A childhood friend once asked me, “Are you surviving or thriving?” I thought, what a disturbing question. Now I use that question as a meditation.
Many years ago on a warm sunny day we were walking in the Rocky Mountains. We stopped at a lake. No one was around. My friend, Leslie, stripped and jumped into the lake. I was too straight-laced to do so. I watched with envy as she swam and floated and called me to join her. She was a free spirit, a poet and secondarily, a social worker. I was a lawyer, and secondarily, a closeted writer and free spirit.
We met when we were both seven years old and lived in an orphanage in Queens, NY, sharing a love/hate friendship as tough kids trying to survive. Leslie had it harder than me. My father visited regularly. Her mother rarely, and their relationship was on the edge of bitterness and anger. As our lives moved on, me back living with my father, and she out on her own at 18, we became empathetic friends.
As we aged, we rekindled our friendship on a mature level. She visited me in Maine. I visited her in Colorado. Sharing and catching up on our separate worlds. Leslie, dealing with the loss of her two young children, taken from her by her husband under cover of night. She searched for years, and only discovered them when they were adults. A difficult reunion.
Her outlet was as a poet. She sprouted words as easily as spring crocuses sprout through snow. She traveled the world, experiencing dangerous countries as a female alone, without fear. Hippie dressed. Carrying backpacks, staying in hostels or camping, trusting and learning from people she met. She lived some of what I only dreamed about.
Then a car accident. Her life paused. A long time with many facial surgeries. Fears. But in between she continued her world travel. Then cancer. She didn’t let it stop her for two years. She died of her cancer a month or so after a trip to Africa.
She thrived and survived. She lived fully as her own person. I carry her in my heart, and regularly ask myself, am I surviving or thriving? Do I have her courage, her tenacity? At least I know I’m no longer a closeted writer and free spirit.
Reader, how do you relate to this question? Are you surviving or thriving? Or trying? I would enjoy engaging in conversation with you. We learn so much when we share.
2019 © Roberta S. Kuriloff