Sunday, November 28, 2010

Both of us cried, when I told my Bishop

Click image to see original
Steve Walker painting.
The latest blog from Invictus inspired me to write about my experience coming out to my Bishop, my former Bishop that is. He’s served his time and we now have a new young pup learning the ropes. Do puppies learn ropes? Oh the problems of mixed metaphors. Maybe I will also tell the pup someday, but right now I kind of doubt it. (The other week when he told me with a twinkle in his eye that I looked very handsome and happy, I thought for just a moment he could be a member of the fam. Wishful thinking, I guess, but that's the subject of a different post.)

The Bishop I did tell immediately treated me differently after our first of many discussions. He had always been kind, but his kindness increased. He went out of his way to ask me how I was doing. As one of his clerks, if he knew I was in the building, he would ask me to join the Bishopric for an opening or closing prayer. Many times, but not always, he would ask me to say the prayer. In so many ways he said to me, not in words, but in his actions, “I respect you. I love you as a brother and friend and as your bishop.”

I’ve read here of other experiences with Bishops that were not as positive. With 28,424 wards and branches throughout the world, there are bound to be many differing approaches of Bishops and Branch Presidents. In a worldwide religion with 13,824,854 members there are 138,245 of us personally dealing with homosexuality given a very conservative 1% “gay rate”. I would like to hear the stories of others who have had positive and not-so-positive dealings with their Bishops and other leaders.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My thanks to my toes, and you, and you, and you, and you

As I awakened on this Thanksgiving morning of 2010, I thought of my toes and other things I'm thankful for on this cold wintry day in Salt Lake City.

Toes - They're the farthest or is it furthest from my heart, yet they still live. Their nails grow much more slowly than my fingernails. I keep them in the dark almost year round, only letting them out a few days in the summer or a few minutes a day when I shower. They must love it when I swim when they're not only free from sox and shoes, but when the gravity and the weight of body they usually endure are all topsy turvey and wonderfully different. Thank you toes for supporting me. For helping me balance. For giving me perspective about those I care about even when you're far from my heart physically, I still love you. I rely on you. I'm grateful for you. Thank you, toes.

Pipes - I'm grateful for you, too. You pipes in my walls, and in my yard and under my street and your cousins the wires in the air and underground, copper and fiber, all of you. Without you, taking a drink or taking a dump would be so much more difficult. I couldn't write these words as easily and effortlessly save them in the cloud, the cloud wouldn't even exist, nor would the orange "publish post" button, if not for you, dear pipes of all sizes and functions. Like my toes, you are hidden, but like my toes I rely on you so much. Thank you. Thanks for water, heat, electricity, television, telephone, and all that is online. Thanks for quietly and almost flawlessly carrying away gray water and worse. And thanks to all the people behind all the pipes. I sometimes think of myself alone in my home with my loved ones, but we are not alone, we are connected to so many necessities and much more thanks to you, our dear pipes, and those who maintain you and make possible the contents you carry.

ABCs and QWERTY - In the beginning, we're told, was the word. If so, then in the pre-existence there was the alphabet. I'm grateful today for alphabets and words and the expression, and creation and communication they make possible. I learned the QWERTY keyboard in junior high. It has served me so well though the decades. I'm using it at the very moment I write this, and you could not so easily read my words without it. I did not have to form the letters with a pen or pencil. I did not have to find the bin and then find the letter made of lead in reverse and then place it in a tray and then find the next letter and the space and the ink and the paper, the press and the labor, the drying time and distribution. No, all I had to do was press a key and my fingers knew exactly where it would be thanks to QWERTY. For letters, words, keyboards and sentences, paragraphs, typewriters, computers and broadband, I am grateful this day. 

