Gobbles of Gratitude

Gratitude List

Gratitude is such an important part of a fulfilling life. I decided to do a “Gratitude Challenge” over on Facebook where I posted one thing per day that I was grateful for. The list includes things that are seemingly trivial and also broad sweeping. The entire list is below. I hope you all enjoy.

Gratitude Day One: My Apartment. I moved in about a year ago and love the way the space came together. It’s in my favorite neighborhood (Hyde Park) and for the most part I won the neighbor lottery.

Gratitude Day Two: My Neighborhood. I’ve been a Hyde Parker for six years and I’m in love this neighborhood. Centrally located with a rich sense of history and community, it’s eclectic and alive in all the right ways.

Gratitude Day Three: The KC Performing Arts Scene. Between the Rep, Unicorn, Lyric, Arts Asylum and countless other community theaters too numerous to name, I feel truly fortunate to be able to take in so many wonderful live performances on a regular basis. And on this one in particular, a huge shout out to my dear friend Greg Morey for being my guide through all of it.

Gratitude Day Four: My Neti Pot. I’m not kidding, especially since I’ve been battling a small head cold this weekend. The device truly is magical when it comes to clearing the sinuses. And it only feels a little like drowning.

Gratitude Day Five: My Streaming Services. Anyone that knows me knows I love television, perhaps to the point of obsession. We are living in the platinum age of television. And with so many streaming options there is no danger of ever running out of content. Truly a good first world problem to have.

Gratitude Day Six: Gorgeous Fall Days. I know some of the weather changes have been *ahem* violent, but we really have had some great 50-60 degree days where it’s perfect to spend time outside and take in the crisp air and gorgeous colors.

Gratitude Day Seven: My Cell Phone. Don’t judge. I’m just saying what we are all thinking. My phone was stolen recently, but fortunately I had insurance, and was only without for a day or two. It’s scary how much we rely on these things. I don’t deny that as a society we spend way too much time on them, but they are vital in the current climate and I love the connectivity and convenience they offer.

Gratitude Day Eight: Face Time with Friends. As great as parts of the digital age are, nothing replaces time spent with friends in person. It doesn’t matter if it’s watching a game, taking in a show, or just grabbing a drink and catching up. It almost always ends up being cathartic.

Gratitude Day Nine: My Laptop. This device is my gateway to writing, editing, posting, recording and staying organized. Although I could live without it (in theory), I couldn’t pursue my dreams without it.

Gratitude Day Ten: Our Library System. I read and listen to a lot of books, which would be impossible if had to pay for them all. The library system, and its digital app Overdrive, give me an opportunity to borrow books for free to fuel this hobby. Our library systems are a tremendous community resource that we should all be utilizing.

Gratitude Day Eleven: My Kindle. I will always love actual books, but my kindle can deliver me any book I want at any time, and I am not the world’s most patient man. It is a wonderful device for consuming books, comics and saved articles.

Gratitude Day Twelve: Chore and Errand Days. Yeah, I know how that sounds, but hear me out. There is something rewarding about knocking all the adulting shit off a to-do list in a day. It also gives me a chance to be productive AND jam out to a book, podcast or TV. And I honestly don’t mind cooking and laundry (I’m a domesticated man ladies).

Gratitude Day Thirteen: The Podcasting Community. As a sometimes writer/producer (I promise I am getting back to it) and a carnivorous consumer, this is an endless medium that can do storytelling (fiction, non-fiction and everything in-between) like no other medium.

Gratitude Day Fourteen: My City. I love being a Kansas City Native. I love our rich history, our beauty and all the kind and engaging attitudes that us Midwesterners tend to possess. The city is so eclectic and energized that there are always new and wonderful things to experience.

Gratitude Day Fifteen: Sunday Morning Coffee. Sundays are MY day. I rarely, if ever, go into them with any plans. I get everything I need done (mostly) during the rest of the week, making Sunday Mornings, with no to-dos or social obligations, one of my most tranquil weekly rituals.

