america, why are your libraries full of tears?

it’s international blog against racism week! every year when this comes along, i find myself trapped in some sort of weird writer’s block. i want to say Something, and i usually have Lots to say on the topic, but now, this week, i can’t even begin.

i’m reading a collection of the writings of bayard rustin right now and i just read a peace about the journey of reconciliation. in 1946, the supreme court passed the morgan decision, which said that interstate travel wasn’t subject to jim crow laws. to test this, rustin and 15 others, black and white, took greyhound and trailways buses through the south, with the black folks sitting in the front and the white folks sitting in the back. they went on different trips, not all on the same bus at once, but there were always people of color and white folks participating in the experiment. the reactions were mixed, but rustin concludes that the predominant feeling was that of “confusion.” there was actually little violence and what there was was directed at the white folks participating. there was support and there was rage, but the men (they were all men) on these trips held steady.

what am i as a white ally doing that’s anything like this? what is the religious society of friends doing that’s anything like this? i’m romanticizing the past surely, but oh golly, we’ve gotten so comfortable. challenging things breaks us out of those comfort zones and it’s so hard to be bothered when we’ve got “martha stewart shams and sheets and sugar free powdered iced tea, vanilla coke, lemon pepsi, friends episodes on dvd” as kimya dawson sings about. we are trapped in some sort of ridiculous pleasuredome where all of these things keep consoling us. it’s not just quakers and maybe quakers are sort of better at breaking out of that consumerism thing than some other people, but we’re still stuck somewhere.

is that racism? “your problems can wait, my problems can wait, let’s watch some tv…” it’s despair. and laziness. and cowardice too, in this land of the brave. “i will never fix things so i will console myself with stuff… and i won’t talk to you because you are a stranger… and so i will never hear you and i will never realize i need to change and i will continue to be sad and yet content in my world of privilege…” is that racism? i think it’s all over america. i do it.

“America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic? ”
~from “America” by Allen Ginsberg

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i am currently looking for employment that will start in two weeks, working 46 hours a week, and being around internetty computers much less than usual– so when i’m around computers, they are for craigslist-searching primarily. i of course have much to say, but i’ve been meaning to share these queries with you all for awhile…

Queries – Race and Class – Young Adult Friends Discussion – 6/18/08

•If you feel comfortable and as a way for us to know each other a bit better,
please address race and class issues in you background?

•What is most joyful for you in your discernment on race and class.

•What is most challenging or more aptly might cause you angst, guilt,
avoidance, or other deep emotions?

•Race and class often avoided in the “mainstream culture” but ever present
among us. Please share a situation where you avoided one or both of these
issues and what affect it had on you?

•As a seeker and a Friend, what is your hope for our community as we venture
forth and walk with the Light in seasoning these issues?

they are from a worship sharing for the young adult group at sf meeting that was led by our building manager and generally great guy, steve. there were four of us there, but the sharing that happened was very deep.

sometimes i wonder if my leading is just to engage in scary conversations. they’re hard when you work 46 hours a week. not that you become less brave, but just your mental capacity to translate things from your heart to your brain and out your mouth becomes less. but it’s possible. i should not make excuses. they just have not been happening too much. i’m not too stressed yet. lulls happen. but as i was part of this conversation, i wondered what it would be like in a group where we were not all already friends and we were not all white. the sharing was beautiful to me, but how would it sound to people who have heard all the excuses, self-congratulations, and ignorance of white folks before. if i facilitated something like this and real, reasonable or unreasonable rage came up, how would i handle it? i hope i would be gracious and not smug, not condescending, and able to be the real love that i want to be.

… today, during meeting, i stood up and said, “i love you and i will be transformed.” it was going to be longer i thought, but it wasn’t. i stood for what felt like a very long time before and after.

there are many sides to any story. there are many sides to my own stories. there are the stories i tell now and the stories i’ll tell tomorrow. and there are the stories that tell one part of how i feel right now, and stories that tell a whole other part of how i feel.

the important part of my last post for me was that Right Then, i was feeling Very Disillusioned. as i wrote it, i tried to express that it was probably temporary and that i also felt a load of other things. i was as frustrated with the person in question, and as sympathetic to my meeting as i was angry and disillusioned. it felt urgent and it still feels important that i wrote it from the lens that i did, because i don’t express that part of things much. and there’s always a part of me that wants more from quakers, that wants to push harder, that wants to hold the group accountable to the things that i’ve learned from quakerism to hold myself accountable to.

