Sunday, July 29, 2007
Growing up through young adulthood I never felt a shred of masculinity or sexual attraction to women. Girls were my sisters. Deep down I feared I was more attracted to boys, because images of naked men were erotic to me, whereas images of naked women were kind of disgusting. But I was in denial about my attractions, and since I joined the LDS Church and was aware of the church's prohibitions, I generally repressed all feelings of sexuality as much as I could. I was determined to live the LDS 'happily-ever-after' lifestyle.
After about three years of post-mission dating, I wasn't any further along the marriage path; I just wasn't getting romantically close to any of these 'sisters' of mine. Then I started dating this young woman who showed a streak of independent promise; after several dates she had the audacity to say to me, "Are you just going to be my friend, because if so, I'm not interested. I've got enough friends. Where are you coming from?" I was challenged to start owning some feelings and to make a commitment one way or the other. I liked that forthrightness, and I really liked her.
So how or why did I get married? Sure, I had wanted an eternal companion and a family, and it seemed like the only option at the time. But the real reason I took the leap was that I prayed in faith about this young woman I was dating and wham, I got a direct answer. It kind of surprised me. Now what to do? Ignore it? The Spirit had given me a powerful witness to proceed, so I stumbled down the "will you marry me" path totally out of blind hope and obedience, and she said "yes." The engagement period was kind of rocky, a few red flags, but I had had this witness and I was determined to go through with it. We even talked in detail about our sexual histories in the spirit of full disclosure, but in retrospect we were generally unaware of the downstream effects, or what we were getting into. We married in the Manti Temple and headed down the next path to 'happily ever after.'
At first, married life was mostly no different than I expected. We were in school and found plenty of time to play together; we dreamed of the future, we did practically everything together, I was in love and I was happy, most of the time. There were occasional conflicts, but we were pretty good at talking our way through the difficulties, and she usually let me win. The role of power began to shift in my direction, so subtly at first I didn't recognize it, but in time I became the decision-maker, and she the subordinate. I lost my independent, self-assured eternal companion.
Erosion of marital equality also affected the whole topic of my same gender attraction (SGA), which turned out to really make my wife even more insecure. So, I pretty much went into hiding, to spare her the pain. That was a big mistake--I created distance for myself, and my isolation spared her nothing. We both suffered. I had no one to really talk to, to resolve my turmoil, and it eventually became a wedge of distrust between us. Life in the work world became demanding, and I could blame a lot of dissatisfaction on that. At home there was always another diaper to change, bills to pay and the honey-do list. I longed for intimacy and understanding, but for my most vital emotions, I had little of either.
I confess I honestly thought my SGA would go away with an active sex life. I was wrong. In some ways, my SGA got even stronger because I was no longer repressing my sexuality. I hungered. I'm lucky I didn't break my marriage covenants, given the peripheral exploring I did. I had a few offers for anonymous gay sex, but always backed away because I knew it just was so terribly wrong to my wife. I think that if I had not received so sure a witness, an actual physical manifestation I felt and didn't make up for myself, I would have eventually abandoned the marriage and the church because of the internal conflict and unhappiness I was struggling with. But how could I walk away from my family and from doing what the Lord told me to do, even if I wasn't sure at the time if I would do it all over again? The answer was I couldn't leave, I wouldn't retreat, so I just hung in there.
Despite our individual issues, my dear wife has been my loyal friend and supporter through the years. She has been willing to take me mostly as is; it's been more difficult for me to return the favor. I now realize it's not easy being married to a creative perfectionist who is rarely pleased with anything. So it was hard for me to be praise-giving or just grateful for her simple gifts of motherhood and devotion. Mostly I saw the mess and chaos, picked up the pieces and inwardly resented it. It wasn't until I learned how I'd injured her that I began to change my heart. I love her again, for having faith and patience in me, despite my self-centeredness.
Well, to make a long story short, it's been a long row to hoe, but definitely worth it. I've grown up. We've both matured in so many ways. We've been through our share of counseling, endured moments of great pain and tears inflicted upon each other, and yet there is love and loyalty. Despite our problems, we lived the gospel in our home and we managed to have a wonderful family. I'm thankful for three beautiful daughters, for their individual lives and the role I've developed as a loving father; it all brings such meaning to my life.
