Sunday, December 16, 2012

Stepping into the Dark

D arkness filled our chapel today. But, it was a great experience, I promise! Read on...
It's been awhile since I've had a better than "eh" day at church! I've struggled with feeling connected to people at church. I LOVE the people at church. I really believe that I live in one of the most accepting and loving wards in all the world, but I don't always feel connected with them. And today when I donned a lovely pair of purple dress pants, I knew of only one other person who would be wearing pants with me. She's sort of wonderful. But even with that, I was anxious. Maybe even a little afraid. But today, I wore pants and I felt good and I looked good and I was happy! I knew going into it that I had the love and support of my family and of my priesthood leaders. (There was an email sent out that someone shared with me.) The speakers in Sacrament meeting and the lessons in sunday school and Relief Society seemed to be written for me. I felt validated and loved by God and my fellow sisters and brothers. An older woman in my ward, that I've known and loved for years, did tell me how good my pants looked. And that was the only comment I got. Everyone else was business as usual.

One very notable and interesting experience was this though: For a little more than an hour (most of sacrament meeting and about half of sunday school) the electricity went out in the neighborhood. It flickered a little at first and then was out. Our first adult speaker was only a few minutes into her talk. The congregation sat there few several seconds before people began getting out their phones, some jumped up to open the doors to the chapel and let in light from the foyers, and our speaker stood there, probably unsure of what to do. I carry a flashlight in my purse so I jumped up and handed it to her. She then began again with her talk, this time with a louder voice. We sang two more hymns with the piano instead of the usual organ, using the lights from our phones to read the hymnals. The other speaker gave his talk with the use of my flashlight (he was quite creative with it and we had some good laughs). Our meetings went on as usual and I was touched by the seemingly normality of it. For me, it was a great parable for what was going on my life. I was stepping into the unknown. I was wearing pants to church for the first time. I had no idea what was going to happen or how I was going to feel. I didn't know how people would react or if they would just ignore me or what. It was kind of nerve-wracking! But, I did it. And it turned out great! Everything was business as usual. In fact, it was better than usual. I was able to feel a part of something again. I knew there were others all over the world who were wearing pants with me today. I couldn't see all of them - just like I couldn't see all of the members of our congregation in our blacked-out chapel, but I felt their presence buoy me up. After today, I am excited and hopeful for what the future in a way that I wasn't just a week or two ago.

Please pardon the laundry in the background!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why I'll Wear Pants

First of all, I have no idea how to introduce this topic. I'm pretty sure the only people who check my blog anymore are close friends and family, and I've talked to a lot of you about this. I really wanted to say something on Facebook - seeing as that is the place where the proverbial poo hit the fan, but there's too much to say. For the last year (or more) I have been feeling the need for more love and positive energy in my life. This isn't a surprise. Over the last three years, there have been a lot hardships in my life, but I'm not complaining. I've grown immensely and feel like I've been through the refiner's fire. It's a hard place to be. It's hell. But I survived. I'm happier and all of my relationships are better. Seriously, all of them - even that ex-husband and I have a better relationship. It's great! So, along with this need for more positives to balance the scale that has been tipped negative for far too long, is the need for more honesty. Honesty to myself and to those around me. It's a really freaking scary thing. Like really, really scary. And painful. But, I've been honest and to the credit of friends and family, I've been loved and accepted. That is one awesome feeling. I have really great family and friends though.

So, insert a whole bunch of pondering and praying and searching and reading and discussing and everything else, and visit last week with me. As part of my journey, I have connected with really wonderful people, some from my past, and some I've never met before. One such group is the Feminist Mormon Housewives Society. There are so many wonderful women and men who are involved in this supportive group who follow the greatest commandments: Love God. Love your neighbor. Last week a blogger wrote a piece that articulated so many of my own feelings, that I decided to link to the article and come out as a Mormon feminist on Facebook. I got nothing more or less than I was expecting. I got a couple of mean comments, but really they were less mean than they were just misunderstanding. I got a lot of support though, and a whole lot of questions from people who seemed to just want to understand. I thought it was a beautiful thing. Like I said, I have really great friends and family!

But then something else happened. That blogger wanted to do more. So she began asking around in that really supportive group I mentioned. The desire was obviously sincere and coming from a place of love. I was there from almost the very first mention of a group of like-minded people who wanted to take action... and I was on board! I remember vividly that it was late at night and I was voicing my support and desire to join the cause. I went to bed and when I woke up the next morning a group had been created. I joined up and within a day or two, action was already planned (with so much more in the works). I can only tell you how I felt. And this is it:

I am a member of a church. There are doctrines. There are policies. And there is a very distinct culture. It is my heritage. This church has been a part of my family for over 150 years. I love it. I love it in a way that is hard to describe and that is very closely tied to the love I feel for my wonderful family. But it's not perfect. There are things said by members of this church that have hurt me and people I love. There are policies and teachings that I think are potentially damaging to youth. And the culture that has been so much a part of me, is starting to look like a creature all it's own. I had begun to fear that creature. I began to see it as a monster completely distinct from the core teachings and doctrines of Jesus Christ. And it hurt. 

So when I began to discover that there were other people out there who felt what I felt and were still finding joy and peace within the church and its culture, I felt partially calmed. When I discovered there were others out there who actually wanted to DO something about it, I felt thrilled! Here were like-minded people who loved this church and so many of its members. They wanted to show respect to the leaders and members, remain a part the church, AND voice their opposition to this deeply engrained culture. And that's how I saw this movement of wearing pants to church. 

And then it turned into so much more. I have been shocked and saddened by the extremely negative and hateful responses. There are some who disagree, but still show love and acceptance. But I'm afraid the completely un-Christ-like and shockingly vitriol behavior of so many will be all anybody remembers about what started out as a group of people who wanted to feel support and solidarity from each other. I'm pretty sure those who organized this event had no idea it would explode as it has. I know I didn't. 

So, if you happen to see me on Sunday in my dress pants, please know that I am wearing them for many reasons, but my two most important are these:
  1. Gender equality: For me this means, I want to see the way we treat our youth and the things we teach them change. I love the youth! I want my boys to grow up knowing they can do anything! When they find someone with whom to share their lives, I want them to be able to be equal partners in creating more beauty and goodness in the world.
  2. Acceptance of all of God's children: Women who wear pants only represent the great number of people who fall outside the box. You know that box. The walls are made up of women who stay at home to raise their kids and always wear dresses or skirts to church, men who served missions and always wear white shirts and ties on Sunday, and youth and children whose one mom and one dad are both still alive, married, and take the whole family to all three hours of church every Sunday. These pants are for all of us. They're my Sunday best for my many family members who I love and fall in that box. And they're pants for those who fall outside the box. I love you all.