Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Everyday life (sort of)

So, I've been pondering about posting. I'm not feeling very deep or like I have spiritual insight to share right now, but there's something - a desire for whatever scant connection the internet provides? (that's sort of sad) in me that wants to post something.

And, I often say, and people I really respect say, that the divine/spiritual isn't really seperable from regular life. But then really, on a spiritual blog, you don't expectto hear about grocery shopping, or even necessarily emotions (that one in particular bothered me)

I just posted something that I had written and saved as a draft months ago (almost) - I think I saved it cause it was too raw, and with no answers to boot.

I find that one of my bigger struggles in life is being "too emotional" - I'm not sure what to think about that. I spend a lot of my time trying to repress or gloss over what's really going on with me, because people think I'm insane if I don't. No, I don't have chopped up bodies in my basement. It's just that I hate people sometimes, I'm bad at getting over breakups, I'm often profoundly moved by things other people ignore (and often I totally miss things other people are profoundly moved by, it's not a universal law or anything)

I asked some friends in my meeting recently about having a clearness committee with other people in the meeting (I haven't yet asked the other people I have in mind, though) I was wondering if couples who break up do this when they both want to stay at meeting - how do you deal with having "negative" feelings towards other people in meeting? How do you even deal with a void where there was once what you thought of as intimacy? In any case, they both seemed uncomfortable with the idea, and seemed to have a concern that my goal was to badmouth someone and hurt their "standing" or something in meeting. I still don't quite get this, as my goal was to have them there and have it be a mutual process)

so, I wonder as a community if there's an expectation that we all paste on smiles and if they're not genuine, that's okay? (I have to say I didn't ask the community, so it's not a fair characterization, on the other hand, the folks I asked have served on Ministry and Counsel, so I assume their views can be taken as somewhat representative of how M&C would respond)

certainly dealing with problems is often unpleasant and ugly. Are other people just better at letting go of things? How can I possibly learn to be so?


Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

I myself have come to think of working through negative feelings toward those we've been close to who have hurt us--whether through a bad breakup or any of the other hundred thousand ways that people hurt one another--as the deep end of the pool, the tough stuff.

I know that a bad experience with a former housemate who was also a member of my (previous) church was one of the most spiritually challenging things I've ever had to deal with. In that case, I did not and do not believe that the housemate was blameless, and I found, myself, that I needed to have at least those members of my community I was closest to acknowledge that. All disputes are not "no-fault" disagreements, however much easier it would be for our communities if they were!

I, too, felt that I was being asked to paste on a false smile, something it seemed that the housemate was very able to do, and so, to my dismay, she received more support (or at least approval) than I did. This hurt, and hiding that hurt would have felt dishonest.

In the end, my husband and I left the group--which eventually suffered a major drop in membership, owing, I think, to the fact that I really had been more of a resource to my community than the housemate, who stayed long enough to see us out the door, and then left, herself.

This sounds bitter, I'm afraid, and for a long time, bitter is just what I was. I am not bitter any longer. Over the years, I have found ways to reconcile both to that community, and to the former housemate, though I can't say I either trust her or feel close to her any more. I'm working on finding my way to deeper levels of forgiveness of her (for misdeeds I will not bore you with here) and I've managed to entirely forgive those in my community who could not find ways to reach out to me in compassion rather than to sit in judgement of me at that time. (The sudden illness of one of the members of that group, who I'd found quite hurtful at the time, brought me up short. As I feared for his life, I learned important things about the ways love is stronger than anger. I'm grateful both for that and for his continuing life.)

I am sure there are those who still blame me for finding it hard to move past my anger with that person. However, I really believe that the slower path toward real clearness, that I am still walking--not there yet!--is the right one.

Sometimes, it just takes time. And I think that it is unfortunate that it can be hard for communities to recognize that, and to work patiently for real clarity and forgiveness, rather than a quick whitewash.