Gratitude Day Sixteen: Pajamas. Laugh all you want. Pajamas were sent here by the Gods of Comfort. I almost always change into them immediately when I get home. That being said, don’t ever wear them out in public. That shit is just creepy.

Gratitude Day Seventeen: Blackout Curtains. I have east facing windows that overlook my building’s parking lot (and the security lights that go with it). These curtains are a godsend both on mornings I don’t wake up with the sun and nights when it blocks out the parking lot lights. I only regret waiting so long to get them.

Gratitude Day Eighteen: Good Food. Either when I cook it (I love to cook, I’m decent), friends cook it (a lot of my friends have serious culinary skills), or at one of the many great restaurants Kansas City has to offer. Life is meant to be experienced vibrantly and with all five senses. And taste is one of those.

Gratitude Day Nineteen: The Trail Running Community. Kansas City has some wonderful trails and a fantastic trail running community to go with it. The camaraderie in the community is always encouraging and is responsible for several great friendships I have forged over the years. And there is still nothing like a trail race day atmosphere.

Gratitude Day Twenty: Social Media. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of trolls and nastiness to go around. But that is why the gods of the internet created the scroll button. Just like any tool, when social media is used right it can be a great way to stay connected with people you don’t talk to frequently and connect with people that share your passions and interests.

Gratitude Day Twenty-One: Rekindled and New Friendships. I’m fortunate in friends always, and I’ll be getting to that, but I have also been fortunate to be able to rekindle old friendships and forge new ones in recent years. My inner circle is tight, my friend circle is bountiful, and there is always room for more.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Two: My Car. Kansas City covers a lot of ground. And although our mass transit system has come a long way, it is far from perfect. Oh yeah, and I do some driving for Uber. I’d be lost without my personal little engine that could.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Three: My Five Senses. Life is meant to be engaged by all five senses. From the smell of someone grilling in the neighborhood, to the sound of a beautiful piece of music, to the taste of a medium rare steak, to the sight of poetry in motion, to the soft touch of…oh Jesus get your mind out of the gutter. Life is meant to be experienced on all levels. My senses allow me to do that.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Four: Being a part of the Royals/Chiefs/Mizzou Kingdoms. And I am saying this at a time when my teams are all struggling. There is a camaraderie that comes with fandom that comes from pride in your team, even if it only manifests as loyalty during the down times.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Five: Words. Yep, simply words. I love the written and spoken word. I love writing words. I love reading or hearing a good phrase. I love it all. Dear God, I sound like an English Major…Oh wait.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Six: Once in a Lifetime Experiences. The examples that come immediately to mind are being at the stadium for Saberhagen’s no-hitter in 1991, the Royals Wild Card Game in 2014, being at the AFC Championship Game in 1993 and being on stage with Chuck Palahniuk (my favorite author) in 2015.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Seven: The Rich and Complex History and Present of Our Nation. I’ll be the first to admit that our current state could be described in some ways as a shitshow. However, we are a nation that stole democracy from a hierarchy, had a heavy hand in saving the world from fascism in WWII and put a man on the moon. Despite our struggles, every day I find reasons to believe there is still greatness within us.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Eight: My Friends. I saved this for Thanksgiving because it’s the one that matters most. My friends mean everything to me, which is why they are represented so often on this gratitude list. I am truly fortunate to have so many great people, from all walks of life, as part of my tribe. I am a better man for knowing each of you. Here is to you all. Gobble Gobble MFers.

Gratitude Day Twenty-Nine: My best friend Katie Beisner. It’s also her birthday today, so you should give some props if you want. This woman has been my ride or die for seventeen years. I love my inner circle, and all my friends. But Katie and I have fought wars together, and I can’t imagine navigating this thing called life without her in my corner. Happy Birthday bestie!

Gratitude Day Thirty: What’s Next. There is so much more we don’t know about our lives as they continuously unfold. And I look forward to the next steps of the journey.

