Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Labyrinth

I was introduced to a new religious archetype this weekend, the labyrinth.

Some friends and I were exploring the grounds of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and we found ourselves at the Scarritt Bennett Center, a religious institution and retreat.  We followed the signs toward the garden and found a labyrinth set into the ground with paving stones. It was in the center of a lovely courtyard with trees dropping vibrant yellow and red leaves onto the grass below. The air was fresh with just a nip of cold in it, something that I didn't realize I missed, having spent my fall in humid, rainy Dallas. It was a lovely, affirming morning.

But it got even better.

The labyrinth is an interesting icon. Anthology has taught us that it was an important symbol in Greek myth, Tantric Buddhism, Native American mythology, and Egyptian culture. Many people use it the word synonymously with "maze," but they are not the same thing.

I started at the beginning of the labyrinth, sort of as a lark, but with each turn, I got more and more emotional until I was almost in tears by the time I stepped into the center.  It was such a beautiful experience. My friends and I discussed it and made a few realizations.

The first is that if you look at the center or the other paths, you're going to be confused when the path you're on changes course unexpectedly. The best move, for motion-sickness-avoiding sake, is to look as far down your own path as you can and look for the turn ahead, then look for the next turn after that, and so on, and turn by turn, you'll eventually get where you're going.

The next is that there will be times when you're really close to the center, but your path will suddenly bear farther away for a few moments. It's actually really frustrating being one bank away from the center one moment and then four banks away the next.  But that's how it goes.

The final thought we had is the difference between mazes and labyrinths. As the plaque in the SBC's courtyard explained, a labyrinth has no tricks or dead ends.  There is one path and it always leads to the center if one presses forward long enough.

Do you remember the experience I had with my Heavenly Father a few weeks ago? When His soft, gentle voice told me that it would be okay someday, even though now was shit?  Since then, my life has been exponentially easier.  Don't get me wrong, it still sucks being me in a lot of ways (and it rocks being me in just as many ways [US Grand Prix was this weekend and I was there :) ]), but through it all, I have hope that it will be okay, and the mere presence of that hope makes all the difference.

That's what this labyrinth was to me.  It was proof that life turns out okay, even if the path you're on is circuitous, serpentine, and inefficient.  If you press forward and only look as far ahead as the next turn, you'll get there eventually.

I took a video of the path.  Feel free to watch and experience it through my eyes.

video

Monday, November 11, 2013

Snapchat and religious devotion

I've got a friend at work who likes to organize little employee lunches.  We all grab a bite at some dive, gossip about work and our social lives, laugh, cackle, guffaw, etc.  Sometimes, it's just me and her at these lunches and I like those lunches better than most.

This girl swears like a sailor in her odd, Texas-meets-New York accent and her topics of choice usually include who's banging who, trips we all should take (usually to Vegas or Winstar Casino), good concerts coming up, and so on.  She dresses well too and is always put together.  In all respects, she's a pretty typical young American woman.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I can wait.

About a week ago, I was on the receiving end of some pretty sad emotional wounds. Church is hard, dating is hard, family is hard, and I'm just not adjusting very well to life away from what is familiar.

The straw finally came on Wednesday when I found out that a friend of mine had been lying about stuff to avoid hanging out with me. I felt betrayed and cheap and sad and I immediately started weeping bitterly.

As a sidebar, I often feel as though God chooses to love me in a passive-aggressive way.  I feel incredible guilt when He blesses me, but when life is difficult for whatever reason,  I always interpret it to be a manifestation of His anger.  I'm not blaming any of this on Him, but I can't seem to ever feel His love.  I always feel like He's either dangling blessings in front of me and then guilting me when He gives them, or He withholds love from me like a petulant child.  Unconditional love is not something I understand.

As I cried silently into my pillow, I prayed that if God knew the end from the beginning, then He knew how my story was going to turn out.  I asked Him to tell me if things ever got better and if I'd ever be happy somehow. Almost immediately, I felt calm and tranquil and knew that my happy ending would come, even if I didn't know how or when.  I knew that God knew, and without putting any qualifications on it, He gave me that knowledge to calm me down and help me feel peace.

I was still sad, but the tears stopped flowing and for the first time in a LONG time, I felt humble. I said, out loud, "Okay, I'll wait.  I can wait for things to be good."

Things aren't good.  But they will be good.  And that's enough.  I can wait.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Another General Conference blog post from a Mormon blogger

You can't be even slightly Mormon without posting something about General Conference this weekend, and I certainly don't want to be left out!  Remember FoMO?

I didn't attend conference in real time this year. My internship provides for plenty of travel opportunity and I certainly won't be missing out on the chance to visit any major city I want over the weekend. So instead of going to conference this year, I went to New York. Truth be told, I was pretty excited to not go to conference.  I'm going inactive pretty rapidly; I haven't attended my own ward since I moved to Dallas (although to be fair I've been visiting my brother in Austin each weekend and attending church with his family), but nevertheless, I haven't even met my bishop or fellow ward members yet.

Even so, I woke up this morning a few hours before my alarm and decided to watch a session. I've been enjoying it thus far.  It's nothing earth-shattering yet, but I hear this session has some gems, so I'm looking forward to hearing it.

I'm trying to reconnect to the spiritual side of myself. I feel pretty dead inside lots of the time, like God doesn't really care about me or any of us.  I wonder more and more each day if religion isn't anything more than that great opiate, something to make us feel better by believing that there's someone out there listening, someone who loves and knows and appreciates us.

These are fleeting thoughts; they pass quickly and are replaced by that familiar testimony that Jesus Christ lived, died, and lived again for all of us, both collectively and as individuals.

[EDIT: The talks by the lovable ones (Uchtdorf, Holland, Monson) are the ones that get remembered, but I think the talks by the no-names (in this case, Ulisses Soares) are the ones that have the most doctrine on more specific topics.]

That's all.  Go do something cool now.

Go do this now. This is better than the Internet.
Source

Thursday, October 3, 2013

FoMO: Strategies to overcome it

Ever since I was little, I have had a serious, legitimate fear of missing out (FoMO).  It permeated everything I did.  Going to bed was hard because I was sad I'd miss out on parents' or siblings' conversations or activities. Having to choose between two sports that practiced on the same days was brutal because what if the one I didn't pick ended up going to the championships? And I recall many a Scout camp that was cut short because I talked my parents into picking me up and bringing me to the family reunion that was the same weekend. And even now, I make the rounds every New Year's Eve and then stop at the best party for midnight (in theory at least). Hell, I can't even order food at a restaurant, because what if I like my (male) date's food better?

I've always been one to try it all and then pick the best at the end, and when all the options aren't available to me, I get nervous and panicky. I hate having to choose, having to miss out on one thing in favor of doing another.

The same thing applies to navigating the rift between my faith and my sexuality.  What if I choose gay and then get to the end of the line and find that I made the wrong choice and will then have to miss out on Celestial glory with my Heavenly Father, the one who is supposed to be able to love me most perfectly?  On the other hand, what if I choose the church and then get to the end and find that God wanted me to be happy as long as I was good and kind, and therefore have missed out on a lifetime of joy with a man who I loved?

Tonight I was confronted with my FoMO pretty rashly.  I missed out on an intern event because I had to work later than expected, and of course, my car doesn't run so I couldn't meet them up later.  So instead, I went home and logged onto Facebook (which is like steroids for the FoMO virus) and saw another group of interns I wish I was friends with at some cool restaurant here in Dallas.  So, for the first time I googled "fear of missing out" and found a raft of resources to help people stop fearing.

The first thing I have learned to do (and will start implementing ASAP) is to stop. Just stop.

I'm fond of passing this video on to my friends when I want them to stop doing something.  It's always a joke, but damn! Bob Newhart's advice is good! I can't deny, it fits here too.

So the next time I'm fearing I'm missing out, I'm going to stop. I'm going to evaluate myself, my surroundings, and find out if I should really be regretting that I'm not somewhere else.  Tonight, I sure as hell would rather be at the state fair or some restaurant with people I'd like to make friends with, but on the upside, I get to be at home alone and to blast some really sad music and indulge my misery and really enjoy it.  There's something enjoyable about misery...

This article quotes Emily Dickinson, the agoraphobic depressive recluse, when she says, "To live is so startling that it hardly leaves time for anything else."  And dammit, she's right.  I'm alone tonight. BFD.  I'm alive and I have some good music playing and I have a drink in my hand and the air conditioning is blowing cool breezes through my hair and I'm gonna go to bed early and sleep really, really well.  And tomorrow, I'm gonna get up early, walk to work alone, and enjoy the hell out of my life.

Bam. Fuck you, FoMO.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Voice

I feel silly for even bringing this up.

