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Punch Drunk: Choose Joy 

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Usually on Sundays I complain to my girlfriend about my hangover or about going to work the next day or about how hot it is, or probably about some other slight inconvenience. My girlfriend does the same thing. Why is life so hard on us? Why is the remote controller so difficult to reach? Why is this stale cookie so crunchy? Why are salsa jars so tough to open?

It's a sad state of affairs in the Lauterback-Standerfer household.

On the exact opposite end of the spectrum from our little pity party is Kristin Harris, the executive director of the Central Virginia chapter of Susan G. Komen. She doesn't complain. She smiles. And that's despite the breast cancer.

Harris was diagnosed in March 2012 after she had taken care of her mother, who had terminal breast cancer. Harris fought the disease valiantly and had it in remission until September, when she was re-diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer. This time it had metastasized in her bones. I'm not a doctor, but I know how serious that is.

Notwithstanding this horrible news, there's no negativity coming from Kristin Harris.

The five-year survival rate for someone with stage-four breast cancer is 22 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. So Harris, who is 37, has a 1 in 5 chance of living until 2021. Yet this woman, who has every right to complain, or want others to feel sorry for her, or give in to despair, is the most positive person I've ever met. Like many people who have fought breast cancer or are facing the fight, Harris is an absolute rock.

"I wish I had been able to find this out sooner, and I'm not sure if you can learn this short of getting a stage-four diagnosis. But when you recognize when there's a finite amount of time left, it helps you be very present," Harris says. "You learn to experience everything in the most positive way."

And, she adds, "I don't want lose any time to negativity."

Her situation puts things in perspective. It makes me realize that I've never had a real problem in my life. The daily crucible she faces makes my day seem very easy by comparison. It even makes something seemingly major like your car breaking down on the highway or even losing a job a minor blip on the radar.

I've been thinking about Harris a lot lately and the capriciousness of life. Nothing is promised to us. But what can we really do? Just hope to not get diagnosed with cancer? Hope that we'll continue to skate through a charmed life? Everyone says they want to change, but it's tough to go out and change everything and start living life to the fullest. How do you even do that?

"This oversimplifies it, but judge less, love more and choose joy," Harris says. "Those are all active statements. You have a choice."

I'm trying not to cry on the keyboard while she tells me these things.

"I actively choose to find something every day to look forward to," Harris says.

If she can be like this, there's absolutely no reason why we can't be.

Let's go out tomorrow and be nicer to everyone. Let's open doors for strangers. Smile. Really listen when someone is talking. Do better. Stop bitching about stuff on Facebook. Embrace the left and the right. Let's not judge anyone for anything they do or say. Let's try to understand people first.

"I wish I had this perspective sooner," she says. "I wish it hadn't taken stage four."

We owe this to Harris and anyone else who lacks the luxury of being healthy. We owe our best.

Seriously though, sometimes I watch nine episodes of HGTV's "Beachfront Bargain Hunt" in a row because the remote is just impossible to reach.

OK, I'm not complaining about that one.

Want to get involved or donate to Susan G. Komen? Go to komencentralva.org. S

Jack Lauterback also is co-host of "Mornings with Melissa and Jack" on 103.7 Play weekdays from 6-9. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at jackgoesforth.

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