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  • Writer's pictureEric Knabel

Thoughts From Six Feet Away: Pride in the Darkness

Before I get started, a few thoughts from the past week:


Marketing is a funny thing. I recently bought an item that listed for 79.99. The tag suggested I should sweep this item up, and soon – it WAS $80.

If you want to get a fascinating insight into human nature, spend some time at an airport.

Related to that, I was on a flight this week where the plane was on the runway, waiting to take off, for three hours. While everyone around me was wringing their hands, I was intermittently napping and watching my iPad. I’m on vacation, and no one is going to harsh my vibe.


Okay, that’s enough of that. I’m taking some desperately needed time off, and I write this while taking in the view of palm trees by the pool, and it’s relaxing. Easy to be relaxed, right? Well, I’ve had this view before, and the view alone doesn’t create it. As I thought about my current situation, I realized that my days are my own because my wife is at a writing conference. And I’m at peace because of an elusive mistress – pride.

Everyone will be talking about pride this month, and I certainly don’t begrudge them their time to celebrate their uniqueness. But my pride comes not from something I’ve done, or something I am, but from watching someone I care about start to realize how powerful they’re becoming, and how far it could take them if they continue to believe in themselves.

It wasn’t always that way. When I began my career in a small town in northern Indiana, I achieved status from my position as a doctor. People wanted to be seen with me, people valued my opinion. It was an odd thing. Unfortunately for those closest to me, my position and my achievements tended to relegate them to the background. I remember my wife saying to me once, “Dr. Knabel casts a big shadow in this town.” And while I was thrilled for me personally, it came at a price. As recently as a couple of days ago, my son mentioned to me that he is mainly known as “Dr. Knabel’s son.” My response is a good introduction to what I’m thinking today:

“I’d love nothing more than to be known as Xavier Knabel’s dad.”

My wife has always wanted to be a writer, for as long as I’ve known her. She put her hopes and dreams on hold to support me, as I pursued my dream. There were many moments that I was more than willing to return the favor, but opportunities never presented themselves. When we moved to Bloomington and got settled, she told me that she wanted to take some writing classes at the university, and I wholeheartedly agreed. She met others who shared her dream, and she partnered up with one of these individuals and started a podcast. This led to independently publishing short story anthologies through Amazon, fulfilling the dreams of other writers who submitted stories. Her work got out there, and now she has started her own independent press and is in the process of publishing six more anthologies. She has been published in other peoples’ work, and people are starting to contact her for other opportunities. It has been a joy watching her journey unfold. Now, she’s here in San Diego for StokerCon, the main event for horror writers. Horror may not be your cup of tea, but don’t let it fool you; my wife has met some of the most wonderful people. She is being recognized by others at this convention for her work, and it’s surreal to watch.

Something else has happened as well – I’m starting to become the accessory. When people ask what I do, they express their usual interest, but when I tell them that my wife is a horror writer and publisher, I’m suddenly not nearly as interesting. What’s even more interesting is that I have more enthusiasm for her work than I do for my own, which is quite a statement if you’ve ever heard me talk about what I do. Now she’s the one casting the shadow, which is the perfect fodder for a horror writer, if you think about it. And, what kind of husband would I be if I didn't include a shameless plug? For those interested in her work, her website can be found here.

It caused me to take a step back and realize what a good lesson for life this is. In my profession, there’s a certain amount of professional envy that occurs. There’s always someone with the bigger house, the nicer car, the more exotic vacations, the better toys. We cry and moan about what we don’t have. I have colleagues who speak only in these terms, and it makes them miserable. I’ll admit to finding myself in dark places as well, the green-eyed monster rearing its ugly head. And the more I focused on it, the more success eluded me. I finally learned that my focus was wrong, and I decided to emphasize on my patients and my work. I started to take pride in my patients’ accomplishments, and the empty place in my heart began to fill. My work started to be noticed, and with it came the recognition and reward that had proven so mysterious.

Which brings me back to my wife. Watching her step out there and be willing to figure it out while “playing the game” has been inspiring. If I was invested in her success before, I’m all in now. Fortunately, I can make pursuing the dream a little less uncomfortable. When you live to watch others win, it frees you. You’re less likely to fill conversational voids with stories of how much of a big shot you are, hoping to convince yourself as well as your audience.

How many of us retreat into that place of pettiness, where we criticize the success of others to make us feel better about our own shortcomings? We may imply that their successes are ill-begotten; after all, if there weren’t shenanigans going on, we’d be successful ourselves, right? And maybe that speaks to our own inner demons, the gnawing concern that maybe we aren’t the best version of ourselves, and the success of others casts us into an unfortunate light. We feel like a fraud, and the shining stars reveal our failures to the world. But I think there’s a way to reframe that – maybe, reveling in another’s glory gives us the ability to give ourselves permission to succeed. If they win, maybe we all can win. And this world could certainly use more winners.

My heart is full, and I get another two weeks of down time in addition. It will be a glorious time of counting blessings and spending long-overdue time with those that matter most. Be excellent to each other, and…

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1 Comment

Jun 02

I’m grateful for the wins you’ve helped me celebrate and the ways that you look out for me. I’ve always seen you as caring and compassionate and genuinely wanting to help. You’re a great person, not only for your accomplishments, but for your humanity and love for others. Enjoy your time off! You deserve it!!

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