confessions of a professional grad school applicant, part 3

and now i’m in seattle, and all of the visiting of schools is done.  the university of washington is a school i’ve been thinking of, on and off, but as i was shuttling up the east coast, the joy of the humidity plus the stress of coordinating one more visit was too much for me, and i never tried to make a visit to uw happen.  today, i’ve been wandering around my old seattle haunts, contemplating the dreaminess, beauty, craziness, sadness, and creativity that one finds here.  i am uncomfortable with the prevalence of mental illness and poverty as i walk around, and just want to sequester myself in bookstores, coffeeshops, and vintage things, which is of course ironic because i’m so interested in class and disability.  it is sunny today, but i think part of the discomfort is the grimy understanding that that person howling on the street corner could be you, and when it’s drizzling, it sort of feels like they are all you.  and of course i know that in new york, there are all those pieces as well, and it’s harder to just make it there, in many ways, but the time i lived in seattle was one of the saddest parts of my life, through no fault of its own.
anyway, after my last post, i quickly started to think of philadelphia as “the city of brotherly HOOOOONNNNK!”  getting the rental car was tremendously stressful, because we had to get out of a parking garage that was under construction, and thus had all of its signs pointing in directions to nowhere.  by the time we made it out, we were exhausted and stressed, especially considering the fact that we were also hungry.  so we got food quickly (getting honked at all the time) and then got on the highway to happy valley (getting honked at all the time).  we did not understand what lane to get in for the toll booth, so we got honked at some more, and in general the ride was high stress punctuated by quiet lulls.  every time things seemed to get into place, some minor disaster would occur, and there would be more honking.  in the middle of the drive, the gps took us to a starbucks that was in a weird shopping center, and t collapsed in an amazingly comfortable adirondack chair.  the adirondack chair life is something we both crave.  after some relaxing there, we went and got some gas, but that, too, became an occasion for stress and honking due to confusion about the location of the gas tank.

finally we made it to state college, which i decided must be like “stars hollow,” where “the gilmore girls” takes place.  our hotel was a decent chain hotel, with a friday’s out in the parking lot.  after unloading the car, we looked up vegetarian food, and there weren’t a ton of options, but a pizza place sounded good, so we went there.  i loved it in its salty, greasiness, but it turned out to be wrong for the pregnant lady.  we watched “friends” (on nick at nite, what!?) until we fell asleep.

the following morning, i went to my appointment at penn state, and was delighted by the kindness and enthusiasm of the professor i was meeting with.  she showed me around the impressive reading camp they were having (which made me think that: a) i am a terrible teacher and b) i was woefully ill-prepared in a practical way), and actually said out loud that she wants me to come to the program, so that was nice.  sometimes, though, i feel like i’ve tricked people when they say things like that to me after only a few emails and conversations.  anyway, i was impressed with the program and could be happy in it.
t and i met back up for lunch with a couple who i’d gotten in touch with via the lgbta grad association.  i’d emailed them and explained our situation, and was told that this couple had a similar situation.  they were kind and sweet and open, wonderful to talk with, and we learned a lot about family life in general, queer family life in specific, and how to connect with good doctors.  also, when i noticed that they both wore crosses, i asked about queer friendly churches, and soon the quakers were mentioned.  when i said i was a quaker, i was told that there was a wonderful quaker working at this bookstore/cafe, so we went there and i was introduced to a woman with vibrant and goofy energy, who i shyly and awkwardly greeted before t and i dashed away to get back on the road to the city of brotherly HOOOOONNNK! so she could catch her megabus back to new york.

my impression of the town and school was that it was quaint and old-fashioned, though with a definite college student presence.  later, discussing with t, who had been wandering around the town, the college student presence was very strong for her.

at the hotel, i’d bought t an extra megabus ticket for an hour later than our original booking to make sure she wouldn’t get stuck without one.  this was good, because we got there just after our original booking had left.  then, there were decisions about how much time the pregnant lady should stand out in the heat while waiting for the bus.  once we’d committed to standing out there, the bus wound up being about half an hour late.  i’d made an appointment for dinner with <a href=”http://robinmsf.blogspot.com”>robin</a&gt; and <a href=”http://chrismsf.blogspot.com”>chris</a&gt;, so i ran back into the station as soon as we saw t’s bus coming.

the city of brotherly HOOOOOONNNK! quickly became a maze of confusion transit options, and i wound up getting on the wrong one.  eventually i found robin, though, and we took the train to the house that her family was to move out of in a week.  ironically, the only other time i’d been to their house was right before another move.  my traveling dazedness made for some awkward dinner conversation, but i was treated to some delicious cheese and stir-fried vegetables, as well as a welcome popsicle.

