driving lessons

i got my driver’s license last month.  i am 32 years old, have been teaching for the past 3 years, and am engaged to my pregnant partner, and i got my driver’s license last month.

when i was 12, i read that 50 simple things kids can do to save the earth book, and then immediately after it read kids can save the animals: 101 easy things to do.  i was finishing it in the car, and decided to become a vegetarian.  we’d been running errands all day, and my grandparents pulled into mcdonalds.  horrified, yet lacking creativity, i ordered my usual cheeseburger.  soon, i decided that i would cut out red meat and until the middle of my first year of college declared myself a “partial vegetarian,” eating fish, chicken, and turkey, but not beef or pork (that mid-first-year of college moment was when i decided to be a total vegetarian– now i’m more pescetarian).

the books made me more patient with the fluorescent light that took forever to turn on, in my great-grandma’s bathroom, and it made me an easily thwarted crusader for paper, rather than styrofoam for my school’s lunches.  (after a letter to the principal, i got called to the office for i think the only time of my entire school career, for a conversation that went something like this: principal: “i hear you want us to stop using styrofoam but instead use paper instead.”  me: “yes, please.”  principal: “well, the styrofoam is a lot less expensive than the paper, so we have to keep using it.”  me:  “yeah, i guess that makes sense.  thanks anyway.”)  i bought the greyish, fibrous recycled looseleaf paper, and used it religiously, horrified when the boy i had a crush on complained about it.

i had seen the old lorax movie many times as a child, and i knew i was someone who cared a whole awful lot.  i didn’t do everything right, but i did what i knew about, as much as i knew how to do it.  to this day, in my head, there is a dying person in a hospital bed during the nuclear apocolyptic endtimes, who’s life is either prolonged or ended by the extra lights i turn on in a house (but only lights… and refrigerators and cars… trigger this thought– computer use, temperature control, stereos don’t).  i was responsible for life to continue on this planet by my choices.

early in my sophomore year of high school, there was a horrible car accident involving some of my classmates, and one of them died.  we weren’t friends, but i felt the loss, because i thought she was cool but i was too shy to talk to her.  around the same time, one of my pen pals also lost a classmate to a car accident.

so, as i neared my 16th birthday, and people started to ask me about getting my drivers’ license, the combination of environmental responsibility and terror of dying a horrible fiery death took away all motivation.

when i was 19, i did try to learn.  my mom and i went out in her pick-up truck, cruising around some school and church parking lots.  but as soon as we went on the road and i saw another car (across the median, in the furthest possible lane), i pulled over and burst into tears.

i’ve never been clear on my relationship to driving.  as a passenger, i’ve tried as hard as possible to limit myself to trips people were making anyway, getting a ride to errands with people already going on them, or asking for a block detour to run an errand i need to run.  realizing how terrifying riding the bus can be sometimes, and then biking more, helped me get over a lot of the fear aspect, but there’s always been resistance.   i cannot figure out if it’s self-righteousness, fear, god, prescience, preciousness, or what.

then at the end of last school year, i had to make a choice.  i could either follow my amazing colleagues and the wonderful students at my school to a school that is entirely inaccessible by bus (up a giant hill, it is a 45 minutes walk from the nearest regular bus stop), or i could gamble on a move to another school– and it looked like it was probably going to be a middle school.  meanwhile, t was pregnant, and i decided that the responsible thing to do was to get a drivers’ license.

i hate that kind of responsibility.  that decision between “how do i help the people closest to me?” vs. “how do i help the whole world?” (and it sounds like parenting is a lot of that)  there have been times where i’ve wondered if my time waiting at bus stops was getting in the way of my world-saving time, but in general, i’ve always felt really good about my decision not to drive.

