Bridging the gaps

I told Marcy I would put a computer on her new bike. I assumed she wanted one because I can’t live without a computer on my bike — any of my bikes (all three are equipped).

“Computer” has always seemed a bit much when describing this slightly-larger-than-postage-stamp-size gizmo that mounts on your handlebar. When I first started riding years ago, they were called odometers, which, frankly, is still their main function. Today, with advances in microprocessing, they’ve been able to add a variety of functions, from heart rate monitors to global positioning systems. But it’s still the basic odometer that I’m obsessed with because it gives me a way to quantify my rides: How far did I ride? How long did it take me? How fast did I go? Numbers that can verify my workouts (not that I need more verification than a pair of dead legs after a three-hour ride).

That’s become especially important in these days of self-employment, that quantifying thing. “Defending Your Life,” as Albert Brooks deftly portrayed it on film.

Tuesday, I wore a telltale furrowed brow and an air of preoccupation. “What is it?” my perceptive wife asked. I didn’t realize it was anything at the time, but as I thought about this vague unease that Marcy had picked up on I realized that I felt like I hadn’t been doing enough. Marcy broke out laughing.

“You ran six miles this morning, then you had a very productive meeting with people interested in sponsoring your Web site. That would be more than enough in a day for most people,” she said. Then she put the situation in perspective, a situation and perspective she understood well having been in it herself. “For years you’ve been a hamster turning this treadmill, a treadmill that never stops. You’ve had no time to slow down.” She was referring to my past life, 17 years of it, as a reporter for The News & Observer. A life I always enjoyed, but a life that had become increasingly demanding as the economy and the realities of new media were fomenting fear and creating chaos in the newspaper industry. How demanding — and demoralizing — I didn’t realize until I left three weeks ago. Until I had a full day of running, of building a business, of going on a family bike ride to a neighborhood park for a picnic dinner — and was spooked by the sanity gaps in between. Gaps of free time that didn’t exist before. Gaps that allowed me to recharge. Gaps I’m relearning how to recognize and appreciate.

That said, I’m still putting a computer on Marcy’s bike. Nothing wrong with a little quantification amid the gaps.


Jeff P said...

Nice Post. I have been there. In February 2008, I took the plunge and left the comfort of salary and benefits to do some freelance consulting. As my wife commented the other day: "You never noticed the blooming of the wisteria in years past!" So, yes, stop and smell the roses!

Anonymous said...

There's a business/quality book about this "gaps of sanity" in the day thing.
I recommend that you look for Slack, by Tom DeMarco. It's a good book, and it's fairly short.
Esther, in Cary

Joe Miller said...

"Slack," by Tom DeMarco — I'll pedal across the street to the Barnes & Noble and check it out. It's a curious phenomenon; I'm interested in learning more about it.
Thanks, Esther.