Saturday, November 26

Am I Facing Up To God, or Do I Face Away?

There is more, I think, to authenticity, than being true to who I am instead of who others think I should be. For in my heart of hearts, who am I, but a soul in the midst of an eternal war of whirlwinds and a battle of desires... with battlefields where I am deeply drawn to either side? How then can it be more right to truly follow a deepest desire within me, and thus truly betray the other just as deep?

For what if I, in being true, betray my own divine?

I think, far greater than being true to the warring soul inside, is choosing who I truly wish that soul to be. For without that choice, I may be true to myself, only to find that I am no one at all.

<<<

I've believed that goodness was measured by actions. That by looking at my spiritual and physical resume I could determine if I was on the right path.

The important part, I thought, was the sum total of the things I had done. If I spent time in pornography, I could counter it with service and family and friends. The hidden deceptions of my heart I could expiate by making the world a better place. Every sin had a price that it could be bought, every guilt washed clean through the indulgence of a good deed.

I was wrong.

In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, Christ teaches that the determination of who I am, and not what I have done - and from thence my choice of eternal destination - is only based on one thing:

Which way I face.

It's the only thing that matters. That's the reason that apostles pray for strength in their dying days. Even men who have done miracles in the name of God can turn away from Him. It's the reason that God reaches out to those who sin. Those who have chosen darkness in the past can transform and exchange their lives for the light of Christ.

And I can only choose one.

"No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
- Matthew 6:24

If I sin and seek to hide or justify my actions, it doesn't matter how good I appear - if I work at the temple or hold a calling as a bishop or love my children or have made the world a better place - I am turned away from God.

And in the same breath, if I truly want to repent and choose to humbly submit my will to God, it doesn't matter what I've done or the breadth of my accomplishments. I am turned to Him, and His Grace can make me whole.

It takes incredible strength to submit to God. It's easy to take control of my life and to choose the path I take. It takes far more conviction and strength of soul to let Him guide my life and set the course of my faith. Those who submit to God are never weak.

It's my choice.

And, at the end of the day, it's the only choice that matters.


It doesn't matter how deep the pit
If I look towards the light
If I imagine sunshine
It breaks the darkest night

It doesn't matter how bright the light
If my face is turned away
In my shadow I cast darkness
And dim the brightest day

Both are always present
The darkness and the light
But I can only turn to one
Just one can be in sight

My resume of doings
My friends and my degree
Will never tell the truth
About the soul inside of me

At the end of life but one foundation
Shapes my day-to-day
Am I facing up to God
Or do I face away?

Thursday, November 24

Second-class Citizen

I remember once overhearing a conversation among a group of LDS women - singles and leaders from my YSA ward. A woman mentioned that she knew someone who had just broken up with a guy who was attracted to other men. The responses of the other women were telling. 

"Don't ever date someone like that..." 
"She got herself out of a bad situation..." 
"Promise you'll never marry someone who is gay..."

Something inside me broke that day. I had never realized that being gay was seen as a liability in some circles of the Mormon dating world beyond the simple fact that it made dating hard for me.

That experience was years ago.

Someone asked me if I'm at all interested in girls. And I just realized today that I still feel deep shame, and honestly, unworthiness related to that same issue.

But I don't know how to work through it.

There's a girl I know that was part of that conversation. I've had the desire to ask her out before. I didn't. She had a steady boyfriend, and while I'm an awesome guy in most fields, I feel woefully inadequate when it comes to this. Anyone would be a better option than I would... and she had plenty of options. She still does. Years later, she has another boyfriend, and I still haven't ever asked her out or even mentioned that I had wanted to.

Maybe that would be a good thing to do. Just mentioning it doesn't sound as vulnerable as asking. I could mention it.

But vulnerability is what I'm going for. Is putting myself out there so awful? What's the worst that can happen? I've already rejected myself as wholly undesirable, and I know my entire story. No one can top that.

And being ok with vulnerability is what I'm trying to achieve inside myself. While it's unlikely that anything would come of the conversation from a dating perspective, the authenticity (= courage to live boldly and have courage) gained on my part would be a huge boon regardless of result.

But where is the feeling coming from?

And here's me being vulnerable here.

I think it means that I have a ways to go in accepting myself and loving myself. 

I know lots of guys who are paranoid about their family or friends learning about their sexuality... or at least their friends who are also gay. Those I've tried to befriend kept me on the fringe of their lives - sometimes mutual friends are inevitable and they'll make up a story about how we met, but usually they'll go to great lengths to isolate me from ever meeting people in their other lives.

