About 10 years ago I woke up one morning, got my coffee (as usual) and started wandering the house, looking for my wife. She was pregnant with our daughter at the time. I found her standing at the open door to the garage, staring at my nifty 57 Chevy pickup… shaking her head. I asked her what was wrong and in a very matter of fact way she said “We’re gonna need to get rid of that thing”, gesturing disgustedly at the truck. And as big a blow to my manhood as that was, she was right and I knew it. Room for 2 1/2, lap belts only, no airbags, etc. Not exactly your family mover. We sold it shortly thereafter. And I have been slowly bleeding car specific tools ever since as well.
I have this horrible habit of choosing hobbies (and fitness pursuits) that work that way. Here’s another example:
I have a woodshop. No. Not just a few tools. Damn near everything one would need to be a true craftsman. It has taken over 15 years to collect my tools, but I estimate I have about $30,000 worth of them in my little shop. They have, in some cases, served me well. I built my entire kitchen cabinets down there. I did an OK job for never having built cabinets before. In fact, many things in this house are from that shop. About a year ago I decided to go down to my shop (read: black hole into which dad pours money) and turn a finial on my lathe. With all the flatwork I have been doing (flatwork is cabinets, boxes, furniture, etc.) I realized that I hadn’t turned anything in over a year. The finial should have taken about 45 minutes to turn. But 4 hours later, after I had disassembled the lathe to fix a rusted shaft and then sharpened all of my tools so they would actually cut wood… I was done. I walked away from the lathe and never turned another piece. Why? I just don’t have the time to devote to it that you need to be good at it. I sold it in December and the thing that got me thinking about all of this was that, ironically enough, the guy that bought it ran into the same problem with it binding up and called me for help. As I was looking for the gear puller I used so I could give it to him (he will need it more than me) I found, buried deep in a tool chest, my steering wheel puller from the old truck.
This all kind of sent me into a spiral. I thought a lot about that old truck, tools, my shop, my choices and a lot of other things. I became very frustrated with myself. Very disappointed. My shop has been relegated to history. Cobwebs cover a lot of it. I can go months without ever going down there. It used to be my sanctuary. I loved being in it, turning stuff on the lathe, creating, planning… dreaming. But now it’s just a neglected tool storage shed. Another waste of money. The only reason all of my tools aren’t for sale now is simply because I have a few projects on the drawing board that may need them.
Granted, I derived great pleasure from creating things in that shop, for years. But now I feel like spending days on end down there working on something is taking time away from my family and other things that I think are more important. My priorities have changed.
See… I think that anybody can stick boards together and call it a shelf. But it takes a long time to build something the right way. Finishing a piece alone can take many weeks. Painful little details that I only barely have patience for can make or break a project. And, indeed, that is where most of the tools come in to play. I have some tools I have only used once but have owned for 10 years. They make a certain kind of cut or joint that can’t be done any other way. I may never need them again… but if I do…
But the bottom line is I have too many hobbies and too much stuff. I need to simplify.
I did this once before. In 2004 I was playing roller hockey 2 nights a week, mountain biking 3 days a week, playing softball 2 nights a week, running 3 days a week… oh. And I had a wife, kid and job… and we played in the SCA on the weekends. I’ve always been one to try or play any sport or hobby. And once I get hooked, I’m all in. So you can imagine all the gear (and smell… hockey stuff and SCA fighting gear STINKS). I had one pair of jeans but 3 pairs of baseball pants. Backwards? Probably…
I was out of control. Maybe I was desperate to stay in shape. Maybe I wanted friends… I don’t know. But between the fees, gear, gas and beer, I was never home and always broke. I stopped playing hockey and softball and changed mountain biking courses so I could do it on the way home from work. Eventually I even stopped mountain biking and just ran. And then I stopped doing that too.
When we got here (CoMo) I decided to get back in shape and started with a clean slate. I had my shop, yes, but no other hobbies. We did not join back up with the SCA here so you would think my problems were solved. But as I got hooked again on the running bug, my new friends were going farther and trying different types of races (offroad, etc.) and I wanted to keep up. I started this whole triathlon thing and it comes with its own mileage goals and the junkies who push them. I ran a marathon. Several half marathons. A sprint triathlon, then an olympic. Some offroad events. Long bike rides. More gear (same jeans), more rides, swims, runs.
Until I finally realized, down in my shop, holding a gear puller for a truck I sold over 10 years ago… That it was happening all over again. Over the past 3 years I had been steadily increasing the mileages and races and stuff… to the point that I was completely overwhelmed with training. I was burned out. THAT is why I almost walked away from endurance sports after Redman. That was why I had bailed on marathons, ultras, tri’s and the like. I had so many conflicting goals that there was no way to train for them… ANY of them. You can’t train for a marathon AND triathlons (some people do, but not me). You can’t train for a road marathon by running offroad or vice versa. You can’t train for a 5K goal time while training for an ultra.
The key word there is “train”. You can DO any or all of the above. IF you are in good shape to start with AND you are genetically predisposed to endurance sports. The rest of us slobs… not so much. And the kicker is that the endurance crowd here in CoMo, lovable and supportive as they are, seem to be mostly made up of the genetically predisposed. Trying to follow them around can be dangerous. And frustrating. Such was the condition I found myself in round about December. The more I ran… the harder I pushed… the worse I got.
Why? Well, to go round and round again… Let’s go back to woodworking. I have a shop. That doesn’t make me a craftsman. I know how to use tools, that doesn’t make me an artist. It makes me a tool collector. To be good, first you need the basics. An understanding of the craft. Then you need time to practice. Time to build lots of really bad pieces (AKA firewood) so that you can master the craft.
It’s the same way with fitness, triathlons, running, etc. First you need a base. You need to be in good shape (I am not). I know how to run/bike/swim. But that doesn’t make me a triathlete. I can run a trail, but that doesn’t make me a trail runner. I need to focus on the basics. Get fit. Build back up to a comfortable level and STAY THERE. My limits are clearly defined. Some, like distance, I know I can’t push. Some, like speed, are based on fitness. The more fit I am, the faster I go. But ALL of them require time to FOCUS. And I find that the only way I can be better at ANY of them is to not try to do a million different things.
So sitting down there in my shop with a steering wheel puller in my hand… I chose triathlons. Sprint and olympic distance. And NOT because it’s a sneaky way of overwhelming myself with 3 sports while calling it one. I need fitness. I also need to take care of my body while I am getting in shape. Believe it or not, triathlons (for me) do just that. There is no way I can pound myself with running 5 days a week because I have to train for the other two sports. And they are much low(er) impact. They also work different muscle groups. AND none of it takes that much time. An hour and a half is my LONG day. I used to push FIVE hours on my long day (and would spend the rest of that day resting). Didn’t leave much time for yard work, eh?
What it really means more time for my family, more peace of mind for me, and, perhaps, a tiny bit more time in my shop? …I never give up… do I…
GAWD that was rambling. My apologies. I just really needed to get that out of my head.
Today’s quote from Alice in Wonderland is to remind me to take the simple plan and stick to it:
“If you don’t know where you are going it really doesn’t matter which path you take.”