Moving Backward and Forward

moving sucks

I’m sure most of you have pined after me, wondering where I went and when I was coming back. Or if I was the guy who left to get a pack of cigarettes never to return. Well, I’m back, and I’ve missed you at least twice as much as you’ve missed me. I’m back and writing to you from a new location. I moved at the end of 2018, which was an opportunity for both convolution and introspection.

There are a lot of great things to be mined from the process of moving, and I’ll be getting to those in this tale. But let me be clear about something first.

Moving. Fucking. Sucks.

You have to pack shit. And trash shit. Then haul shit. To unload and store shit. Then haul shit again. Then unpack shit. Then buy shit. This is the very definition of a shit show.

But I get ahead of myself. Before the packing shit, there was the notification that my lease was not being renewed at the apartment I’d called home for five years. I was notified by email, along with everyone else in my complex.  My landlord decided it was time for him to upgrade the entire set of buildings and double the rent. I don’t blame him, even if I do think “double” is a little ambitious.

The only thing worse than moving is moving when it isn’t your choice. I loved my apartment, and all its quirks. I loved my neighbors, and all of their quirks. I loved cheap rent that hadn’t increased in five years.

I wanted to be proactive, so I set to the packing of shit early on. I started with the back of the closets, where the stuff I forgot I had and never used took up residence. I was merciless in my rulings of what got to go with me, and what was sentenced to the curb.

My gavel and I loomed over the rest of my possessions as the packing of shit continued. Most of the furniture I owned was well past its expiration date. It was also very heavy, and not worthy of reaching the hauling shit phase. The lumpy 25-year-old bed, kicked to hell dining table, and built in the stone age dresser went to death row.

Then there was the couch. A couch that had been rode hard and put away wet every day for 20 years. A couch so tattered and torn that it had to be smothered in slip covers and blankets to prevent anyone using it from being scratched to the point of needing stitches. A couch that had been referred to as “Iron Maiden,” “Demon Couch,” and “Venus Fly Trap” by those unfortunate souls subjected to it.

I hauled that fucker out to the curb myself the day I moved and had to resist the urge to light it on fire.

Speaking of flames, a few things added fuel to this particular fire at this point. Through a set of circumstances way too complicated and interlaced to try to get into, it turned out that I was going to be without a home for a month. My old lease ended in October. The new one didn’t start until December. This technically rendered me homeless.

But I’m me and I have kick ass friends. I actually house sat for one friend for a week and stayed a few extra days before couch surfing to the Tyndall house to await moving day. I had a great time at both places and love all these friends dearly for taking me in. I truly am fortunate for the people I have in my life. Plus, I got a lot of doggie snuggles. And who doesn’t like doggie snuggles.

That being said, being in the space between homes leaves you feeling discombobulated. All your routines are jumbled, and you have a constant feeling of being slightly off-balance.

That was never more apparent to me than in my writing. I wrote virtually nothing while I was packing. The working, packing, and feeling of exhaustion that went with those took up most of my time. When I was staying with friends, I did write, but it was all garbage (part of it could be I was giving one of my novel ideas, Sins of a Smaller God another go, and although the premise has legs, the path to get there is elusive). Always one to look for silver linings, I embraced spending time with friends and taking stock of routines and the things I wanted to change, tweak and add in my new place. I also learned a few new tricks as a result of observing my friends in their natural habitat.

Moving day finally came and I managed to get all my shit (what I had left) hauled up into my new place (except for the newly acquired bed, I didn’t get that until the next day) and quickly set to unpacking my new space and making it feel like a home. A home vacant of furniture, cavernous and dead inside. But still mine.

I started with the essentials, getting the internet up and running so that I could watch TV. Priorities.

And that’s when the power went out. In the building. On the block. Through the neighborhood. Navigating the halls of a building you don’t know in the dark to drive through a neighborhood with no streetlights. There’s a horror story there that I need to write. Because it was fucking creepy.

