Category Archives: Capitalism

Day 6 of Year 40: Things Are Looking Up From Here

In the interest of keeping this blog space for reals, I’m going to be honest and say that the last week has really sucked. Starting with my job-related meltdown during a supposedly romantic walk with my wife through the second I’m-all-alone-on-my-40th-birthday meltdown and ending with my third I’m-a-big-baby-and-nobody-loves-me-because-I’m-fat-and-work-at-Caribou-Coffee meltdown Saturday morning, this past week has been a giant crap sandwich of self-pity and self-loathing. Cue the Marilyn Manson soundtrack, or maybe the Smiths for those of you who kick it old school.

Let me go back a bit. Since March, when we knew we were moving to Minnesota, I’ve been praying for a job that will allow me to relax, have fun, get my smile back, and let me have my home time be home time. This is not a teaching job. I prayed specifically for a job in a bar or a coffee shop. I preferred one that was close to home. When I got to Minnesota, I started my job search by applying for teaching jobs, and not getting any, I started looking at other options. I applied at Trader Joe’s (not cool enough to work there after two interviews), I applied at a local brewery (not cool enough to even get an interview), and I applied at Caribou Coffee (where I was hired on the spot). For $8 an hour.

For $8 an hour. This simply wouldn’t do. I needed money. For those of you who know me, this probably seems quite strange, because I am the woman who sees money as green pieces of paper that float in and out of my life like snow. But I need to be able to pay the bills I’ve accrued while attaining my Oh, So Valuable Education. So I balked at this gift I’d been given. A space to relax, to make coffee, to be myself. See I thwarted the desires of my heart from the get go. Somehow working in a coffee shop or a bar seemed beneath my dignity. After all, I do have numerous graduate degrees. Somehow my own self-worth came only through a professional job; we do, here in the US of A, value people based on their livelihood. And I was now a coffee maker, a job I could’ve done straight out of high school. I had bought into all the classist assumptions I’d been taught to deconstruct. Apparently, I thought myself too cool to be working class, and too entitled as well. I deserve to teach because I have the degrees. I bought the system and all the hype I’ve always critiqued. Apparently, I bought into the capitalist machine. My job, whichever cog I was in the machine, determined my value. And I wasn’t a very valuable cog.

But wait.

My value does not come from which cog in the machine I am.

My value does not come from any external source.

My value comes from who I am and how I treat other people.

But I didn’t just get there from my pit of despair. It took some scratching and clawing, some chatting with friends, and some serious soul searching. God had just given me the desire of my heart: a job that doesn’t define me and that doesn’t follow me home. And I told [Them] to piss off about it. Seriously, God had given me what I asked for, and I was more than pissed about it. So, on the romantic walk with my wife, I was upset to the point of emitting a guttural cry. I couldn’t contain it, the tears poured, the sobs surged forth, and my body shook. I was hyperventilating in sadness. The system had betrayed me: I had multiple graduate degrees and I couldn’t find a job. I had played the game, and it screwed me. But wait. I had prayed for this job and gotten it.

So then, on my birthday, which was the day after the Great Deluge, I was all alone. In my house. In Minnesota. And I was turning 40. By myself. Did I mention that I was by myself? And, again, I was pissed and sad, and felt betrayed. I could have gone out and made a day of it by myself. I’m not afraid to be alone, and I’m not afraid to explore on my own. But I chose, instead, to sit in my living room and wallow in my own self-pity. I chose it. Willfully. By the time Bec got home from work to take me out, I was a basket case, and them we went to my favorite restaurant, and it was lovely and the funk started to reside. I made an effort to open my heart on our walk we took after dinner. And it helped.

So then, again, on Saturday when the funk came back, I wasn’t expecting it to manifest in an angry tear against the woman I love, but it did. I was angry at her for bringing me here. And I was angry with her for everything, basically, and it wasn’t her fault. But I said it was. And I was mean and ungrateful. You know, your typical self-centered asshole. And everything fell out: “I am fat, fifty pounds fatter than this time last year. I work for minimum wage at a fucking coffee shop. Do you even want me here? Do you even want to be with me?” Only instead of it coming out like that, it came out all accusatory and ugly and horrible. And we both cried. And it was awful.

But something clicked in me through the day yesterday. And kept clicking. It said to look at the beauty in my life. To focus on what is good and beautiful and wonder-filled.

My value does not come from which cog in the machine I am.

My value does not come from any external source.

