Sunday, October 29

Stuck?

I was crazy sick for weeks, and in the time since I've felt... like my life is sort of stuck in the doldrums. I enjoy my ward, but I find that I feel disconnected (likely because I need to make a bigger effort on my own part). I enjoy my work at Soap Factory, but I don't really have any long-term, or even short-term goals professionally. My friendships are stable. My family is following a sort-of-vegan diet. My health is good.

So which way do I go from here?

I guess that depends on where I want to get.

Ultimately, I want to get to Heaven. And I want to take as many people with me as I can.

There's an infinite number of ways to make that happen. But what is something *I* can do? Something I can enjoy? Something where I can actually feel like I am making a difference? 

Enter the issue that likely I am facing, and that I feel like I've been facing for months now: I look at people with new jobs, people who leave on missions, people who go to school and begin new careers - people who all seem to have at least some direction in their lives - while I feel I lack that same direction in my own.

In my own defense, I feel like I've tried to find my own direction.

Or at least thought about it.

I've thought about getting a PhD or finding another Masters program. Moving someplace far away that would force me into something new. Going to a different ward. Finding a random 9-5 job. Finding, doing something, anything to pull me from the rut that feels my current existence.

But I can't transfer my records to a different ward because the moment I actually begin to make the choice, God tells me He wants me here. He wants me to make a difference in my ward, now. So maybe I'll just attend another ward in the morning.

I can't move far away because there are people in my life who need me here. I'm not sure that God would even let me move a couple miles.

There is one idea that is compelling to me...

One that is both scary and compelling.

I'm pretty sure I've written about it before. I love to design new ideas, new processes, new things. Finding a place, or creating a place, where I can design and create would be a dream come true. That's the compelling part.

The scary part? All of those ideas, in order to actually be worth anything more than a conversation, will require skill sets far beyond my own personal ability. And while working with an awesome team is a dream come true, putting a team together sounds only a little less painful than a literal trip to the infernal depths.

...

Perhaps *that* is why I feel so deeply discontent with the status quo, and why I also feel that God has been far too quiet in the matter. Because He has already given me a direction. One that I want to go, but one that distresses and scares me.

Well...

That does answer the question I came to this post with. It gives me direction anew, even if it seems honestly overwhelming.

Sometimes I dislike when blog posts go around in different directions than I expect them to. This post, for example, started with a decent feel to it, but the end feels far too... boring.

But does that mean it's less meaningful? Maybe. But I know there are plenty of times I've wished that Mormon had included more about the perfect society after the coming of Christ, rather than simply telling us that hundreds of years passed without controversy. Maybe, in the same way, the points of life that seem less meaningful and even boring to me, might be meaningful to someone else.

Sunday, October 22

I Would Be My Brother's Keeper

Tl;dr: My dad had a heart attack and my family is supporting him in his new diet. Each of us can support the people around us in the good they do.

I'm not really all that good of a guy. Sometimes I have aspirations of awesomeness, but most of the time I have literally no idea what I want to do, or even what I'm going to do tomorrow.

That said, I still have aspirations.

I still want to make a difference in the world.

I still want to do the right thing.

I still want to be a good guy.

Even in the moments where life seems overwhelming, I still want to be a good guy.

I don't know. I wanted to write a blog post today about learning to serve people - hence the brother's keeper title - and how identifying the skills and talents I have enables me to be a better servant. But suddenly I don't even know what I want to write about. I can't even keep a goal while writing a blog post. Ugh.

My dad was hospitalized for heart attack 10 days ago. He had experienced over a dozen mini heart attacks over the weeks prior, but since each time they went away (and since we in my family think we are superhuman/immortal), he hadn't gone to get anything checked. My younger sister is doing her clinical rotations in a cardiac ICU right now; she made an appointment for him and gave him the ultimatum that she would take him to the ER unless he went to see his doctor.

The doctor sent him to the ER. The ER sent him to ICU. When the cardiologist on call arrived, he went immediately in for surgery. In an angiogram, a catheter is threaded into an artery in the wrist, then slowly winds its way up to the heart. Dye is injected, which allows the surgeon to see blockages in arteries. There was enough plaque in his right arm/shoulder that the angiogram catheter had to be redone through his left wrist.

