Monday, October 29, 2007

Murmurings along the trail

I just haven't felt much like writing lately. I've been sick for a couple weeks with a horrible chest cold, coughing at night and croaking by day. But if that were all of my excuses, I would be so lucky. I've been sullen, too. I've been applying for government assistance, and I've seen the face of the poor. ("How much longer until I'm one of them?") And the side of my new car got backed into in the parking lot at the Department of Economic Security. (Unbelievably, the woman with all the tattoos and piercings actually had insurance... shouldn't that be a sign someone is looking out for me?)

I should be using my blog as a way to vent my anxieties, and yet I've been holding it in and seeking other diversions. The job trail has been winding up and down, mostly down, and I'm tired of it. My knees hurt, and not from kneeling too much in prayer, but in stumbling down the path. I want to whine, "Are we there yet?" to my Heavenly Father. It's been over a month of unemployment, lots of phone interviews and still I have yet to get a face to face. I knew I was a prime candidate for a couple positions with major companies, and yet they both fizzled without so much as an invitation to get on a plane. One company restructured their department, eliminating the open hire position; the other company enacted a hiring freeze until next year.

"But wait, don't you see how valuable I could be? Come on, guys."

I wanted options to choose from. I wanted them to compete for me with ever increasing offers. I wanted a little respect for my long distinguished career. I wanted them to want me, badly. I wanted my dreams to come true about promptings I felt came from the Lord. Surely, 'This is the Place,' wasn't it? Aren't we there, yet?

"O Pride, O Vanity, canst thou not mask thy leering face?"

Yesterday (Sunday) I started the day on spiritual 'EMPTY.' I should have had at least a quarter of a tank; after all, I've not really gone that far from my front door for several weeks. I guess I've used up a lot of spirituality on 'IDLE.' So anyway, yesterday was our ward's Primary Program, "I'll Follow Him in Faith." I was asked to help out with a couple of the musical numbers that needed a second conductor for the kids to follow. So we got through about forty minutes of the usual darling one-liners, earnest effort, songs of faith, and then it was my turn to join them in 'Love Is Spoken Here.'

Mine is a home where every hour
Is blessed by the strength of priesthood power.
With father and mother leading the way,
Teaching me how to TRUST and OBEY,
And the things they teach are crystal clear,
For LOVE is spoken here.

And there it was, my answer. I knew it all along. My own voice was simple and clear, floating above the young crowd of sweet boy voices so full of faith and believing. Trust in the Conductor, He's telling you the truth. You know it. His voice is rich, confident and inspired. Several people came to me after the program to compliment how lovely the song was ("I just love to hear you sing!") and I wanted to tell them I have a cold, it wasn't really my voice, but I just meekly said, "Thank you. The children were lovely, weren't they?"

And if that wasn't enough, then the second number a little later, a round, 'Listen, Listen.'

Listen to the still small voice!
Listen, Listen.
When you have to make a choice,
He will guide you,

The cacophony of children's voices singing at odds with one another in a controlled chorus of echos, eventually resolved and caught up with "ALWAYS." Another answer.

Doing yard work on Saturday I flushed a gecko out of hiding and picked him up as he was scurrying up the wall to find new cover. They're only about 2 - 3 inches long, fully mature. They are soft and tender and gentle; they don't bite. They like the humus of the earth and crevices to hide in. They sport mottled colors that blend in, and you only see them when they move. The gecko did not like being held. He looked furtively around for escape, licked his lips with a tiny tongue and in an instant flung himself out my hands back into the rubble of twigs and leaves I was raking up. I let him be.

"Just have faith, little Gecko. You are in my hands. Don't jump away so fast. "

So this is the week for hope. Doors have closed, but others have opened. There is a food company in Phoenix, and their R&D Manager just moved away with a spousal relocation. The phone interview went well last week, and I'm supposed to interview face to face this week. I'm hopeful that I won't have to move and leave my children and grandson. I hope this is the job for me. The Lord will guide me, always, if I can but stay in his hand.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ups and downs on the job trail

Being unemployed really sucks; it removes so many of the structured activities by which we get through a day and appraise ourselves. I'm applying for positions all over the country and hoping that something will stick on the wall; staying in Arizona is highly unlikely, and that's depressing because we've loved it here. Waiting for a phone call of interest or invitation to interview, and not going nuts when any response seems to take an eternity is requiring great faith for me.

