At the end of his life, Ezra Pound observed to a friend: "Nothing really matters, does it?" Today I understand this. At the end, or close to the end, or closer to the end than the beginning, the value of what we once thought mattered is lost to us. Even survival, once so important, money, food, family, country, accomplishment, recognition, fame, even: Pound was right. He once said to Allen Ginsberg: "At seventy I realized that instead of being a lunatic, I was a moron."
I think that when enough time has passed, when you've survived that which you didn't imagine you could, there's a dignity in that. Something you can own. A pride in knowing the pain made you stronger. The pain made you fight to succeed. Someday, when I'm living my dreams, I'm going to think of all the things that broke my heart and I'm going to be thankful for them.
The thing about surviving something truly tragic is that it changes your expectations forever. You make do with very little. You're grateful for crumbs. You make the best of small mercies. You endure large trials. You understand that life owes you nothing. You expect nothing, and when something wonderful happens, you don't trust it.