Breathe

12 Feb

I recently read the inspiring book—When Breath Becomes Air by Dr. Paul Kalanithi. It’s the story of a highly educated man with degrees in English literature and biology who becomes a renowned neurosurgeon and neuroscientist. A lover of literature and philosophy, Kalanithi writes eloquently about his family, his education, and being diagnosed with stage four lung cancer at age thirty-six.

Here’s a doctor who treats terminally ill patients suddenly facing his own mortality. Before he dies, he’s able to write this poignant book about the true meaning of life.

I guess what really resonated with me about his story was that for years Kalanithi put life on hold while working diligently to become the best possible neurosurgeon—spending hours and hours studying, researching and performing surgeries to leave his mark on the world. Yet in the end what really mattered was not his career, but his wife, baby daughter and extended family.

Why does it take something so devastating to wake us up to what’s really important? When my own daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I thought I had learned my lesson. Yet after almost ten years it’s still a struggle for me to consistently take pleasure in the little things. That darn “if only” pattern of thinking seeps into my subconscious, constantly diluting all the precious joy.

Fortunately, I have found a way to break free from these negative thought patterns—by practicing gratitude. Every day as I go about my daily tasks, I try to consciously think about how very lucky I am.

Today was full of the little things: Sleeping in because of a school holiday; breakfast out with Rene and Isa followed by a glorious walk to our local butterfly preserve. Watching the dogs romp happily through the grass, soft and green from the recent rains. Running into neighbors at the local pizza parlor and joining them for lunch and delightful conversation. A trip to the library. Little things, really—but oh, so very big.

Life is short. Be kind and show gratitude. Nurture relationships.

Revel in the beauty around you. LOVE. I will die someday and so will you.

Breathe deeply before that breath becomes air. It’s that simple.

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7 Responses to “Breathe”

  1. Eleanor Winters February 12, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

    Lovely, Sweetheart. A gorgeous day bathed in spring grass.

  2. Hildegard February 12, 2016 at 9:04 pm #

    Thank-you for the beautiful reminder and example! 🙂

  3. Rich February 13, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    This was just what I needed to be reminded of this morning. Thank you.
    p.s. I think you meant to say “mortality”…
    see what I mean, I keep focusing on the one negative detail in everything. It’s hard to break. It’s only raining lightly this morning. The hours of darkness are getting a little shorter each day. I need to be better at seeing the positive.

    • Allegro non tanto February 14, 2016 at 10:26 pm #

      Thanks for catching my typo, Rich! I’d consider that a big positive!

  4. Suzanne February 26, 2016 at 10:14 am #

    Lovely, and so true, Jessica.

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