I feel like I'm bipolar, bouncing between feelings of teary-eyed depression and optimistic conviction for the future. Deep down, I believe that this is in the Lord's hands, and that 'somewhere there's a place for us,' yet then I feel like I'm the Tony guy laying on the ground with a bullet in my chest. As the weeks are marching by without a paycheck, anxiety about the reality of the mortgage and 'what in the world are we going to do with the house?' is getting oppressive. It's then I tell myself that I'll get my tithing paid up, and even if it all falls apart and we have to turn the keys into the bank: "So what? its just money, no big deal!" comes into play. I've got my loving family, and that's what is really important. And it's exciting to think of a new area to discover, a new start on a job, and a new set of friends to get to know and love.

So here's to Pres. Eyring, and remembering what the Lord has done for me lately:

Right now there are two potential jobs with major companies I hope to continue to interview for. One of them progressed quite positively and then went on hold for a couple of weeks. The other opportunity I thought would move quickly, but it has stalled out too. This was discouraging to me, and then I realized that if both come back into gear at the same time and move toward job offers, then I can play them against the other. "Hope springs eternal."

An opportunity came up yesterday with a recruiter whose name came to mind while I was praying. The open position would be returning to a previous employer. Even if it goes nowhere, just the opportunity to talk to the person I owe a conversation to would be a great thing.

Yesterday we found out that a huge charge on our credit card ($9475) which we've had in dispute for over six months has been credited back to us--what a blessing!

And being home with my chosen companion, sorting through stuff and getting through a chaos that has piled up over the years and having so much time to talk about what we want out of our life ahead has been a really good thing too.

Gosh, we should all be unemployed every so often! Still, forced vacations are no picnic. Anybody want to buy a car?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Marital Trust

As I read and get to know many in the Moho blogging world, there are lots of categories for me: the openly gay and the closeted gay, the fervent and the doubtful, the marrieds and the singles, the old (would 'mature' sound better?) and the young, etc., etc. Regardless, we're all family and I value all viewpoints and experiences that people share. Among my particular subset, the active LDS and married, there are even two groups: those who are open with their wives, and those who are not.

Going through much turmoil over the past seven years, I'm glad that my relationship with my wife is now one of the strong pillars of support I have to keep me true to the faith and my family. We don't have a perfect and peaceful relationship--there are plenty of things about her that annoy me and vice versa. What is better though, is that we're more open about the marriage. We talk about hurts and feelings and what isn't right. We talk about my SSA. We talk about her weight problem and her lack of conformance to her diabetic needs. There are no secrets. I'm feeling understood, loved and supported. Some things are changing to the better, some things are not changing, but at least we're dealing with it more honestly.

I'm sharing all this for a couple reasons. It's good just to acknowledge where I'm at in my blog, every now and then. After all, I'm using this as a journal of sorts. And I bring it up because marital trust and relationship isn't a topic that is discussed much among my particular Moho subset. It's whined about a little bit, but it isn't chewed on and elaborated. Why not? Is it too personal? Too painful? Can we help each other here?

I'm particularly concerned about my married SSA brothers who are struggling with coming to open terms with their wives. Having gone through more than a little grief with this, but now on the other side of the forest, I would wish for them to take the risk and start opening up, because I see how it's helped me.

I offer this overarching advice: marriage has to work both ways. First, strengthen your friendship and understanding with her, support her in her trials, and you are preparing for the day when you can include her into your deepest trials. You may need the assistance of professional or ecclesiastical help, to act as a mutually agreed upon moderator of what is right for both. Hopefully, you will one day tell her that you have been and will remain loyal and faithful to her alone, and that you love her still--those are the most important things she really wants to know, even if you are SSA. Letting her understand your trials will eventually draw you closer together, if you are honest and open with her, and if she truly loves you.

