Thursday, April 19, 2007

Better Than Chocolate

I’ve developed a secret indulgence. It starts in the evening at 11:00 and ends at 12:00. Tonight’s installment began with ice cream made with milk and cream from cows not treated with rBGH, whose decadence is only tempered by its simple flavor. No sauces. No toppings. Just pure naked vanilla. But this is not about ice cream.

Sex and the City. I confess. I’m a little late in the game, I know. I just started watching it and feel almost embarrassed at my newfound passion. It’s hilarious! I don’t often laugh out loud while watching TV, but I catch myself in an open guffaw inevitably more often than once per episode. The realization startles me, and I laugh at myself for laughing in the first place.

Perhaps I’m most caught off guard when I start to relate to the show, and I wonder, “Dating? Fashion? Girl talk? What’s going on here?” But it’s topics like tonight, ghosts from relationships’ past, that cause me to think about my own relationships. Which ones are still haunting me? Am I over the ones that hurt the most? Will I ever stop loving the ones I loved who didn’t love in return? If I stop caring, then the pain caused by the loss of those relationships will go away, right?

I can’t get too serious tonight. I’m tired. My head hurts. And I’m enjoying my ice cream and a night out with the ladies.

PS Nothing's better than chocolate...

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Danke, Herr Orff

In German the word is "ohrworm," and how appropriate for music by Carl Orff. We've been performing Carmina Burana all week for the Ballet, and I can't seem to get it out of my head during non-performing hours.

The other day I was in the bathroom at work, just one stall and one urinal. Enjoying a brief solitary moment without coworkers, I began humming whatever part was stuck in my head at the time. The humming turned into quiet singing as I washed my hands.

"Swaz hie gat umbe, daz sint allez megede..."

I grabbed a paper towel to dry my hands and looked over at the stall.

"Die wellent anman..."

To my horror, I saw two shoes at the toilet peaking out beneath the partition. I recognized the shoes as someone who works down the hall from our office.

I promptly stopped singing, threw the towel away and left the bathroom...smiling.

"Alle disen sumer gan!"

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Full Circle...again

When I read past journal entries, I find recurrent themes that reach the monotonous equivalent of a scratched record or CD. I read things that I wrote 2 years ago and find I’m writing the same things, with sometimes the same words. Just when I thought I was making progress, I find I’m right back where I started, at least on an emotional level.

I was washing dishes, listening the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing of peace, and I burst into tears. I was trying desperately not think of my existence, desperately trying not to compare myself with Cody and how much I fall short, not just in respect to him, but in life in general. My emotions are suspended like the belted riders of the Drop Zone waiting to fall. It’s in this brief pause before the plunge that a false sense of security tells me, “I think I can handle this. Everything’s going to be alright.” But it only takes a small puff to trigger the release and send me over the edge.

I’ve been thinking about two different ways of dealing with depression. One is addressing it head on - in thought, in writing, in talking, reading and studying about it, with the idea that by not ignoring it, I will find the vehicle that will release it from my system. Inevitably, talking about it means analyzing it and trying to reach some sort of clarity through the journey. There is something distinctly Buddhist about this approach - it’s trying to feel the pain so that you can leave it.

But I wonder if in talking about it, I don’t get trapped in it. Like falling prey to quicksand, wiggling just entangles the victim all the more. So if talking about depression only multiplies its existence, then the other option left is to not talk about. This approach could be seen as ignoring the issues and problems, but it also encompasses a shift in focus from depression and its sources to things that have a positive effect. It’s the “forget yourself and you will find yourself” approach.

It’s days like today at the kitchen sink, with soap suds in my hands, and tears in my eyes that make me think, “I haven’t moved past this at all. I’m just ignoring what’s internally destroying me. It will always come back to haunt me until it gets fixed.” So back to approach number 1. “There must be some key in past that is triggering these emotional responses in me. If I could just uncover what it is...”

Why do I feel like such a failure in every aspect of my life? Why do I feel so inadequate and incapable? Why do I feel so alone? Why do I feel so removed from life, as I watch others live their lives before me? Why can’t I connect with people? Why do I feel so empty and hollow? Why do I feel I have nothing to give? Why do I feel so needy? Why do I feel so behind in life? Why am I so consumed with these inward, self-absorbed thoughts? Why do I feel such a lack of interest toward life? Why am I so tired? Why do I feel like I’m falling apart, both emotionally and physically? Why do I feel so stupid? Why do I feel a sense of panic? Why do I feel so paralyzed?

