Saturday, May 19, 2012

We Can Live Forever

"The story about how every place I travel to comes down to how I'm going to live. It's the travel that, very literally, keeps me alive. ...If you're going to fight for what you love, don't you have to say yes? ...I may suck at playing musical instruments, and I can't paint even a crooked line well, but I can travel. By doing so, I meet the world on its terms, which teaches me how to be honest with what the day is, instead of what I think it should be. And by doing so I find the best way to make now work no matter what then used to be ...I learn it's not a matter of better or worse, but simply this or that. ...Every time I board a plane, I'm taking out the fire, all the noise of daily life, and keeping only what's necessary: hope, amazement, love. ...Your only moral obligation in life is to make the people you love smile, which you do by being the best version of you that you can possibly be. Not the scared, sick, distracted you rushing through the world and trying to get it all in before it's too late, but the you that says yes. The you that helps them say yes. ...Life, the world, are not buckets to fill: they are bedtime stories to tell."
- excerpts from "Cheating Death" by Edward Readicker-Henderson  

Randomly, I picked up a National Geographic Traveler at the bookstore today thinking I'd find some new ideas of where to go this summer. Flipping through the glossy pages filled with breath-taking views and hoping to, one day, be even half as wildly inspirational as some of the people featured and writing, I came across the article "Cheating Death" by Edward Readicker-Henderson. In bold letters heading the story, "Every time his doctors tell him to stay put, he heads out-- because traveling may be the only thing keeping him alive." I immediately had flashbacks of 10 years ago when my doctor said, "I don't think you should move to Hawaii. People like you are high-risk. You'll keep relapsing... and it won't be good for you to be so far from home." To this day, I know that move saved my life. Literally. I had to know what this man had to say about something that, for over 10 years, has been what feeds my soul and keeps the very spirit of me alive.

Now, allow me to add just a bit of clarity here, no, I don't have a terminal illness that I'm aware of. At that point in my life, as I had mentioned in my previous post, I was lucky to make it out of some of my most painful and tragic years alive. Details, in this instance, are unnecessary and superfluous, but if you're super curious, perhaps we can meet over coffee and chat.

Returning to the point of this, what I found even more poignant than his heartfelt expression of his love and absolute need to travel were the lessons he learned. At the end of it all, he learns to be present with life, with himself, and with what (who) he loves. What we love is all that matters. Quoting the poet Frank O'Hara he  mused "We fight for what we love, not are." We might be sick and dying, we might be scared shitless of everything, but we have a choice to either succumb and say no to life while wasting away until it's over, or we say yes, and we fight to live our best lives and be our best selves- not only for us (though, first for us), but for what we love, because we are no good for what we love if we're too busy focusing on our fear. 

Hopeless (hopeful?) romantic that I am (shh.. don't tell anyone), I felt my heart both melt and find a new resolve when reading, "I can't worry about my days being numbered when I know I've already lived forever over a lingering breakfast in Venice with the woman who keeps my heart beating as I stare at her..." The end of our lives could be staring us in the face, but that which we love reminds us we are infinite in each and every moment we are present. When we know who and what we love, we know the answer to the 'why' of our lives- however long they are.

Moral of this story? Go out and find what makes you come alive, literally and/or figuratively. Whether it's travel, music, rocket science, art, gardening, cooking- find what makes your heart beat, takes your breath away, and leaves you awestruck for your place in this world because it can not only save your life, it can give you a whole new one.

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