Dec 2002 Issue
TOUGHING IT OUT
In 1982, Steve Callahan was shipwrecked when his sailing boat was struck by something and sank. He was cast adrift in a leaky , inflatable life-raft
He was out of the shipping lanes and floating alone. His supplies were few. His chances were small. Bu when three fishermen found him seventy-six days later (the longest anyone has survived a shipwreck on a life raft alone), he was alive -- a lot thinner, but nonetheless alive
In Callahan's 1986 book "Adrift" , he recounts fascinating aspects of survival at sea. A chronic, leaky raft exhausted him as he kept trying to keep it inflated. Weakened, giving up was an option. But Callahan persevered; telling himself others had been through far worse. In this way he built fortitude. And he kept doing it all the time.
Isn't life like sailing or climbing a mountain? For a lot of the time , the going is smooth and pleasant. But sometimes, an unexpected wave; an avalanche , can wreck our smooth passage. But these events, on hindsight, test our fortitude and only serve to help us better when the next calamity occurs.
Are you going through a tough patch? Just how tough is it? Sometimes, having it " tough" is really a figment of our imagination - and often, only a temporary deprivation of a goal or a luxury. " Tough" is when the basic necessities of life are at threat - safety, food, water, shelter.
"Tough" for me was when I was struggling to breathe in an intensive care unit four years ago and again, I kept telling myself, I would live and I would get better. Up high on Cho Oyu in the Death Zone this spring, I turned back at 7900m; having climbed the highest I had ever done
without using supplementary oxygen. It was frigid and a icy breeze was blowing. But I knew I would live and I knew I was not in immediate danger. But to push for the summit just 300 metres away would have been tough and stupid . Too many climbers have stepped past their reserves of strength and not come back from the high Himalaya. Turning back was also tough but smart. I decided being tough, smart and alive was the better option. Success is relative.
When tough times come and you are unable to avoid it, think of that fellow adrift - things don't seem that bad after all. Embrace the hardships and arise stronger from them.