75: Infinite

75: Infinite

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible

Infinite

The only way to live is to accept each minute as an unrepeatable miracle, which is exactly what it is: a miracle and unrepeatable.

~Storm Jameson

I knew I was in trouble when my internal dialogue shifted from “I promise you will be here tomorrow, keep going, keep breathing” to “I will forgive you if you let go, it’s okay, let go.” I listened to the mechanical pulse of the machine I was connected to. It was strong, steel, immortal. And I was decidedly not. I was cold like an empty vacuum, hollowed out. The doctor’s face was no longer a face, but a road sign on my way from Here to There. I wanted to keep going, further and further into the white — where hearts don’t stop working, because there are no hearts and everyone is safe at last.

“Let go, let go.” I placed my temple on the cool metal bedrail, and I slept.

I woke up to a world of harsh color under florescent light and nurses calling me “a miracle.” Specialists buzzed in and out of my room. One doctor misted up, tears running down to meet his thick black mustache. He said, “How are you still here? Do you understand how very special you are?” I stared back at him, confused. I was just a seventeen-year-old girl alone in the ICU. I didn’t feel special. All I felt was broken.

There was something I didn’t tell the doctor. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t trust anyone to understand. When my heart had stopped, what happened to me felt like something quite the opposite. I slumped in bed with Technicolor love rising from my chest like pop rocks and soda. Love wasn’t an emotion; it was a physical force spilling out. I was lifted with gentle hands up, up toward the ceiling. Then there was no ceiling, there was no hurt, and I became a burst of colors dissolving into air.

That’s all I remember. It had felt like a release. As time stretched on in the ICU, I sat under scratchy hospital blankets and thought. Many people live their lives afraid of dying, but I realized that is misplaced fear. Instead, we all should be afraid of not getting the chance to truly live.

I wasn’t so great at walking once I finally went home. First, I stepped out onto my driveway, unsteady in the November breeze. My feet were planted hip-width apart and they might as well have been tree roots. Moving seemed impossible, but deeply necessary at the same time. My fingers stretched out into the wind and all I wanted to do was run with it — past the ordinary lawn clippings and mailboxes of my neighborhood. I wanted out in the most desperate way. But instead of running, I wobbled up the stairs to the four walls of my bedroom and cried rivers of tears. I thought I would never be wild and free again. But we human beings, in our limited sight, have a way of being wrong.

I was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, a destructive and rare autoimmune disorder. My cells wage civil wars, fighting over nothing, fighting until my body is a nuclear holocaust. Organs, like villages, are flattened one by one. There is no cure. I don’t know how long I have left, but let me tell you something — neither do you. And as for me, I refuse to live the remainder half-dead by settling. When I realized that, my life truly became the “miracle” the nurses were boasting about. What a strange design, that it took coming to absolute zero to realize how infinite I am. We all are. We hold inside ourselves a tiny infinity of love and joy—just waiting to pour out into the world.

I am twenty-four years old now and I have fit more adventures into the past seven years than many people will experience in their entire, long lives. I’ve been body slammed by Pacific waves on my surfboard. I tried to sneak chocolate croissants from France through customs. I learned how to blow glass into heart pendants in Venice. I fell in love with a boy with a rolling accent over an orange cardamom latte. And I never miss a morning run. Every sunrise, I lace my tennis shoes up and run toward the horizon. The gentle pink and orange light washes over my body, baptizing me for the coming day. I run because I can. I run in honor of everything I have overcome.

I want to touch-taste-feel-be everything. I want it all: the beautiful, the terrible, the art, the disaster, the sweet, the bloody bitter. Everything. I have become beauty. I have become brokenness. And I believe they are the same. The one outlier that sickness can never touch is the tenacity of the human spirit.

I am even grateful for my diagnosis. It has opened me in a way that is irrevocable. And it couldn’t have happened any other way. Now, I will never settle for anything but the fullest life. I am living every day of this miracle in gratitude, awe, and adventure.

~Morgan Liphart

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