Sunday, March 29, 2020
Grasping for Goals
If, regardless of all the time now heavy on our hands, you are grasping for some sort of meaningful goal, you are not alone. Granted, much can be accomplished from a home office—not to mention, a home kitchen—but the variety pales in the face of limited options. Many of us stuck in this "shelter-in-place"—or "safer-at-home" or whatever your government entity calls it—are wearying of the sameness of those infrequent "essential" trips into town. We find ourselves restless, aimless, purposeless.
It seems strange to think I can better concentrate at getting yet another load of laundry done than I can at curling up with a good book. I have plenty of candidates for a good read, all stacked up at the ready—but I'm too restless to simply curl up on the couch and open the cover.
I decided today that what I need is a good goal. Like research goals, which focus one's attention and energies on one specific purpose, I could use a set task with a limited time frame—something which, upon its completion, will provide a sense of accomplishment. It would be a relief, actually, to feel the sense of getting some work done where I can sit back and enjoy seeing the results.
Thinking about that need pointed out how vital a sense of purpose is to our existence. I couldn't help but think of a comment a fellow Polish researcher once made in a forum—now back over twenty years ago—about how the Polish people thought it odd that Americans were always pursuing their roots. Going through the hard times experienced in Poland over the past two centuries, apparently no one but the most privileged had the time, energy or even inclination to wonder about the ancestors they never had met. They were too busy planting seeds, watering and weeding, harvesting and preserving food so they could survive the long winter.
When you think of the pursuit of ancestry that way, it does open our eyes to how blessed we are to be able to chase such details without any worry over how our next meal will arrive on our dinner table. It is in the incubation of just the right amount of curiosity, combined with the optimal range of prosperity that we can reach out and seek such data. When the slightest disruption to that delicate balance shakes us from that preferred perch, we lose our ability to concentrate on the chase.
While I have spent more of that idle time in genealogical pursuits than I care to admit right now, it still seems somewhat futile in the midst of this threat of the unseen and unknown. Plugging a name in a branch on a tree is not scintillating news to read, so I don't write much about it, though it is continuing in my genealogy database daily. But it would be so helpful now—therapeutic, even—to select a goal, a very small one, to write about.
Perhaps that is the very thing you are casting about, trying to find, yourself. And at the start of a fresh week, this could be the perfect time to launch that new project. While you may not feel like finding anything to actually do—I know I'm not keen on it right now—this is the time when we need to just make ourselves do something productive. Work with a purpose overcomes so many bleak thoughts. And that's the very prescription we need right now as we wait out this pandemic swirling somewhere around us.