Bikes, Bikes, Bikes

Bikes, Bikes, Bikes

Some bike-themed Exponent posts, a poll and a video.

(Click on the titles of some of these wonderful, classic posts to enjoy some bike-related reading. When you’re done, get off the computer and go for a bike ride.)


The Invisible Bicycle Helmet | Fredrik Gertten from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

National Bike Month

“But a year later after we moved from rural Indiana to the suburban sprawl of Chicago, bicycling became my morning meditation.”

tricycle bike

Photo by Jana Remy

 

Biking In A Skirt

Modesty was a problem for me during my missionary days. Skirts flap around Marilyn Monroe-style on a bike.”

Don’t Come Cryin’ To Me!

I have to admit part of me was SAD that the bikes were patiently waiting for them after the movie.”

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Leaving Eden

 

"Two Souls" by Eduardo Rodriguez Calzado

“Two Souls” by Eduardo Rodriguez Calzado

I have a secret to tell: I mourn not being able to be the Mormon woman I was always taught to be, that I was always told I would be, that I was always patted on the head for my righteous desires to be as a young woman. I wanted to have the lovely home, the quiver full of children, homeschooling, every meal homemade with love. I would lie awake at night when I was engaged to my husband, envisioning a life of fresh muffins in the morning and a constantly clean bathroom (admittedly, this one is still on my wish list).

I know the dream is idyllic and was completely unattainable from the start, but I still mourn the possibility. I never asked for my faith to take a dramatic shift, held together by ribbons of choice and streams of hope rather than anchored in certainty. I never asked for my mind to be so thirsty for more knowledge and information that the easy answers stopped working. I never asked for the postpartum depression that followed my births, making motherhood an excruciating tumble into the abyss of despair rather than a joyous journey in those first months and years. These are not the things we simply pick out of a lineup of potential experiments like cans on supermarket shelves. These experiences choose us and we learn how to stumble our way through as gracefully as possible.

But every day as I work to reason and share my heart with others about the experiences that have brought me to Mormon feminism, I am confronted with the woman that I once thought I would be: the woman who believes so easily, who finds joy and fulfillment where she’s told she would, the woman who is that Mormon woman. I mourn her despite the fact that my life experiences have caused me to cry out, “Please stop defining me by a biological process that, while bringing light and life, also brought utter darkness! Please stop telling me that I ‘just don’t understand,’ when my mind spends countless hours of every.single.day mulling over, praying over, writing over, and pondering over these things! Please stop telling me that I just need to have more faith when I’ve exercised all that I have in me and still, somehow, try to keep my faith together.

I mourn her because her life had a well-laid path and straight-forward answers. When belief was easy, she didn’t have to spend so much of her energy finding footholds. I mourn her because her life was not conflicted: read, pray, follow the prophet, endure to the end. Check, check, check, check.

One night as I shared the profound sadness in my loss of innocence with a friend, the picture became clear. Much of the time when we speak of the story of Adam and Eve, we forget how radical the underlying message is–in order to truly live and progress, we must choose knowledge. We must choose a life of paradox and pain. We must choose to have our eyes opened. We must leave the Garden. We must leave what we thought was the ideal, the simple and well-laid path, in favour of life.

I wonder if Eve, in those moments of toil in the lone and dreary world, ever looked back on Eden in the way that I look back on the woman I was always told I should want to be. I wonder if she thought, “what if my eyes had never been opened? What if I could have continued on peacefully without having to struggle, without being removed from the certainty of God’s presence? What if I had just done what I was supposed to do? Why did I seek out this knowledge?”

But like Eve, we go forward. This is the work of women. Forward, ever forward, eyes constantly lifted to heaven for more understanding, a space in our hearts for that piece of us that could have been continuously content but chose choice, uncertainty, and the height and depth of human emotions.

Forward, ever forward, with faith held together by ribbons of choice and streams of hope.

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Will we be silenced again?

One by one they throw us from the tower and we spread our wings and fly linda sillitoeMy name is April Young Bennett.

About three years ago, I published my very first post at the Exponent. I identified myself only by my first name because I was scared. Terrified. Silenced.

I loved my Mormon faith, but I could also see its flaws—how the sexism embedded in its culture, policies and doctrines were affecting my life. I had more than complaints; I had ideas! I wanted to contribute to my church, to make it a better place, but my input was not wanted because I am a woman. 

The Exponent gave me a forum to air my views, but I continued to sign my posts with only my first name.