I have a whole blog, a semi-captive audience, upon whom I regularly force my voice. My opinions, fears, concerns, etc.

But I can't deny that for the past few weeks I've felt that voice squelched and silenced. It seems that I haven't been able to find the words I need to say and that the moment has never been right to say them. There have been weddings, births, school and work...just a slew of events where being whatever self I am doesn't seem appropriate. I can't talk to friends or family because there are precious few people around whom I feel safe right now (if you're reading this, I promise you it's not you I'm talking about) and I dunno. I feel like I need to say something.

But it's not there. I open my mouth to say something deep and emotional but then I crack a joke or quote John Mulaney or take an Istagram instead.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Life in a Vacuum and other random thoughts

I'm trying so hard to distill something in my head.  There's something there that needs to come out, but I just can't access it right now.  I don't know what the deal is.

I guess I'll just tell a story.

I went on a first date the other night with someone I really like. We have amazing chemistry and we look so good together and we have similar senses of humor and mesh really well without having nothing to talk about, etc.  He's just an all-around good guy who I like. He's also deeply religious, so we have that in common and really can explore faith together. Obviously, I feel guilty whenever we spend time together, because the LDS doctrine is still deeply ingrained in my head, which is the result of either brainwashing or testimony, depending on who you ask. If you asked me, I'd have no idea how to answer.

In any case, back to the date.  It was thoughtful and low-pressure and romantic without being silly, but we both knew it was going to be a heavy night from the get-go.  It most certainly was. Within a few minutes, we started talking about his emotional traumas from the past and my near-crippling fears about the future. I had tried to ground him whenever his past haunted him, but it was exhausting and I felt myself becoming emotionally dependent on him for my own happiness. The more I tried to hold him in the present, the more frequently I slipped into the future, worrying about every option and fearing both bitter loneliness and consequences of sin. And, try as he might, he couldn't ground me the way I could him. He just couldn't.

So, what started out as a lighthearted walk through City Park turned into both of us realizing that we're terrible for each other, but not in a dodged-the-bullet kind of way. No, it was more the tragic kind of way where you know that if one or two circumstances were different, it would be different. So, not a great first date.

Maybe that's how I'll figure things out. Maybe a string of long and tragic and emotionally exhausting relationships will make celibacy a much more attractive option. Maybe God's throwing wrenches into my occasional dallies outside the straight and narrow in hopes to trick me back into obedience.

I know I'm only 24 and that "it gets better," but right now, it sucks. I mean, kind of actually sucks the life out of you. I feel like there's nothing inside, literally. I feel inward pressure on my chest, like there's a vacuum of space in there and my ribcage is going to buckle like a sunken submarine at any time.

It's really kind of a farce. I have a really dark sense of humor, so I could totally see how this whole thing would be pretty funny to someone on the outside. And hell, we've all been there where it's so bad that the only thing you can do is laugh when it starts pouring rain on you as you walk home.
_________________________

One thing that my date has said before in the past (we've been excellent friends for about 8 months now) is that I need to connect with my sexuality in a healthy way or it comes out in unhealthy ways.  I've been pondering that more and more.  I've considered chaste dating, but chastity isn't really my strong suit so I don't know if that's a wise choice for me right now.

But I did have another idea that maybe I would start volunteering at something that has no political or religious agenda, but is still connected to that homosexual side. The first thing that came to mind was to work at an outreach for homeless members of the LGBT community, and the second was to volunteer at a testing clinic for AIDS.

I've always had fairly strong feelings about AIDS, even before I really knew I was gay. It is such an awful disease and although there are some who see it as a curse from God, personally, I believe that I could volunteer in some kind of clinical setting and still feel comfortable before God. Maybe that would be a good way to connect with my sexuality: by serving others with whom I feel an affinity, while still trying to maintain a high moral code.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Quick Update

I've been incredibly busy since getting home for the semester.  I've been shuttling around family members, fixing my broken-down motorbike and riding it home from Utah, and working a temporary part-time job before I move to Texas for an internship.

Here's a quick update: still Mormon, still gay, still skanking around and feeling guilty about it, still trying to make good friendships with good people, still not sure about my future.

Right now, however, I'm reasonably content. I have lots of worries and I'm pretty sure I screw things up royally on a regular basis, but it's okay.  It will be okay in the end, I think.  I might be making my path to that ethereal "end" harder, but it'll still probably turn out okay.

Also, I've started doing some side work doing some technical editing for Petrolicious, one of my favorite online automotive outlets.  I'm really excited about that. Good things are happening in my life and for that, I'm grateful.

I've said it before to many of my friends, but now I need to say it to myself and believe that it'll work:

Keep moving forward.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The saving power of a rainstorm

One of my close friends has a huge gaggle of kids.  They're a riotous, fun, loud group. It's an intense experience being with them, but they're the happy kind of high-energy, not the mischievous or annoying kind, so I enjoy spending as much time as proximity allows with this fun family.

They had visited my parents a month or so ago while I was at school. They attended church with them on Sunday. Driving home after the services was its usual blend of confusion over which kids were buckled up, juvenile chatter and the like.  They pulled up in front of my parents' home and the kids, noisy as ever, unbuckled and jumped out of the car to play in the oasis that is my mom's backyard. My friends went inside to help with dinner and chat with the grown-ups.


A few moments after they got home from church, a sudden rainstorm hit, not an unusual occurrence in Colorado in late June.  It was a welcome respite from the triple-digit temperatures from the previous several days.

Two hours passed and my mom said she thought she heard a little cry coming from somewhere.  They took a headcount of the children and realized that the three-year-old was missing.  They looked in the playrooms, the dress-up closet, the library (my parents don't actually have a library, but it is a room full of books) and finally the yard.  To my mom's horror, the little tot was still in the Suburban and had been stuck in her car seat since getting home from church.  She had been inadvertently overlooked amid all the noise and commotion and had been crying in the car for the duration.

They unbuckled her, rushed her inside and consoled her as the sheer luck of the situation began to sink in. Had it been one of the warmer days of the summer, she would have been in real trouble, even though the car was parked in the shade.  One rainstorm kept the car cool and her only problems were tear-stained cheeks and a sad little face.  Within 20 minutes, she was healed completely of those wounds, but had it been a day like the day before, she might never have made it.

And what luck that my mother happened to hear crying from inside the car while she was in the kitchen, which sits in the very back of our home.  It was miraculous.

I relate this story because my friend related it to me when I was talking with her about some of my concerns and worries.  She expressed how the moment she realized she'd left a child in a car alone made her feel like an unfit mother (and frankly, it was a moment of unfit parenthood), but the miracle of a rainstorm and a somehow-piercing cry saved the girl (and our families) from a sadder fate.

She said, "GMP, your rainstorm is coming, something that will save you. You're screwing up a lot now, just like all of us, but there's going to be a moment that God sends a rainstorm to cool you down and help you hang on."

I'm so grateful for the miracles our families enjoyed that day and I'm grateful for the interpretation my friend gave me.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Post-Script: Parting

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”
       -Azar Nafisi

This quote is only 25% correct.  I might miss the people I love, but I will not miss the person I am at this time and this place, and I hope to God that I'll never be this way ever again.

This is why I'm excited to leave Rexburg more than anything.  I'm so excited to leave March-July 2013 GMP in the dust, and come noon today, he's dead to me.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Parting is such sweet bliss

I usually say that my least favorite thing to do in the world is to back my life into boxes, pack those boxes into my truck and drive, only to to unpack my truck and my life in a new place.  I'm a roots man. I tend to get attached to wherever I am, assuming that it will be where I'll live for the rest of my life.

But not this time.

My previous three months in Rexburg have been some of the worst (if not the) worst of my life.  There were many joys (therapy, work marriage, solo off-roading and motorcycling) but by and large, it's been hell.  I'm not going to blame Rexburg nor its inhabitants, but nonetheless I can't wait to turn my face away from this town and buzz the hell off.


I'll be back at BYU-Idaho in a few months and, God willing, I'll be in my right mind enough to enjoy my last two semesters in what I have been known to believe is the closest thing to heaven on this planet (yes, I'm serious, eastern Idaho is that good).  I'm looking forward to being back and snowboarding in the Tetons, jumping from bridges into the Snake River and exploring the snowy-then-dusty backroads in whatever form of transportation I have. I'm also excited to be here for more than one semester at a time so I can actually make some friends and deepen some relationships.

But for now, I can't wait to get the hell out of here, to leave the first six hellish months of 2013 behind and hope that my Coloradan/Bostonian/Texan horizon is a little better and cleaner and happier and filled with more progress.

