Thursday, June 30, 2011

Some Random Thoughts on Marriage

I've long ago come to grips with the fact that I might have to face the rest of my mortal life alone and while that royally sucks, it doesn't feel completely impossible.  Ty Mansfield quotes a fellow gay Mormon thus:

...when I finally decided to give my life to the Lord, I accepted in my heart that I would probably never marry, and I was okay with that.  I also know, however, that if I was obedient to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel, I would have that chance at some time.  I just figured that for the time being I would focus on being a good uncle and brother and son.  I would take care of my parents when they got old.  I would be that quirky single guy in the family ward that everyone knew but just did not know much about.  That was me, and that was fine.  Then along came the woman who was to become my wife. (In Quiet Desperation, 211)

For this man, marriage became a possibility, but even before it was, he had submitted his life to the will of the Lord and was okay with it.  It's said often that happy marriages happen when happy single people come together, i.e., if you're miserable single, you're still going to be miserable married.  That goes for both heterosexuals and homosexuals, I think.  The trick to preparing for marriage, then, is finding happiness in whatever state you find yourself (even Wyoming wordplay lulz). 
 
Most recently for me, I've seen happiness come from cultivating friendships and building relationships of trust with others.  It has also come by keeping busy with things I love, including fixing cars, playing outside, and reading and writing.  I'm not going to be so unrealistic as to say that those things I do have replaced my desire for a boyfriend or wish to be attracted to girls, but they go a long way towards validating me as a person, if only to myself. 

I remember at one point, when I was in Texas for work, I worked a full 50 hours, but only for four days each week.  The days I had off were lonely and boring; most of my coworkers and roommates and I had different schedules, so I never really had company.  I hated the solitude.  It took a month of lonely misery for me to realize that I could spend those lonely days to do something for me, something that I wanted to do on my own.  
 
I went to movies that I knew no one else would want to see (see Easy A, avoid Charlie St. Cloud).  I went to the zoo.  I saw three IMAX documentaries in one day.  I tried new restaurants and ate all kinds of new and interesting food.  I wandered around IKEA and the mall, making wish lists of stuff I'd buy when I had the money.  I tried on a pair of $800 jeans (and I looked gooooooood).  I wandered around dealerships and tested tons of cars I'd always wanted to drive.  I even made a picnic for myself one day and went to the airport to watch airplanes take off and land.  I spent my days alone doing exactly what I wanted to do and having fun alone, so that I then could enjoy doing what everyone else wanted when they got home.

I think that preparing for marriage is the same; we're in this lonely position to fall in love with and learn about ourselves, so that when/if we're put in a position to fall for another person, we can do that without bitterness for having to sacrifice some of our wants for theirs.  And of course, we aspire to the ideal that someday, we'll find a person who is excited to go try Cuban food, see Charlie St. Cloud, and test drive Mustang convertibles with us.

I honestly have no idea what the future holds for me.  I wonder if it'll bring quiet mortal solitude, or a life full of good friends, or if I'll marry a girl, or if I'll live a gay lifestyle and somehow be okay with it.  I really don't know.  More often than not, that uncertainty fills me with worry and doubt about my future.  But even though I feel that way sometimes, I still know how to love and take care of myself, and that's the most essential foundation for any of those outcomes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gay Marriage

Pretty interesting point-counterpoint on gay marriage over at Modern Mormon Men today.  I agree and disagree with both authors on many points.  In any case, I feel like they're both pretty representative of the opinions of members of the Church, both those in favor of and those against gay marriage.

Have a read.

Pride?

A friend and I were texting each other last night while I was studying in the library. I had my earphones in so I didn't realize that my phone was jingling every few minutes for awhile, so naturally, every time it rang, I'd get dirty looks for not having my phone on silent.  After I realized this, I told my friend what a troublemaker I was being and he laughed a bit about how gays always just have to be the center of attention, to which I replied, "Loud and proud, baby.  Except when in a library full of [church school] students."

It got me thinking a little on the subject of pride.  I'm not ashamed of who I am at all; in fact, there are days when I genuinely like being gay.  But still, it's not easy to be out or open among church members.  Plus, I'm not particularly proud of gay culture as a whole.  The promiscuity and drug culture stereotypes we live with are stereotypes for a reason.  By no means are they rules for us, but even so, you can see how being out might be kind of difficult among members of the church, whether I acted on it or not.

Then, today, I found these.  I think I'm in love.  I'm pretty sure I could rock them with the belt buckle below, which I already own, and be doing my part to passively show the world that I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam.

Okay, it has nothing to do with pride.  It's the enjoi logo.  Still, it's a rainbow, right?

Like Amber has expressed, someday I think that the members of the church will be understanding enough for me to be able to be my whole self around them without fear of judgement or criticism.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sharing the Gospel Through Social Networking

According to the Mormon Facebooksphere, today is the day to spread the Gospel through social networking.  I'm not big on being part of the crowd; in fact, if you want me to not do something, tell me everyone else is doing it.  But, I do have some semblance of a testimony, so I'll share it today.

This song has been stirring my soul lately.  I'll just jot down a few of my favorite lyrics if you're too lazy or busy to listen to it:

How long can rolling waters remain impure?  What pow'r shall stay the hand of God?

So hold on thy way, for I shall be with thee, and mine angels shall encircle thee.  Doubt not what thou knowest.  Fear not man, for he cannot hurt thee.

And with everlasting mercy will I succor thee, and with healing will I take thee 'neath my wings, for the mountains shall depart and the hills shall be removed and the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea, but know my child, my kindness shall not depart from thee!

I've said it before, I think, but music is one of the best weapons in anyone's arsenal to get me to listen to a message, and this one speaks peace to my soul.  It tells me that no matter what I am called upon to bear, things will work out for my good.

(I'm feeling somewhat hypocritical, because last night I was talking on the phone with a friend about how obnoxious it can be when people nullify or trivialize their complaints or the complaints of others by saying things like, "Eventually it will work out," or "God is trying to teach me something."  But as annoying and condescending as those words are to hear in the moment, they're still true.)

The message of the song is easier for me to hear right now, as I'm still pretty happy about life.  But even when things have been bad, this song and its message have spoken profound peace to my erstwhile stricken heart.

Isaiah 54

Hung Up

I'd never admit it to your face, but I'm still hung up on you a little.  You don't give me heartache like you used to, but every time I dress particularly well and have my hair done particularly nicely, I think, "I wish you could see me today, because then you'd know how well I'm doing."  Which, of course, is ironic, because if I'm really doing that well, I wouldn't need to prove it to you.

I'm on the upswing and so far you haven't damaged me as much as I thought you would have, so I'm sorry for overreacting like I did.  Still, I wish I didn't think about you every time I filed my nails, ironed my t-shirts and jeans, and scrubbed behind my ears (stuff I know you notice and care about).  I suppose I'm grateful you've inspired me be trimmer, neater, and cleaner, at least.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Complete and Utterly Silly Happiness

Ugh, I have no idea why, but lately, I have just been feeling so damn happy!  My goodness, I didn't know I was capable of it!  I'm generally a happy enough guy, but for some reason, the last few days have been giddy, silly happiness.  I'm loving it.

Quick recap of the week:  New friends, lots of old movies, swimming in the canal behind my house, streaking through the sand dunes at midnight, shopping for cars that I can't afford but my dad can, getting some overtime pay at work, and a fair amount of eye candy (especially at the Audi dealer.  Rawr).

A quick funny story:

Yesterday, I was hanging out with Amber and Lucas.  They told me to come eat Lucas' birthday cake for them so they don't eat the whole thing and get all fat, and you do not have to ask me twice to have some free food, especially if it's ice cream cake.

