Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Quakers and class II


I just set up a google group for folks to talk about quakers and class. Jeanne has a new blog, and has apparently set up a group for working-class quakers.

This Google group is more broad. I had been thinking about an "allies" group, sort of restricted to folks who don't fit in Jeanne's group, but I'm thinking now more of a general discussion group, which working class folks are free to participate in, if they can stand the cluelessness (or potential cluelessness) of the rest of us :P

Monday, August 20, 2007

Resource Center of the Americas Closes


I found out this weekend that the Resource Center of the Americas has had to close its doors. I worked there until about a year ago, one of the places I felt most at home. And it's been a pillar of my community for much longer than that.

I'm not even sure what to say about it, except that it's a great loss. We did great work on education, activism, and general community building.

It's particularly sad in the face of all the stuff that's heating up about immigration recently (though I guess it's always been a big "issue"

I will really, seriously, miss that place (though I am happy to hear that some sort of volunteer-based version will live on, I'll have to check into that)


Friday, August 17, 2007


Zach has a recent post in which the comments have veered towards the validity of homeopathy and alternative medicine in general, and just now into the effectiveness of anti-depressents.

I've never been on them, but I've thought about them a lot.

I can tend to be a "down" sort of person. The last woman I dated was more of an optimist than I have ever known, and really brought this home to me. It was nice for me to have her perspective on things (she really saw the good in almost everything, it wasn't like she was saying something sweet and insipid about really bad situations, just that she really saw what there was to be excited about. It baffled me sometimes, but was really nice too) - I'm sure it was often less nice for her to have mine :)

And I know a lot of people who have taken them, at least for a while. Not least my mom, who I never really "processed" it about. But I remember my dog ate the bottle of valium from her purse when I was nine, and worrying about the dog - but why was my mom on valium? that didn't come til later. I think she was one whatever everyone ws on before that (something with an L?) and she was on paxil a few years ago (might still be, I'm not monitoring her nursing home meds as maybe I should be, but they took her off a lot of them when I moved her there, which I appreciated) - In any case, I can't imagine it helped. She's always been very negative and terribly anxious the whole time I've known her. Would it have actually been worse without drugs? yikes!

Two people I know who went on and off different drugs described it as like being under water, or seeing your emotions on the other side of a glass, but not being able to feel them.

But a friend of mine has tons of friends who are on them, and she says they feel their emotions just fine.

I have lost two people to suicide. Both were on drugs at some point, one was when it happened (she was actually IN a psych hospital when it happened, which pissed me off, can't they at least do THAT?) but they never got the mix "quite right" I guess.

My cousin had been on prozac (I think) and gone off it a while before. Various folks in my family pointed to that as THE PROBLEM. - Not that he was 33 and unemployed in a family where acheivement is important, or that he'd broken up with the love of his life a few years before (dumbass), or that it was a few months after 9/11 and he was volunteering every day at "ground zero" (well, actually, that was a popular notion too, I guess), or that he lived in a family where the best they can offer you for despair is prozac (I am convinced that if I or his ex had still been actively involved in his life it wouldn't have happened, a fact that doesn't eat at me as much as it used to.) Not to mention that he'd told me he'd decided that the way he eventually did it was the best way to kill yourself when we were teenagers.

I've had therapists suggest drugs, mostly when I was in a real downswing in my life breakup, lost job, right after Jon's suicide) - and I said "no" - but the one time I considered it I had to do SOMETHING, so I took St. John's Wort and vit. B (which I think is more important, now, for me) and stopped eating sugar, and the effects were pretty amazing. I was also getting a ton of exercise about then as I lived about 10 miles from where I mostly wanted to be, and didn't have a car, so I got a lot of biking in.

It also seems like for some people it is this amazing turn-around - from functioning to not functioning. And often I envy them. Someone told me once that a friend on Wellbutrin got super duper efficient and drove everyone nuts around him, but I thought, hey, maybe I could use that. Even if I wasn't less depressed, my house would be clean for once, right?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Quakers and Class

The topic has been coming up lately. Largely because my friend Jeanne attended the workshop on it at this year's gathering and has been profoundly moved (to action!) by it.

she has a guest post on Rich's Blog about it this week.

And we've had a few good coversations, always slightly forshortened, in real life and through email lately.

I find myself, unsurprisingly, not working class identified, but wanting to be an ally...... but not really sure how to do that (which I think is okay, and not optimal, I think recognizing the need to be an ally and admitting one's cluelessness are farther than many people ever get)

I have a sense of uneasiness about our material wealth as a community. Partly because as a person who tends towards the economically socialist in a way very tied into my quakerism, I'm more than a little shocked that quakers are so willing to get rich and stay rich in the face of such injustice in our society.

I've also become keenly aware of my own class biases and how well they fit into my quakerism. I was raised to be quite a snob, and averse to interacting with "those people" any more than necessary. My mother was one who offered drinks to men doing work on our house, but in special glasses that we never drank out of.

I was also raised to prefer natural fibers, imported cars, subtle makeup, flats over heels, a huge list of things that you just don't talk about in polite company (money, religion, sex, politics - which, even as a child brought me to think, "what's left?")

It's surprising how well this training fit my later life as a quaker (and a lesbian, but that's perhaps neither here nor there) - we talk about politics and religion, but that's easy, cause we share them. And, sadly, we talk about them (I have noticed) often in a VERY "us" vs. "them" sort of way (those silly people who believe creeds, those bad people who support the war - often party because they have kids over there.