Image source: Rexburging

Thursday, July 11, 2013

His grace is sufficient, except for me.

This weekend was a rough one. I made lots of mistakes I'd love to take back. Obviously, it'd be inappropriate to detail them here, but suffice it to say, the worst parts of these mistakes weren't how they made me feel, the worst was how they made others feel.  I crossed boundaries with myself and with others and put people in positions that made them feel cheap and unloved.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A shameless plug for someone who flattered me

I am always so honored whenever I hear of how my story has changed another person.  I don't really like tooting my own horn (blogging on topics like this notwithstanding) but I'm grateful for those people who have reached out to me and helped me along my own spiritual journey as well. So this is a post that goes out to just about everyone who's ever commented, e-mailed, blogged, Facebooked, Buzzed, Blinged, tweeted, plus'd, Grinded (yes, even Grindr can have positive uses [this one's for you, BDA]), WHATEVER, in my direction. Hearing your stories have been a great help to me and I'm so thankful for your support and love.



The most recent example has been White Birch Girl. She is a member of another faith who is not gay, so having her reach out to me was something of an anomaly.  Nonetheless, she is a deeply sensitive woman and she has lots of thoughts worth sharing.

I'm not linking to her because she linked to me. I'm linking to her because I think she has an amazing viewpoint that deserves more attention than it gets.  Her blog is somewhat scattered, which is refreshing. She doesn't post about being a "birch" or being a "girl," she posts on whatever is on her mind.  I appreciate that so much. I especially love her post on suicide and math. She is a thoughtful person, not in that she's considerate (although I'm sure she is), but in that she thinks on things. Check out her blog. It's worth a read.

Photo copyright Susan Sweeny, inmygarden.org/, via Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Christ's love

In my first appointment with my bishop here in Idaho, he advised me to continue to use my calling as a Sunday School teacher to testify of what I knew.

People keep telling me my testimony is stronger than I give credit for.  I disagree. But I'm gonna try and testify today, at least for a few minutes. It's a rough day and I have a lot on my mind and a few things to stress about this week, but I need to take a break for a few minutes and think about something else.

I know that God loves us infinitely and that his power to forgive is far beyond what we could possibly understand or perceive. Unlike us mortal beings, God's capacity for love and forgiveness has no limit. We can never go too far for him to help us return.

In a like manner, Christ loves us and understands us perfectly.  He can help us, we just need to figure out how to let him.

So there it is.  Short and sweet. My simple, small testimony.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A quick post about my dad

My dad is a good, strong man.  I really admire him in lots of ways.  He has so many amazing qualities, some of which he's passed on to me and some of which I'd love to emulate better.

My dad has always been a very hard worker. He grew up in Provo, Utah and had jobs all throughout high school, working shifts as a gravedigger, a clerk in a clothing store, and even a gig as a male fashion model for oh-so-sexy puffy ski pants and parkas (we have the newspaper ad and it's fantastic).  He held down these jobs through high school and college and quickly learned the virtue of saving money, even to a fault.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Commenting policy

I had the unfortunate experience of removing a comment on my last blog post, the first one I've ever removed.  I'd like to lay out a commenting policy to ensure that such a thing doesn't need to happen again. The comment I removed was written by a person whose opinion I value, but his statements were uncharacteristically rude. I've discussed the issue with him and he took it well, so I'd like to explain it here as well.

Comments that are incendiary in any way, i.e. designed to cause discord or create an argument, will not be tolerated. There is a calm way to present your points and an argumentative way.  Choose the former.

Comments that target me for my choices will not be tolerated either.  I love hearing people highlight blind spots in my thinking or encourage me to make better or more whole-hearted choices, but this blog is supposed to be a safe space for me and hearing judgment from others will not be tolerated.

Similarly, I will not tolerate comments targeted at others' choices or viewpoints.  See the above point about making your differences known in a kind, respectful way.

Comments that target the gay community, the LDS church or religion in general as being an all-consuming evil will not be tolerated. I cannot stress this enough.  There is great value in religion for many people, and there is great value in support that comes from living an authentic life and seeking support from like-minded individuals. As a man straddling the two often-disparate sides of the issue, I see how both communities do great work and how both fall short.  I will not tolerate someone presenting an entirely one-sided view of the matter.

I considered disallowing anonymous comments for a time.  I eventually came to the conclusion that the gay (and Mormon) community is one that values anonymity as a safety net, and to be an anonymous blogger that doesn't allow Nony's comments would be the height of hypocrisy.  However, I do not appreciate the anonymous commenting option being used by people who want to present incendiary or rude opinions without fear of ramification. That, to me, is using anonymity like a coward might.  Please, if you're comfortable, leave a name or use an approved login to comment.

As always, please let me know via e-mail if you have any issues or questions not appropriate for public discourse. gaymormonpioneer at gmail dot com

Thursday, May 30, 2013

My name is GMP and I am a sex addict

During my first meeting with my addiction recovery group (a group which is not affiliated with the LDS church in any way, more on that later), everyone introduced themselves as either a sex addict or a sexaholic.  When it came to be my turn to share, I followed suit.  The words came out much more easily than I would have imagined.  It felt reassuring somehow to identify myself as a sex addict.

I think I already mentioned that I'd had a panic attack on the drive home from my first addiction recovery group, henceforth shortened for my love of acronyms to ARG.  My second ARG meeting (haha, I love it) was as good as the first, but the drive home was almost as bad.  I didn't descend into full-on panic, but I felt nervous and edgy.  My third meeting was better in all regards.  I enjoyed sharing, even though I shared some pretty awful stuff, and I felt good driving home.

I haven't begun to work the 12 steps yet, nor have I read any of the literature provided to me at the first meeting.  In that regard, I acknowledge that I'm not really part of the program yet. All I've done thus far is attend the meetings, feel the solidarity and enjoy the hugs at the end. That's been a decent gesture toward getting into the 12 steps in earnest.  So that's next on my agenda.

Part of the impetus toward working the steps was a realization I had this week after I'd spent a full twelve hours on Craigslist swapping pictures with other guys. My internet activity meant I hadn't slept all night, and this after driving back to Idaho from Colorado the night before. I'd gotten less than four hours sleep in the prior 48, and none in the prior 24. I hadn't eaten in over 36 hours, I'd lost five pounds in the previous week, I hadn't done laundry in nearly a month, I'd missed several assignments for school  and work. I had lost control, relapsed to a point to which I'd never been before.  My mind, at least pre-orgasm, was consumed with one thing and one thing only; have the best sexual experience you've ever had, and make it count.

I was living a life completely bereft of integrity and was deliberately avoiding my Bishopric and Sunday School president so I wouldn't inadvertently leave clues as to my indiscretions. I'd been lying to my parents and roommates, blaming homework and hobbies for my Internet use. Putting aside spiritual health, I had signed my name and my word to a level of honesty I wasn't living.  If I was going to be an addict or if I was seeking sex, then great, but I wanted to have some integrity about it.

At that, I screwed my courage as best I could and made an appointment with my bishop.  I prayed to Heavenly Father and told him that I was prepared to accept the consequences for my actions, consequences that included church probation or disfellowshipment and potential expulsion from school. Just so I don't mislead anyone into thinking the church comes down on pornography too harshly, there were other choices I'd made, the details of which are not important to you, that go beyond the realm of your traditional punishments for pornography use.

At the end of our meeting, I waited for the bishop's judgment on pins and needles.  I had broken my word when I signed the BYU Honor Code and was prepared to have my student status revoked. I acknowledged to him that I didn't necessarily feel religious guilt, but was ashamed that I'd made myself into a liar. I was prepared for the worst.

Thankfully, his judgment was that I should cease to take the Sacrament for some time and that I should make sure to prepare for my Sunday School lesson well in advance so I could testify of whatever parts of the lesson I knew were true.  I was confused.  He wasn't going to release me as Sunday School teacher?  He wasn't submitting my name for church disciplinary action or my case to the Honor Code office for an academic ruling?

The answer to those questions was no, and his only condition was simple. As long as I complied with that (very very easy) condition, it would be okay.

I left his office with somewhat less guilt, a lot less shame, and some hope for the future. I know I'm going to screw it up before I get healthy, but I'm looking forward to working the steps. And I'm going to try really hard to measure what successes I do have.  There have been lots of people of all different life paths cheering me on and reminding me to be realistic and human and for that I am grateful.

[EDIT: This was my 200th post. Happy 200th issueversary, Gay Mormon Pioneer]

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Big post: Sex addiction, ADHD and panic storms

There's been a lot going on in my brain lately, so let's talk about it really briefly.