So as we're sitting in their living room and talking through mouths full of ice cream and Reese's, we started talking about how all of the men in my family but me go by their middle names.  They asked what mine was and I said, "It's [common biblical name]," to which Amber replied, "Oh, I love that name.  I want to name a son that, but Lucas doesn't won't let me because every guy he knows with that name is gay."  Then, after a beat, her eyes lit up and she exclaimed, "Wait, you're gay!  It's true!"  She said it with the zeal and glee of a little kid.

Honestly, it took me a second to understand what she had said.  And after a beat and a quick wash of embarrassment, I started laughing like a hyena!  It was honestly one of the funniest and most surreal experiences I've had in a long, long time, and it tickled me just right.  I threw my hands up in the air and said, "Damn you, parents!  It's your fault I'm gay!"

Immediately after saying it, Amber and Lucas both looked a little embarrassed, but for no good reason.  It was fun being myself and laughing about it with them.  I don't even really do that with my family or other friends who know, so it was refreshing.  Amber texted me a few hours later, apologizing for her comment, but she didn't need to even a little bit.  I feel completely comfortable around them and I hope they feel the same way about me.

The best part about this happiness is that I'm not even dreading the moment the other shoe drops, like I usually do when I'm on an upswing.  I'm just gonna enjoy riding this wave as long as I can and thank everyone in my life for contributing to this awesome high I've been feeling.

Sidenote:  I think I'm finally falling in love.  After a year of pain and heart(breakdowns), my car and I are starting to understand each other.  I quote Buddy the Elf:  "I'm in love, I'm in love and I don't care who knows it!"  (Don't bother pointing out how sick I am, I already know.)

Wishing happiness on y'all as I go to bed tonight.  Keep the cheer!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

IQD: More Insights

I'm making some real progress with In Quiet Desperation.  I've got some other thoughts here, here, here, and here, if you're interested.  It's got some pretty amazing nuggets of wisdom in it that, in spite of my flippant and bipolar attitude towards same-gender attraction and homosexuality, seem to make sense in my brain and help me gain some perspective, at least in the moments directly after my reading.  I'd also like to add a caveat that I intend no offense to my gay readership.  We are all given over to making our own choices and the circumstances which lead others to make different choices than me are their business and I have no place in offering judgment.  These are my musings and my musings only; if they help others, great.

Chapter 7 of Ty Mansfield's section deals pretty exclusively with Romans 1, a part of scripture I admit I knew nothing about before reading IQD.  I read it before reading Ty's commentary and it kind of made me feel a little bit sheepish.  Verse 27 reads:

And likewise also the men... burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.

I had a few thoughts about this verse.  One, I can't help but ponder if those of us, gay and straight, who behave recklessly receive "in [ourselves] that recompense of [our] error which [is] meet," in the way of unwanted pregnancy, STIs, and emotional heartbreak.

Second, I hate the phrase, "that which is unseemly."  Unseemly means inappropriate or improper, but to me and to many of those like me, our desires don't seem improper or inappropriate.  I know that lots of bad things don't seem "unseemly" to lots of people, like Jackie Gleason's wifebeating or Hannibal Lecter's fashionable fleshsuits, but even so, I hate hate hate being denigrated for a desire that seems so natural.  Alright, moving on.

Verses 11 and 12 helped win me back a little bit:

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.  

Without being too irreverent, I long to see you too, Paul.  I'd like to know how I can be a little more like you, so that we can be comforted together by our faith.

I'm impressed by Paul's love for the faithful Romans; he wants to bear their burdens and share in the joy of the Gospel with those who share his faith.  That's the goal of the stakes of Zion; we are drawn together by our mutual faith and try to bear one another up, at least in theory.  It's also the goal of missionary work.  It's called serving a mission for a reason, because missionaries are intended to serve the people of the world, not to coldly and emotionlessly convert them.

If you read Romans 1 in its entirety (and you should), you'll find, as Ty did, that homosexuality is mentioned and alluded to in but a few verses amid a much larger framework of chastisement.  It is one flower in a garden of spiritual insights, and yet, Romans 1 has been the scriptural guidepost for homosexuality and little else.

As Ty eloquently points out, homosexuality is but a manifestation of the sin of pride, of placing your own desires ahead of the Lord's, and as such he hopes that "Romans 1 will cease to be a theological stick used to beat those who experience same-gender attraction and will instead become a way by which each child of God, regardless of what trials or attractions he or she experiences, may gain a deeper and broader perspective that will enhance their worship of our Father" (163).  He continues: "If the devotion we should be giving to God and others is misplaced, then we are committing idolatry, and this idolatry is the principle underlying Paul's discussion on the worship of God" (164).

Tonight, I had a good conversation (two of them, actually), with a few friends that illustrate this point well, I think.  In the first place, my friend said that one problem he has had with going to church is the constant emphasis placed on hard, fast rules and on the restraint of agency that those rules cause.  Anyone who has experienced a midnight curfew or a facial-hair infraction at a church school knows what I'm talking about.  He spoke of the admonishment parents receive to teach correct principles, then allow others to act on them, giving poor decisions a moment of reproof followed by an increase of love afterward.  Wouldn't it be nice if some of the church organizations followed that advice?  Perhaps those struggling members would feel that increase of love, rather than the constraint and reproof often plaguing members of the church.

The second conversation followed Paul's advice and Ty's explication a bit more closely.  My friends and I were talking about how backwards it is that the deeper we get into our doctrine, the more we see the mistakes we and others are making, rather than seeing the good they're doing.  In that respect, by learning more about the Gospel and without viewing it through the charitable crucible of Christlike love, we doom ourselves to censure and vilify others, a trait that Jesus Himself found deplorable.

Romans 1 can be used to crucify the queers of the world, or it can be used to purify our own thoughts and make our own actions more in line with the will of the Lord.  We can view it as a spiritual whip with which we lash sinners, but in doing so, we commit the sin that it warns against by ignoring our own spiritual weaknesses in favor of satisfying our "righteous" indignation at the sins of others.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Warplanes

I love airplanes.  My brother is a private pilot and he's taken me up a few times in the little Cessna he flies.  He's given me the stick, allowed me complete control of the plane, and let me call flight control using that unbelievably awesome jargon pilots use ("Dillingham Tower, this is November Hotel 1-6-5 Foxtrot, turning south at the point towards Kalaeloa." So cool.)

I also love seeing planes overhead.  There's a regional airport near my home that services a number of small private jets, local prop planes, and replica and vintage World War II fighters that usually end up flying low over my house.  I can't help but look up like a 5-year-old kid whenever I hear one pass over.

Today, I was in the waiting room of the plasma center in town (I'm poor, don't judge).  Saving Private Ryan was playing on the flat-screen.  I don't really care for that movie, but it always elicits a reaction of gratitude and humility from me whenever I watch it.  I'm so impressed and thankful for the men and women who have served and are serving our country.  Even though I'm a peace-freak, I understand the love of country and the hatred of oppression that has motivated people to join the armed forces.

Back to the airplanes, in one of the final scenes of the movie, the American soldiers are garrisoned in a small village, trying to fend off the incoming German armies and therefore save lives of other soldiers, or something to that effect.  I haven't seen the entirety in years.  In a traditionally monomythic fashion, the Americans look to be winning, then start getting worked over by the vastly-outnumbering German armies, until they receive assistance literally from above.  Several P-51 Mustangs come flying in and begin using anti-tank artillery to take out the offending enemy.  In a miracle of good timing, the ground troops are saved from their antagonists, just when they needed it most, by people who had a wider perspective and greater capacity than they did.