Since I had thrown out most of my shit, unpacking didn’t take too long. And unpacking what I had planted the seeds of feeling settled. It also gave me an opportunity to honestly assess what I needed to turn my apartment into a home, which became an interesting exercise.

Did you know you really can find anything on Amazon? Anything. My fully furnished apartment (complete with couch, dining table and wall mounted flat screen) is proof of that.

I threw out my battered and broken stuff knowing it would force a fresh solution for a new home, and it is very evident that I made the exact right call.

And it was cathartic to see this apartment become a home as these things came in, got assembled, and put in their place. I started to feel more and more settled in with each passing day.

Of course the last piece to arrive was the couch. Because of course it was. It had a very broad expected delivery date. It actually arrived on Christmas Eve.

Before you go thinking that this is some Hallmark movie shit, you should understand a couple of things. First, I fucking hate Christmas with a fury rivaling God’s own thunder. This was not a Christmas miracle, this was shipping logistics. Second, I had a friend coming in town that night, and I barely got this fucking thing put together before he arrived.

That being said, it is glorious and wonderful and I am writing this from the comfort of the increasingly broke in chaise of the sectional. I have a feeling that this chaise is gonna see a lot of reading and writing time moving forward.

This apartment is the perfect blend of cozy and spacious. It feels good to be home. And it feels good to be back.

Soul Cleansing

i-have-cleaning-meme

Wow, I’ve been gone for damn near a whole month, and I’m sure your lives have felt empty without me. But I’m back, and I have good(ish) reasons for being gone this long I swear. And I promise never to abandon you like this ever again.

I would love to tell you that August was about landing a dream publishing contract. I would love to tell you that August was about a series of misadventures (okay, there were a few) that make really wild and dramatic stories (not so much). Basically the catalyst for my absence was that my car had a minor issue and my laptop gave its long overdue death rattle at the beginning of the month. So, for the first few days of August I was without both.

It’s amazing what you start to accomplish when two of the things you use most are not available to you.

As a result, I finally got around to my annual deep cleaning of the apartment. I do it once a year. I clean and organize every drawer, cupboard and closet. I dust, sweep, mop and scrub every crevice. I wash all the sheets, towels, slip covers, etc.

I always save the kitchen for last. I could make up some bullshit about food being the energy of life. But in truth the kitchen is a gigantic pain in the ass, so I put it off. But I always feel better when it’s done. Until a week later when I managed to put the underused spices I just happen to need for once in the back of the cupboard and have to dig, and dig, and dig to find them and fuck up the organization.

It’s a two-day process and CrossFit has nothing on all that movement. I’m not too proud to admit my old ass was sore at the end. But it’s the good kind of pain.

It feels daunting at first, but once I get going it’s always cathartic. There’s something soothing about cleaning. It brings clarity and helps me organize my thoughts. It’s also a good time to take stock and realize all the things I truly have to be thankful for.

Don’t worry, I’m not gonna bore you with a full list here, no one wants to read that shit.

The central theme is that I really like my life right now. Although it’s far from perfect, every day it gets molded more and more into what I want it to be. Not enough people can say that about theirs. I have fought hard to create this, and focus on what I want, and my own expectations of myself rather than the expectations of others.

That was a hard-fought battle. That I put my soul into winning. There is a feeling of fulfillment that even as a wordsmith, I lack the words to describe.

The next day my new laptop arrived. It was inexpensive and is pretty basic, but it works, which is a step above the old one. And I don’t care how old you are, new toys are fun. It was also a great opportunity to organize my files, particularly my writing folder. I spent hours getting everything back into its place and set up just how I wanted it.

I also learned a very valuable lesson. Always check your fucking cloud files to make sure everything has been backed up recently. I thought I had it set to automatic. Nope. Not so much. Seriously, if you only take one thing away from this random post about cleaning shit, take that.

Always check your fucking cloud files.

