Grounded

It’s been decision time this month in our household as we choose how best to adapt our goals to the ever changing priorities and responsibilities we find in life.

On the surface, one of the biggest changes compared to the last eighteen months is that I don’t plan on spending any time flying this year. I discussed with the gliding club taking some time off, as I don’t anticipate spending any time in the air this year at all. This was a decision that took a few months to evaluate as flying has always been a passion of mine.

Perhaps it’s the result of years of computer programming: I like the simplicity of boolean logic. Things are true or false: I don’t feel comfortable doing things half-well. I either want to do them well (or be working hard towards that goal), or I don’t want to do them at all. Perhaps that’s just part of professional development: developing the ability to focus on a task to completion, self evaluate, and improve with each successive iteration. And I’d argue that focus is a zero-sum game: the more energy we invest in one area, the less focused we are in another.

It should go without saying, but flying implies at least some minimum quota of focus. When I was doing six or seven flights every weekend, and studying flying mid-week, there was an obvious improvement in skills. That kind of focus didn’t just contribute to the first gliding club trophy I have, it also made for safer flying, and even value for money: I was getting something out of each flight.

But then a new workplace, significant time invested in a new writing project, and the continued pulls of family responsibilities started to eat into that focus. I flew less, didn’t recap the flying during the week, and felt the focus begin to evaporate.

In this context, grounded┬ásounds like such a negative term. Yet in the big picture it really isn’t, because being grounded is also exactly the sort of focus we’re talking about here: With one less diversion to balance, I’m able to concentrate more on the day job at the day job, and my writing project, which by now has some concrete wordcount goals, will also get the focus it requires.

There will be other changes this year. Managing goals and expectations will always be a real challenge. While I can manage the extremely fragmented writing time amidst family and work life, I can’t help but compare what I manage to achieve now with what I could achieve years ago, when every minute outside the day job was my own.

But if climbing the mountain takes a little longer, then perhaps it’s only more reason to look around us and notice the vitality and hardiness of what grows on the slope around us. And if we’re climbing with others, then perhaps it’s also an opportunity to share the same observations with them.

Because for every one joule of energy I expend this year on these limited foci, I’m directing two towards my young children, whose own bright futures are grounded here, now.

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