now, i have a drivers’ license.  i get up in the morning, get ready for work, and then drive through the woods to get to my job.  it is gorgeous.  sometimes there are deer.  sometimes there are turkeys.  it’s crazy to remember that i’m even in oakland.  my favorite part, though, is listening to music.  i’ve been resurrecting cds from my collection, bopping along to wonderful and hilarious selections, like the disney peter pan soundtrack, a lot of ani difranco, and the andrews sisters’ greatest hits.  i relish my dorkiness as others pass me.

but my exercise has gone way down.  i’m trying to fix that in other ways, but the balance hasn’t been reached yet.  and it’s stressful.  it’s really really stressful.  riding the bus, you aren’t in control of this giant thing and sometimes you hear scary people say scary things, but you can retreat into books.  you don’t have to be present and in decision-making mode the whole time.  one of my friends whose been teaching me to drive, outside of that context mentioned that she read a study about how people in modern american society all show symptoms of ptsd, and she thought that made sense.  i do too.  and during one of our drives together, i asked her if she thought a lot of it had to do with cars, because i do.  these giant metal death machines that move with the merest touch of a foot but that are fueled by greed and war should NOT be how the majority of our country gets around.  i am now one of those people, but i am not okay with it.

AND at the same time, i am remembering that a good part of the reason i didn’t want to drive was because i thought that there was a possibility i’d like it too much.  and part of me really does like it.  it is sort of fun.  it is sort of easy.  i get to pick my music.  it is fast.

in the first couple of weeks of the school year, t expressed concern that maybe i was drinking too much coffee because i was so stressy.  but then we realized that i’m actually drinking less coffee than last year.  and there are definitely plenty of things to be stressed about right now so i chalked it up to adrenaline.  but at the birth class last weekend, as the teacher was talking about endorphins, and oxytocin, and adrenaline, i started to put a lot of it together with my driving.  my fight-or-flight time is way up, and my exercise time is way down.  just like much of america.

*sigh*

“i want to blog this weekend.  i have so much to say!”

“about what?”

“well…  driving… and gender.”

“what about it?”

“well, i want to write it down first, because it gets all garbled when i try to say it out loud.”

in other incarnations of this post, in my head, i’ve had really good segues and connections between these issues, because parenting is part of why i’m driving and part of why i’m thinking about gender a lot right now.  but i ended that driving part pretty nicely, so i’ll use that dialogue and this monologue to change the subject.

“what are you having?”

the question is like nails on a chalkboard to me right now.  it is a complete overreaction, i know, but when i hear it, part of me wants to snap back an adolescent (adrenaline-filled?) response about how that very question goes against the very fiber of my being and all of my beliefs, and how could they ask me such a thing and and and and and!

i don’t know.  and i won’t know even when i do know.  and i still think it’s totally irrelevant to who this little person growing in t’s tummy will be.  unless they want it to be relevant, and i know there are times when it is vitally important for them, and that’s fine.

it’s hard when there is something that you believe in so strongly that is so counter to mainstream thinking.  i remember a woman at a school i worked at in seattle, who was so upset about a family raising their kids to be vegan.  “how can they impose their values on their child like that?”  i didn’t say it (i basically never say “it” btw, whatever “it” is), but i had this epiphany.  if you don’t raise your kid by your values, you are raising them by mainstream values.  you are saying that what the mainstream believes is fine and ok.  and maybe it is.  it might be.

and then in my case, it’s so tricky, right?  i don’t actively want to have a transgender child.  i don’t NOT want a transgender child, but i don’t plan on raising our kid to be trans.  binary gender assignments seem to have worked more or less okay for most of the population for quite awhile now, so i can’t assume that any bit of it will chafe on my child the way it has chafed on me.  but i really want to counter all of the messages about what is and is not okay to be that our society feeds to all of us all of the time.  that is vitally important to me.  and the idea that our favorite colors, things, and way of dealing with the world are pre-determined for us, now even before we pop out of our parents that have the right plumbing to pop us out, makes me itchy, scratchy, irritable, cranky, tired, and sad.

how do i make my child’s self as filled with possibilities as possible, without limiting it by deciding that that limitless is important?  how does my belief in that limitlessness limit my child in a world that believes so gosh-darn fiercely in those limits?  how do make sure to honor the possibility that our kid could be totally gender-normative, without just going along with the culture’s assumptions that that is how it will be?

