The Toothpaste Won’t Go Back in the Tube

I’ve been in Minnesota for about seven weeks now, and I can say that I am growing to love it here. I have a great job at Cairbou (or the ‘Bou, as they call it here) that provides me little stress (except financial stress, since I only make $8 an hour), and I have free time to run, bike, and spend time with Bec doing things we love. I start swimming on next Monday night at 8, and I am mostly relaxed. The past seven weeks hasn’t been easy—make no mistake—but I have learned a lot about who I am and where I am going. Yesterday I received a care package from a friend. In it was a map that said YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAY in big letters. Another little reminder that this move has been good for me. Don’t get me wrong; I still miss my friends and family very much, but I feel hopeful right now that I am becoming someone I can live with for the rest of my life.

One of my big goals for moving here was to be able to get in touch with the me I used to love and respect, and to shed like a used up exoskeleton the me I had become, the bitter, sad, angry, short-tempered, and otherwise not very gracious me. I would say for the most part, I have rediscovered the person I want to be, but there are moments where the old me rears her ugly head. I got very angry with a poor unsuspecting woman at the license branch, this morning I got into a fight with Bec over some utility bill envelopes, and I’ve argued with a couple of friends over really petty and stupid shit. These moments wouldn’t have even phased me six months ago, because I sort of lived my life in combat mode, almost living my life for the argument, or to prove my rightness in every situation. Ridiculous. Embarrassing. Wrong.

I look back, and I wonder how I even had any friends with the way I acted most of the time. Maybe I am hyper-critical of myself and my actions, but I desire to be a person who ushers peace and grace and love into this world, and I certainly wasn’t doing much of that. In these “old me” moments—though they are few and far between in the past month or so—when I see myself acting short, or being an asshole, I am embarrassed about my present actions, and I am saddened by the fact that I had become a person whose first response was fault finding or misplaced anger.

I’ve started trying to stop making excuses and start making amends. It’s almost like I am in attitude AA, and I am trying to find those people I’ve wronged and try to apologize or at least let folks know that I am aware of how I was, and sadly occasionally still can be, because I’m finding that this is just like any other sinful (I hate that word sin but I don’t have a better word for it) behavior, in that, I can’t just make it go away.

When I think about how our personal conduct affects others, I am always transported back to a children’s sermon, one of the better ones, that someone gave at Grace UMC when I was in high school or college. I think the person giving it was Shelly Neal, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, in the process of the children’s sermon, the person speaking squeezed an entire tube of toothpaste out onto a paper plate. She then said, “Okay, kids, now put it back in the tube.” They tried various methods, but to no avail. She said, “Um, yeah, it doesn’t work.” If you’ve ever tried to put toothpaste back in the tube, because you squirted out too much, you already know this. If you follow the children’s sermon illustration, you’ll understand that what we say and do is like the toothpaste. Once it’s out there, it can’t be put back in the tube. Basically, I am trying really hard to be a person who doesn’t squeeze the tube unless what is going to come out of the tube is true, kind, necessary, or helpful (Bernard Meltzer). If what I am about to say or do isn’t one of those things, I am trying to avoid saying or doing it. Living this way, for me, is a struggle.

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In the fitness realm: I was doing really well with running, but my hours bumped up, so I had to readjust. On Monday, I start a Whole 30 for the month of September, and I start swimming on Monday and Wednesday night, as I said above, so I plan to get back to the running and biking more regularly as well. I’ve lost 15 pounds since July 11 when I moved here, and I mostly attribute it to reduced stress and better eating. I’m looking forward to Muncie 70.3 for next summer, and I know it will be fabulous.

EDIT: I am not doing a Whole 30. I don’t want to. :)

A Reason to Drive to Minnesota to Throat Punch Me: Fitness

If you needed a reason to come to MN to throat punch me, here it is, and I even give you permission, rather the encouragement, to do it. Please, please, please, if I ever say I am going to quit swimming, biking, or running, or if I say I am just going to take a short break from it, get in your car, drive to Newport, Minnesota, and kick my ass. I’ll even give you gas money. If come to throat punch me for some other reason, you’re on your own with the gas money.

That being said, I’ve started running again, very slowly and methodically, but running none the less. I’ve just finished the second week, the second day, of the Couch Potato to 5K program, and it was glorious. I’m hoping to only have to use the guided program for a couple more weeks before my body is just back in the groove of this thing I love. I’m doing most of my running on this trail, The River Bottoms Trail, parts of which are contained in Fort Snelling State Park. The section I am using right now is the part that starts in Mendota, and it’s flat as a pancake, beautiful along the river, and packed dirt so it’s very forgiving, not like concrete or asphalt. As I get better and faster again at running, I’ll explore some of the other parts of the trail, too, but they seem more technical and I don’t want to risk injuring my knee again, so I want to be good and strong before being too adventurous. The waiting is torture. My favorite part of running is careening down hills and skittering back up the other side. It’s a beautiful childlike feeling, but for now I’ll be a 40-year-old who’s afraid to get reinjured.

