Saturday, January 27, 2007

Red Shirt, Blue Shirt, Old Shirt, New Shirt

I find the flurry of politics somewhat overwhelming. As if I am walking into a Hatfield/McCoy battleground, each side is screaming for me to "come and join us, WE are RIGHT!" Both sides have issues I agree with, both sides use tactics I do not like. I can't seem to decide, do I want to wear the Republican red shirt, or the Democratic blue?

When I proudly informed my father some time ago that I was independent of party, he told me I had to choose one or the other to make my vote count. "The real politics," he said, "happen in the primaries. If you don't declare a party, you get no vote in the primary." Each time I have voted and gone to fill in the little black bubble by one party or the other, something holds my hand. I can't commit, despite the benefits.

On top of that confusion lies the mystery of candidacy. I have yet to see a single presidential hopeful exhibit the slightest iota of moral accountability. How can I vote for someone whose main goal is simply power? They do not wish to serve the country, no matter what they say. In the eyes of each candidate lurks the fervor of competition.

"We have had no good president since Washington," is one of my favorite sayings. Why? "Because he is the only one who refused the job."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

On Feminism, Motherhood and Change

I am currently reading a book entitled "Daughters of God, Scriptural Portraits" by S. Michael Wilcox. It is an interesting read that has taken me through a wide range of emotions from confusion to peace and back again. In it, he examines the scriptural "portraits" of women in the Bible, Book of Mormon and Church History and extracts the lessons and examples of each.

Reading it has underscored my own unworthiness. I'm afraid that I often feel unequal to the task of living as a daughter of God. I have rapidly transitioned from single college graduate to sister missionary to single RM to wife to mother and am left with a feeling of "What just happened? Where am I?" I still feel like my single self, yet I'm living in a sort of perpetual transition. I know so many things that are expected of me - to keep the house clean, keep my husband happy, raise my daughter to be happy and well-adjusted, work and keep a full-time job, visit teach, magnify my ward calling, attend Church meetings and activities, support and love my husband, exemplify charity and kindness - and things I want to do - such as sew toys and clothes for my daughter, organize some of the chaos in our house, teach my daughter to swim, paint and draw, read and be a good neighbor. I think I am trying to adjust to the new role I find myself in with little feeling of success.

The strangest thing is that in the struggle to define what it means to be a "good wife and mother," I feel I am largely on my own. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what is a good wife and mother without any input in how to accomplish it. As a teenager and single adult, you have plethoras of practical advice. Church leaders, parents and teachers are constantly telling you what you should be doing and giving you tips on how to do it. Once you are married, they all back off and focus on the upcoming generation. "You are on your own, now," they seem to say. No church activities, General Conference talks or ward support exists for the newly married or those with new children. I think the network of Relief Society is supposed to fill the gap, but I am not connecting with Relief Society. This gap which I have gradually felt widening between me and the Church populace since my return from my mission seems to grow wider and wider as I walk through this strange new life. I suppose it is rather like learning to ride a bike. There comes a time when your dad lets go, and you fall and skin your knee. I just wish I didn't have to include others in my struggles and falls. Always before, my struggles and pains were mine alone.

With that background of struggles in mind, I have recently stumbled upon the world of the "Bloggernacle." This is a complex Mormon society of bloggers with a bemusing array of fiery opinions and backgrounds. I have found it interesting to participate in a few of the multiple boards involved, but, although many are self-labeled "misfits" in the Church-wide culture, they are not the same sort of misfit I am. I have worked out a testimony, for the most part, of the doctrines of the Church, but have not studied the ins and outs exhaustively. I have come to peace with seemingly anti-feminism stances and the Churchly definition of motherhood and womanhood as discussed so clearly in "Daughters of God." What I haven't come to peace with is my place within it. I have had promises and blessings given to me of which I cannot be worthy. I look at myself and simply cannot see how I could ever "go and do" the Lord's commandments well enough to enter the Celestial Kingdom. I cannot picture Heavenly Father embracing me at the last day and proclaiming "well done, thou good and faithful servant." I don't think I can do it. I agree with the doctrines of the Church, but cannot see how to accomplish them. I am, therefore, neither in the camp of feminism nor in the camp of Church-defined "motherhood."

I suppose it all comes down to trust in the Atonement of Christ. It is more than seeing there is a net below a 100 ft. tightrope, it is knowing you cannot balance, that you will fall, yet trying to walk the tightrope anyways, trusting the net will catch you. Faith is not belief or understanding, it is letting go control of your destiny and placing it into the hands of another.

When I was about 15, I had the chance to rappel down a cliff for the first time in my life. I remember getting into the harness and listening to the instructions of the expert. I pictured in my mind what I had to do, and felt my body preparing for the motions. I walked up to the brink of the tiny, 30-ft. cliff and looked over the edge to see that the man holding the safety rope was a guy in my ward who loved to tease and irritate. I didn't trust him. Despite the fear of ridicule, I simply could not go over the edge as long as that man held the safety rope. Rather than hurt his feelings, I backed away from the edge. To this day, I have never rock climbed or rappelled, I have never had another chance. In order to live this life, you have to be willing to leap over the edge, even though you can't really see who is holding the safety rope. He is shrouded in mist and others' opinions of who He is. Trusting nothing but an internal feeling that it will be okay, you step over. I don't know if I can do that. I don't think I can accomplish all the Lord has commanded me, yet I hope that He believes in me more than I do.

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