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

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

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

but is that my “spiritual fire” or not?

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

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

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

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

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

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from 6-14-07 in my paper journal.

“i’ve been thinking a lot about peace a lot lately, & how important it is, & how i think the trick is that we keep dehumanizing each other. we keep attributing such vicious things to each other. & yes, we keep hurting each other, & yes, somethinges it’s on purpose, & yes, we are frequently dumb, but… that’s because we’re human, not because we (anyone, our enemy, our friend) is inherently evil. but so much we keep getting pissed off, & only listening to that anger, & not letting it cool, & screaming at each other. but no one listens to screaming. no one can. “yes, you are making a reasonable point there.” no. instead, it’s ow, ow, ow, you’re hurting my ears and my heart, SHUT UP! etc. ad nauseum.”

… ironically, i’ve been tremendously irritable about complete strangers lately. “STOP HAVING THAT FACE!” is what’s been going on in the background of many of my customer service interactions lately. oh, my high-falutin’ ideals.

yesterday morning, somewhere in the middle of meeting, i pulled out my journal and wrote,

“i want everyone to be able to share this.
but if they’re not, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re wrong.
& if i don’t recognize that they are, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not.”

which i think is the same thing as my last entry, but in less words.

i had a good conversation with chris m about this and my post after meeting, and there was some moment where i said something that we both understood and that seemed to answer some of what i’ve been wrestling with, but i’ve forgotten it… but it had to do with my thought on revelation without revelation, and this specific historical moment.

i just keep wanting to make sure everyone gets the benefit of the doubt. and then i get all mixed up because i forget what going to quaker meeting is for.

things:

– is there going to be an a-ha moment for me? or is it happening? or has it already happened? or is there a series or a lifetime of them?

– if i think that everyone who does there best is doing fine and will be fine, what changes for me if i “become a quaker” if i’ve been doing my best thus far? will my best become better or have i not been doing my best thus far?

– if this is life-changing, what does it mean for my friends who are not interested in it for any number of really really valid reasons?

– what is it in the scriptures that make them speak more than other things that hit on the human experience really well? why is it “just” the bible? or is it? (it in those questions refers to scriptures?)

this is what i’ve been struggling with.

meanwhile… have any of you seen saved!?

Published in: on 26 February, 2007 at 9:10 pm  Comments (1)  

i cannot find my most recent paper journal. our world has been pretty chaotic, and so it makes sense. apparently our cat who pees when he gets stressed out has peed on a couple of our blankets recently, and i am not surprised. i am working on not freaking out about the fallout from the chaos, because i knew things were getting chaotic, and chaotic things make messes and that’s just true.

i’ve started going to al anon. people have been saying, recently, in a way that i’ve never heard before, “perhaps, cubbie, the fact that your father was a drug addict has had effects on the way that you deal with things now.” and seriously, that was a big shocker for me. obvious, but also startling. and i had never really thought of al anon before, but i’m trying it out. the two meetings that i’ve been to have both focussed on step 3, which is one of those about the higher power, and right now, since i’ve been running into some weird myths about god that i made up when i was really little, it’s been helpful to have this really focussed lens with which to look at them.

so, sunday, at meeting, i was looking at that some, and in this bright shining way, “god is not my need to be perfect” came into my head, and it was such a giant “a-ha!” and i am so glad that it came to me, because… that has been god for me in so many ways for a very long time. and it’s so not true.

Published in: on 20 February, 2007 at 11:10 am  Comments (1)  

whoa!!!! that post that i thought i lost at the library? it has been saved as a draft this whole time. so it is here. it is about 3 weeks old:

back from florida & san diego. puck’s computer is still in san diego with them, so i am at the library. i didn’t write anything in my journal all trip, but i did bring it. i didn’t bring the one i’d recently filled though, which is where most of my posts have been coming from here. so today i thought it was very important to bring it with me to the peace vigil because i was coming to the library afterwards. so my water bottle stood next to me as it usually does, but this time, it was propped up on a little brown book with a picture of a sock glued to the cover.

… i had a really cozy morning, and was very quiet at the vigil… and things felt really good. and then i had a lovely panic attack about 5 minutes later… is that supposed to happen? *laughs* i know there is no real such thing as “supposed to” but it really felt unfair to be like, “peace is nice… oh no! world is going to eat me!!!!” i’m not sure who was being unfair, actually, but… i didn’t like it.

i’d like to say more about that, but i don’t know what. if anybody has any thoughts on spirituality and anxiety and why they can coexist in the same body, i’d like to hear them, thank you.