I know the feeling. I've felt, at least somewhat, the same way. I remember being afraid that people would learn I was gay and facing enormous, looming, unknowable-but-awful consequences... supported by a few bad personal experiences and some awful stories.

"What if it goes away? What if I can deal with it by myself? Why do I need to tell anyone? Won't it just make life harder?"

This isn't a post on coming out. That's a personal decision between one person and God, not between me or anyone else.

But I think that (breathe, David... it's going to be ok) this realization that I feel like a second-class citizen in the dating world means I am still at odds with being gay.

 It means that, somewhere inside me, *I* honestly think that being gay is shameful. That it's a liability. Even though I'm upfront and candid with family, friends, and the world about being attracted to guys, even though I've seen how much it has influenced my life and been a mortal experience that has shaped me, I've still bought into the feeling that it's an unsavory part of who I am... and that I'm less valuable as a person (or more specifically, as a potential dating or marriage partner) because it is something I face.

That...

That sucks.

I didn't want to say that. It actually took me a few minutes to even write the last sentence because "sucks" feels like gutter slang to me. I don't say that when I speak. But it's also the only thing that hit the feeling. It's depressing, frustrating, angering, stupid, and a handful of other emotions all crushed into one.

...

Yeah.

And it's even worse because, likely, if I'm feeling that way, there are a lot of guys out there who feel the same way. And maybe even some who are reading this post and feeling the soul-crushing, gut-twisting shame that I felt while writing it... and wondering just like I am how to get out of it.

I don't know.

But I do know some things I can do to work through it.

I can make the commitment to treat the people in my life like the awesome people that they are - and to never, ever hide myself or them because I'm afraid of someone finding out about me.

I can talk to this girl (or call / write her) and share my thoughts. Not this whole post, but the thoughts I had about asking her out and how feeling second-class made it take so long to share them.

And I can ask God to help me really believe that I am worthwhile, and even spectacular, with all the things that I carry in life. Learning to love myself more is a process - not something I'm going to ever "reach"... but God *does* love me fully, and He can help me along the path to believing more in me.

Friday, November 11

Existential Crises

Most days I find myself facing existential crisis. I don't use that term lightly... and I'm only writing about it because I have finally realized that my daily dose of crisis isn't all that normal. And because being vulnerable - understanding my own weakness - is an important part of thriving in life.

The seed sprouts from a mild sense of disconnection. That can come from pretty much anything - when I misinterpret communication from a friend or even a stranger, when there are delays, and pretty much any time my expectations and reality don't match perfectly.

The sense of disconnection, if it remains and my mind has a moment to think, sensitizes me to one of my personal shame triggers - the deeply set belief that I'm not worthwhile in relationships... and that people would be better off without me in their lives.

My inner persona recoils with shame when the trigger gets flipped. It begins chanting positive affirmations in the hope that one will stick: "I'm not a worthless person. I've done lots of really good things. I make a difference. People love me for who I am... right?"

But in that moment all the things I've ever done don't matter. They're all in the past. They talk about the *past* me - not the current me. And then I am suddenly engaged in a war with myself, feverishly attempting to show that my life and life's activities prove my worth.

My day-to-day flashes before my eyes, from my distant plans for the future down to the things I did just moments before.

Everything gets weighed. Everything gets judged. Does this really make a difference to the world? Does this really prove that I am good?

And if I can't explain how something in my life is essential to the wellbeing of humanity, it gets tossed to the cutting floor.

Then there's free time - pre-existent or created through the culling - and, without skipping a beat, my internal urge demands that each moment be filled with a valuable, meaningful activity that will change the fabric of the world.

If I can do it, then the crisis fades. The shame quells. And the exhausting fear of being a failure quiets into the fear of failing.

But if I come up short - if I can't identify something meaningful enough, or if I lack the resources to work on it, or sometimes without any excuse at all, the feeling escalates to true crisis. Overwhelming shame fills my soul, and I find myself wanting, wishing I could do anything to get away from myself. Sometimes I have the foresight to drug myself with endorphins at the gym. Other times I down an entire jar of peanut butter, even on a fast day. Or I try (it used to work) to drown myself in video games or movies.

Eventually, no matter what happens in my internal war, the feeling subsides. I clean up the wreckage and start my life again.

Good things come from my sorties with meaning. I find myself pushed constantly - daily even - to better understand my role in the universe and how I can play a better part. I think about how I can be a better friend, a better brother, a better father someday, and I make real plans on how to fulfill those goals.

