It’s scary to want to live, because if you die, you lose it.
And we’re all gonna die
Sometimes, in this moment, I think I prefer being sad and depressed because I wasn’t afraid of dying. I welcomed it. It made me feel like I had an answer that others didn’t have.
There’s a story about a rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes mountains.
2/3rds of the passengers died on impact.
The boys that survived crawled from the wreckage in the dead of winter. No warm weather clothes, no maps, and no communication.
They rummaged through their belongings for whatever they could use and stacked the bodies of their teammates, siblings, and parents.
They huddled together in the fuselage of the plane and started to wait.
The worst part about the morning was waking up.
I couldn’t sleep, and when I did, nothing but nightmares.
I couldn’t eat. Nothing tasted good and my appetite was practically non-existent.
Showers happened once every few days. I would wait till late afternoon to brush my teeth.
It took massive amounts of effort to move from the bed, to the basement, to the upstairs.
I worked at a psych ward for a good stretch of time. It felt better to be around other people that were sick. But anytime I spent alone, any break I had on the smoking patio, my mind would fall into meaninglessness.
An existential void.
As if my breathe was death on its way, and when I’m gone, it would be better. Cause id know what everything was for.
Late at night, it got colder. Some of the survivors had been wounded, and their cries would pierce the night as everyone froze to sleep.
In the morning, the boys would tend to the wounded and ration their food.
A thimble of wine here, a touch of leather there.
They were running low and help wasn’t coming.
Days had passed and the bodies of their friends and family were covered up in snow.
One of the boys had gangrene and his leg needed to be amputated. No one knew what to do. They lay next to him as he coughed and wheezed to his last breathe.
I decided to go gluten free cause it was something I could control.
I wrote in my journal.
I posted sad essays on Facebook and wrote letters to people who’d never read them.
One evening I went over to a friends house and told him how bad off I was. We sat on his porch and talked about it. Another friend showed up and I got her perspective.
I wanted to talk more but there was nothing else to say. Just feelings.
I left and was more alone than I’d ever imagined.
The boys ran out of food and the wounded had died off.
They drew straws to see who would be the first to try, to eat a piece from the bodies that had piled under the snow.
They used a shard of glass to cut through. One took a bite, then another.
Days felt like years and the nights an eternity.
Huddled in the fuselage they fell into despair.
One of the boys was determined to find a way through the mountains.
He packed up a supply of food and went for it. One of the other boys went with him.
He was gone a few days before returning.
The other boy had frozen in the mountains.
I started rapping because things couldn’t get any worst and I was scared.
I had no outlet, no relief, and the act of writing lyrics and rapping at a microphone was the most painfully uncomfortable thing I could think to do.
It hurt every time.
I’d sit at the laptop and everything I came up with was shitty. My voice sounded terrible and nothing I wrote felt right.
I’d tell myself to just get through 60 seconds. I’d put my head down and work at the insecurity. My self consciousness. My ego…
And then hours would pass and I’d have something.
The pain I felt from writing took me out of the sadness.
It was something I could administer, something I could decide to do, and it hurt bad enough to take me out of the pain of being.
Kind of like Major Payne when he asks his comrade if he wants help to take his mind off of being shot…
And then breaks his finger.
Weeks had passed and they’d lost count of days.
The boys had begun to fantasize their own deaths. They’d play out scenarios of what it would look like, what it would feel like.
The bodies of their friends were skeletons and they were talking crazy. Seeing things, hearing things, and believing things.
One of them was a religious type and said that they would find a way. That they were blessed to be breathing. That things weren’t as bad as they thought. That help was on its way and the will of god would allow it.
None of them took him seriously, though his voice seemed the most sane.
We had a show in Columbus, GA
It was the first time I’d ever signed autographs or taken pictures with people.
Afterwards the crew I was with wanted to explore the town.
I couldn’t do it. Everything hurt. A wave of despair and enfeeblement permeating every ounce of my being. Like a head rush of heartbreak to the gut.
I told them I needed to go home and we left.
I went back to the basement.
2 of the boys decided to go for it.
They packed a weeks supply of food and made snow shoes out of seat cushions.
They told the rest of them they would be back with help or they wouldn’t be back at all…
And they left.
I would go to meetings and stand outside.
I’d look up at the stars and wish I was anywhere but here.
My friends were concerned because I’d say things like, “I’m done” and “I just want to be gone.”
One night, after a particularly meaningless meditation, I decided that I was going to leave the country.
The next morning, I woke up and pulled out google maps. I closed my eyes and thought of where I’d want to go and remembered…
They trekked for days. And at night, they bundled next to each other in makeshift sleeping bags.
They pushed themselves to exhaustion and willed every step forward.
24 miles through the frozen tundra they ran into a muleteer riding a pack horse.
He gave them food and then rode 10 hours to alert authorities.
And with the authorities, a helicopter.
And with the helicopter, they went back to get their friends 72 days after the plane had crashed.
Things got better.
Then they got worst.
Then they got better again.
And then they got worst again.
The best way to describe it is like a wave chart 📈
You start way below zero. Totally fucked with no hope, happiness, or contentment.
Every day is a struggle. And it’s rare that you get a day out of 7 that is halfway ok.
Then time passes, and you realize that you had 3 days out of 7 that were ok.
And then, you actually have 2 days where you were content, good even. Then 3, or 4…
And then you wake up and realize that you’ve gone a week without being sad and it’s a god damn miracle.
And you can’t even describe it, or relate it, because everything is such a blur. All the feeling, all the forcing, fighting, and confusion. The gluten free tortillas and the prison documentaries.
The sad boy Facebook posts and the anxiety induced rap videos.
But you remember the good too.
Underneath the stars while she slept on your chest, M83’s “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” while the ocean swept waves around the island.
The adventures and the pain. The grief and the loss.
You remember how sick you were.
You remember where you’d be if it weren’t for her. If it weren’t for her…
And you let her go.
Today, people make the trek to the crash site in reverence to what the boys had gone through. An exercise in understanding.
I learned about the story of the Andes Rugby Team when I was knee deep in depression.
It was a movie on Netflix called “Alive”.
When I watched it, it gave me hope and I’m not sure why…
Maybe because however bad off I thought I was, what I saw on screen was stronger than anything I could imagine.
That the will to live, to overcome impossible odds and unbearable scenarios, is a testament to the power of the human spirit.
And it made me think that even though I couldn’t see it, or feel it, those boys on that mountain could…
And maybe I could too.
Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed on a glacier in the remote Andes mountains on October 13th, 1972
The flight carried 40 passengers and 5 crew members.
There were 29 fatalities and 16 survivors.
And though it’s tragic, I don’t feel for the people that died…
I feel for the ones that survived.
2 thoughts on “Alive”
“And you can’t even describe it, or relate it, because everything is such a blur. All the feeling, all the forcing, fighting, and confusion. The gluten free tortillas and the prison documentaries.”
Beautifully written. Poetic.
But of course, that doesn’t matter. It’s all about how the writing transformed you.
Being your friend part of the time you struggled so much, I had no idea you were in that much pain. I was in that pain and didn’t know anyone else felt it like I did. Pain can do that. It can turn us internal. I can tend to implode.
Maybe we’re all feeling our own version of that pain.
I’m proud of your progress. Keep writing. Keep feeling.
And remember, we are literally made of stardust.
Also, we’re all gonna’ die.
Haha thanks jen 🙂