then back to the train station where i settled in to a book before getting on my overnight train to boston.  it was an eight hour ride, which seemed perfect in theory, but since i could never get into a comfortable position for sleeping, and there was a teenager behind me histrionically vacillating between schmoopy phone calls with her boyfriend and angry conversations with her family who were on the train, i didn’t actually get much sleep.  but i think i slept through connecticut, so i don’t think it’s fair for me to really say i’ve ever been to connecticut.

i navigated the boston transit system much better than the one in philly, despite feeling exhausted, filthy, and unkempt.  i ordered breakfast at a diner with a young man who called me all those funny masculine names that i don’t understand (i don’t think he called me “chief” or “big guy” but it was things like that),  and while it was being made, i changed clothes in the bathroom.  i felt moderately less gross after that.  then, i went out into the heat to wait for the shuttle bus i’d been told about, but after waiting for an hour, i decided it must not run in the summer, and i got into a cab that had been sitting there the whole time.  the thing that stalled me the most from getting into the cab was that i only knew the name of the building i wanted to go to, not its actual address, but the cab driver knew what i meant.

boston college has free wifi for guests, which was nice, so i sat in a comfy lobby and de-sweated while i waited for my appointments.  i met with one professor who was very nice and then the really enthusiastic and friendly student who had organized my visit.  then, i got to sit in on the only class of this whole college tour– critical race theory, and wow is that something i want to do.  the professor of the class was poised and brilliant, and the students were open and also brilliant, engaging with the topic and each other in wonderful ways.

it’s hard because so many things i’ve experienced on this trip have not swayed me exactly from one school to another, but just further and further towards excitement about grad school.  i want to have those deep conversations and engage with people in the way that this trip has been opening up.  but there has not been one clear winner so far.

i took the megabus back to new york.  this megabus came to the regular bus bay, and so it was more comfortable than waiting in philly or new york.  but one megabus cruelly came and left 10 minutes before our bus was supposed to leave, and then the next bus came 45 minutes later, so i got into new york very late at night.  but t and her bff had delicious food waiting for me.

the truth is new york feels like love to me.  every person i know there is tremendously sweet and takes wonderful care of me, making sure i knew where i’m going and how to get there.  there have been few people angry at me or even angry near me.  sure, the subway rocks a lot, and the ground is disgusting, but i feel oddly buoyant and impermeable in new york.  it is clear, though, that t does not feel that way.  and that is fine.  i have such a romantic vision of new york, it is probably best to keep it that way.

my last bit of new york included visiting carroll gardens and getting swept away by cute shops and cafes.  i am easily swept away by cute shops and cafes.  the next day, t flew back to san francisco, which was very sad and i didn’t want to stop touching her belly.

i’d accidentally flaked out on some vague appointments because i got my dates mixed up, but i was able to reschedule one of them.  so after t left, i took the subway to another friend’s apartment away up in washington heights.  we set up my new air mattress on the floor and then went and got amazing pizza.  then we went looking for a place to get a key for me and to wander around central park.  sadly there was no key to be had.  but the wandering was nice.  eventually we went to columbia, where his office is, and i sat in the lobby eating snacks and using the internet late into the night.  this was funny to me, because i’m not looking at columbia.

the next day, i went to washington square and got a dosa and sat down at a park bench.  then i realized that speed levitch was giving a tour right next to me.  he was commenting on the sexualness of the arch.  i was amused because he spoke at new college a few years ago, and felt like this moment would have really impressed my 21 year old self.

then i went to the coffeehouse where i was going to meet an nyu student.  i sat in a seat near the front and watched the door.  i had the odd advantage of her google+ picture popping up on my email screen, unbidden, as i reread the email.  unfortunately it was arty and shadowed, so i only knew to look for glasses.  i saw someone with glasses go up to another young woman who shook her head no, so i went up to the woman with glasses, who barely registered me, i think because she thought my name belonged to a woman (this has happened a lot on this trip, btw).

we went back out to a park bench and she told me about nyu.  she was very serious but very friendly and answered all of my questions thoughtfully and enthusiastically.

i wandered around the area a bunch, slithering illicitly into bookstores (i’m not really allowed to buy books right now) as it started to rain.  one of my daydreams of new york life involves working in a bookstore again.  i miss it.

i met back up with the friend i’m staying with, so i could buy what he thinks are the best bagels in new york.  then, i went to my meeting with a cuny student.  we met in a two story diner with a waiter with a wry sense of humor.  the student i met with was very friendly and fun to talk with, and also very enthusiastic about the program.

i have a better feel for new york than i do for the two programs.  in some ways the websites for the programs are so vast that it’s hard to get a true handle on things.  but i’m excited about both, nonetheless.

and then yesterday, after 5 hours of sleep, i got up and went to my plane for seattle, stopping in salt lake city, utah, which was a shockingly pleasant experience.  the airport had a bike cop, easily accessible sharps containers, recycling, veggie burgers served by people who made sure i knew what was vegan even though i’m not vegan, and deep fried pickles.  land of contrasts, indeed.

