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 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.

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.

guest post: stephen matchett’s listen epistle

stephen matchett is one of my personal heroes. his understanding of god and the world is so gentle and loving that i can’t help but be inspired. he’s the first person i go to with spiritual concerns. part of that is because we’ve got a similar outlook on things, and part of it is that i know i will be stretched by his perspective.

recently, we were talking with a newish quaker, and he asked us both what we thought quakerism needed. stephen spoke about how it’s actually a religion and people forget that. i rambled about demographics and diversity… then after a minute, i said something about listening– about how we could all listen better– to ourselves, to god, to each other. stephen pulled this out of his bag. i asked him if i could post it here. he said yes. it’s also in our meeting’s newsletter for this month.

An Epistle
submitted by Stephen Matchett, from an epistle-writing exercise that was part of the final session of Krista Barnard’s recent series on spirituality and the Bible. (2/19/2008)

To Friends in meeting: Now the time has come for you really to listen to one another, to the messages each brings, with open, tender ears and hearts, not with suspicion, not derailed and distracted by language or preconceptions; God’s moment is here, the Spirit breaks in, you are poised at a convergence of the currents of life that can take you far and bear you up and amplify my Peace, Word and Revelation if you let them pour in. Listen: If you have given up, or come up dry before, or made a judgment that I have departed from here, come back. There is more going on than you know. Listen: If you are assailed by perceived criticisms, put out by the apparent demands of workers who came late to the harvest, or jealous of the Truth you have come to know, then know that others may not express my gift in the same way; relax into my Peace; but do not doubt my love for all, or the purpose of my instruction.

Opening to my message together may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Agreement on first principles must be in the heart and must proceed from trust.

You need not dispute. Build one another up. If you falter or fall back, don’t give up. Bear with one another. Listen: I am speaking through each one of you. Listen.

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.

i’ve been having this email conversation since december. it’s with a guy whose zine i read and really liked, except then he started talking about how christianity is really super bad. and so i was like, “except not always. and the people that you are annoyed with are perverting christianity, and the media believes them when they say that this is how it Is, and i’m really sad that you believe them because there is so much more positive stuff. and the more people believe that christianity is just the fundamentalist stuff that the people in power are promoting, the more that becomes the truth.”

and then i had my own god crisis that i’m still not sure i’m done with or what to do with. and so he responded but i didn’t for months, and then i finally did, and we’ve been having an okay conversation, with long lags in between.

but anyway, in this last email, he said that the word for what i said i believed was animism.

and that’s not really true at all. i don’t think that each thing has a soul or an identity or anything like that. i just think that everything is an important part of a big holy whole.

and the reason that i’m posting is that… i’m not sure how to say things. i’m not sure how to say to people who think god doesn’t exist, because there is provable outside force, that god isn’t an outside force, that god is what is happening all the time… because a) i get confused about it really easily b) the only argument i have behind me is, “well, that’s how i feel about it” & c) I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS for anything.

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)  

well, after spending some time in florida and san diego, in a heat & stomach-bug induced stupor of much tv-watching and video-game-playing, i came back home without puck, who was still in san diego with their family. puck had the computer, but one day, in the middle of stressful errands, i went to the library and used the computer to write an entry questioning panic & its place in a spiritual life, and typed up two more entries from my paper journal. i clicked “publish,” a message came up to say it had posted, but when i went to look at it, there was no new entry. and although i had copied it to the computer’s clipboard, the paste function didn’t work, so… i got sort of cranky. but now i am posting from the comfort of my own bed, puck sleeping next to me, butter cleaning himself in front of me, and secret scowling at her reflection behind me. i know i will be able to copy and paste, and so i’m going to try posting again. but about different things.

this sunday, i was the welcomer. there was a request for welcomers for christmas eve and new year’s eve, and i decided that i should ask to do new year’s eve, since i’d never done it before, and i’ve wanted to get involved in a helpful way with the meeting. i had a promise of a tour and orientation, but when it finally happened, i was somewhat dismayed to find out that it was just about the nuts & bolts of door unlocking and things, and nothing about what to say, how to say it, when to say it, or what to do if something went wrong. i asked about it, but the answer didn’t come in way that i really understood, but there was so much reassurance that nothing would go wrong, that i decided to trust that.

everything went well and the building manager wound up doing most of the things for me that i had been trained to do anyway. i welcomed people, and it was neat to see all the people coming in and to see a little bit about what goes on before meeting, rather than running in at 10:58 (usually i tutor a girl at 9:30 and come straight from that, but with the holidays, i didn’t.). my worry about feeling separate from the meeting for worship came true, and that’s the main reason that it’s not something i want to do a whole lot of at this time.