Fortunately, I had updated in mid-June when I started to realize my laptop was on death’s door, so most of my shit was fine. But my podcast scripts all came back in a previous format, which was okay since the first four episodes had already been recorded and uploaded. And the audio files all came back corrupted, which means that all the work on the background audio I had done and just copied and pasted for future episodes had to be rebuilt from scratch.

And that sucked balls, because that side of podcasting is not my strong suit.

But it was an opportunity to do it better the second time around since I had learned a thing or two in the months since I built it the first time. And although I’m biased, I think the audio quality of the two most recent episodes is higher as a result.

And I never would have even thought to redo it if I hadn’t been forced.

I also took the opportunity to look at a few other writing projects from a fresh perspective, most notably the novel that I’ve had in development hell for the better part of the year.

Part of it was exploring other writing opportunities to get me out of there, and putting my shoulder into getting the podcast off the ground. But most of it is because the first finished draft of the novel is crap, and no amount of editing can seem to fix it.

At the beginning of the year, I was two-thirds through the rough draft and although I knew it had plenty of holes, decided to go ahead and finish it. And I did. And Jesus fuck is it awful. That thing will never, ever see the light of day.

But the bones are good. And so is the concept. I am not willing to give up the ghost. I had been reluctant to shred it, 100K words is a lot to trash. But when I started reorganizing my files, cleaning my house, and taking all the stock that goes with that, I realized that I would rather take another go at doing it right from the ground up, rather than put what I had out into the world.

So I’ve been going back to basics, filling out character profiles for the major and minor characters I want to put in the work (basically any character that isn’t completely and intentionally flat. I’m not doing this for “beat cop 2” or any crazy shit like that). I’m writing out descriptions of all the settings as well.

Also, I realized I need to do some research other than a few quick articles on the internet. So I’ll be doing more religious reading in the next month than I have ever done in my life. I don’t plan on finding Jesus, but I’ll have a pretty decent line on where he hangs out.

In short, I’m fully embodying Hemingway’s “Iceberg Theory” of writing. And I’m having a ton of fun doing it.

Oh, it turns out that Cards Against Humanity is looking for some freelance writers to work “as needed” or “sometimes.” I don’t have a shot in hell of getting it, but man that application was fun as fuck to write. I may post it at a later date.

So it’s been a busy month of getting organized and getting some shit done that I had been ignoring in pursuit of the more fun and exciting things on my to do list.

And you know what, it turns out all that shit was more fun than I thought.

The Art of Tunneling

Writing Journey

Last week I listened to a podcast called Tunnels, and the creator said something in an author’s note he tacked on to the beginning that resonated with me. He pretty much announced that the first season wasn’t very good (the podcast is on season three) because he was a first time podcaster and was essentially learning on the job. He flat out said that he had no idea what he was doing. And he was right, season two was much better than season one. But more importantly, you could see the creator’s passion for creative content throughout.

This is not a review of Tunnels, what I want to talk about is this concept that it is okay to suck at something while you are learning to do it. It is okay to suck at something while putting yourself out there and learning at the same time. That it is okay to suck at something and bring people along on your journey as you learn. Because I am late to this party, and this concept is a wonderful game changer for me.

This runs completely counter to my life experiences so far. I was raised in a house where accomplishment, achievement and intellect were expectations. It was about the trophies, and winning as though the skills were supposed to be downloaded instantaneously like Neo from the Matrix when he learned Kung Fu. No attention or space was given to the idea of growth, and the idea of sucking at something while you learned, or worse, failing at something, was not tolerated. Period.

As if that wasn’t enough, I went into politics and then nonprofit fundraising. These are two industries where the stakes are high, the learning curve is steep and unforgiving, and consequences for failure are significantly higher than other industries.

I’ve let the fear of criticism be a primary motivator in my life for far too long. And it has prevented me from doing the things that I actually want to do.

In short, the idea that is okay to suck at something while you are learning how to do it is foreign to me. This discovery is like a brand new tool I am just learning how to use. I can already tell I am going to like it. This concept plays well with my constant sense of wonder and imagination, the two things that most fuel my creative drive.