so now i just have to decide.  admittedly, p.j. harvey’s rendition of peggy lee’s “is that all there is?” is sort of rambling through my head today.  there are schools i’m definitely, unquestionably excited about, but the adventure time is over and now it’s just negotiating applications and decisions, which is less fun than a trip up the east coast.  there are viable options for sure, but there was no clear winner, especially in the “where to live to raise a family” category of decision making.

i thought i would spend the flight to seattle poring over my notes and materials, but instead i’m kind of consciously taking a break from thinking about it, letting my subconscious shake some stuff out first.  we’ll see where it lands.  for now, i will just be here in seattle, thinking about my past, and planning for the wonderful wedding of two lovely friends.

confessions of a professional grad school applicant, pt. 1

2 out of 10 or 11 schools have been visited and now i have a weekend to rest, reflect, and spend time with friends and family before i visit 2 more on monday.  so many adventures have already been had and we only left the bay area on tuesday.

the school year closed on June 15.  June 18 was a teacher work day.  June 19-21, t & i went to art trainings sponsored by the school district.  while t was learning about a whole year’s worth of art curriculum, i was off learning <a href=”http://selfassuperhero.com/students.html”>how to turn myself and my students into superheroes</a>, through a workshop run by the <a href=”http://www.ahc-oakland.org/index.html”>attitudinal healing connection</a>, one of the many fun activities i’ve participated in in the bay area that makes me vaguely concerned i’m joining a cult.  but the workshop was fantastic and i had a great time and am excited about how to use all of that in the classroom.  and i mean, it’s rare that i get to spend 3 days making art.

friday…  we did more things, i don’t remember…  saturday and sunday were about packing and socializing, and then monday was crunch time.  a lawyer appointment (student loans are already separate when you get married and war tax resistance debt is illegal so it can’t be covered in a pre-nup anyway, so we don’t have to get a pre-nup, thank you <a href=”http://www.milesfamilylaw.com/about.html”>dylan miles</a>), a gps purchase, an oil change, shoe exchanging, prescription pick-up, and a car drop-off all meant for a busy day and very little sleep because there was still cleaning, sorting, laundry, and packing to do.  and a bag of split peas to spill all over the floor because that’s just fun at 1 in the morning.

tuesday morning, i got up and biked as fast as i could to the vet to pick up secret’s thyroid pills and then back home.  then i walked as fast as i could to the pet food store to get cat food and litter but it wasn’t open yet so i walked back.  i finished up the laundry and other bits of things, and then went back to the pet food store, ran home, stocked up the cat food, and changed the litter box.  we dashed to our flight, and after t and i stood around waiting for them to find a female security guard to frisk t because she didn’t want to radiate the baby, we finally made it to our flight just as they were calling our name on the intercom.  this was particularly tragic because we hadn’t refilled our water bottles or gotten extra food for the pregnant lady.  but we made it onto the flight, hurray.

after a transfer in atlanta that seemed ridiculous because we would be renting a car to drive to atlanta (and where we finally got properly hydrated and fed (we DID get t as much water as possible on the plane, don’t worry)), we got on the next plane.  in line in front of us was friendly chatty woman and a young man.  the woman engaged us all in conversation and the young man wound up telling us all about how he had just gotten back from teaching english in china.

we made it to rdu at about 11 at night.  as we were going to baggage claim we found our english-teaching friend surrounded by his parents, covered in “welcome to the usa!” paraphernalia, smiling ruefully and sweetly into a camera one of them was holding up.  it was totally charming.

i sent t off to the rental car place while i waited for our luggage (which only got checked because we were so late and there was no room in the overhead bins).  when i got to the rental car place and found her, she was standing next to a giant SUV.  GIANT.  it was totally hilarious to me, and potentially hilarious to t, but currently terrifying and annoying.  fortunately they’d told her she could return it the next day and probably get the economy car she’d requested, so we headed off to quickly stay the night at the house of my good friend, j from the internet and her lovely husband.  the house is an absolutely adorable home with a screened-in porch in durham, nc.

then in the morning, we poked around getting ready, probably a little too long, and then got on the road back to the rental car place.  it took them awhile to find us our promised economy car, but eventually we had that and were really back on the road.  after stops in random places for things like soup at panera bread, gas from gas stations, and coffee from coffeehouses too far into town, we arrived at athens, georgia at 7:01 for our 7:00 dinner meeting with a grad student from the language & literacy education department at uga.  The food and conversation was lovely, and we talked a lot about the lower cost of living.  one topic was the price of traffic and parking tickets, and so it was funny when we got back to our rental car and found a $10 parking ticket on the windshield.

then we drove to lawrenceville, a suburb of atlanta that i’d visited before, to stay with one of my lovely friends from college, her husband, and her stepdaughter.  we had an entire little basement suite, and there were friendly cats and a fridge stocked with string cheese and luna bars just for us.

