The Little Engine that Sucked at Life, but Could Anyway

Rape has a way of tainting everything, so much of my life has been about surviving, not thriving. I finally found my way out of purgatory eight years back. I’m The Little Engine That Could and my only life skill is failing because after that, I get up again. That’s me. That’s it. It’s the only thing I know how to do.

Before adolescence stole my flat chest, I used to be a gymnast, but my balance was appalling. I left every class covered in bruises. Gymnastics teachers are not gentle. They flip and push and pry you until you get it 100% right. Then you go back the next day and do it again. I was a shocking gymnast. I didn’t participate in a single competition, but I got up every time. I went back to every class.


Life is not like gymnastics. It rewards you properly if you get up again enough times, even if you have no other life skills. When I started out on the quest that is adulthood, I couldn’t even take care of my own untraumatised self, let alone pass the Trauma 1.01 class. I can’t count how many shrinks, techniques, and medications I tried till I got whole again. I just kept going until I hit on something that worked.

I only recovered because of my tendency to beat a dead horse until it rises from the grave. That’s all I know how to do. It’s hardly inspiring or ideal, but eventually, it works.

I know people who have extraordinary personal resources: wisdom, boundaries of steel, and the ability to think their way out of seventh hell. I had none of those assets, so I found out that the only thing I really needed to survive trauma, depression, and illness was stubbornness. If I had that, the rest followed. There was no special knowledge, no Chopra-like gift involved in staying alive and eventually finding my way to happiness. All I needed was the willingness to try again: the next therapist, antidepressant, habit… It didn’t matter which tool, as long as I tried again. Eventually, the right elements came together and I became a survivor.

Did I sometimes get so tired I thought I’d never get up again? Yes. Did I give up sometimes? Yes. Did the pain of all that failure make me feel so battered I wanted to die? Yes.

But then I tried again.

If a toddler can get up after falling until she learns to walk, so can I. I find that beautiful because it means all of us can thrive.

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