Giving thanks for being alive.
January 31, 2011 4:44 PM   Subscribe

I want to commemorate a difficult anniversary by celebrating life. And by that I mean both my life and life in general.

This weekend marks one year since I survived a terrible and fatal car accident. I've spent the past year on a roller coaster of emotions, which have run the gamut from survivor guilt to elation to crushing depression about the arbitrary horrors of life and everything in between. I've been in therapy and dealt with the bad feelings, and now I want to embrace the good feelings about surviving. With the anniversary coming up, I've experienced a little anxiety and a few flash backs, but I'm determined to stay positive about what it might mean that I'm okay against huge odds.
I've decided that I want to to acknowledge the anniversary by celebrating being alive and by giving thanks for having the ability to keep going, whatever else life throws at me. I'm looking for ideas for life-affirming things I can do this weekend alone or with my partner, who would like to join me. Difficulties: we don't have much money, and we live in Chicago (limiting outdoorsy stuff), plus we're both human rights workers, so we're pretty familiar with the volunteer/social services agencies here in the city (and that's come up already).
I'm open to doing almost anything: athletic, challenging, creative, quiet and contemplative, rip roaring fun, etc.
So, I know it's kind of a tall order, but what are your best suggestions for life-affirming activities?
posted by swingbraid to Human Relations (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Go rock climbing! I have always found that to be all the things you describe! Yes, even quiet and contemplative, although that usually happens when climbing outdoors.
posted by sadtomato at 4:54 PM on January 31, 2011

The Art Institite has free Winter Weekdays through February 4, and I always find it (and the MCA even more so) a great place to go to be quiet, contemplative, and remember what can be so awesome about this universe (and especially our city)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:54 PM on January 31, 2011

Give blood. Write letters/notes/postcards to everyone you love and maybe haven't told in a while. Get up before dawn and watch the sun come up. Buy some seeds and pots and plant something for your windowsill. I would probably also go somewhere that people were praying and pray, too.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:55 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think it's wonderful that you want to do this. Here are my ideas.

Sign up to be a bone marrow donor.

Use the day to start taking a photograph a day of things that you find beautiful.

Give lots of hugs that day, to your loved ones and to (receptive) strangers.

Learn a new skill that you've always wanted to take up (piano, etc).

Say yes, to everything.

Do the fun things that you've been putting off.

Take the long way home.
posted by Leezie at 5:28 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a friend who died on the summer solstice. I like to smudge my whole house with sage on the solstice at midnight. I'm agnostic, but I like the idea of ritual as acknowledgment. I kind of make it up myself. I think about the bad energy going away, and bringing in good energy. I think good thoughts for the next year. I think about my friend being there to think good thoughts too. It makes me feel better. And sage smoke smells nice, and is very inexpensive for a bundle. Maybe your anniversary isn't on the solstice, but I don't think that matters one bit.

This is a lovely poem.
posted by griselda at 5:37 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go to the accident site, and meditate. Maybe leave a flower, poem or stenciled image. Don't let the site have power over you.
Give back. Donate blood, register to donate marrow, make sure you're an organ donor. Work at a soup kitchen or Habitat for humanity site.
Pray, or something like it. Reflect on the meaning of your life, and give thanks to the random chance or deity that allowed you to survive. Maybe read some poetry.
Stop by the hospital with goodies for the staff who took care of you. I think this would be a swell annual tradition.
Have a terrific dinner, toast to life and good fortune.
posted by theora55 at 6:10 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do something with kids. Kids are full of life and possibilities and usually are still full of optimism that anything is possible. Maybe volunteer to read at a local kindergarten or library children's hour.

Sometimes NICUs need folks to come in and just hold the babies, but you'd probably know better than I how to find out about that.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:21 PM on January 31, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you for all of these great suggestions. They're very similar to things that I did or wanted to do after the initial shock had sort of worn off. I'm going to try as many of them as possible.
griselda: that was a lovely poem.
theora55: I can't visit the accident site because it happened in another country, but I would probably do so if I could.
posted by swingbraid at 6:25 PM on January 31, 2011

I was going to say 'give blood' as well. I've had two go-rounds with cancer (happily, neither of them too brutal as far as treatment) and now that it's been long enough that I can give blood again, it delights me to go donate blood at the local children's hospital.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:27 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

My favorite life-affirming activities include going to the dog park (I don't have a dog, but it's so fun to watch them all playing together!), baking rich chocolately things and eating them, and dancing and singing along until I nearly collapse. Reading happy poetry aloud to each other in your most overly-dramatic voices can be good to.

If you were close to anyone who was lost in the accident, perhaps you could create a short ceremony to memorialize them, if only in your home. Read something meaningful, say a few reflective words about what they meant to you, perhaps even try a hobby that they enjoyed.
posted by vytae at 6:42 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was also a remarkably unhurt survivor in a fatal car accident. I'm sure the past year has been hard and bizarre; good work getting to where you are.

Did you know the individuals that passed away? I've found it helpful to think of the others' lives/customs/habits on the anniversary of the accident. For example, I might eat a particular favorite of food of the individual, or visit a place that reminds me of the individual, etc. I try to take some small, enjoyable action that reminds me of the lives they lived... sort of like, "I'm still here, and today I'm doing this thing, and I'm doing it because my life is connected to yours. And that's pretty cool!"

As selfish as this sounds, I also try to take time to mourn for the "life I would have led" if I hadn't been in the accident. While physically I'm fine, mentally/emotionally I'm a different person, and the accident I was in has impacted many BIG life decisions I've made. So, I try to schedule some quiet time in my day (a walk, coffee shop trip, etc) to just reflect on who I've become and how I've grown since the accident. It's up to you if you prefer to have this reflection as a convo with your SO (I do!) or just as quiet time or whathaveyou.
posted by samthemander at 8:59 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was in a similar accident almost 3 years ago. It took me around 2 years, I think, to fully process it and not think about it every day.

On the anniversary, I've taken the day off of work and worked out, wandered around town, visited parks that I've wanted to see and really just tried to take everything in.
posted by melodykramer at 5:23 AM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Circus school! Trapeze classes make you feel grateful to be alive. Especially at the end of the class, once you're safe on the ground.
posted by 8dot3 at 8:05 PM on February 8, 2011

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