But I am realizing that these constant daily battles are deeply rooted in fear and shame. I am afraid that I'm not enough. I'm ashamed that I'm not good enough. I'm ashamed that I'm not worthwhile as a friend, as a potential husband, as a future father, as a brother and a son. And so many of the good things I do are an attempt to prove to myself that I'm good enough.

But it doesn't work.

Because while I may be able to convince everyone else, doing great and marvelous things will never make me accept myself. A resume full of glorious accomplishments won't take away my flaws and my weaknesses. Nothing will. And only humility, and compassion, could ever allow me to accept myself for who I really am.

I don't yet believe that I am worthy of love. I don't yet believe that I am worthy of friendship or compassion or anything good at all. I've done good things. I've spent my life trying to prove my worth. Most days I'm honestly happy. I spend my hours and minutes doing amazing things and connecting with people in ways I never would have thought possible.

But sometimes I still have trouble believing in me.

Sunday, October 30

Light in the Darkness

A few weeks ago God tried to teach me something... and I didn't listen.

I am sometimes really, really hard to teach.

I want to make my own decisions. I want to do my own thing. I want to do what I want. And the feedback God was giving me was something I didn't want to hear.

Not only was it something that I didn't want to hear, it was something that threatened the way I look at the world. It seemed to threaten my way of life, the way I interact with people, and everything I hold dear.

I'm grateful that He tried again.

This last week was easily the worst week in my memory of ever. The emotional turmoil I experienced ripped me from head to toe, deeply and soundly enough that if I still were bipolar I likely would have also been tempted to commit suicide.

Depression would have brought a feeling of utter worthlessness. But at one point I honestly felt that my life was not only not positive, but truly negative. That my simple existence in the world caused only unimaginable pain to the people I care about most. That everything I ever touched would be ravaged, that anyone I tried to get close to would be shredded in the whirlwind... and since I find myself deeply loving all the people I meet, the only kind thing I could do in life would be to stay away from everyone.

I'm usually a pretty level-headed guy. Ever since my mood swings have gone away, most of the time my emotions are kept easily in check. And so feeling so deeply crushed and ripped that I wanted to yell and cry and pound my steering wheel and drown my sorrows in Christian music... was an intense experience.

I tried spending time with people. But it didn't work - the things that would lift me up couldn't reach me. And some of my attempts backfired and left me hurting even more.

Finally, Saturday afternoon I collapsed in a heap on a porch swing. I fell asleep, woke up, and checked my email to find a comment here on (G)MG.

And as I read, God told me again what He had wanted me to learn.

As I said, I am sometimes really, really hard to teach.

But this time, pushed to the lowest of my lows (albeit by things that once seemed almost inconsequential), I finally listened.

His guidance?

I need to surround myself with awesome people who see me for who I am.

People who can see that I love deeply and completely. People who can give me the benefit of the doubt when autism and miscommunication get in the way. People who love me and always assume I have the best intentions, and who are willing to work through problems when they inevitably arise. People with hearts of gold... who can see my own through the layers of my mortality.

And, hidden along with that feedback, that I should change how I live my life.

I've always wanted *everyone* to be my friend. Part of it is that I don't easily feel connected to people... and so anyone who wants to be my friend instantly is raised to that level. People close to me have told me that I should be more judicious of who I give my time to... but how could I do that? Everyone is worth my time. Everyone needs a friend. And I definitely need them... so why not expand my love to include anyone who is willing?

The feedback to surround myself with people who see me for who I am teaches far more deeply into my life... because it tells me not to surround myself with those who don't.

God has told me I'm supposed to *not* pursue friendships with good people that I wanted to befriend. Not to ignore them, but that I am supposed to choose my friends instead of wanting every good living soul to stand in my circle. 

That's rough.

I can see at least some reason. I only have so many hours in the day... and most of them are already taken. I only have so much emotional energy. And looking at the prophetic counsel I've heard for years, maybe I should have guidelines and expectations for friendship other than, "You're currently willing to give me time." I've looked for people with ambition, with passion, with education or talent... I've looked for any way to find connection with friends in countless places, taking anyone who would take me.

And that was a valuable part of my life.

Moving forward, God has told me that I need people who will lift me, inspire me, and love me, and God, deeply - first. Everything else comes second.

And as frustrating as it may be, as much as I want to honestly go against His feedback right now and pursue close friendship with good people I want badly to have in my life but who just happen to not have that quality...