I like thinking of it like a metaphor.  I'd explain it, but I think it's pretty cut and dry.  What assistance from above have you experienced?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Grey-Grid Painting

A guest post over at Modern Mormon Men came across my Reader today.  The author, Sam Nelson, writes about his mother's hobby as an artist and some of the insights he gleans from the way she sees the world.

In this specific post, entitled "The Grey-Grid Painting," Sam describes a large canvas, divided into small squares arranged in a checkerboard.  Each of the squares is filled with differing shades of grey and black, with just a few of the hundreds filled with brilliant colors.

His mother interpreted the painting to represent the life of a mother, filled with cooking, cleaning, driving, and generally thankless work.  (I'd add the half-dozen or so "talent" shows my parents sat through as well).  These are all squares of grey: days that mothers merely muddle through. However, there are days of brilliant color when parents get to partake in their kids' accomplishments and success.  Like in real life, the numerous grey squares on the painting fade in the background when they have to compete for attention with the relatively few colored squares.

Sam agreed with his mother's interpretation, but also gave it a new spin when he served a mission.  Many of his days were filled with walking, thankless service, and a hundred doors knocked with no measurable success.  And then baptisms would happen, families would enter the temple, and lives would change.  Suddenly, those grey days become mere white noise competing in vain against a symphony of good experiences.

I think that being gay feels the same sometimes.  There are vacuous grey days, there are terrifying black days, and there are days that are full of color.  There are days when I'm blessed with good friends, days when I'm blessed with a fabulous car to drive around in, days when my mom listens with a sympathetic ear and saves the advice for another day, and so on.  There are even days when being gay is fun, especially when the hot guy in the ward pulls up to church on his motorcycle (As my straight brother once said, if you don't look once, you're not a man. If you look more than once, you're not a missionary).  And there are days when we, as wannabe-faithful LDS gays, stand together and support each other in the face of the conflict that rages within us.

Those days of color are what make life worthwhile.  Amid all the relationship drama, the regret that follows sin, and the loneliness and pain of the trial, there are brilliant days of blue, green, red, purple, ochre, peach, amber, teal, copper, gold, silver, robins-egg, slate, aubergine, sangria, fandango, iris, turquoise, seafoam, and jade.  Grey just can't compete.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Canaries with Grey on Their Wings

Yesterday at church, Bishop G. gave a talk in Sacrament meeting about us students in the ward.  He centered his awesome talk about our potential to become amazing mortals and celestial immortals.  I liked a story he shared that was originally told by President Monson.  It can be found here.

To sum up the object lesson, a childless widow in his ward dies and she bequeaths her pet canaries to her friends.  Two are of a flawless yellow, and one is yellow, but marred with grey wings.  As you'd expect from an object lesson, the uglier fellow is the better singer, proving, yet again, that external appearance can bely true beauty.

I appreciate that message and take it very seriously, for a few reasons.  One, I am aware of how shallow I am.  In general, you've got to be pretty good looking for me to be attracted to you.  I hope I draw the line there in that I'll still respect you and appreciate your positive qualities, no matter what you look like, but still, I want to become less concerned with physical appearance.

Two, it humbles me a little as well.  I'm not the most attractive person in the world, but I'm a good lookin' fella with a few great physical characteristics.  I think that sometimes I try too hard to dress well and be well-groomed, etc.  I think when I do that, my focus is placed on magnifying my appearance, rather than improving my negative qualities and sharing my positive qualities.

One of my favorite lines in the talk reads thus:

The world is filled with yellow canaries with grey on their wings.  The pity is that so precious few of them have learned to sing.  Some are young people who don't know who they are, what they can be, or even want to be; all they want is to be somebody.  Others are stooped with age, burdened with care, or filled with doubt- living lives far below the level of their capabilities.

Without being too self-deprecating, I wonder how many times I've given someone a burden of care or filled them with doubt.  The thought was enough to give me pause and make me evaluate some of the relationships in my life.  Have I given someone reason to doubt their ability to sing, just because they had grey wings?  I certainly hope not.

A pop-culture reference that falls to mind is Susan Boyle.  In her initial TV appearance, audience members and judges alike scoffed at her when she expressed her desire to be a professional singer.  Perhaps it was her homely appearance, her somewhat buxom demeanor, or her scatterbrained responses to the judges' questions, but people around her visibly sneered.  Right up until she opened her mouth with the first notes of her song.  

Countless scholastic papers and informal editorials have been written about the nature of those around her who saw no beauty in her and therefore valued her less until she started singing.  And still more has been said of her newfound value to society because she can sing, which begs the question: Did she not mean something before we knew of her abilities and talents?  Is she not more than the sum of her homeliness and talent?

Another line from President Monson's story, given after expounding the Savior's choice in apostles and the nature of his disciples:

The Redeemer chose imperfect people to teach the way to perfection.  He did so then.  He does so now--even yellow canaries with grey on their wings.  He calls you and me to serve him here below.  Our commitment must be total.  And in our struggle, should we stumble, let us plead, "Lead us, O lead us, great molder of men, out of darkness to strive once again."

Within each of us is the potential for perfection.  Paul was an ardent persecutor of Christ's church initially, and then became one of the most oft-quoted Christian apostles and theologians of all time.  Peter and Andrew were fishermen, Simon was a pundit, and Matthew was a tax man.  None of these men were of any desirable social status and had little positive influence on the lives of others, and yet they were chosen by Christ himself to be the messengers of peace and bearers of the truth.  Even Christ himself was of little natural beauty that we should desire (see Isaiah 53:2).

I suppose I don't have much left to say.  Just some thoughts I've been chewing on for the last day or so.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

To the Fathers in My Life

My family takes every holiday seriously.  Christmas, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, Flag Day, you name it we do it.

Father's Day is no exception.  While my dad often could be serving at church all day each Sunday, there was still a whole lotta celebration in our house when he got home.  I'm going to take the time to share some schmaltzy memories I have of my dad.

One of the earliest comes from when I was about three or four.  Our old house was a split-level, and each day before he left for work, my dad would catch me and my brother as we jumped off the stairs.  We called 'em, "mumps."  We each got two or three mumps before Dad had to go to work.  (Sidenote: My brother and I tried recreating mumps a few months ago.  My dad was not amused.)

I remember one day fairly vividly.  I think it was Father's Day, and my dad was out lying in the hammock, as all dads should do on Father's Day.  I remember toddling my 5-year-old self up to him and climbing in with him and we fell asleep together in the hammock.  Cue the Full House "awwwww" track.

One year, we took an exodus to his mother's hometown.  She died 20 years previous, but we wanted to go to her family's reunion, so we loaded up the Taurus wagon (a downright graceful car in toreador red) and drove the 700 miles or so to her hometown in Arizona. He had a bit of a leadfoot on that trip, but we weren't in a hurry.  I think he was just trying to show off to his son.  I don't remember ever being passed by another car once and we hit 100 mph on more than one occasion.  Cool dad, huh?  We shared a campsite at the breathtaking Canyon de Chelly which, while not as large as the Grand Canyon, is much prettier and more interesting.  We hit up Four Corners and took a detour through Santa Fe, which we happened to pass through during their biggest festival of the year.  Street vendors schilled Navajo rugs, turquoise jewelry, dreamcatchers, and ice-cold agua fresca, a drink my dad enjoyed years ago on his mission to Mexico.