How do I move past this?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sneak Preview

I cheated.

Tomorrow I give a talk in sacrament meeting, and as I felt less than inspired in trying to prepare one, I am using one I gave in a different ward two years ago. It seems to fit in enough with the topic "Our relationship with Christ."

References are meagear. After rereading this, I realize there are parts I would say differently. So here's the talk in its unedited state:

Heber shivered in the cold. He pulled his thin coat tighter around him. His birthday was approaching soon, and he wanted nothing else but a warm coat. But he knew he would only cause his mother concern if he mentioned it. They were so poor. Sometimes they would go early to bed because they didn’t have enough wood to burn for heat. Sometimes they would go hungry to bed because they did not have enough to eat. Heber’s mother would often sew late into the night for other people in order to earn a little money.

As Heber’s birthday came, his mother celebrated and gave him the most beautiful coat he had ever seen. It was made of the material that his mother had recently used to sew, and the coat fit him perfectly. Heber could hardly wait until he could go outside to test his new coat.

I am amazed at the sacrifice this poor mother went through to provide for her son. I’m sure there were many nights when she must have felt too tired to go on. But it must have been the love for her child that held her through so that she could finish her project. This story continues:

A few weeks later Heber was on an errand for his mother when he saw a boy of his age who was crying because of the cold. He only had a light jacket on, and Heber knew how he must be freezing. The boy looked longingly at Heber’s warm coat. Heber stopped, took off his coat without thinking, and gave it to the boy.

The next day Heber put on his old coat. When his mother saw him, she asked, “What have you done with your beautiful new coat?” Heber wondered if he should tell her. Then he explained, “I met a boy who needed the coat more than I, and that’s why I gave him the coat.”

“Couldn’t you have given him your old coat?” she asked.

Heber looked at her and hoped she would understand. Then he saw how her eyes filled with tears. He threw his arms around her, and she answered her own question: “Of course you couldn’t, Heber, of course you couldn’t.”

It is not surprising that Heber J. Grant later became one of the presidents of our church. He learned compassion, sacrifice and love for others at such a young age. An old axiom states that a man “all wrapped up in himself makes a small bundle.” Though he was young and small, Heber’s heart was filled with charity. “Love has a way of making a small bundle large.” (President Hunter)

How do we develop this type of love? It may seem ironic, but if you want to increase your love of those around you, it is best to seek out Christ. As your love of Christ develops, your capacity to love others enlarges. You are able to see others as Christ sees them. You are open for the Spirit to guide you in your interactions with your family, your coworkers, your neighbors, and with strangers. For God knows their hearts, and he understands the needs of his children. What better way to love others, than to love them as Christ would.

It makes sense, then, that the first great commandment is to “love the Lord ...with all [our] heart, and with all [our] soul, and with all [our] mind.” The second commandment follows naturally after this, that we “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matt. 22:37, 39).

Love is a heavenly gift. We are taught that we must pray for it. Mormon urges us to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ..”

Elder John A. Widtsoe said, “The full and essential nature of love we may not understand. But there are tests by which it may be recognized.
“Love is always founded in truth. … Lies and deceit, or any other violation of the moral law, are proofs of love’s absence. Love perishes in the midst of untruth.
“Further, love does not offend or hurt or injure the loved one. … Cruelty is as absent from love … as truth is from untruth. …
“Love is a positive active force. It helps the loved one. If there is need, love tries to supply it. If there is weakness, love supplants it with strength. … Love that does not help is a faked or transient love.
“Good as these tests are, there is a greater one. True love sacrifices for the loved one. … That is the final test. Christ gave of Himself, gave His life, for us, and thereby proclaimed the reality of his love for his mortal brethren and sisters.” (An Understandable Religion, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1944, p. 72.)

So some qualities of love are this: it is founded in truth; it seeks to uplift; it is a positive force; it sacrifices. Love is a principle of righteousness. Perhaps these qualities are best illustrated between parents and their children, just as Heber’s mom was able to sacrifice of herself for her son.

It is easy to love those that are lovable. But what about those who have hurt or offended us?