My wife hungers for intimacy, for inclusion; SSA is inherently a disconnect to that need. Because of my shame, embarrassment and the reality that I would naturally be more comfortable with a man, it is difficult to be intimate with her without honesty. It is my challenge therefore to go beyond what's natural or comfortable for me, to leave my isolation, and to trust in her and the Lord. This change in my behavior has brought challenges and blessings to our relationship. A year ago I finally came to the point where I determined I had to do this or not survive emotionally and spiritually in my family and the church. I knew my emotional health and salvation that was at stake, and I was doing this for me as well as for her. Asking her to go the distance, because she already knew about my SSA, but to do more than sweep it under the rug, to embrace me with my flaws, to be open and talk about this whenever I needed, to be able to accept and love me as is--this is what I required of her. And in return I would make concerted effort to be more loving, more forgiving, less critical, less self-centered. She rose to the occasion, and I responded with more love, and we are happier than ever. Burdens and stress are so difficult to handle alone; we are not meant to do that in our marriages; sharing our trials and overcoming together is part of the plan.

You cannot control your wife and how she will respond to your disclosures. You can hope for a particular outcome, you can pray and be on solid ground yourself, you can invite her to join you in the middle and continue down the path of eternal companionship. But in the end, we each must decide for ourselves what is best. This may be scary, but to be willing to let her do that is a sign of deep love and respect for her. Acceptance of all possible outcomes in the spirit of humility and charity is the place to get to one day. I've been impressed with Elbow's account, even though it had an outcome feared by some, but their honesty and love for each other led to what they felt was best. I wish for him the best. I wish for all of us tangible trust in our most important relationships.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Are there really any secrets?

This morning I was reading Forester's blog, where he was commenting on the dilemma of telling his wife about his attractions, and part of his reticence is frankly what to do about his blog. This led me to begin commenting about anonymity, and it got too long, so I'm posting my ideas here:

A few words about non-anonymous blogging, since this has been my lot, by default, because I told my wife and later my adult children what I was doing on the computer! Yes, at times I hold back on what I might say, because they often read my blog and sometimes others' as well. If no one dear to me could be offended, misinterpret or be injured by brutal honesty or emotional ranting, then perhaps I would have more controversial things to say out on the edge.

But what of accountability? Can we really get away with saying anything, just because we feel like it, and then walk away with no consequence to our thinking or words? Even though we may not know real names or where each other lives, we do exert influence upon each other. I hope my words, whether they are anonymous to some or not, will be on the positive side of the ledger. We may not always be able to hide behind a veil of anonymity. We know that there will come a time "when the books are opened." Sooner or later our words and actions are usually known; privacy is a fleeting thing even in this world, if not in the next.

So as I consider my words and who may be reading them, it helps me to 'school my thoughts.' Do I really want to say that? What will [insert name] think about that word or that comment? Will this bring up interesting conversation around my Sunday dinner table? Or, on the other hand, if I have nothing to hide, why shouldn't I say this? What's the Geckoman afraid of?

Hopefully our personal scrutiny, anonymous or not, works both ways to keep us accountable AND truthful.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Coming out yields new revelations

I had an amazing time at General Conference. My wife and I travelled with our Bishop and his wife up to Utah. It was the shortest trip we ever made, enjoying each other's company. We stayed at my cousin's house as we usually do, because he has room and he invited us to be with them. However, we spent most of our free time with our daughters who are attending BYU.

Sunday morning, before everyone else was up and coming over for a family breakfast prior to the 10 am session, I had time with my cousin. He is 10 years older than I, a father of 10, well educated, a humble man of God. We love each other in a brotherhood enriched by our mutual testimonies of the Gospel and the Lord's Spirit. I have always respected him greatly, trusted his judgement, and admired his family. I've shared with him some of my problems and feelings in the past, but I've never disclosed my orientation. So as we were talking together this last Sunday morning, about the unknown future of my life, I felt the great desire to tell him of my recent spiritual progress in Arizona and of my faith in the future. But the words were sounding hollow to me, lacking evidence or connection to what I've experienced. And then I said, rather impulsively, "I'm not sure if you ever suspected through my personality or behavior, but I am same sex attracted." He smiled quietly and acknowledged that he had not known, but yet he did not act surprised. After all, he's known me for over 40 years; I lived with his young family during my freshman year at BYU. We talked about the trials of life and the Lord's refining of our hearts. He confided in me of a personal tragedy that occurred in his family and we agreed together how these struggles of ours impact so many other things downstream, yet give us depth and faith if we so choose. He had no condemnation of my reality, only compassion and admiration of my faith and perseverance. I felt truly understood. I'm not sure why I haven't confided in him sooner; perhaps it was the fear of disappointing him.