but the other reason was that at 10:35, someone came up and started opening the door with his suitcase. then the door shut with him and all his things on the other side. he tried to open it again, and so i went to help him and ask him some stuff. first i asked if he was there for meeting for worship, and he said, “yeah. are you?” this threw me off guard, of course, and i felt humbled in my classist assumptions.

a note: i live in the tenderloin which is “the bad part” of san francisco. i pass houseless people regularly. the meetinghouse is in my neighborhood, and i’ve learned that the rule is that people can sleep in front of the meetinghouse any time except for sunday mornings. at 9, they work to rouse them and send them away, and there was a challenge that sunday morning with a person who would not leave. this person looked decidedly different, but he definitely seemed like he lived on the street.

so, i let him in, and gave him a suggestion of where he could put his suitcase. he told me he’d been to meetings in alaska, and started walking to the door. i walked with him, but a few feet away i saw that robin was giving ministry. so i started to say that we should wait while she spoke, and i put my hand on the door. but i didn’t finish what i was saying, when he pulled the door open, being much stronger than me. part of me wanted to stop him still at that point, but i knew the choice then was to just let him go.

i stood around, watching him settle in, and took lots of deep breaths, and tried to connect to god about the whole thing, but then someone came out to talk to me. he said he’d felt called to come out and talk to me. he told me about how we don’t let people in when someone is giving ministry, but i explained that the door had been forced out of my hand. then he asked if maybe he shouldn’t have been let in at all, but i didn’t agree with that. it was good to have someone to talk to at that time, even though i mostly just felt embarassed, and we got hushed by someone through the window.

i felt sort of crushed by the whole thing. had i done the right thing? was there a right thing? and most importantly: would people think i was incompetent? i talked to a few people after meeting. 2 more people reminded me that i wasn’t supposed to let him in while someone was speaking, and i was able to explain, but… i don’t like that i was so quickly all about taking the blame off myself. i’m not sure if blame was even involved, but… just… i needed to tell people, “that thing that happened was not my fault.”

i spoke to robin who was fine with it and said that she was sure i’d done everything i could. a few other people said reassuring things. but in the end, there was just this feeling of commiseration about those wacky wacky street people and our problems with them.

it seems like this is opening some dialogue about the tools to give welcomers, but i… don’t think it’s just new welcomers that need tools. i don’t think we just need a direct answer for what to do if something like that happens… because… what is “something like that?” why do we need to guard our sanctuary? i’m not saying we don’t. but if we do, why do we?

the next day, yesterday, new year’s day, there was meeting for worship followed by a meal. i went, and as i was walking, i was thinking about this book we sell at the bookstore i work at. it’s called the god delusion. it’s new, it’s popular, it sits in front of the register. the book jacket talks about how it proves that religion is destructive and science is the answer. the reviews say things like, “this is the answer to the religious right, who will surely label the author the anti-christ.” i paged through it, and all i see is rage. i disagree with his premise. i think that religion can be destructive, but so can science.

but that’s not why i feel pangs of guilt and sorrow about selling that book. i don’t have control over its sale really, but it hurts to look at the book. it hurts because of the amount of rage. it hurts because i believe that rage is the problem. the “i am right, thus you are wrong” of it– it’s been done. it has done more damage than religion and science combined, because it’s where their problems come from too.

so, i found myself sitting with that at meeting. and i tried to look at the rage and understand it. and in a lot of ways i do. corruption, war, hypocrisy… these are upsetting things. the world is very damaged. it makes me angry, too. but not in the same way. not in the way that i want to write a book pointing fingers at anybody. but… i realized that he, like me when i get a good idea, probably thinks of his ideas as this huge, tremendous gift to the world. he can help it, he can save it, he wants to share his gift.

and then it came to me that our truths or our bits of the truth, however you want to look at it, are gifts. the question is how to give them as gifts and how to receive them as gifts.

when that came to me, i knew i had to speak. i felt dizzy, though, and pretty convinced that if i stood up i’d fall right over. but i didn’t and i said it and it felt big and real and scary. and then i was tired. and excited. but tired. after meeting, i decided that we really need some cots for laying down after something like that. i was pretty silent through the meal and dazed, and someone joked that i must have had a late night the night before. which was sort of true, but i’d gotten enough sleep to be fine during that meal (though i did fall asleep at the castro last night despite the fact that audrey hepburn was on the big screen right in front of me). it just… had been a big experience.

and it’s crazy because… i don’t know the answer to that question. AND i’m not even totally sure what it all means. but it seems important. we don’t want to share our beliefs like they are vases that would really look better where our friend’s favorite vase is. that’s not about the vase or our friend. it’s about us.

