Funk. Dissertation. Running. Vegan.

My funk has been clinging to me like the flesh to the pit of a peach for about six months now. I see no way out. I go through every day trying to fake happiness and trying to pretend like everything is okay, but I know some people see through it. It started in June when I was, theoretically, working on my dissertation and it clings on, even through today. I have tried all those things that one tries when prying the peach off the pit. I’ve pulled. I’ve pried. I’ve done everything short of pulling out a knife to scrape it off. It’s stuck here.

(Dont’ worry about me, though, because I am trying to use a combination of vitamins, Christian thought and prayer, Buddhist thought and meditation, and solid nutrition combined with exercise to get back into a good headspace. I will get the funk off if it kills me!)

The funk began when I realized I couldn’t write about my chosen topic for my dissertation, because it was too intensely personal. Who knew I couldn’t just whip off a couple hundred pages about spirituality, sexuality, and wholeness. As if being fragmented for so long would lend itself to writing about wholeness! I began this topic in earnest a year ago, but teaching middle school and high school does not lend itself to writing a dissertation. The students are so needy, and I have such a desire for them to learn well, that I pour my whole self into them and tend to leave nothing for myself.

Many of my professors might say that teaching will take care of itself, and that I would be wise to invest in myself for a change, but would they still say that if their own child sat in my class. Would they want their child’s teacher putting herself before their child? I can say with unwavering certainty, the answer is no. Each parent believes that his or her own precious darling deserves the best from a teacher, and I agree. If I had a child, would I want his or her education coming at the hands of a person who had spent the night before reading Foucault and food theory, rather than reading the chapters I had assigned their students to read, so s/he could lead a decent discussion or plan a thought-provoking activity? Um, no. I would want my child’s teacher to work hard to teach my child. So, needless to say, I don’t get much done in the way of dissertation work during the school year.

That being said, I am in the process of changing my dissertation topic, so I have to have a new proposal to my director here very shortly. Since I go home from school each night and work three to four more hours on lesson planning and grading, I want to know how it is that I thought I could get this proposal written? What was I thinking? In my head, I see how it works out. The topic is food in ethnic American novels. The chapters have to do with cultural (ethnic) discipline, spiritual discipline, an sexuality/gender discipline as it is evidenced through food and meals. I got the idea when, at my wits end, I received a package in the mail this summer from my friend Rachel. These two books were my birthday present: The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist Vegetarian Critical Theory and From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies: Critical Perspectives on Women and Food. I had already been considering a topic change and this idea had been ruminating for  a while (it had been a small part of the original dissertation topic), so the books seemed like some Divine confirmation of the change. As soon as I get a few minutes to myself, I plan to start writing my new proposal. I’ve been researching and I feel hopeful.

I have been sick for a few days with what I assume can only be allergies. I didn’t write about it because I was otherwise occupied, but over the summer I found out that I am allergic to pretty much everything inside and outside, except cedar trees and mold. I am very allergic to dust, insect stings, and ragweed. Probably the ragweed is my current nemesis, but I digress. The worst part about being sick is that I am training for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 5, which is forty-four days away, and I haven’t been able to run for about a week. The last long run I did was 15 miles, and it went really well as I was able to finish close to my goal time. I am hoping that November 5 will be cold and dry. The colder, the better. Last years race started at 20 degrees, which would be ideal for a big girl like me! I was hoping to run it barefoot, but I am planning, instead, to run in my Vibram Five Fingers. I just want to finish the course this year, and after this one, I plan to try to get faster.

I suppose that running really helps with my level of stress, too, unless I am training for an event. When I have a training plan to follow, I stress about missed runs, I stress about not getting faster, and I stress about what I am eating. Am I getting enough protein? Am I getting enough carbs? Am I running too much or too little? Am I eating too much junk food? Will missing a week of runs make me not finish? Sometimes it seems like just another stressor, but then I go out and run, and I hear that Kshkshksh sound and all seems right with the world. My breathing is good, my legs feel strong, and my feet lightly touch the pavement with each repetition. And, I just feel good. I feel like the funk, the drudgery slip out of my flesh, just like the pit of the freestone peach. I feel freestoned.

I’ve been vegan for a bit over a year now (off-and-on vegetarian/vegan for close to 20 years), and I love it most of the time. I’m not one of those vegans who pretends that now I have some grand moral compass that disallows me to experience cravings for particular foods. I have had a serious pork craving for about three weeks now. I fantasize about chowing down on some big ol’ QL’s pulled pork BBQ sandwich on white bread with some hot sauce. I fantasize about making some ribs on the grill with my own hot orange BBQ sauce. I fantasize about slicing into a huge oven-baked pork chop and dipping it into Heinz 57 on the way up to my mouth for a seriously decadent treat. I say all that to make it sound less horrible when I tell you that I ate 3/4 of a cheese, mushroom, and spinach frozen pizza last night. I followed it up with ice cream. It was my first intentional non-vegan moment (not counting in WI on vacation where there is no food without cheese) in more than a year. And, while my body enjoyed it, my conscience did not. I had dreams about dairy cattle, their babies, and veal farms. I thought about calling up some local dairies and asking if they sell their calves to veal farms, so I could make a conscientious choice to steer clear of the whole nasty dairy farm back-story that no one ever wants to talk about.

Peace, yo.

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