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  • 13 weeks since I've set foot inside this place.
    My achilles tendon betrayed me a full fiscal quarter ago, and I finally was cleared off the crutches the week before last.
    I went insane in the meantime.
    The catharsis of full-bore, exhausting exercise, pinning my heart rate and getting the endorphine rush? Gone. The other aspect of that, being able to work out agression by pounding a heavy bag with my fists? Also gone.
    What I was allowed to do was elevate my foot, massage my ravaged tendon, stare at my backyard. Watch buses go by.
    I lost it.
    I got out of Dodge and spent a week in Glacier National Park, where I decided to end a long-term relationship, then did just that.
    I entangled myself with someone who been in the periphery of that relationship for years, only to be crushed.

    I moved out of my home, set up a new one, rekindled a long-dormant buddhist practice as the fibers in my ankle slowly reconnected themselves.
    Started writing here, half in an attempt to practice the art, half to help myself figure out what the fuck was going on.

    Stepping back in that ring today was daunting. There was no sparring, of course, I mean look at the photo, at the boot on my right foot.
    Shadow boxing, then speed bag, a couple rounds on the heavy bag, then mitt work, pad work.
    Jab. Double Jab. 1-2-duck-hook. Again, again, again, until shoulders burned and legs wobbled.
    Three minutes on. One minute rest. Go again.
    Trying to learn how to balance, how to move with an immobilized ankle and a 2-inch difference at the soles of both feet. A fantastic but unsentimental coach who was not interested in anything but me doing the next sequence.
    Jab. Uppercut to the body. Hook to the head.
    Don't throw the hook so far out. Keep it compact. Don't over-rotate. Jab, step, duck, hook.

    Focus on what you're doing, don't bring the rest of it with you. Be present. Be aware of where you are, where your body is, where your mind is, where your vulnerabilities lie.
    Lashing out in anger will backfire; be calm, be serene. Be relaxed.

    A punch snapped from a relaxed stance hits with more force than one thrown from a tensed muscle.

    My favorite story about boxing, my favorite lesson I've learned, goes like this:
    One day, as happens, everything was going wrong.
    This was early after I'd decided, in my mid-30s, to play at being a boxer.
    I was a little sleep deprived, there was a job at work going down the toilet, I was in a dark, dark mood.
    Excellent, thinks I, I'm gonna go to the gym and kick ass.
    Step into the ring to spar with my coach, and somewhere in the second round, after flailing unsuccessfully for four or so minutes, I get just lit up.
    Hook to the short rib, I drop my guard. Hook to the head. Straight right from the other side, to my nose, then a shot in the gut that pushes my breath out with a noise more suited to a zoo than a gym.
    And tears came.
    Weakness, impotence, pain, sadness, an overwhelming feeling that I couldn't do a single fucking thing right and how was I ever going to get out of this hole and why the fuck did I allow myself to get this way?
    All of this finely focused into a bloody nose.
    I excused myself with hitching breath and took a moment outside and just cried for a minute.
    With hindsight it turned into another one of those lessons, the same thing, as it turns out, that the buddhist practice tells you:

    Focus on what you're doing, don't bring the rest of it with you. Be present. Be aware of where you are, where your body is, where your mind is, where your vulnerabilities lie.
    Lashing out in anger will backfire; be calm, be serene. Be relaxed.

    I feel like I have left all these clues throughout my life as to what makes me happy.
    Today, I got one of those things back.
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