I wrote a piece of fiction a while back that was intended to remind us of how lucky we are to breathe. How at any moment, life as we know it can change. And how schlepping through basic daily routines might appear mundane, but are really gifts intended to be celebrated.

This morning at 3:30 I was in the midst of a dream when everything turned white. Then, house-rattling thunder. I sat up. My wife was already awake and on her phone monitoring the radar and the twitter feed of Brad Panovich, our trusted local meteorologist. The Piedmont of NC was in the crosshairs of a line of storms that wreaked havoc on other parts of the SE US, leaving a trail of death and destruction. “It’s started,” she said.

During the 11 pm news the night before, meteorologists on the three main local networks were all saying the same thing – that they’d never seen the atmosphere in Charlotte as ripe for tornadoes as it was this night. And that the main line of storms were due to arrive while everyone was sleeping.

More lightning and thunder.

Somehow, I fell back asleep. But not before thinking about how precious little we really control in our lives. We tend to go through life thinking that if we plan the right way and take the proper steps to ensure we reach our goals, everything works out for us. That by virtue of our will, we have full control of our destiny during our blip on the timeline. Yes, I’ve said it before – but the idea of control is an illusion. Ironically, when we reach our goals or when things go favorably in life, the illusion of control becomes more realistic. But all it takes is one moment to remind us that we’re just fragile, fallible, insignificant carbon life forms with no real control at all. Humility, sometimes, is a bitch.

I have no idea how I went back to sleep this morning. Maybe it’s because I knew we did what we could to prepare for the storms – even to the point of putting a sledge hammer in the basement in case we were trapped by debris after our house had been reduced to matchsticks. But I think it’s because I’m one of those people who understands that acceptance is key in life. That next to adjusting the thermostat, I’m not in any real control at all. My wife, on the other hand, got no sleep.

This morning, our house bustled with the routine weekday rush to get to work and school. We’d been spared. We didn’t even lose power. We were lucky. Others didn’t wake up to such seemingly mundane routines, however. And my heart is with those people today. Just like it was with the people of Japan. And Haiti. And Chile. And the family of the person who will die on the highway commuting to work because a truck driver in the oncoming lane spills coffee on their lap and swerves at the exact right moment.

When you beat a life-threatening disease, your reward is to live some more. Don’t tell me that every breath isn’t a gift. Try to accept that today. And be grateful.


Jim Mitchem

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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.