I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, but my counselor keeps coming back to the idea that I have ADHD. I fidget constantly and he's picked up on this and run with it, inquiring about my study habits, school performance, thought processes, et cetera.  The fidgeting, combined with self-reported problems with procrastination, jumbled thoughts and addictive/compulsive behavior, makes my counselor think I have the neurological condition ADHD, rather than behavioral problems.  He says that those with ADHD can white-knuckle their way through life, as I've done till now (having maintained a great GPA in college, I might add).  However, he says that a full diagnosis, if positive, and pharmacological treatment might help me with all of those things.

I must admit, I've always been tempted to try attention-enhancing medication and I've occasionally self-diagnosed ADHD as a condition in my life.  But the naturopath in me hates the idea of "doping" even more than I already I am.  I don't like the idea of always being within arm's reach of the medicine cabinet, of having to have my pills on me whenever I travel. I believe that those pills and medications are modern miracles and that they can make people's lives better, but for whatever reason, I always have that thought in terms of other people, not me.

Then I went to an addiction recovery meeting.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Love in the Time of Cholera

Right now, I'm reading a great book by Gabriel García Márquez called Love in the Time of Cholera. The book appealed to me because of its classical, dense, overly romantic title and its supporting role in the movie Serendipity.

So far it has not disappointed. The book is classical, dense and overly romantic. I read for what feels like hours and then I look back and find that I've only progressed a half-dozen pages. The floral descriptions of passion and love come off as alternately syrupy and bitter. It would be the stuff of soap-opera legend if it weren't so authentic.

There are a few parts in the book wherein each principal character so perfectly exemplifies what love feels like. In one, Dr. Juvenal Urbino's passion for Fermina Daza becomes manifest in his near-obsession with placing himself within ear- or eyeshot of her and behaving conspicuously in an attempt to sway her attractions his way.

In another, Fermina, out of anger and resentment for her feelings of love towards him, accepts Dr. Urbino's proposal of marriage curtly, caught off guard by her jealousy when he flirts with another woman.

In another, Florentino Ariza, forlorn over the loss of his true love Fermina, is stripped of his virginity by a fellow steam-ship traveller. In that moment, caught in the passion of not-entirely-contested rape by this woman, he comes to believe that he can fill the anguish of heartbreak with sex, that love can be replicated and attained through lust.

As I read, I identified with each character's actions.  I related with Dr. Urbino's cautious arrangement of his schedule to coincide with Fermina's. I laughed knowingly at Fermina's angry realization that she loved the man she despised. I hung my head shamefully as I recalled times I tried to recover from loneliness or heartbreak by using others.

I'm eager to see how it ends.  I want to know what advice Mr. Márquez has for me in my search for love.  I woke up today feeling bitterly lonely and feeling like time marched on past me while my feet, steeped in ignorant cement, stayed firmly in place.  I watched friends marry and have children, other friends come out of the closet and become voices of hope for the power of the Gospel to transform, and still others leave the church and find what seems to be genuine happiness is same-sex relationships. And then there's me, in the same rut I've been in for 7 years, caught in the conflict between my brain and my tail.

So instead of going to work or school, I called in sick, bought a Diet Coke, drove into the countryside and read Juvenal, Fermina and Florentino's tales of love and woe and moving on and it filled me with a small shred of hope combined with a small shred of depression. Just like love.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

This is a post about my family fasting for me. Titles are hard.

Read this one to the end. It's scattered and confusing, but the end is what matters.

My weekend was very interesting.  Friday began as usual, then rapidly descended into so much homework and projects that I didn't end up leaving my house until 9 pm. So all of this might have happened sooner had I not been so consumed with homework that I almost literally didn't have space in my head for emotion.

Saturday is when the real story begins. I woke up with a general sense of ennui. I fixed my breakfast and went back to bed for a few hours, trying to escape the clamor of my roommates making breakfast for their various and noisy love interests. I read my book for awhile (Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. Dense but interesting), got out of bed, cleaned the kitchen, showered etc., but all with a looming fear or anger or something hanging over my head. It finally hit at about four in the afternoon. I lost myself in angst. Everything set off my rage and loneliness.

It was about this time that my mom called to simply tell me that my family was fasting for me the next day. She said that they knew that I needed a boost and was feeling depressed and they wanted to help. At that, she closed the conversation and hung up.  The feelings of angst lifted a bit. I drove into town, found a place to read my book, and spent the evening in vague contentment. The raincloud that was hanging over my head had lifted a bit and sun was beginning to spill through ever so slightly. It was still a grey day, but there was promise of sun tomorrow.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

First day of therapy

Today was my first day of therapy in a few years.  I've really missed it. My new counselor is a nice guy. I immediately felt very comfortable with him. Today was really just a get-to-know-you session; he took detailed notes about the names of my siblings, friends and enemies, asked me for a characterization of myself, got my health and counseling history and asked what my goals for counseling would be.

I told him exactly what I was feeling, that I wanted to evaluate who I am and what I believe and want for myself, then find a way to commit and reconcile any outlying feelings with new definition of who I am. I told him I pretty much exactly what I've been telling all of you for a year now, that I had addictions to pornography and masturbation, that I felt lonely fairly regularly and that I wanted to feel loved either by a man or by God.  He sat there opposite me, scribbling every detail, I think, so he could review the notes later and remember my story for next week.  I appreciate his preparation.

All of it would have seemed too cold and clinical were it not for an experience I shared with a straight friend from a few weeks ago. This friend and I had gotten into an argument after he posted some incredibly offensive things about gay people and gay marriage. I don't mean he was expressing his opinion, I mean he was spreading hate speech. I called him out on it and he rather rudely told me that if I'd "done [my] duty and served a mission," I'd understand God's plan for His children and how the [slur deleted] were ruining that. He justified his hate speech religiously.  I honestly didn't think people like that existed outside the Westboro Baptist Church, and yet, there I was, being both indirectly and directly attacked by it.

My counselor asked what slur my friend used, then made a guess. When I confirmed his guess (which has six letters and begins with F), he rolled his eyes in disgust and began to go off very briefly before composing himself and asking me to go on.  That really made me laugh.

This is going to be good.  I'm excited about getting help through all this and I'm grateful my counselor seems so sensitive. I don't entirely trust him outside the professional relationship we now have, but I'm looking forward to building that relationship.  Future updates as events warrant.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"What Makes Us Happy?"

Three years ago, Joshua Wolf Shenk wrote an article for The Atlantic about one of the longest and most comprehensive longitudinal studies ever carried out. The study, which started in 1939, asked for lifelong commitments from 237 Harvard physically and mentally healthy sophomore males. The men would undergo a comprehensive initial physical and mental evaluation and would answer questions about their home lives and upbringing. Then, every few years, the men would fill out questionnaires about their lives at that point in an attempt to evaluate how financial, relationship and familial success correlated with happiness.  The conclusions were fascinating and I highly recommend reading the above-linked article all the way through. It's long and daunting, but very interesting.

As you might expect, many men who'd achieved giddy professional success were sad and unfulfilled. Many of their relationships fell apart. Some were alcoholics. A few committed suicide or died early from preventable causes. There's pretty obvious data about what not to do if you want to be happy and live a long life: don't smoke and don't drink.  But what should you do?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Back to therapy I go

My recent history with panic attacks has led me to believe that I'm doing something wrong in taking care of my mental and emotional health.  I've gotten on an anti-depressant and have a small supply of fast-acting anxiety medication on hand in case I need it.  But I know that's not enough.

My home teacher is a therapist. The night of my first panic attacks, he came over to help with a blessing and coach me on some techniques for avoiding panic.  One of the things he brought up was the use of medication. He likened it to getting a tooth filled; you could have a tooth filled without novocaine, but why would you? Likewise, you could just inject yourself with novocaine every hour and not have your tooth filled, but again, why would you?  His point was this: therapy is helpful, as is medication, and in some cases, both are required to achieve total health. In the tooth analogy, if you want to feel whole, you might need pain killers and restorative treatment.

In that wise, I'm beginning work with a therapist this week.  He has some experience with homosexuality and even though I'm attending BYU-Idaho, our sessions are confidential and free from the influence of the Honor Code office. I'm excited to begin my work with him and start building some trust in him.  The safe space will be a good place for me and even though I'll likely be swamped with other commitments as the semester wears on, I know that my own mental health needs to be a high priority, even if it means I'll have less spare time.

I've been meaning to write out a list of goals for this year. I'll get on that and submit them here for my own accountability and because I apparently like baring all of my private matters to the Internet.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Love and heartbreak

[I started this post on Wednesday, April 17, just after the events herein. For various and sundry reasons, I haven't posted it till today, so it will sound disjointed.]

I don't know how to start this post. It's a difficult one for me to write for lots of reasons. Even so, I feel that I need to get it outside me, so I'm going to write it.