It feels right.

And I'm willing to follow.

I can only remember feeling this way once before. Not all that long ago, I wanted to get a PhD, enter the world of academia, and change the world. I had enormous ambition and had a plan for myself and the world. Everything lined up, everything seemed to be perfectly set. And then, in no uncertain terms, God told me that He would bar my way. He took my ambition and told me He had different plans, effectively locking the door on one of my greatest dreams and telling me to move on. In the years since, while I've done a lot, none of it was in the limelight. But while my plans and accomplishments didn't shake the earth, they changed the lives of people one-on-one.

So God has yet again closed a door. But, (Sound of Music), when God closes a door, He always opens a window somewhere.

I'm torn. Part of me is excited at running in a different direction, and the inherent promise that I will find more amazing people - people with hearts of gold - to include in my life. Part of me is grateful for the amazing people who have already become part of it. And part of me is still pulling on the handle of the door, wanting it to unlock so I can go back inside.

It'll be awesome, David. Get up and get running again.

You ready?

Set.

Go.

Saturday, October 29

Abuse and Moral Superiority

I remember giving feedback to my autistic home teaching companion on something he had done. We had visited a family and he had mentioned multiple times that the room needed to be vacuumed, even going so far as to suggest that we could help them choose a good one to purchase.

I knew that he had said what he said with the intent to help them, because he honestly cared. And that's why, as we drove back to his home, I told him what his words had likely meant on the other side.

He was devastated.

I remember watching him cry as he asked me if the people were able to tell that he didn't mean it. That he hadn't intended to communicate a negative message. That he actually loved them and was now concerned about saying the wrong thing in a dozen different situations. He has far more visibly autistic mannerisms than I do... and so they likely did understand. I explained that to him, encouraged him to keep trying, and promised to continue to give him clear feedback because I knew what he was going through.

It's not often that people give feedback like that. In today's culture, it's not enough to have people care a lot about me. Giving clear feedback about broken personal expectations is seen to cause intense pain... which, in practice, means that in most cases people have to be really, really hurt to voice what I'm doing wrong.

People gave me feedback this week.

I don't know exactly how my companion felt while he cried. But I know that I cried instead of sleeping most of last night. And right now a huge part of me wants to curl up in a ball and never come in contact with another human soul again... because I can't handle being the source of so much pain.

The first feedback I got was when one person voiced honest feelings that I was overbearing, unkind, and exuded a feeling of moral superiority. They communicated that when I'm around people I dominate them and take what I want, rather than what they want. That I break social norms and don't have adequate regard for others.

That shook me. But I tried to shake it off. The feedback had focused on my assumed negative intentions, and I tried to assure myself that I honestly do care about people... because I believe that I really, truly do. Even so, I found myself wondering who was right. There was real pain there. And if I needed to change, then what?

Then another, completely unrelated person told me some of the same things and more. The second person was clearer... and this feedback, while it still talked about my negative intentions, was more specific about their experience. They told me they had felt used. Manipulated by a hypocritical sense of moral superiority. And that I had taken what I wanted with no regard to what they wanted.

...

That's my definition of abuse.

...

I doubt I'll ever forget my own experience being sexually abused, or the intense emotional pain it caused me. I still remember that as one of the worst experiences of my life. My words don't really capture that... or even graze the surface of how much pain it represents in my life.

Everyone sees life through a different lens. But when multiple people tell me that I've set up abusive relationships - that, like my own abuser, I was taking what I wanted without consent...

I'm not sure how to even process that. When I think about myself, I see a guy who just cares about people, wants them to be happy, and is willing to do anything to make that happen. Realizing that my efforts are, in some cases, actually abuse takes all the pain I've ever felt and turns it on my own, raw emotions. 

Maybe I honestly shouldn't be close to people if something like this can happen without my meaning or even knowing. Maybe it's not worth it. If trying to get close to someone has the potential to cause them pain like that, then maybe I should honestly keep to myself. That's the part of me that wants to curl up in a ball and disappear.

And maybe it's been this way all along.

Maybe girls felt used when they realized I had never been interested in them and was dating just because I felt the need to date. I've always assumed that starting the conversation with that information, or waiting until they found it on their own, was potentially unfair to giving myself and them a chance, but looking back I can see that there are deep emotions at play when you get close to someone... and it's far more unfair to not chart out honest expectations. People don't deserve to get their hearts broken.

