10/09/2013 04:23 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

What's Your Breaking Point?

Take a moment to relax. Lean your neck back and then swivel it in half circles from side to side. Go ahead. It feels good to stretch out your neck when you're a little stressed. Now imagine a world where that release isn't possible. Maybe your neck was precariously rebuilt by a neurosurgeon using stiff but durable titanium. You can't just turn your neck to see over your shoulder anymore. Your neck muscles might eventually compensate by becoming rock hard, creating serious chronic pain from your central nervous system that radiates across your entire body.

For Laurie, who spent years in hospitals having her upper spine rebuilt, a day at home with chronic neck pain was a pretty good day. Pain forced her to live in the present. Past and future take a back seat when all you can think about is how much it hurts right now. Experiencing the present, no matter how painful, was also how Laurie turned what could have easily been a miserable existence into a life with an overabundance of meaning.

Laurie refused to play the victim. Things didn't just "happen" to her. Instead, she took responsibility for the present. She believed in escalating spiritual planes. Reaching a higher plane required that certain lessons be learned. We don't learn them all in a single lifetime, so we choose the lessons that will move us up the spiritual ladder before we become conscious at birth. The harder the lesson, the higher we climb. Understanding this deeper meaning helped her move beyond the realm of good and bad. She understood that the present was indeed "pre-sent."

We all have a breaking point. Even in the story of Jesus, when he was wasting away on the cross, he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Some say that was God's way of showing humanity that he, too, suffers. Laurie could relate. With a dilapidated spine, body shaking in pain, nourished only through a feeding tube, and breathing through a tracheotomy, she looked at me one night with defeated eyes and said, "I don't want to do this anymore." Just two days later she died.

If the present was "pre-sent" then there's nobody else to blame for our suffering. It means that I chose to be widowed. It also means that my daughter chose to grow up without her mommy. As you can imagine, it's not a concept that can be taught to a 4-year-old, but it's something that she may learn to embrace as a woman. Instead of asking, "Why didn't I get to grow up with a mother like everybody else?" I hope she asks, "How can I use this life lesson, that most may never understand, to create the life I was destined to live?"

You sent yourself this moment as a gift. You can choose to live reactively like a victim, or you can use the present, especially when it's painful, as an opportunity to create. It's impossible to always live in the now. Not even Jesus could do it. But next time you're feeling sorry for yourself, relieve some stress by leaning your neck back and swiveling it from side to side. It may help you put things into perspective.