I fell in love this year. I made a friend, there was a mutual attraction, that attraction turned to infatuation, which turned to deep respect, which turned to love, which turned to falling in love.  I fell hard.  I wanted this man to be mine so much. Many of my waking hours were spent thinking of him, dreaming of the life we'd have together. We kissed, there was a connection, there was attraction, it all seemed like it was going to be okay.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The most terrifying three seconds

I have a new niece, for whom I am extremely grateful. She is a precious little girl, an absolute angel. I'm falling in love with her every moment I have with her.

A few days ago, I was holding her and bouncing her gently to get her to sleep.  She was laying on her back in the little gap between my thighs as I sat on the couch. She started to relax, but then convulsed so that I could feel the tension in her little muscles.  She opened her mouth as if to cry, but no sound came out except for these awful, tiny little gasps punctuated by gurgles. I scooped her out of my lap and against my shoulder and started smacking her back, thinking she was choking on something. The gasps continued and I began to panic. For about three seconds, I was convinced my darling niece was going to die in my arms.

Thankfully, breath returned to her lungs within a second or two of that panic setting in and she calmed down and began to cry normally. I rushed her to my sister and told what happened and my sister explained that my niece had a harmless reflux problem that merely appeared to be horrific. Relieved, I sat down and thought about what happened.

I have never been more petrified with fear than in those three seconds where I felt out of control and helpless to save my niece. I have never been more convinced of my own guilt that she was in my lap when she began to gasp and that it was therefore my fault. For three agonizing seconds that lasted far too long, I was in Hell. I'd forgotten all my other joys, all my other anguish, and could only think about my niece and how I was about to lose her.

Without putting too fine a point on it or being overdramatic, things became a bit clearer in those moments following the most terrifying three seconds of my life. This whole gay thing seemed like a drop in the bucket of worldly sorrow compared against that of those parents who helplessly watch their children slip away in hospital beds. It also made me wonder what other experiences I haven't had (nor would care to have) that I take for granted. It made me count my blessings that in lieu of worldly Hell, God gave me gay instead. It's a lonely road with many paths, all of them isolating in some way, but I'd take loneliness over those three seconds played on repeat.

This post was more for me than anyone else. I just needed to remember this experience.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

This is a post about how awesome people are

This weekend, I finally finished a project for a former customer of mine. She had a garage-sale endtable that needed some sprucing--cracked finish, damaged hardware, wobbly legs--but would still be a pretty easy restoration project. It took a bit longer than expected and the end result wasn't exactly what I planned, but it still looked good.  Having spent a few hours on it and a few dollars on supplies, I decided I'd charge her $60 for the work I did, pending her satisfaction with the finished product.

She loved it. It turned out much better than she expected, especially given the few delays I'd informed her of, and she proudly began to arrange it in her living room. I told her the final bill and the caveat that if she didn't feel as though it was worth $60 to her, I'd take whatever she felt was fair.  She began writing the check and said that my price was more than fair and she'd round up a little bit. I reassured her that wasn't necessary, but she insisted. I began gratefully planning how I'd spend that extra 40 bucks, assuming she was going to round to $100.

She handed me two checks, explaining that the other was for my boss as a little extra tip for the good work we did on her living room floor and bathroom tile. I looked at one, reading, "Pay to the order of GMP the amount five hundred dollars." I began to explain that she'd written my name on the check she meant for my boss, stopping short when I saw the smile on her face. I began to protest but she instantly cut me off, reminding me that college was expensive and I'd earned that money, having done some odd jobs for her (none of which were worth anywhere near the $440 she'd tacked on to my bill).

I am not a speechless person. I generally have the words for most of my emotions. In fact, I'm far too chatty 99% of the time.  But in this moment, I had nothing to say. My mouth hung slack-jawed and I pawed at my brain to find something that could adequately describe the intense gratitude I felt then. After too long, I said, "Thank you. I've been stressing about paying for school and..." and then I trailed off again. I couldn't find the words.

I finished some of the other work I'd come over to do, offered another thanks and retired to my car, completely overcome. I did the math and found that she'd given me a 733.33% tip on my work, a tip that meant that I wouldn't have to buy my own groceries for a few months and that meant I had a little cushion in my savings for insurance deductibles, car repairs and the occasional Blockbuster movie or steak dinner. I sat behind my wheel, thinking about that gift, and alternated between overjoyed laughter and humble tears.

I must admit, I feel much more pressure to be a good person. When I told my dad, he said that she probably won't miss that $500 at all, that the positive effect it has on me outweighs any negative effects it'll have on her. In that wise, I'm wondering what I can do to pay it forward more. What small thing to me will make a big difference to others? For me and for now, I probably can't give much financially, but what can I give?

I'm just so humbled by her generosity and example. I hope I'll make them feel like their money was well-spent.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Panic! at the dinner table

I had a new experience last night: panic attacks.

I'd only had a few panic attacks before in my life and they were all very mild and manageable.  I felt them come on, reminded myself to breathe, and they subsided. These, however, were very different.

I came home from a rough day at work.  I was feeling pretty low already about some friend drama on the homefront. All I wanted to do was snuggle up in a blanket and watch trashy TV, but there was too much to be done. I checked Facebook and read some of the comments that had been left on my most recent ultimatum post (which has still been weighing heavily on my mind) and I just felt so bombarded. I'm sure a large part of that feeling had to do with the fact that I had five tabs open with a zillion unread e-mails and music playing and the TV on and my dad talking on his phone loudly, but all of a sudden, I felt so overwhelmed.

I closed my computer and went upstairs to take a shower. I took off my shirt and the panic started coming.  I started breathing really deep and really fast and my extremities started tingling. I tasted metal on my tongue and things started going black.  I laid down and felt this intense wave of paranoia and turmoil wash over me and all I could do was breathe. I had one hand on my forehead and the other on my stomach and the panic sunk in.  I had no idea what to do next.

I don't remember how long I lay there like that, but I staggered up towards the door, breathing and moaning the whole way.  I wobbled down the hall and started down the stairs, but my dad's voice from the first floor scared me back up. I didn't want him to see me or think I was crazy. Finally, after a few terrifying minutes, I found my way downstairs, got his attention, and told him I was having a panic attack.

He helped me onto the couch and wrapped me in a blanket and coached my breathing till I fell asleep. I woke up when my mom got home and heard him relate the event to her, but he didn't need to.  Right after dinner, it happened again and she got to witness the whole thing.

But here's why I'm not sad it happened.

First off, the second panic attack was accompanied by a lot of rhythmic ab-clenching, which didn't make breathing or talking easy, but damned if my stomach doesn't look about a billion times better today than it did.

Secondly, my parents have been giving me more attention lately. I know that sounds selfish, but today, my dad called me while I was at work to check in on how I was and my mom sent me out the door this morning with a big hug and a kind word. If all this was just a subconscious ploy to get attention, then that might be a little childish, but it felt good and it worked.

And finally, both my mom and my dad now know what kind of effects my emotions have on me. They got a firsthand witness of how involuntary those emotions are. They've always been good to not tell me to "just get over it," but I've sometimes wondered if they secretly thought that I was just making up excuses to take meds and waste money on therapists.  Now they know.

So, while I really don't want to have panic attacks ever again, these first two definitely had some positive ramifications. Plus, they always end eventually, so at least there's that.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A most dangerous ultimatum

Ever since about July of last year, I've been really in the doldrums.  I have myself to blame for a lot of it. I've been pretty good about porn and masturbation, but it's still a presence I'm not keen on, for reasons beyond religion (and laundry). I've also been more involved in the gay community, for better and worse, and that's to blame for some of the stress I feel as well.

Even so, I haven't felt much peace, in spite of the efforts I've been making towards finding it.  There have been moments where I've felt the Spirit's influence in my life to be certain, but I don't feel as though that influence is directing me as well as I might have hoped.

The other night, during my evening prayer, I gave God an ultimatum and I've been pondering it ever since. I'd love some input on it, and so I turn to the blogosphere...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pastor in Process

My friend Brad posted something pretty cool on his blog this week.  After being excommunicated from the Anglican church, he posted his rationale for the actions that led to his disfellowship from the church in which he grew up and studied to become a priest.

Go have a read.  I wish y'all could see the Facebook conversation it's generating.

Pastor in Process - Why I Date Men: A Conversation Starter

EDIT: His Facebook link is active. Here's the conversation that it started. He gave me permission to link to it, but please be respectful of his choices, his friends, and his privacy.  And give my blog a shout if you leave a comment, I'd be interested to see how many people came from here, haha. Shameless plug over.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Truth as an anchor

I made a new friend a few months ago. We actually made our initial connection via the trashiest mobile chat app ever, but what initially stuck out about this guy (call him Alan) was that in his profile he says he's a Christian. Also, he claims fidelity to the Oxford comma, which therefore made him my sworn journalistic enemy and gave me a good icebreaker.

