Archive for July, 2008

Work, part II

Okay, I spent a portion of this week exhausted by a bachelor party (my last never-married friend of the old guard is about to get married, and it should be quite excellent, as he is smart and 37 and she is similar and a sweet delight). We repeatedly jumped off a house boat into the Mississippi long after even the moon went down and it was devastating – I’m so bruised and sore, I cannot walk almost.

Jump! Swim! Something like that… Not an ad for “What color is your parachute?”

The other part of my week has been spent freelancing and teaching. Not bad. I like that work. Work?

I enjoy freelancing (not much money). I enjoy teaching (better money, but not great, at least in my circumstance).

Work. What color is my parachute?  I’ve been thinking about this a lot: I do get into teaching, but it isn’t necessarily because of the content (don’t get me wrong, I love lit and film and even can get into comp, but it isn’t what I like about teaching). I tend to get into everybody’s business when I teach. That’s what I really like to do. I find out about lots more than students’ academic lives. I find out about every little detail often. I completely enjoy knowing my students and talking to them about larger concerns and possible solutions. It seems to me I’d be a good counselor and seriously enjoy doing it. But, oh, do I want to go to school again? Because that’s what that would take. More school.

And, wait… I don’t want to stop writing, because it makes me happy. It doesn’t make me much of a living, though. Is there some way to combine the counseling and the writing?

Not artist rendering of aged Andy Sturdevant.

Yes, I believe there is a way to write and counsel. And, perhaps make a living doing it. Mmmmm… Oh, man, though. School? I am all into attending class, but not necessarily paying for it. Mmmmmm….



I need a break from heavy thoughts…

Even when I’m thinking about life… and whatnot… you’re still there chedderwurst and butter burger.  You are…

Work and life, part I

This is a live exercise! I’m thinking about work.

One of the things I know, but constantly forget, is that there should be no difference between my life’s work and the rest of life. I shouldn’t ever say, “Uhhgh ohhhgghh, I have to work today.” I should go about my business, work or leisure, in a relatively pleased and comfortable way no matter what the activity, because, whatever activity I’m engaged in should have something I value at its center.

If I wash the car on the weekend, it shouldn’t be because I worry about what the neighbors think, but because I value a clean car, or believe I’m taking care of it so it will last longer and I value conservation, etc. When I go to my job, it should be for similarly thought-through reasons.

Really, but it’s hard to get my head around.

I misunderstood work for years. Sometimes in the past I took jobs only because of decent money, dreaming about the “lifestyle” the money might provide (projecting a single image of a sweetassed living room and a big window over-looking a perfect, neat neighborhood… I am wearing nice shoes that indicate something about me… I’m not sure what… good taste maybe). And then, I struggle at doing the job, the tasks, hate the work, spend much of my time with a headache, forgetting completely why it is I took the job, feeling trapped, angry, eyes burning, and then I go home too worn out and depressed to enjoy anything or anybody.

I’ve also gone the other direction: taken work because it sounds the opposite of materialistic (projecting a single image of a simple living room with an old window over-looking a quaint neighborhood… I’m wearing comfortable shoes… maybe second hand shoes… that indicate something about me… I’m not materialistic but still have good taste, maybe). And of course, I still don’t like the tasks, the work, and I’m poor, feeling trapped, angry, eyes burning and then I go home to not that living room too worn out and depressed to enjoy anything or anybody.

The two former paragraphs are about the work/life split, where the work has nothing to do with my values. It is entirely separate from what I love, has nothing to do with it. Work is some kind of weird application, an easy solution to get to some ill-defined end, a lifestyle. “I will do these tasks, even if I don’t know why, because doing them will give me a way to demonstrate who I am to others via job title and fancy living room or, conversely, the lack thereof.” This is artificial, because there is no such thing as lifestyle (that which we see on TV, etc.) but only life, which includes work and leisure (a lot of work).

During the last few years, I’ve written a couple of books and I’ve gotten an advance. The book money gave me a really wonderful time-out. I did really interesting stuff and did some good thinking.

Can I just keep writing books for a living. Nope. Truly, the kind of fiction writing I do isn’t likely to be sustaining (I can’t count on much income, although some, perhaps). So? Now, I get to consider the other work I will do to earn enough to survive. What are the options?

