chapter 16: the difference

on may 5th, exactly one week before i raced to the emergency room and was told i had a tumor or an aneurysm in my brain, jacki cisneros was working her overnight job in a los angeles newsroom.  she called her husband and woke him, because she’d heard that the winning lottery ticket had been purchased at the same restaurant where he’d played the Mega Millions just two nights earlier.  he checked the numbers and discovered that he indeed had the winning ticket.  gilbert and jacki cisneros won 266 million dollars.

on may 13th, the morning i woke up safe and sound in a hospital bed, zachary hernandez, of Oklahoma City, died.  he was an infant.

that same day, someone else was born healthy into a loving family.  in another place, a young woman succumbed to a disease she’d had since birth.

why do i have a brain tumor?  why am i in danger, instead of something better?  why am i alive, instead of something worse?  am i worse than jacki cisneros?  am i better than a baby?  i’m neither.

since my medical crisis began, i’d been thinking about life:  if i only had one day left, what would i want to do?  and the only answer i came up with, was just love it.  i had no grand plan.  i didn’t think of skydiving.  or going on a trip.  i just thought of feeling the sunshine.  breathing deeply.  expressing myself with the gifts i’d been given.  and enjoying the gifts that were all around me, in the form of the people who create the panoply of my experiences.  i can’t complain, and if i won that right, what good would it do?  around the world, every day, horrible things are happening.  and so are wonderful things.  and all of us who are here to see them, to feel the joy of great fortune and the pain of tragic loss–and everything in between–are in fact all lucky.

but that’s no revelation.  i’ve discovered no new wisdom in my reflections of life and happiness.  everyone who reads this knows the same thing i do.  we wake up, we walk out into the world, and we try to do our best, in our own limited ways.  some of us succeed.  some of us fail.  some of us seem to never get a fair shot either way.  but at least we are trying.  and if we are trying, in a world of free will yet uncontrollable outcomes, that has to be enough.  and right now, in this moment–whether we realize it or not–it is.  and that is more than enough reason to love this life, to love this moment.  and the little things that have led us here, and the big things that have kept us from elsewhere.  today we are all alive.  and that is our opportunity to strive to be the people we dream of being.  hopefully, we will get closer over time, however much time we have, however much far we are.  if we can surround ourselves with remarkable souls, and set our sights on deserving every one of them; if we can close our eyes and see beauty in whatever fills our re-opened view; if we can let the potential for passion be the very reason for it; if we can embrace the breath we’re taking right at this moment, and in turn be enveloped by its very existence, then questions and philosophies fall to the wayside.  what we are left with, is the difference.  not between being sick or well, poor or rich.  rather, it is the difference between living life and wondering about it.  between loving life and questioning it.  and the difference we all make in doing so.  i want to make a difference.  despite the uncertainty of tomorrow.  despite the unknown of today.  despite all the good and the complete bad of the possible.  despite what i don’t know, and with reckless disregard for what i will never be prepared for.  i want to make that difference.  i want to make that difference.  and so, in spite of all else, i will.

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