it hurt people. i didn’t want to hurt people. but it’s hard not to hurt people when one is speaking from hurt. (which is a potential lesson from our experience with that person.) but there’s also tremendous potential for healing. which was what i was going for. i was hoping that in being honest about how i felt about the situation, i could heal and the meeting could heal.

of course, with blogs, honesty becomes one-sided and poisonous. whether you intend it or not. it doesn’t feel like dialog, and it can seem invasive.

i’m leaving my post up, because it’s true. it’s also only part of something. it’s not totally true. it’s not my whole truth, and it’s not The whole truth. but it’s true for what it is. and because there are posts before it and after it that keep it in context. our meeting wasn’t perfect, it did the best it could, it’s been amazing for me, i wish it could be amazing for everyone. that’s what i tried to tell. you miss that if you only read that post. that’s another scary thing about blogs. mine’s a conversation with myself and it’s easy to misunderstand things when you just catch part of a conversation. it might be a generational thing, i might be embarrassed someday, i regret that it was hurtful, but i think this blog serves the community best when the seams show. a flawless community is not real– as much as i wish it were.

i’ve gotten 10 visitors in the past few days that have visited my site from searching for cubbie, quaker, and blog. before these past few days, that had happened a couple of times, but once i became controversial, people wanted to find me. i hope that they will come back and see the calm days, the loving days, the joyful days. those are most days.

i hate that our meeting has caused people pain. i hate it because it has not caused me pain, and that makes me feel strangely guilty, very sad, and a little angry at everyone involved. who are you that you can not be perfect to me and also this person? who are you that you do not find the perfection here? who am i that i am willing to accept this place that has wounded you?

when i posted about feeling like an enabler, it was true. there have been times when i feel like i’m making excuses for abusive behavior to a wounded person. i am not wounded by these people, but i’ve seen it happen, and i’ve tried to make the woundings not true. “have you tried this? have you considered that?” i feel like i’m making excuses. there is a truth to the disconnect between mine and others’ experiences that is not abuse, but it feels so much like my experience of dealing with abuse that i don’t know how else to name it yet. i’ve known denial. i haven’t known this “one person’s medicine being another person’s poison” like this before.

since my post, i’ve gotten 3 phone calls and a few emails. i’ve felt embarrassed, stalked, hounded, and loved. every conversation, i expected some sort of cease and desist order, but instead, i got love. some hurt, some agreement, tons and tons of love. and not just to me. i heard about so much love for this man. and honestly, i’d sort of forgotten that part, even as i claimed to sort of remember. i’m sorry i forgot. i’m sorry if you felt like your efforts and care was dismissed. i screw up. and you still love me. i raged like i did because i believed we could handle it. i forgot that that could hurt you, but i knew i’d be forgiven. that’s pretty juvenile, i guess. i’ll try not to take advantage of that again.

talking with him that day reminded me that i need to be honest. and it reminded me that i have not been faithful to all that i should be honest about. i’ve talked in my clearness committees about my yearnings for scary conversations, and haven’t really done them. i initiated a one-sided scary conversation over here, not expecting the sort of follow-up it had, and was confronted with a number of scary conversations that made me want to show up at meeting with movie star dark glasses. but i didn’t. i held myself accountable to my words. and now i will start on those scary conversations that need to be had. the ones that don’t ambush– the ones where we choose to be brave and face each other and ourselves… and god or whomever is there to keep us safe there.

at meeting for worship this past sunday, there were a lot of messages about the world and all that’s happening out in it… and if we’re willing to listen to god if god asks us to go, move, and do something about it.

it made me itchy. maybe because i’m not as informed about the rest of the world as i think i probably should be. maybe because i don’t feel like i’m doing enough. maybe because i was in a place of judgment of other people that i couldn’t get out of. maybe i just had a soapbox.

these moments have happened before, where suddenly i find myself feeling so passionate and so frustrated about something in meeting for worship or other quaker things that i immediately don’t trust it. it must be so much from me that no light is coming in, and i’m blinded by my own self and my own agenda.

my concern about “diversity” is like that. it feels so big and important to me that i fear it’s just my own thing, and my real leading is elsewhere.