It's taken me a long time to come to terms with my orientation and how to be satisfied in my marriage. By no means am I "healed" of my SGA. However, repenting means change, especially in how we view ourselves. Our journey isn't over, and we may still have serious hurdles in front of us, but I've come full circle and am now grateful for my marriage and its winding path. The ups and downs have revealed so much about me, stuff I would have never believed possible about myself if it had just been told me; I had to live it.
So, my dear younger single MoHo brothers, each of you have a MOM dilemma in front of you that will be unique to you. Each of you have your eyes much more wide open than I ever did at this crossroads in your life. My only advice is to simply and humbly seek the Spirit to direct you. Maybe you'll get an answer like I did, maybe you won't. Whatever the cost, get an answer and follow it; it is something to hang on to, a beacon for the soul.
Friday, July 27, 2007
To your warm pool, let it envelop me
With living wetness, suspending my
Exposed body in transparent fluidity.
Slowly move my sodden feet through your
Smooth resistance, pushing aside years
Of sinking fears, not sure whether tidal
Oceans would triumph over my tears.
Reach and pull the liquid past present
And recall the warmth of summer sun
On wet soaked heads of naked boys,
And splashing fights that laughter won.
There was a certain freedom felt then,
An exquisite joy that cool water lends
To the unclothed in murky green ponds
Of innocence, growing close friends.
Pure water, float me in your arms
Of mercy, listen to our varied voices
Echo the banter of bare bottomed boys
Happily unaware of time and choices.
Sparkle water, dancing ever brightly
In gentle waves of coy temptation,
I feel your presence at my open legs
And dream in my boyhood elation.
Despite my mute drops of saline grief
Which fill Bethsaida’s pool at times,
I dive down deep and hold my breath
For cleansing stream that upward climbs,
And releases new life within my death
That grants me being, beyond belief.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
This last Sunday in Priest's Quorum I taught a lesson on critical thinking that was in part a rebuttal. Earlier in the week, as part of our annual Stake Youth Conference, the invited keynote speaker (a local CES seminary teacher) used several trite mormonisms that I frankly disagreed with. My first clue that things were going in the wrong direction was when he read the poem "Invictus" and made no apologies for its proud and sometimes malevolent history (Timothy McVeigh used it as his final statement). I got more upset when the brother taught "there really is no agency--we just choose whether or not to break our covenants with God," and claimed this idea came from an apostle he heard speak at a local Priesthood Leadership Meeting. He went on to preach how the Gospel was black and white, and those who promote shades of gray are just complicating things.
Oh, that young minds could be white-washed so simply in one easy coating of mormonized guilt! But not on my watch.
I believe too often in the church we are led down the path of all or nothing. So, we played a little exercise I called, "Accept or Reject." Following is a list of some true, some partly true and some ridiculous religious statements, which I read to my class:
- The Church is true.
- Church leaders are always right.
- It's wrong to be critical of the Church.
- I have to follow the counsel of my Bishop.
- Talks in Sacrament Meeting are always inspiring and help my testimony to grow.
- I can pray about what to believe in, and will be led by the Spirit to truth.
- Seminary teachers are inspired by God to help youth and only teach true doctrine.
Then I think I surprised them when I said my not-in-the-manual lesson topic was triggered by the youth conference speaker's remarks, which I did not agree with. Whoa! What did he say? Open dissent?! Yes. I said I wanted to take the opportunity to teach the process of critical thinking, and the exercise we had just done was a good starting point. So what of the speaker's points did I have a problem with and why? I reviewed my sticking points and replied with Orson F. Whitney's poem, "The Captain of My Soul."
Another way to evaluate what we hear at church is to consider it in proper context. Did the Apostle want or intend to be quoted to youth at a Stake Youth Conference? He was speaking to Bishoprics and Quorum leaders at a Priesthood Leadership meeting. Did the speaker quote him correctly, or was it filtered through his own bias and desire to make a point? I taught that we should rely on the words of Apostles as they are recorded in General Conference. Then I read this quote from Howard W Hunter, taken from his October 1989 General Conference address entitled "The Golden Thread of Choice":
Isn't this teaching so much richer than the accept/reject proposition of "we don't really have agency, just the choice whether or not to break our covenants?" My heavens, if it was the Seminary Teacher's way, why even try? I usually manage to break a commandment or two every day!