Alan lives in another state so I've never actually met him in person, but we've kept in touch since that first grammatically violent conversation. As a recently out Christian, he had a fascinating experience with his religion that somewhat would correlate to how a Mormon would experience life after deciding to openly participate in a gay lifestyle. Being as that I've been wondering what life on the other side would look like, his experience was very intriguing and I could see a lot of myself in his reactions to the events in his life. More on that conversation in a bit.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Playing the heathen today

Well, I'm living in open rebellion today.

For various reasons, both significant and selfishly petty, this weekend sucked balls. It was awful.  There were glimmering moments of niceness, but by and large (and due to my own bad attitude, I freely admit), it was a terrible, terrible three days.

So instead of going to church today, I'm staying home and listening to Spotify and dancing around, cleaning the house. Remember a few days ago how I said I'm staying the course? Well, I'll restart tomorrow.  Today, I refuse to think about anything that will make me sad, even if it makes me a better person. Sure, I feel guilty, and I'm a little paranoid what my parents would think if they were in town to witness this, and I feel like I have to make up excuses for each of those friends who ask where I'm at. But I made it to age 24 as a single, gay Mormon (three of the most sex-obsessed and repressed demographics ever) without ever getting it on with someone, so for that I've earned myself a day off.

Later today I'll attend the CES fireside broadcast and tomorrow I'll participate in FHE and on Thursday I'll go to Institute, and if all goes well this week, I'll take the sacrament next Sunday.  Right now, however, Ke$ha, Smashing Pumpkins, Beyoncé and Imagine Dragons will accompany my one-man dance party.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Confessions

A few weeks ago, a friend showed me a website that allows the students of his school to submit confessions anonymously, which then show up on the website. I found a similar website for my school, and the difference is ridiculous.

I go to a church-sponsored school (that narrows it down to one of four) in southeast Idaho (one of one), whereas my friend goes to a state school in Utah.  The posts on his school's webpage were pretty scandalous, people peeing in their roommates' drinks to get secret revenge, twisted sexual fantasies, the list went on and made me (me!) blush.

My school's posts were along the lines of, "I sneak out past curfew," "I told my bishop I had an emotional disorder to get out of a calling," and "Sometimes I go on dates just for a free meal." And yet, in spite of the relative tepidity of my school's confessions, the comments on them were absolutely vilifying.  It was ludicrous that there was more judgement lashed at a girl who took advantage of suitors for free food than there was directed at a guy who had three falsely committal sexual encounters with three different "girlfriends" in the same night.

So, needless to say, I won't be confessing anything on my school's page, anonymous or not. Guess I'll do it here.

So, a few months ago, I made out with a guy. From the day we met, we had a near-instant attraction to each other, and over the course of a few weeks, we really made a connection. Then, one day (the very morning I decided that I wouldn't pursue anything with him), we made out for about an hour in the back seat of my car, a moment which, to be honest, I can't really stop thinking about.

In fact, the only distraction from that moment I can find is when I think about the other time we kissed, which was even more passionate and, if I'm honest, wonderful. To be fair (and to assuage my guilt), we didn't cross any serious morality lines, but it has given me a lot to think about for the past month or two. I honestly don't really know where to take it from here.

He made me feel in those moments of passion like I was the only person in the world, like no one else could take my place in his life. And if it was confined to those moments that I felt like that, then that would be one thing.  If all I was was a warm body and a nice set of lips to him, I could deal with that. I could have a casual, nonsexual relationship with him and still feel secure in my life path. In the grand scheme of things, a boyish lark is nothing to get upset about.

But the problem lies in that it wasn't just in those moments of heat that I felt special, nor that I felt a similar attraction to him.  I found myself thinking about him and his feelings, his schoolwork, his employment, his talents and skills, and on and on.  Whenever we talked, he asked thoughtful questions about my life and I felt special to him as well. It wasn't just lust.

But, as is my way, there's this big hangup I have preventing me from moving forward with him.

It's so strange; every second I sit in church, I find myself continually contending with the teachers and the doctrine in my mind (not out loud, that would be awkward).  I give all these reasons why it doesn't make sense and why the best decision for me would be to just get up and walk out the door and never look back. But I stay. I listen to the lesson or talk, not because I feel compelled to or because I'd be too embarrassed or afraid of rejection if I left.  I sit through church (and legitimately enjoy Institute) because it feeds my soul. It reminds me that there's something greater out there besides me and this handsome, gentle man I find myself attracted to.

I'm desperate. I want to find a balance between the two. Something I haven't told anyone yet: I dreamt that the prophet received revelation that gay marriage wasn't a big deal and God didn't care who His children loved, as long as they were good and kind and considerate of their spouses, and I dreamt it in the context of my own gay wedding. I woke up, bitterly depressed to be shaken back into the real world.

That revelation hasn't happened, and it probably never will.  So I'm stuck in this really obnoxious holding pattern between a religion that makes absolutely no logical sense and doesn't sit well with me some of the time and a potential relationship that, so far, makes perfect sense and makes me happy, but also doesn't sit well with me.

Right now I'm staying the course.  Church is what has felt right for the last 24 years and until that changes in a compelling way, then I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing and keep expecting the same results, namely, halfway decent peace of mind and a fairly stable view of myself. I know it sounds closed-minded and fear-driven, and quite frankly, that might be the case. But if in 10 years, I find myself in a happy temple marriage with three great kids, a dog and a wonderful, supportive wife, then I'll look back on this moment and be glad I made the choice to carry on.  And if in 10 years, I find myself in a happy civil union with an adopted child, a dog and a wonderful, supportive husband, I'll look back on this moment and understand I wasn't ready to move on yet.

So there it is.  I confess.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Backstory: 2011-?

Finally moving towards something, I started my second wave of schooling in January of 2011. So excited to be back in school again, I actually did very well, getting As and A-minuses in all of my classes (theretofore uncharted territory in my academic career). I grew to love my new alma mater, and while friends were few and far between for the first few months, I enjoyed my life there. It was a lonely few months, but it was also a very introspective time. Similar to my time in Houston six months before, I used the alone-time to learn about myself and to do things I wanted to do. I took day trips around the region, only occasionally accompanied by friends and roommates. I spent a lot of time on the tarmac at the municipal airport nearby, watching the airplanes take off and land. I learned to cook better and enjoyed my extracurricular music classes. And I studied, hard, finally enjoying learning rather than viewing it as an impedance to fun.

Things got even better during the second semester. That's when I started this blog and when I began exploring who I was and what I was meant to do in this life. Although there was personal drama, which I've already explored in real time, it was a good year for learning. I investigated firsthand what it felt like to kiss a man, to experience mutual attraction to a man, to become afraid of that attraction and how to handle and control those feelings (usually by making the wrong choice and learning from it, in the case of the latter).

The only real story that's left to tell is the future. Going through all this backstory has been an interesting experience. I've never really thought about my homosexuality in sequential terms and it's been good, if not particularly enlightening, to see how each of those events from the past contributed to the man I am today. The future is dark and murky, and there are probably a few dragons lurking in the shadows, so I think it's time to close the history and see what happens next.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Backstory: 2009-2011 - Failed romances and demotivation

2007-2009 were probably the most fertile years of my life thus far as far as dating and crushes on women were concerned.  Apart from Christa in my high school years, there was Stella, from my freshman year of college; Anne, a longtime friend of mine for whom I started developing feelings after high school; and Marie, another friend from college.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Romans 1

This semester in Institute we are studying the second part of the New Testament, Acts through Revelation. Most of what we are covering are the epistles of Paul, which is fascinating stuff. Paul writes a lot about his troubles and challenges and it's reassuring to hear spiritual giants have problems too.  A few months ago, I had a friend tell me she thought Paul was gay, so now that's all I can think whenever I read his words. Viewed through that crucible, this whole reconciling-faith thing seems a little more feasible.

In any case, in his epistle to the Romans, Paul does briefly touch on homosexuality.  I hoped that we'd gloss over that portion of the epistle in Institute, as I really wasn't in the mood for it, but we didn't.  Our teacher, at the end of class, said, "I'd like to end on something that is very current right now," and I knew exactly what he was talking about.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Backstory: 2007-2008

In January of 2007 I was introduced to something, the mystical world of Wikipedia's Sex portal.  Yep. My pornography addiction began at 17 with Wikipedia. I'd made it through middle school and most of high school, completely unscathed by either pornography or masturbation, and then gave in, three months before my 18th birthday, with Wikipedia. Pathetic, no?