AHA! in that sentence, i found in myself my issue with… what i have an issue with that i hadn’t quite put into words yet.

my family moved a lot. i’m closer to 30 dwelling places than i am to 30 years old. it came out of a combination of wanderlust, poverty, and family ties. and then after i went to college, i wound up moving a lot, too. and i will probably move many more times. i want to settle down, but there’s always some reason why this place isn’t it anymore.

so that’s my bias, my lens– the one that moving is great and exhausting and important… and it takes you away. you move and you get to be a stranger, you get to reinvent yourself, you get to screw up and have it be okay, you get to be welcomed, you get to be missed, you get to be surrounded by people who are foreign and other. this happens to some degree whether you move across town or across the world.

and i can’t get easy with the idea that god calls us to that exotic strangerhood over the deep sinking in to our neighborhoods, into our communities, into the big scary issues that are always right there and ready to be dealt with. there’s poverty, hunger, injustice, violence everywhere– in ourselves, in our next door neighbors, and yes, in communities across the world. and there is definitely something to be said for taking us and our rights and our privileges across the world and using those to help people who have less rights and privileges.

but in this weird way, it’s easier than taking us and our rights and our privileges across the street and using those to help the people there. because we might both stick around. we might change things and they might stick and we might have to continue to be responsible.

do we move when the spirit says move? can we even hear, respect, and heed it when the spirit says to stay right here? wow, that’s so much less interesting. but i’m starting to think… maybe just for me… but maybe not… that it might be more important.

chad has been teasing me lately because i have the key to all over the meetinghouse now, and “you know what that means,” he says. responsibility! he was the young adult group’s guest speaker this past week, and he even brought his own guest speaker, wess daniels, via the magic of the internet. that was pretty exciting.

this morning, he teased me again, because i recognized almost all of the young adults who were at meeting. he says that’s like having keys. it feels good.

but it’s also funny to be this official. it’s funny to be the young adult guy– to organize speakers and be in this middle place. it’s a different middle place than it was a few months ago– more practical, less interpersonal. i’m not translating anybody these days. i’m just making sure spaces get reserved and things like that.

it’s also starting to be time for my job as retreat registrar to really get underway. i was co-registrar last year, and now i’m testing myself and seeing if i can actually keep it all together. so far it’s not going to badly, except for the embarrassing fact that waiting for stamp and photocopy reimbursements is an actual financial strain.

i’ve been applying to jobs for next school year. i just this week got my summer plans mostly sorted out. but next school year, a lot of school jobs are already taken, and i’m actually wondering if i just in fact want to work with people. kids are people, of course, and i love working with them, but i’m wondering if maybe i just like work that stretches my interpersonal skills.

i’m really into scary conversations right now. i actually don’t have that many, but i love them. i want to learn how to hold them and make them safe. i think this is definitely linked to my anti-racist concern. i’ve had my first clearness committee about this whole diversity thing. and we’ve finally got a date for the ad hoc working group on diversity. i want to learn how to facilitate things and make people glad that they went to scary places together. i think that’s the only way that change happens.

listen listen listen. it will bust you open and you will be glad.

that which the quakers call diversity

it recently hit me that the closest physical feeling vocal ministry has for me, is the sensation of coming out. which, also, isn’t tangible. it’s a little bit like nerves, it’s a little bit like the sensation of having to vomit, it’s this gut feeling that what you are about to say is so deep and so true that it’s going to change you by saying it. and because of that, you’d really sort of rather not. couldn’t there be some other thing, can’t i just sit here and hear something else– i’ll learn from that too, i can… no. is it really that important, am i sure it’s not mine, my legs will totally just collapse under me… yes. you will be fine. just try and remember not to put your hands in front of your mouth this time.

i feel sort of like that right now. there’s this post i’ve been meaning to do for awhile, but it’s scared me tremendously, and fortunately for that fearfulness, i haven’t had time to write it.

there’s this thing going on with me lately. quakers are calling it my diversity concern. i’m calling it… “my concern that quakers are calling my diversity concern…” then i ramble to people about how my concern is not about having a certain level of diversity in the meeting for its own sake. i say “i don’t care if our meeting reaches the exact ratio of diversity that the city has.” “don’t care” isn’t exactly right. i’d love that. that could be rich and amazing. it also might not be.

then, i tell people about how when vanessa julye came to our meeting a couple of weeks ago, she shared the vision of the fgc’s committee for ministry on racism, and that the second half is what i want. i want the first half, too, but my concern is about “seeking, with God’s guidance, to help Quakers transform themselves institutionally and individually into a beloved community–whole and enriched by its diversity.” yes yes yes yes YES. my whole body says yes every time i read that, my toes wiggle, my shoulders relax a little, my eyes get teary.

then i talk about how i think it can feel yucky to come into our meetinghouse. and how it can feel yucky for the meeting to have new people come in. because we are not quite prepared. my concern is about lessening that yuckiness on both sides. i don’t know if it will ever go away, but i want it to be smaller.