Whatever, the tasks have to be part and parcel of Herbach and the decision to do the work cannot be based on any projection about what life will look like outside of understanding those tasks and loving them (no fancy pants living room thoughts). And, I’d like whatever I do to be work that sustains me for the rest of my work life (and connects me to my continuing activities in the arts)

Oh, and… Must be mentioned… Yes, I have had some bourgie advantages that others might not have had and that means I can really choose a livelihood when others maybe can’t (context forces them into something). Bourgie advantage is my context (no Yale spoon in my mouth that provides outsized advantage, though, just midwestern middle class). So, this: As a person who has been given certain smarts, educational opportunities and good health it is my absolute responsibility to make conscious choices about my actions… RESPONSIBILITY! HEYO! REALLY.

So, here’s the starting point: I’ve had a time out because of the book. During the time out I’ve thought a lot and I know that work and life are not separate and that there is no such thing as lifestyle (there is only life). And, because of the advantages I’ve received (and worked for, of course), I have a responsibility to make conscious choices, sound choices (not knee jerk) (I might also have a responsibility to help others, that’s true, but not the starting point). That’s the context.

Next, then, consideration of the options, which, I suppose, will include an unabashed and perhaps annoying revelation of values. Right on. Woop.

Booze use designed for the individual

I have oft wondered about alcohol and how easy it is to drink.  Even here, on this blog, I have considered the possibility that alcohol does a body good, just like milk.  It seems factual: people who drink in moderation are healthier than those who drink a lot or none.  I want to be healthier.  That’s the point of this spot.

After years of experimentation, however, I know something about me (and I have just figured it out): booze and Herbach don’t mix.  Not even a little.  When I have a little several things can happen: I might get really tired; I might feel aches in my joints; I might take off like a rocket ship all night long.  And, I might fight with my girlfriend over nothing (she and I are similar in this aspect… add a slight buzz and the natural dramatic stage proclivities for which we are known locally are exhibited in our real life behavior… embarrassing).

I have to put all in balance: there are health benefits to drinking wee bits of alcohol and I would like to drink wee bits of alcohol.  But, fact, I tend not to drink wee bits (but much more) and the stress of rocket ship explosion, joint pain, and loggerheads with girlfriend whom I adore otherwise certainly outweighs health benefits.

This I believe: I need to drop hard liquor completely from the universe of liquids I put in my mouth.  I should likely add beer to that list, as I tend to drink it like a kid drinks chocolate milk.  And, maybe, I should drop wine, because although I tend not to slip into exuberance with it, it does seem to hurt my joints.  Does that make sense?  I will sit with the wine question a bit longer.

I am not a statistic, but an individual who needs weigh that which is statistical against a specific context: my own.

So, Herbach doesn’t smoke.  Herbach doesn’t have martinis (including martini derivatives with cute and girlie names, like appletinis).  Herbach doesn’t drink… beer?  Whoa.  Okay.  Wine?  We’ll see.


Ran on an incline and I should know more than I do.

Because I am something of a fatty at the moment (due to high calorie intake associated with angst regarding not smoking — this is a mouthful in more ways than one), I have really been achy while doing my runs, which are necessary to reduce some of the angst regarding not smoking.  My lower legs have been killing me.  Still, I stumble on for fear that I’ll turn to massive quantities of nicotine should I not exhaust myself on the painful treadmill.  Today, however, something different…

I popped the treadmill up to a 3% grade and ran slower.  I huffed and puffed and sweat like a beached whale (I’m assuming they sweat), and really worked it 1988 style (when I was in high school and very fit), and my lower legs didn’t ache at all.  Was this because I was running up a hill as it were?  I have no idea.  I felt great.

Now, I’ve looked around the interweb a bit for information regarding the incline and the decline in my lower leg pain and I’ve found nothing.  I can’t say with factual certainty that the incline helped me at all, and yet it seemed to.  Why aren’t there studies that are suited to my needs?  What’s the point of these tonnages of information if I can’t get a hold of the information I want?

The good news: I feel great!  The bad news: I’m not exactly sure why!  The good news: it shouldn’t matter, because I feel great!  The bad news: It bothers me that I don’t know why… a lot.

Role model must avoid future shmoo comparisons

How do people get to this blog? The most popular searches are: Shmoo, Lower Leg Pain, Diet Coke and French Fries, Fat Man Pants, Sumo, Conscious Living, Belly, Right Effort, and Herbach.

It is quite obvious that all of these are connected. What is the difference between Shmoo and Herbach? Some pigmentation and a slight difference in facial hair configuration.

Shmoo has mustache and no beard. Herbach has pinkish skin.