the next morning, we went back to athens where i met with three professors from the lled program.  they were all fantastic and great to talk with.   i got fed and everyone was just super friendly.  i think athens could be a really good fit for our budding family and uga would be an excellent place to go to school.  there are still questions about the livability of the funding, but t & i were pretty excited by our second day’s visit.

then we drove through the famous heavy traffic, to gsu in atlanta.  as we were driving up, a woman leaned into a cop car and started talking with the officers and then walked in front of them and a whole bunch of other fast traffic.  i was there to speak with grad students from the special education program.  i’ve been realizing more and more that special ed programs are frequently about interventions and quantitative research which is wonderful and important but maybe i’m more of a critical theory person.  the students i spoke with at gsu were wonderful and friendly, but i started to think that maybe i wasn’t looking at the right program there.  then i went outside to wait for trisha and observed some sexual harrassment, had someone creepily ask to use my phone, and saw the same 2 guys walk around the block multiple times.  i finally went back inside because i really needed to use the bathroom, and then after passing the gauntlet of a couple making out against the bathroom door, there was another guy trying to get me to give him my student card for him to use….  when i told t that maybe gsu wasn’t for me, she was relieved, because she’s just spent that whole time battling the traffic.

we went back to the little suburb and after trying to find a publix with the gps and instead driving to the publix warehouse, we went to dinner with my friend and her family.  that was great.  after some family tv watching, we all went to our bedrooms.  i took a shower and then trisha took a shower, but as she was showering, it sounded like the toilet flushed, and then the water that had been building in the tub also went down the drain.  after she got out of the shower, the whole floor from the bathroom through half the kitchenette was covered in water, and so we cleaned that up, washed our feet and went to bed.

the following morning i had a meeting with the dean, who is the brother-in-law of one of the members of the sf quaker meeting and who sounds like a paragon of integrity.  i was told by the quaker brother-in-law that he would be honest about all of the schools i was looking at so i sort of used the time to go through my list with him.  unfortunately he couldn’t find a bad choice on my list.

after that, t and i met with some grad students at the home of the professor who was sort of hosting this trip, and we went out for food, and then gave us a lot more information about the program.  i am absolutely sold on the program and trisha was absolutely sold on the town.  the only flaw was the funding.

then, as we were driving out and the gun shop billboards started to fly past, she got a little more nervous, but we are in agreement that even if we choose athens and uga, it doesn’t have to be forever.

we got back to the car rental at 11 again, and j from the internet bravely drove us back to durham in a giant wind storm.

i’ve been emailing professors at schools like crazy, and it’s stressful but also a lot of fun in many ways.  it’s nice to have people helping me out and talking with me (and taking me out for food!).  it’s a great way to spend a summer.

Published in: on 30 June, 2012 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

i want to ‘lectrify my soul.

yesterday at meeting for worship there were a lot of tears. and when somebody spoke/sang about the belief that there will be laughter even after people go, my natural tendency toward making people laugh when times are sad, went into high gear.

i wanted to tell the “hilarious” story of my first quaker meeting. i was an american tourist in whitby, england, and i had a cold. i tried to get tissues before the meeting started but nowhere was open, and that hunt took so long that i got to the meetinghouse just as meeting was started so i couldn’t find the bathroom. so i dashed in and sat there, for my very first hour of silence. except thanks to me, it wasn’t silence. the silence was regularly punctuated by my sniffles, as i tried to sink into the worship in some way. as i remember, there were multiple doors into and out of the worship room, and so even if i had felt brave enough to get up to go to a restroom at such a mysterious and holy time, i didn’t know where any of the doors led. so i just sat there. and sniffled. and felt american.

at the end of the worship time, the elderly woman next to me, kindly turned and told me that she wanted to offer me a tissue, but they were all up her sleeve and she wasn’t sure if that would bother me or not, so she hadn’t offered me a tissue.

what i got from reliving that story in my mind yesterday, was actually less about the funniness of the story but of the tissues we all have up our sleeves that we are too self-conscious to share.

but i didn’t tell the story or the lesson i had learned from it. there’s this flowchart that’s somewhere in our meeting’s seeker’s packets that gets referred to sometimes, and it’s about how to test whether to share a message. the part that i remember the most is that you can ask yourself if the message is just for you or for the group.

here is my embarrassing and guilty quaker confession:

what keeps me from speaking at meeting for worship, more than anything, when i have these “enlightening” moments is that as i start asking myself if the message is for me or the group, another piece comes in, which is, “am i willing to live by this?” and sometimes i’m not sure. sometimes the idea of living by my own grand advice that seems like it’s from god to the group, with me sort of tangentially involved, is so terrifying or exhausting-seeming, that i keep it to myself.

