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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