February has been quite a month. From Barack Obama to Todd Stroger. From Lisa Marie Nowak to Anna Nicole Smith. From a man who would be president to a president who won’t show up. From a diaper-wearing space cadet to a space cadet who will tragically never again change her daughter’s diapers. Politicians, scientists and entertainers have dominated the media this month.

Todd Stroger is the only local name I’ve mentioned, but they’ve all been in the news to the extreme. I’m glad Sen. Obama is in the news. He adds a nobility, intelligence and dignity to this crazy February. I’m glad President Stroger is in the news. Todd gets the politicians and the public riled up, even when he’s nowhere to be found. The ladies? Well my speculation is that Ms. Smith has finally achieved the level of celebrity for which she always yearned. Also, I’ve never seen so many men rush to take custody of an infant. But then again, this isn’t just any infant. This just might be a half-billion-dollar infant. I heard one comedian say the baby shouldn’t be called Dannie Lynn, but by her real name: “Meal Ticket.” And astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak blew our minds with her mission-mindedness.

As the people I’ve mentioned, so as well our lives. We can ascend the mount of triumph, and yet we can so easily stumble and crash into the valley of tragedy and despair-all in the span of a day, an hour, a minute or even a moment. Maybe with the exception of Sen. Obama, not one of these persons this time last year could have come close to predicting the spectacles their lives would become in this shortest month of the year 2007.

No one is exempt from the unpredictable. The good thing though is that the unpredictable isn’t always unpredictable. Sometimes you can just feel when the unpredictable is going to happen. It’s like the feeling you get even though it’s a beautiful spring day. The sun is shining bright. There’s a “just right” breeze. Everything is great, but you can just feel or sense that a storm is on the horizon, even if the weatherman says otherwise. Some folk can even feel it in their bones. So what do you do? You grab an umbrella, try to rush home to beat a torrential downpour. In other words, you make preparations as best you can on what you know but really don’t know.

None of the political powers cared about Barack Obama or his senate candidacy a couple of years ago until the unpredictable happened. We found out his opponent had some extreme appetites. No one knew that President John Stroger would be tragically struck down by illness. Anna Nicole Smith had no way of predicting that her son would die in her hospital room while she was asleep with her newborn daughter. No one knew she would pass away before the age of 40 and her baby girl would become part of a circus Anna herself could not have imagined. Who knew that a highly trained, successful and married astronaut who had dealt with the rigors of space travel would drive 900 miles, diaper deep and strapped, drinking nothing but “love potion number 9,” to talk to her so-called competition, Jerry Springer-style?

Obama had a prepared life, Stroger a prepared legacy, Smith an unprepared will. Nowak? I don’t know. I wasn’t prepared for her.

The point I want to make through all of this is that we should live our lives as best we can as often as we can. Opportunity and tragedy are two sides of the same life. Like laughing and crying, sleeping and waking, living and dying. In some ways a tragedy is just an opportunity, upside down.

We must practice our lives to deal with both. Not worry-practice. You’ve got to prepare your inside for what’s happening on the outside. That’s prayer and meditation. You’ve got to prepare your outside for what’s happening to you on the inside. Exercise bleeds off stress and, along with good nutrition, is a priceless health benefit.

Follow God. Follow your bliss (a phrase given deep meaning by the late, great Joseph Campbell). Speak and act from your heart. That way whether it be sunshine or the storms of life, when either passes over, at least you end up with what you started … the authentic you.

Uh oh! Wait a minute. Britney Spears just shaved her head! Poor child. February ain’t over yet. The shortest month of the year still has a few days left. Hold on!