This concept, which puts attention on the journey and the growth, is going to be key in terms of pushing myself to put my work out there. I’ve been so worried about creating superior quality,  that I forgot that creative writing degree and talents as a wordsmith in and of themselves are not enough. It is a good start, maybe even a running start. But it is a running start on a long journey, and knowing that it doesn’t have to be perfect is definitely going to help with creative paralysis, in fact it already is.

The ghosts of our past don’t have to define or present and don’t get to define our future.

I Am Peter Pan, Come With Me If You Want To Live

why-is-peter-pan-always-flying

Why yes, yes I do have a Peter Pan complex. And I regret nothing. It comes with a never ending sense of wonder, excitement and imagination. You can’t teach those. You can’t learn those. But just like anything else, if you don’t use them, you can lose them. And I can’t imagine how bland life would be without them.

It’s been awhile from my last post until this one, but it has nothing to do with not being creative or pursuing my passions. It has a lot to do with trying to organize all the projects that started to flood my mind as I made the conscious choice to make my creativity a priority, rather than something that I would swipe at on the few occasions I was left with any energy after spending it all on what I believed I “should” or “needed to” be doing.

It’s also been a little bit about fear (okay, maybe more than a little). It can be a little scary to start putting yourself out there, even on a blog that you “soft open” to ten or so friends while talking about promoting it and secretly hoping no one reads it, while also hoping everyone loves it.

I’ve come to realize that is not how creativity works. You have to go, you have to take that leap. So it is time for me to continue down the path that I started down with this, and to leave the learning for along the way. And also to actually promote this blog so hello, to anyone who is just now joining.

The creative process is not linear, and that has been a huge lesson to to learn.

I got mostly done with the first draft of a novel, Sins of a Smaller God, and then realized I had NO female character, at least not one that was strong enough, and some of the progression was disjointed in terms of pace. However, in writing it, I also created a new layer of flashback that I didn’t have in the outline that adds significant and much needed depth to a work that I want to see eventually become published.

It may be back to the drawing board in terms of the draft, but the lessons learned are infinitely more valuable than time spent putting the words on the page, and I look forward to continuing this project while learning and growing even more in my craft. Plus, I suspect the writing happens faster when you start getting a sense of where you are going.

Within the next month, unless there are any unforeseen snags, a friend of mine and I will be launching a podcast called Spirits on the Plains. I will be dedicating a specific post to it when we are ready to go live. Although I listen to podcasts, I don’t actually know a fucking thing about creating one. So I set out to learn. I’ve found people that know more than me and solicited their advice, read countless articles, and found a co-producer to counter my weaknesses with his strengths. It’s been a rewarding and challenging experience, and I look forward to getting it on the digital “airwaves” despite being nervous and hating the sound of my own voice.

I also have plans for this site. I wanted to keep it basic at first as a head nod, a dipping of the toe at putting myself out there. But soon I will be trying to expand it with a serialized story idea I have outlined, guests posts from fellow creatives and a few other ideas that at the moment are nothing more than a few scribbled notes on a page.

Those that know me, know that I can’t stand children. However, I do like looking at the world with the eyes of a child.

It Only Ends Once

Rumi Quote

Author’s Note: I do not like the term “God” as I don’t involve myself with organized religion. When I read this I use either Universe or Spirit.

“It only ends once. Everything else that happens is just progress.” That’s my favorite line from the show LOST and I love the sentiment behind it. And I have found myself thinking about it a lot as I close out 2017 and look forward to 2018. As much as anyone I am ready for 2017 to go fuck right off.

Without a doubt this has been tumultuous year. I lost my job after being there less than a year. This just after my second trip to the ER in that time span to treat symptoms stemming from anxiety attacks. A condition I had successfully navigated for over 20 years prior. This has also been compounded by fighting within my family, with many longstanding issues finally starting to come to a head.

