starflower, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

I rarely do things half-heartedly. I tend to be committed, intense, focused, passionate. When I attend church I sing the hymns with vim and vigor. I don’t sit in the back acting apathetic or embarrassed. I’m a front-row person.

Which may speak volumes for why I no longer regularly attend LDS services. Because if I can’t wholeheartedly participate, there seems little value in being there. At least for me. Those who knew me as a Mormon can attest to the fact that I was gung-ho and actively involved until I stopped attending. Even when I occasionally return to Mormon events, it is with some fervor–the shared vision of a service activity, the opportunity to support a friend, engaging in the academic study of Mormonism, etc. For me, I was either “drinking the Kool-Aid”, carrying the card, and wearing the garments or not. I saw no middle way of ‘sort of’ being active or ‘sometimes’ keeping the rules. I’m not saying that my way is right for everyone, but it’s just how I am…

However, with Quakerism I have purposefully cultivated a kind of detached involvement. I love worshiping in Meeting, relish time spent with Friends, and support my Quaker community in a wide variety of ways. But I haven’t stepped up to any position of responsibility. Not for lack of desire, but because I felt it important to, for a season, let myself not become too intense and dogmatic about my new faith community. I didn’t want to replace one type of dogma (LDS) with another that would be just as rigid. Rather, I wanted my Quaker participation to unfold more gradually, so that I could experience and test each facet of the tradition as I weighed my own adherence to its traditions and tenets.

This experiment has not been without some level of friction for me. At times I have felt guilty for not committing completely. At times I have felt that I’ve disappointed others. At times I have berated myself for not investing more, for not using more of my abilities to further Quakerism.

But on the other hand…as a Mormon I covenanted all of my time, talents, and resources to building God’s kingdom. I took that oath seriously and continually struggled with any failure to fully serve God and the church. As a Quaker I no longer hold to such binding oaths. I am more in the mode of taking each new day on its own terms. Of not sacrificing so much self at the expense of higher ideals. I focus more on individuals and less on institutional programs. I am still my intense self, but I have a variety of professional and personal outlets for my passions instead of directing them all towards a religion.

This may change over time. I may eventually find myself led to take a greater role in my Quaker community. But for now I enjoy spending more time focused on John and my children. More time in silence. More time writing and contemplating. More time laughing and even playing. I may, perhaps, be enjoying my life just too much–which seems a guilty pleasure, indeed.

But life is such a fleeting gift–it begs such enjoyment! I no longer have the expectation of eternal reward and glory. I only have today and now. And that means that my passion is invested in this moment. This one, right now. There will never be another one just the same, and I don’t want to let it pass me by unremarked or unspent.

4 thoughts on “intensity

  1. catbonny

    Thank you so much for this Jana.

    I was going to go into more depth about how I relate, but I think all I will say is that for me Quakerism has been less about trying to hold to certain ideals and being involved in any real organizations within, and more about forming really good relationships with open-minded people that I can learn a lot from.

  2. Caroline

    I sympathize. I also want to be whole heartedly committed to the various aspects of my life, but of course, there is dissonance, particularly when it comes to my religion.

    I’ve recently found religious ambivalence empowering. I choose what aspects of my faith tradition to passionately embrace and what aspects to passionately reject. It’s not always happy or peaceful for me, but I like the way I am now able to privilege my conscience above any outside dictates.

  3. Zenaida

    I can very much relate to the desire to be wholeheartedly committed and productively involved. I’m trying to embrace each moment as it comes and find outlets that accommodate that part of my nature.

    I always thought I would be in or out, but I’ve found that many things that I always thought have been turned on their heads.

  4. Brooke

    I love your last paragraph. I wish more people I know could see that, despite beliefs in eternity or an afterlife or whatever. We all have today and now and we should relish it. Thanks for the reminder.

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