on survival

In Greek mythology, Medusa is a "guardian, or protectress". She is viewed throughout history as equally beautiful and terrifying.

I wonder how many of us here can relate.

On holiday in July we drove for hours through rolling Turkish hills to visit the ruins at Didyma.  Typically, I need to be in the right mood for these types of things. I was on the fence until my Lonely Planet guide told me to “be sure not to miss the sculpture of Medusa that has remained surprisingly intact among the rest of the ruins”. Or something to that effect.


I remember that the heat that day was the kind that gives everything in sight a shimmering, rippled effect. We walked slowly through the remains of the interior, then circled the perimeter.  I felt like a grain of sand on the worlds longest beach - dwarfed by the enormity of it all.  I finally found the medusa set away from the rest of the rubble. I had walked right past her on arrival.

Temple of Apollo, 2nd century A.D. Didyma, Turkey

She sits with pride of place at the entrance, cordoned off and stoic despite the deep crevices that mark her face like scars. More intact than any other scuplture in the ruins.

Look at you. Barely a scratch compared to the rest of them.

I pulled out my camera and smiled, remembering finding this for the first time in the middle of a sleepless night in the month after Sadie died.

Of course you’re here. What better vantage point could you have?


Serene guardian.

Mother hen.


Terrifying when provoked?

I can definitely relate.


I open my work email first thing to see the subject line, “VISIT TO X CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL”. The air is sucked out of me as I read a lengthy note to all staff about plans for Father Christmas arriving on a Harley, playing on our weaknesses to plea for gifts and funds.

"The children in this hospital are often seriously ill and many will be hospitalised over the festive period. A visit was made to the hospital last week and it was stated that many of these children will be hospitalised over the festive period, some indefinitely."

Memories I’ve had parked in a far away corner wave over my brain like a monsoon and I can’t not cry. I spend twenty minutes in the bathroom regaining my composure.


I’ve often wondered what it takes for a person to survive something like this. What fabric makes up the kind of soul who can stare down the deepest and darkest tunnel of despair and turn up alive at the other end? Hardly unscathed, but alive nonetheless. None of us are superheroes as far as I’m aware. Just your average Joes and Janes, as random as it comes, without a (traditional) superpower or weapon of choice in sight. Yet here we stand, called on to perform an astonishing, awe-inspiring feat.

This thing called surviving. We do it. We are all doing it, right this second.

We do it with therapy. We do it with screaming and booze and prescriptions and sex.  We do it with the help of partners who are the one person on this entire godforsaken planet who understand us, because their loss is tied forever to our own. And we do it for our living children, or our desire for future children.

And then there’s time, survival’s wingman if there ever was one. 


“You know you don’t have to feel bad about talking about it.  I think you’re so brave, Jen.”

I do it because in spite of everything, I am still a hopeful person.


Survival means different things to all of us. What is it to you? What’s your superpower?