"To fully understand this gift of agency and its inestimable worth, it is imperative that we understand that God’s chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation. He acts by gentle solicitation and by sweet enticement. He always acts with unfailing respect for the freedom and independence that we possess. He wants to help us and pleads for the chance to assist us, but he will not do so in violation of our agency. He loves us too much to do that, and doing so would run counter to his divine character.
"Given the freedom to choose, we may, in fact, make wrong choices, bad choices, hurtful choices. And sometimes we do just that, but that is where the mission and mercy of Jesus Christ comes into full force and glory. He has taken upon himself the burden of all the world’s risk. He has provided a mediating atonement for the wrong choices we make. He is our advocate with the Father and has paid, in advance, for the faults and foolishness we often see in the exercise of our freedom. We must accept his gift, repent of those mistakes, and follow his commandments in order to take full advantage of this redemption. The offer is always there; the way is always open. We can always, even in our darkest hour and most disastrous errors, look to the Son of God and live."
Our Bishop sat in on the lesson and reinforced at the end that we need to take people's "he said/she said" with a grain of salt, particularly if it sounds a bit extreme or glossed over. Finally, I closed with a statement that spilled over a little into heartfelt emotion, that I loved each of them, prayed for them, and desired them to think about how the gospel applied to them, and not take whatever is said at church just at face value. I hope they got the point.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Smooth curling flesh, divider of light
And darkness, I will grab you by the neck
And not let go. Flow in the warm river of my body,
Gorging on hope and dreams, I will choke
Your ecstasy in the grip of my determination.
Twist and wrap around my heart, damn you.
In faltering moments I may stumble, but I will not
Lie down. Strike my tender spots, whip my face,
Raise a red welt for the whole world to see
And wonder, I am beyond embarrassment.
Poison my weary mind, seduce me with your
Venomous promise of rest, I will yet hang on
To an iron rod with my free hand, still strong.
I shall drive my fingers into your bitter darkness
And back out again into the sweet white fruit.
Snake of filthy waters, I will purge your ugly stain
With a clear torrent from the deep blue well of life.
Let my issue of blood pool and dry beneath the green
Delicate fronds of moss and maidenhair bordering
The spring, just beyond my tired aching fingers.
God, how I hate snakes! Hanging onto reptile rage,
Dare I ask for deliverance? Afraid of letting go,
Shall I find healing relief? Cold brutal scales,
Set in repeating bands of ochre and black, I find
No comfort in the illusion of your perfect symmetry.
II. The Stone
Born of silent deep blue waters,
Ancient mineral stone, cut without hands,
Worn by years of turning over and over again,
Back and forth in traveling tides,
The stone, the smooth rounded stone,
Now rests in my pocket.
I do not recall much of the day
We picked it up off the cold wet sand,
Admired the simple shape,
The silken patina of some distant place--
Gathered with common shells and driftwood,
The stone was a treasure.
Remembering you, I unconsciously reach
For the stone and turn it over and over again
Between my fingers and palm, rubbing in
The oils and sweat from my hand,
Warming the cool surface,
Polishing the rounded edges
With an essence of life.
At times I weep for the smooth touch
Of your hand, a silent glance
From your glistening deep blue eyes.
And I hold onto the stone,
Moments from some distant place
Worn smooth with time, turning them
Over and over again in my mind.
My stone is a treasure, I will not let go.
III. The Tree and the Hawk
Three outstretched limbs rest against the cool gray
Of November sky. What is it that lifts them up,
Embracing the stars? I watch the saga of seasons
Struggle against the resilience of oak. Buds no longer
Burst out in early April, spinning chartreuse energy
From the sun. The thick old tree stands tall,
Well acquainted with time, unconcerned with gravity.
