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.

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i have a few unpublished drafts since my last post, and little idea as to what i’m going to post right now. i have the awareness of the fact that i’m going to be in two quaker anthologies soon, and am also aware that i think of myself as a writer, so… i should be writing.

of course there’s the whole quaker thing of waiting for the spirit to lead. but then there’s the part about not letting things get rusty.

i’ve been pretty busy lately. i am the registrar for the sf meeting’s memorial day retreat, so that was some of the start of it. some finances immediately went wonky after the retreat (you should have seen it… steve l. and me congratulating ourselves about how no toilets had overflowed or towels caught on fire… and then i got home and suddenly there were thousands of missing dollars! the money that was truly missing has been sorted out, but there is still a financial mess to work through, and now i have to figure out how much we should charge in the future, and how two years with roughly the same amounts of people had two vastly different amounts of money coming in…) and that’s not my strong point in terms of registraring.

the clearness committee on my concern has been bumpy, and i’m continuing to have mixed feelings about the young adult group and diversity committee. i’m somehow clerk of children’s religious education, and i’m on a membership clearness committee.

i wish there was a way for this to all happen, but for it to feel different. someone asked about my quakerism recently, someone who i’ve known for 2 years and see about twice a year, and this time, it was all about how busy i am. and it wasn’t much about… god.

one of my drafts is called “should quakers be institutionalized?” referring to this process that i’m just starting to learn about. i’m not sure how but quakerism has shifted rather swiftly from being about transformation into being a good grown-up for me. which doesn’t feel exactly right.

i’m not just busy with quaker things, and i’m not just confused about god because of my quaker-themed busy-ness, but i am curious about how to handle these responsibilities a little more joyfully and a little less pinched.

yesterday, i had this deep conversation about peace and war and how war is so much easier to do than peace, but that peace is so much more worth it. growing up, i always wondered “can’t we all just get along”? and the older i get along, the more i recognize the difficulty in that, and how rewarding facing the challenge is. and how our current power structure works around oppression via war– the rich and powerful sending the oppressed out to fight those they wish to oppress. and how rewarding that is for the powerful and rich. and how hard it is to have hope living in that sort of power structure. we talked about utopian communities vs. making small changes but still being complicit in so many ways and the pros and cons of buying local food.

anyway… this came to me again on the bart to meeting and then again at meeting. i had this message about this difficulty and how meeting is a place to find inner peace to take into the meeting community to practice our peace skills for the broader world. i felt the familiar tingly feeling i’ve come to recognize as a nudge to speak. i took a deep breath and…

someone else stood. and said something very similar to what i’d been contemplating. and right behind me, i heard someone whisper something, and i whirled around and glared. except that i hardly faced them, couldn’t see, and whirled back immediately. which was SO RIDICULOUS! and so i started to sit there and beat myself up about it, which was also ridiculous.

i sat for awhile longer, facing my anger and my guilt and my pride and my frustration, and then i felt something deeper than before, and i stood and gave vocal ministry… in the second person! it was about that experience and ended with “and the message you were going to say is that peace is really difficult. and now you know it.”

***

other things:

* i’m feeling less cranky about my young adultness. i had some really enriching conversations with other young adults today which really helped me have patience with myself and remember some of the things to not be cranky about.

* i’ve been in a cranky-ish place in general. it always seems like when i am in a place of idealistic understanding of my place in the world, my patience with everybody is slimmer than usual.

* i’ve been testing a leading around a beyond diversity 101 training for trainers done by niyonu spann. i think i’m supposed to go, and i’ve talked to a few people about it, and am currently in contact with our ministry and oversight committee about some sort of group to help me test the leading and support me through the experience. once again, i’m just so full of gratitude at the support and love i get from these people. i feel like such a squeaky wheel, but people don’t seem to be covering their ears. it’s so good. thank you thank you thank you.

yesterday was one of the first times in a really long time that i nearly had an anxiety attack. it was wet and nothing was going right and i was soaked and had just gotten to work and was dropping a bunch of things and i was late because i had to run an errand for another coworker so i wasn’t getting completely informed about the change in the day’s schedule and i started stuttering and my throat got all tight.

and it’s funny when you realize that the reason you’ve felt so serene lately actually has less to do with personal growth than with your life just being more serene lately. and the way that cracks when things start to crack.

