Some who have read earlier blogs know that I have been struggling to be comfortable in my meeting. For a long time I have been a sort of Goldilocks looking for the meeting that was just right. One is warm and inviting but does nothing for me spiritually. One is too cold although spiritually rich. One is too big and too far away. Eventually, I decided I would settle on the first one, the one I've attended longest, the one that was closest to my home (green choice) which is also the one where I feel the spirit in worship sometimes. I felt relieved to have made a choice.
Except the meeting never felt any warmer. I never felt any more welcome. We kept talking about a place for my children to have First Day School so we wouldn't have to wait in the hallways and nothing ever came of it. I tried to talk to Friends after meeting but I always came away wondering if it really would matter if I never showed up to meeting again. Worst of all, I stopped feeling the spirit moving in the silence. The silence became a dead form. So I stopped attending. Not on purpose really, just little by little. I started dreading going the night before and in the morning, I'd feel tired and moody. The weather would be lousy or I'd have papers to grade or a lesson to prepare. There was always a reason. My husband would say, "Are we going to meeting tomorrow?" and my response would be "Oh shit. I'd forgotten tomorrow is Sunday."
I know I am supposed to be a Friend. I've known it for a long time. It is at the center of my life and thoughts and is an important, life-affirming, and joyful part of my marriage and my parenthood. So why should meeting be so painful? I just don't know and that's the simple truth.
I write this tonight because I feel a heavy sadness that I thought I might lay down if I could just write it out. I read the state of the meeting report sent to my private email address. I was not at any of the meetings and did not hand in the worksheets (although dh and I did fill them out carefully and honestly) so I did not contribute to the report. I don't know how I feel about this. They can't know how much pain I have been in for the past two years regarding my place in their meeting unless I tell them but then again, I don't want that to be their burden. If they are happy without me, then I don't want to bring the unwelcome drama. I'd rather just slip away and meet them in friendship in the community and at gatherings of Friends at holidays and regional meetings. I did note one line of the report that mentioned that perhaps they aren't as "accommodating" to new members as they might be. I did not know if that meant us. Maybe. It doesn't matter. I never wanted to be a bother. I just wanted to feel that I belonged and that never happened.
As I write this, I feel the frustration of feeling that I am the one who is the problem. It is so much easier when one can lay the blame elsewhere. But these are good people. Our clerk is dear and loving, the very embodiment of hospitality. She is among the most genuine people I know and I look up to her with great admiration. Her ministry in the prison and in the greater community is powerful. Her husband too is a beautiful person whose commitment to the environment and to the cause of peace inspires me. In fact, if I went around the circle of Friends who sit with me on a First Day morning, I could tell you how each of them is honorable, loving, kind, gentle... These are good people. Why can't I belong to them?
But I don't belong to them. I feel it clearly. They respond to me in that polite way people save for those they don't know very well. My children are not the meeting's children. My skills are not needed. When I walk in, I feel politely received but not welcome. After two years, I am an acquaintance, not a Friend.