Sunday, April 30, 2006

musical musings

Ok Peter, I'm blogging like buses again I know...

In the car back from YF Camp we were listening to Simon's ipod which through some magic gadgetry was playing through the car stereo. Must admit I'm always rather chuffed when I find I know a decent proportion of the music being listened to by someone practically a generation younger (altho' we decided against trying to persuade them to let us get a family ticket for the LOTR exhibition!). Admittedly the reason I knew the music had nothing to do with me being up to date with the current music scene and everything to do with the (in some cases considerable, in popular music terms) age of what we were listening to.

It all meant though that the majority of tracks had memories associated with them (to which I could probably now add sitting in the car back from YF Camp wondering if we were going to be in time for Beth to get to the Rolling Stones concert!). I'm not entirely sure why it is that I have such strong associations with music and places, people, events but I do. There are probably many tracks I love more because of their association than musical value - I mean why else would I get excited when they play 'The A-team' theme tune within an advert on a local radio station?! (don't worry Kate, I don't sing along - just in case another window breaks...). So as the post Easter traffic meant we crawled along SH1 at something like 1kph Beth got a potted history of my life track by track!

A question that comes up time and again is this - how come when YFs get together seemingly anywhere in the world with a guitar for a singalong the same songs crop up and how is it after more than 20 years now of Quaker events is it that music of The Beatles is part and parcel of every single era and group of YFs I've ever been part of??

spinning thoughts into threads

I've been wanting to write a post for days but too much has been spinning round and none of it came up as anything other than an endless ramble when I tried to put it on paper! Not entirely sure this is any more coherent but you're getting it anyway...

Mair's post on work and lifestyle brings up many issues for me - especially as we're currently reviewing my position here - fingers crossed MM will approve next week me staying on until April rather than just October. Partly it raises issues about 'what next?' come April but that is hardly urgent yet, but more about the nature of this 'job' and how the "the important things in life, such as seeing people, and ... well, seeing people" aspects of this work are by far the most rewarding and the last few weeks have been an amazing example of that. It is amazing in many ways that spending time enabling the strengthening of the YF community here within Aotearoa, and more specifically Welly, can be counted as part of my 'ministry' here, my 'mission' for which I have the visa. I am sure there are those within the Meeting who don't see it that way and think that cleaning and gardening should come first and if I've time then do the rest - especially when I get so distracted by it, but you can't please everyone all the time.

Amidst a lengthy phonecall yesterday Sarah and I touched upon (amongst a miriad of other things!) how you never usually know in what ways you change or influence people's lives. Mostly that's fine and not a big deal, but sometimes you'd actually quite like a bit of feedback. Letting go of that sense of 'need to know' is a hard one as is accepting that it usually isn't 'need' but 'want'. Phrases like 'being in tune with the world's needs', 'doing what god wants' (pick your own spelling, gender, capitalisation, anthropomorphism (or lack of) etc...), 'acting from Love' - not to mention Wm Penn's 'Let us then try what Love can do' (just for a change!) keep popping up for me. Surely a sense of doing that should be enough? Why do we seek reassurance from people that we're doing the 'right' thing rather than from god/spirit/whatever? Because we are human and not god/spirit...?!?

The Affirmation Sheets (Rosy Glows!) we all got at YF Camp (well, that were all written - some still seem to be awol - anyone seen Marion's or Bridie's?!) are one way of finding out some of the unexpected ways we touch people's lives as well as some of the more expected. But life outwith events like YF Camp, NYFSG etc doesn't tend to have Rosy Glows. The kind of friendships where it is easy to express fully what each other means to one another without either squirming with embarrassment are wonderful but rare. We often have to rely on 2nd or 3rd hand feedback to find that a comment you made, quote shared or whatever has been important to someone.

Bridie commented after Meeting today that many of us have been searching recently for clarity about various aspects of our lives and in the last couple of weeks or so found it or at least made big progress on it. YF Camp has probably been a catalyst for much of that in that it gave time, space and intimacy to share so much whilst there and over the week or so that has followed as so many of us have managed to eek out that community to the max. But it can't all be put down to YF Camp, especially as not everyone was there! More synchronicity? Or just more sharing within our wider (Quaker) community?

Monday, April 24, 2006

joyful sorrows?

The last twice I've been at Meeting in Wellington Ministry has been given on sorrows and joys, how joy and abundance can often be found amid barrenness and worry, how sometimes the same event can hold both sadness and gladness and so on.

Both times have spoken deeply to me - two weeks ago because some of what was being ministered about included me altho' my joys and sorrows around the same event were different from those spoken about, and this Sunday because the concept of something beautiful and rewarding coming out of a heartwrenching situation rang many bells.

Having just been at YF Camp, and with so many of us from Camp being at Meeting on Sunday it was hardly surprising that my thoughts were led back to that event, and to other Quaker events over the years. An amazing number of those special moments, the ones that really bring people together, the times where you go from being strangers to lifelong friends within 24hrs, the deep sharing and sense of being held in love so so often are the ones that come from pain, from sorrow, from grief and loss.