He has also educated me about cars and motorcycles, taught me how to bleed my brakes (employed that skill only yesterday) and fix a toilet, showed me the proper way to catch a baseball and shoot a basketball, and even tried to learn the rules when I started playing soccer.  He coached my baseball team one year and was my Scoutmaster for two years.  He taught me how to make a shelter from a plastic garbage bag, as we would both have to do when we underwent the Order of the Arrow Ordeal.

We have our disagreements, but he's always respectful and he's only stern when he has to be.  He tells dumb jokes, he has awful taste in cars, and he dresses like, well, a dad, but I owe much of who I am to him and him alone.  I wouldn't change a thing.

His dad is another great man.  Nearly 90 years old and he still runs three miles a day.  His pace is slow, but goshdarnit, he does it.  More than I can say.  I think, more than anything, I inherit his love of Wendy's.  After every Priesthood session of General Conference, he would take me, my dad, my brothers, and whatever other men there were in our circle to Wendy's and buy us a Frosty, some fries, and maybe a few boxes of nuggets to share.  It's a tradition my dad continues when we're not with Grandpa for Conference.

I learned last month that he and my step-grandma (only a literal term -- for all intents and purposes, she's my grandma) go to Wendy's and split a Frosty and nuggets every day, sometimes twice a day.  It's to the point that the workers will see him park his Cadillac and start his order without him even being in the restaurant.  He's on first-name basis with each of them, something that would be horrifying if it wasn't so goshdarn cute.  They all love him almost as much as we do, proving that to know him is to love him.

This is also my first Father's Day without my maternal grandpa.  His health had failed him 5 years ago, but I was blessed to have him around until February of this year.  He had a bashful smile and rarely spoke more than five words at a time, but if you told a joke that tickled him just right, he'd guffaw till the timbers shook.  He also knew the value of play and insisted that his dessert be served first, so he didn't run out of room by the end of the meal.

To him I owe a great deal of my sense of right and wrong.  He made mistakes like all of us do, but he always took the time to make them right.  He was often the first one to apologize after an argument, but those rarely happened because he was easy to like.

Last Father's Day, his health was awful.  He was tired and lethargic, but still consented to talk to me on the phone when I called.  He talked my ear off!  In all my life, I've never seen my grandpa give more than a few words to answer a question, but last year, he told me about his day with the detail of a five-year-old.  My grandma heard and told my mom how strange it was; I think it was a gift to me from him and from heaven, knowing that he didn't have another Father's Day in him.

So today, in his honor, I wore the tie that I picked out from his collection after he died.  All of the grandsons and many of the granddaughters picked out his ties to wear to the funeral and today, I wore his.  First time since Conference I've worn it and it made me smile to look down at it today and think of all the great fathers I've got in my life.

Glory in Infirmities?

1 Corinthians 12:9-10 reads thus:

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

With apologies to Paul, I can't help but doubt if he wasn't writing the ideal to which he aspired rather than the reality in which he lived.  I don't mean to be negative or cynical, but I have a hard time being grateful for my infirmities.  And it's not because I don't have a sense of perspective; I have been blessed to see how some of my weaknesses and the lessons I've learned from them have helped me, helped others, and given me more tolerance and love for people in similar and other situations.  

But I have a hard time saying that I delight in my weakness, and I have a hard time believing others when  they say it as well.  I can't really understand, possibly due to my narrow-mindedness, how someone could live a "life of quiet desperation," where they must either choose faithful celibacy or emotional fulfillment, and then offer gratitude for it.  It reminds me of the old schtick where the drill sergeant smacks his cadet upside the head and the cadet yells, "THANK YOU SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER!"  Doesn't really jive with me.

There are those days where I'm in the throes of it all, constantly tempted to give in to the advances of someone else or the beckoning of pornography, or even the less external but still painful questioning of what I'm doing with my life and how I'm going to live, knowing I'll have to give up one thing I love for the other. And during those days, I don't really go around thinking, "I'm pleased I'm so miserable today, because it means tomorrow I'll have learned something."  Call it laziness, but I'd rather just be happy and dumb.

I was reading through one of my old journals today and I found something dated from January of this year.  It catalogued how envious I was of people who didn't have this internal battle; either they were gay and didn't know of the Gospel or were straight and had testimonies.  I'd love to be either one of those, instead of the most difficult mixture of them both.  I'm grateful for the knowledge and testimony I have, but it sure complicates things sometimes.

I know it's not always so black-and-white.  People have found an acceptable balance between the two sides; I suppose it's those people I'm most envious of.  I'm struggling to find that acceptable balance.  Thus far, no combination of the two I've tried has left me satisfied.  

It's said that if we were two-dimensional people, we would see all things in two flat dimensions, even the things that are three-dimensional.  I reckon that's about how I see myself.  Perhaps Paul was a multifaceted person who could feel delight in his trials, while I, a person consisting of only homosexuality and spirituality, am incapable of seeing that third dimension of gratitude that can tie the two together peacefully.  

And I also reckon that the point of this existence is to find access to that third measurement that makes life worth living, even in the face of despair and rebuking.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I'm a pro...

... at dating.

I'm just saying, I'm really very good at it.  I'm good at being a gentleman, at picking up the tab, at finding cheap activities that don't scream, "I'm cheap," at finding unique date ideas, at asking probing, yet not terribly personal questions, at turning off my cell phone so I can focus on listening, at making sure my breath and body smell fresh and pleasant, at showing up just a few minutes late so the other party has enough time to get ready, at being prepared with extra jackets in case the night is colder than we expected, at driving safely and obeying all traffic laws, at cleaning out the car and making it as presentable as its 200,000-mile-old paint and carpet will allow, at being charming with roommates and friends, at smiling and acting politely towards clerks and waitresses, at opening doors, at saying, "Pardon me for just a moment," instead of "I have to pee," at giving sincere and genuine compliments, at remembering details from our last encounter, and even at getting my date home in time for bed because tomorrow will be an early, busy day.  In fact, the only thing I'm not terribly good at is keeping food on my plate instead of on my shirt.

Seriously, you should be so fortunate to date me :)

Just kidding, but not really.  I am a great date.  Tonight was just another in a long line of good first dates I've had.  Like most of the others, it's probably not going to turn into a relationship of any sort, but I still had a great time.

Like I said last week, I feel something of a drive to go on more dates lately.  I'm not really trying to straighten myself out or anything, and I know that merely dating and pretending to be straight isn't going to make it so.  But I enjoy meeting new people and making those acquaintances "dates" is a great way to make a girl feel good about herself.  It's fun to be a gentleman and get all handsome and dashing and then open doors all night long and make small talk and turn a stranger into a friend.

I met tonight's date in my history class.  She sits near me and has a pretty radiant smile, so she's hard to miss.  I saw her one week singing in the choir at campus devotional and complimented their performance the next day, and we started talking with each other before class and choosing each other as our partner whenever we broke off for group work.  We've been talking for about three weeks now and this week I decided I wanted to take her out.  She came in late on Tuesday, so I couldn't ask her before class, and she bolted right out, so I missed her after class, but Thursday, we had some good contact.  After she pointed out a fluff of dandruff in my hair (possibly the one thing I'd change about myself physically), I almost chickened out, but I recovered from the humiliation enough by the end of class to walk with her as we left.  She was headed in the opposite direction to a class, but all I had were some errands, so I pretended I was headed her way as well, haha.  I walked a half-mile out of my way to chat with her and bring up her weekend plans casually before asking her out.  Some straight men don't even show that kind of dedication.