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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.

he’s both a fish and a mammal and i hope he’ll never change

one of the big questions i wrestle with lately is about the necessity of christianity for me. i think it will always be a question i wrestle with, because christianity has so many different facets and meanings. “clearly” i have no use for the angry fundamentalist christianity that seems to be what most people equate with all christianity, and i hope to never go back there again. but it has its ghosts in my psyche, raw nerves i’m still nervous about touching.

my girlfriend, who i’ve been with for four years and who i’m planning a life with, was raised, basically, areligious. and i live in urban areas and queer communities that can also be fairly areligious. and there is a pride there that makes sense in the face of the religion that makes it on the news, the religion that seems to wear ignorance as a badge of honor. the problem then, though, is that ignorance of religion becomes the opposite badge of honor. i am continuously upset by the angry war between the religious and the nonreligious, because i think they’re actually on the same side which is the side of anger and fear.

my areligious girlfriend and i try to be on the side of love. and if god is love, is religion necessary?

the answer, for me, is that it can be helpful. it can provide a framework and a discipline for transforming and growing love past something shallow and greeting card.

the challenge, though, is moving past my own shy fear of unpopular opinions and desire for happy family life, and trying to ethically and honestly live a life based somewhere in religion while living with, loving and honoring my girlfriend and her traditions.

the only promise i can make to you is that i will screw up.

if someone can be a mentor to you by just being in your life for a short moment and saying and doing a few things that effected you and your life a lot for the better, the title for this entry comes from a mentor of mine. her name is nanci lamusga and she did the anti-oppression training that a few of us on my americorps team in olympia organized. and for me, what i got most out of the training was her way of being– and that phrase at the top. which might not be the exact words, because memory is faulty.

when i was at new college, the topic of race came up as a big campuswide issue. it was in either my first or second year, and honestly, i think my response was to drink some alcohol, dance, and continue to live like it had absolutely nothing to do with me.

there was an anti-oppression workshop in my 3rd year that i went to, and that was when it actually started clicking that, um, i had a race, that i was part of these systems, and that my lack of accountability was harmful.

in my last two years of college, i started really getting into zines. somehow i had it in my head that i shouldn’t get zines from people of color who were writing about race because i would be spying on something personal, but i did start reading zines by queer people of color because of the queerness. and those personal stories really helped me understand more that this was all very important. shortly after college, i went to the zine symposium in portland and there was a workshop about zines and race. i finally let myself really listen (with my ears and not just reading about it) to people of color talk about racism and its effects, even in this bastion of radical anarchy.

that was when it became vitally important to me. except, when i say that, my taurean deliberation and codependent shyness kept me from doing a whole lot more than internal theorizing. especially, because i was at that moment dealing with my father’s death and my coming out as trans– and because i was white in seattle and it wasn’t in my face every day.

when i did my americorps term in olympia, i was excited because we were going to do an anti-oppression training. i wanted to learn more about oppression, race, & my place in oppressive structures, and i wanted my teammates to learn about trans and queer issues. except then our team leader changed jobs and we had a new team leader and she didn’t have anti-oppression explicitly on her agenda. we were going to have to make it happen ourselves. so a team of us formed and we invited nanci and we all learned a whole lot.

then i moved to san francisco, and the whole racial landscape was totally different. the whole queer landscape, the whole religious landscape. everything was just so different. i started going to quaker meeting, and i did poke at people about why there were so few people of color in meeting and things like that, but i was very aware that i had just moved here, and that in many ways i had no idea what i was talking about.

i can look at my life in two ways. i can say that i didn’t move fast enough. this is urgent. i can also say that i was preparing. this can’t be rushed. both are right. i think i have been able to talk and educate and learn before i actually started doing it, and i think that i have moved on the right path for me.