also, yesterday, i finished reading a pendle hill pamphlet by ben pink dandelion, “confident quakerism.” when i went to return it to the library, the library committee member behind the desk asked what i’d thought. and it was hard to answer, because i’d started the pamphlet months ago, read half of it, and then read the other half today. as i recalled, the beginning had been somewhat irritating, but yesterday’s reading had been useful. as i recall, the beginning dealt with some theological mistakes the author had made, and something in how they were presented had irked me. but there was a sentence near the end about how conversations about our spiritual mistakes breaks open things between people. in my conversation, i hypothesised that maybe our mistakes our better talked about than written about (and now i am writing about that idea). maybe they crystallize a little out of context, when you see them in print.

but it was interesting to read that yesterday, because besides theological mistakes, another place where stuff breaks up in important ways, is when people talk about race and oppression. i’m looking at ph. d. programs right now and i just discovered this week that there are education programs that have whiteness studies as part of it, and that has gotten me really excited. so i got all excited about that as a theological exercise, too.

but of course i don’t want to mix up an academic field with worship.

but probably the core of my belief system is that god is there when you are open to the truth. and frequently that is messy and awkward.

(and at the same time something i am continually learning is the boundaries of one’s own messy-and-awkward and others’ messy-and-awkward. as a writer who has very little filter, i must be mindful that others have filters and boundaries, and they are there for a reason.)

after meeting for worship, my girlfriend and i trekked over to ocean beach to see gillian welch, old crow medicine show, and emmylou harris pay tribute to warren hellman, the man who had started the hardly strictly bluegrass festival, a free music festival in golden gate park. i can never be convinced to go to the festival anymore because it is too crowded and full of alcohol and pot, even if i think it’s a good idea. but i liked the slightly smaller (though still robust) crowd of this event, the considerably rarer instances of people lighting up anything near me (though i did have this funny interaction on the phone with my mom between sets. she said, “we’re lighting a fire in the pit out here,” JUST as pulled out a pipe and lit it right next to me, and so i said, “yeah, someone’s got a little one going over here, too.), the explicitly respectful vibe of the event, and the beautiful escape valve of the roaring ocean just behind me. i was actually able to enjoy the music.

life is sadder than sometimes i’d like to admit. and it’s hard. and growth is hard. but there is god in the music and the laughter and the time shared together and the solitude of the ocean and the mistakes we make and our ability to open up about those mistakes. and if there’s not, there’s something really close, pointing to what god really is.

god’s work isn’t done by god. it’s done by people.

oh, right. there was another part of christmas eve that i forgot to write about.

over vacations, i like to work at an independent bookstore in bernal heights. i used to work there regularly before teaching, but now i don’t have the time or energy– except during long breaks from school. since it’s my “fake job,” it doesn’t feel like work as much as just a fun thing to do. the only part that feels like work is waking up and getting there. once i’m there, i have a great time shelving books, talking to customers, making me to-read list even longer.

i’ve got another friend who works in retail around here, but it’s her real job and it’s a bigger store. not just a little neighborhood bookstore with loyal customers, but a department store downtown. as i was leaving my shift at 3 on christmas eve, i texted her something about being in the home stretch.

she didn’t respond until i was walking down 24th to the christmas pageant. i felt my phone buzz and looked to see she had sent me a text message that said, “dead god.”

it turns out that she meant dear god, but from a large retail perspective, christmas eve is about as “dead god” as you can get. not only is god dead, but you’re about there, too. i remember when i worked at jo-ann fabrics and crafts, etc. just how soul-sucking it all is.

and that’s the irony of the season that we all know. christmas corporate retail may be the biggest reason for atheism there is. “THIS is how we celebrate god’s birthday!? f*** that. if he was real, he wouldn’t let this happen for any reason, let alone for him.”

so, i laughed a lot out there on 24th, about getting “dead god” text message on my way to a christmas pageant. but then, that christmas pageant, with it’s men in angel wings and a real live baby for jesus, reminded me of the aliveness of god. in fact, there was a line that we in the congregation said, “christ has died, christ is risen, christ will come again,” which can metaphorically describe that paradoxical moment, the paradoxical moment we all live in every day. every day we are killing christ, and every day… we can be christ.

after i got home from the pageant, i discovered that the issue of “western friend” i was about to read had a big section on the occupy movement. and from someone who is either not called to actively participate in that movement or who is too lazy… i see that christ aliveness in the occupy movement.

we always say that if we had been there, we would have been right there with jesus, or we would have fought the nazis, and then there are those moments where we realize we might have just been cozily at home instead. would that have been a moral failing then, and is it a moral failing now? or is that the wrong question?

you say “well hey, it’s about time” and i say “no, no it’s about love”

there’s a post i’ve been holding onto for months, maybe years. i’m actually sitting here trying to write it and have managed to get halfway through it twice before highlighting the whole thing and hitting delete. i think of it as the post that’s gotten in the way of writing here regularly anymore, but it just won’t come out either.

