Why I am a Plain-dressing Quaker, and why I cover

I was walking the dog today and processed a lot of this Plain thing that has been going on. I realize by just saying, “I think I’ve figured it out” that I have not indeed figured anything out for any length of time. So here’s what I have so far.


1. Why am I a plain dressing Quaker


I’ve gone plain to save my life, frankly. The first sign that my life needed saving was when I was laid off from a job that was making me crazy. I realized over a year ago, when I was laid off and began to notice the world around me (similarly to a smoker discovering flavor after he or she quits), that had I not been laid
off I would have continued to work at a job that had me depressed, sick, and on a destructive path with regards to health.


I processed through a lot of this in Meeting, and I thought I’d saved myself then because I had the good fortune to have marketable skills other than in biotechnology and made a relatively smooth transition to
education. I enjoyed my new career immensely, but something was still not quite right. Working for gigs, as anyone who works gigs knows, makes one insecure. You feel that the contract you have potentially is the last contract you will ever have. As a result you are tempted to accept every gig that is offered to you. I did this. I took every teaching contract that was offered me last semester (Spring 2010). This meant that at one time I was teaching 12 classes! Not 12 credits (which would be excessive), but indeed 12 classes. To give a bit of perspective, a full time faculty member might be teaching 3 or 4 and have a moderate amount of
office/administrative responsibility as well.


How did I manage to stay on top of it? Piece of cake. I would drink espresso by the mug full in the late afternoon/early evening. This would make my night time hours exceptionally productive. Midnight felt
like first thing in the morning. I went along doing this, not noticing that I was not sleeping, driving like a maniac, and quick to anger. I had chest pains for a week before I thought I should tell somebody about it, and even then (and only motivated by a lecture I was putting together for a health class regarding stroke and heart attack symptoms) I rationalized that my new asthma medication must have been doing funny things to me, and I went to my asthma doctor.


One EKG and echo cardiogram later I realized that I was suffering from caffeine toxicity. My doctor had asked me about my coffee intake, but I was still thinking in terms of having only 1 or 2 cups of coffee
a day. I was not having 1 or 2 cups of coffee, I was having a MUG (that’s about 2 ½ cups or so) of ESPRESSO (usually consumed by the demitasse) most evenings so that I could meet a ridiculous,
self-imposed workload.


I processed a lot of this in Meeting as well. It was clear to me that I was exceedingly obtuse with regards to my own health and wellness. I lacked any real sensitivity to my own needs. I began to seek a tool to help me pace myself, be less obsessive, remember the things that are important. I knew, for example, that I was always in a hurry, even doing everyday things. I literally was in too much of a hurry to fold something or put something away. I was always steps ahead of myself, if that makes sense to you. So I implemented techniques to slow myself down. These seemed intuitive, but they made such a difference. For example, I
make my bed in the morning. That sounds so mundane, but it helps me begin my day slowly. I take the dog for a walk in the park or take my bicycle (my other dog) for a ride. I make breakfast. This means I chop
vegetables, break the egg, put the kettle on, etc. As a result my work day starts late. This works for my line of work as I am either teaching online or my traditional classes do not start until about midday or later (I also teach the kinds of classes that meet once a day for 4 hours in the evening).


At around that same time I was going through the process of membership with my Meeting, and remember saying that I thought the Simplicity testimony was probably the least applicable in modern times. How’s
that for irony? I am not sure anymore how I really started thinking about Plainness as the next step to slowing down, perhaps Quaker Jane’s website http://quakerjane.com/ However it began, Plainness offered itself as that tool I was looking for to help me remember what was important. Plainness helped me remove myself from the destructive environment I was still in. It was not a physical environment, but as influential. Plainness removed me from a consumerist, hurry-hurry place that was killing me. Plainness attempts to retrain me not to count my importance in having a “regular 9-5” for the sake of having that 9-5. Even as I write that it does not adequately describe what I am trying to say. Plainness attempts to retrain me to balance where there had been imbalance.


Let me give you an example. One of my schools offered a Fall course that would meet on Saturday mornings from 8 am to 1:30 pm. I would have to get up at about 6 to take care of my animals, and leave the house by 7 in order to get to class on time. I would have jumped at that opportunity not too long ago. Now, I will not. I cannot. If I commit to this for 15 weeks my Saturdays would be ruined, and I would be too tired to attend Meeting on Sunday. Saying no to this offer caused me such anxiety and panic that I immediately had to call my sister-friend for support. Who says no to work? That’s just crazy and lazy right? Especially in today’s economy. I am sure some of you reading this blog would have the same sentiment. But I have other things I would rather do a morning than this. I’d rather wake up and make my bed, exercise, feed my animals, and make my breakfast. I think I would prefer the time than the money.



2. Why do I cover


Quakers wait on God. Whatever a Friend’s concept of God is; a theistic one, a non-theistic one, an atheist one, it doesn’t matter for the sake of this discussion. Quakers wait. In an unprogrammed meeting we wait in silence for inspiration, we wait upon the Lord. I find these moments of silence as tonic. They occur for me in many situations. They occur, for example, on a long drive, while I am walking my dog or riding my bicycle, when I am watering my plants, ironing, doing laundry, etc. It struck me that this is as some might
describe being in constant prayer.


Many religious movements practice covering their heads when they pray, or covering their heads in reminder that they pray. I have been led, as non-theistic as I am, to this practice of covering my head in prayer. I cannot say it is because I feel like I am approaching God and must give obeisance. I think it is the latter explanation, that covering my head reminds me that I am in constant prayer. Constant prayer, constant processing, constant meditation, it does not matter to me what it is called. I am simply trying to describe this thing that happens when I am alone and silent and learn so much. It has become so important to me that when I am done riding my bicycle and take off my helmet I tie on a scarf over my pony tail (( I usually wear caps or snoods with my dreadlocks braided underneath, but obviously you can’t wear this under a bicycle helmet). So even then, in my cargo shorts and T-shirt instead of my usual jumpers, dresses or skirts, I am Plain.

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Comment by Alice M Yaxley on 8th mo. 4, 2010 at 9:57am
Hi Rosemary,

I wear dresses because that seemed to be part of the call as I heard it. It's not very rational, but obeying it feels right. At the moment the dresses I have are muted colours with long sleeves, front-fastening for nursing, with a top layer of the same colour for easy modesty with my nursling around. I always wear pants under the skirt so I can climb up, sit on the floor, and so on, without concerns about embarassing anyone.
Comment by Leslie Rodgers on 8th mo. 4, 2010 at 10:03am
That reminds me, when I was a little girl we all were required to wear dresses to school (early '60's, they were about knee length) but we were allowed to wear pants under them in cold weather. Picture a little red plaid skirt with black and orange flowered corduroys underneath. Quite a fashion statement. Better than little blue legs though.

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