The surgeon found a 98% blockage in the main artery supplying blood to the heart, along with 3 other spots nearby along the same artery with 60-70% blocks. He placed two overlapping stents, which addressed the acute issue of a potential fatal heart attack.

But placing stents in a blocked heart is like putting bandaids on bleeding cancer. Yes. It fixes a problem. But it does nothing to address the real problem. The presence of what the surgeon called a "surprising" amount of plaque throughout his arteries was sign of massive progression of the whole-body illness that has affected almost all of my forebears. Heart problems - from low blood pressure to high blood pressure, from high cholesterol to arrhythmia to heart attack to stroke - have hit every side of my family.

I asked my dad last Sunday what his plans were. Diet? Nutrition? Health? He mentioned that the hospital was holding a course on post-heart-attack nutrition a few days later and he was planning to attend.

I scoffed. I honestly doubted a sponsored hospital lecture, at least one in Orem, would have the teeth to make a dent in heart disease.

So I grabbed three books from my personal library - three books I picked up a year ago when my younger brother had chest pain of his own - and handed them to my dad. And within an hour he had found a direction he felt passionate about following.

So my dad has changed his lifestyle: he is now vegan, and eats a no added sugar, no added oil, no nuts, low salt diet.

Intense.

In a whirlwind of love and support, my family held a family council last Sunday, and each family member committed to doing their part to supporting dad in his new life. We'd fill the fridge and pantry with safe food (and keep anything else in a separate fridge), and every night one of us would make food that matched the diet.

It's been a week now, and our fridge and pantry are full of uber-healthy food. Pasta is still a simple family favorite, my little sister has decided that rice & beans will be her go-to for the near future, and morning oatmeal has become a regular thing.

My dad could probably find the willpower to do his diet alone. He wants to be alive. He wants to see his grandchildren and be a part of our lives, and he knows that choosing a healthy lifestyle will make a huge impact on his future. But having the support of his family will make all the difference in the world. All of us benefit from support and love from the people around us, and it makes me want to find ways to support the people I love in the good they do. 

This post is all over the place.

Sunday, October 15

Warriors of Light

The night is far spent
The day is at hand
The darkness is spreading throughout every land
But a voice in the stillness still calls me to fight
To throw off the darkness and put on the armor of light

We are warriors
We're an army
And we stand for truth and right
And we know what it is we're fighting for
We will not fall
We will not fail
With God on our side we will always prevail
We will follow Him and make our armor bright
We are warriors of light

When I'm surrounded by friends
Who pull me astray
Or I falter and loosen my hold on the rod
I can look in the mirror
And see a light shining
Deep within, there's a fire
For I am a child of God

We are warriors
We're an army
And we stand for truth and right
And we know what it is we're fighting for
We will not fall
We will not fail
With God on our side we will always prevail
We will follow Him and make our armor bright
We are warriors of light

The darkness is raging
But that's no surprise
We'll banish the night
With the light in our eyes

We are warriors
We're an army
And we stand for truth and right
And we know what it is we're fighting for
We will not fall
We will not fail
With God on our side we will always prevail
We will follow Him and make our armor bright
We are warriors of light

Though darkness is raging
We'll stand and we'll fight
For we are
Warriors of light

<<<<<<<<<<<<

I wrote that song years ago. It came to my mind today, as I looked at my life. Some days I wish life could be simpler. Easier. Perhaps something like the lives I see in people who don't have all the problems I do.

But then I come back to reality. My reality is a mess. Yes, I had a beautiful, almost idyllic childhood. It prepared me with a vision of God and helped me connect with Him. But every moment since has been on the battlefield - a battlefield for my own soul and the souls of everyone around me.

And even though I often wish I had been called to serve somewhere else, the warrior heart within me is who I am. I'm a missionary. And I *always* will be.

What it means is that my life will likely always swirl with clouds and darkness. The water will always be deep. And, at least for this life, God will likely be my only lasting source of peace, hope, and simplicity in life. Yes, I'll find moments of peace and happiness... but I'm on a battlefield. Let's be real here. I'm fighting for souls, and that means warring with devils, demons, and the natural man. Life is going to be rough.

But that's ok, right?

Ok because one person is worth it. My own soul is worth it. And even if my soul doesn't make it, lifting someone else is still worth it too.

There are people who work as forest and fire rangers in places hundreds of miles from civilization. They work to protect the safety of wildlife and surrounding communities... and give up contact with the world around them.

