Monday, February 26, 2007

The Saucer

Through years of therapy I have finally come to grips with my reality. My energy and focus used to be the metaphorical size of large platter. About two-thirds of that platter was taken up by events that I officially budgeted time for in a disciplined fashion and one-third of it I used in an “off-budget” ad hoc fashion. I shoved stupid things like "housework" and spontaneous things, like a three course meal for eight people and poetry reading into this part. So I had my life set-up so that the acknowledged portion was always cool stuff like school or my job at USAID. There were many off-moments despite how tired I felt (as if I knew the meaning of the word back then) and I got all the bullshit done without every really acknowledging it as a serious part of my day. Plus I did fun off the cuff things.

Now my energy and focus are the size of saucer. That saucer is a little under metaphorical size of the third of a platter that I used to routinely blow off as irrelevant. In order to survive, I have to do things like eat, cook, wash my clothes, etc. I can't fit that into some off-budget moment. There are no off-budget moments. Feeding, cleaning and making sure I'm properly medicated, etc. is now a third of my life. The result of my inability to comprehend or accept this meant that for the four years before I knew Craig, I lived in a complete shithole. Craig and I do better than I did alone, but it takes way more time. But simply but, self-maintenance was never allowed onto the official budget before, with obvious results.

The saucer has two other sections. Teaching a class I've already designed takes one of those sections. If I'm designing a course or getting all the kinks out of it on the second run, that takes the last third. If I study an easy language (i.e. Hebrew), that takes a third of the plate. Writing takes a third of a plate. I'm bombing Hebrew at the moment, because there are four things on a plate with three sections. Predicatably, I've started bailing the Hebrew canoe and have stopped writing again.

No more Hebrew next year. Hebrew is an easy language. Two years are all that it gets. I apply for grants and teach first quarter. I write and teach second and third quarters

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Magic Doors

Kirk sent me a really good letter a few days ago in response to some of the stuff I blather on about here. His letter has really set me thinking. There were a lot of very personal parts that, obviously, he wouldn’t appreciate me reprinting here, but I’m rather hoping he won’t mind me reprinting the more philosophical parts. It’s really good stuff.

> It’s funny. I don’t miss sexual innocence at all. I miss
> being able to dream without thinking about what dreams cost.

I totally understand this. I certainly don't miss sexual innocence but then again I lost my virginity in high school, which seems like a long, long time ago so I barely remember the innocence at all. I think the dreaming part coincides with the idea I mentioned above about how I just don't have anything to talk about any more. When we were younger we could talk all day because much of what we talked about involved our dreams. When you have what looks like an entire unknown future ahead of you there is a lot to think of, ponder over and dream about. It seems once you get into your 30's, especially your mid-30's, your future starts to shrink and become somewhat known, or at least predictable. All of a sudden you are making 10-year, 20-year, 30-year commitments with student loan payments, mortgages, 401(k) plans, new cars or other expensive toys. You start saving long-term, planning a family and raising children. There is no more dreaming because you now know what the future holds in store for you. Sure, life is unpredictable and you may wildly go off on some tangent, but for the most part you start to see the most likely path you will follow and your future becomes mapped out. In many ways this sucks, but there are some positives. Life is generally more stable, you will generally have the means to actually realize some of your dreams from your 20's, you begin to develop new dreams that actually are attainable. I would imagine one of the best of all positives is the satisfaction from raising children. I certainly miss the innocence but I am definitely enjoying this next stage in my life.

Wow. You really nailed that, brother. It’s harder to talk because we’re plugging away at making dreams a reality and not dreaming anymore. That perfectly defines the moment when youth ends and middle age begins. You can tell by the pattern of the conversation. When I was young, I hated routine. I hated it because the repeating pattern wasn’t my own. It took me from my dreams and chained me to a reality I found hateful. I began to develop a passion for work when childhood ended and youth began, when I started being able to shape work toward my own dreams. I started to love work. But it’s one thing to throw yourself into work with passion. It’s another to actually learn to work with skill. It’s so goddamned hard to build something worthwhile, to make a dream come true. The struggle to learn how to do that under the constraints of my illness has broken my youth. I am a man now. The word “man” now means something different. It means being someone who builds patiently—a slow boring of hard boards. It takes passion and perspective. A young man has passion. The point of middle age is to temper it with perspective.

I thought that the reason I can’t see into the dream world anymore is because I now know what dreams cost. I was passionate when I was young, but I lacked perspective. I’d do anything to make my dream into reality. I now know just how deep that anything can run. And while I believe that if I knew what my dream would cost me when I started, I’d still probably have followed it anyway (God help me), I now know that I have limits. I won’t do just anything. There is a point where I will give up the quest.