because suddenly i am in an incredible place. big things about race have been happening with people in my life, and i think i have learned how to hold the space for listening.

it has nothing to do with me. which i do have to keep reminding myself. “aren’t i a good ally?” “haven’t i done so much?” “other white people aren’t doing this.” these thoughts go through my head, but they are toxic. it is not me. it is all of the voices i have let into my heart, it is the work and writing and speaking done by so many amazing people, it is god opening up the space. when i congratulate myself and then fall down, i am bitter and ashamed. when i remind myself that i am just part of the exciting dynamic stream of life and change, and i fall down, i get up, i learn, i try to do better.

that’s only half of the way that phrase has been resonant for me today. the other half is about how i live in san francisco, but not everybody does. san francisco has a ton of flaws, but at least i can be weird here. at least i can be queer, peculiar, and weird, and i’m just one of the many queer, peculiar, weird people around.

i am currently going to school to be a special ed teacher, and i think i might actually be the only queer person in my program. that hasn’t happened to me in a really long time. not only that, but the people teaching us in our two week intensive right now aren’t from san francisco. they’re from neighboring areas where not everyone is weird.

i did a mock interview with them yesterday and was suddenly reminded that people care about things like normalcy and being referred to by their titles and boys not having any metal in their ears. and some of those people actually live in san francisco even though that’s easy to forget, but i’m also not just interviewing for jobs in san francisco.

i show my seams. i tell people about my learning process including the mistakes i’ve made. i forget to use people’s titles because i don’t think they matter. i try to be funny. i try to connect with every person i meet on a real, deep level.

and maybe in professional land, that’s a little tacky. maybe there will be people that won’t like it. that’s a little terrifying, but i just don’t know how i can work for someone who doesn’t hear the earnestness, honesty, and commitment to good work in that very phrase, “the only promise i can make to you is that i will screw up.” i don’t actually say that at interviews. but i let people know that i am a human being.

these things are related. i will make mistakes. i will keep trying. i will let you make mistakes. i will try and hear everyone’s voice. i will still like you even if you screw up.

these are my strengths. i feel grateful for all of them.

it’s funny, isn’t it?

the way that things happen and they are incredible and you say “i will remember this and keep this forever” and then you blink and you are in the thick of something new and different and where is that thing that you were going to keep forever?

my job has been insane. the past two weeks, i’ve put in at least 50 hours if not 60 each week. but there’s that way that many days i come home sort of energized, or if not energized, at least i feel like the work that i am doing and the good that it does deserves the deep exhaustion i feel. instead of coming home and going “no, i cannot relax right now because i did not do enough meaningful stuff today” which i’ve been known to do, i am able to let myself relax. that’s nice.

but there are also days… well, there are days that i do that work and i come home and i am exasperated and upset. i’m working on those.

but today, i am here to write about the staff retreat. the staff retreat happened before a lot of things and it’s less than a month, and already my eyes are less shiny about the whole thing, but i still believe it was incredible. which is saying a lot because we did work stuff together for many many hours and i’m used to my meeting’s retreats where even with my job as registrar, i feel like the hardest work i have to do is deciding whether i want to read a book inside the lodge or out in the orchard.

the folks that i work with are a boisterous crew. i was nervous about going with them all to quaker center– a place that’s always just been peaceful for me. i really really like them, but i wasn’t sure what it would feel like.

and the weird thing was, it didn’t feel weird.

the morning of the second day, i went up to the casa de luz, where the san francisco meeting has its meetings for worship during our retreats. well, actually, first i went to the redwood circle because i’d never been for whatever reason, and one of the new people to our agency was amazed by it, and i felt i should get to know it. then up to the casa, where i sat and looked out the window and prayed. awhile later, people started coming up. it’s where the first part of our agenda after breakfast was scheduled to happen. the activity we did involved scenarios involving ethical dilemmas. at the end of that session, we had a checkin, and i was able to honestly say that i felt like we were a good group to be using that space. i spoke about how i’m a quaker (which people knew) and that i was worried about how folks would use this space that is in some ways sacred to me, but that i really felt like what we were doing was in line with quakerism– this particular practice of asking questions and honestly looking deep within.