My value comes from who I am and how I treat other people.

And right at those moments, my value was swirling around the bottom of the toilet bowl. I’ve been an asshole. You see, I think most people think that moving has been the biggest stress for me, leaving behind family and friends and familiar things. While that has been stressful, my biggest stress has been figuring out who I am again. I have been given this beautiful opportunity to rebuild myself from the ground up and I almost blew it on building myself into the same bitter jackass I was for the past couple of years in Muncie.

So who am I?

I am Corby. I hope to be a triathlete. I hope to be an excellent Caribou employee. I hope to love deeply. I hope to give grace. I hope to show much compassion. And I hope to be able to receive and recognize all the blessings in my life.

In accordance with my goals, I have quit smoking (okay, I had two on Friday Cheat Day); I have quit drinking (okay, I had three beers on Friday Cheat Day); I have a job at the ‘Bou; I went for a bike ride, and I went for a run, and we take a walk every night; and I’m working on the quiet time…

Here’s to love and life and beauty.

How I Feel Right Now (Stream of Consciousness-ish)

I am sitting in my classroom with my best class. They are working on their student led discussions or on reading the texts for the next week. They are taking advantage of their work day in a way my other classes don’t. They are actually working. Two of my girls actually got really excited about how their SLD is going to go tomorrow; they are planning to play a card game called Mafia, but they’re basing it on Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience somehow. I won’t pretend to understand what they were talking about, but they are smart women. I am sure it will be fine and meaningful. These students are so not who I was when I was in high school. I don’t wish I could go back. I would never wish that on anyone. I do wish I would have made some different choices. But don’t we all.

I feel like a failure. I failed my Whole 30. Again. I failed my run streak. Again. I had a bad attitude yesterday. Again. I need to remind myself that “when my chin is on the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again.” Again. I need to remember that I am human, though I fancy myself to be Wonder Woman. I am not.

I just ordered Red Letter Revolution by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo. I want it to revolutionize my faith, but I think it probably won’t. I’m willing to try, though. I want it to. I want a revolution. I want change. I want communism to come to us. I want consumerism (ha, funny since I just ordered a book) to end. I want for Americans to be satisfied with themselves, instead of with the belongings. I want a backpack filled with joy to live from. I want to get rid of all my possessions. I want to make art. Or write. Or play with children with jump ropes and sidewalk chalk. I want to walk. To the ends of the earth and then dive into the ocean.

I just signed up for the Red Gold Run to Crush Hunger. I don’t really like 5Ks, but this one benefits my brother’s school somehow, so we’re doing it. It takes the whole first mile for me to warm up, and then I’m hit or miss for the next two. I like longer runs because my breathing smoothes out and my legs get used to what I am asking them to do. I prefer a 10K or a 15K to anything else. I haven’t run one of those for almost a year. When I didn’t finish the marathon, my little sails, my meager hopes and dreams, were a bit deflated. No matter. In December, my friend Emily and I are going to run the Santa Hustle Half Marathon. Which I may have already said here, but I’m just talking off the top of my head. In case you could’t tell that by the scattered nature of my thoughts. I’m enjoying my new Altras now that I have run a few more miles in them. It was nice to have a bit more cushion for my 4.1 miles on Saturday (or was it Sunday?). My legs didn’t hurt at all the next day.

Here is a little ditty by the Violent Femmes. There thoughts are my thoughts about media, but I don’t hate the President. I actually love him. I have nothing else to say. I’ve rambled on long enough.

Blessed: Cleansing. Teaching. Dissertating.

For eleven days now I have been getting up at around 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning to run, and for eleven days now I have been eating only meats, vegetables, eggs, nuts, and some fruits and drinking a hell of a lot of tea and water. I am almost halfway through my first real Whole 30 and my first real Run Streak. Yesterday and today I feel almost euphoric. My mood is excellent, my body feels fast and alert, and my intellect seems to be firing rapidly. Yes, it has taken some adjustment to run while also cleansing my body, and I am sure my little cells are probably thinking I’ve gone mad, but the trade offs are worth it. While doing a Whole 30, weighing yourself is frowned upon, but my clothes are fitting so much better, I just had to know. I’ve lost ten pounds in eleven days. Crazy really.