***

i had my second clearness committee for membership this past week, and it went a whole lot better. it did feel deeper in ways i don’t know how to describe, and i just felt more settled in my decision.

robin asked me if maybe i’d been experiencing buyer’s remorse. i’ve been thinking about that, and i still think the answer is no. for me, whenever i’ve experienced actual buyer’s remorse, it’s been a case of “okay, why did i just spend x amount of scarce resources on this? what was i thinking?” and what happened, i don’t think was about scarcity or a mistake in that sort of way.

i think if i was going to turn it into a shopping analogy, it would be more like looking through ads for computers. and they each have their list of specifications. and a lot of them are like “CHOCK FULL OF THIS ONE FEATURE!” and being like, “um… i’m not totally sure if my computer needs that one feature…” and deciding on one that does have that feature, but it’s not so much in the advertising. and so then, i spend a year studying this computer and learning more about it and also that one feature. and realizing that i kind of like that one feature and how it works with that particular computer. and so then, i’m standing at the counter with my money ready to buy this actual computer, and suddenly i remember that i’m okay with that one feature, and i’ve just spent all my energy studying this one computer and now that i’m okay with this feature, should i go back and delve into those other computers?

(the feature being christianity.)

***

the other thing is that thanks to allison, we’re working on starting a young adult group for our meeting. and i’m excited about it in theory, but a little freaked out about it in practice. a lot because i’ve really treasured having quakerism be a place in my life to have grown-up friends. and a lot because somehow because of being part of the meeting for a little over a year now, i’m a sort of resident expert, and i am really really not. there was a moment in my clearness committee where i was asked about helping to clarify other young people’s questions about quakerism, and i’m not sure if i’m up for the task. both because i’m not sure if i can do it (i told someone today that it’s like the near-sighted person without their glasses leading the blind), and because i’m not sure if i can do it gracefully. lately i’ve been feeling like a crotchety old man in general, and i guess this is just how i get to learn how to be my own age, and accept my own age, and accept people who are going through things i’m going through, rather than just hanging out with amazing role models. because my peers can be role models, too.

***

the last thing is that i have access to the old site again, so i‘m going to be putting up the old posts. so there will be some new things coming up, but i will be backdating them so they will hopefully be put in correct chronological order. put up all the old posts. i even managed to get the old comments in there, but all as one big block comment from me. but with credit to the names of the people who posted them.

okay… i’m going to be lazy and just cut and paste what i wrote for my livejournal, and some day i’ll add more about this whole thing. but at least SOMETHING will be here about it.

Friday, December 7th, 2007 7:59 pm

honestly? honestly.

“profound disappointment” and “let down” got stuck in my head.

i couldn’t sleep. i mean, i could. i always can, eventually. but i could not sleep for a very long time. i tossed and turned and mulled and stewed.

in the morning, it felt the same. all day all day all day, i held that disappointment. along with fear. fear and disappointment. and disappointment and fear.

i got to the meetinghouse early for study group, which is nice now that i have a key. as i got to the door, steve was leaving, and he asked me about the night before.

“i think i’m a little disappointed.”

“you know, cubbie, we should talk. i’ve heard that from other people before.”

and at that, something inside me rested and calmed down.

i let myself into the building, set water to boil, and unlocked the library. as i settled in with my tea, i found a pendle hill pamphlet to read: “An Attender At The Altar. A Sacramental Christian Responds To Silence.”

i recently read a book. sarah miles’ take this bread, about her conversion to episcopalianism. and ever since then, there have been these questions about why quakerism, exactly. and it’s gone all crazy. because san francisco is so gay that it almost doesn’t matter what faith i might want to practice, they will all be queer friendly. and so why why why. and i think there is something, but as the time got close, i started to panic about the way that i hadn’t explored all world faiths. how is it that suddenly i’m taking some form of christianity as a given part of my faith? so many questions.

and i LOVE them. and i feel slow and deliberative and patient and excited and sad and scared and disappointed all at once.

i read until exactly 7. and then i went to the study group, surprising people coming in the back way. and i sat with them and just felt so heavy and light at the same time.

it’s a time when everything either slips past or sinks in deep.

i got a ride home afterwards, and as soon as i sat in the car, i said, “charles, i’ve felt really weird since my clearness committee.”

“weird how?”

