“I’m a typical college student, if there is such a thing,” Laura wrote as a freshman at Brown University. “Except that I won’t be able to look back at my life from old age.” The sentences became part of a larger project during her sophomore year, when she became so ill that she withdrew from college to undergo the double lung transplant that ultimately failed to prolong her life. Weaving together essays, diary entries, poems, and emails to and from her many friends—dispatches from the shifting battlefields of CF and its treatment—Laura created a chronicle of her life as she lived it. She wrote with unadorned honesty and wry understatement, refusing to indulge in even a hint of false hope or sentimentality. Yet her voice resisted identification with an illness.
What shines through Breathing for a Living is the sense that there is something in us that is not limited, that can seek and speak and be the truth. The reader comes away with the inkling that our greatest human power may not be our capacity to defend ourselves, to be unassailably strong and independent, but to be defenseless. The life of Laura proved that opening to our experience in its raw state without hope of escape makes us capable of opening to others as well.
Living as Spiritual Practice:
The life and death of Laura Rothenberg
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