Maybe guys felt used when I tried to invest in a friendship without their really understanding that I brought baggage that would likely inflict pain and that would probably make it far harder to last. Autism is a major social disability... and while I may be upfront about my vague awareness of the impact it can have on others, the feedback I got this week illustrates how understated my comprehension is. Most people don't believe I'm autistic even if I tell them... and so I find myself in a tough place. I can navigate many of the social expectations to get close to people, but I lack the ability to read cues that color the one-on-one relationship. If I were more visibly autistic, then maybe my missteps would be ascribed to the condition and easily forgiven because of the lessened pain. But since I don't seem autistic, when those cues get misread and I do something wrong, it causes far more pain because the other party feels I consciously made the choice. It becomes an issue of character rather than an issue I face.

Maybe people even felt used when I listened to their stories, helped them make changes in their lives, and then disappeared just as quickly as I arrived.

...

I think, if I'm honest with myself, I realize that there isn't really a maybe. Definitely some people don't feel used when I'm around them. Either they love me deeply, or have worked with adults with autism, or they forgive easily... whatever the cause, they're able to see the real me, and willing to overlook the brokenness I bring to the table. But others do feel, or have felt, used and abused... and at the end of the day my actions affect others regardless of intent.

...

So what's the answer? What am I supposed to change? I've realized that I've broken assumed social norms yet again, and, unlike my home teaching companion, I've caused immeasurable pain.

It's bitterly ironic. I can just barely handle being gay and potentially never having a family of my own. I can handle being suicidally depressed and wanting life to end. I can be ok with being different from seeing the world in a different light. I can deal with feeling alone every day of my life from autism. 

But this... this is something I really, really don't want. My soul bleeds for people, yet I am coated with sharp barbs that rip those I so easily love.

Which is probably exactly why God gave it to me.

I realize that running away isn't the answer. That cutting ties and breaking relationships may staunch the bloodletting, but doesn't heal the wound. It's far more mature, albeit painful, to fix what has been broken. Perhaps I didn't choose this, but it's still mine to face and conquer.

So I guess I go through repentance. Acknowledge what happened, determine the extent, ask for forgiveness, and then identify methods for change in my own life. As far as my relationships going forward, I think that honestly, candidly, and clearly charting out mutual expectations - at the beginning, throughout, and whenever conflict arises - will be key.

Dear world, and people I love, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for inflicting pain and suffering. I'm sorry for misleading you. I'm sorry for burning you. I'm sorry for ripping your heart out when you gave it to me. I'm sorry for manipulating you. I'm sorry for making you feel like less.

I'm sorry for everything. 

I hope that you can forgive me... and that next time we meet, I can be a better man.

Saturday, October 22

Will You Trust God?

Sometimes it's disheartening to look out at the world and see so many casualties.

So many people who, because of whatever reason, have decided to stop fighting.

I get it. I get that it's hard to be alone, that culture doesn't accept me, that often it takes more faith than I feel I can give to trust in God when it seems like it will never work out. I get that the allure of just finding the right guy who I love and loves me back seems like it could fix everything. I get that falling in love is intoxicating and blurs everything I once took for granted. I get that trusting God brings eventual blessings, where trusting myself makes things happen now.

But I also get this:

Following God will always bring greater happiness than any other alternative.

Always.

I get that life is hard. But, deep down inside, where my soul can hear His voice, I know that following God is always worth it.

And so it's always worth fighting.

It's always worth making the choice today to be morally clean even if I've made major mistakes.

It's always worth moving towards being sober even if I've failed a thousand times.

It's always worth reading the scriptures, praying, talking with a bishop, attending Church, and getting a recommend for the temple.

It's always worth lighting a fire of faith and trusting God to take care of me and my enormous personal needs.

It's always worth preparing for eternal life even if I don't know how that is going to work or at all what it's going to look like.

And it's always worth inviting others to do the same.

And so I'm going to do something that I don't do here at (G)MG often.

It's not super obvious unless I bring it up... but almost everything I write here is in first person. This blog is about my story, and it's written almost 100% about me. I focus on my story because the moment I talk about someone else, it instantly opens me up to criticism. No one can criticize my life and my thoughts, but it's easy to criticize as soon as I try to make an application to someone else.

So, with the knowledge that at least some people will find the words written here unbearably presumptuous, I want to ask *you* to do something.

I want to ask you to give your life back to God. 

Completely. No matter what that means, how inconvenient your past decisions may make it, and no matter the seeming consequences.

If you're a guy married to a guy, to divorce him (and keep loving him without sex involved). Yes, I said it.