Looking back at 2017 with hate and disdain accomplishes nothing, and when I stopped looking at it that way for a moment, I realized the value of what I learned through the turmoil.

I learned that I had spent far too long trying to be someone I am not. Too long being someone others told me that I should be. That I had convinced myself I should be.  I learned that in order to unburden myself of anxiety that was becoming crippling I needed to heed the advice of Polonius: “To thine own self be true.”

This is not as easy as it sounds. First you have to know yourself. I never really took the time to do that the way others had. I’ve had glimmers of it, but in order to start seeing the fuller picture, I needed to divert the energy that I was spending trying to be someone I wasn’t, and instead spend it on discovering and becoming the man I want to be. Self-discovery is a never ending journey, but it can only happen when you are on the right path.

I also learned in turn that this will be met with resistance by others. The more you disrupt the status quo of some people, the more push back you are going to receive. And that sometimes when you are being true to yourself, you have to make the hard choice to let people you care about go if they are toxic.

I was reminded about the incredible power of friendship. In fact, I have an entire post dedicated to it called Will They Help You Bury a Body. My friends are truly amazing. Encouraging me as I explore my creative side and start to carve out a path for how to best turn my passion into a profession.

These lessons are helping me come into 2018 with a clear vision of what I want to achieve. I gave up on setting broad sweeping resolutions years ago. It almost never works out. But this year I have some clearly defined goals complete with benchmarks and steps written out to get them done to help keep me mindful of the process. These goals include publishing my first novel, launching a successful podcast and expanding this site among other creative ideas. I also have goals financially, as well as for health and wellness.

So as much as I am glad to put 2017 in the rear view mirror and watch it get throat punched by a bear, I am grateful for the lessons it taught me.

Looking onward, upward and forward to 2018.

Training Sprains

Running Injury

In Chasing Another Ultra I talked about being  on the path to another 50K. Immediately after that post I started off strong. I wasn’t getting great times on my runs, and I didn’t expect to. But I was getting good time on feet, and good consistency, which are far more important. That lasted about two weeks.

Everyone complains about Kansas City roads, but Kansas City sidewalks are just as bad. I was humming along engrossed in an audiobook. I failed to notice that up ahead the sidewalk was not in its natural state of flat, but had become an obstacle course meant to ensnare my unsuspecting toe.

My toe screamed into the sidewalk with great fury and was promptly punished for the indiscretion. I was reminded of the cost of not paying attention as I limped home for the next 2.5 miles. And for 2.5 weeks after that.

I’ve had numerous injuries throughout my life as a result of sports (mainly running) and toe injuries are among the worst. I’ve actually dislocated both of my big toes before, making them susceptible to re-injury. They are painful as fuck, and take forever to heal when it is impossible to completely stay off your feet.

I try to use everything as an opportunity to learn and grow, and injuries are no exception. I am a fairly high energy person, and running is a soothing activity to me. So as I sat with my foot in an ice bath I tried to figure out what the lesson was, other than “pay attention and be less clumsy.” Which anyone that knows me would tell you is not likely to ever be learned.

Then I remembered a passage while reading Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman:

“Look, what happens if you have a sore ankle one day?”

“I work some other area.”

“It’s the same with your three centers. If one area isn’t going well, it’s still an opportunity to train the others. On some of your weakest physical days you can learn the most about your mind.”

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I turned my injury into a transformative experience. But it did give me the opportunity to focus on a few areas of training that I tend to ignore: breathing, stretching and core work. And since I wanted to keep making forward progress, I decided these would be the areas I would focus on.

And the results showed when I finally got back to running. My breathing felt more natural, and my muscles weren’t as sore and stiff when I got back to the actual practice of running. I haven’t gotten faster yet, but I feel more like a whole runner than I had before I got injured.

I am grateful for the lesson about shifting focus when one area is weaker, in an effort to become stronger as a whole and plan on applying it to all areas of my life.

I just hope that next time I need the reminder, it comes more gently than a sprained toe.