I can pinpoint the exact moment that I transitioned from survival mode to full-on living. It was over a year since my ex disappeared and several months after the legal divorce. I was alone in the woods, about 2 miles into a 6-mile trail run. I came around a bend in the trail and Lake Allatoona was spread out before me, the sun reflecting off of its placid surface.
I stopped. Took in a full, deep breath of the cool pine-scented air. A sense of calm spread through my body as I stood there taking in the sights.
I had made it.
Not just to the lake. Or the trail. But to the other side.
I took one last look at the water, re-tied my laces and set off to finish my run. For the first time in over a year, I felt really and truly alive.
Whenever we face a life crisis, we have a tendency to shift into survival mode. I like to equate it (for those of you that are old enough to remember this) to rebooting a computer in safe mode. The machine works, but its applications are limited. Instead of a screen filled with color, you’re presented only with white images splayed against a dark screen. You’re both relieved that the machine isn’t dead and yet you become frustrated with its limitations.
Survival mode for us isn’t much different. Our world contracts, focusing only on the most important things. We feel muted as our energy is devoted to only the most basic of life’s functions. And we’re vulnerable, because while our full operating system is struggling to come back online, we’re at risk from even the slightest threat. So in response, we batten down the hatches and increase external security.
As with anything, we can acclimate to this survival mode, becoming comfortable in its limited scope. It becomes a habit. Until something jostles us back into awareness and we realize that the immediate crisis has passed.
We forget to breathe.
We forget to see.
We forget to fully be.
We become so focused on living that we forget to live.
Pay attention and you’ll know when it’s time to exit survival mode.