Be it 'girlie chats' or deep philosophical and theological discussions they are often rooted in uncertainty, a need for comfort, reassurance, to know you aren't alone working through a problem. When asked within the youthworker course about 'highlights' from events I'd been at all the images that came to mind included tears and pain, but also the wonderful connectedness to those very dear to me at the time and in some cases still. It was knowing that even when you feel like you've hit the bottom of your own resources emotionally, physically and/or mentally that there is someone there (usually with tissues, a shoulder to cry on and a big hug - and if you are really lucky chocolate too!). Many of them were also Meetings for Worship, epilogues or creative listening/worship sharing sessions where pain was shared and there was a deep sense of the group 'holding each other in the light'.

The most emotionally difficult and painful thing I've had to deal with over the last few months has brought me such an abundance of loving support that far outweighs it. It has led, indirectly, to one of the closest friendships I can ever hope for - which in itself grew to where it is because of the others sense of being lost and needing help to find the way back on track; it has given me a 'Wellington mum' and has massively contributed towards the closeness I have with all those who to me are 'whanau' here both in Wellington and beyond. It has been worth every tear shed, every bit of sleep lost - no matter how much it hurt at the time. The sadness hasn't gone and the situation has yet to be resolved but that pain has been soothed away - now I just wish I could be in four places at once instead!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

commitment and belonging

Don't worry you're not going to get an essay on the Swarthmoor Lecture done by British YFs back in the 90's with the same title! But having been around that process (admittedly on the edges - ie mainly reading about it in YQ having stopped going to YFCC just after we'd agreed to do it!) I suppose it isn't surprising that those words together spring easily to mind.

The last few weeks have been full of deep discussions, and some not so deep, around all kinds of commitment and belonging - within relationships, families, friendships, Quakers as a whole, Young Friends as a separate entity, work, wider society - you name it they all, and more, seem to have come up lately. What is and what makes up whanau/family? Where do our priorities lie? To what testimonies/ideals/beliefs/causes are we commited? To whom are we commited? Is there some strange conjunction of planets suddenly causing all this seeking and pondering (any ideas Jo?!), or are 'they' putting something in the water? There suddenly seems to be a lot more of it about that's for sure. Add to that an emotional rollercoaster of a fortnight, friends around I don't see anything like enough and want to make the most of being around and not enough sleep and you get the picture as to why there haven't been many postings of late!

As each person or group wrestles with a different aspect of it all it has been a good opportunity to revisit a lot of these issues and think again through what they mean to me now as opposed to when I last thought about it - and see how much some of my answers have changed - since the Triennial, since WGYF, since moving here... go back even further - since my marriage, since my student/active YF days in Britain... It's no wonder my brain hurts!

A lot of it seems to hinge on how we define and see ourselves, and until we can are clear about who we are individually it is hard to find out where we truly are in relationship to the rest of the world. Yet again I have found myself incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend time working in an environment where hanging out with and hosting Quakers is part of the job! It gives time and space to not just work through these things but meet amazing people to share the process with. I didn't think I'd find myself back in the thick of YFs again that's for sure but I'm very glad I am - but thankfully with the benefit of experience - what's the song again? 'I wish that I'd known what I know now when I was younger'?!

Having the experience I have has come in mighty handy recently - helping individuals through rocky times and being able to support the YFs here establish a firmer identity and purpose. It has strengthened my commitment to being here and my sense of belonging (not that it was in danger of fading mind!). It has re-inforced my belief that everything in life can be learned from and can lead us forwards if we are prepared to take the risk.

Taking risks... that's a whole other posting I think, and probably one that'll have to wait a wee while. Too much spinning around on that one still.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

normal service will be resumed as soon as...

... I've had some more sleep!

I've had a whirlwind of a fortnight (that's 2 weeks for you North Americans!) which has been wonderful but exhausting - a house full of Tailbys and then YF Camp. Been back in Welly a few days but still plenty of YFs around, not to mention B&B guests to be seen to - so much for things getting quieter as the summer ends...

But I'm still alive, just about in one piece (I knew there was a reason why I don't play Ratchet Screwdriver/the kissing game/winkum very often - I've some cracking bruises and muscles that are still regularly reminding me about their existance!) but very, very tired - so in an attempt to finally manage to make it to bed before midnight I'll sign off now and I promise I'll catch up again here over the next few days.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

how chuffed?

How chuffed was I to discover that Oliver Postgate was a Quaker (you might need to click on the 'Quaker Successes' menu button) - Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine, The Clangers, Noggin the Nog... now there's a heritage to be proud of =)


How come I didn't know this before?????? Blow learning about Elizabeth Fry in Children's Meeting - this stuff is important! How much more streetcred could we have possibly wanted?

letting go

I've mentioned before Don's suggestion that I was maybe here to learn to let go - until last night I'd always associated that theory with people/relationships. However in one of those 'life, the universe and everything' type conversations I realised that I had got to the point where, if need be I could walk out the door, leave everything behind and not come back for it.