Piece by piece, wind and ice have stripped away
All but the most rugged branches. Shards of bark
Quietly let go, revealing golden wood that silvers
With each setting sun. A new wave of young trees
Reach up around the old sentinel, garnering strength
From aged humus. Gone are the filtered shadows
From dense leaves that once portioned the light,
And hungry the saplings bristle towards the sun.
Facing the aura of morning and ruffled against the wind,
The hawk grips his hardwood perch high above
The stone river of quilted steel. Patchwork of colors
Ebb and flow in predictable waves of no apparent
Order. The traffic whines and roars, flies and crawls,
Unaware of its silent surveyor. How curious my world
Must appear through the sharp lens of avian eyes,
Accustomed to the minute details of mice and voles.
Every day over the stone river I glide past the great tree
And wonder how much longer will worn limbs give sanctuary.
I watch the hawk hang onto the tree, holding her up against
The sky. Shall my admiration of resistance overcome reality?
Time and termites eventually work what wind and ice will not
Wield alone. One day the hawk hovers down to the tree,
Lands in the usual place, and feels his perch give way.
Still gripping the familiar wood and beating the air with
Anxious wings, the hawk rises slowly, circles above the tree,
Knowing he must let go. Late in languid afternoon distant
Rumblings ripple slowly through humid calm. Possessing no
More peace offerings of incidental limbs, the tree waits for the
Furious dance with wind and rain. Raging black clouds
Backlit by the pale blue-green glow of deep energy hurl
A relentless barrage against her unyielding trunk.
Taking shelter in thick woods the hawk does not witness
The roar of light connecting his tree to the sky. In an instant
She is liberated to the earth and rests. Now there will be plenty
Of time and dark space for the building of burrows by woodland
Creatures. In the rising fuchsia of dawns, I watch for the circling
Hawk returning to search unfamiliar tops of trees for his favorite
Vantage point, wish to cry out with him, then silently move on.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Alas, with 14 comments already posted it seemed to me that the party was over, but I still felt the urge to contribute something. So I'm copying my remarks here, because as I thought about it on the drive home from work, I want to be able to remind myself occasionally of the immediacy of my message. Here's a practical answer that may be so close to home that we don't give it enough consideration in our search for philosophical solutions.
Beck, my compliments to you--I don't think I've ever seen the Moho angst more articulately or honestly described than by you and your questions. I'm going to share this with my wife, if you don't mind, because it verbalizes so many of the raw doubts and feelings we share. It will be a good place for us to begin conversation. Have you shared this and the comments with your wife?
This leads me to the main point I want to make: Spend as much of your emotional and spiritual dollars as you possibly can on your wife. Replace the soul-searching, doubting, rehashing, guilty, self-condemning expenditures of energy with investments of love, openness, gratitude and time with your chosen companion.
I say this at the risk of being mis-interpreted as a trite Mormon fix-all to a very complex reality. But I've struggled with your same list of questions. And I'll tell you, the doubt can go even further--now add on top of that angst, later on via life's disappointments, a generous dose of frustration with, and lack of respect for that chosen "eternal" companion. That's where I was, in an even worse place to be stuck, because it sounds to me like you still admire and appreciate your wife.
So how have I gotten past all this angst and downward negativity? I went back to the base of all human need, the wellspring of love and gratitude. Despite her faults, my wife has been my loyal companion, my standard bearer, my friend, the devoted mother of my children, the unintentional victim of my never being quite satisfied with her. I've decided it's pay-back time, and I'm investing again in her. After 26 years of marriage, our needs remain fairly simple: she wants to be spoken to more often, played with, cherished, acknowledged, affirmed. . . and so do I.
I still have my issues, but I can remember her more often. Once I started this pattern of giving back, I find the SSA is getting easier to manage, I feel more secure, and I have on less critical filters of my own making, the design of my own self-centeredness.
Note to self: in your never-ending SSA saga of self-discovery and analysis, remember the one who remembers you daily in her prayers. I love you, Sweetie.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
So, it was kind of like when she was 10 and I had to admit the truth that Santa was really an expression of love from her parents, give or take a few analogies to Jesus. Well, she took it like a big girl, but I could tell it was as hard for her as it was for me to disclose. We both cried. This was a coming out soon not to be forgotten, yet somewhat sweet in that now she could begin to put some of the pieces together as to why her parents are the way the are. Suddenly it begins to validate some of her mother's insecurities. My loyal companion wife has quietly endured for years the brunt of all my daughters' critical appraisal for her legion anxieties without a legitimate defense. And I, that uniquely liberal creative guy that was way more sensitive than most other guys and dads was just found out, but somehow I hope it made gut sense.