If forgiveness was easy, everyone would do it! But it's not. Sometimes it takes a lifetime. Sometimes it takes longer. But rushing into a game of pretend is NOT the answer, of that I am sure!

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Maybe I'm misreading you, Pam -- but it sounds like you are asking for something, regarding your ex, that would be fairly similar to what Christ described in Matthew 18:15-17.

It's worth remembering that Matthew 18:15-17 was very nearly the heart of Quaker process for more than a quarter of a millennium, from the days of George Fox all the way down to the second quarter of the twentieth century. In fact, it was so central to interpersonal conflict resolution within the Quaker world that Friends gave it a special name: "Gospel Order".

And here you are feeling a need for something very like it.

Am I reading you correctly?

Plain Foolish said...

Thank you, Pam.

Right now, I am experiencing the need to come to clearness with a relative, and it's a difficult thing. I really needed to hear (read?) both this post and the one below where you talk about forgiveness. I don't have any answers, either, but you've articulated the questions so very well. Thank you.

earthfreak (Pam) said...

Thanks all, for responding!

Yes, Marshall, that is exactly what I'm wanting.

Actually, though, in this situation, it's not just that I feel 'wronged' - I did wrong first, but I expected forgiveness, I thought the relationship was one that could survive some bumps, and that we could work through it. I was amazingly hurt at being cut off so completely, and over something I really thought these friends could understand.

This is not the ex I wrote about below, by the way. She doesn't go to my meeting, and I couldn't have stayed if she did. but it's related.

cat - thanks for your words, I am realizing that sometimes it takes a lifetime, or more.

pf - I hope you figure things out with your family member. It's really helpful to hear that the musings of mine that feel completley pointless sometimes were helpful to someone else :)

Marshall Massey said...

Dear Pam, if that is what you want, then the fact that it has been central in Quakerism for such a very, very long time gives you great leverage.

If I am not out of line in saying this, then please, go to your meeting for business -- or if your meeting for business is too doggone busy, then go to the oversight committee -- and tell them (1) that this has been central to Quakerism forever, (2) it's how Friends managed to hang together when relationships went on the rocks, and (3) you need it, bad.

Know that my heart is with you. As it always is in any case! But especially in this.

Liz Opp said...


I'm sorry I didn't think to check back here sooner. I realize it's been several days since you wrote about what sounds like a very tender and raw experience, as you yourself referred to it.


And now you maybe have gone off to yearly meeting, where I am not, but the comment will be here when you get back.

I don't know who you spoke with in meeting about your situation, and I'm sorry you felt discouraged from approaching M&C. .

..I would say you must put Love in the center of your question: "Is it a loving thing--for myself, for others involved--if I seek support from the meeting in some capacity?"

That, and stop "should-ing" on yourself: I "should" to this, I "shouldn't" do that.

I know that in a situation like yours, if a clearness committee did happen, there is always the concern that someone will backstab someone else; that there may be a perception of "taking sides." But these are not reasons enough to cut yourself off from a community that, as Marshall points to, is grounded in providing care for and accountability to one another.

If we are spiritually and emotionally mature enough, we won't backstab and we won't take sides: others will see to ensuring a respectful process for all involved.

Despite the midwestern culture of "niceness," Quakers are about being faithful to the promptings of the Inward Teacher, not to the (only temporary) easiness of pretending that we are all "fine" (F***ed-up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Egotistical).

On a more personal note, to some extent like Cat's experience and what you are considering for yourself, I too had the opportunity to stay in (or leave!) meeting during a difficult time when an intimate friendship went awry. It was, as Cat says, one of the most challenging experiences of my life...

I'm sorry you are going through this. Perhaps you and I can talk soon (with or without writing comments back and forth).

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

earthfreak (Pam) said...


Thanks for your comment. I'm not at NYM either.

I'm not thinking about leaving TCFM, it's simply not that bad (it's uncomfortable, but not painful, to experience this as it's happening now)

I don't know what's most loving. I don't know how you even tell.

