Peter Kaufman Profile picture
Oct 7, 2018 15 tweets 5 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
(A microburst Twitter essay--to be finished before I'm done with my cough drop)

I just had an epiphany: #beautiful has become my new favorite word. That may seem strange given my circumstances. In June 2017 I was diagnosed with incurable stage IV #lungcancer.
I naively thought that maybe my lifetime of being a health and fitness junkie would insulate me from such a medical fate. Wrong. And So here I am, fifty-one years old and not sure how much time I have left on earth. I know I could, or maybe should, feel angry, cheated, jaded.
But I don't. I have this epiphany that my new favorite word is beautiful and I'm not sure why. There is nothing beautiful about what I've gone through since my diagnosis--lots of physical and emotional distress to be sure. But yet, I keep find
finding myself invoking the word beautiful. Take today, for instance. I went on a beautiful hike with my friend @GeorgeSwain at Shaupeneak Ridge. It was beautiful. I spoke on the phone with my college friend Lenny. We hadn't spoken in years. I mean a lot of years. Embarrassing.
But our conversation was beautiful. Truly beautiful. We spoke as if we never missed a beat. Two old friends, hadn't said a word to each other in years, live halfway across the country and come from different worlds. In total synch with each other. What's not beautiful about that?
Then after dinner my wife and I walk over to our dear friends' house. Their parents were visiting. We figured we'd join them for dessert. We had pumpkin pie, homemade whip cream, and the most amazing vegan chocolates from @lagusta -- our local treasure. And engaging conversation.
What's not beautiful about this? Of course in my haste in writing this story I forgot to mention that I had breakfast this morning with a former student of mine. I know we educators are not supposed to have favorites but let's be honest: we all do and he is one of mine.
He is a @NewPaltzAlumni who now lives in Utah doing great work with @theIRC. I'm super happy for him. He is a great human being doing wonderly work, helping others, and enjoying his life. We got to catch up over breakfast and a leisurely stroll around campus. Simply beautiful.
Did I think about the fact that I have terminal #cancer at all today? Did I worry about a random feeling I had in my stomach where I know lots of the disease has spread, or did I notice that I had to catch my breath a few times hiking up the overlook of the Hudson River? Oh yeah.
I thought about my cancer all fucking day long. In fact, I talked about it with just about everyone with whom I interacted today. As I do most days. And as I do in my own head when I'm by myself. Let's put it this way:
I don't think about my cancer all the time, but I don't not think about it all the time either. It's hard to get away from. In fact I can't get away from it. And neither can my friends and family. Once it rears its ugly head, it consumes your life. It's ubiquitous.
But you know what else is all consuming? Do you know what else is ubiquitous? Do you know what else can find yourself thinking about, seeing, experiencing, and believing in? Beauty. It's all around us too. In fact, it's not just all around us: it's in us, it's part of us, it's us
I don't mean this in a hokey, new-agey kind of way. I mean this in a concrete way. The human body is a beautiful thing even with my @ALKLungCancer. The earth is a beautiful place if you can get outside and appreciate places like the @scenichudson park I visited today.
And of course our family and friends -- our social connections (forgive, I am a #sociologist) -- are beautiful things. A voice from the past that you never forget: Beautiful. A warm friendly hug: Beautiful. Sharing nature together: Beautiful. A shoulder to cry on: Beautiful.
I feel like I should end with a quote here that captures the essence of beautiful. No such luck. That would be too hokey and new-agey. So instead, I'll say this: Beauty is not just something that's in the eye of the beholder. It's also in the voice of the betolder.

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