it’s about my confusion about accountability to myself, from others, and to my meeting. it’s about calling and that falling away or shifting and not knowing where it went and not knowing how to ask for support and feeling bitter that it wasn’t just offered and feeling guilty for wanting other people to follow all of my whims and fluctuations. it’s about my desire to be more aware of others’ whims and fluctuations. it’s about accidentally almost joining a cult. it’s about the death of a member of my clearness committee. it’s about diversity and social justice and the question of if quakerism really is for everyone. it’s about how still and all, the majority of my friends are white. it’s about struggling as a teacher. it’s about crying at the meeting retreat two years ago because i just desperately wanted to give all of my students the type of experience i was having right then. it’s about how i don’t understand the valuable experiences my students have. it’s about wanting to write more. it’s about wanting to be more of what i think a quaker should be. it’s about living far from my meeting. it’s about feeling far from my meeting. it’s about feeling close to my meeting. it’s about unexpected phone calls from members of my meeting when i am feeling low or am across the country. it’s about feeling distance and then suddenly feeling overly close. it’s about being a grown-up. it’s about trying to infuse my teaching with quakerism. it’s about leaving and coming back. it’s about bitterness and angst and self-recrimination. it’s about deciding. it’s about not deciding. it’s about confusion, sadness, and joy. it’s about days slipping by. it’s about living.

maybe now that that’s all out of the way, i can start focusing on god again.

i went to a quaker-led journaling workshop this week. it was at the berkeley meeting, which is just a short bike ride away from my house. it’s based around a book by parker palmer, who i’ve read and enjoyed as an educator.

i showed up late to the workshop and people were already journaling about a poem called “fire” by judy sorum brown, and i was given some potential prompts and asked to think about the fire in my life.

first i rambled in my journal about where i was, what i was doing, why i was late, trying to get myself acquainted with the page. then i started writing about how i’m not 100 percent sure what the fire even is. if it’s in my job, then it seems like the fire is just going whether i want it to or not. later, we had the opportunity to share our thoughts with another person, and i analogized my situation to a trail of gasoline. at the end of it is a bigger bonfire, and that’s where there will be spaces for oxygen to tend to the fire, but right now it’s just a running trail and i’ve got to go with it because there’s no other option.

but is that my “spiritual fire” or not?

then i wrote a list of all of the things that i conflate together although they are not the same:
god,
quakerism,
quaker meeting,
christianity,
prayer,
service,
spirit,
responsibility…

& wrote about how i find myself making internal statements like, “i’m not as connected to god as i used to be because i’m too busy and sometimes have to miss committee meetings.” which brings me to the only theological question i seem to ever ponder these days, which is:

was i more connected to god when i had so much free time at my disposal for explicit contemplation, or am i more connected now, when i’m too busy doing what i think is god’s work for me to stop and contemplate god all that much?

… every day, though, in the thick of it, more than last year even, i find myself asking over and over again, “make me an instrument of your peace.”

because that’s what you have to do when a 12 year old girl is defiantly screaming at you about how you are a sinner because you have a tattoo on your wrist, right after you asked her to please start the math work that everybody else is almost done with. and you’re pretty sure it’s going to happen again after lunch, too.

trying to read some blogs for once. i’m sort of debating getting a netbook at some point in the nearish-esque future, because i really don’t have a lot of time in front of a computer where i can really sit down and read or write. my emails feel very scattered because they are fast unconnected sentences with as much info as i can remember to include in a very short period of time. this isn’t because i’m particularly busy, but because the computers i use aren’t mine, so i always feel slightly invasive. this has been the case for years, but i think i’m ready to regain my computing independence. especially since i plan on going back to school in the summer/fall.

it’s been interesting, because the little bit of reading i just did all sort of “speaks to my condition.” let’s see if i can explain it in a semi-swift but still complete manner.

as you may know, i’ve had a sort of concern about diversity. this seemed to be leading me toward niyonu spann’s beyond diversity 101 workshop, but that has been postponed multiple times and now i’m not sure if or when i will be able to attend. i have a clearness committee that is theoretically around that, but the past few meetings have mostly enlightened me to how fuzzy-headed i feel.

at the most recent one, we decided to check in about meeting about once every three months. i was asked what i wanted in the meantime. i said, “conversations and resources.” everyone agreed.

a couple of weeks went by. i blinked a little. and then i started making some phone calls. and on an almost weekly basis, i’ve been getting together with a different person from my clearness committee. and some new things are starting to form. i’m a little shy about sharing them here just yet, because they’re… tender… and unformed somewhat. but something is actually starting to come into shape. and i’m getting a little excited again.