“i don’t know…”

and i fumbled around words (and i’m still fumbling around words. and i’ve found some good ones, and i’ve lost some others.). and somehow we realized that i just wanted “something deeper.” he made that sound really possible and suggested that i bring it up with someone in my committee.

and more lifted.

and i’ve thought more and listened more within. and this morning i called robin about something else, and then mentioned it, and suddenly i was on the bus and tears were running down my face. not as disconnected as that sounds. just that our conversation flowed and they weren’t sad tears or choking tears, they were just the tears that happen to me sometimes because of speaking from my depths and i hardly notice them and then suddenly i am aware that i am on the bus and crying.

she asked me what question i was afraid or wanted to be asked. and i didn’t know.

and then i got off the phone and the bus and as i was crossing the street to have lunch with stephen, i realized that question is, “why this and not something else?”

and so at lunch, i told him all of this, and then asked him that question.

and at some point my own answer came out. “i think for me, god and, i guess christianity, and quakerism, are all about community. and this community feeds me. and i wonder if another place would feed me the same and i’m afraid that might be true.”

and we talked about the shopping approach to religion and “what are we called to do.” and our own issues around what makes any choice any different than any other, in faith and in relationships. and just all sorts of things. in that way that we are different and yet we get each other in this really amazing way that i value so much.

and i feel okay now. and excited. and it feels right now.

… and so that’s how my clearness committee went. i have another one in january. i’m looking forward to it.

something that didn’t make it into that post that i’m saying now, at work, after the store has been closed for 2 and a half hours and i stopped cleaning half an hour ago, is how 2 days after that post, i spoke at meeting for worship.

i told that whole story, in different words, plus the new thing i found that morning, which was that the community was the way it was, our friendship was the way it was, because of our friendship with god.

it was a very powerful morning. someone else had been contemplating the same message for two weeks. and i even told myself a little joke that i shared with people later, which was just asking myself, “cubbie, were you honestly so afraid that these people would be upset that you wanted to join their community because you loved them so much?”

and so… that. since then, those questions have come in different forms, and i get a little turned off and terrified by the smugness in the idea that we are the only friends of god. but then i remember that that’s not what was meant. what was meant that i appreciate our sincere attempt. that’s what brings me back each week. and maybe there’s something else “better for me” out there. but this is so good, i don’t feel like looking right now.

Published in: on 17 December, 2007 at 6:38 am  Comments (3)  

anticipation

(or “What I like, dread, is when people who know you in completely different ways end up in the same area. And you have to develop, this like, combination you, on the spot.”)

this is what i keep envisioning will happen, if my membership clearness committee happens at my house:

3 quakers show up at my house, in traditional plain dress.

my housemate answers the door, in full bondage gear.

hilarity ensues.

i’ve never seen any of these people in these exact clothes. and i really don’t expect anything very dramatic. and i don’t actually feel like my life is as divided as, say, angela chase in “my so-called life” (who is quoted in my subtitle up there). and it’s san francisco and everyone is used to everyone being quirky and different… but this vision is still stuck in my head.

Published in: on 16 October, 2007 at 5:33 pm  Comments (1)  

before i moved to san francisco, i lived in olympia, washington. i did americorps, and was active in a queer men’s group. in both of those organizations, i became active and vocal about race and general oppression issues. i organized an anti-oppression training for my americorps team because it looked like it wouldn’t happen otherwise (i had tons of help and had someone else come in to DO the training, but i was kind of “the squeaky wheel” that got it to actually happen), and started an anti-racism discussion group for the queer men’s group.

when i moved to san francisco, i was planning to continue on a similar path, but got busy with my various jobs, and just that whole job of acclimating. race in san francisco is different from race in olympia.

but in the past few weeks, i’ve started talking about it more, and particularly within the quaker meeting. i think it’s because it’s such a safe space for me, really, and because i have definitely done that whole “oblivious white liberal” thing my whole life, but then there’s the way that in a quaker context, i always have “soapbox or leading” questions. and it’s tricky.

there is a particular sorrow that comes from critiquing someone’s beloved project when they don’t expect it– and i’ve done that in the past month. and there is a particular joy in having someone else bring up issues that they’ve been struggling with and to just say, “yes, yes, thank you, yes, i am so glad i am not alone”– and i’ve done that in the past month.

i made a comment at the thursday night study group a couple of weeks ago about race and how it’s not hugely better than it was 50 years ago. which is just as simplistic as saying that it is, and… i wasn’t there. how do i know? and it’s just from gobbling down theory by people that i believe “know.”