at the end of the three days, we met in the redwood circle for a closing. we got the “mailboxes” we’d made and had been putting things in for folks, and were encouraged to look at our mail in silence and to contemplate the weekend in silence, and then to speak out of the silence. i’ve never been to a quaker meeting that involved so much giggling or, um, playfighting, but even in that, i was able to say that these folks were really important to me. i spoke about george fox saying to walk cheerfully through the world, answering that of god in everyone, and how a way to look at that is to find something to honor in everyone, and i really feel like these folks do that. at least with each other (the executive director speaks to the site coordinators like equals) and, more importantly, with the youth that we work with.

honestly, i’m writing this now, because i need a little bit of reminding of this weekend already. it’s been a stressful time, and the agency is not perfect. but those things– honoring questions and people, and looking deep to find answers– i can still see.

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

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.

edited on june 6, 2008… and again on june 9, 2008

my meeting has had a long history with difficult and complicated man. i’ve only known him for a year and half, but many people from the meeting have known him for at least three years. he has a personality that many people find abrasive, a bluntness that many people find arrogant, and a presence that’s a little larger than life.

or at least on that latter point, he did. i met him for breakfast yesterday morning and his wild hair and beard had been shorn down, and he was a little more subdued than usual.

i guess he’s leaving town because after six months of many many membership meetings, it looks like he’s not going to get to be one. he says he’s tired of knowing people don’t want him around, and he’s ready to go.

of course there are other factors, of course it seems a little melodramatic, of course there are complicated feelings brought up because of some of the ways his personality is like my dad’s, of course i romanticize things, of course it’s never that simple…

but i’m pretty angry. and embarrassed. i KNOW that not everything is for everyone, but this guy has always been open and honest and has integrity down to the bone, and our meeting has hurt him and sent him on his way. he’s hurt people, it’s true. but it seems like he’s only ever hurt people by challenging people to be their best selves. maybe it’s his opinion of what their best selves are and not the Truth of their best selves or something, but he’s given us his best. he’s changed. and he’s changed us. but he still has to go.

let me clarify that the meeting is not actually sending him away. he’s making that choice. but with some of the treatment he’s got, it’s surprising he’s stayed this long.

quakerism seems very small to me today.

we walked down the street together, and i talked about how opposite my experience has been from this. how i’ve found only love and acceptance and opportunity for growth within this community. we laughed about my “palatable” personality and the ways that has eased things. he’s pushed people away, it’s true, and i don’t want to do that, but what am i doing with my palatable personality that’s changing people.

today i doubt quakerism’s ability to do much anything good. today i feel embarrassed for all the good things i say about it. it’s changed me, but how far?

right now i feel like the enabling friend of quakers. “yeah, they beat you up sometimes, but that’ll change tomorrow, they’re not always like that, give them another chance.” they’ve never beat me up, but today i do feel bruised.

as i go deeper into this flawed community that i do so tremendously love, let me keep my honesty, my integrity, my love, and my self. let me change things that need to be changed, let me have the honor to face them, and let me hold the hands of people who get hurt because of the things that are stuck. help me grow my voice so that i can have some of that honesty that is leaving– but only let me speak my own truth. which includes receiving so much love and seeing so much pain.