and the scariest best thing has happened. other people want this too. other people have been talking about it for years but haven’t felt ready to or have not had the institutional support to work on it. new people are talking about it. the most amazing thing happened the other day when a new young person to our meeting sent out an email about the two sides of being a welcoming and an affirming community. and it was amazing– seeing this concept that i’ve been coming to know so well, come out of another person’s mouth (or keyboard).

but it’s not just best, it’s scary. because it’s reminding me over and over again that this isn’t mine. i’m having a clearness committee, but i’m not sort of diversity star. i want these changes to happen, but i’m not going to be able to make them happen. i’m going to have to work with other people– people who say my words in different language, people who say my words and mean something completely different, people who i adore and who will never quite hear me, people who drive me absolutely bonkers– and sometimes these will be the same people.

allison and i’ve been sending each other a few emails, and in her most recent one she brought up empowerment and control. i’d like to have control. it gets in the way of me empowering other people.

this may be what the meeting needs, but it’s what i need. i will be humbled and changed and made different. and it kind of makes me want to vomit.

gifts of translation & the child of divorce.

a few weeks ago, robin & i had coffee. we walked through the castro, where they are filming milk right now, and we got to see people waiting to have a fake protest, wearing ’70’s clothes & talking on their cell phones. it was pretty great.

on the way there and at the coffee house, we talked about a whole lot of things, but one thing that really stuck with me was our conversation about translation. i was talking about what i was feeling like i was called to do, and my space in between our meeting and new people of various sorts, and she brought up the gift of translation. she talked about how in the pentecost story, there’s a specific mention of the gift of translation- there are those who can speak in tongues and then there are those who can understand them and bring that to other people. and how that gift doesn’t get talked about much. she talked about it like it was a gift we both shared.

i think it is a gift i have, and a gift i’m working on.

but later on that same day, i was talking to another quaker about our spiritual gifts– those we share with each other, and those that other people have and working on moving past judgment and/or ency about them. it was really good, and then suddenly, i realized that for me this translation thing is a tricky gift of the child of divorce. the tricky gift of loving two people or two sets of people and seeing both sides and trying to help them see both sides. my parents didn’t divorce until i was 18, but i decided that they really should get it over with by the time i was 9.

and recently, i’ve found myself in that codependent sort of trap– i NEED to make these people see what each other means, because it’s MY job and no one else can do it and they certainly can’t and crapcrapcrap they don’t understand each other yet, and it’s MY fault.

so i’m stepping back a little. not really out of the fray maybe, but out of where i was and to a space where i can see where i was, learn from it, listen to more than just myself, and move forward in a better way.

there are prayers i am praying, but i’m not ready to put them online, but even if i don’t ask for human help (and i probably will), i’m still asking for help and knowing it’s there, and i like that.

soon, i want to talk about where i am about my clearness committee, where i am about diversity in my meeting, and where i am about belief and god. soon meaning… some day. stay tuned.

i know the secret to life. i’m okay when everything is not okay.

i’m at one of those magnificently shaky times where i feel like i have grasped the secret of the universe. *laughs*

it’s one of those times where i feel really grounded and like i’ve “got it” — but i know from experience that these moments are actually just a flicker in a life. that the thing that i’ve got will become part of my being, or i might even forget it, and not long from now, i will be caught up in the drama and confusion again.

i feel steady, but i know that factually, i am new to this faith, i am young, i am in love, i am myself in all of my flaws, and so i know that there will be more insights to come, and that i am coming at my life through this one lens.

BUT paradoxically, that knowledge makes me feel all the more grounded. because this awareness of my particular position, and this acceptance of that… is new.

the historical meaning of the word “convinced” in quaker terms, as i understand it, is something more along the lines of “convicted” than, um, believing something that’s been proven to you, as we understand the word today. i feel like that has happened to me recently. i feel like i have a path to follow and i need to be true to it, and i have been convicted in that way.

there’s always been that self-hate aspect to my understanding of christianity. i always thought that i could only get to know god if i hated myself. and the narrative that i hear so frequently about this “convincing” involves this sudden belief in one’s unworthiness.

and now i think i’m there. but it’s not unworthiness like… i’m bad. but this unworthiness like, i’ve got this tall order coming in from god, will i be faithful or will i get lost? and also this deep deep gratitude for everything, and feeling awed by that. we are all unworthy of this universe, and yet we are part of it and that is acceptable.