Fingers - Just because I wrote of toes first, did you really think I would fail to mention you, my ten good friends? Thank you for your beautiful functionality. Thank you for your length ratios which, like my counter clockwise hair sworl, are a physical indication of my great challenges and gifts as a bisexual man. Thanks for all you do. Ringman for working with that extra weight of gold more than three decades now. Thank you all for helping with so much everyday. Thank you for letting me touch and feel. For helping so much with buttons, zippers, keys, driving, holding and so much more. For being an integral part of so many handshakes and hugs, caresses and the holding of hands, pets and more. Thank you for working as a team. Please accept my apology for sometimes forgetting you. I try to clip your nails weekly, but as you know, I sometimes procrastinate. In this weather I should make sure that you get lotion and wear my gloves out in the cold. Thank you for all you've done, all you do, all you will do. Thanks, my fingers and thanks for the fingers of others who have touched and served me in countless ways.

FAM - Thanks to mom and dad, grandpas and grandmas, a dear wife, caring offspring, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces. And those of you who read these words, you, in my book are also family. We are all brothers and sisters, are we not? Like the family members I have listed above, you have helped and loved me, each in your own way, and I appreciate and love you, too. How can that be possible when so many of us have not met face-to-face and we hardly know each other, if at all? Well I've never met two of my grandparents face-to-face either. They were dead long before my birth, but I still appreciate them. I appreciate you, too. Not in the same way, of course, but in an important way nonetheless. I can write without readers, but what a difference it makes to write knowing that someone will read and a few will comment. Thank you for that and much more my moho fam. 

Well it is time for me to rise and shout, even though I'm much more red than blue in my Salt Lake County/Utah County affiliations. No matter where you live, north south, east west, East coast, or Alaska, overseas, or Texas, rural Utah or Hawaii or New York City, I am thankful for you. Thanks for writing and reading, being my Moho bros and sisters. I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving today, that you give thanks and find that the thanks you give are thanking you back. If you're here in frigid Utah may find joy in the warms that protects you. If you are warm Texas, Hawaii or San Diego, may you be especially grateful for the warmth of climate.

Again and again, thanks to my toes, and you, and you, and you, and you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Seeking Warmth in Winter

I shoveled the first big snow of winter this morning. Later as I swapped my cold boots for dry shoes, I looked at my unmade bed and thought about how nice it would be to snuggle with a loved-one on a wintry day like today. I thought first of my wife but then remembered how my occasional attempts at seduction have been rebuffed for years now.

Being bisexual in my attractions, a few other women then crossed my mind--warm, wonderful, funny, beautiful women I know. They're not alike in shape, age, hair color, eye color or personality, but they are all friendly, perhaps even a slight bit flirtatious. But they're off limits. All of them are married.

But in the realm of fantasy I can also think of men I would like to snuggle with and here's where my Kinsey 4-5 scores are evident. Whereas I think of a few women I know who I'd like to spend a snowy day indoors with, I can easily recall a dozen men throughout my life who would make fine snuggle partners, in my dreams anyway.

1. Junior High Crush #1 - I've seen and talked with him as an older man, and there's still some fire there. He's no longer tall and lean and his brown eyes are obscured by thick bi-focal glasses now, but they still twinkle.

2. High School Crush #1 -  I still think of him, too. Not as he is now, but as I remember him walking the halls or studying in the library almost four decades ago. When I hear the Carpenters sing Superstar I can still see this handsome young friend as he was in his prime.

3. High School Crush #2 - We still do lunch sometimes. He's bigger, kinder and every bit as appealing now as he was when we were teens. Maybe even more so because he's a better listener.

4. My Summer Job Crush - He was a blue-eyed, freckled redhead. We never really talked much, but we both said hello to each other almost everyday for a whole summer. I wish I'd struck up a conversation and I would today if he crossed my path. I wonder if the thick red hair has faded to white by now.

5. College Crush - We studied, talked, ate and volunteered together. I attended his missionary farewell and his wedding reception. I haven't seen him in decades but every once in a while I'll notice some one's shoulders  or their mischievous smile and think of him. 

6. Early Career Crush - He lives out-of-state now, but he's still a pleasant memory of my younger days. His thick silver hair, and clean-shaven face in online photos are not quite as appealing as the thick brown hair and full beard I admired in person, but his dark brown eyes appear unchanged.

6. My Mid Thirties Crush - Because we were in group therapy together, he knew some of my issues and I knew some of his. He knew I liked him, and I knew he didn't like me as much, we both knew it. We had lunch a few years ago. Whereas I've become more liberal and accepting he seems more conservative and excluding. 