and then this past week, we read about someone (not actually john woolman, though we talked about how he said similar things) who said that the effects of slavery on slaveholders was worse than on slaves. which made me go, (inside my head) “DUDE!? SERIOUSLY!?” because it feels a little gross. because while someone might be corrupted and that can be infinitely terrible in a way that is different from bodily suffering, i don’t think the two things can be compared. and any attempt comes out all wrong. (just like my 2007 statement about 1957 race relations.) but it got me thinking anyway about how that mindset is still here. white supremacy/privilege is all-pervasive still, and the thing that i think is worse is that it’s not as recognizable. “i DON’T think of myself as better than these people, OF COURSE, and yet, i am stomping all over them, but i don’t know it. and don’t tell me or else i’ll get defensive.” and that’s pretty corrupt.

also at this past thursday night study group, someone spoke about some ideas he’s had for how to get more people to come to our meeting. he had a great metaphor about how we are a beacon on a hill, but the path is completely obscured. which is true. and his ideas were really good, too.

but my immediate thought was of fear at our capacity for welcome.

i’ve felt really welcomed and loved at this meeting, and i’ve loved that, but there are moments where i just feel like it means that i am easily palatable.

and today at meeting i really thought i was supposed to say something. but i instead chose to sit with questions about where that feeling was coming from. it seemed to easy to say what i felt like i should say, and too other-critical and outward. but what i was going to say was a query:

are we prepared for what we want? can we be? we are welcoming, but are we ready to welcome strangers, strangers who remind us that before they came we were actually not perfect?

… which is a good question for me in all sorts of ways when i change the “we”s to “me”s, and i will sit with it myself, but i really need to start having more conversations about this community i’ve become a part of, and the way we all deal with privilege.

(i think what really got me started was this post about racism and christianity and how linked they are…)

***

i read the religion of jesus the jew at a recommendation of chris m. about my questions about where judaism and christianity meet, and i have to say that 95% of it was boring, hard to read, and not at all what i was looking for, but the other 5% was spot on and perfect and interest and answered a lot of questions…

and it also got me thinking about jesus’ religion as a religion of end times… and the way things sure as heck feel like they’re ending these days… that whole “we’re either going to blow ourselves up or just destroy the world with our decadence” thing…

i haven’t gone much further than that, but it’s been interesting.

***

in terms of my news that’s not happening just in my head… at today’s business meeting, they read my membership letter that i wrote on september 18 (366 days after i started coming to meeting. my rough drafts were written the day before). eep!

and i’ve not been blogging due to the lack of my own computer, but charles martin brought me his old computer, and once i actually get a wireless card for it, i’ll be around more.

Published in: on 14 October, 2007 at 9:18 pm  Comments (1)  

i’m doing the technorati thing, because i’m always intrigued by my web presence.

from my november 8 paper journal:

“i am at the park across from grace cathedral. old women are doing tai chi and young women are training small dogs. the juxtaposition is fantastic, because it looks like the young women are shouting at the slow-serene-moving old women, telling tem to keep going, they’re doing great….

i’ve been thinking and asking a lot about what it meanst to join the quaker meeting. adrian & robin have both iven me excellent perspectives. what robin said reminded me that there is preparedness as well as readiness. & i feel like my definitions of these are very idiosyncratic & internal, & robin didn’t even use the words i’m using or even say what i’ve figured out really at all– but what i mean is that even though i feel redy, i may not be prepared. although my soul feels ready to jump out of my body & embrace the faith & community– since i don’t fully know what that entails, i’m not prepared. she said i need to wait for the honeymoon to be over & to o through my first big disappointment before i join and that is what i mean about being prepared. i can be committed to staying forever– but this point is still my dream of what it is.

i think pigeons are beautiful.

i just took a tourist’s picture in front of the church. then a pug came & sniffed my foot.

may i always be dazzled by the beauty of life.”

… at meeting this week, there was a new woman who was really nice. we wound up talking and she said something about how you need to go through a year to see all the seasons of something. and so i think i really am going to wait a year. as hard as that is. maybe a little because it is hard and i need the challenge? but i looked at my journal and the calendar and saw when my first meeting was, and i wrote in my planner for next year “start becoming a member?” on that anniversary.

Published in: on 28 November, 2006 at 1:49 pm  Leave a Comment