They also are all related through both a celebration of aberrant eating habits (diet coke, french fries, sumo, fat man pants) and a knowledge of what it might take to live better (conscious living, right effort, Herbach — I’m assuming here the searchers are looking to me as a role model) .

As I enter this week, I pledge to stay disciplined and to keep up the good work. Although I ate cake and ice cream yesterday and ice cream the day before and went out for martinis on Friday, I am actually quite fit for a fat man and this week, I’m going to seriously pursue a non-shmoo future by seriously limiting cheese bombs and ice cream missiles. Masked sugar bombs, too (potatoes, per chance?).

Last night, instead of getting french fries with my grilled cheese, I ordered fresh fruit. And although I wasn’t exactly pumped up, an hour later, I felt satisfied. That’s what I’m talking about.

Back from Kansas and hot and heavy

Hot and heavy in this sense: it is humid and I am sweating in my kitchen, thus I am hot, and I am filled with Combos, the pretzel/fake cheese snack that, along with Reeces Pieces, I get jacked up to buy at gas station convenience stores, thus I am heavy. I doubt I’d be so sweaty if I weren’t so filled with Combos. There’s a causal chain that ends in my physical (and soon after mental) discomfort.  This post is about breaking causal chains, I suppose.

Discipline is a problem. Especially during more difficult times. See, I know a lot. I’ve read books about meditation and watched health TV and perused websites filled with information about the importance of hydration. My theoretical knowledge base is quite grand. Practice, however, is what counts. It’s where the rubber meets the road. Theory without action is like a Ferrari without wheels (cliches work really well for this).

Big Rubber Metaphor

My metric is, in fact, a guide to practicing the theory. The idea: On a daily basis I give myself points to do the painful little short-term things I know, from vast theoretical exploration across decades (this is not hyperbole! Oh no!), are good for people generally speaking, sometimes in the long-term rather than short. At the end of each day, if I’ve achieved a certain number of points, chances are I’ve done balanced, good work through out the day (I’ve maybe paid bills, exercised, worked hard on a work project, had 8 glasses of water, read a good article in a magazine, written for an hour or two, etc.). I have, in fact, put theory into practice.

If you looked at me through the proper, very sensitive camera, I would look like this:

Sitting on metaphorical flower, floating on a metaphorical pond, etc.

Trouble, practice is difficult. And, one cannot turn a blind eye to the truth that is revealed when one is dealing responsibly with the tasks of everyday: there is trouble in life.

For instance, I was shocked last week to discover I have serious cash flow problems. Had I not put on my metric that gaining a full understanding of my finances adds points to my day, I would not have figured out the trouble before likely falling into serious crisis. Still, the knowledge of the cash flow problem was enough to derail the system. Rather than acknowledging the problem Buddha style (“ahh, look at that little ugly animal… let’s take care of that,”), I decided to buy pizzas and beer and watch Law and Order and also COPs and baseball, etc. (Home Run Derby) for hours and hours and hours, gaining no points in my Metric for days on end and feeling physically and psychically unwell, for sure.

Uh, I think COPs is on… I should order a sandwich… big one…

Here’s the gist and something I might have remembered because of this blog, which is an action blog (and because my pal Brady and I were in a car talking for 22 hours over the course of three days): putting theoretical knowledge to practice during hard times is critically important. Rather than relying on TV, food, beer, etc. to numb out the truth, this is exactly the moment to move forward in a measured and positive fashion, both acknowledging the truth and not allowing it to inflate itself, become all encompassing (it is, after all, only one truth in a million), to get in the way of general decent living in other areas.

I know what to do. I’ve experienced these crap times before. Today, along with handling some of the money issue, I’m going to go for a run, eat some fruit, water the garden, drink some water, and work on my classes. If I’ve done all of that and earned enough points, perhaps this evening I’ll sit down and watch COPs, which I shall enjoy unbridledly, because I’ve used my energy wisely the rest of the day. That’s putting theory into practice, baby.

Just dessert…

Of course, I’m going to have to deal with my desire to watch COPs in the future of my practice. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. That will be another tough week, I’d guess. Tonight, bring it!


I am…

Geoff Herbach. I am the author of Stupid Fast and Nothing Special, among a bunch of other stuff. When I'm not writing, I teach writing at Minnesota State, Mankato.

Stupid Fast

Nothing Special

I’m With Stupid

Fat Boy (Gabe Johnson Takes Over)

PowderKeg Stage

Herbach's favorite store

My Bizzle

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