7. My Late Thirties Crush - Every once in a while I'll search online for this man with the piercing blue eyes and the boyish enthusiasm for life. I wonder what's become of him. I wonder if he's maintained his idealism.

8. My Early Forties Crush - I've already written on this blog about the handsome curly blond with slate blue eyes. I thought I was totally over him until I found him on FaceBook and felt a thrill when he confirmed my invitation as an online friend.

9. My Late Forties Crush - Perhaps I'll write of this another time, but not now.
10. My early Fifties Crush #1- see #9.
11. My Mid Fifties Crush #1- see #9.
12. My Mid Fifties Crush #2- see #9.

So there you go. When the weather gets cold outside, I think of my good wife and the physical intimacy we once shared, but I also think of these other women and men. If any of them were available and willing, I'd welcome them into my bed, that is if I was also available. Even with all these qualifications and perhaps because of them, I'm not likely to abandon these memories and longings--just like Lancelot could not imagine a season to let go of his love.

If ever I would leave you
It wouldn't be in summer.
Seeing you in summer I never would go.
Your hair streaked with sun-light,
Your lips red as flame,
Your face with a lustre
that puts gold to shame!

But if I'd ever leave you,
It couldn't be in autumn.
How I'd leave in autumn I never will know.
I've seen how you sparkle
When fall nips the air.
I know you in autumn
And I must be there.

And could I leave you
running merrily through the snow?
Or on a wintry evening
when you catch the fire's glow?

If ever I would leave you,
How could it be in spring-time?
Knowing how in spring I'm bewitched by you so?
Oh, no! not in spring-time!
Summer, winter or fall!
No, never could I leave you at all!

(Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner) 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Suicidal Thoughts - Conclusion

An edited transcription of journal entries, 2001-2003.

June 10 - Finally got into the Nurse Practitioner my counselor recommended. In addition to the Celexa I've been taking, she's started me on Wellburtrin. Watched some of the Tom Hanks's movie Philadelphia last night. The character he played, based on a real life lawyer, kept fighting against his former employer and against his disease of AIDS. He endured to the end. It has been a good day, overall, a few tough moments, but overall a day as a Sunday should be, time with loved ones, time to find some renewal for the week ahead.

June 11 - Feeling a little panicky. I'm not out of the woods yet, but I'm glad to be alive. 

June 18 - Followed the plan to double my Wellbutrin to 200 milligrams a day. Still having a lot of ringing in my ears, but it comes and goes. On a scale of 1-to-10 I'd say my mood is up to about a 4. But given that it's been a 2 or 3 for most of last month, I'm glad for the progress. Yesterday was Father's Day, it was a pretty good day with some uplifting thoughts at church and from the fam.

June 25 - I'm still doing about the same but better in some ways. I'm learning about myself. What have I learned? Probably that I'm tougher than I thought I was. I'm learning just to live with whatever this down stuff is and there's the paradox, when I am just accepting of it and not trying to fight it, I seem to do better. Last Sunday I took a nap for a few minutes and when I woke up I felt "normal" for a while. I think the medication is helping.

July 6 - I want to let go, yet I want to hold on. I agree with the idea that suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary problem, but it's not really an answer. Still I want to let go. But I don't want to harm innocent people, my children, my wife, my family, my friends. I want to again be a basically hopeful person. 

Sept 11 - Our nation was attacked in New York and Washington, D.C. This is awful but I can see that I personally have a lot to be thankful for. 

Nov 22 - Thanksgiving. Mood is much, much better. I've found an anchor in the work of Dr. David Burns and his book Feeling Good about cognitive behavior therapy. I'm doing better physically, socially, even spiritually. I've learned that my thoughts have so much to do with my moods and that irrational thoughts, though the seem true, can cause depression and physical symptoms. We are what we think. Sounds simple. But it's pretty powerful. I've found affirmations that I can say and usually believe: I am healthy and strong. I can handle my responsibilities. I am a loving and caring parent. I'm a decent husband. I'm a capable man. 