It wasn’t my fault that I was scared. I grew up in a culture of fear. People who dared to publicly discuss the church’s flaws were cast out of it when I was still a child. When I reached adulthood, I thought I was the only Mormon in the world who cared about sexism because people with questions stopped asking them. It wasn’t safe.

A little over a year ago, Kate Kelly invited Mormon women to try again. We could be bold. We could ask for what we want.  We could break taboos that silence us, speaking out in public instead of limiting ourselves to semi-anonymous cyberspace.

We could use our real names.

Mormons accuse each other of “going public” as if it were a sin, as if the phrase from the Book of Mormon, “All is well in Zion” were a script we should follow, instead of an example of “carnal security” that “cheateth [our] souls.” (2 Nephi 28:21) We hope that by keeping our opinions to ourselves, our faith community will appear to be perfectly happy. We are living advertisements, wooing potential converts. We can’t actually address our problems while we are busy hiding them, but we hope that no one else will notice our issues because we don’t mention them in public. Building Zion takes a backseat to keeping up the appearance of Zion.  We lay aside scriptural admonition to “lay aside…all guile, and hypocrisies” (1 Peter 2:1).

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My Reaction to the Disciplinary Councils

I spent most of the day yesterday refreshingly offline thinking all was right in the world.  The news of Kate Kelly’s and John Dehlin’s disciplinary councils finally hit me with full force a couple hours late, as I haphazardly glanced at my phone while stirring noodles for dinner.  Somehow dinner made it off the stove and into my kid’s mouths.  From there my ability to fulfill anymore household duties waned as my kids ran amuck outside and I sat at my computer in shock at what had happened.

Earlier in the day, my girls and I were listening to the new Frozen CD that had come in the mail.  I watched as they danced around the living room singing, “Let it Go.”  Even my two-year-old twirled along with them singing, “Go, Go, Go.”  As I watched them, I marveled at the beauty they exhibited by dancing freely and singing a song of empowerment.  Then I was saddened by a thought.  Disney has done more to empower my girls lately than my church has.  Disney has given them the right to openly be who they are and embrace their power, not to conceal it or to be afraid of it.

I think that’s why the news of Kate Kelly and John Dehlin hit me so hard.  Here in essence, the church was telling them to stop being so vocal about their questions.  It’s not wrong to have questions, but keep them to yourself or discuss them only with your bishop.  Conceal don’t feel, right?  Or if you have to feel, at least keep it to yourself.  The euphoria I felt earlier from watching my daughters dance around the room was definitely gone.

As I was mulling over all of this, a message popped up on facebook.  A distant friend had heard the news and was reaching out to me because he knew that I was involved with Ordain Women.  We had a good, long discussion about it and he told me that he had harbored a lot of deep questions for years.  I was the only one he felt that he could talk to about it.  I knew that feeling well.  I thought back to a time when I felt like my faith and my whole existence were crashing down around me.  It was John Dehlin and Dan Wotherspoon from Mormon Stories and Mormon Matters who had caught me in their safety net and helped me to put the shattered pieces of my faith back together.  I pointed my friend toward their podcasts, knowing full-well the irony of what was happening.

Because Kate Kelly spoke loudly about her questions and her truth, I was able to do so as well.  Because I did, my friend was reaching out to me with a lonely struggle he had dealt with for years.  Because I’ve been in that lonely place myself, I knew where to direct him.  I knew about a community started by John Dehlin that embraced me with open arms and helped my faith to blossom and expand.  But because of the work of these two people, they are branded as apostates.  If that is apostasy, then I feel more comfortable around apostates than I do in a church that fears people who speak out.  If it weren’t for them, I would never have known that I wasn’t alone in my own feelings and thoughts.  If it weren’t for them, I would not have connected last night with a distant friend from my past who also thought he was alone in his feelings.  Kate Kelly and John Dehlin are part of the solution, not the problem.  I will echo many voices I heard throughout last evening: I am still part of this church because of people like them.

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A Moving Mormon Performance

I could not sleep. It was as though it was midday and had the energy of a racehorse about to take flight. empty houseBut it was really 2 AM, and I had been awake since 1AM. I had fallen asleep in utter exhaustion around 11PM, but woke at 1 …and there I remained, twitching.

 

The ghosts of the day were haunting me and tears filled my eyes. But I withheld any sound, silently weeping, trying to not wake my husband.

