In the final pages of her book, How to Survive: The Extraordinary Resilience of Ordinary People, which compiles moving stories of individuals who lived through hardships in life, Andy Steiner reports finding herself unable to relate directly to the people she’d included in the preceding pages (while relating the profound empathy that motivated her to pursue the project). Still, Steiner’s discussion accompanying the release of the book on January 14 at Magers & Quinn—one likely to cover the loss of loved ones, life with chronic illness, and the shadows of debt and unemployment—will almost surely leave you with a feeling of hope.
Steiner writes about the feeling the book inspired in its author: “Reading other people’s stories didn’t bring me out of these experiences feeling instantly ‘healed,’ or anything like that, but knowing the stories of other people’s struggles and survival made me feel like my own struggles were somehow surmountable.”
The trick, as each of the more than a dozen stories in How to Survive demonstrates, is finding strength in struggle. And around the New Year, many resolution-makers want their choices to yield instant results (often in healing and self-improvement). Since we all know that frequently doesn’t happen, the challenge becomes keeping perspective on life’s grander scheme, finding strength and not dwelling on initial failures.
Reading How to Survive, it feels odd to be absorbing advice, for instance, on the death of a spouse I don’t have yet, or adapting to life with disease I don’t have. I, like most people, tend to include such things in an increasingly long list of societal taboos: We don’t talk about them, so we’re never prepared when they actually occur. Steiner’s book works to flip the discourse, to open awareness and preparation for the real hardships that impact ordinary people.
Next Wednesday’s How to Survive launch party, to feature passages read by the St. Paul-based writer, is sure to spark discussions filled with helpful tips and resources to build resilience from within this community web. One step at a time, though; first find it in you to brave the cold walk over.