To begin preparing to train for the Muncie 70.3 next July, I have decided to run three times a week, bike twice a week, and swim twice a week. I’ve already covered my running plan, so I’ll talk about biking. I’m hoping to rope Bec into my biking program next spring, but we’ll see how that goes. We love going for long rides together, so hopefully it’ll mean spending some quality time together once a week for a long ride. Mostly for now, I’m going to ride a couple of short rides each week, then settle into winter. I hate riding in cold weather, so I’ll be spending some time in the garage on the trainer, which I hate almost as much. Maybe I need to get a cheap TV to put out there to make the time pass more quickly. Such is life in Minnesota as a biker in the winter, but there is always spring.

Finally, I just sent for my community lap swim card. Talk about a super-cool, super-weird deal: the schools in our district open their pools for lap swim for anyone in the community. It costs $65 A YEAR to join the community lap swim program. $65 A YEAR! The pools are open four nights a week, and the one closest to my house is open on Monday and Wednesday from 8PM to 9PM, which is perfect. I can get in a nice swim two nights a week, just before bed. I had registered for Big Shoulders this year, but since I haven’t been swimming, I’m going to forgo my participation and watch my friend Teresa do Ironman Wisconsin. I’ll try for Big Shoulders again next year when I’ve been in the pool more.

Here is what I hope my weeks to come will look like:

Day

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Activity Swim Run Swim Run Bike LongRun Bike
Time 8-9PM Whenever 8-9PM Whenever Whenever Whenever

Afternoon

Getting back into this type of training is much more difficult than just sticking with it could ever be, so please, please, please, heed my offer. If I ever, ever, ever, mention quitting or taking a break, make the drive and throat punch me. I won’t be surprised about it, and I’ll pay for your gas.

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On a totally unrelated note, people who have very long acrylic fingernails should not be allowed to type in public. Isn’t that so the late 1990s early 2000s anyway? The clicking reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” The clicking is maddening. In fact, I think my work is finished here. I’m going to go home and shower, then find a place to get my newest tattoo. Happy Birthday to me.

A New Sabbath Day

I want and need a Sabbath, one day each week that I can count on to be strictly my time to spend with God, family, writing, and art, so the one day I said I wouldn’t work at Caribou is Sunday. Fortunately, Caribou eases you in to a full schedule, so I had yesterday and tomorrow off as well. Today we tried out our new Sunday thing, plan, routine, whatever you want to call it. Since Bec and I have radically different ideas about what we like in church, we’ve decided to have the best of both worlds and just attend two services. First, we get up early and head to St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul, and then we head to Awaken Community in Lilydale. It’s a nice balance and nice way to start the Sabbath. And we get to see the children and grandchildren at Awaken, so that’s a pretty nice bonus. After church today, we came home, had lunch, and then napped. We’re exciting, I know.

We (Bec, Ann, and I) spent yesterday going to the Uptown and Powderhorn Art Fairs. We walked forever and looked at lots of amazing arts and crafts. I bought a card for my mom, a birthday gift for my brother, and an anniversary gift for the Combers. And if any of them read this, I just spoiled the surprise for them all. As we walked, I kept thinking about how God has honored my heart’s desire to have time off of work and to have a job I don’t bring home with me. I couldn’t get the image of myself, sitting in one of those booths and selling my own artwork, out of my mind. Even if it’s only a dream for now, since I have just begun sketching, it’s the freest I’ve felt in a long, long time.

For my first little venture back into the art world, I plan to create a set of prints based on this poem by Wallace Stevens. There have been several interpretations of this poem created by several artists in a few diverse cultures. Artist Joan Colbert hand pulled my favorite set of linoleum block prints that is currently in existence. You can see them here. However, I think there is still room for me to add my voice into the mix, because my style of block printing has a bit more texture in the white spaces, and I plan to print both black and white on brown paper, adding some pastel work into the final prints.