We know the saying that a “chain is as strong as its weakest link.” I wonder if we can say the same about our capacity to love. It would go something like this, “Our capacity to love is measured by the person we love the least.”

President Hunter said, “The key is to love our neighbor, including the neighbor that is difficult to love. We need to remember that though we make our friends, God has made our neighbors—everywhere. Love should have no boundary; we should have no narrow loyalties. Christ said, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” (Matt. 5:46).

It seems President Hunter would remind us that every person on this earth is a child of our Heavenly Father, even those who seem to be filled with hate. Perhaps this simple fact can help us love everyone. How would our attitude change if during a heated discussion, we remember that we are talking to one of his children?

When I was in 8th grade, our family moved from California to Colorado. It was halfway into the school year, and everyone had established their friends already. I was the new guy, and my shy disposition didn’t help me break into their social circles. For some reason, there was one particular boy who didn’t like me from our first meeting. We had two classes together, and every time he saw me, he would taunt and ridicule me in front of other students.

I wasn’t used to this type of behavior, and I certainly didn’t know how to handle it. But I had read and had been taught that we should pray for our enemies and those that despitefully use us. I began to pray for this boy by name every night before I went to bed. I don’t remember exactly what I prayed for, but I tried to have his best interest in mind. Well, he didn’t change his behavior immediately. But I noticed my heart changed. I felt compassion to him. His taunting could not touch me. It was like I was protected with the love of God. My capacity to love him developed because I saw him as my brother who was struggling with his own inadequacies. I learned that the way he treated me was a reflection of his own self, and not of me and my worth. Through the love of God, any negative feelings I might have felt for him melted away.

Love can heal. Love can close the gaps that bitterness and anger have left behind. I am reminded of the words:

He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.
(Edwin Markham, “Outwitted.”)

In first John we read: “Herein is love, not that we love God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (1 Jn. 4:10-11.)

While God rewards us for keeping his commandments, there is nothing we do to earn his love. He does not love us because we are good, or talented, or fun to be around. He does not love us because we are successful in our careers, or because of our looks or dress, or because we have earned high prestige. He does not love us through our own merit. He loves us because he is good. Perhaps that is why he loves even the sinner while still not tolerating the sin.

Henry Drummond, in his writing on the subject of Christ’s love, tells of a man who went to see a dying boy. He put his hand on the boy’s head to comfort him and said, “ ‘My boy, God loves you.’ ” The boy soon arose “from his bed, and called out to the people in the house, ‘God loves me! God loves me!’ One word! It changed that boy. The sense that God loved him overpowered him, melted him down, and began the creating of a new heart in him. And that is how the love of God melts down the unlovely heart in man, and begets in him the new creature, who is patient and humble and gentle and unselfish. And there is no other way to get it. There is no mystery about it. We love others, we love everybody, we love our enemies, because He first loved us.” (The Greatest Thing in the World, Old Tappon, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Co., n.d., pp. 47-48.)

Brothers and sisters, let us remember the love that Heavenly Father and Christ have for us. Let us seek after that love so that we may be filled with charity, “that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure” (Moroni 7:48).

Sunday, February 4, 2007

A Project

One of the members of the bishopric approached me before Elders' Quorum began today at church.

"Hi, iasme. How are you?"

"Fine, Thanks. And you?"

"Not too bad. Hey, I have a project for you."

A project? Curious. Since I transitioned from the singles ward to the family ward a few months ago, I have only prayed once in Elders' Quorum and just recently was asked to be a home teacher. No other assignments.

"What sort of project?" I asked.

"Well, would you be able to give a talk on the 25th in sacrament meeting?"

Oh. Is that all? "Sure. I believe I'll be in town. What's the topic?"

"The other couple that is speaking is talking about our relationship with Christ. You could talk on the same topic."


Funny way of asking. I haven't spoken in church in a long time. After having a district calling where I had to speak in different branches once a month, I suppose they thought they would give me a break, and so I haven't really spoken since then.

I think it will be good for me to research a topic and prepare something to say to a real audience, but at the same time, I'm a little terrified that I'll discover after preparation that I don't have testimony enough anymore. True to the standard church talk, I like to end with testimony. I know the right words to say, but I can't lie. If I don't feel it or believe it, I won't be able to say it. I truly believe that the Spirit has to teach, so can I be the type of conduit that will allow such teaching? Will I be able to truly connect with the audience?