Tonight, we had a picnic of homemade lasagna, which we ate on the dock of the lake (I like watching the sailboats).  The conversation was easy and light, just like I like it on a first date.  Like last week's girl, she too kept glancing back at my car and admiring its lines (I could almost love someone, just for that).  After dinner, we went to an outdoor movie, My Fair Lady, and snuggled under a mountain of blankets.  (Can I say something that might enrage the entire world?  I don't really care for My Fair Lady.)  And after the movie, which she loved, we went to the ice cream parlor and split a strawberry milkshake, 1950s-style.  It was a lovely, innocent, idyllic first date with a charming young lady, and I look forward to seeing her outside of class more.  I don't hear wedding bells, nor do I expect them to come, but that doesn't keep me from having a good time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Linguistic Genius of Babies- TED Talks

Nerd warning:  I emphasized in linguistics at my last college.  It fascinates me.  It may not fascinate you.

The TED Talks are something that any well-informed citizen of the world should take advantage of.  These talks cover a variety of topics, from lectures on the correct way to tie your shoes (I can bear testimony of the truthfulness of that presentation) to performances of world-champion whistlers.

This morning, my roommate and I were listening to one as we got ready for the day.  Given by Patricia Kuhl, The Linguistic Genius of Babies discusses the factors and influences that allow children to rapidly learn languages, even complex ones like Finnish and Mandarin, at extremely young ages, and how those factors fall into sharp decline after age 7, and by age 17, those skills are nearly nonexistent (I know a few missionaries who might argue that point a little, but the science is there and MTCers are outliers).

Dr. Kuhl also brings up a most compelling point.  Prior to their first birthdays, children are "citizens of the world," as she says, but soon thereafter, they become "language-bound listeners" like you and me.  The distinction is this: young babies respond equally to all different sounds and tones, including those of foreign languages, while older children and adults cease to categorize foreign language around them.  Dr. Kuhl supports this theory with some research wherein children are rewarded for reacting to sounds, some of which come from the native language and some of which come from the foreign language.  Between the ages of 6 and 8 months, children from many different cultures responded at the same rate to both native and foreign languages.  However, when the same test was repeated two months later, the frequency of the children's reactions to foreign languages dropped precipitously.

Dr. Kuhl quantifies this phenomenon further by explaining that babies initially spend their waking hours categorizing sounds and tones of everything they hear, but after that breaking point, they begin reacting and thinking less of foreign sounds.  One can infer a point here: babies learn to react less to foreign sounds because those reactions don't yield results.  An American baby, living in Japan with American parents, will pay less heed to the Japanese sounds around her than she will to the American sounds that yield food, play, and love from her parents.  One could call it nationalism in its simplest and most innocent form.

A few other interesting points: babies reacted far more strongly when an actual person was doing the speaking.  When babies were tested using audio tracks and even videos of people talking, their brains were much more passive.  In this way, we can see how social and interpersonal language is for a child.  And children who come from two-language households develop two separate categorization systems and can switch between the two seamlessly and effortlessly.  I remember Toby doing that once when he got angry with another driver; his speech instantly switched from his normal flawless English to his unusual, yet flawless Spanish without missing a beat.  Pretty amazing stuff.

The "so-what" of Dr. Kuhl's discussion was that through more extensive research of these phenomena, we might be able to begin to unlock some of the secrets of childrens' native open-mindedness and apply them to adults or people with learning or mental disabilities.  For me, a student struggling through a difficult Spanish class, the mind scintillates at the possibility of becoming a native learner again...

Honestly, what struck me most about watching Dr. Kuhl's presentation was the miracle that is the human brain.  Tiny children, fresh from the womb, begin categorizing and hardwiring their brains for life and they do so with remarkable accuracy.  And, as is the case with native speakers of two or more languages, their learning "bandwidth" is unlimited.  In that example, both languages develop somewhat independent of each other, yet at the same pace and with the same success as a learner of one language.  That organ truly is a remarkable thing, and yet, for seemingly little reason at all, it ceases to acquire knowledge at the original, blistering rate after the first birthday.  That I could acquire that mental pace again!

I'll be the first to admit that I don't have a "passion for learning," but even so, talks like these give me nerdy, nerdy goosebumps when I think about the power of the brain and the capabilities of modern science to unlock its secrets.

Cars of the Moment- V

I like the cars that aren't the obvious choice, the well-kept secrets of the automotive world.  For example,  I love the 2011 Saab 9-5.  I think it's an incredibly attractive, well-designed car that not only has the stuff to be a competitive performer, but it also has a sense of history and character that is missing in many new cars. Unlike some luxury makers (cough BMW cough), Saab isn't trying to reinvent itself anymore.  It is focusing its efforts on what has made it the quirky-sexy carmaker it is:  turbocharging, cockpit-inspired interiors, and unusual, hatchback-esque styling.


Another fringe carmaker I'm in love with is Jaguar.  Again, they are a small, left-field choice in the luxury world, but if you haven't been paying attention, they have been building some of the sexiest vehicles in the world for the last few years.  Autoblog.com states it well: "The brand is only alive today because it has sold the automotive equivalent of sex."  The company's tagline, "This is the new Jaguar," resonates with me.  The company is casting off delusions of being a heavyweight fighter like Mercedes-Benz and instead aiming for a more individualistic persona.  I'm a total sucker for their new ad campaign as well.  This spot from a few years ago has me caught hook, line, and sinker.


I've already professed my love for the brash, thoroughly American Cadillac CTS-V, but what of Cadillac's counterpart, Lincoln?  I must admit, Lincoln seems to play American Lexus while Cadillac chases the BMWs and Audis of the world, but somehow, I love Lincolns so much more than their sterile Japanese counterparts.  Again, Lincoln is capitalizing on a history of luxury and style with their cars, bedazzling them with chrome accents and a baleen-whale grille inspired by the 1939 Continental.  In that regard, Lincoln already has a leg up on Lexus, as the luxury arm of Toyota Motor Co. has only been around since 1989.  And in spite of each Lincoln's basic bones being the same as that of a more pedestrian Ford variant, the luxury brand seems to have imbued their cars with enough character to distinguish them from their lesser brethren.  The same cannot be said of many Lexus models.
The 1941 Continental, above, and the 2009 MKZ, below.  

While I can't honestly and definitively say that a Lincoln would be my first choice in a luxury car, I'd definitely recommend one to my father or less aggressive friends as an alternative to a Lexus or Mercedes-Benz.  And I can unequivocally state that, at least without driving one, I'd much rather have a Jaguar, Cadillac or Saab over their Teutonic counterparts.

Buying a Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, or BMW is the easy, obvious choice.  Just made your first half-million?  Better get down to the Mercedes dealer to pick up that E550 like the one your neighbors just bought.  Planning on retiring to Arizona?  Go on, go buy yourself a new Lexus RX350.  Still trying to prove something about yourself?  There's a BMW M3 with your name all over it.  Like I said, easy.

But if, like me, you like to do things the hard way, I can point you to one of a few intriguing options...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Car of the Moment-IV

With exception to perhaps the Ferrari Testarossa or F40, the Lamborghini Countach is the most bonkers, otherworldly thing to emerge from Italy since da Vinci's boat shoes and "aerial screw."  All you need to do to understand the essence of the Lamborghini Countach is to close your eyes and let its name slowly trip off your tongue.  Try it.  The word "Countach" (KOUN tahsh) is a Piedmontese exclamation one might utter after seeing a beautiful person enter a room; rumor has it, Nuccio Bertone gasped the word when he saw the design done by his student, Marcello Gandini.