… from november 25th’s paper journal entry:

“why is it so important to me to ask the questions i’m asking– to ferret out the difference between acceptance & inclusion– to decide which is preferable, which is acceptable.

i am thinking of my friends as i go toward quakerism. how do i do this without alienating them? how do i explore these truths & find them true, without saying, or even implying, that their truth is wrong. (and if i think their truth is wrong, what then? how can i hold that conversation without being or appearing smug?)

jesus is just such a sensitive word. i feel like so many peiople have been clubbed over the head with jesus. how do i fix that? how do i fix that? do i fix that? can i fix that? should i fix that?

i want to flip ani around & say that this weapon is a tool– though jesus as tool is totally not all of it.

and now i’m all ‘how do i talk to other people about jesus?’ when the unanswered question is ‘how do i talk to myself about jesus?’ but ‘how am i’ & ‘how will i?’”

& 11-26

”things have been challenging. i am not equipped for this kind of life. i am too human & too dazzled by my humanity.

i have been practicing. practicing practicing practicing. where are my instant results? they were there, but now it is hard slugging, inward battles– & i question them, too. aren’t i always doing inward battles? this constant state of inner puzzlement — this constant unfolding — this constant reinvention– is it authentic? shouldn’t i have answers by now? will i ever have answers?

and why doesn’t my head ever shut up?

stop feeling ‘better than.’ and stop feeling ‘worse than.’ and start feeling equal.

…the god vs. self dichotomy is so puzzling. i want to bring my richest, best self before god, but i need to be careful not to descend into self-worship on the way. or forget it all & descend into self-loathing, which is equally my way.

my favorite people have always been those who seem to have their eyes uplifted. literally.”

from 11-14-06’s paper journal:

“i am always so concerned about making sure my time is Truly Worthwhile. usually it keeps me happier than when i spend a lot of time aimlessly. and in my definition of Truly Worthwhile, there is time for relaxation and nourishing self-care. as long as i know it is for a bigger purpose. i think it’s good, but i don’t know. and i get confused & distraught when i feel like i am wasting time– or when i view others as wasting time.

but life is so short. the idea of wasting a morsel of it is utterly terrifying.

that is probably the problem. the giant fear. my desire for a worthwhile life comes from a love of life and that’s good. but the terror of a not worthwhile life is dangerous. it is where my self-injurious panics come from. like when i lose something– finding it is Wasting Time and at that moment, punishable only by death. Talk about wasted time.

if my fear of wasted time comes from a fear of mortality– death should not be the immediate punishment….

in discussions… at quaker study group, i had an insight about myself, which is how critical i am of people i’ve been in the past. it is so easy because we are past that stage in ourselves. but we are not past that stage in other people. that is what i need to remember. their growth is not about me & what has & hasn’t worked for me. i can share insights, but i should not judge. their peak could be my low & still be higher than my peak.”

and the next day:

“listen.
be aware.
look up.
remember to look up.

the best thing about the ‘now i walk in beauty’ thing is how it reminds me to look up. there are other best things, but that is the thing i’ve remembered least when not doing it. beauty is above me– in the sky in all its moods, in the trees, in the decorations of the buildings i pass.”

well, first off, this. it’s about the die-in after the peace vigil last thursday. i was at the vigil but left before the die-in, but i’m excited about what happened… and there are pictures!

from 11-22:

“i have a hard time centering down when doing my kitchen solitary study. i think it is because i think of it as a study time. and also because my solitary silence is much more empty-feeling than the silence at Quaker meeting. it is full of the loudness of my own thoughts– & i cant figure out how best to do it. there is so much in my reading to mull over– there is this journal to use to unfold big thoughts,– there are cozy cats– there is the lack of feeling of community. i feel lost & frightened when left to my own devices. and at quaker meeting i know i am supposed to be worshipping, but here, worship feels like a lazy break from the importance of study (especially today with my bleary sleepy eyes), especially because it is still so stuttering & new & confused. i know how to read & think & write alone at a table. but meeting God here, i don’t know.”

i like that i leave some time between when i first write in my journal and when i post it, because i get to look back at what i wrote and see where i am. and fortunately, much has changed in my morning practice, since only 2 weeks ago. i’m not sure if it’s a for good change, but that lost feeling has been less.

Published in: on 12 December, 2006 at 10:24 am  Comments (1)  

“i am thinking some about how excited i am, & how terrified– of becoming part of the quaker faith community. being blessed & guarded & held– and watched. a hundred new spiritual parents. perhaps this is part of my recent exhaustion.”

(i’m still so much with the, “how do i get people to actually read this. and respond. and help me out with all of this stuff. the inner journey IS fine, but i do like sharing so much.”)

