Friday, November 30, 2007

An Answer

So I may have stumbled across an answer to the questions I was struggling with a few days ago, about how to somehow live simply a life that seems too hurried for simplicity, or even thought. In an article given me by my environmental Ffriend Don C, "Fire in the Bones," in Tikkun Magazine, Alastair McIntosh shares the question he asks himself, to stay spiritually centered in his activism. McIntosh speaks of "sitting down briefly each day and simply asking,"What does the deep Spirit of Life seek of me now?"

Maybe it's OK if my life seems insane and cyclonic, if I can just keep enough of a still space to sit with that question. What is the deep Spirit of Life seeking of me now?

Even if I have trouble sitting with the question on a daily basis--and I'm going to try to create it, somehow--I know I can listen for the answer in Meeting on First Days. I think perhaps it is enough, whether I am too tired for words or not. I think perhaps it is enough of an answer for now.

Blessed be.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Trying to Float

Another day of being too tired to blog. Yeah, yeah, I know--technically this is a blog entry, right? But it's not what I want to be writing...

I'm going to go ahead and write this as a big, fuzzy journal entry--no editing, no waiting for discernment, just stream of consciousness. (I'll try to spare you thoughts about what I ate for lunch, however. I really do want to avoid becoming that kind of a blog!)

Every morning, as I'm waking up and getting ready for my day, I think about the things I'll do when work gets out. Today is the day, I think to myself, I'm really gonna go roller skating again. Today is the day I'll walk downtown after work with Peter and get supper at La Veracruzana, or browse for used books at Raven or Cherry Picked, or Half Moon books.

But mostly I think, maybe tonight I'll get to write. And I'll spend the time I have alone in the morning, as I'm packing up my lunch and sitting down with my breakfast, thinking about what I want to say today. A lot of the time it's the next installment of the Spiritual Journey series--there was a recent article on the painful struggles among Friends on the Cape in an issue of The Freedom and Justice Crier that struck me, two weeks ago, as having all kinds of connections to the installment I'm working on now, and I'm dying to re-read them both, and see if I have something meaningful to say. And I've been thinking about what is and isn't ministry among Friends, and how recent conversations with Friends at Mt. Toby and blogging by Liz Opp do or don't line up with the ways I feel myself, especially in worship, changing. And of course there's more--I come up with ideas to write about every morning.

But now I'm home, and the hope of writing something meaningful and truthful that seemed so reasonable earlier today seems as impossible as a trip to the skating rink. I can think, after a fashion. And I can perform the mechanical activity of writing. But that source of ideas that matter is distant now, buffered by layers of exhaustion, like cotton wool. All I have left are the shadowy memories of what I cared about. I'm just too tired to find my center, and it happens every day.

I think this is part of where the Quaker testimony of simplicity comes from. How can I hear the small still voice when I'm this weary? And I fantasize about having a life simple enough to sit in silence for a half an hour in the morning light, or take an unhurried bath or shower.

Summer vacations, when I lose this bone-deep weariness, I can't really even believe in it. And I look around me and I see so many other people who seem to be able to hold jobs and make room for a spiritual life at the same time. Look at all the Quakers who sit on committees at Mt. Toby! They're not all retired! How are they doing it?

I'm not a first year teacher any more. Yes, I grade on the weekends, but surely I could be more efficient about how I use my time then. I don't think it has to take as long as it does.I'm home at the end of a day that's usually no longer than 8 or 9 hours, these days. I'm doing my work well, so it's not that it's unduly stressful.

But the end of the day comes and I...



move. Which is incredibly frustrating.

I've never actually worked full time before becoming a teacher. I remember the days when I used to be able to book one day a week for community work as a Pagan, and I miss them. I think I'm good at teaching, and I don't think it's wrong for me to be doing this work right now. I even like it.

But I hate what it takes away from the rest of my life.

Crap. I suppose part of what's going on is that I just need to accept that I don't get to meet everyone's expectations. Part of identifying with two spiritual communities is feeling absent from two spiritual communities, feeling that I've abandoned not one, but two groups of people I care about. I know in the abstract that I'm always going to look like a loser if I keep score based on what I don't accomplish and who I don't take time with in my life. But it's hard to believe that it's OK for me to give so much to my work and my students. (Of course, though I do not write about them here, they are so often in my thoughts and in my heart, that it's clear they are my spiritual community too.)

I think I count on this blog, and the comments I get here, to double-check that I'm on track spiritually. Not blogging about the deep stuff makes me crazy! And it's true that this blog, and the community of bloggers who stop by here, have been a wonderful tool for growth for me in the past two years.

But I think I'm going to have to be very, very careful about that keeping score against myself thing. Yeah, I'd really like more chances to sort through what's going on day to day. But I need to remember that in worship, that sense of tenderness and Light has been as clear as sunlight and a strong as wine.

There's that image that comes, sometimes, in worship, of what it was like learning to float: my dad's arms under me, his warm, calm voice telling me to relax, lie back, trust him. And, more importantly trust the water to hold me up.

How hard it is to trust. How hard it is to believe that the water will really hold me up.

But I ought to know better by now--I've got lots and lots of First Day mornings built up, these days, telling me so.

Maybe I can't keep up with all the things I want to do. But even without the time to lose all track of time, and the energy to think and to write the way I want, I can let go, lean back. And float. The Water will hold me up.

(Is it this hard for everyone? Is it this hard forever?)

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Early in meeting for worship today, I was all caught up in my head--in ideas about what is ministry and what is faithfulness, and whether or not I'm "doing" Quakerism "right."

And then an echo of the Song of Songs came to me: "I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine." And everything changed, and the words washed away in just being with the Beloved. And the Light grew so bright and good around me and inside me, that I could just about bear it:

There is an hour, every week, during which I get to drop all the hard work of trying to be something, and just be what I'm supposed to be. I don't have to be strong, or wise, or clever. I don't have to anything at all, because the Beloved is there, and it's just fine...

At those times, the image comes to me, of myself as a tiny child, almost too young for speech. Have you ever seen a little girl, one just barely walking, make her way solemnly to her mother? That's me. And when I get there, I lift my arms up in the air, stiffly, the way that toddlers do.

"Up!" I say, in that toddler way. "Up!" with all the quiet confidence of the completely loved, completely trusting child.

And I go up in those warm, strong arms, and turn my head into that safe neck and shoulder, and I let go and clasp on, and I'm free in a way I have mostly forgotten how to be.

And you know, everything else--the hundred thousand words we use to strap ourselves in, corset-like, to being faithful to the Light we're given, all the Quaker or Pagan or philosophical apologetics--is really beside the point.

I am my Beloved's. And my Beloved is mine.


And everything follows from there.
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