival by Laurence Gonzales

I read a book on vacation, Lawrence Gonzales’s, Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience. He has a very different take on resilience than Siebert does. His chapter 14 is entitled “The Science of Adaptation: There’s No Revenge Like Success.” How can you not like a chapter like that??

Things happen to each of us. The best ways to deal with them are:

  • Sublimation
  • Altruism
  • Suppression
  • Anticipation
  • Humor

Some of the worst ways to deal with them are, Projection (blaming someone else), Passive aggression, Dissociation (being in denial), Acting out, Fantasy, Hypochondriasis. For those of you who are familiar with congruence, you’ll notice that these are all incongruent stances. Not surprising at all.

If you look at the categories of this blog, you will not find the worst ways. You will find the best ways. Okay, now that I’m done breaking my arm patting myself on my back, let’s get down to business. Although I do love Gonzales’ writing, and I will give this book a 5-star review, he still missed the boat in one crucial area. He focused too much on the actual event being survived, and not the daily existence post-event.

I’m not surprised. The drama is all in the event. Gonzales is great at writing the drama. There is little drama post-event. All the drama is in the small wins, in our survivor emotions. But it’s in our small wins, in our adaptations, in our ability to see reality, in our daily triumphs over our rage that our survival starts, takes hold and thrives. That would have been impossible to write. How could I ask him to? Yet, that’s what I wanted.

Let me tell you the story of our vacation. First, we woke up early, 4am or so in Boston, to fly to Denver. Changing planes is an event. I need a cart to bring me to the next gate. Can I get a cart? No. I have to wait for 20 minutes, and almost miss the next flight. I send Mark and Daughter#2 ahead. They can walk fast enough to get there. I am not capable of walking the half- to three-quarters mile walk in the airport. It’s not my legs—they are plenty strong. My vision, my oscillopsia, my dizziness is too much for me. I’m exhausted after 20 yards.

Take a moving sidewalk, you say? Good idea. I tried. The sidewalks jerk at the beginning and ends. The moving sidewalks irritate my oscillopsia even more. I can’t take them. I need the cart, but it won’t come.

I finally got to the next gate, and got on the plane 3 minutes before the gate closed. The small plane bumped along. I needed a wheelchair once we disembarked, I was so dizzy.

We drove to Vail. Stopped for lunch along the way. Waited for our room to be ready in a cold hotel lobby. Most people would be fine. A little tired, but okay. Me? I could barely walk. Between the cold, the bumps, my tiredness, it was all too much. My knee was fine. It was my oscillopsia. I could barely see where I was going, my vision was bouncing so badly.

When my vision bounces like that, I get angry. I am frustrated. When I’m at home, I sit down and read. But when I have to walk down a hallway and I can’t see where I’m going? I’m literally bouncing off the walls. Mark is walking ahead of us. I’m holding onto Daughter #2’s arm because I can’t tell where the floor is. When my vision bounces, I have no idea where down is.

I’m so angry and frustrated I could cry. That’s the story of survival I want to hear. What do other people do then? Do other people keep their sense of humor? I don’t. My rage is overwhelming.

This is an example of a post-event story. My vertigo attack? That’s the event. It’s dramatic enough. Learning how I discovered about my hemorrhage and the tumor, that’s dramatic. But, how I deal with my daily life—that’s the post-event story. That’s surviving survival.

There were a few of those post-event stories. Not too many. I’m not surprised. How many people would share their worst selves with Gonzales?

The stories in the book are wonderful, inspiring. For me, one of the best parts is Chapter 15, The Rules of Life. Gonzales has 12 rules to live by. They are not exactly the categories of this blog, but they are darn close :-)

  1. Want it, need it, have it. In my words, do something you love.
  2. Be here now. Stay in the present. Don’t plan too far in the future.
  3. Be patient. What I say is: slow down to go faster.
  4. Be tough. Build your mental, physical, and emotional toughness
  5. Get the small picture. For me, this is taking one small step and getting feedback.
  6. Put things in their place. For me, this is not letting the threat of a vertigo attack control me.
  7. Work, Work, Work. I don’t work all the time. And, I love what I do. If you looked at my writing output last year, you’ll notice it increased. That was by design.
  8. See One, Do One, Teach One. I’m experimenting with how I teach about this. By starting this blog, I’m learning how to teach about adapting to a new life. My pecha kucha is one way.
  9. Touch Someone. Hey, I’ve got you folks!! And I am very grateful for that.
  10. Be Grateful. I am. Believe me, I am.
  11. Walk the Walk. When you act is if you are better, you can talk yourself into it.
  12. Life is Deep; Shallow Up. Keep your sense of humor. I am certainly trying!

I recommend this book, if for nothing else than these rules. I loved the stories. Gonzales is a great writer. You don’t have to have something or be suffering with something to be inspired by the book. I’ll have to figure out how to write a smaller review on Amazon, won’t I?

One thought on “Book Review: Surviving Survival by Laurence Gonzales

  1. Pingback: Feeling Vulnerable vs. Feeling Shame

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