Ah, countach!
The Countach was a revelation when it was released waaaay back in 1974.  Its angular styling was almost completely unheard of in the early 70s and the wedge-shaped appearance serves as an inspiration for nearly every other supercar since then.  Even the pedestrian Dodge Intrepid of 1994 owes a great deal to the space-efficient cab forward design that allowed the Lambo to still pack a huge V12 engine and a spacious-enough passenger cabin in a short footprint.

The cars suffered from hard, stiff brakes and wooly steering, problems that pervaded the series until it was discontinued in 1990.  The low, wide design was awful for outward visibility.  It's said that Valentino Balboni, Lamborghini's famed test driver and consultant, chose to open the vertical, scissor doors and perch his butt on the wide doorjamb to see behind the car whenever he reversed, instead of relying on the mail-slot rear window.  It was impractical, inefficient, unreliable, twitchy, and dangerous at speed, but Ah, countach!

The car pictured above and below is probably my favorite model in the Countach's germination.  This particular version is the LP500S, a model distinct from the LP400 and 400S by its larger V12 engine and the LP500 by improved suspension and engine tuning to reduce the tendency of the car to snap into a spin whenever the driver lifted his foot off the throttle midcorner.  It is, in my opinion, the best balance of the high performance of the 25th Anniversary Edition and the relatively understated grace of the earlier LP400 and 400S.  It still has that Lamborghini wing and those hefty, chunky wheels and tires, but it's free of the oh-so-80s white-on-white color scheme and grated frippery adorning the 25AE.


I will be the first to admit that Lamborghinis are vulgar, ostentatious vehicles, most of them destined for the garages of A-list pornographers and the cribz of NBA stars.  They're cars for people who wear chunky white sunglasses at night, cars for people who hear "Diesel" and think "fashion," not "fuel."  They're tossers' cars: loud, garish, and full of bravado.  

But, and I might just be trying to enable my addiction to them, I think the Countach has graduated from that frat house and into the rarified realm of the truly great cars.  If you're a car guy over 18 and under 35, odds are, you got your start by seeing a poster of a white Countach hanging in the local frame shop your mom dragged you to.  You owe your love of cars to this doorstop.  And that, as I see it, makes it a true classic.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Date Night

Last night was date night, baby!  My roommate proposed the idea to me a week ago that I join him and several of his friends on a big group date. We bandied around a lot of ideas: camping, having a bonfire, going to the lake for the evening, making home movies, etc.  Eventually we decided to take our dates on individual dinners, then meet up for an evening of hide-and-go-scare in the music building on campus.

My date and I met in the audience of campus devotional a few days ago, randomly seated together by some overzealous ushers who were eager to get us in our seats on time.  We had the opportunity to exchange pleasantries before devotional began and she made some insightful remarks as it progressed.  She was cute in that neat-and-comely kind of way, and I have been feeling guilty lately for being such a negative bump on a log in regard to the fairer sex, so I decided to ask her out.  It was kind of like in  movie: she got up with a "nice to meet you" and lingered above me for a minute before walking past me and out towards the aisle.  I started to say her name, then hesitated, and by this time she was up the stairs and too far to yell after.  I gave chase, finally catching up to her and asking her if she'd like to have dinner with me that night.  She politely replied that she had work, but here's my number and could you call me later that week?

So when my roommate invited me to join his group, I figured this would be an ideal opportunity to take her out in a nice, low-pressure setting.

I spent the day washing my car and cleaning and vacuuming the interior, ironing a cool shirt, and generally spending way too much time and trying way too hard to preen myself and look good (even when I'm acting straight, I still can't help to throw in a little gay), and finally the hour came and I picked her up.  She remarked on how she liked my car, an immediate plus-point in her favor.  We discussed a couple dinner options and chose a restaurant in town that neither of us had tried.  Our conversation was labored and a little bit sleepy, but gradually the discussion became more natural.  One thing that helped was my harsh termination of a gigantic rabbit that roosted on the highway (and left a crack in my bumper and fog lights, thank you kindly), because it gave her something to laugh at for a minute or two.  Oy.

Apparently, our conversation was so fatigued because she had gotten up at 4 that morning to go jogging, a full 22 miles.  NBD.  And her healthy habits didn't stop there.  We got to the restaurant where she ordered a salad-and-soup combo and water.  For me?  Bring on the steak and chocolate milkshake!  She proved her humanity however by ordering pie for dessert.  Thank goodness, because a girl who doesn't like pie is no girl for me.

We drove back to campus to meet our group and had a fun game of couples hide-and-go-scare, but I could tell that my date was getting tired.  It was 10:30 and she hadn't slept in 17 hours, and had run a near-marathon as well.  Still, she was game for getting ice cream, and I appreciated the effort she made to make the date fun.  After ice cream, she asked, very politely and with much apology, for a ride home so she could wake up for church in the morning, a request to which I was a little disappointed to oblige, but I understand completely why she asked.

She is a nice girl.  I'm interested to see if she's more talkative when she isn't exhausted and sore, but our date was probably too labored for anything to really be there.  I guess I shouldn't judge too immediately, and I'll probably make an effort to see her again, but I'm sure it'll probably be just as polite acquaintances.  There was no spark.

I'm not surprised, though.  It's a rare, rare girl that catches my attention.  I asked her out, because I haven't "tried on" too many people at my school and I decided that I should make more of an effort to put myself out there.  I'm too settled in a routine, too stuck in a rut, to really find new friends and meet new people.  In one of my ideal outcomes, I am a guy happily married to a girl, and I want to give myself opportunity for that to happen, and so it is that I date, hoping to find another girl that intrigues and attracts me enough.  I'm a solid Kinsey-5, but there's still a chance, right?

Plus, I've never tried to generate a relationship out of thin air before.  Every date I've been on has been with a girl I knew already, so I wanted to see what it would be like to date a stranger.  It's nothing I've ever done and I wanted to see if I could do it.

(Boy, it's a good thing I don't have that attitude in reference to illegal drugs or stealing cars or something.)

Outed Again....

As I suspected, my friend Kurt found out through one of our old coworkers who used to be with Toby.  The way I understand it is, my coworker had gotten mad at Toby after he said that he'd told me about their relationship (or whatever it was), and so Toby said something like, "It's okay though, because GMP is gay too."  Funny consolation prize, that.  And then my coworker had mentioned it to Kurt briefly, perhaps before realizing what he'd said.  I dunno.  Whatever the case, I've already spoken with them both about keeping quiet and they responded positively.

I called Toby Friday morning to confront him about it.  I asked him what made him feel like it was okay to tell the coworker that I was gay, and what made him feel like it was justified in telling me about my coworker.  I told him that I repeatedly imposed him not to tell people about me, a request I know he disobeyed twice and I suspect perhaps more than that.  He said that it just came up.  I reject that.  I refuse to accept that, and I told him so.  His sleepy response?  "Could we talk about this later?"

Well, no, Toby, we can't talk about this later.  I am not going to bring it up ever again.  I am going to remove you completely from my life.  I am going to extract myself from our circle of friends and the extracurricular activities we participate in.  Before, I passively removed myself from your sphere of influence; now I intend never to see you again.

Contrary to how it sounds, I'm not angry.  I was, but I'm not anymore.  I'd love to hear some kind of apology from Toby, but they're always fraught with excuses:  "I'm sorry, but...."  I'm giving up hope that I ever will get a straight response from him and I'm moving on to greener pastures and more loyal friends.  I probably would have elected to keep my coworker and Kurt out of my circle, but as before, they're respectful and non-judgmental people, so I'll be fine.  And I'll be lucky to have them in my circle of support as well.  These things generally have a tendency of working themselves out anyway.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Flamenco

It is built with graceful lines and a sense of control over its body.  With every turn of the steering wheel, every prod of the accelerator, every change of the gears, it obeys commands like a graceful, passionate ballerina following the beat of the music.