I finally got my new Altras in the mail. I’ve worn them twice for a total of four miles. After those first four miles, I will say I don’t think they’re exceptional. Maybe I just need to get used to them, but they seem heavy compared to my Vibram Five Fingers or my New Balance Minimus. They also seem to constrain my feet in a way that neither of those pairs of shoes do. Maybe it’s just because I am not used to them. I did order them for longer mileage, so maybe on Saturdays when I start doing my longer runs again, I will see the benefits of the cushioning. Right now the taller, though flat, sole is awkward. And, honestly, they are some of the ugliest running shoes I’ve ever seen. Unless, of course, you count Hokas.

I hope I can lose this last 40 pounds, so I can just run “barefoot” all the time!

*

Teaching is going well right now. I have one class that is difficult. They don’t listen, they talk constantly, and several of them are just straight up disrespectful. Working at a school like Burris has caused me to forget about how to deal with students like that. There are so few seriously disrespectful students there, that when I have one, it’s as if I lose my damn mind and forget how to deal with it. There are some students in there who want to learn. There are so few that I had almost written off the entire class, until I saw a quote on a friend’s Facebook wall. The quote said, “When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God” (Charles Allen). As soon as I read it, I realized that was my problem. I had given up hope, which is something I had always promised myself I wouldn’t do in education. No matter how difficult some students can be, losing hope really does nothing except make the situation worse. I spent yesterday asking myself, How can you motivate these students? How can you be someone who challenges them into making something of themselves, whatever that may be? Who are you to slam the door in the face of God? Yesterday was pretty humbling for me, and I hope I can continue to follow hope and, above all, to give grace.

I will confess that I am struggling to keep up with all of the paperwork that I have to keep for the State of Indiana. I have to keep several binders worth of papers from parent communication to extra-curricular activities to data to blah blah blah in order to prove that I am actually doing my job. What I think is totally absurd about the paperwork is that (1) there goes a hell of a lot of trees, (2) anyone who knows me knows I go above and beyond both in the classroom and out, and (3) I feel as if I spend some of the time I used to spend on planning and grading (you know, being effective) on pushing paper around on my desk and into binders. I’m literally making myself less effective to prove how effective I am. Grrr.

*

With all of the blessed craziness with paperwork for school, I am still finding time to work on my dissertation almost every morning. I have read a lot of new information about food, foodways, cutlural understandings of food, commodification, exchanges, and various other related topics. I’ve read Paradise, Bastard Out of Carolina, and The Antelope Wife to start with, and I think those my be my three different chapters. Paradise will be the basis for a chapter about the Eucharistic food exchange, Bastard Out of Carolina will the basis for commodified food exchange, and The Antelope Wife will be the basis for the third chapter about proper food exchange. The overarching idea is consumption of the Other and how people exchange food for identity, sex, and spirituality. Those are the foggy bits of how this dissertation is going to go down.

Tomorrow is my first writing instead of researching day, and I am pretty nervous about it. I’m not sure why, but I get paranoid when I am required to put my fingers to the keyboard, instead of putting my pen to the page to take notes. I know what I see happening in these novels, but I always get nervous that I won’t be able to prove it well enough or write about in a way that others can understand. I have to take a step back and remind myself that I write every day. People understand what I write every day. I can do this.

*

I do have to say that I am blessed with many friends. I am blessed with a good body and a good mind. I am blessed with a loving family and an amazing partner. I am blessed with a job and a home and food to eat. Simply put, I am blessed.

Too Many Days of Lent: I’ve Been Revelling in the Weather

How much of a blessing has this weather been?! The trees are bloomed out with leaves and assorted flowers, the wild flowers are brightly colored and diverse, the grass is growing and growing and growing, and the birds wake me up every morning with their anger or sexual desire, whichever is worse I am unsure. They scream and chatter and occasionally whistle and chirp outside our bedroom window at the bird feeders. They are my natural alarm clock, beautiful and harsh.

Every time I look out the window at the beauty of the day, I want school to be over so I can play outside. I want to go swimming, biking, running, disc golfing, kayaking, and I want to do every other activity that someone can do outside! I want to roll down a hill and make myself sick. I want to be free. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here: God wants us to play. There is a whole theology of play that helps us to better relate to the divine through spontaneous acts of creative play.

