Why You Need To Find The Bright Spot

Allow me to share with you three different encounters today. The first happened at Starbucks. An unhappy woman made clear to the poor barista that she had requested “no whip” for her beverage. I could see the whipped milk atop the woman’s drink. It looked pleasant enough to me. No doubt an honest mistake. But the woman was indignant and spoke down to the young barista, who quickly offered to remake the drink. The woman declined, said something to the effect of “you people,” and stormed off.

The second encounter happened at the police department where I work. An auditor from the State was there to review our training records and related files. The training Sergeant was collecting paperwork and feeling the stress. He didn’t want to have any problems with the audit. I told him to relax. Audits have come and gone, and we always survived.

The third encounter was during lunch. I was listening to a radio talk show and the participants were talking past one another about politics. It was less a conversation and more like three independent soliloquies. You could hear the anger, egos and indignation in their voices. I turned off the radio, took a bite from my sandwich and opened a new book titled “When Breath Becomes Air,” by Paul Kalanithi.

With all three of the above encounters still fresh in my mind, I read this first paragraph from Kalanithi’s book: “I flipped through the CT scan images, the diagnosis obvious: the lungs deformed, a full lobe of the liver obliterated. Cancer, widely disseminated. I was a neurosurgical resident entering my final year of training. Over the last six years, I’d examined scores of such scans, on the off chance that some procedure might benefit the patient. But this scan was different: it was my own.”

Sort of puts things in immediate perspective, don’t you think? We get worked up over the wrong coffee order, work stress or politics. It’s only human and natural to get cranky. But then you read something that puts it all back into focus. Something that reminds you how lucky we are to have our health and wellbeing. Sure, we’ve all got aches, pains and legitimate complaints. But Paul Kalanithi was in his thirties when life dealt him the ultimate blow. Struck down in the prime of his career and life.

Watch this touching video about Paul. Especially the scenes with a daughter who will likely have few memories of her father. Here we see a man who is no longer concerned with the superficialities of life. The petty complaints and political platitudes. Here we see a man completely immersed in the now. Living moment to moment and taking in every last bright spot of living.

As author Atul Gawande states on the dust jacket of Kalanithi’s book, “Rattling, heartbreaking, and ultimately beautiful, the too-young Dr. Kalanithi’s memoir is proof that the dying are the ones who have the most to teach us about life.” Author Ann Patchett wrote of Kalanithi’s book, “This is one of a handful of books I consider to be a universal donor- I would recommend it to anyone, everyone.”

So do yourself a favor. Find the bright spots in your life. Your health. The love of a spouse. Your children. Your artwork. Good friendships. Good books. These are the things that make life worth living. When we find the bright spots and remind ourselves how lucky we are to have them, the indignities of life become small. We learn to let go of the little irritants and live more fully.

Find the bright spots in your life, and keep them forever in the forefront of your thoughts.

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