I remember it happened when I was doing research for a history paper, using the 'pedia as a primary source. I have no idea what it was about, but one of the hotlinks in the page I was reading went to something called a menage a trois, an expression I was completely unfamiliar with, so I clicked it. That page opened and had still more expressions I didn't understand, so I clicked on them, and so on and so forth until I learned something I'd wondered since I came out to myself the year before, how gay people had sex.  Boom, hooked. Now you know.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fatboy's famous arrow evades me for yet another year

As with most holidays, I really love Valentine's Day.  I've never been involved with anyone over V-Day, but the idea of the holiday is really nice.  Sure, it's an invention of the greeting card companies, but this world needs more love and Valentine's Day is a good excuse to show it.



However, lately I've been feeling the sting of singlehood more than usual.  It started last Christmas, when I realized that I was the only single sibling in my family, and has continued since then with only the occasional hiatus for a short two-week fling or makeout sesh with some girl in my ward (and maybe a guy, in the case of the latter).

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gay musings just for the sake of getting a post out

It's been a really long time since I've posted here.  I haven't been busy or anything, I just haven't had a topic.  Anyway, a few gay-related things have popped in an out of my head for the past few days. Some are boring, some are funny.  Skip this one if you're looking for something that's more than mindless drivel ;)

A few days ago some friends and I were at dinner (I ordered a hamburger with peanut butter and jalapeños and it was so good).  We were talking about how all of Hilary Swank's movies are inspirationally depressing, then how she's vaguely mannish-looking.  Then we talked about other mannish-looking Hollywood starlets like Jennifer Garner et al.  Now, personally, I find most of these women somewhat attractive, so I piped up and meant to say, "I'm down with these women," but what came out instead was, "I'm down with the masculine." The whole table went silent and then my friend (who knows) busted out laughing like a hyena. Freud 1, GMP 0.

So I hear the Boy Scouts are considering letting individual units decide on homosexuality.  I also hear that the church is conspicuously silent on the matter.  I remember several years ago, my dad was the unit commissioner of our little troop and one Sunday, he had all the Scouts block the doors while he passed out donation slips, chiding the Elders and High Priests in attendance that BSA was considering allowing gay scoutmasters to participate in scouting and that the church needed to be BSA's biggest support so if such a policy were "in danger" of being enacted, the church would have some financial strings to pull.  I don't remember being offended, because I was 13 and hadn't really figured out I was gay yet, but remembering that now, I'm glad to see the church has been silent in this period of flux.  BSA needs to act autonomously and recognize that gay people are capable of being God-fearing, physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight. I'm not gonna wave any flags for either argument, but this feels like progress to me.

Tonight was the first time I've ever been more interested in the football than the commercials or the half-time show.  That kinda feels good.  Football is a really cool sport, I'd like to watch it more frequently next season.

Speaking of the half-time show, Beyonce could totally "cure" me.  Holy hell, her legs go for miles.  I mean, obviously I love her because I'm gay, but damn, I'd love her straight too. She's a babe.  Jay-Z's a lucky, lucky dude. I'm gonna go listen to some Sasha Fierce now.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"The best of both worlds" - Northern Lights

"The best of both worlds" went live today.  It's about how much I am grateful for my life and my experiences as a gay Mormon. Go have a read and tell me what you think in the comments or via e-mail.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Non-gay-related call for prayers

I have a dear, dear friend who is facing a very discouraging medical diagnosis.

She has a degenerative disease that leaves her bedridden for 22 hours a day.  Sometimes she can rob Peter to pay Paul and spend a few hours out on the town tonight, but it means that she won't be getting out of bed tomorrow at all. She can't spend more than a few minutes in the same position without excruciating pain, which means that every night she wakes up every hour in misery and has to roll over in her sleep.

With so much time spent in bed, she finds unique ways to fill her time.  She enjoys crocheting, knitting and quilting, and she's taken a lively interest in family history.  Her hobbies, while decidedly old-fashioned, leave her feeling fulfilled because most of what she makes and does ends up being a gift for someone else (I once intercepted an e-mail my mom printed off from her and then accidentally left on the table that said that she was making me a bow tie for Christmas).

Well, I still haven't received that bow tie because shortly before Christmas her degenerative disease left her in so much pain that she couldn't concentrate on anything.  And then, shortly after Christmas, she started feeling extreme dizziness that meant that she couldn't open her eyes without feeling intense nausea.  She literally didn't open her eyes for a week because of the vertigo.

Finally, she went to see a doctor and heard the saddest news since she was initially diagnosed four years ago.  While the exact cause of her dizziness and nausea is not clear, it is something neurological and unrelated to her prior condition. Additionally, the same event that did damage to her sense of balance has also affected her eyes.  She can no longer track her eyes and has taken an extreme drop in the clarity of her vision, which is likely irreversible.

This girl has been through so much.  I know it's easy to put people on pedestals when you pity them, but what few negative qualities she might have would not doom her to this kind of poor health if this world was fair.  When she heard the news that her vision might never return, she realized that the only hobbies she was able to maintain since being diagnosed with her first condition might no longer become possible.

My reasons for posting this are threefold:  One, I want to brag about what a good friend I am to her (those of you who know me in person are now stifling laughs of incredulity).

Two, I'm hoping that someone out there has enough of a direct line with God to help ease her burdens. We've been praying for her for years and if anything, her condition is worsening.  I know (and she knows) that the Lord has a plan for her and that it might include a life of incredible hardship.  But prayer is a powerful drug and just might be what she needs. Besides, it's all we can do.

Three, if anyone has an idea of what a legally blind shut-in could do to occupy her time and enrich the lives of those around her, please, e-mail me or leave a comment here.  She's optimistic that she can learn to knit and crochet by feel, but to ease the transition, is there anything else she could do?

This blogging community is incredibly selfless. I've seen some of you do some amazing things for complete strangers. I'm not so full of myself to think that I reach a huge audience, but those of you who read can do great things.  Please, I'm all ears to any suggestions as to how I can better help my friend. All I have right now is empathy and while she needs it as much as anything, I want to do more.  So help me, eh?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Backstory: 2002-2006 - The guy edition

Last night, I told you about Christa, probably the only girl I've ever loved.  Even then, I'm hesitant to use the L-word because my end of it was totally unrequited, and I don't think unrequited love is love. Then again, I'm borderline robotic in the way I consider others' emotions, so I'm probably wrong about that.

Anyway, just going off of last night's post, you might think that homosexuality was an acquired trait for me.  Based on what I said then, I loved a girl in high school and dated girls in high school and kissed girls in high school, so surely, the homosexuality must have just been a temptation I gave into later in life, right?

Oh, how wrong you are...

Even in the midst of the delightfully pure passion I had for Christa, I had my dream harem of men running through my mind.  I'd go from imagining marrying Christa in the Salt Lake Temple to thinking about my best friend telling me he was gay and kissing me in about five minutes' time.  Except for my freshman year, which was about as sexless as you'd expect from a good Mormon, each year of high school will forever be associated with the "guy of the year," that friend that I burned in my lust after.

Mr. Sophomore was a few years older than me, but he's not terribly important for the purposes of my backstory.  He was nice and I thought the sun shined out his ass. Same old story.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Backstory: 2002-2006 - The girl edition

High school was a crazy time.  A crazy, crazy time.

My time in middle school was pretty fun.  In spite of those familial indiscretions that occurred just before entering, I had a good time in junior high.  I went to every dance and did that awkward, hands-on-her-hips swaying thing that kids who think they're in love do.  I crushed on girls and interestingly, I don't remember crushing much on my guy friends.  I remember having this ridiculous friend-crush on this guy who played clarinet in the school band; I thought he was so cool and I wanted to be just like him for some reason.

[Confession: I just Facebook-stalked him. He's missing his second upper incisor and he has his cartilage pierced. Which totally makes him sound like a hillbilly, but he looks more like a sexy, unconventional hipster than anything.  And he's a teacher.  And married to a girl. If you look at my crush history, that's pretty much my dream guy. I really hope he reads this someday and is like, "Who the hell is this guy?!?"]

So middle school passed with no major incident.  Except the time my brother kidnapped me and I had no idea who he is.  But I don't remember that to save my life because it was so traumatic, so I might be repressing all kinds of memories, haha.

Then came high school and a girl named Christa Andrews. Christa was a girl in my stake. She fit the description of "neat and comely" to a T. She never wore the latest fashions, nor did she slather herself in makeup. She was modest and sweet and she loved having fun, whether it was playing cards at home or night games at the park. In spite of the fact that she didn't wow with her stunning good looks or entice with revealing clothing, she was incredibly attractive.  Maybe especially because I was gay and didn't react to cleavage and ass like other guys.

