As I sit here writing this column, I have to admit it is a little difficult gathering the energy — let alone collecting my thoughts — to do so. It's been a long week. On top of battling a cold (that won't seem to go away), I had to deal with some unexpected car troubles — so yeah, not the best week by any means.

Fair to say, I haven't been in the best headspace this week while dealing with said setbacks. While trying to overcome these obstacles I can't help but reflect back to a book from my childhood, "The Phantom Tollbooth." It's a book I had the chance to reread a few years ago and one that informs the title of this very column.

You see, in "The Phantom Tollbooth" the main character gets stuck in the Doldrums for an extended period of time. The inhabitants of this dull and drab locale do nothing all day (in other words, me in the middle of this week) and it's easy to get stuck there if you are not thinking. Naturally then, active thinking — like daydreaming — is the way to get yourself unstuck and out of the Doldrums.

My strategy for trying to stay out of the doldrums? Even as rough as things may have been, I tried to look at the positives — with the thinking that things, 100 percent, could have been worse. For example, those car troubles (namely, a flat tire) could have been a lot more severe. Luckily, I dealt with that issue while driving into work Tuesday on Old 81 Highway — and not while traveling on the much more congested Interstate on Monday.

In addition, that flat tire is not an issue I had to deal with on my own, as a member of the Kansas Highway Patrol (shoutout Officer Lister!) stopped to assist me — and helped me get to the meeting I had to cover only slightly late. Turns out, the flat tire might have been a blessing in disguise, too, as the shop replacing it noted another one of my tires was on its last legs — so I could've been dealing with two flat tires at once if the other hadn't gone when it did. Glass more than half full, right?

Once I got past the car troubles, that's when the sickness hit ... hard! I had already been battling cold/flu-like symptoms from a couple of weeks ago. For the most part, I thought I was over that. Sometime in between though — whether from having to change that flat tire out in the cold or just a new strain being passed on somewhere along the way — I got hit with round two, and it had me on the canvas Thursday.

While it can be easy to fall into a Hulu or Netflix wormhole in such instances (which I, admittedly, did), I also had to stay mentally active to keep myself from getting stuck too far into the doldrums. So I thought about trivia earlier in the week with friends, stewing over some near misses (like almost pulling the world in which "My Little Pony" is set out of thin air), but also grateful to have that time together. I thought about getting my energy back so I could return to the office on Friday. Then, I found myself thinking about the past.

Catholic Schools Weeks is approaching (starting on Sunday), and I'm sure that influenced my train of thought, because I started to think about my grade school days at Sacred Heart in Salina. Specifically, I was thinking about family day during Catholic Schools Week and how I was lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents join me for lunch throughout the years — while both my parents worked at the school.

Now, my grandparents are no longer with us. While I miss having them around, I think how lucky I am to now be as close to my immediate family as I am — with my parents and sister and brother-in-law all within 15 miles. That was not the case when I was working in northeast Kansas, where it was even easier to get lost in the Doldrums.

The not-so-hidden truth is that the Doldrums are not as far away as we think. The bleak winter weather certainly doesn't help with that, making it easier to focus on drab thoughts, but no matter how dreary the situation you may be dealing with never underestimate the power of positive thinking. It is a surprisingly effective method to getting you back on the right track.

— Kelly Breckunitch is a general assignment/county reporter for The Kansan. He can be reached at