Smoothing differences

true peaceHow shall I speak with my enemies in the gate?

I sought to build up Cardiff Quaker meeting as a loving, supportive community wherein service was a delight. I am not proud of all I did, and perhaps that desire could be picked away at, to show arrogance and disrespect at its heart- but then my conception of how the meeting could be really was both possible, and better than how the meeting was. Seeking to smooth a conflict, I got sucked into it, and then- I was going to say “I think”, but that phrase here is always redundant- scapegoated and cast out. Now I am in a different Quaker meeting, enjoying supportive friendships. I went to the Yearly Meeting, a four day gathering in North London, where I met Kate and Zélie: one a prime mover in the Minute of Disunity kicking me out, and one on the panel which granted my appeal against it.

And- Zélie has also worked to disown H: at the time of writing, I expect the result of H’s appeal within days.

I could lie to the taxi driver. “Back to work tomorrow?” he asked, making conversation. “Gotta be done,” I replied. I do not want to admit my weakness and failure, that I am unemployed, to these women, and I do not want to be caught out either.

First, Kate came over as I was having dinner, and I did not recognise her immediately. We had only met once, and it was a stressful time for me. Even looking at her name badge, it was only seeing her area meeting which reminded me. Next day we picnicked together in the sun in the garden. She is delighted to see that I have a new meeting, and am valued and contributing in it; disclosed that they found the procedure of handling the appeal very stressful, so now there is an appeal panel rather than just giving the job to the neighbouring area meeting; and said that Cardiff had been known to be a troubled meeting for decades.

true peaceIt was a lovely encounter. I maun notice all the joy in it, take that to my heart, for it can build me up, and help me to pick myself up.

I was pleased to meet S from Cardiff. We caught up, friendly enough: her children progress through University, etc. With L, it was more difficult: she could and should have stopped the procedure against me. With K, it was impossible- encountering her had led me literally to shake the dust from my feet, knowing that some present would notice the Biblical reference, though before I had liked her. And with D, we only started guarded greetings when someone bustled up and started speaking Welsh to him about a procedural matter. What can I take from these? Well, I am here– they did not manage to get rid of me, that is a victory of a sort.

So to Zélie. I passed her a couple of times, looking away, when she said in a demanding and cajoling manner, like the teacher she used to be, “Oh Abigail, don’t just ignore me”. So we ate together, taking small food samples from tables round the courtyard, and talked. She boasted. She had taken a great part in cutting a lot of the personal spiritual journey parts from the book of the Swarthmoor Lecture, and since I found these the most moving bits I disapprove. She is writing a book on eldership and oversight in the yearly meeting, and gave me a questionnaire on how it works in my meeting as part of her research. It is the first piece of Quaker work she has been paid for. What are you doing, now? Oh, I am unemployed. That sticks in the craw.

If I could shame her publicly for her acts, I would- and I can’t. Fuck. Maybe I should listen to myself- I tell H not to give her energy. I could, perhaps, take some reassurance that we could work together at the trivial level she desired for Cardiff meeting. That disunity minute only hurts me now insofar as I allow it to.

I feel guilty at talking to her, as if disloyal to Heather, but do not see what I could achieve by not doing so. I have been trying to get over this all day: while I might have done other things, I have been brooding and writing this. I forgive myself for that.

4 thoughts on “Smoothing differences

  1. It sounds like even Quakers have their control issues…I’m glad you were present with your feelings, however conflicted, Clare. Maybe rather than labeling yourself as “unemployed,” you could just say you’re taking a break?


  2. Yes, I agree. You are not unemployed. You are doing lots of things. You could see yourself as self employed, even. The fact that the pay could be better is secondary. Start as you mean to go on.

    I am fed up with people who are unpleasant and then expect to be spoken to. I get this. First, they misconstrue you entirely, then they accuse you, then they expect you to “grow up” kind of thing, and after all that you have to be so
    b–y reasonable. But why? Since the whole point of avoiding her is that she misunderstands you – and nothing you say seems to make it better – it seems to me you are entirely justified in ignoring her. And of course, you can’t find the words to defend yourself without coming across as – ungracious. That is what the others rely on.

    You are doing fine, girl, but some people will never be gentle or caring. That is largely their Karma, so you should not give yourself a hard time over this, nor make it yours. If you feel the need to make it up to H then talk to her. But don’t hit yourself over this.

    You are lovely.

    XXX :)))


    • In part, talking with that woman is a victory. I am still here. I am participating. I may see her in Woodbrooke or elsewhere in Quaker circles. She did not accomplish what she set out to accomplish.

      Added: It is a burden I carry, this experience. It is part of the reasons I am so frightened of stuff. Here is part of an email exchange:

      Dear Zélie,

      I am glad we talked on Sunday. Just in case it was ever unclear, I want to express my respect for you, and your energy and efforts on behalf of the Society.

      Would you email your research questionnaire….

      Yes, I’m glad we got an opportunity for a conversation – and for your spontaneous invitation to have something to eat together. And I too want to let you know that I respect you a great deal, and always did. One of your (many) gifts is an open and generous heart, and I value that in a Quaker probably above anything else.

      This is a burden I carry, and if I can create good relationships with Quakers it will advance my desire for good relations with South Wales Quakers for H, and possibly help free me from my burdens.


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