It starts, with that distinctive twang.  The door closes like castanets that crash together as musician and dancer become one.  The musician's anger, his passion, direct the dancer through her routine, gracefully drifting from corner to corner.  She moves with controlled, yet forceful √©lan, tires and brakes and shocks and steering knuckles exchanging glide for grip every other centimeter.  Cascades of red mud, dust, and gravel flow from behind her, like so much dress skirting.  At times her feet slide across the stage, and at times her heavy, black shoes rap upon its uneven surface, crashing onto it with an impact that astounds and surprises all who witness, including the musician.

His fingers caress the strings of his guitar, urging the dancer on, and she responds in kind.  Her pace quickens as his passion plucks out a still-faster tune.  Her feet slip and catch calculatedly, her body turning more drastically, her red-mud skirt surging from behind her.  His fingers play a pizzicato on his guitar, sweat and stress flowing from his body into the music, as she follows, ever so diligently and with still more gusto.  At last, with his hands flying up and down and over the guitar, she revs and spins and twists and rotates and gyrates and swivels and pivots on her feet, again gracefully alternating between freewheel and tread on the dirt, until in an excruciating climax, both dancer and musician collapse in fiery zenith.

She stands, knees quivering.  He takes her by the hand, his fingers raw and blistered, and leads her home.

The Fast and the Furious

I've been corresponding with Kurt, a friend of mine, for awhile now.  He was one of my co-workers and roommates when I lived in the South and we got to be pretty good friends before he moved back to native England.  He and I had some pretty funny conversations, including one where we and another of our roommates discussed the hot-list of Hollywood starlets for about three hours (another roommate remarked, "Well, at least I know you're not gay."  Ha).

Anyway, a few months ago, Kurt and I were chatting via Facebook and I kind of expressed some of my concerns about going to a Church school where there's very little tolerance for liberalism of any kind.  Later that night, he sent me a message, telling me that he was gay.  He said that he felt so much pressure to be good from members of the Church to live a good straight life, but then realized that he was living that life for the wrong reasons and so decided to initiate a relationship with another man.  This all happened within a few days of Toby and I coming out to each other, so I was really feeling a lot of gay influence around me.  It wasn't a bad experience, it was just a side of the world I'd never really been privy to.  All of a sudden, Toby, Kurt, and one other of my friends came out to me, all in the course of about a week, and it was surprising, confusing, and a little refreshing.

I contemplated telling Kurt that I too felt the same way sometimes, but decided that I should just be supportive and not make the conversation about me.  Besides, Toby's friendship was already starting to turn toxic and I didn't want to risk losing Kurt, too.  Instead, I told Kurt that even though I felt like he was choosing a path that might not be the best, I was thrilled that he was so happy with his newfound fulfilling relationship, and I am.  Sometimes I even feel a little jealous (although his boyfriend is sooooo not my type).  I agree too that he shouldn't "be" straight because of the pressure of his peers, but I also wonder if he should seek a different perspective, a different reason to resist.  Different strokes for different folks, though.  I'm not in his shoes and I don't know all the reasons he chose to find happiness through a gay lifestyle, so I am in no place to judge.  I'm happy he's happy.

Tonight, he wrote me a message that he'd heard through someone else that I was gay.  He said that if it was true, he was supportive and knew how I felt, and that if it wasn't true, he'd drop the subject.  I have no idea how to respond.  First off, I'm 99% sure where the rumor came from; one of our other friends at work dated Toby for a few months and I know they still talk.  So I'm fairly almost completely certain that Toby has been telling people about me.  I already know he told one person after I asked him to keep it in confidence, so what should stop him from telling someone else?

I have no proof of this.  I still haven't responded to Kurt so I don't know where he got his information.  I don't want to talk to Toby about it until I know a little more, lest I sound like a paranoid, jealous psycho. But still, I was so sure that Toby had told people about me and it just made me angrier and angrier.

The most poetically just part of the night is that right now, we're learning about the culture of Spain in my Spanish class and were given the assignment to listen to flamenco music, so accompanying my rage was the passionate sound of guitar and castanet, ha.

I tried to focus on my schoolwork.  I got up and splashed cold water in my face, uttering a low, "f--- you" to the universe before realizing I wasn't alone in the BYU restroom (oops).  I ran a lap around the library, trying to calm down a little.  And then I got in my car and went for a drive.  The old girl and I dawdled around town for awhile before steering towards the mountains, the most calming music I could find playing on the radio.  I just got home a few minutes ago.  I'm still confused and I have no idea if I should care about how Kurt found out and if I should be honest with him or if I should keep my privacy a little or if I care if Toby has been telling people, etc.  The anger has passed and now I think it's just time for sleep; hopefully perspective comes in the morning.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Friends in the Face of It

Today, I passed by my friend Lucas on the way home from school.  He greeted me with a friendly hello, playfully wrapped one of his hands around my puny arm and said, "Whoooooa, check out these guns!"  I laughed him off and we chatted for a minute or two before we continued on our ways.  As we departed, he turned and asked if I wanted to grab lunch on Wednesday, as we often do.  I replied that I would and walked away.

A simple, mundane daily activity.

I was thinking about our interchange a few minutes prior as I continued my long walk home (literally uphill both ways and often in three-foot deep snow if it's winter).  I chuckled again as I thought about our lighthearted, jocular conversation.  And then, for some reason, a thought popped into my head:  This Lucas is the one who knows I'm gay.  He's married to my friend Amber and I inadvertently outed myself to them both, as you may recall, through this blog.  He knows many of my secrets and a whole damn lot about my weaknesses.  He even knows about a lot of the not-gay stuff, like my period of inactivity in high school and my erstwhile cigarette fixation that I now combat by chewing toothpicks.  He knows a lot about me.  And yet, he's still willing to be my friend, and not even one of those maudlin, vaguely insincere, "I'm-here-for-you-if-you-ever-need-me" friends.  He's a real buddy.  He'll still talk pizza and sports and cars with me.  He's still willing to discuss the plan of action we'd take in case of a zombie apocalypse.  He is still willing to make jokes about my "guns."  (Something I've noticed, even the most secure straight men don't like to joke with gays about their attractiveness, even if it's as funny and jokey and silly as it was.)

Thoughts like these kept flooding my mind.  I started to become overwhelmed by the gratitude I had that even after finding out something so monumental about me, my good friends still accepted and loved me, and showed that love by not only being "there for me" but also by being there with me, making plans to spend time with me and joking with me in the moment.  Little tears began rolling down my face as I walked and I just kept thinking how lucky I am to have friends who treat me the same after finding out, especially since I didn't exactly choose for them to.  Of all the friends that could have figured it out, the ones who did were the ones who still kept me around.

Often, it seems like once someone finds out about a hardship his friend is facing, he instantly becomes either repulsed or turns into a machine of pity and sympathy.  I know I do it.  When a friend of mine was in a major car accident and was left paralyzed from the waist down, I would sit with her to be her listening ear, when what she wanted was a joking mouth and a sense of humor.  I was supposed to be her buddy, not her disability counselor.

I'm so grateful to have friends (and family) that understand that principle and will still laugh and joke and make fun of me, and yet still have the sense to know when to offer advice, perspective, and a listening ear.  It inspires me to do the same.