I have a couple of weeks to figure out what I will say. Perhaps the best advice to give myself is to only say what I know and trust in Heavenly Father to fill in the rest.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Growing Up

I think it’s finally happening. I’m growing up.

I always equated growing up with being mature. When one is an adult, one is mature. This carries with it a certain awareness and responsibility that children don’t have. Mature adults are reliable; they do what they say they will, follow through, and meet deadlines. They are respectful of people and carefully choose their words and actions. They are able to put the mundane before the pleasurable and work toward long term goals. They are aware of what is happening in the world. They can talk politics and ease gracefully through social situations, whether it be a simple night out or an office Christmas party. Adults always know what to say, and when not, can say the right thing to get them off the hook. Adulthood means doing adult things, like balancing a check book, looking after a house and home, investing, looking out for the future, working, earning a living, and somehow fitting the “good things in life” within that framework.

But that’s not what growing up means at all. A young child can be mature, but not grown up. Growing up means growing into oneself, becoming your own person.

I often review my past experiences and try to make sense of them. OK, so these days the habit is incessant and “often” is not the right word - I review my past throughout the entire day while driving, working, and talking with people. Anytime, anywhere. The whole ordeal with Cody has forced me to scrutinize my life and try to understand my inner workings on a level much deeper than simply trying to understand things in the context of him. I thought I was a fairly sane, put together person, but dealing with the emotional turmoil associated with him has unveiled issues I have that I didn’t know existed. Yes, I’m all screwed up and am just realizing it! I suppose this is what I mean when I say I’m growing up. I’m just starting to understand what these issues are.

I realize that I’ve adopted several scripts as a child that are no longer useful, and if anything, detrimental to my growth as an individual. Many of these have to do with my relationship with my parents and with siblings, but these scripts also play out into any relationship of intimacy I have with others, and, if I had a physical relationship at this point, would play into physical intimacy, as well. Actually, come to think of it, maybe that’s why I’m not in such a relationship. Gasp. The very absence of physical intimacy in my life is most likely a manifestation of the intimacy issues I may have! Hmm.

Well, at any rate, as a child I was always a people pleaser - never go against the flow, always try to be a peacemaker. Early on I learned that to be a peacemaker meant to be the type of person that invited the Spirit because it is the Spirit that offers true peace. I strove to have the Spirit with me, and my sense of spirituality and religiosity always met with the glowing approval of my parents and my family. I was regarded in my family as the “perfect” son. I never did anything bad. My one act of rebellion was resisting Scouts. I eventually consented against my will and earned the rank of Eagle, right before the 18th year cutoff. I graduated with a 4.3 GPA. I never had a curfew in high school - or ever - because I never had the need for it. I was trusted. I was the example.

My parents, especially my Dad, would hold me up to my younger brothers as a yardstick. Examples can have a positive influence, but something in the way my dad would directly tell my brothers to be like me I find troubling. He would wield me as a tool of social pressure, and I can only imagine what scripts my brothers have developed because of that. They shouldn’t need to be me (the me that was strictly obedient to my parents wishes) in order to gain my parents approval. They need to be themselves as individuals, and that should be good enough. No, that’s even better and ideal.

Now that I am out to my parents, my dad doesn’t use me as the example, but he continues to use the same manipulative technique. I know my dad has the best intentions. But the message is, “Behave how I want you to, and you will have my approval.”

The terrible teens is the stage of rebellion where kids are able to grow into themselves. I never really had that because I was so focused on being the person that was accepted. My parents always felt like they never had to worry about me. I was mature at an early age. I wanted their approval so badly, and this was only enforced by societal and ecclesiastical teachings. I grew up believing I was innately evil because of the homosexual feelings I had. I had to live as perfectly as I could so that I could be changed into what I was suppose to be and what was accepted - to be heterosexual. I never wanted to break their trust in me or do anything to jeopardize their approval, so I had to live up to their expectations of me.

But to never ruffle anyone’s feathers, one has to be a chameleon and subvert oneself in favor of someone else. And isn’t this ok? Isn’t this self sacrifice, and isn’t this desirable in a spiritual context?