Even though I'm now suddenly "gecko" to my daughter, I'm still me, the same person who has trudged up and down the path of faith and fatigue, still pointed in the right direction. Has anything changed? Yes, our perspective, but not the actual facts of life, which are that I love you, wonderful daughter of mine.
Monday, July 9, 2007
Day 1: This journal exercise is all about defining your sense of self and personal mission. Living with integrity and following your righteous heart’s desire is vital to growing into mature manhood. This reflection time is just for you—-please be honest with yourself. Here are some questions to help you consider your life’s journey so far and where you want to go:
1. What do you really enjoy doing? Why? Does it make you happy? Why or why not?
2. What one big dream do you look forward to achieving in your life? Why?
3. When do you feel inspired? Who inspires you?
4. What role does conflict play in your life? How do you deal with rejection?
5. Considering your answers to the above questions, do you know what you want in your life? If you do, what is it? If you don’t, how do you think you could learn what you really want from your life’s journey?
Day 2: Here are some questions to reflect upon who you think you are, what and who has contributed to your sense of self:
1. Do you feel you’re growing into the man you always longed and desired to be one day?
2. What comparison source are you using to measure your progress to manhood? Would it be your peers, parents, family members, church leaders, the scriptures, the media culture or something else?
3. What do you fear? Why?
4. When you mess up, what do you usually do? Do you learn and change from your mistakes?
5. What life factors (good and bad) have helped you develop into the person you are today?
Day 3: Here are some questions to guide you in your journey by examining the men of influence in your life. Please consider your father, grandfathers, uncles, friends, teachers or church leaders, and the impact they have in your life:
1. In what ways do the men of influence in your life help you with your life goals, aspirations and dreams? And, in what ways have these persons influenced your actual daily behavior?
2. Who has made the biggest positive difference in your life and the direction you’re going? Why?
3. When you reflect on the men of influence in your life, what thoughts and emotions do you have about them? Could you possibly be such a person to others?
4. Do you currently have male friends that you are close to and can confide in and trust? If not, how important is it for you to find someone? What should you do?
5. What do you look for or need in a close friend? Do you think your current friendships help or hinder you in your journey to manhood?
Day 4: Here are some questions to consider how you share your life, and the influence that you may have upon others:
1. Do you want to be a man of influence in the lives of your family and friends? Why?
2. Do you try to lead by example in doing the right thing or by trying to help out your family and close friends? Is this a pattern in your life? Why or why not?
3. Do you forgive your friends when they are not their best selves? How do you show it?
4. Do you open up your heart and bear your soul to the important people in your life? Why or why not? How can openness help you in being a man of influence in the lives of others?
5. Do your friends trust and confide in you? Are you a loyal friend in the face of opposition?
Do we take time to reflect on ourselves, aspirations and relationships? I know I am largely in the thick of thin things, and seldom go through this kind of thoughtful analysis. I plan to talk more about some of these points in the future.
Saturday, July 7, 2007
THE RULES 1. All right, here are the rules. 2. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts. 3. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves. 4. People who are tagged write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules. 5. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
1. I like to dive into the deep end. However, posting these daring confessions is way beyond my comfort zone, because I like to live mostly in the closet. Well, sort of. My sweet wife wishes what she did know would just go away; my good friend and Bishop is supportive. I don't tell either of them everything. I'm not sure my adult daughters know of my orientation, but they appreciate my unique individuality and I suspect they claim a heritage to it, since they're all a bunch of Mormon feminists. I am proud of them and hope they rock the boat. . . without loosing their lifejackets. I struggle to know how and when to tell them, if ever. My dear mother lived the second half of her life with a wonderful woman friend, although we never talked about the closet. I suspect she felt it was never any of my business. I never told her either.