Dec 31 - Wow the last day of one of the toughest years I can remember. I lost so much self-esteem and hope, but for the last couple of months I've done much, much better. Of course I need to continue make progress and plan to do so in 2002, the year of the Salt Lake Olympics.

March 3, 2002 - Journaling didn't save me all by itself, but it was a contributing factor. Same is true of prayer, therapy, Wellbutrin, exercise and a certain fear and lack of courage ((to actually try to kill myself)). I have left more than a trace. I have documented my journey, at least some of it. What have I learned? Things I already "knew" but now have a testimony of. The need for balance, for telling the truth, especially to myself, how much I need others, but how much more so I need to be able to LIVE with myself and my decisions. 

July 6, 2002 - I am grateful for improvements. What a gift it is to be reasonably happy and hopeful. I can remember how last July 4, I sincerely believed I could never be happy again, and that whatever it took to be happy, I had permanently lost. I'm so glad I held on. I didn't realize how irrationally discouraged I really was. Well it took a long time but I have slowly improved. I'm grateful that I have had such good support from family and friends, and that I sought a multi-dimensional approach of biblio-therapy, counseling, meds, exercise and physical and emotional work.

April 25, 2003 - Now with the perspective of time I can say that the greatest loss, the greatest evil I have faced is the loss of hope. Amazingly when I wrote I almost always felt better even when I was writing about how discouraged I was. I made more sense to myself on paper than I did in my jangling mind. I'm grateful that somehow I had the wherewithal to seek to record my thoughts.

Post Script - November 11, 2010 - Thank you for hanging in there with me through this series entries. I appreciate the comments I've already received and look forward to hearing more. I welcome your insights and hope that despite the seemingly negative title of these blogs, that you have found some added insight and hope for the challenges you may face.

Post Post Script - September 5, 2011 - I've found and posted the full text from the 1990 newspaper article that I mentioned in an earlier entry. It's hard to find the archival version and the links change, so I just decided to make the full text part of my blog. Here's the link.

Also check out the comments section.

Return to Part 1

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Suicidal Thoughts - Part 3

An edited transcription of journal entries, circa 2001.

May 27 - Sunday - I am slowly but surely discovering again the things that matter most. That being with my wife and children brings a calm reassurance. We all went to church together today and then went for a drive after. I read some news articles today that gave me perspective. One was about a man in his mid-40s who couldn't even remember his age because of his alcoholism. He hadn't seen any of his kids in years. He said he'd been drunk all his life. At least I've done better than that.

May 27 - Memorial Day, mowed the lawn, went to the cemetery with family, read some old journal entries. It's been two months since I started feeling so depressed. I have survived 8 weeks of clinical depression. that's enough. I'm ready to be happy now. If only it were that easy. I've felt so down, hopeless, negative, nauseated. Enough already. I want to snap out of it. I'm ready to regain my sense of humor, my ability to plan and dream, to nurture and give, to quit being so needy.

June 3 - I am continuing to wrestle with discouragement. I thought it might be interesting to list all the negative stuff I'm feeling and explore what some of the positives might be.

discouraged - courage, courageous
afraid - brave
incompetent - competent, confident
inept - capable, able, responsible
ill - healthy well, fit, strong
depressed - realistic, positive
tormented - calm, peaceful
hopeless - hopeful
bored - active, many interests
blah - engaged
guilt ridden - forgiving, forward thinking
judgmental - accepting, understanding
negative - realistic, multifaceted
suicidal - life-affirming
down - not up, just OK
invalid - valid, purposeful

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Suicidal Thoughts - Part 2

An edited transcription of journal entries, circa 2001.

April 28 – I am grateful for my family and pray that I will again be able to learn and grow. I have made many mistakes. I have been harsh and demanding. As AA advises I need to make a searching and fearless moral inventory. I have begun this night. I also wish to place in writing that I will try to forgive everyone. I’ve wanted to blame others for my failings. I have blamed others. I wish to forgive and forget. I seek to wipe the slate clean, to move forward.
April 30 – Back in January I had an idea for a screenplay. I was pretty full of myself back then. Better to be here and trying to recover than living in some dream world. I’m grateful for family and friends. And friends who feel like family. I don’t have to have an unobstructed view of the mountain to appreciate its beauty. I can see the evening sun on the mountain peaks. God gives us so much, the gift of being ourselves, and sometimes he gives us mysterious gifts we don’t understand.