This line of thinking filters through everyday action. For example, at work, I’m often then one who is on time (well, maybe not this week, but usually) and will stay late if necessary. I’m the one who has a difficult time asking for time off, even though I have vacation days, because somehow that equates with breaking the flow of things. This is a false sense of responsibility, and I fold it neatly into a sense of integrity.

I feel I always had a strong sense of integrity, which one might think ironic when reviewing my life. Why then did it take me so long to come out if I was so scrupulous and true to myself? The answer is easy. I wasn’t being true to myself, I was being true to the expectations placed on me. And it was actually my desire to shed facade and be truly honest that helped me break free from the scripts that held me bound to the belief that I was subhuman because of my sexuality.

As I have tried to break free from these scripts, my parents have resisted. They are trying to understand things, but it is difficult for them. This past Christmas, my mom said some hurtful things to me in front of my siblings. Her jabs had the desired effect, I’m sure. They hurt. She was probably expressing her hurt by trying to make me feel it.

After reflection, I find one of her comments fascinating. In preparation to leave and fly back home, I went to the local library and checked out some audio books to rip and put on my iPod. Although the library had a large selection, I wasn’t interested in most of the books. I checked out five and ended up only ripping a few of them. One of the books was on myths and how myths shape culture. Another was on the political right. And still another was on one man’s search for spiritual renewal and meaning in life.

We were sitting at the table preparing to play a game when my mom asked me what I had checked out. I read her the titles, and at the mention of these three books listed above, she took personal affront. She saw their subject matter as blatant rebellion against all that I had been taught. I don’t remember her exact words (something about me throwing out God), but she did say this, which I find to be the fascinating part, “You’re just going through your adolescent phase.”

Hah! My terrible teens? At the ripe age of 32? Maybe she’s right, if the terrible teens means a time of discovery. But she’s not allowing me to grow up. She’s not acknowledging me as an individual.

The more I understand who I am, the more I am comfortable in my own skin. The past few Sundays, I have left church feeling happy. Happy to be gay. I’m really grateful for my homosexuality. I’m happy to be me. That's what it means to be grown up. Happy to be yourself.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

One Dollar

I was late for work and walking to my car. My thoughts still ruminating through the conversation I had last night with Cody (it was a brief IM and confirmed that we still need more time away from each other), I walked with my head looking down at the sidewalk. It was then I spotted an errant green note laying to the side of the cement.

Every time I see money on the ground, I think back to a rather unassuming experience I had walking the halls of my high school. It was after hours, and I while I don’t remember why I was still there, I do know I was the only one around. From a distance, I could make out something on the floor as I was leaving. When I approached the object, I could see it was a 5 dollar bill. Five dollars. I didn’t pause. I walked right passed it with the thought, “Whoever dropped it will be back looking for it.” That was always my policy. It seemed honest and fair. “The rightful owner will be thankful to me,” I consoled myself.

During college, a conversation came up about the moral dilemma in collecting abandoned money off the street. I expressed my adolescent view on the subject, and a friend responded, “The next person who sees it will take it. It might was well be you.” That made sense, and I have since dismissed the practice of leaving money on the ground for the rightful owner to find it. It might as well be me.

I looked at the bill this morning, and despite the cold and my tardiness to work, I bent down and snatched it up.

I didn’t think much of it. One dollar. Not much these days. But it was fun to tuck it into my billfold.


“Excuse me!” I heard a voice from a white sedan calling for me after I had passed it. It was late and I wanted to go home. The wind and cold was already making my nose drip as I turned around to see what the voice wanted. “I’m trying to find the metro station. Do you know where it is?” There was some confusion as to exactly which metro station he wanted, but in the end, the one he needed was only about 6 blocks away. While helping him, a homeless man approached us. He had some elaborate story that I didn’t catch because I was, after all, in the middle of trying to help the driver gain his bearings. I finished with the driver and turned to the homeless guy.

Not surprisingly, I have a policy with the homeless. I try to smile and nod while saying, “Sorry,” and walk away. They usually appreciate the warmth of the smile and the fact that I’ve even acknowledged their presence. If I say too much, they will pester me. I have been taken advantage of before while trying to help the homeless, and so I feel that the organizations equipped to help them could better use my support than if I try to help the individual myself.

But tonight was an exception. I didn’t hesitate as I said, “Sure. Here’s a dollar.”