Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Irons in the Fire

I've been getting completely overwhelmed lately with all that will be happening this year, sometimes close to sheer panic-attack state.  My baby (the youngest of two) will be graduating from high school and going away to college.  This, in and of itself, is huge.  However, on top of that I have some irons in the fire that are beginning to get red-hot and ready for shaping, and have many more irons I'd like to forge.**
If you aren't familiar with the expression "irons in the fire"...Blacksmiths traditionally worked iron into shape by hammering. The iron being worked would be heated in the fire until it was red-hot and malleable. The Smith removes the iron from the fire and shapes it with repeated blows from a hammer. They need to work quickly before the iron cools. Once the iron is cool, it becomes brittle and cannot be hammered.

Once removed from the fire, the iron cools quickly. It takes longer to heat the iron to red-hot than it takes for it to cool. Blacksmiths work more efficiently by having multiple pieces of iron in the fire heating simultaneously. In that way, the Smith can always have a piece of iron red-hot and ready for hammering. The cooled piece would be returned to the fire if it needed more hammering.

As I sit here trying to write up the post about my goals for the year...I'm struggling just like I did Monday when I was trying to plan out my day.  Because I'm a verbal processor and need to talk (write) to help me sort out my thoughts (rather than thinking through things then talking about them)...I have a need to talk through (write about) my goals before I can figure out what they are!!

First, let me tell you what happened Monday, mainly because I see it as a microcosm of the bigger picture of what's going on in my mind about this coming year and I think it will help me work through making my plans.  The following is a peek into the inner workings of my's about as direct as the route home Billy would take when he was told to come straight home!  Feel free to skip on down past this center section to the rest of the actual post!! :D

I had several competing "goals" for the day.  There were so many things I wanted to see happen I knew they couldn't all be accomplished so I had to therefore mark some things off the list.  The unabridged plan was:
  • spend time with my husband (who was off work) before I went out of town for 2 days
  • spend time with a friend
  • go see another friend and her kids who I haven't gotten to see in a while
  • get to where I was going to be staying for the night early enough to work out with another friend (who I was spending the night with)
  • get a work out in at some point during the day (maybe in the gym with my friend)
  • be somewhat made up (as opposed to sticking my ponytail in a hat and not wearing make up)
  • pick up something I had ordered from a store in Little Rock (on the way to where I was going) before the store closed
  • go to the post office to mail a package
  • not get stressed out by all the stuff on my list
  • clean my house before I went out of town
As I worked though this impossible list, I had to decide what what MOST important to me.  That was excruciatingly hard because they were all a priority for the day or they wouldn't have made the list in the first place.  (I mean, I want to make a scrapbook for my daughter and sew a new comforter for my bed, but those weren't on the list because they keep getting pushed aside to make room for other things.) 

I painfully decided I wouldn't go see the friend and her kids even though I hadn't seen them in a while and decided cleaning house wasn't going to happen either.  I decided getting to my friend's house early enough to work out with her wasn't realistic because it meant having to leave around 7:30 and that would eliminate the feasibility of too many other things on the list.   In order to help the "not get stressed out" goal, I paid some extra money to print postage from home to mail my package, which saved me a trip (and precious time). 

As far as the work out goes, I had originally planned to swim at 5 (which means getting stuff ready the night before and getting up at 4:30ish), however that was going to conflict with my plan to spend time with my husband.  (I knew the best time to spend with him was going to be first thing in the morning before we both got our days going.)  At the same time, swimming would have allowed me to shower and get ready there and give me time with my friend and get me on the road early.

Priorities.  Spending time with my husband was more important than what workout I was going to fact it was the most important thing on the list, even though I do it every day (which is precisely WHY I make a point to spend time with him every day--not just merely exist with him).  Swimming was replaced by running (since it was WAY too cold for me to bike and I don't yet have a trainer).  Okay...the plans for my day were taking shape finally!!

The options of where and how far to run seemed endless and then the 9 mile trail run was posted on FaceBook.  It started at 7, my friend said she could meet up at 9.  In my mind I would get a good run in, meet my friend, and then decide just how important it was for me to be made up before I started my trip out of town.  Nine miles could surely easily be done in two hours.  I was feeling pretty darn good as I left the house in plenty of time. first mistake was thinking I knew where we were meeting.  When no one showed up I realized I didn't.

In an effort not to make this already long story longer, I won't go into the fine details of the run.  Suffice it to say: I was in the wrong place, got to the right place late, decided to run on my own, met up with the group...and realized very quickly there was NO WAY I would get 9 miles in before I needed to meet up with my friend.  After slightly over 3 miles (and at a spot very close to the parking lot), I decided to call it a work out finished and "quit".

I was then able to get home, get showered and "made up" to a decent level, and meet up with my friend (although I was late because I was searching for the confirmation sheet for the item I needed to pick up in Little Rock-which I never found but ultimately didn't need).  After a relaxing chat, I was on the road in plenty of time to pick up my item and get to my friend's house.  


So as I sit here and try to think through all the things I hope to get accomplished this year, with all the unknowns about what could happen to thwart the plans I want to make, it's a bit overwhelming (REREAD FIRST SENTENCE OF THIS POST and you will see I'm right back where I started although I've taken a trip around the world in my mind!!)

The thing I love about analogies is that they usually help me see some things that are harder for me to comprehend when I'm looking at the actual thing.  As I think through how a blacksmith forges iron...he never attempts to shape it when it's cold.  He allows the iron to become red-hot before he works it with his various tools.  One long term goal I have is to complete a full IronMan (2.4 miles swim, 112 miles bike and 26.2 miles run)...but I know I'm not REDy for that quite yet--so that iron will stay in the fire for now.

The blacksmith also knows what he will shape each piece of iron into before he starts.  Unlike Michelangelo, who didn't believe he determined the sculpture but only set what was already there free, I believe a blacksmith molds the iron into the shape he wants using various tools in order to achieve the desired outcome (which he has determined in advance).   The key to both paths, I believe, are the tools being used to get there and the raw material being started with.  I have a decent base for a half iron, but I do have to plan what tools I will use to train for it, and utilize them in an appropriate way.

The blacksmith also knows how fast iron cools and that he has a limited time to work before he has to put the piece back into the fire (lest it turn brittle and break).  I'm seeing several irons in the fire which are ready to be worked, I just have to plan out which piece to hammer on at any given time.  Whereas a runner might be likened to a blacksmith who "only" shapes horseshoes, a triathlete shapes their iron into something else totally different.  I need to see how each piece (each workout) will fit into the bigger picture of what I'm hoping to accomplish.  ((That's pretty darn tough for me to do alone but I don't have the luxury right now of hiring a tri coach.))

What I'm hoping to make from my "horseshoes"!

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