 

The day before had been traumatic. We had packed to move, and left our house in a state. It wasn’t untidy, but I had not the time to make all of the runs to the Salvation Army on that day, nor had I the time in the preceding days to list all that I had hoped on eBay. As a result, clusters of items I deemed valuable were in boxes, or loosely stacked piles, awaiting to be unceremoniously bagged and taken to the dump.

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Birthing My Feminine Soul

I lay in the hospital bed with my legs in the stirrups.  I had given birth four times already, but this time I was both the birther and the birthed.  I was done having babies so I was having a simple procedure done to eliminate the monthly struggle that comes with being a woman.  Everything was going fine until my body suddenly reacted negatively to the pain medication.  It started with numb lips.  I asked if that was normal and the next thing I knew I couldn’t talk.  I knew the words and I could move my mouth, but I couldn’t say what I wanted to say.  Soon my consciousness seemed completely disconnected from my body.  I could think rationally and nod my head in response to questions, but I couldn’t speak.  I could only use my body when the function required one step.  I could move my hand, but I couldn’t do anything with it.

My body shook uncontrollably.  “Are you cold?”

I nodded my head.  I didn’t feel cold, but I knew I probably was.

They moved a heater over to me.  “Can you feel that?”

I shook my head.  All of a sudden I started crying uncontrollably.  Then I was laughing.  Worst of all was my inability to speak.  I wanted to shout and scream and let the doctor know that I was fine and I understood what was going on and I felt nothing, and yes, it was okay if they continued on with the procedure.  But I couldn’t say anything and the doctor and nurse had no idea what to do.  Like a newborn baby, my body was not under my control.  I was simply a consciousness in a body that I didn’t feel fully attached to.  I felt that symbolically I had become a baby, much the way I have spiritually become a baby in the last several months.  Once the effects of the medication wore off and I regained control over my body again, I realized how powerless a newborn baby must feel.  No wonder I see sheer delight on the face of my two year old because she just learned to jump.  That ability to master something that we previously had no power over is amazing.

Giving birth can be an empowering experience, but being birthed feels powerless.  Being the birther of my own feminine soul has been empowering, at the same time that it has made me feel powerless.  When we give birth, we take something precious within us, something we have created, nurtured, and hidden inside, and we send it out into the world.  The life we have brought into existence needs a lot of care, patience, and nurturing at first, but once it grows in its ability to control itself, it has the power to change the world.  This is what happens when we give birth to our feminine souls.  This precious life and power that is hidden in us can awaken through birth.  After a time of nurturing, we send it out into the world to awaken the feminine soul of the world.  It is through our individual births and awakenings that we awaken the collective female consciousness and change the world.

Two years earlier I began the labor pains that would bring about the birth of my feminine soul.  I was in labor with my last child.  It was 1am the night before she was born and I couldn’t sleep because the pain was too great.  I went downstairs and turned on the tv, a dangerous prospect at that time of night.  After flipping through half a dozen infomercials, I came to a documentary on health care for women in Afghanistan.  As the pain swelled in my abdomen I watched women giving birth in dirty run down hospitals, most of them having no hope for their baby’s life.  One woman was asked if she was worried, as the doctor tried to resuscitate her premature baby.  Her eyes bore into mine as she said, “No, she will live or she will die.  That’s the way it is.”   I thought about the life within me and the joy that I felt in between contractions, knowing I would soon meet this new little human who would change me.  I wept for the mothers who were bereft of the hope I felt.  I wept for the women who suffered from fistulas, acid burned faces, and painful infections.

These weren’t just some women on the other side of the earth. They were me and I was them.  For a moment we shared the pain and burden of being a woman on this planet, and I was forever transformed by that moment.  I attribute this power of connection to the Divine Feminine, Heavenly Mother in all her glory.  She is the midwife who patiently, lovingly guides us through our labor pains and helps us to birth our own divine feminine souls.  This experience changed my consciousness, but I felt powerless to do anything for my sisters in developing countries.  The next day I went to a brand new hospital and gave birth to a healthy baby girl.  As I looked into her eyes, I saw the beauty and value that existed in her precious gift of life.  Though she was powerless to do anything for herself at that moment, her birth alone had changed the world around her.  Likewise, though I felt powerless to help my sisters who were suffering in other parts of the world, my birth and awakening to a consciousness in which they resided was one small part of changing the world.   As I nurture my feminine voice and power, it will grow into a precious life that I can send into the world to change the feminine soul of the world and empower women everywhere.

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