Part of play for me is recognizing who I am in Christ and being free from societal constraints. In other words, I feel free to play when I realize that my identity lies in Christ and not in what other people think of me. And, I play with reckless abandon, which means I have a few people in my life that don’t quite understand me. My greatest desire is to be unencumbered by those things that other people see as necessary. My mom always says to other people, “I think she just wants to be poor.” Yeah, I do. I don’t want to be tied down by earthly possessions or monetary things. I never intended to buy a house. I would love to get rid of all my stuff until everything I own or everything I need could fit in my camping backpack. I’m pretty sure that would make me perfect for monastic life, which is still a kind of dream of mine. I’m not sure I want to be monastic in the “I’m celibate and live in a cold cell with a hair shirt” kind of monastic, but more in the new monastic, communal living sort of way where I share things with my community members.

When I am having these thoughts, my morning prayers typically confirm my thoughts or dissuade me from them. Today they confirm with this quote from Peter Maruin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement: “The world would be better off if -people tried to become better. And -people would become better if they stopped trying to become better off.” I think living in a self-sustaining community and trying to be better and more compassionate is definitely a way for me to be better off. I think of communities like Simple Way and the way they intertwine work and play in all aspects of their lives.

I would be able to work hard and play hard without trying to conform to some arbitrary economic constraints.

I would only have to please God and provide for my “family.”

I would have plenty of time to revel in the beauty of God’s world and word.

I could play.

Peace.

Lent Day 28 & 29: All My Stuff, Imago Dei, and the American Dream

I have a lot of stuff. As I write this, I am sitting in a not-so-comfortable chair, suffering God knows what kind of allergies, thinking about how blessed I am. Within my reach, without even moving from this chair, I have books about lots of topics (John Wesley’s Sermons; Living Buddha, Living Christ; Reluctant Pilgrim; The Death and Life of the Great American School System; Revelations; Paradise; The Ask and the Answer; Mockingjay; the Bible), magazines as varied (Runner’s World; Sojourner’s Magazine; The Writer’s Chronicle), and a graphic novel (Billy Fog and the Gift of Trouble Sight). I have an empty (previously full) glass of clean water and a belly full of delicious food. I have clean clothes, electricity, and too many gadgets. I have every tangible thing I could ever want (except for a brand new Nissan Z). I am blessed.

A line near the end of Billy Fog and the Gift of Trouble Sight says, “Don’t waste your time being mean. Just watch—the years go by in the blink of an eye… Be good to your parents, and work hard at school.” For as blessed as I am, and likely you are, I spend an awful lot of time dwelling on those things I don’t have. I could list a handful of things I’d like to go buy if I had the money to. Are any of those, things I need? Not likely. I have a coat for the winter. I have shoes. Lots of shoes. I have so many clothes I can’t wear them all in a week (or probably a month), and I have access to a a washer and dryer in my house, so there’s really no need for it. But I compare myself to the people around me and come up short every time. There is always something I could do better, purchase bigger, be rewarded for more lavishly. Isn’t this, after all, the American Dream? To get ahead?

Sometimes, because they want to get ahead, people are mean. They’ll stop at nothing to get ahead, and before they know it, their lives have passed them by and they’re left with a closet full of clothes, shelves full of books, and enough shoes to outfit the Harlem Globetrotters. I don’t want to be one of those people. I want to live my life with meaning, because it seems fairly simple to “be good to your parents, and work hard at school.” Being good seems fairly simple, but it’s not for me. Being a competitive jerk is much easier, getting caught up the capitalist snare of trying to do better than those people around me until I no longer recognize myself or the imago dei inside of me. I lose sight of God in me. I can’t recognize the divine in myself, but I can see that my friends’ shoes are cooler than mine, that I don’t have the latest fashions, or that I need one more book. That’s the big one for me: books.

“Don’t waste your time being mean.” Instead, use your time to rediscover the image of God inside you, hiding there beneath all the layers of excess that have built up around you. Shed the American dream for the imago dei.

*

On a personal note, I’ve been in an athletic slump for about three weeks. I haven’t run in at least as long, and I have a 9 mile race in two weeks. I doubt that’s going to happen, and I seriously doubt the 13.1 miles that are supposed to happen in May are going to happen. Some prayers would be appreciated on the exercise front. In order to help hold myself accountable, I signed up for this College Swim Trip from March 26 to April 27. During that month, I am supposed to swim a total of 57 miles, the distance from Ball State to Butler. My goal is to run 2 miles and swim 2 miles each morning. That’s an hour of swimming and a half hour of running, which isn’t really too much to ask, right? I’m really not sure why I’ve been in such a funk. Here’s to healthy eating, healthy exercise, and to mental and spiritual health.

Peace.