Tag Archives: Moving

Giving Thanks and Counting Blessings

This year I am thankful for so many things, and I am trying to get into the habit of counting my blessings each and every day, instead of waiting for a holiday to prod me into it. Here is a solid list of things I am grateful for, and they are in no particular order.

1) Mental Health: As I look back through this blog, I notice my thoughts and moods look like a roller coaster (not a fun one), going from high to low, back to really high then back to really low, and there are some flat places like where people stand in line to get on the coaster and then off again. Only I never got off again. I just stayed on the thing and rode it again and again, like when my youth group went to King’s Island one year and rode the Adventure Express ten times in a row, seeing the same sights over and over again. Then when we got off a couple of girls puked in the trash can. That’s an accurate portrayal of how I feel about my life for the past five years or so, but the past year from about August back to the August of 2013 was especially excruciating. Seeing the same sights over and over again began to kill me. Slowly. And definitely made me want to puke in the trash can.

Unknown to most people I was suffering. I thought about killing myself at least once or twice a week, and the thought wasn’t a fleeting whim of considering suicide. I dwelt on it. Sometimes for several days at a time. The days were dark, my thoughts were heavy, and I didn’t want to go on.

Unknown to most people I was also addicted to several things, the mildest of which were beer and cigarettes, but there were other darker addictions, too. There will be other posts, other writings, other stories wherein I discuss those things, but not now, not when there is so much to be thankful for.

Unknown to most people, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to escape my life and do anything but what I was doing.

Fortunately, I remained.

Fortunately, there was an end to my suffering.

Fortunately, there were Zen gardens, long conversations, fellowship, and grace.

And life is not excruciating right now. Now I have no suffering. I am only blessed.

Right now, I am filled with joy, and not the fleeting kind. I am filled with that joy I was looking for this time last year. The kind I had no business of even trying to write about, because I was so far from it, I wouldn’t have known it if it had bitten me in the ass.

Right now I feel mentally well. And content. And at peace. This wasn’t a magical transformation, but a transformation of hard work, diligence, and perseverance on the part of myself and many others.

I am thankful I am not where I used to be.

2) Vocational Health: I am blessed with the ability to work a minimum-wage job with very little stress. My goal each day is to be the person who brings a smile to someone else’s face. I don’t look at my job as making a cup of coffee; I look at it as bringing grace and joy through food to a guest of my hospitality.

I can’t explain how it feels for me to not be teaching; I do miss the thoughtful conversations with my students and my colleagues, but not the rest of it. I enjoy having those same conversations with my coworkers and customers, but moreover I enjoy clocking in, serving people, clocking out, and coming home. No planning, no grading, no emails, and no bull shit. The worst thing that happens at work now is I make someone’s coffee wrong, so then I remake it and no one is harmed.

Probably the best part of my job is my manager, who is the best friend I’ve made since I moved here in July. When she is filled with happiness, her excitement is contagious. When someone does something she appreciates, she tells the person. When someone does something wrong, she has a constructive conversation with the person, not with everyone who works at Caribou. There’s no guessing where you stand with her. No head games.

People who manage other people shouldn’t fuck with the people they manage. Each person should know exactly what she is doing right, or exactly what she is doing wrong, and how it can be corrected or continuously improved.

Nebulous feedback is only detrimental to coworkers. I am so glad I am out of the land of nebulous evaluations and the RISE model that causes all educators so much pain for so little helpful feedback or constructive criticism.

I am thankful I am where I am.

3) Physical Health: This is an area that I still need to work on, but I know I can do it. On Monday, I am going to go swim for the first time since I’ve been up here. I’ve been walking pretty consistently, and I plan to start running three days a week. I also plan to move my bike and bike trainer into the house, so I can bike twice a week. My physical health goal is to swim on Monday and Wednesday, to bike on Thursday and Saturday, and to run on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday. I certainly feel better when I am active, and not just physically. I can tell in my emotional demeanor when I have the chance to do moving meditation and when I don’t.

I’ve been drinking a few too many beers, been smoking a few too many cigarettes, and been having a few too many eat whatever I want days. I know this is not necessarily healthy. I also know that the opposite extreme is not healthy for me either. I do not live well on a restricted diet. I do not live well without the option of smoking a bit now and again. And I do not live well without an occasional alcoholic beverage.

I am well aware that moderation in all things is best for me, and I am striving toward a better and healthier relationship with what I consume.

I want wellness in regards to exercise and food.

I am thankful for being able to tell when enough is enough.

4) Relational Health: I have more friends than I have ever had before. I have a better relationship with my wife than I’ve had in about a year. I am more appreciative of my family than I have been in a long time. I value and cherish people in a way I haven’t before in my life.

Without family and friends, I am fully aware that I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I especially wouldn’t be so mentally well.

Every day, I thoughtfully consider that I might not even be here today were it not for my family and friends who’ve loved me unconditionally.

I am thankful I am here today.

5) Locational Health: Is this really a thing? Haha. I am so happy we live where we live. There are several state parks within a short driving distance. I frequently walk on an island, which is part of what I’ve always wanted. I didn’t imagine the island would be between two rivers in the middle of a huge city in Minnesota, but I have an island to walk around. I can drive half an hour and be in Minneapolis, or half an hour in the opposite direction and be out in the country surrounded by cows. We live in a quiet and working-class river valley, but I work up in the Heights, so I can see everything at night after work or in the morning before work, even the stars. I can drive back to Indiana in one day, so I can visit easily, or I can drive one day in the opposite direction and be in Canada.

I am thankful I live in a second place I love.

6) Spiritual Health: Advent starts on Sunday, and I am so excited to see what God has in store for me for the next year. I have been using Common Prayer before work each morning, and I love how God speaks to me through those words. I can find one phrase or idea and carry it through my day.

I am thankful for God’s grace, peace, and love.

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.