Published in: on 4 December, 2006 at 3:16 pm  Comments (1)  

from 11-11-06 in my paper journal (which i finished today. i’ve been writing in it since june 7, 2005):

“the last two day were exhausting becaue i’ve been working really hard on me & feeling like i’ve got some good tools to make my life so much better, but they take so much work &… that’s exhausting. i also think my theory of the flu shot was correct & added to the exhaustion.

i keep trying to find non-Christian Quaker texts. i want to know about that faith. i know about the redeeming power of Christ. i’m not ready to hunker down into it until i’ve seen my other options. jesus is not the only truth & i’m not certain he is my truth. he is a truth. he is a way & a truth & a light to The Truth, but i do not believe he is solely it. i believe that that belief– that there is only Christ– shrinks our souls, diminishes our connections with thos who have never heard of Christ, those who cannot accept him, thoe whose truths are just as beautiful, just as True. i think it splinters and breaks us to cling to that.

i, who clutch so much, ‘preaching’ against holding onto your god.

i just read an essay about letting go of ourselfs to get God, to be filled by God. i can’t do that yet. i am still learning to like myself. & i do. i love myself.

so frequently, religious leaders talk about how our culture teaches us to value ourselves too much. i don’t think that’s true. i think our culture teaches us to devalue our selves. we are never enough for it. i’d like to believe that we can meet God with our broken complete selves.

and i’m not sure how much we can give to God if we aren’t there.

i think this is because i’ve been contemplating vocal ministry so much. and how each person i’ve heard brings their gifts. and how each person brings their gifts to the world. and i think that’s the most beautiful thing in the world to me.

and if that’s not God, i think i might think it’s more beautiful than god.

by my definitions, i am pantheistic. God is so much everything. that is why ‘Now I walk in beauty, beauty is before me, beauty is behind me, above & below me’ & ‘all will be well & all will be well & all manner of thing will be well’ are so important to me. they remind me that no matter what is happening, no matter where i am, there is God & that is beautiful & that is well.

this is particularly helpful in the tenderloin.

every moment can’t help but be holy if you are surrounded by God. God is in this paper & this pen & this table & my bones & my cells & my soul. & everyone’s bones & cells & souls. & every awareness of that is worship. & it is easy & it is hard.”

the friends school just called and asked when i could start coming in to do clerical work. eep! yip! yay!

from 11-10’s paper journal:

“i feel sour & exhausted & utterly human today.

i think it might be my flu shot, because my muscles are so sluggish i a way that seems unbeatable & ingrained. not just sleepy or sad, but a deep exhaustion.

my relationship optimism is waning again. a few days ago, i was like, ‘there might be things i need to change about myself.’ i need the force of character that i’m lacking by not being able to handle this relationship. but today i am tired of negotiating needs. of losing myself in the purification necessary to keep going.

in the past week, ipods have come up 3 times– twice with quakers and once in tikkun. it’s funny because it makes me want to defend my ipod use, but i think it’s good to make me interrogate it- make sure that it’s really for innocuous, or hopefully positive use– shielding me from the world only when that’s really necessary, giving me an air of dancing joy when possible.

my eyes are drippy from a tiny exhaustion nap. not currently moving too much. i feel sort of refreshed, but i’m not sure how i will handle actual movement.

connection & spirituality– these are my two big interests. they should coexist harmoniously, but sometimes they collide harshly.

last night, at study group, [someone] said that when [they look] back at things [they] highlighted when [they] were younger, [they] are struck by how naive [they were]– & i think i have some insight into why such statements (& i’ve made similar) are hard to hear by a younger person. we are always so thoroughly ourselves– that the idea that we might change enough to be embarassed by this specific existence– is hard to hear, hard to think about.

i just so much want to find synthesis between different points of view. it feels like a calling, but also a want, so maybe it’s not a calling.

i think part of what works so specifically for me at meeting is the sitting in the circle. i really feel like god is there in the middle. i’ve always believed that god is love is interconnectedness, & that center is where we all meet in worship. it is amazing.

i am lucky/blessed to have the time that i have right now for contemplation. next week i won’t have that. i feel spoiled to have it, and also that it’s completely necessary. if i can keep doing it, i think i should try. it’s good for me, the way i’ve been doing it. it’s discipline, which i need, & it makes things make sense. having texts has become so helpful.”

a note on capitalization:

i’ve always been rather… concerned about the way that proper names are capitalized. setting people apart in a way that other things are not set apart always made me sad. particularly capitalizing the “i” for myself… i didn’t like that. in college, i started taking away those capitals. then i realized that i prefer the aesthetic of lower-case, anyway.

in formal things, i started using traditional capitalization, but pretty much always my name in lower-case, and if i felt like i could get away with it, the i’s. when i got my legal tranny name change, i got it legally lower-case.

writing about god in lower case is something that i’ve been thinking about a lot, and right now i feel like it’s necessary for it to stay personal.