I don’t think I could have said it before you wrote me, but I realize that I believed that the reason I no longer see into the dream world is because I had lost that purity of intention, that willingness to sacrifice everything. That’s a boy’s fear. The answer is simpler. I can no longer see into the dream world because I am no longer searching for a dream. I found my dream. I’m not looking anymore.

I have to believe that when the day comes to gaze into the dream world again, that, even knowing what dreams can cost, I will have the courage to dream again and walk through that magic door. And, Kirk, I think I trust myself that much. Maybe learning to do that is the whole point of growing up.

I like Brett Favre coming back because he is entertaining, but I have my doubts about how well this affects the Packers long-term. Favre is obviously a fading (some would say already faded) athlete surrounded by some very promising young talent. He is a very, very average QB statistically which is sad because of how spectacular he was ten years ago. I believe he threw for 18 TD's and 18 interceptions last year, which is pretty bad in an era in which a QB is expected to throw twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. In the 80's and early 90's throwing 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions was considered a good year, nowadays a good year would be 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. At the very least you want your QB to throw 20-25 touchdowns and 10-12 interceptions.

Beyond his statistics, think about this logically. Quarterback is probably the toughest position to learn for an incoming rookie. The Packers have some good young talent on the offensive line and in parts of the defense. They need a running back and some receivers but they definitely have a solid young base to work with. As long as the team continues to draft well they could be a contender in a few years. By that time, however, Favre will be eligible for social security and given his decline in effectiveness over the last 3 years or so you can expect him to be pretty bad. What you really want is to find a younger quarterback now and have him develop along with the team so they all peak at the same time. What you don't want is a team where the quarterback is on his last legs while the rest of the team is peaking. What you also don't want is a brand new rookie quarterback when the rest of the team is peaking. That's a recipe for disaster! The Chargers went through a somewhat similar situation this year - a brand new quarterback surrounding by a team full of talent just reaching its peak. Fortunately for the team, however, the new quarterback turned out to be pretty solid. This is the exception, however, as most first-year quarterbacks struggle to reach the "sucky" effectiveness level. I think the best idea long-term for the Packers is for Favre to retire and allow the team to bring in a younger quarterback who will be around 5-10 years.

The one other solution is to keep Favre until body limbs start to fall off, then bring in a proven veteran via free agency. This option is rather expensive, however, and may cause the team to dump some of its talent simply to fit under the salary cap. This could work, though. Still, I think the best long-term solution is to get an effective young QB to take over and allow Favre to ride into the sunset as soon as possible.

And writing like that is why I keep getting on Kirk’s case to start a football blog. He’s an excellent analyst. Normally, I’d dig in and fight, pull up some numbers, discuss scenarios, do the routine. I mean, the gauntlet’s been thrown. But this blog began nearly a year ago with a long letter defending Brett Favre to Kirk Anthony. Fuck it, anyone who wants to can read that again. I won’t write the same letter twice.

Truth is, Kirk, I could give a flying fuck if Favre retiring is the best thing ever for the Packers. I need to see Brett Favre lead the Packers to a victorious season one last time. I’ve worn his shirt for nearly ten years now, but I didn’t wear it because he was a hero. I wore it because he was the all-powerful quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. He was our boy. And he was damned good. And he won, game after game. Two years ago, that ground to a halt and he had to look at his illusions and what meant something in life. I got a lot of ribbing when Favre cried during that interview after we beat the Bears, but in my opinion, that was one of the most important moments in his career. Favre finally appreciated what he’d had.

In 1998, I reached the acme of my strength. By 1999, I was broken. I lost in every single way I can imagine. Quarterbacks hit old age early because of the demands of the sport. It’s rough to reach the acme of your power in your twenties and then have the rest of your life as an epilogue. I got sick. I know what it’s like for your life to be over and to have to build a completely new life in your mid-thirties with way lower expectations. Favre will be in the Hall of Fame and will wipe Dan Marino’s name off most of his records next year. I’ll never do the equivalent. I’ll be lucky if I get a tenure track job somewhere.

I’d like to see Favre do it one more time. For me, who’ll be an eighth year grad student. I need to see him do it with you and everyone else ragging on him. No one says anything to me, but I know how it looks. Seeing him win again would help me believe I can make it.

Kirk was surprised I watched Fight Club. I’ll write about that next time.