2. I've stuttered my way through life ever since, at age 10, my unconscious picked up on the fact that my parents were divorcing. I cursed this sensitivity for 30 years, until I realized that it was something to simply accept and appreciate for helping me to mold the man I am.
3. I wish I would have got that PhD in Dairy Chemistry. I am fascinated with the hydrophobicity of Beta Lactoglobulin and all things relating to Brownian movement (such is my life).
4. I have sung Tenor most of my adult life, but as I mellow and age, I'm discovering there is a rich Baritone lurking somewhere below the surface. Some day I will sing 'Libera Me Domine' from Foure's Requiem, and maybe then I'll get out of the closet. If not, I want it sung at my funeral.
5. Five is my favorite number. I don't know why, but it multiplies so nicely, doesn't it?
6. I joined the LDS Church at 17.967 years of age, and for the sake of religion became a Black Sheep in my mother's aspirations for me, especially when I left for a LDS mission and she wept on my shoulder, but still let me go with good grace. Note: I've always found off-colored sheep more interesting than white sheep. I've never aspired to be a white sheep. Truth be known, I feel more closely akin to goats.
7. I write poetry for myself, family and friends. Poems are a revelatory experience for me, not only in their creation, but in reading the work of others. I love Isaiah; a poem don't have to reveal itself all at once. If you feel so inclined, please leave me some of your thoughts with the poems in my blog.
8. I am the Ice Cream Man. I dream in ice cream. Actually, I invent new products for a major brand of ice cream and actually get paid for eating the stuff. Go ahead, lust after me, but watch your daily intake of saturated fat. Gecko ice cream is not currently in my dreams.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Distant mountain valleys, gazing over unknown oceans.
Shall I turn my back on the sweet green fields of home?
The bleating lambs follow their mothers for only so long,
Then find pastures of their own. I shall dream of prairies,
Endless as the sky, and full of the promise of tomorrow.
Leave behind the civility of fine things, the tender grasp
Of family and friends, never to see or embrace again.
I must bite my lip, let the tear crease a corner of my soul,
Yet move steadfastly forward, one foot in front of the other.
Oh, let me see beyond the mountains to glimpse the bright city
Where He that watches over neither slumbers nor sleeps.
Today I will hear his voice, I will kneel beside the quiet stream
And never thirst again. Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
Along the endless muddy mire or hot dusty road, it matters not.
Gladly I pull my handcart to join Enoch and those of one heart!
And if only I am a stranger in the land, then let me face towards
Zion, while I gently close my eyes, and wait upon the Lord.
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
And yet he extends me to below the sky.
My land lies flat, like an outstretched hand.
Its small rising hills stretch out in fingers
From a palm of expansive dark water.
Where shall I walk in his valley of peace?
Barely the whisper of evening air stirs
The amber leaves along the glowing bank.
I stand beside the glassy shore and listen
To the murmur of silken water lapping
The handsome edges of round granite
Ground smooth ages ago by millennial ice.
There is a quiet hand reaching from the sky.
I search for the subtle point where mauve
And coral pinks became their own reflection.
Simple souls who stray beyond the shore
May not see the melding of the water’s line.
When shall I find the moment of his release?
Far on horizon, blazing edges of steely clouds
Pour molten light into the earth at a distance
Known only to lands not shrouded in dusk.
I think of his hand, outstretched and reaching
For those solid lines of light, not realizing
Why familiar faces reflect upon the wall.
There, in the misty-eyed surface of sky or water
Or faith, I dream of him, leaving the warm bed
And greeting the embrace of generations suddenly
Remembered, like green-mirrored reflections of
Sunrise, clasped upon the alters of templed hills.
Oh Father, how shall I not praise such increase?
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Of boulders and Cottonwoods
At dusk, between luminous walls
Of stone in Zion’s canyon.
Unexpectedly you came, fresh
Like ocean rain at dawn.
For a moment I tried to hold you
Tight as sand in the smallness
Of my hand, but I could feel you
Weeping through my fingers.
The warm wind will carry you up
Invisible from the dust at my feet
To sing among the jade leaves
Dancing high beyond my reach.
And I will have to be content to wait
For your choruses of wind and water
To send me the cool rushing stream,
To roll the rough stones and wear them
Until they are smooth.