If you're a guy with a boyfriend you're sexually actively with, to stop having sex or anything like sex (and break off the relationship if he's not willing to have a nonsexual one).

And even if you're not, I ask you to give up the desires of your heart and put them all on the altar of sacrifice, no matter what they are. 

In our culture today, sometimes people say, "God would never do that," or "A *loving* God would never ask someone to give that up." People who say that don't get it. They don't know God, and they definitely haven't seen the enormous positive personal change that can and will come when men are willing to give God literally everything and experience transformation at His hands. And that can happen no other way.

Yes, I am asking you to give God everything. To give up your desire for friendship, for love, for family, for fame, for wealth, for peace, for comfort, for acceptance. I am asking you to give Him your desire to be a parent and a spouse, to give up your will and your loves and 100% of everything you hold most dear.

And, in return, when you have finally filled the altar of sacrifice with everything, when you have decided to trust God and His ways and to let Him show you the pathway to happiness...

Then I promise that God will take the sacrifices that you make and make you into something far better than you could have ever hoped for.

True, lasting happiness is not something we are given or that comes from the outside. It comes from being like God - and that begins when we are willing to entrust Him with everything.

So again, I ask you: Will you trust Him? Will you give Him everything? Will you make changes in your life?

Will you give your life back to God?

Friday, October 14

Everything is Awesome!

It's amazing how polar my life still is. A few days ago I felt like the world was crashing down around me... but today I feel like everything is... yes... awesome.

The weather is cold, and awesome.

The sky is awesome.

The food I ate for breakfast this morning was awesome.

Today is going to be awesome.

...

It really is amazing though how a switch in perspective changes everything.

Monday, October 10

Hungry. Lonely. Anxious.

I feel unsettled.

Hungry.

Lonely.

Anxious.

It's an intense mix of loneliness, anxiety, hunger, jealousy, frustration, angst, exhaustion, pain...

Like the floodgates of feeling have opened and the only thing behind them was Pandora's box.

If I stay home I'll probably eat until I'm sick.

I have a family activity that started already, and FHE for my ward at 7:00. But I'm not sure if I'll be able to push myself into going to either. Right now, I don't want to talk with anyone. I know inside that being around other people isn't going to make me better. And, right now, I just want this feeling to go away.

But I don't even know what the name of the feeling is.

It's consuming. It makes my stomach twist as I look at it, and seems to fuzz my brain a bit.

It's demanding. It has to be sated. Even writing this blog post doesn't change how I feel.

It's tempting. All the bad things I've ever done somehow seem tempting again right now. That's absurd, though - because I know, cognitively, that all the sins I made in the past were awful, terrible experiences. And yet, somehow, with this feeling, almost anything seems like a viable option. 

That's dangerous.

Wow. I just realized something. I know this feeling isn't unique in my life - it comes and goes, though it's usually far less intense than it is today. But I think it's the same feeling that possesses men to drown their lives. Alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, video games, food... the feeling comes, it demands satiation, and then we feel forced to pick our poison and its eventual consequences.

...

I'm a rational, faithful member of the Church. Doing the right thing is important to me. And yet, right now, temptation is looking me squarely in the face... and I see how simple it would be to just give in.

Am I going to? 

Am I going to let an incredibly intense feeling dictate my life?

I don't intend to.

I do intend to go to the gym and work out until an endorphin rush overwhelms whatever this chemical/hormonal urge is that is inside me. I'll likely miss the family activity. But I need to get the feeling gone.

But what about the guys who feel this way and don't have a gym next door?

What about the people who feel their only outlet is sex? Or pornography?

What's the *real* solution?

...

I don't know.

But I have to go to the gym before it consumes me.

...

... half an hour later ...

If I ever have that feeling again - the feeling that seems like it will never go away and makes me want to give in - this is a message for me: don't do it. Don't give up. Don't give in. Hormones go up, so they also go down. I can do this. I can go to the gym, or call a friend for help, or just go outside and watch the sky. Some things in life can push me to good, others to do bad.

This feeling just makes me *do*... And I hope I always have the courage, faith, and hope to make it make me choose the right.

...

My best friend mentioned something that made me think that maybe the feeling is designed to make me turn to God. And maybe it is, and *that* is the answer.

That feels right. In the past, doing missionary work, I'm realizing, has made it go away. And doing something that pulls me to God feels like a better idea than working out until I'm dead.

Thanks, best friend. And thanks, world, for listening. :)

I'm a Missionary... likely for forever.

Who Am I? What Am I Looking For?

