When my behavior was bad enough to warrant a swat on the butt, my family performed an odd ritual.
Dad and I would go for a walk in search of a spanking stick.
I would pick up sticks along our path and present them to my father for inspection.
He would examine them, turn them over in his hands, measure their worthiness.
I imagined the impact as he practiced the whipping motion, swishing it though the air.
Dad would discard the defective sticks and eventually we would agree on the tool that would deliver justice.
As we walked we talked about my behavior, why it was wrong, and why I was being disciplined.
Then we got home and I received my punishment.
Afterward I would dry my tears, feel forgiven, and the spanking stick would be discarded never to be used again.
Today as an adult I punish my body by running.
I follow another odd ritual before particularly demanding workouts.
I take a few minutes to pick up stones.
I examine them, turn them over in my hand, measure their worthiness.
I discard the worst stones and save the winners, one stone for each sprint I intend to run.
After each interval I discard one of the stones.
When my pocket runs out of rocks, the hardest part of my run is complete.
Afterward I dry my sweat, feel renewed, and think about the lost stones I scattered across the miles.
The wrong way to live life is to collect the sticks and stones, to mount the artifacts of abuse, to preserve our suffering in glass jars. It is tempting to build collections, a personal museum filled with excuses. Sticks and stones end up being things to avoid, bad things that prevented us from succeeding.
The alternative is to carefully select the punishment we voluntarily endure. We can seek it out, turn it over in our mind, measure it for worthiness. Select the sticks and stones that strengthen your stride, help you find forgiveness, transform you into who you want to become.
And when the punishment is over, release them. No excuses, only discarded tools marking the path to a stronger version of yourself.
Thanks for reading. I write every Saturday, tossing another stone into the wilderness. Stay creative.
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