20 July 2011

on remaining a member of a church in which you are no longer active.

When I bailed on Mormonism nearly four years ago (I practically have a college degree in being inactive), it was after a number of years of frustration and resentment. Suddenly and strangely liberated-- and by this, meaning that I no longer felt inclined to keep a certain balance on my savings account, should I need to finance a wedding on the fly-- I bought a Dutch bicycle and I started this blog. Leaving the church, getting the Old Dutch Treat, and this silly little blogchurch were all part of that funny, disorienting moment in my life.

new bike owner. the ride home was 100% terrifying.

The thing about my membership in the Church-- the LDS Church-- is that I'm kind of unwilling to give it up. Sure, I don't acknowledge priesthood authority as a force that governs my life, and we all know I have done my fair share of things that would probably disqualify me from membership-- but the fact of the matter is, even though I don't go and I don't intend to go back, my membership, ensured through my baptism, means a lot to me. I still regard Mormons as my tribe-- adopted, to be sure-- and I just don't feel the inclination to resign my membership, in spite of everything. It's like keeping your married name after a divorce-- you can't deny that you made that choice, and it changed you in powerful ways (that's mixing metaphors, because this whole post is a metaphor, but whatever). I still identify as Mormon-- albiet a lapsed one- because Christian, atheist, agnostic- those labels just don't seem to fit. It's who I am, I can't shake it.

Ok, this post isn't actually about my relationship to the Church. It's about my relationship to my Dutch bike. I bought it with the intention of coasting down hills at the U, to feel the wind on my face-- and I did. The bike was not a burden. I had a large living room to store it in, and even when it didn't shift right or it blew over in the wind- I was just so into it. The bike was the symbol of the freedom I felt, and I might have spent a lot of my rides thinking, "Look at me! Don't you see how free I am? ACKNOWLEDGE MY FREEDOM."

my first fall in Philly.

So what went wrong? You will recall that I moved into a second floor apartment with a very narrow staircase. And even though the ODT carried me through a very exciting transition my life-- from West to East, car-owner to full-time city cyclist-- I still had to drag that heavy-ass bike up the stairs every night. It felt good to ride, but it's a lot of bike. I was covered in bruises from our battles. And the more I rode it, the more I had to maintain it. Have you ever taken the wheel off of a Dutch bicycle? No? GOOD. What I'm saying is, I could never find a shop that didn't bitch about my bike when I brought it in, so the bike and I were forced to duke it out and this tended to make for weeks of the ODT sitting around half dismantled.
the "aggressively hauling shit" phase. note that I had, by that time, gone to war with my skirt guards.

When I moved last year, getting a place with first floor access was a big deal for me. But then, you know, we have had a world of trouble with our pesky storm door. And the bike is still huge and hard to take care of. The headlight, which hadn't worked in over a year, started popping off and kickstand lost its functionality. Things were getting ramshackle. And then I started my exams. Being exhausted and hauling thirty books a trip up and down the hill-- because my commute doubled and now included a hill-- it just stopped working. I resented the bike, I didn't enjoy riding it (except on the downhills) and when the chain popped off when I was running late for school last Spring, I didn't bother to fix it. I told myself I'd take the train to school and ride the Dahon in the neighborhood and fix the bike when there weren't so many other demands on my energies. I had worked really hard to make the bike work, and it just wasn't happening. 

oh, the weight. by then, my Basil basket had disintegrated too. 

Fast forward, two months later--I finally finished fixing the bike today (it probably needs an adjustment at some hater bike shop).

And then I went to the shop to pick up the bike I bought in Tacoma. The tiny, light bike that won't be a bother when I'm late for school. The bike that will be much easier to lock up. The bike that shops won't mind working on. The bike I can actually take out on long rides. The bike that actually fits my leg length. The Bike. The Guez.

I'm not selling the Old Dutch, but I think it's time to put it in the basement. Maybe not forever-- I will probably want those fenders in the winter-- but for now, there's just no sense in keeping it out. Is this a rejection of the Cycle Chic, slow bicycle ethos that got me into cycling? It feels like it, a little bit. Riding in a skirt isn't my first priority these days, and slow only fits my life some of the time. But putting the Old Dutch to pasture doesn't mean getting rid of it-- like my church membership, it remains a powerful symbol of choices I made and things I wanted for my life. It will be there when I want it.

I like to think that I can cast off the weight of the symbol of being free and just be free. So I'll keep worshipping at the Church of the Granny Bike, just not on it. 

First thing out of the shop, I took my bike for a zip along the river to my favorite spot. Note that Big Brother cable tied my old tires on for shipping, and that the seat is the perfect height because BB made a note when he packed it! He is too wonderful.


Matt in Tacoma said...

It's almost like an obituary...and from the ashes will rise...Church of the Semi-Custom Touring Bike!

Now that you have the proper vehicle, I'm putting in a request to see some of that pastoral Pennsylvania countryside through the eyes of the academic city slicker. Get out there!

Matt in Tacoma said...

PS. Mona was really excited to find out that we had kept her saddle for her.

Kara said...

Being an inactive Dutchie is still better than never being a Dutchie at all. I find that my Pashley has been a little neglected recently too. It is those darn stairs. It could make anyone have their doubts.