I’m pretty sure others responding to this prompt are all over the ‘books/waterpurifier/handgun/etc’ lists, and those rock. I watch Naked and Afraid, and that’s the end of my armchair survivalist knowledge, to be honest.
But I’m going to think about the five things you can pack in your body that are essential (in my mind) for survival. Not just in a desert tropical island, but in the sometimes uglier places we find ourselves.
1) ABSOLUTELY the first on the list: sense of humor. Those times in my life when I can’t laugh are the absolute worst. I can make it through anything–anything–if I can find some humor, even if dark, even if bitter. I have had moments in my life where crying has turned to laughter and vice versa–humor is the other side of the coin from the weight of sorrow.
2) Optimism: You have to have hope. You have to be able to look at things and say, yes! I can do this! I can find the good in this situation, or if not the good, then some good. I can find a new story to tell about this. I can make it through and life will be good again.
3) Pessimism: WHAAAT? Yeah, in my mind, seeing the glass as half empty and probably dirty is equal partner to getting through tough times. Being able to foresee the bad things that could happen, that might not happen, that are too ludicrously impossible to happen…is an underrated survival skill. Guessing what could go wrong allows you to figure a way around that wrong, the ultimate If This Then That algorithm.
4) Determination: sometimes Optimism goes on a walkabout, probably looking for that sense of humor up in that coconut tree. For those times, I’ll want my determination, the sheer ability to grit teeth and gut through. As that famous quote goes, when you find you’re walking through Hell, KEEP GOING, so you can come out the other side, is what I’m talking about.
5) Memories. Sometimes in tough situations we lose all sense of proportion, not just of good and bad, optimism and pessimism, but of who we are. When everything is so different from what you’re used to, when you feel unmoored, when that diagnosis or that sudden accident feels like it’s caved the floor in under you, memories remind you who you are, who you were. They remind you you can love, you can be loved. You matter to someone. Your stories, your memories, will be what keeps you warm at night, the light of who you were and who you loved will nourish the part of you no calories can reach.
And, of course, I’d bring my knitting.