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I got to Minnesota about three weeks ago. Today is August 3, and I arrived on July 11. Just after I got here, or more specifically on my 40th birthday, I made some simple goals, things I’d like to improve upon in my life. Here they are (again): quit smoking and drink only on weekends or not at all; eat primal with one “cheat” day a week; no ice cream; get a job; capitalize on quiet time (read, write, art); and run/walk, bike, swim. Since setting these goals, I’ve accomplished several and am still working on others. I struggle with the ice cream thing. It gives me joy. I’m going to keep eating ice cream for a while. I’ve started adding a brief bit of meditation into my morning routine, and I hope to add it into my evening routine as well. Meditation helps me to quiet my busy mind in a way that nothing else does; I can release my anger and sadness and cultivate compassion and joy through the simple act of breathing.

I’ve created one new goal in all of this, which I mentioned before, but I am going to mention again, and probably keep mentioning. I want to finish the Muncie 70.3 for my second time next July. I want to do it again to prove to myself that I can and to get a better time than last and to just be healthy again. I’ve been running and biking, and I will start swimming later this month, so I know I can do it. I just need to stay focused and remember that I am doing all of this to take care of myself and be well.

Minnesota Minute: A Day on the Town

Today I decided to go for a little adventure through Minneapolis. I don’t have much commentary, except what I will provide for each picture. I can say that today was really fun, and I look forward to exploring the Cities on my days off.

My first stop of the day was at Blick’s Art Supplies where I bought some stuff to start printmaking. I bought linoleum, ink, a roller, some paper, and some other more generalized art supplies. I used my birthday money for this, instead of for interview clothes.

Dick Blick

My second stop, which was a pleasant surprise, was at the Basilica of Saint Mary, the first basilica built in the United States. It is the co-cathedral for the Cities with St. Paul Cathedral, the more famous one. Here are several pictures I took while I was there. Forgive me for the bad quality of the photos; I took them with my phone.

After spending a good bit of time in contemplation in the basilica, I went to my next stop. Birchbark Books is famously supported by Louise Erdrich and houses a huge variety of texts by American Indian writers. The people who work there are very helpful and kind, and the store itself is exactly as quaint and amazing as one might imagine. My favorite part was the confessional that had a sign saying, “Do not enter. We are not responsible for damnation.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the confessional, nor did I get a very good picture of the outside. No worries. I will be going back soon.

photo 13

From Birchbark Books, I decided to head for lunch. If you know me at all, you know what I went for. Wings. With a simple google search, I found a place called Runyon’s, which is in the Warehouse District. Since I am new here, I had no idea what that meant. Well, as near as I can tell, the Warehouse District is a mix of businesses, restaurants, and strip clubs. This is what I saw as I neared my destination. You can’t really see the signs as well as I wish you could, but one says Augie’s Topless Bar and the other one is a giant rainbow circle that says Gay 90s. These are clear signs that good wings are nearby.

photo 14

I had to drive around a bit to find somewhere to park, and, once I did, I walked to Runyon’s along 2nd Avenue. I passed this:

photo 20

And then arrived here:

photo 15

The wings and (I cheated) the Deschutes Obsidian Stout were delicious. I kept thinking that it was really too bad that this bar is so far away from my house, because it felt a bit like Savage’s and the wings were just as good. The bartender, Nick, was pretty awesome and is himself a transplant from New York, so I felt pretty at home in his care. Their blue cheese dip was really good, too, so that’s a total plus. No shoddy, half-cracked blue cheese here. And my wings were crispy, just like I ordered them. Total win for lunch.

photo 17

After lunch,I decided to stop into this ecclectic little place I passed on my way to Runyon’s. One on One is the type of place that I’d love to hang out and just people watch. While I was in there I had some strange encounters just off the bat.

An older man said, about my t-shirt, to the woman who was chopping onions for what looked like salsa, “You know why she’s wearing tie-dye, right?”

The onion chopper said, “Why?”

Old guy, who had an opinion on everything that was going on, said, “She wanted to remind me of the good old times, the 60s, when acid was still legal in California.”

I turned to him and said, “You are absolutely right, man. I wore it just for you. I’m glad I could make your day.” And we both laughed.

Anyway, here are some photos from that place with the yummy dirty chai. First the front of the building:

photo 19

Next the inside, where the bicycles reside.

photo 18

My last task was to go to IKEA. I think I may be the only person I know who doesn’t enjoy this place one little bit. There is too much to look at, and the floor plan is structured like a maze. There is no getting in and getting out at IKEA. However, I did love the variety of cool options of everything they have in their little showrooms. I now know where I will go to buy all of my furniture should I ever live in a tiny house, a shipping container, or a tree house. The magic of IKEA is that it’s like a grown-up’s fairy castle where everything is a just a little surreal. I loved that aspect of it.

photo21

I hope you enjoyed that little tour. Haha.

 

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.