I'm not saying I would, and the determindly practical streak in me has mentally packed my passport, birth certificate, purse, mobile/cell phone, a full waterbottle & some flapjack, a small amount of toiletries and at the very least some clean knickers - oh and a coat. But they are things that would just make whatever next easier. However the point of this is that the only things I wasn't prepared to leave behind I wear all the time anyway - my Granny's wedding ring and my taonga (pendant) from the Triennial which I have worn constantly since Jan '04 and still get quite panicky at the thought of it being cut off (those knots ain't shifting!). So if I did lose everything in a fire/earthquake/tsunami etc it would be sad but I know I could let go of the loss and start again. Ok so the chances of Len Lothian U Store in Edinburgh being devastated by fire AND me losing everything here are a tad unlikely but even so (and as Terry Pratchett says one in a million chances happen nine times out of ten...)

A connection I hadn't considered but that was suggested to me was that maybe this all fitted in to where I was spiritually, and with my life and where I'm at with it. I don't know what I'll be doing in just over a years time, where I'll be living, where the next lot of income will come from (my money won't last indefinitely) - but none of this bothers me, yet it is the kind of thing that keeps others lying awake at night. I have a strong belief that the right thing will turn up at the right time and in anycase worrying about it isn't going to solve anything!

In the bible study group just over a week ago we were looking at the following passage (it's in Matthew, Mark & Luke)

What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? (Message Bible translation)

The passage above resonated with me as twice in my life now I've walked away from a life which on paper looked as tho' I had everything I needed but was leaving me feeling 'spiritually empty', that I was being dragged further and further from being my 'true self'. Neither time was easy but second time was easier in that I had faith in myself that I could pull it off, and in the world to support me. Faith that my life wouldn't disintegrate into a heap at my feet, that help would be there - if I had the sense to ask for it - and that I'd feel far better about me as a person for making the change. Having faith in the greater scheme of things has for me become critical, for me it isn't so much as case of 'god will provide' but 'spirit will lead' - ie I have to listen and take up the challenge, it won't get handed to me on a plate.

For someone who has been an inveterate hoarder most of their life, that still has in a box all kinds of silly mementos and a now rather full folder of 'rosy glows'/Summer School magazines etc not to mention several boxes of photograph albums, to get to the point where I can honestly say I could walk away from it is really quite something. But I've realised that whilst the things help prop up the memories it is the memories themselves that are important, and even more so the people in my life. I still very much value what I have, and many things I have huge sentimental/emotional attachment to - I'm not about to chuck everything out. But to accept that I own my stuff, it doesn't own me - my life could go on happily enough without it - is incredibly liberating.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I felt that!

Several times I've thought I felt an earthquake whilst lying in bed but never remembered to either check the time or look it up later - this time I did both!

I guess that'll teach me to not to have a lie-in - I've yet to feel one when up and about.

I've started going to the local Civil Defence Meetings on behalf of Meeting. We were shown a presentation by WEMO (rhymes with Nemo, as in 'Finding...'! Wellington Emergency Management Office) which was certainly enough to make me put everything I needed in case of evacuation in one place. I'm not paranoid enough to have it ready packed, and in anycase half of it gets used too often for that to be practical.

We got to play with Lego bricks and radios the other week - trying to explain to our twin pair how to build the same model as we had over the radio. Easier said than done when your twin pair does not have Lego logic! Get me a four year old child...

The recent heavy rains have put minds at rest a lot at WEMO as there has been a arsonist setting fire to the Town Belt and other bush areas in the region. Given the close proximity to residential areas and the extremely dry conditions we've had, (not to mention hearing on the news about the devastating bush fires in Australia over the summer as a reminder as to how bad they can be) there have been some anxious bods at the fire desk. You'd certainly need more than two boy scouts to rub together to get a fire going out there now!

It might all appear like over-reacting but if anything does happen - be it fire, flood, earthquake, tsunami it's good to know that someone somewhere has thought through the logistics, that there are teams of volunteers trained up to deal with emergencies (as long as no-one asks them to build Lego models by radio we'll be fine!).

At least I now know that if anything does happen and I survive the first thing I do is go down to the Civil Defence station and register that I'm ok, along with anyone else in the building, so that the Red Cross 0800 number can say we're safe - I'd better put that in the Resident Friend handbook for future incumbents - there's no way I'd've known if I hadn't been at that meeting, it's not exactly something we get taught in Britain! Another top tip - when they say shelter in a doorway in the event of earthquake what they mean is use your bum to hold the door open and lean over and grab hold of the frame on the other side. Apparently in Seattle when they had a big quake the majority of injuries were broken and sprained ankles from people running - hardly any of the injured were children - they all had the sense to follow the drill!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

on the map

I first came across the Frappr Quaker map through a posting on Quaker Blogwatch and it has been interesting to see it grow, especially since the WGYF crowd started getting in on the act! The thing with blogsites is that you don't always know where someone is writing from, even if they tell you it doesn't always follow that you have a scooby as to where they are without a serious amount of detective work with an atlas (or at least running it through Google Earth!). It's good for me too to get a better idea as to the geography of the different strands of Quakerism within the States - hopefully as more people register a more acurate representation will be shown.

Now if I could link this is with the Online Meeting for Worship I'd be able to tell where people were rather than getting distracted 'in Meeting' trying to work it out!