at some early morning session at our meetinghouse, someone from m&o said this thing– and it resonated, but of course now i’ve forgotten the exact words or where he got it from– but it was something like “you are fine just the way you are AND you could use some work.” and for me, that’s exactly IT right now.

i’ve been wrestling a lot with self-compassion and compassion for others lately. defensiveness and welcoming and sitting in sorrow and not trying to fix things immediately. and i feel like that quote is the secret to it. for me right now. i am fine just the way i am AND i could use some work. the people who i can’t stand right now… the people who i love but who disappoint me… the people who i adore… it’s true for us all. we are all connected and interconnected by this odd mix of being the exact right products of our pasts and also these bundles of unfulfilled possibilities. and it’s really beautiful.

and so i’ve been letting my heart get broken by all my flaws and all the flaws of the community i love… but i’m not letting it stop there. i CAN’T save us all from ourselves and i don’t actually want to (well, maybe sort of. i’m struggling with my desire to be a superstarsuperherobestbestbestever person). i accept that (again… sort of. *laughs*). but i can do what i can do. i can learn what i can learn and i can teach what i can teach… and i’m excited and terrified by that.

yes yes yes.

(this just in! the quote is from pema chödrön. it’s actually “you are perfect just the way you are and you could use a little work.” her teacher said it to her.)

today, i went to quarterly meeting for the first time. it was in santa rosa, at friends house. it was exciting to go up. i’m glad i got to go. i’m glad sf meeting got to have a young adult presence…

but as i looked around the room, during worship… which maybe i “shouldn’t” have been doing, but i needed to know… i couldn’t see a single person of color. this doesn’t mean that there weren’t any, but there were none that i recognized as such, so maybe i was part of the problem of invisibility of some people of color– but i don’t think there was a giant presence of people of color, no matter how correct my perceptions were. after worship, i went to the restroom, and there was a person of color… cleaning the floor.

as the day went on, i saw most of the participants of quarterly meeting, and i thought of 2 as people of color. i saw about 8 different staff members and thought of 3 as people of color. i saw about 10 residents of the facility who didn’t seem to be participating in the meeting, and about 2 seemed to be people of color.

aren’t i a good ally?

it felt so heavy then.

there was worship sharing along the theme of the day, which was “the still center of the whirlwind.” the queries were about a time that we had felt like we were in a storm, and had an experience of the light…

i couldn’t get out of my current state, so focused on what to do with it. and then i thought about this quote i read recently about grace being having your heart broken by the things that break the heart of god. and of course there’s presumption in believing you know what breaks god’s heart… but i focused on letting my heart be broken. because i suddenly knew that i could only go anywhere if i did that. i could only find joy & courage if i let my heart break.

… but maybe it’s too simple. maybe my joy was my pride in being so “good.” such a good white liberal.

maybe.

i don’t know. all i know is that i felt worn out for the rest of the day, but also called and blessed.

we need to fix this and i need to learn how to help fix this. it is broken, it breaks us, it breaks hearts, and it can be so much better.

everybody’s got their something

i’m reading two books that are working as companions to each other:

if god is love: rediscovering grace in an ungracious world by philip gulley & james mulholland

&

wide awake by david levithan

i’ve never read anything by the authors of the former, but it’s in our meetinghouse library, and it’s been recommended by a few people (like robin m.). it’s a hopeful, helpful book about acceptance, love and compassion as part of what god is and what god wants.

david levithan is my favorite young adult writer alive today. i’ve read 2 other books by him, and each book he writes seems to fill an empty space in the universe. the books he writes the world needs, and he writes them lovingly and elegantly. this book is about a time in the not too distant future when a gay jewish president is elected! it’s set after “the reign of fear” and during “the jesus revolution” when people– especially young people– are embracing that whole love and compassion and acceptance part of christianity. it’s a delicious book.

***

the beyond diversity 101 training has been postponed until the fall. i’m sad, but it also makes things feel a bit more expansive. i don’t have to “get everything done” by the end of march. and i feel okay with exploring local options a bit more.

as usual, i got my head out from under the blankets by laying out exactly what they were with a few friends (of varying capitalizations) and experiencing their compassion with my confusion. golly, i love that there are people in my life who will let me be a brat for awhile and will actually scold me for calling myself a brat, rather than for the bratty things. because the only way to get through them is to just have them and accept them and to… get through them.

you cannot scold yourself away. you will always be there with your everything. and so will everyone. and accepting all of that is the challenge. and it can be a pain in the butt, but it can also be really fun.