yesterday morning, before meeting, i was reading the letters in a friends journal from april ‘95 (someone donated a bunch to the meeting house library, and the librarian recommended i take some). john woodbury had something to say that resonated with me a lot. it’s related to what i said in ministry, and with my concern about christianity and how it can be right and complete and also not the only thing…

“We are all victims of language. Every word in our language is a symbol. We can’t talk about our inner life or our spiritual life in any other language but symbols, metaphors, allegories, and abstractions. In a way, a credo or creed, or statement of beliefs, has really nothing to do with where we are, because where we are is a matter of experience, not of the words we use to describe it.

Each of us has a very personal spiritual life, and we can only describe it in the words and vocabulary that we borrow. The richest and most common place that we get this vocabulary is the religous tradtion of our cultur, and most of us were born and raised and lived all our lives in a culture where the Christian mythology is the vocabulary or the language with which spiritual things are described. We borrow this vocabulary fo this source but also from other sources. We borrow it from our reasoning, we borrow it from the words and the literature of other people who think– and all kinds of sources.

I do not understand this fuss or why there is a fuss between Christocentric Quakers and Universalist Quakers because I have trouble with the Quaker use of the word Truth, with a capital T, as though any person can really know the spiritual Truth over and above everybody else.

If there is such a thing as absolute Truth, our perception of it is so imperfect that we have no right to be intolerant of anybody else’s perception of the Truth.”

… golly, i need to go to work.

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.”

paper journal entry from 11-3.

“i’ve been reading so much spiritual stuff, but i’ve realized i should really work more on synthesizing &* digesting it. in some ways, i’ve been just swallowing a lot of it, without really tasting it– so how could i understand it.

most recently, i read an essay about mel gibson’s passion of christ** film. the gist seemed to be that jews need to get over themselves– the anti-semitism isn’t meant, the film isn’t about them.

i feel like in a lot of ways this winds up becoming a ‘christianity is about faith’ vs. ‘christianity is about caring for others’ argument. & so… the author is right, but if one finds the message of christ a humanitarian one, making a film about him that hurts people intimately– doesn’t seem right.

—***

i’ve been thinking so much lately about quakerism vs. uu. uu’s keep feeling like such wishy-washy quakers. the humanitarian ideals are there– but they so much lack the sense of personal responsibility– the quaker understanding of this seems to come so much from the belief in a christ/god within that must answer to the same within others– that one cannot/should not rest until that has been answered– while uu’s seem to come from such a place of ‘we have been wounded & are tender & exploring’ which is fine a lot– but a poor endpoint.

my us vs. them thing makes me nervous. just last night i talked about the danger of being disdainful to who we’ve been…

[last night, i was] thinking about how the problem is not with choice but with lazy choices. i think its fine to bring together things from multiple traditions– if they resonate, if they are real, if they feel true, if they challenge as well as comfort. we live in such a multicultural society, to ignore others’ paths to the truth is xenophobic in some ways.

…**** i had it so well in my head last night. it was tight & beautiful– without the flowers that seem to be getting in my way now.

we all come to the truth from different directions. it doesn’t matter if your path is eclectic, as long as you walk it authentically.

i really want to be a quaker, and i really, weirdly, want t proselytize.

‘here is beauty & community & supporting love. here is a challenge to be your best self. come.’

i’m nervous about how self-y i get in my spiritual searches. i get squinty-eyed & hunkered down– to work. distractions make me stressed & harsh. in such an intimate relationship as that which i have, that can be bad. i’d like to greet distraction kindly. it could give me as much gifts as solitude.

***

i just read an essay from the quaker seekers packet about ‘friends & womankind.’

i’m so used to viewing gender as passe & hurtful. it divides, it imposes rules, it devalues who we really are.

but! gender can be who we really are. i know that.

i only ever have patience for people who strive for authenticity– by my own perceptions & judgments of such.”

* i am actually completely incapable of drawing an ampersand. but i do a shorthand “and” that is like a swoopy t or plus sign. ironically, i started doing this after my fifth grade teacher told us we were not allowed to use it in our work. i’d never seen such a thing before. i don’t think i ever used it in my work, or at least i tried hard not to. i’m explaining this so that you know that my journal is not actually full of ampersands. sadly.

** in my writing, i underline rather than italicize. can one actually italicize while writing. i have not figured it out.

*** the — is when i have a line drawn between sections of an entry. sometimes i will indicate this with asterisks here.

**** usually …’s mean that i’m leaving something out, but not in this case. the ellipsis is in journal.