… since my initial posting of this, there’s been some confusion about what i’m saying happened. and i think part of that is because i was confused in myself somewhat about what happened. the membership committee did not come to unity about this person’s membership. he was not told he couldn’t be a member. i give that impression in this post, though it’s not what i actually mean to say. he gave up on his side of membership meetings and that’s sad and i think says things about our meeting and about him. but the membership meetings would have still been going on if he hadn’t left.

on wednesday, we had a weighty friend come and speak with the young adults. he came to talk about his spiritual journey, especially in relationship to conservative friends. he talked about the history of christianity, the way and the word and what those things mean, and his belief that the world needs to embrace it now. he was honest– about himself, and about things he doesn’t understand (what atonement really means, why christianity has gotten co-opted and can be used for ugly things), and about the trickiness of the idea of jesus being the way (he believes this is true but that other faiths are going toward the same thing as well, in just as valid and important ways. and that people use the idea of jesus as the way to divide)– and i always am struck by that. i tend to trust and believe most people, but i’m still amazed when i KNOW i can trust and believe them– and that happens a lot with quakers. (and in terms of honesty, staring back at these words, i think i’ve put a little of myself in them. that way that you can hear someone and they answer a question that you have, and suddenly your question plus what they actually said becomes what you remember that they said… even though your question was never put into words.)

i go back in forth about the whole christianity thing. it’s been so poisonous in so many ways, and part of me wonders if it should just be scrapped. it’s maybe just too loaded at this point. BUT it DOES have such potential and it seems like it can be transformative and amazing, and so maybe it’s important to snatch it back from people who abuse it.

during the last bit of the conversation and the worship that followed, i realized that i felt the way that i did a few years ago, when i was at the tranny roadshow. kelly & jamez, these kids who i’d met at the portland zine symposium while we were sharing a table (my partner and i had one half for our zine distro and button press, & they had their own zine distro and were also there on behalf of the denver zine library as well), put together this amazing travelling performance art extravaganza, and it came to olympia.

at some point in the evening, shawna virago played us some amazing rock music. and between a couple of the songs, she told us that we were making history. and it really felt true at the time. i felt like i was on the pulse of something very true and urgent. & that’s how it felt being part of a conversation about christianity not being poisonous.

the next morning, i got on the bus that comes right outside my house. it was pretty full, and in the middle was a man yelling. he was yelling to us “o childrens of israel” to “shun the buddha, shun the kuram” (i am obviously a better person than him because i know children doesn’t need an s at the end, and my anglicized version of the kuran has the standard “n” at the end. this knowledge makes me smarter and thus kinder. which is why i’m pointing out his mistake. to show that i am better than him.). he told us that he loves us. he told us that god would transform us. he told us that we needed to listen now, that marriage is between a man and a woman, that we are all terrible, that god would send the tsunami if we didn’t repent, and then it would be our fault “like in indonesia.”

this is the third time that i’ve heard someone yelling on the bus about how god will send a tsunami to san francisco because of all the gays (one person compared us to “solomon & galore” and i thought “what a great gay club name” and i still think so, and i can’t tell if that thought is cruel and condescending, or just my standard love of the way that language moves and changes and grows and expands and lives). they’ve all been different people. they’ve all been people of color. they all seem pretty crazy to me. they all seem hurt and scared. i want to have the words and strength to tell and show them that this fear is not it. this fear and anger is the opposite of it. this fear and anger is pushing people away from that transforming power– it’s telling people that god is not for them and it’s telling people who love god that they are not good enough for god, which is not true. god accepts and loves us for who we are, every bit of it, and when we learn that, then we can start growing and getting better. we just get smaller when our god is not big enough to hold everyone. and if god can be made that small, is god worth saving?

the saddest part to me was not his rant. it wasn’t my inability to counter his rant to him. he could be crazy about that or other things, and that’s definitely sad. but the saddest part to me was that after he got off the bus people applauded– mostly out of relief that it was quiet again– and then one woman who didn’t seem crazy said, “yeah, but there was nothing wrong with what he said. everything he said was true.” and a lot of people agreed.

i’ve started an essay a few times about this san francisco conundrum. this tsunami thing. this white queer privileged people vs poor people of color who are also people of faith thing. it’s a scary multi-layered divide. where does the healing start?

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.