I followed Christa around like a puppy dog my freshman year.  She was a year older, so she introduced me to a lot of her friends and showed me around high school.  She sat with me at lunch most days at the Mormon table (an apellation from others, not ourselves) and we had a few elective classes together, much to my delight.

I loved her and she could do no wrong. Whenever others accused her (sometimes unfairly and sometimes not) of being too uppity or too fake or too self-righteous, it hurt my feelings and made me want to defend her. At night I used to dream of her coming to me and telling me she loved me and that she'd wait for me to turn 16 so we could start dating.  Those were peaceful, happy dreams.

Then came the day when it all changed.  After crushing on Christa for two unrequited years, I just stopped liking her.  It was because we were at a party and she was fawning over the man who became her husband a few years ago.  I remember seeing them together and thinking, "She's not yours, man."  And in an instant, she went from this perfect angel who I put on a pedestal to this charming, sweet young woman who could sometimes get a little pretentious in her devotion, but was nonetheless a wonderful person to be around. When she graduated and moved on, my high school world got a little darker, but I'm grateful for her even so.

I learned a lot from Christa.  I learned that no matter how infatuated you are with a person, they still have faults.  The story of Christa reminds me a lot of a line from Juno: "Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass."  That's how I felt about Christa for awhile, and that's how I felt about every other girl and guy I've been infatuated and/or in love with.

There were a few other girls in high school, a few stolen kisses from "girlfriends" that lasted all of three weeks before one of us got bored and moved on (usually me).  Stay tuned for my experiences with the other gender.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tonight's meeting with Bishop was a game changer

I have come to realize that I am incredibly blessed with the priesthood leadership I have.  I've heard so many people say that they'll never tell their bishops anything again for fear of being lambasted, bullied, demonized and unfairly punished. This phenomenon was on my mind as I went to see my bishop today.

I've never been scared of him. He's never dealt with me unjustly. In fact, he usually ends up talking me out of whatever punishment I've given myself. But still, those sad experiences of others were on my mind as I gratefully entered my loving bishop's office.

He asked about my holidays, what I did for New Year's Eve, if I was working, et cetera.  I gave him polite answers.  We had a perfectly normal conversation until he asked why I wasn't returning to school this semester.

I dropped my shoulders, looked down, and said, "I don't know."

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Like you're trying to change the world

Last week's sacrament meeting was a homecoming to end all homecomings. Each one of the speakers in church was a very recently returned missionary. It was so fun to see each of their unique personalities shine through in their mission experiences and it was a really interesting way to spend sacrament meeting.

In any case, one of the missionaries is a little brother of one of my friends. He's always been a teasing, jocular little snot, someone you can't help but love even though he steals food from your plate when you're not looking and does that trick shot in pool where he hits you in the nuts with an 8-ball [not gonna lie, still haven't completely forgiven him for that one].

His talk was funny, as expected, but also loaded with a maturity I hadn't yet seen him portray.  And more importantly, he said something that has been running through my head ever since I heard it.

When talking of the methods and intentions invested in our prayers, he chastised us to remember not to short change our prayers. Too often, we kneel (or crouch or lay in bed and bury our heads in our pillows) and say, "Thank you for this, please bless me with this, and I'm sorry for this. Amen."  Such half-hearted and lazy prayers are not very effective prayers.

Instead, my little returned missionary friend said that we should "pray as if our prayers could change the world."

That's a soul-stirring idea.

For the next few days, I incorporated it into my scripture study, taught lessons about it in my home teaching, and brought it up in Institute.  In one of the lessons, a girl I home teach, who also returned from her mission recently, took his idea and ran with it.  She talked about how as a missionary, your prayers are always answered quickly and often in miraculous ways (seems unfair, huh?).  But, she added that the only reason they get answered is because you're always moving and working as a missionary. As she put it, "It's impossible for the Lord to steer a vehicle that isn't moving," meaning that the Lord will guide us, but only if we're doing something.  Another reason she said prayer seemed to work so well for her as a missionary was because she was constantly looking for those miraculous answers.

That tipped me off to something as well. So for the past few days, with LOTS of shortfalls, I've been trying to both pray as if my prayers could change the world and to look for those miraculous answers.  To my surprise, I've seen them more in the past week than usual.  Maybe those two recently-returned missionaries are on to something...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Giving up, or how I learned not to

A few nights ago I was pretty low.  I was feeling really inadequate about myself and my prospects in lots of different avenues of life. I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue in the gospel, but I also wasn't sure what other alternatives I had.  It was a weird, weird night.

I collapsed into bed, said a cursory prayer thanking God for the food I ate and that's about it, and resigned myself to sleep.

Just as I was about to doze off, feeling lonelier than I have in months, an acquaintance with whom I work called.  It was odd that he should call at whatever time it was, so I answered it, when I really just wanted to let it ring through.  Wasn't really in the mood to talk shop or anything.  But I answered it anyway.

He mentioned that he just had been thinking about me and wanted to give me a call to see what was up.  I was too floored to really respond, because he never calls me and really, the only interaction we have is when we're talking writing or something.  I just told him that I was kinda sad and I was grateful he called. We talked about a few other things I'll probably reserve for a later post, but the take-home was that I wasn't ready to give up.

I don't know what the future holds.  I'd love for it to be a mission, temple marriage, kids, a dog and maybe a Fiat.  But it might not.  If it doesn't, it won't be because I gave up on the church, gave up looking for answers.  Giving up is passive and I don't want to do that. Instead I want to find the answers I seek and then let the chips fall as they will.

So I guess that's the lesson.  Don't give up. Like they say in Meet the Robinsons, keep moving forward!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Backstory: 1996-2001

The next six years of my life were normal as well, with a few notable exceptions.  I played soccer and was the perennial second-stringer, getting the faint praise of "most improved" almost every season I played. The one thing I was decent at (predictably) was the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby.

I got pretty good marks in school and even came close to winning the school spelling bee twice.  And not that I'm bragging (lies.  I'm totally bragging), but I was the first second grader to be invited to join the Letterheads spelling club.  Third graders hadn't even been invited when I was.  Whoops, hold on, there's some dirt on my shoulder.  There, that's better.

It was also during this time that I had what would probably be considered my first willfully gay act, and the one that tipped my mom off that I was probably going to be her glitteriest son.  I don't remember it but she told me about it a few years ago that when I was in second grade, I tackled one of my friends on the playground and held him down in a bear hug, which upset him and he told his mom, who told my mom, who then told me about it when I was 21.  Oy.

(This is the super awkward part to write)

I also had some inappropriate experiences with some of my older cousins. I don't know who started it but I do remember thinking that the game we were playing (I'll show you mine if you show me yours) was inappropriate and I shouldn't be playing. And then, awhile later, I remember playing it with my younger cousins, and this time, I remember very clearly being the instigator. Truth be told, I'm really ashamed of those moments.

I remember seeing my caring bishop about it as a 12-year-old and hearing his carefully worded, kind reaction that said that I could be clean again and that these things didn't have to define me.  I also remember apologizing to my cousins about it a few weeks later, perhaps the first instance of me being somewhat responsible for my actions.  But still, it's something I hate about my past.  I can't help but wonder what effect it had on them.  Every time I see some anonymous blogger say something about the experiences he had with an older cousin, I can't help but wonder if it's me he's talking about.  I guess it's that awful memory I have that will keep me from ever doing something like that again.

Here's the funny thing about it though; that lack of self-control manifested in my experiences with my older cousins and then the desire to push boundaries, like I did with my younger cousins, still pops up today. I know what's right and wrong and I know what people want and need from me, and still, I can't help but fuck that up and do things I know are harmful, not just to me, but to others too.  Sure, there's agency and all that; both my cousins then and my companions now could easily have chosen to say no, but the fact of the matter is, if I wasn't a willing participant, the damage wouldn't have been done to any party.

So there it is. Probably the darkest time of my childhood. Next up, realizing I was gay.

(BTW, family members who I know read this blog, SHHHH)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Car of the moment: Fiat 500 Abarth


Back at the beginning of this blog, I initiated a Car of the Moment category that I intended to do semi-regularly, but it's kind of fallen to the back burner.

Well, I woke up this morning (read: mid-afternoon [NYE 2012 kept me up till the wee hours of the night]) and decided I wanted to start the year off in the most relaxing way possible, so I went car shopping.  That's right.  Nothing makes me like life more than car shopping. That's akin to someone saying the sound of a dental drill can put them to sleep, but there it is.  I'm weird, I know.

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