I am very task-oriented and I always thought that was just a personal tendency or preference. It is and it's not.
While I'm task-oriented, I hate doing tasks for very long. I think if I worked in a shirtwaist factory in 1910, I would not have been mentally stable. But I've been taught to do tasks as I'm told to do them, and to do them right. I've been taught that doing tasks is how I can contribute to and be valued by the world. So I do it because I don't know any other way.
A couple of weeks ago, when I found out that a dear F/friend's mother had died, I offered to organize a Nightingales-type sing for her(Nightingales is a Northern Yearly Meeting subgroup that meets to sing four to five times a year around the region). I, along with my partner Liz (who actually had the idea to do so), made sure the community knew about the sing, reserved a room in the Meeting House and made sure there was the right kind and quantity of food. We set up the room and arranged for folks to clean up. We turned off the lights at the end of the night. We just did it.
Today, I got a call from another F/friend who said that a beloved member of our community was in the hospital. She was asking me questions about whether a Nightingales-type sing could be arranged for this woman, one of the founders of Nightingales.
I was confused. I wondered why she didn't just do it. Or ask directly if I would be willing to organize such a thing.
"I wanted to make sure there were enough people interested in a sing."
By the time she could reach enough people to be sure there were enough interested, the woman would be out of the hospital, I ungenerously thought.
Quakers sometimes get caught up in talking about doing things (or worse yet, talking about talking about doing things), rather than doing them. This used to frustrate me to no end; and I used to think that my frustration made me a bad Quaker.
Before, I would have tried to stuff my frustration or offer to take on the task. This time I said, "When I organized [previous F/friend whose mother had died]'s sing, I just did it. Asked the email list people to send out an announcement, reserved the room. It didn't matter whether three or thirty people showed. [Woman in hospital] is a beloved member of this community. Enough people will come to sing with her."
She got defensive, but I assured her that I wasn't being critical, that I was just speaking plainly.
So I struggled with several things around class in this exchange.
1. Emotional honesty. One thing I learned in George's workshop is that working class folks are more emotionally honest and open, especially with anger. This is in stark contrast to middle/owning class folks who have been trained from childhood to keep emotions in check because emotions disrupt the work day (or assembly line or checkout line). I'm sure this F/friend heard frustration in my voice and that's why she got defensive. So how do I be who I am authentically and be effective at interacting with middle/owning class Friends?
2. Plain speaking/directness. Middle/owning class mores (and therefore also Quaker mores) say that truth shouldn't be spoken directly. Friends might have suggested that I couch my statements like this: "Maybe you could think about what things need to be done in order to organize such a sing. I could offer some suggestions based on my experience with the last sing if you would like." Ugh. Even as I write this, my "BS Meter" goes off and I feel tired. And I've tried doing things like this, and have been unsuccessful. Friends still see me, and how plainly I speak, as difficult.
3. My frustration with process. I used to be ashamed of this frustration in Quaker circles. But I'm starting to understand that I shouldn't be ashamed. I just don't know what to do with the frustration. I know sometimes process is important. Maybe she was thinking about getting "buy-in" from people so she would know that her work wasn't being done in vain. But why didn't I want to get "buy-in" from Friends when I organized the first sing? I don't think it was because I didn't care about whether my work was in vain. I think it was because I knew I was showing my love for this F/friend by organizing the sing and that if it were only me and that F/friend, it would be enough.
I don't know anymore if my frustration makes me a bad Quaker. Maybe it's the other way around: middle/owning class Quakerism makes me a frustrated Friend.