As far as "taking sides" - this is something that bothers me as well.

I hope the ministry and counsel, and even folks at large in meeting, would try to stay very centered and loving and never get to the point of deciding to stop recognizing that of God in any member of the community (or outside it, come to think...)

At the same time, sometimes in a conflict it IS someone's fault. If someone in meeting stole from someone else, or a member of a couple is beating another, there is a clear "side" - at least to some extent (you have to make amends, you have to stop) - which doesn't mean that it can't be done lovingly, but I sense an implication that the "victim", at least within the meeting community, has some obligation to remain victimized, lest anyone "take sides" against hir tormentor. That seems terribly wrong to me.

(and I am talking theoretically here, in the case that I am referring to, I tend to assume that if any sides were to be taken, it would be "against" me - but I would appreciate the help understanding the error of my ways and figuring out how to make amends)

earthfreak (Pam) said...

Forrest made this comment, but it had a TON of blank space in it for some reason, so I copied it, deleted the original, and am reposting, hope this is okay.


forrest said...
Questions you may want to consider, from my position of ignorance:

If you asked people whose judgement you respect, and they felt that some of your motives for wanting to confront your friend were hostile--was this from their prejudice against confrontation, or were they partially right?

Would they have dismissed your concern as lightly if you had in fact approached the same people acting as a "ministry & counsel" committee?

If your friend had made the same proposal, would they have felt constrained to uphold your possible objections?

Bill Samuel said...

I was twice on clearness committees for Friends after relationships had gone bad, so yes it is done. They won't necessarily result in total resolution of the situation, but they can certainly help.

Zach A said...

Hi Pam,
I would second Marshall's suggestion, with the qualification that I don't know anything about the situation. In particular, I'd emphasize that the first step in "Gospel Order" as I understand it is going to the person directly and trying to sort things out without involving anyone first. (Maybe you've already tried that, of course.)

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Hi, Pam
I'm sorry to be off topic here, but I didn't know how to reach you via email. I just wanted to pass along that I just tagged you with a meme/passed on an award to you for being a blog that makes me think.

You can find out more about how it works, including the "rules" of how to pass the award on to five bloggers who make _you_ think, too. Just visit my blog for the details, and to find a copy of the graphic that goes with it. (Maybe it's un-Quakerly, but, well, I like shiny things... *smile* I thought maybe you did, too.

And I really really do love your blog.

Liz Opp said...

Pam, in a comment you write:

...I tend to assume that if any sides were to be taken, it would be "against" me - but I would appreciate the help understanding the error of my ways and figuring out how to make amends...

I'm not sure if the comment itself is a generalization (that you tend to assume Friends would be "against" you), or if it is a concern you have specific to the present situation.

If it's the latter and you are truly seeking help to understand what is yours to "clean up," THAT is a very humble and low place from which to reach out and request support from the meeting.

But I do get the sense that I am just guessing and/or reaching for straws, not knowing the details of what you face.

It was good to see you the other night; I don't know if the topics of forgiveness and grace will come to bear on the situation you are in...

My apologies if this comment seems disjointed. I'm very tired after a full weekend of gardening and staying up late!


earthfreak (Pam) said...


Thanks for asking. I do mean this situation (and not that Friends are likely to be generally "against" me)

In this situation, I messed up, and I suppose expected forgiveness and understanding. I do feel wronged and betrayed to a certain extent, so I'm not completely humble going into it. At the same time I recognize that I did do something wrong, but also that if I truly want reconciliation, and what I did is worse than I thought, or I failed in some way in trying to apologize or make amends, I would like help with that as well.

At this point I am backing off from this idea though. I have little faith that a better solution than "grin and bear it" is possible, and wonder if I should just try to let it go.

Oh, and forgiveness definitely comes into it, but part of what I said the other night - that forgiveness is different from accepting hurtful behavior, especially going forward, is important. I can forgive people for hurting my feelings, but part of a continued relationship is about assuming they will make an effort not to hurt them again.