I work in a library now, and one of the great things about it is that I am surrounded by books. I am a bookworm like some people are foodies. My boyfriend James can spend literally hours perusing a grocery store, handling the meat, sniffing the spices, eyeing the seafood. I am the same about books. So, sometimes, when I am muddling through a creative block or need a walk to clear my head, I will wander the shelves and lose myself in the books.
I have already developed favorites — book covers or titles or authors’ names that intrigue me for one reason or another. Books that serve as a time machine, transporting me back to my childhood, or some poignant period of my adolescence, or, occasionally, the period immediately after my divorce during which I read rapidly as an escape.
But the book that is my current favorite, the one that I revisit frequently in my mind, although I have not yet even opened it, the one that intrigues me so much that I do not dare read it because I already know that it could not possibly live up to my expectations is one titled “A List of Things that Didn’t Kill Me.”
I suppose it’s not profound, but the idea of a list of things that didn’t kill us is fascinating to me. I wonder at how easily that list would capture our individual trials and triumphs, moments of bravery, incredible losses, and bottomless grief. The first day I walked past that book, I couldn’t help but wonder at what might be on my own list. A few particularly painful episodes immediately sprang to mind, and in the short walk back to my desk, I contemplated how amazing it was that I had, indeed, endured and survived such things. Me. Just me. A normal, unremarkable person with a pretty normal, unremarkable life.
And now, it has become my own little ritual. Every time I pass the book on the shelf, I mentally add another thing to my list. At some point, obviously, I will have exhausted my list, and that is okay, but right now I am enjoying my little validation game.
So what about you? If you had to create an actual list of things that didn’t kill you, what would be on it? What parts of yourself would it reveal that maybe you have stopped appreciating? What hardships have you overcome and internalized to the point of almost forgetting about them and how dramatically they changed you? What horrible moments have helped define and mold you into the stronger, more capable person you are now? How many of these moments fortified your character, solidified your integrity, and taught you some immeasurable lesson? What would be missing from your life if these experiences had never crossed your path? Who would you be without them? How are you better for them?
So, humor me and take a minute. Think about it.
What changed you forever? What did you think you couldn’t survive but did? What didn’t kill you?