cycling · family · Rowing · running

Rough times, tough choices

Those who know me outside  of the blog will likely already know that this hasn’t been a very easy year. That’s the “rough times” of this post’s title. My family is helping to care for my mother in law who moved to our city this fall after a diagnosis of ALS. It’s wonderful to have her close by and we’re enjoying a lot of family time together. The disease is sad, a tragedy, but time with her is treasured.  It’s terrific that she’s here and we can see her often. When I look at the year ahead though, family responsibilities loom large.

I’ve turned down a lot of research travel, cancelling plans when I’m able. And I’m making athletic choices too. That’s the “tough choices” part of the title. But to be absolutely clear, these are choices that I’m making. Given the lot we’ve collectively been dealt I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know lots of women who take on martyrdom for their family but that’s never been me. I’m part of a large, active family of contributing adults now but even when the kids were little, I never parented alone.  If any family is prepared to take on a crisis, we are, and for the most part, I manage to feel very lucky with the people with whom I’m surrounded. (Chatting recently about this and I thought that this is a good, light way to put it, “In the event of a zombie apocalypse, I’m really grateful that this is my team.”)

With recent life events in mind I read Tracy’s post Taking Care of Ourselves: It’s Not Selfish! with added interest. Two thoughts struck me.

First, while I agree that care givers need to take care of themselves, I do a lot more physical activity than is strictly speaking necessary from the point of view of just caring for myself. That doesn’t mean I won’t do it but the caring for yourself argument doesn’t go as far one might like.

Now there are more than instrumental justifications at work. Time for me isn’t only justified when it helps others. But if it’s not instrumentally justifiable, then you need to start weighing and measuring goods. Goods for me count, regardless of whether they help others, but so too the goods in others’ lives, especially goods in the lives of family and close friends.

Second, while time for me and the activities I love matters, some activities are better than others at fitting into a busy schedule.

With that in mind, I’ve made the tough decision to sit out rowing this year. I love rowing but I could see that this wasn’t going to be a great year for rowing for me. I’m already plotting my return but for now, I need to be reasonable about what I can do.

Unlike running and cycling which I can fit in here and there, rowing means a making a commitment to a boat, to other people, which I may not be able to keep. Family illness aside, it’s tricky even with work travel and my duties a sports parent. You don’t need to just hold the race date. You need also to make all the training dates prior to the race. I’m away for research travel, academic conferences usually, at least once a month.

That might just be one the hardest things about rowing. CrossFit has lots of classes and I go three times a week when it fits. There are Aikido classes Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Running I can do with my group that goes out three times a week or on my own. I’m much less keen on riding on my own but I’m hoping to get a group that goes out regularly this spring.

I love rowing and I learned a lot. Certainly, it counts as achieving one of my fittest by fifty goals, trying something new. Rowers, I will be back!

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8 thoughts on “Rough times, tough choices

  1. What’s really important about this post is the acknowledgement that sometimes we need to make choices about what we can manage at a particular time and what makes sense. Sounds like it was a tough choice, but a bit of reshuffling will make a tough time a little easier. It’s also informative about what rowing requires. I hadn’t realized it had built into it a higher level of commitment than some other things because (interestingly) it’s a commitment to others. And of course you know I love how your family works together to enable everyone to do pursue things they enjoy and that mean a lot to them. Thanks for an honest and reflective post.

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  2. I think that you framed this as a necessary change rather than a defeat or failing is really important. My military career entrenched a very unhealthy “all or nothing” mentality, especially when it came to fitness. It’s taken me over 10 years to adopt an attitude of calm equanimity to my fitness goals and my other life projects. Ok. I’m STILL trying but most times I’m accepting rather than angry.

    To keep it light I call the schedule fluctuations “commitment Jenga”. sometimes you just can’t take a block from the bottom and put it on top. When that happens I go back, like you did, to my list of commitments to myself & others and try to reduce the harm. I’m at the crux of changing my commitments again and it’s comforting to know that even my most organized, energetic & disciplined friends have to take breaks on some things sometimes.

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  3. I’m very sorry to hear that the past year has been so trying, Sam. We are often helped in life by developing strategies to what is perceived as chaos. Doesn’t change the fact that most of life is ducking, weaving, juggling and bobbing, taking what we can get when and where we can get it, and struggling to stay positive and actually grateful in the midst of it all. Who amongst us doesn’t sometimes wish that there were three of us to get done all that is required? It sounds to me like overall you are doing an admirable, indeed an excellent job with all of this, and that’s a very special quality you have which allows you to cope so well and with such grace. So bring on the zombie apocalypse! You’re ready!

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