Goalposts

Two years ago I was in a road-cycling crash, which left me the proud possessor of an itty-bit of metal in place of a piece of my elbow bone. It also left me extremely wary of getting back on the bike, even though I could have broken far worse things than an elbow. Like, this summer is the first time I’ve started riding farther than the supermarket. To confess all.

So when I recently puffed my way through my local park on what I optimistically called a “cross-training walk,” I almost hid behind a bush when my Very Fit Friend (who has run marathons, including the Big One at Boston) entered the path just ahead of me. But she saw me, and suggested we walk together.

Turned out that my friend, although she could still walk me into the dust if she wasn’t feeling kind, was also coming back from an injury.

I told her I didn’t know what I was thinking when I kept going on longer and longer group rides with a crowd whose attachment to bike gadgetry made me increasingly uneasy – all that watching the RPMs and rearview mirrors and heart monitors instead of the road was bound to end in grief for somebody. She told me she couldn’t believe, in retrospect, how hard she pushed herself through one of the worst winters in recent memory, dodging traffic, skidding on ice patches. While neither of us regrets our fitness goals and accomplishments, we’re both re-evaluating what we were doing, and what we want to do next.

This made me thoughtful about those times in life when the forward momentum burns fiercely enough that the risk is not in falling behind, but losing track. For instance: genealogy (of course there is a tie-in).

My hard-charging cycling summer reminds me a bit of how it feels right after I’ve made a breakthrough – like the time I finally confirmed the identity of the family to which my Connors great-grandmother belonged. Oh, that was a time! What a huge family, how many offshoots and collaterals and half-thises and step-thats! I got a bit drunk with power and adrenaline, shoveling names onto the family tree program.

But at length I did slow down, as I always do, and asked myself: What next?

I mean, I could keep adding names. But how much did I actually care about the third great-grandparents of the spouse of a first cousin twice removed? What is the value added?

A long time ago I decided that I was more interested in stories than lists. Which means that every so often I stop collecting the names and start researching the facts behind them. Which means that at genealogy conferences, sooner or later I end up being made fun of by somebody whose database entries number in the thousands rather than my paltry hundreds. (And here I was thinking my paltry hundreds are overkill.)

This is not to say that either of us is wrong[1]. But yes, it’s about the goals, and pulling yourself up by the side of the road every so often, and checking the map, and asking yourself: What I am I doing here?

Is it really where I want to be?

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[1] It is merely to say that I am right.

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One Comment on “Goalposts”

  1. Pancho says:

    This is such a good reminder of the need to step back and look at the big picture from time to time. As the old ad goes, “Thanks. I needed that.”


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