My cousin has faithfully served decades as a Bishop, in a Stake Presidency and currently on a Stake High Council; so he has a well-developed experience base for church discipline. He said several interesting things: the church understands there are multiple origins for SSA. This contributes to the great complexity and dilemma of how church policy should appropriately respond to all members fairly. He personally believes there is a gay genetic component for part of the SSA population, which is beyond a person's control. But there also is evidence that SSA can be a learned or developed behavior brought on by abuse, culture, people's circumstances, as well as personal choices, curiosity, etc. Given all this, what is a reasonable response to one member might be a condoning of sin for another. I had never thought of it in this light. Overall, he said his observation of church courts for members involved in homosexual activity were judged by the same criteria as heterosexual adultery, and that long histories of damaging dishonesty were more of a common denominator for excommunication than just sexual behavior.

He also talked about a principle he called 'The Law of Compensation,' his belief in eternal rewards given to those who bear extraordinary burdens in this life. I think this follows with the idea of the Law of the Harvest. He felt that this applied to the gay community of saints, because there is no good answer answer for them in the church at this time. I'm not so sure that I feel specially burdened, but I believe there are many people who deal with great injustice and abuse in life, and I hope that special consideration will be granted to their trials.

Then my cousin dropped a personal bombshell. It is his speculation that our paternal grandfather, my namesake who died before I was born, was gay! I've heard the same anecdotal evidences from his life, but I never put it together the same way. My grandfather grew up on the Maine coast, separated from his family as a young man at the turn of the century, took on the life of a sailor, spent several years in Hawaii, Alaska and Washington as a single man before returning home to start a family and marry my grandmother at the age of 35. It was said they both believed sex was for procreation; they had only two children. My grandfather was a skilled craftsman and he had a woodshop that was a gathering place for men in the town. He loved his association with men; he had a respectful but independent marriage with my grandmother. My father attributed these somewhat unique behaviors to the New England culture he was raised in, and I always just accepted that explanation; what a pause for re-consideration my cousin brought to me this weekend!

I think as we seek to understand our family history, we can find the pieces that put together our individual puzzles, which brings a sense of wholeness, satisfaction and identity.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Extremity vs. Eternity

Something changes in our hearts and minds when we're faced with extremity. Now that I'm unemployed, with a $2000/month mortgage and two kids going to BYU, there are different things I'm concerned with today than those of just a couple weeks ago. Funny how temporal changes in our lives can have such an effect on our emotional and spiritual consciousness.

Yesterday was my father's birthday. He would have been 89. He passed on about two years ago, just as we were moving to Arizona. Tomorrow, in the Mesa Temple, my son-in-law and I will perform his baptism, by proxy. The thought of doing my father's ordinances in the Lord's House is tremendously calming for me in the present uproar of change surrounding me. Later this week we'll be in Utah for Conference, and we'll gather as a family and complete the sealings for my parents, myself and my deceased brother.

What is really important in life? As I reflect on all the "stuff" I've kept myself busy with over the years, my pet distractions and frustrations, I have to conclude that my heart, despite it all, is resting in the right place. I have peace and faith. I don't care if I lose my home's equity, have to sell a car, find another job and reinvent myself; it doesn't really matter. They are set backs, disappointments, a pain in the ass. What matters to me is the Gospel of Christ, feeling His love and acceptance, knowing that I can and do make a difference in the eternal scheme of things, if for no one else than simply my family, who mean all the world to me.

Yesterday in Fast and Testimony meeting, as I was bearing my testimony of these very things I felt the singular glow of the Holy Ghost emanating from the exact center of my heart. . . I know the Gospel is True! I know where my true riches and blessings are. Nothing else matters.