Speaking of the war, I'm disturbed to see how good we are at "conscientious objectorship" (as a first day school teacher of young teens, I am keenly aware each year that part of taking attendance is laying groundwork so our kids can get out of military service because they're quaker - and I'm also aware that most 13 year old kids see this as a perk - not having to risk one's life - rather than as a deeply held moral conviction (which, granted, are just forming for most of us at 13)

I know some meetings and other quaker groups are working with the kids who get recruited (who needs the draft, after all, when economics in our country are so awful we have an effective draft of desperate kids with no other way to get an education or even nowhere else to go? - we have a sharecropper rather than a slave army now, what a solace!) But mostly, we don't (mine doesn't) - as quakers do we not care about those kids anymore? Are we failing to instill in our kids a horror of killing other people, rather than the easier horror of risking one's own life?

Anyway, back to class (the bigger picture) I really like what Rich wrote in his earlier post on this...

From Rich's 2005 post, with reference to why various sorts of working class folks are sorely underrepresented in our meetings:

It is not because Quakerism is a subtle, profound faith for intellectuals (it isn't).
It is not because working-class people are prejudiced against us.
It is not because working-class people are too busy to worship.
It is not because working-class people reject peace.
It is not because working-class people can't stand silence.
It is not because God wants it that way.

I'm also not terribly interested in "privilege guilt" - or guilt in general, these days. I don't want to sit around and bemoan how awful I am for growing up with the "right" sort of grammar, or that certain snobbery, I want to work on how to make friends (Friends?) across those often invisible but also often daunting lines. And I'm a little at a loss.

Amusingly, one of the things I've heard recently is that working class folks are much more likely to be about "getting things done" rather than talking about it ad infinitum - so here I am putting it out there in words that I have nearly no clue how to proceed in life

The Healing Power of Water

I went swimming last night, with my best swimming buddy, at my favorite lake, after a trying day in which I broke down crying a few times and had to call a few different friends to keep myself from floating away.

It's amazing how much it made everything all better. A sort of prayer, but with every cell of my body.

Monday, August 13, 2007


I painted my toenails this morning. I never do it very well. I think the average seven year old (who paints their toenails) is more careful about it than I.

They are navy blue. I think it kind of looks cool, and kind of makes me look like a corpse, which is not so cool. Oh well.

I don't know if I have anything deep to say. spiritually things are, maybe, the calm before the storm? (or the eye of the storm?) I feel a bit in limbo. Not catholic limbo (like people need to pray to get me out - though that might help) or the party game/dance - just stasis. It's weird, weird, weird.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

soft shelled

The other day I was walking my dogs by the river, and I guess it's really low right now, there was a huge expanse of sand exposed that is usually underwater, with lots of clams laying about on it - usually at the end of a trail-clam locomotion doesn't come up much in my life.

But, in walking out to explore, I accidentally stepped on one, and in just crunched under my foot. It had never occurred to me that their shells are so much softer and vulnerable when they're alive. That is, after all, when they need them. I felt really bad.

I also identified.

I often feel like everyone in the world is tougher than me, and I don't know how to get by in a place where the rules of the game are written for those with much better protection. Maybe like playing football with no gear, or even naked, when everyone else has it all, but I don't really know from football...

One of the things that upsets me so much about my ex's new person is that she seems terribly cold and harsh. And I saw glimpses of tenderness in my ex, sometimes really profound tenderness (vulnerability and compassion and maybe other things too) - so I worry about her. But also, I think, it was a problem in our relationship that she had a much better "shell" than me (or tougher) - she survives things unscathed pretty well, and often got fed up with my weepyness or need to be slow, tender, deliberate. This is probably a really good next step for her, and somehow that makes it all the harder.


I went to see a play by a friend last night, part of manna fest, a spiritual "fringe" festival. It was deeply moving, hard to watch (about witnessing a murder), and helped me, in some odd way. Sadly, not to put my "stuff" into perspective (well, maybe a little) but just to see making sense of God and pain from a different angle, maybe

We went out to a coffeeshop afterwards, and someone discovered a cicada working on shedding its shell on the way in. We eventually all went back outside and watched it for quite a while, struggling to be free. Another one came along and seemed to help it (though sometimes I couldn't see how, I was a little afraid it was going to eat it - I have no idea how cicadas are with each other) It was pretty amazing. I've never seen one alive before.

When I got home I prayed for patience (I'm sort of into this praying like a little kid thing again, I never did it as a little kid - but went through a phase about it over a decade ago, now) before I went to bed at maybe 11. I woke up at 3, to who knows what, and lay awake an hour, but was amused and frustrated to find that my first thought was that it should all be settled by now, seeing as I'd prayed.

Clearly a little more work to do.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bridge Collapse

I suppose that most people have heard that a bridge in Minneapolis collapsed last night.

I was far away, as were most folks I know (and I don't know anyone who was involved) but I'm still feeling pretty shaken.

Last night they told us 7 were dead, this morning it's only 4. I'm glad the numbers went down, but 20 are still missing, and I suppose it's likely most of them did not walk away.

I kneeled on my bed like a little kid and prayed for those people and their families. Such an odd thing for an adult atheist, I wasn't talking to anyone but myself and the universe, but somehow those things can be a comfort when little else can.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

passing through a hellish time in order to be broken open

Liz just said that in a comment below on the "Fire" post.

I guess that's it, and I want the growth that comes afterwads, but not the hellish time.

I resist so hard, and I don't even know how to stop resisting. It's like all those muscles have been frozen in place for a long, long time.

And, what if you're broken open and all that happens is that everything falls apart? What if the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train?