Saturday, February 27, 2010

Finding Meaning in "Almost"

When you are given a morning, rejoice in it. When you are given an evening, revel in the moonlight. When you are given a second chance, fall to your knees and thank God.


That’s what the doctor said. “Almost.”

It’s a weird word to hear. It’s a strange word to look at on a printed page.  It’s a peculiar word to contemplate, when ‘almost’ means that something nearly changed the trajectory of  your very existence in a way that could never be undone.

I’ve had a lot of “almosts” in my life.  I almost married a different guy. I almost took a job as a  pharmaceutical rep.  I almost was killed when a person barreled through a red light on a busy city street.

And for every “almost”  I’ve experienced, there has been a revelation, an overwhelming sense that destiny somehow removed me from a cruel fate, or saved me from myself, or led me to select this thing but not that,  which presumably made my world  exactly what it had become in that moment.

“Almost” was what the doctor said.

My mom “almost” died. 

Certainly she would have passed away had I not called the ambulance when I did, had I not gotten her the care she needed before her oxygen levels plummeted even further.

But what the doctor didn’t say was that I “almost” killed her.

A decision to give medication to my mother created a cascade of terrible consequences that forced her weakened body to become nearly lifeless, albeit with a beating heart and faint breath.

I almost created a situation where lifelong guilt and regret would have plagued me, destroyed me. Thankfully, I was spared.

In examining the meaning behind my latest  “almost,” I had an epiphany. The purpose of “almost” is to teach us that there are still lessons that need to be learned and held closely to truly be absorbed.  Whether it’s realizing that texting while driving nearly caused a head-on collision, or losing your temper nearly injured your child, “almost” is a necessary part of living and learning. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a second place Olympic athlete or a finalist who goes home empty-handed, “almost” always delivers a lesson worth considering — good or bad.

I am grateful for my “almosts” in the same way I am grateful for cold rain after a hot day. It’s refreshing to know that nearly accomplishing a goal, nearly failing a challenge, nearly destroying something dear to you can have unintended yet positive effects on your future.

An “almost” allows us to catch our breath and redefine what we stand for, who we are, and who we want to become.  We can decide to try harder or accept our standing.  We can decide to mentally adjust a bad habit or a faulty presumption so we can do better — or maybe not. We can contemplate the what-ifs and be more grateful or more mindful.

Some people pile their “almosts” in a heap and pay them no attention, while others put them on a tidy shelf  to extract meaning, nuance and lessons from their grand diversity or striking similarity.

Either way, the nature of  “almost” means we are truly blessed by such possibilities. It is up to us to embrace them.