but/and… i’m going to be busy soon. i’m on nominating committee this year, which apparently always means that you join a committee that you theoretically didn’t have time for before, but when you get rejected so many times, you start to feel guilty and take on stuff. so i joined children’s religious ed. which i’ve meant to do for about a year now, so… and then there’s that whole starting school thing. and then there’s the busy-ness that i think my leading will… lead… to.

and so it was interesting to read various posts about tending the inward fire, and , and, er, reading batman. they seem linked. that blend of self-care and faithfulness. it’s good. i like it. i would like to post all three in my head’s bulletin board for easy access, but… i don’t have one of those, so… i’ll have to figure something else out. like, um, maybe a good inward fire.

i’m still figuring out if i’m knocking and it is being given to me, or if i’m just trying to put on some sort of show. but… my hibernation for the past few months hasn’t felt like much of a show.

looking through a stripped copy of the fall issue of bitch magazine. there’s a review of danya ruttenberg’s surprised by god: how i learned to stop worrying and love religion. i skimmed the review and put the book on hold at the library. the bit that really got me was “On the other hand, she learns that religion is– and by definition, must be–a communal endeavor.”

i haven’t been to the meetinghouse since thanksgiving day. i like going there for holidays a lot. it was a pretty silent meeting, but the food sharing was convivial and i love that part. i love that feeling of being surrounded by caring people, without the “typical” holiday stress stuff.

and i haven’t been back since. that’s only 2 sundays, but maybe that’s my biggest streak ever. i’ve been busy, and last weekend an unexpected (and ultimately somewhat wretched) out of town trip happened… is that why i feel so disconnected from… something?

i’ve been feeling a little disconnected from the meeting lately, which is unfortunate. i’ve moved across the bay, i’ve gotten a job that, while wonderful, makes it hard to stick around for evening meetinghouse events. there are plenty of reasons that are completely… reasonable. and then there’s the way that i’m not really the baby anymore and i don’t have the drama anymore, so i don’t “need” aspects of the meeting in the same way that i used to. it’s really easy to be a flake right now.

i feel like it’s become “too easy,” maybe, but i’m also “too busy” to do more. even in my personal life, my prayers have become short and breathy. but in other ways, i feel very steady.

“She dismisses the contemporary American practice of assembling a personal faith from bits and pieces of many religions as a symptom of endemic consumerism. Religion, she argues, is not a form of self-help or self-actualization. For her, it is service. It is submission of the self to a larger reality of purpose.”

i’ve started questioning what is missing, and if it’s actually missing or just deep. i think i need to be doing more work than i am, but i don’t know what that work is, or how exactly to do it. and i both want more help from quakers and i don’t feel quite ready to commit to doing anything different than what i’m doing. don’t you hate when that happens?

Published in: on 12 December, 2008 at 8:48 pm  Comments (3)  

in about an hour, all over the country, there will be protests. protests about all the gay marriage bans that passed in this election. i won’t be there.

partly it’s just that it’s been a really stressful week and i’ve not got enough sleep for 3 nights in a row. and maybe that laziness is informing my sense of leading, but i don’t think so.

i just don’t feel led to go. i think it’s really sad that proposition 8 won, but i’m not convinced that my going to this protest will fix what needs to get fixed.

(i’ve been asking myself questions about marriage as a state thing anyway, and if i even like that at all. wondering if people who live together in any sort of committed household, even if romance is not involved, should get all the state marriage “perks” and if the faith and other communities should be in charge of “policing” the holy, marriage stuff…?)

i think it’s just that, even though this may be naive and not politically cogent, it’s all really about love. ALL. are all people who love each other allowed to live that love how they want to? AND… are we loving enough to accept our differences?

i personally think it’s a travesty of the christian faith to use it to justify hate of any kind. AND i think it’s depressing that the queer response is an equally vicious and dehumanizing hatred. i think, then, we are both wrong.

i’m thinking about this person quoted in kornfield’s a path with heart. “my parents hate me when i’m a buddhist, but they love me when i’m a buddha,” she says. i can’t go out and fight this with fighting words and anger and hatred. i’ve just got to love even harder. maybe queer folks have to love harder than straight folks. maybe that’s not fair. maybe that’s like african american folks having to be twice as smart and twice as hardworking to get the same breaks as white folks. but maybe it’s a gift.

if i went out today, i’d bring or make my own sign like the ones i like at the peace vigil outside the federal building. “let us then try what love will do” or “there is no fear in love. perfect love casts out fear.” even those seem a little too weapony in this situation.

i guess i just think if it’s a battle between the christians and the queers (which it isn’t, because there are christian queers and christian allies, and because it just isn’t), we’ve got to beat them at their own game. and remind them that it is their game, too. christianity boils down to love. and so does queerness. we should be on the same page.

we are living in a historic time. obama is the president-elect, and maybe that’s about love too. it’s definitely about some triumph over hate. and it was painful to get here and it’s still not perfect, but we’ve gotten somewhere. i don’t think we will get far like that by hating each other, blaming people, or doing anything other than reaching across lines.