I had a realization.

My life isn't going to change.

I'll back up a bit and give some context.

When I was looking for a career, I went to my Patriarchal blessing. I was convinced that the answer would be there. And, sure enough, there's a paragraph that specifically promises blessings relating to choosing my profession.

It doesn't give much information, though, and it's incredibly vague.

The vast majority of the blessing talks about being a father and a missionary.

So I tried a dozen different dream jobs... everything from curriculum writing to video game design to acting. All of it was good, but none of it really *fit* with me - which ultimately left me with a very full resume and an empty list of dream jobs.

Finally I had a realization.

I'm a missionary.

And that needed to be the core of my professional life.

The reason that hadn't worked in my head before was the issue of priestcraft. The scriptures very specifically forbid preaching the gospel for money, and so I had found myself shying away from anything that seemed even remotely close. Even teaching seminary or Institute full-time felt somewhat off in my book. 

But I realized that I didn't need to sell the gospel for money, or get paid to share it, for missionary work to be central in my career. I just had to find a way to make it be a central part of my day-to-day life.

That was a huge breakthrough.

Then fast forward.

I had graduated with an MBA and was yet again trying to figure out my life. Education (missionary work) was my passion, and I applied to a handful of PhD programs around the country. A few of them were good, and one seemed like a perfect fit. The admissions committee assured me that I had an excellent application, and everyone assumed I was a shoe-in.

I got rejected from every single one, for reasons that were obviously not normal.

That same week I had a dream where God reminded me that He had sent me to be a missionary - not a supervisor or a researcher or someone in a back room. PhD's may be great, but getting a PhD would definitely pull me back from the day-to-day interaction of being a missionary. He also informed me that He wanted to keep me on the front lines... so any attempt to leave them would be thwarted.

And so I started another business based around customer experience design. Started teaching the gospel in all of my free time. Incorporated religion into every aspect of my professional life.

And slowly started to branch into a more social person.

I've never been good at being social in the long-term. My relationships are usually explosive, powerful, and short-lived... and those that stay long-term either take a whole lot of effort or are far more sporadic than what seems to be usual.

But someone asked me a little while ago what I wanted. What I was looking for. What my goal is.

Eventually I want to find a wife. I mean, that's a commandment - part of the Plan of Happiness - and so it's part of my goals. But modern science hasn't found any way to make me fall in love with a girl, and the prophets haven't said anything about it either... so I don't worry about that.

Beyond a wife someday in this life or the next, I've finally opened my hopes again to want close friends. I had given up on really close friendship a long time ago, but recent years have shown me that maybe it's possible even for me.

Figuring out what I want those friendships to *look* like has been the task.

Right now, I'm single, somewhat stable, yet focused deeply on transient relationships. I meet people at Soap Factory, online, or through real life, get close enough to them to effect major impact in their lives, and then usually never see them again.

My assumption has always been that this pattern - of constantly meeting people I don't know and falling in love with their souls - was temporary. Eventually, I'd find people to be my friends, maybe a spouse as well someday, and my circle of influence would shrink to the people I knew.

But then I had the realization, yet again, that I'm a missionary.

...And I likely always will be.

The signs are pretty obvious in retrospect, and it makes sense. Every passion, every talent, every single thing in my life points towards missionary work. Which means that my social life isn't going to suddenly switch over to a new phase someday... or likely ever. I'm always going to be a missionary, always going to be reaching out to people, and always going to be doing the things I do.

And that changes things.

That changes things a lot.

Before, I felt like I was looking for friends who were willing to stick through or put up with a phase where my heart is given to strangers. Being in love with the world can cause heartache in close relationships - I care deeply about people I've only just met, and I'm not shy about showing that love. That can be difficult to swallow for someone trying to get close to me, and my friendships in the past have felt like they were all waiting for me to catch up.

Now I realize what I'm working towards. And it's not people who can miserably stick through and put up with missionary love. It's people who feel the same way. I'm looking to find and make missionary companions - people whose hearts bleed for the world and who spend their days and nights and prayers and lives trying to lift souls to salvation.

With people I don't know, the ingredients of whether or not an acquaintance turns into a friendship have always been based on variables that have felt outside of my control. Now I realize that I should be looking for someone who has the same missionary focus I do. I definitely hadn't done that before.

With people already in my social circle, this could explain why I push people to change so much. It could be because I'm subconsciously molding them into missionaries - helping them find testimonies, love themselves and others, share the gospel...

