Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

Finding strength

on January 18, 2015

We Quakers – I like to say this now that I’ve been accepted into membership – worship in silence.  We sit, arranged in circular rows around a table with a vase of flowers on, and wait quietly.  We are waiting, together, for God, or the Light, or the Seed, or some kind of shared spirit of love (depending on how you think of God, or if you conceive of a literal deity at all) to speak to us.  When someone feels led to share something, they stand up and speak, and everyone listens, and then they sit down again and everyone reflects on it.  Good practice is that people do not respond directly to what has been said, and that people only usually speak once during a meeting, and it is always supposed to be something you feel ‘led’ to share rather than a nice idea you’ve had, or an interesting story you think people would like to hear. ‘Quakers’ got their name because, back in the 17th century, they would often feel so strongly pushed by the spirit of God to speak that they would be visibly shaking.  And even now, while some people seem calm and confident when they speak, others are clearly speaking because they feel they must, and as they come to the end of what they have felt urged to say, there is a sense of winding down, of coming to the end, almost abruptly, of the words they have been given.

Today I spoke in meeting for the first time.  In the silence I was reflecting, and suddenly felt that perhaps I would share something.  There was a nervous, sick feeling in my stomach and some sense of inevitability – not that I was compelled against my will to stand up, but that it was what would happen.  Despite feeling apprehensive, I realised that the very worst outcome would be me giving a rather dull description of the state of my life at this time.  I looked round to see if anyone else was going to stand.  I counted to five.  I looked round again.  And I stood.

My current state-of-life is one of pressure and overcrowding.  I feel sometimes, when I’m with my children, as if I’m being nibbled away by tiny crabs.  Their demands, and my anxiety about whether I am meeting their needs, can be exhausting.  Work is draining because I deal with people who experience domestic abuse and who think about suicide and who are stuck in unenviable situations, sometimes of their own making but often not, and people who ask me to help them when I don’t always have the resources or influence to do so.  And dealing with colleagues and establishing who should be resolving problems can be very challenging.  And then my house is full of toys and mess and books I probably will never read again, and baby items I hope not to need again, and clutter and chaos.

Since starting to attend Quaker meetings I have been drawn to the idea of simplicity – something I long for with the hunger of someone who knows they are unlikely to ever find the thing they seek.  I want it more *because* it is so alien to me.  I am trying to let go of all the things which fill my life and hold me back and weigh me down in order to make space to grow into, to do the things I want to do.  I am relinquishing responsibilities that are not right for me, and which often fail to fulfill anyway.  I am trying to let go of the inaccurate ideas I hold about myself so that I can live as myself rather than as someone I’m not.  And I’m trying to clear out some of the things I no longer use so that they can be used by someone else rather than being wasted in my house.  It feels like stealing, morally rather than legally, to keep something for myself which I don’t need or want, when someone else could be getting use or pleasure from it. So I’ve given my film SLR camera, which was a very special birthday present from my parents but hasn’t been used for at least ten years, to my brother’s girlfriend and now, rather than feeling guilty about not using it, I am enjoying imagining how much she will use it.  And some other things I was unsure what to do with because of their emotional link to Ex-Husband – well, my Warhammer models have been given to a friend’s teenage son, who tried to convince his friends that Warhammer was not completely uncool by virtue of the fact that I had played it.  This may be one of the best, if seriously misguided, compliments I have ever received.  And I sold the Magic cards back to Ex-Husband.  This was a bit weird, because he had originally bought them from a friend to give to me, back when we first started going out.  So essentially he has paid for them twice.  And it was a strange to be carrying out a financial transaction with him.  But I think someone might as well be using them, and he might as well be happy, and it’s an investment in us having a positive relationship even if I could have got more money selling them on ebay.

After I shared this, I sat down and reflected on the experience.  There was no bolt of lightening, no dove descending from heaven to land on my head, no feeling of euphoria.  But I felt glad to have spoken, because it will always be easier to do it again.  And after a while someone else stood up to speak, picking up the theme of simplicity, sharing his own reflections and the quote that “a simple life, freely chosen, can be a source of strength”.  It spoke to me, and felt like confirmation that I had been led to speak.  And afterwards other people came and talked to me about their experiences and their struggles to live more simply, and I felt drawn further into this community of people moving together towards the life they feel called to.

We Quakers – it’s how we roll.

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