allison sent me a link to a blog of particularly mormon folks apologizing about prop 8. being loving and trying to bridge gaps. we’ve all got to do that. or at least i do.

would i be bridging gaps at the protest? possibly. maybe that’s what i should be doing– going to the protest and talking about love to the protesters and everyone. but i’m not. in fact, i’ve had the sort of blog-writing experience that involved stopping and starting and having conversations and now it’s 3 hours later than it was when it started. i must keep this open though. way has opened for more love to come into the world. what am i going to do about it?

this past saturday was the teachers for social justice conference.

rewind a little for me to tell you that, um, i quit my job. you know, the one i’d been glowing about not too long ago. i still love the agency, but in terms of skills and interests, the position wound up not being a good match for me. i spent some time feeling elated and free after quitting and then there was a deep crash in motivation and self-confidence. i found a job rather quickly, and i’ll probably be starting that on friday, but the climb out of mild depression is not as swift as i would like. i’m fine, but it’s weird going from Having a Purpose to Um… What Should I Be Doing With Myself?

but the teachers for social justice conference was a help in that.

funnily enough, both of the workshops that i went to had something to do with transformation in the title. it absolutely wasn’t intentional, but you know, that’s always been one of my interests. the first was on transformative life skills. the job i’m starting soon is as a paraprofessional (which means a classroom assistant, usually with special education students), and the workshop seemed like it might give me some good tools to use with students one on one, especially those with attention issues and stuff. it was all about breathing and centering and stuff like that, so it kind of was about being a quaker. it was interesting how the workshop was both about helping kids find ways to calm down and about helping us educators be calm. (they did a great impression of educators frantically trying to get kids to calm down. “settle down! SETTLE DOWN!!!”)

the other workshop was “Message to Transformative Teachers: The Process and Potential of a Culturally Empowering Pedagogy.” i picked it out of a ton of inspiring looking workshops, and honestly, the number of wonderful buzzwords in a lot of the descriptions became sort of a blur to me, and i couldn’t tell if i was going to this workshop because i understood what it was about or because i didn’t. but it was pretty amazing. i took tons of notes and part of me is tempted to put them all up here. but the gist of the whole thing was how we need to really understand where youth are coming from and not blame them for being who they are. it was particularly for working with high school aged youth of color. i don’t work with high school aged youth, but the workshop still felt applicable. the presenter, patrick camangian, was hugely inspiring and great to listen to.

the thing that’s stuck with me most is just the offhand comment that he made about how “thuglife” is actually an acronym. i had no idea. i guess it comes from tupac, and it stands for “the hate you give little infants fucks everybody.” it’s pretty amazing. it’s been going over and over in my head a lot since then, informing my thoughts on the systems and institutions in this society.

yesterday, i had to get a tb test, and i went to the public health clinic that i usually go to. i tend to go to the transgender night, but this is the second time i’ve had to do a walk-in during regular hours. i arrived 1 hour after they opened, the number that was showing on the board was 66, i pulled number 79. i sat for 2 hours and watched as the number crawled up to 69.

this place is ugly, doesn’t seem totally clean, and the bathrooms smell really bad. the people who work there are tired and grouchy. the people who go to the clinic are primarily people of color, and since it’s a public health clinic, they are all pretty darn poor.

after two hours i stepped outside and called around to other clinics that had been referred to me for this process. i finally became convinced that the “adult and travel immunization clinic” would actually work for my work tb test, and wow, it was actually the same building. the front door this time instead of the sketchy back alley entrance. it’s clean, there’s carpet, there’s music playing, the receptionist smiled at me, and i got seen in half an hour. the people around me were mostly white, and seemed mostly middle class.

in the first clinic, a man came in and not finding a place to sit, sat on the trash can.

today i was talking to a friend and she said, “do you think infants get hated often?” and i said, “maybe not directly, but institutions are constantly telling them and their families that they are garbage.”

after i got my tb test yesterday, i took the bus home. a man and woman got on the bus carrying full trashbags. i think they were full of cans. i was reading, but soon i noticed that an african-american woman was yelling at them. something about how they had insulted the way that she smelled, but it’s them that smelled. the woman with the bag and the african-american woman threatened each other. the woman with the bags got up and started yelling, “i’m not afraid. i’m not afraid.” she seemed chicana or native american. i got off a stop early because it was crowded and i was freaked out. as i was walking home, i saw basically everybody get off at the next stop, and the man punching the window of the back door of the bus, yelling “you better get off that bus right now” the glass was broken, and spit came flying out.

the hate you give little infants fucks everybody.

me saying that has elements of appropriation, and it’s definitely been used with more violent rage than i’m comfortable with, but it’s true and it’s big.

what am i going to do about it, i’m not sure yet. i really want to, though.