An Unexpected View and a Life Worth Living

I went to college in Staten Island, NY. It was a small, wooded campus, on top of a large hill. When walking around, you could almost forget you were in the city. Tall oaks, wide maples, beautiful cherry trees that bloomed in late spring.  Walking paths weaving through the campus.

For most of my college years, I lived in a dorm called Harborview Hall. This dorm was tall, like a large apartment building.


Here’s where you knew you were in the city. Out my dorm room window, I had this view:

(c) Goodshoot/Thinkstock

(c) Goodshoot/Thinkstock

New York Harbor in all its beauty. The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. And the World Trade Center standing tall above the rest.

I would look out that window and see the great symbol of our freedom. Then the Trade Center. With my mind’s eye, I saw people rushing around the city. Commuting, hurrying through the streets, making money, creating art, falling in love. Things people do every day.

Little did I know when I looked out my window that some years later, on 9/11/01, the World Trade Center would end up looking like this.

(c) Shutterstock

(c) Shutterstock

Shattered. Broken. In a heap. Worse than the buildings were the lives gone in an instant. People doing the same things I had imagined when I looked out my dorm room window. Commuting, walking, working, living. Alive one minute and gone the next.

A few years later, and my husband suddenly died. While I was working. While we went about our normal daily lives. A life snuffed out too soon. Without warning. And my life was left shattered. Broken. In a heap.

With 9/11, I saw how quickly life could be taken. With my husband’s death, that reality hit home. It not only stared me in the face, it punched me right in the gut.

In case you haven't been hit with the hard reality yourself, I am here to remind you of this painful and liberating truth:

You will not get out of this life alive. You will die, and you don’t know when.

How do we live in the shadow of that reality? Shouldn’t that make us depressed, fearful, or selfish?

No.  It’s only when we face the reality of death that we can truly live.  Live each day as if it were our last. With our arms open to embrace each moment. Giving as much as we can in return.

How can we live each day to the fullest?

Never Forget

It’s the 9/11 slogan. In this context it reminds us to not forget that our time is finite. Geoffrey Chaucer said “Time and tide wait for no man.” Your life and each day has a limit. When you understand the limitations and opportunities that time affords, you can choose how to spend it.

Be Present

How much time do we spend wishing for what we don’t have, worrying about what might come next, or otherwise zoning out? Do you ever drive somewhere and wonder how you got there? Or meet someone and can’t remember what you talked about? Distraction is so common that we often don’t even recognize it. Practice connecting to yourself, the people around you, God, and your surroundings. You will feel so much more alive when you do.

Express gratitude

See and be grateful for what we have – freedom, air to breathe, sunlight, clean water, a bed to sleep in, family and friends, a faithful pet. Little things like a cup of tea, a favorite song, a juicy apple. Practice active gratitude by speaking out loud or writing things down. Ann Voskamp did this, and it radically changed her outlook. She wrote about it in the book 1,000 Gifts.

Find Beauty

From the sublime to the silly, we find beauty when we look for it. Jesus said, “Seek and you shall find.” Others have said, “What you focus on expands.” Focusing on beauty in our EVERYday lives helps us experience more. It sounds simplistic, yet is quite profound.

Tomorrow isn’t promised, so don’t take an IOU. Live fully alive today.

  • Never forget.
  • Be present.
  • Express gratitude.
  • Find beauty.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”  –Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman

Would you like to develop the practice of finding beauty in everyday? Join my FREE “30 Day Beauty in EVERYday Challenge”.
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And while you’re at it, share with a friend.