And Lucas, if you read this, sorry if it comes off like a love letter.  Think of it as a gratitude-gram instead (alliteration FTW).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Car of the Moment-III

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the cars that catch my attention.  This week, I've been lusting after the second-most widely produced car of all time, the Volkswagen Beetle.  Like any car guy worth his salt, I recognize the Bug's influence as the car that put Germany and much of Europe on wheels after World War II.  While it started out as a project spearheaded by Hitler's Third Reich (and in fact the early prototypes were used as military vehicles), after the war, the design was resuscitated by its designer, Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that Porsche) and the factory began churning out the ugly little things and people bought them up.  My favorite era of the Beetle goes up until 1963, during which a full-length fabric sunroof could be ordered, commonly called the Ragtop.



Last December, my mom and I were pulling through the Ford dealership near our home, window-shopping for the new Mustangs, when both our eyes lighted on a 1962 Beetle Ragtop in seafoam green and white.  The price was right for a ragtop Beetle in the kind of shape it was in, a reasonable $5000.  Instantly, my mind began racing through my options; I could trade in my car, apply for a loan through the bank, and drive up to school in my Beetle instead of the old Bimmer.  My mom, reading my thoughts, said, "GMP, you have to get this car!  This car is so cool!"  My mom doesn't care much for cars, except her Mustang, so hearing her geeking out about the car as much as I was seemed to be a sign.

The rest of the day, as we finished our Christmas shopping, we revisited the idea of the car every five minutes.  She'd brainstorm an idea: maybe my dad could buy it for me as a gift since he'd never bought me a car as he had the other kids.  Perhaps she could buy it and loan it to me for the semester so I could have a really cool car for dates and such.  Maybe they could cosign on the loan so I could get a lower interest rate. Both of our minds raced, and every few minutes, we'd catch each others' eyes and start smiling over the coolness of it.

I decided later that night to go visit my new friend.  I inquired about it and the salesman told me it had been sold about 30 minutes prior to my visit.  You could have cut the despair in my soul with a knife, haha.  I called my mom and she answered with, "It's sold, isn't it?"  We laughed at the luck of it, grateful at least that the decision had been made for me.

Since then, I've been a bit obsessed with finding my ideal raggy.  If I didn't think I'd feel like a total goober, it might look something like Herbie...


...but something like this mild custom would fit the bill just right as well.  Ah, someday.


Photos from thesamba.com, Volks World, and ridelust.com

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

More Thoughts on IQD

Ty Mansfield relates the story of a friend in his section of In Quiet Desperation.  His friend's emotions frightened me for how accurately they mirrored my own.  Speaking of the first experience he had with another man, Ty's friend wrote:

I finally understood how it felt to want to write and sing those cheesy love songs, and even what it was like to naturally want to kiss someone.  Whenever I dated a girl... the drive to keep the relationship going was never there.  Homosexuality is such a misnomer.  It is about so much more than sexual attraction.

...

This is definitely the hardest test of faith I have ever experienced!  After finally feeling for the first time what romantic love was really like, knowing what it was like to kiss someone and have it race through your mind for the rest of the day [or week, or month. Ugh.],  to meet someone that you connect with emotionally, socially, physically, spiritually, who seems to complete you in every way, to miss him so much when he isn't around, to have him fill a void that you didn't even know was there, to actually feel truly loved and to truly love in return, to know what it's like to want to spend your entire life with someone, and for everything logically and emotionally telling you that this is good and right and natural and that you should embrace it, and then to willingly give it up because something deeper--something more eternal-- tells you it's not right and that it's not God's will, that for me is the essence of sacrifice--that is the only thing that I know of that I could give up to truly show God how much I love Him and how much I want to serve Him and be with Him someday.
(112-113, emphasis and brackets added)

Damn you, In Quiet Desperation...  That entire, stupid paragraph hit so close to home when I read it last night.  I have such a hard time understanding why something that feels so natural is so wrong. If it were just about the porn and the masturbation, even though it'd be difficult, it would seem doable. But to that sex drive is added the emotional fulfillment that, even in my extremely limited and one-sided experience, still feels so natural and so essential to my happiness.  Even now, after weeks of separation, the memories of the kisses and embraces I've received fill me with twitterpations.  I practice playing and singing love songs, preparing for the day I meet my someone (and in my head, that someone is not a woman).  

It's difficult, and I don't have a super-strong testimony that it will be worth it, but somehow I know that I must leave those desires on the altar of sacrifice.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland is quoted in the chapter as well, saying, "We must be willing to place all that we have--not just our possessions (they may be the easiest things of all to give up), but also our ambition and pride and stubbornness and vanity--we must place it all on the altar of God, kneel there in silent submission, and willingly walk away" (117).  Even now, that sentiment brings me to tears of sadness.  I don't want to give up such a big part of me.  But, at least for now, I know I do need to obey that admonishment.

For the record, I am a happy person.  Blogging and journaling has a tendency to make me only write about things that are heavy and sad, but I'm nonetheless a happy guy.  Today was sunny and beautiful, I have great friends, and I am grateful for a million things in my life.  Me writing about the despair I sometimes feel has no effect on how thankful I am for the life I lead.

 

The Nature of a Trial: Some Thoughts from IQD

I'm still trudging my way through In Quiet Desperation.  I'm in the middle of Ty Mansfield's section and it's proving to be even more insightful than the first section was.  I think that Part I brought the emotional rain; I sobbed through pretty much the entire thing.  Part II is still very emotional, but it's also got a lot of pretty interesting insight.  In the chapter entitled, "That I May Prove Them," Ty brings up a few interesting points.

He quotes Professor Larry Dahl in saying, "We can lose our focus and our progress if we constantly examine every bump in the road to determine whose fault it is" (97).  Dahl is explaining that sometimes, struggles come from the Lord and sometimes they come from the natural consequences of living in a world where agency exists.  Either way, the Lord has the power to remove trials, even if they're caused by our choices or the choices of others.  And yet, he allows those trials to happen, for whatever reason, and it can be detrimental for us to always be questioning the reasoning and motives behind our struggles.

Another interesting thought Ty shares is that no struggle is more or less preferable to another.  Those who deal with alcoholism or drug addiction and those who suffer from poor body image and those who have to face powerful heterosexual urges each have a difficult road ahead.  "It has been difficult for me--as one who experiences same-gender attraction, a challenge that often seems impossible to bear and remain faithful--to recognize that my cross is not more unbearable than those that others might be called to carry" (107).

I once heard a general authority say that same-gender attraction is the most difficult trial man could face, but now I'm not sure I believe it's true.  I know plenty of people who have faced difficult trials: losing a child, suffering from sexual abuse, maintaining faith even through the destruction of a family, etc.  The people I am thinking of right now are facing their trials the best that they can and I can't say that I'd ever switch places with them.  The Lord knew that those people could handle their crosses and so gave those trials to them, instead of me.  Even those who are grounded and rooted in the Gospel have spiritual trials I'll never understand.

My mother, for example, has never had a problem with faith.  She freely admits that belief is something she was given by the Spirit.  She has never been tempted to disobey the law of chastity, the word of wisdom, or to break the Sabbath.  It's just not something she struggles with.  Instead, she was given four disobedient children and asked to figure out what she could do to help them come back.  I can't imagine a harder trial for a dutiful and righteous woman such as my mother than to have to usher sometimes-unwilling children back into the fold.

Ty continues:  "When we view challenges from an eternal perspective, however, we realize there is more equality in the trials than we would sometimes like to admit" (108).  Each of us is tested, and no matter the nature of the challenge, the trick is to find that eternal perspective and seek to turn over our sins to the Lord.  Whether those sins be bitterness, inappropriate sexual conduct, gluttony, or a lack of faith, we are asked to turn them over and are then guaranteed eternal life.

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