May 1 – I have so much to live for but I feel empty and of little worth and discouraged. I have felt these feelings before. I have been through bleak times, but I have survived, I have not given in. Still having tremendous difficulty eating, thinking clearly.
May 6 – I will continue to fight for encouragement and making a valuable contribution.
May 11 – Forgot to take my meds last night. Troubling. Didn’t sleep well. Called in sick. Called my counselor. Called my doctor. Felt pretty desperate. Took a nap. After failing to get through to anyone, at about 11:30 I worked up my courage to call 1-800-SUICIDE. The kind woman on the line helped me understand and sort through several things. She helped me gauge in the intensity of my feelings. She asked, “Do you have a gun now or have you take drugs?” I said no. She asked if I planned to do anything today. I said no. I told her I couldn’t get through to my doc or counselor, that food tasted awful and I was losing weight and couldn’t sleep well, and knew these were signs of depression. She said helped me see that although I was troubled, and feeling panic, I was not in eminent danger.
Finally got a call back from my counselor. “Satan has the power to discourage us, but exercise faith and move forward. We have the power to crush the serpent’s head. Remember Paul, we are troubled on every side but not perplexed. Keeping moving forward in faith.”
May 13 – I’ve been trying to keep myself busy. I have tried to be calm and have succeeded, it is just that on the inside I feel so hopeless and guilty. I know I have been the cause of so many problems and unhappiness. There is a wise part of me that says hang in there you can beat this. There is another part of me that says everyone would ultimately be better off if you were gone. That seems so stupid when I write it down, but the thing is that right now it seems true. If only I hadn’t read that newspaper article about Evergreen. If only I had been able to carry the secret to my grave. If only Evergreen had worked better. I don’t know how to sort it out anymore. It gave me great hope. Perhaps too much hope.
May 24 – Saw my counselor. He recommended a nurse practitioner who can evaluate my meds. The rapport I used to have with this man is all but gone. I left his office smiling, but it was a phony smile. Maybe this woman who can prescribe meds will be more helpful.
May 25 – Did a great deal of throwing things away at the office today. Am getting more organized. If I’m not going to be there at least I can leave it clean. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Suicidal Thoughts

An edited transcription of journal entries

January 6 – Bishop and I just finished an interview. He will recommend that I be ordained a High Priest. He said I once taught him that when you can’t express a thought in the spoken word, you can write it and then burn it and let the smoke carry it away. I don’t remember telling him that. Maybe it was something I suggested in a quorum discussion long ago.

February 11 – Stake Conference. Faith and delight in keeping the commandments. Angels to bear you up. Seeking the one in need. Miracles do happen. God wants all to have love and happiness. Give up all your sins to know God. Many ways to sin. Watch yourselves, your thoughts, words and deeds. Remember and perish not. Keep commandments always. Never vary from them.

March 8 – Melancholia, depression, the blues have been called many things of the centuries. I write now because this awful guest is visiting and I don’t want him hanging around. He is boorish and robs my energy and goodness. Get thee hence, darkness. Have I brought this on myself or is it just something that comes along like bad weather. I’m unusually quiet, fidgety, and impatient. People who are perfectly patient and never complain when in pain are amazing. I'm not one of them.

April 9 – I don’t feel “normal” and I wish I could get better. I guess I’m always looking outside myself, thinking that I will find “the answer” out there somewhere. But the wise, ancient part of me knows that there really isn’t any one answer. There are approaches. Balance to be sought. Ideals to strive for. Why can't just visualizing the ideal be enough to bring some relief? I don’t have to be happy all the time, but a few moments here and there would be nice. Silence doesn’t have to be empty or lonely, but it is right now. I have sought both old and new friends. It is a labor. I can only sing certain songs and my songs are not always what they seem. If I can’t accept myself, how can I expect anyone else to?