That could be why I've pushed my best friend toward serving a mission. Because deep inside I know that I need people who love sharing the gospel as much as I do, and I feel we'll be able to understand one another better as we both increase in that love.

Maybe.

I could be totally off.

Thursday, September 22

Confession: Part of My Healing & Change

I fully intended to share everything about my appointment with my bishop. Going in, I felt overwhelmed, disappointed, anxious, and somewhat hopeful. Speaking with him and then blogging about it felt like an awesome opportunity to share my own personal repentance process... and hopefully inspire others to choose the same.

But sharing the experience with my best friend helped me realize that my idealistic goals could be very easily overrun by emotion.

And, for whatever reason, this time I'm not going to share everything. I think that modeling repentance is still a valuable way to motivate others and keep myself honest and on the path. I'll share some of my emotions, but the actual disciplinary process - and how it does and doesn't impact my life - will just be my path.

Scheduling the interview beforehand made it much easier to go. Arriving early was a good choice, but my stomach was in knots. I felt like I wanted to throw up, then run away somewhere no one would know my name. Bishop finished the appointment before mine, and the executive secretary left for the night. My appointment was at 9pm.

Bishop greeted me with a smile and asked what he could do for me. I had hoped that he would have read my blog, but knew that it wasn't super likely. He's definitely not tech-savvy: he texts, but I think his wife gets and actually prints emails for him. Some people have downtime at work, but he runs a car repair business and it's still summer. So following my blog isn't really in the picture.

"I have some confessing to do."

Swallow hard. Breathe deep. It's going to be ok.

I told him what had happened, and then stopped and waited for his response.

As I listened, a burden lifted from me. I had done this part of the process. The confession was over. I still felt like absolute garbage though. Here was my bishop - who trusts me, relies on me, and asks me to reach out to people in my ward - and how do I prepare myself to serve? Not very well... that's for sure.

He talked about the magnitude of what I had done. Messing up with another guy is a violation of the law of chastity... and while there are different levels of violation, any violation causes the Spirit to leave. And the more knowledge I have - from temple covenants to priesthood to personal covenants with God - the bigger that mistake becomes against God. In the back of my mind, I remembered that in the Handbook of Instructions - the blue policy handbook given to Church leaders (and only them - though any member can read it in their presence) - "homosexual relations" is listed under the section where a disciplinary council may be required.

He outlined how he saw the repentance process going forward, and then he said something that caught my attention. 

He suggested that I apologize to the other guy involved.

I already had. Half a dozen times. But the sheer depth of what I had done hit me like a ton of bricks yet again at that point. Yes, I had stunted my own personal progress in the Gospel. Yes, I had betrayed God and disappointed myself and everyone I love. But I had done far worse than that. On my journey into darkness, I had pulled another soul with me.

To someone whose sum goal and purpose in life is to help people find meaning in the Gospel, live better lives, repent, and be happy... Realizing that I've done the opposite was even more horrific than being damned myself. I mean, to me (and I think, to many who have ever known depression), my soul is sometimes expendable as long as others are ok. But someone else's? Worth dying for. And in the day since it has made me begin to rethink *everything* I do. Does this action help someone come to Christ? Or pull them away? And what can I do to repair the damage that has already been done?

That realization - that my sins affect others - has made me want the Spirit back, and the consistent counsel it provides, more than anything.

I asked my bishop for feedback on sharing my experience with my Elder's Quorum and asking them for help. We looked in the Handbook for any counsel on public confession... since both of us were aware of cultural history (public confession was an accepted, and sometimes expected part of the early Church) and current cultural dynamics (we both felt like someone had counseled against getting up in testimony meeting and detailing your sins). But in the section requiring bishops and leaders to keep confidentiality, there is nothing to suggest that members shouldn't share their trials and turn to their quorums and groups for support. And he agreed with me - what is Elders Quorum for if not to help the men of the ward address the things that they are facing? So this Sunday I'll be asking for help and support.

And then I asked him for a blessing.

I'm grateful for the opportunity I have... to choose God. It's a simple thing, really, to follow God. But it takes more faith than I sometimes want to give... and more sacrifice than I can sometimes even imagine.

But one thing is for sure.

It's worth it.

I still have a lot that needs to change. I'm sure I'll continue to make mistakes, though I hope deeply that the one that brought me to my bishop's office never happens again... but regardless, I'm going to keep moving forward. That's what life is about, right? When I make a mistake, or lose my connection with God, turn back towards Him. 

And no matter what happens, always have the faith and courage to keep turning back.