Runner? Writer? Quaker?
What makes me a runner?
What makes me a writer?
What makes me a Quaker?
I think I’ve hinted about it before, but I’ll make an official announcement now. I started running this fall. More specifically, I am in phase VI of the program outlined by the Contemplative Scholar on her blog this spring. This is a very new thing for me. I haven’t run this much since my 10th grade P.E. class, and Mrs. Howe would tell you I didn’t run much back then either.
It’s funny to me how much of a difference it makes to say “I’m going for a run” than “I’m going for a walk.” I started telling myself “my run” when I was up to about six minutes total (out of a 30 minute walk) just to practice saying it out loud. I’m up to a grand total of 12 minutes now, but it’s framed by 10 minutes of walking to warm up and 10 minutes to cool down, so I’m still walking more than I’m running. Nonetheless, it feels accurate to say I’m running now. But I don’t think of myself as a “runner.”
What difference does it make? If I run, then I’m a runner. Any first grader can tell you that. But I have no interest in claiming the identity of a runner. I don’t want to hang out with other runners. (Partly, I’m still afraid they’ll laugh at me.) I’m not going to start buying running magazines. I’m not interested in entering races or raising money by running a marathon. I’ll be happy, I think, just to get up to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and stay there. Frankly, I’d rather swim, but pools cost money and right now I’m better off running outdoors for free. My husband now, he’s the runner in our family. Me, I just need some exercise.
The question of whether or not to call myself a writer has been a struggle this summer, since technically that’s the work I’m supposed to be doing these days. How many hours a day or a week do I have to put into it to legitimately call myself a writer? One of the non-Quaker bloggers I read, Kristin of (Un) Veilings wrote about this identity dilemma last week. Her point is that the act of writing makes her a writer. But still she wonders how to tell people you're a writer if you don’t have anything to show for it. Well, this month, I have overcome one hurdle. My first print article since I started focusing on writing has been published in Friends Journal. It’s called “A Convergence of Friends.” Much of the content was originally written for this blog, but I pulled it together for a fairly long article. (This issue also features a great article by Martin Kelley.)
(I did have an article published in Friends Bulletin a couple of years ago, which was my debut as a published author. It was also featured in my meeting’s newsletter and my son’s school newsletter. You can read it here. For those who are following along at home, I wrote it the same weekend I started reading Edna St. Vincent Millay.)
I’m still not quite sure how much I’m prepared to claim the identity of a writer. I haven’t done any work to develop it as a craft. I’ve never taken a writing class or workshop. I think blogging has served some of the same purposes as a writing group. I feel obliged to write more frequently and I know other people will read it. I enjoy the feedback I get from readers. [Hint, hint.] I’m fortunate that Chris M. is a skilled editor. (Really. He used to work for Random House and everything.) As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the main problem is that I have to carve out the time to focus on writing. I understand that discipline is a problem all writers have – suddenly so many other things seem so important and interesting… But I suspect this is especially true for mothers, not to let the housework or childcare or committee work expand to fill all my waking hours. Virginia Woolf wrote an essay about the need for A Room of One's Own. So far, I've got a table in the hallway of my own.
Quaker? Now there’s an identity I claim proudly. I recently left a comment that now strikes me as unfortunately smug about how I am a Quaker not because the history is so cool or because the people in it are so amazing but because God called me to be a Quaker and hasn’t let me go. If it were a crime to be a Quaker, the circumstantial evidence would all be against me. I have shelves full of Quaker books, subscriptions to Quaker magazines, and a calendar full of Quaker appointments, not to mention this blog. I spout Quaker jargon without even thinking about it. Waiting in front of the meetinghouse on a Sunday morning would be a fine place to come to arrest me.
But is that what makes me a Quaker? If I run, I am a runner, whether I look like it or not. If I write, I am a writer. Do I quake?
Do I really believe that we can know God’s will and do it? Do I listen and follow God’s direction?
Have I been brought off from notions and left at the feet of my Inner Teacher? Do I bring others there too?
What are the ways my life testifies to the Light of Christ within me?
Is my life noticeably simple? In dress, speech and manners? Is it centered aright?
Am I at peace with All? Do I utterly deny all fighting with outward weapons?
Do I have enough integrity? Is there a congruity between the ways I earn my living and manage my household? Do I tell the truth? When? Where? To whom? How forcefully?
Am I part of a Quaker community? How much of my life do I give over? How much do I include my children?
Do I consider myself equal to others? How do racism, class-ism and homophobia affect me and my reactions to people?
Am I living a sustainable life?
How? In what ways? Compared to what or who?
And finally, do I wish to be part of the Religious Society of Antiquarians or do I see Quakerism as a living, fire-breathing faith?
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