In the world before this, perhaps I signed up to be a ranger for souls. Maybe that's why God has left me single for so long... or why He has been so deeply involved in my life. Why He puts people in my path. Why I constantly run into walls and learn to be humble.

God has a work for everyone who comes to this world. A calling and a purpose and a meaning and a place in the Plan of Happiness.

May I continue to seek and find meaning, purpose, happiness, and peace in mine.

Sunday, October 8

He Will Hear Me

Last night I found myself emotionally exhausted. The source isn't important. Whether from the stress of figuring out life/work/relationships or a mind still recovering from being sick, I felt awful. Anxious. Tired. Lonely.

So much so that I couldn't bring myself to do anything that would usually calm, or at least numb, my soul. Music sounded hollow. Video games blasé. Books an endless series of words without getting to meaning.

And then, in a clear tone that cut through the mud of my mind, came a thought:

"You could read the scriptures."

My room was still just as silent. My world hadn't changed from one moment to the next. My feelings were tumultuous as ever. But as I pulled up Alma 55, turned on the recording, and laid there listening to words written thousands of years ago, everything else disappeared.

And life was ok.

The war chapters moved on, and the angst inside me slowly subsided.

God is there. He is real. And while life is hard, complicated, and messy, following Him will always be worth it. He never forgets me, even if I am slow to remember Him.

And as added proof, as I finished writing the last paragraph, a knock echoes on my front door. It was a couple leaders from my Elder's Quorum... just stopping by because they felt like they should. My ward has enormous boundaries, with hundreds of people. God works through people, as well calming my soul. And I'm grateful for both.

Again, God is there. He's real. He will always remember me. He hears my prayers even when I don't speak them aloud. He cares about me and is always there to listen and guide my path.

And following Him will always be worth it.

Sunday, July 9

A Place to Belong

I had a heartbreaking professional realization. I'm not sure where I belong.

When I was younger I dreamed of having a 9-5 where I loved my work and could come home and rave about the things I did. A supervisor I loved working for, a business that made the world a better place, coworkers who doubled as friends.

I tried out my dream jobs. And they were everything I had dreamed. I did consulting in far-flung places and boardrooms and was a film actor. I performed as a singer downtown and wrote for a game design company. I published books and recorded music and started my own businesses. Everywhere I went, there was something important to be done, and as I worked on each project I honestly believed I would stay there forever.

And then time passed, and the crazy projects that had lit a fire within me shifted from creation to implementation. Sometimes there was another project that could hold me there. And maybe even another. But inevitably they ran out, and deep inside me I found my heart turning somewhere else. Wanting. Needing. Craving change and a dynamic that none of my dream jobs could consistently provide.

And it's still happening.

I remember believing that I'd work at Soap Factory until I died. And yet, only a few years into building a business from scratch, I found myself pulling away. My fully stocked experimental workshop ran out of recipes. The constantly shifting process finally settled down. And while I still worked there many days each week and loved the time I did, my heart turned elsewhere.

And then last night people came to Epiphany. While I was designing Epiphany I felt that I could make it last for life. It could be my mark on the world and how I'd spend the rest of my time.

The people who came had a blast. 

I did too. 

And yet...

Even while it was happening I found myself thinking that I should hire someone to run the event so I could yet again move on.

I likely will.

And *that* is somewhat depressing. With Soap Factory I had two years after we opened before my heart began to stray. Two weeks really doesn't feel fair.

If I don't feel like I'm supposed to stay with the businesses I built myself, where do I belong? What am I supposed to be doing?

Monday, June 19

Go For It

I'm reading a book called "The Happiness Project." Long story short, it's really good. And simultaneously (likely because the author did the same) I've found the courage to do things I've wanted to do in life.

First, I'm hosting a picnic for all bloggers (or whatever if you count yourself in) who live in or around Provo/Orem this Friday in my backyard. You can look up the event details on Facebook. It's been a mess trying to track down *all* the people who blog in the area, since there isn't a directory of any sort (I guess that information is technically available... if I asked Google Fiber to delve into their analytics for Blogger-based blogs and contacted Wordpress I'd be set, but I doubt even they are allowed to amass a data set like that). And my history with hosting parties is... most of the time attendance is zero. Even with a dozen RSVP's. So hosting a first-of-summer picnic for potentially hundreds of strangers and their families is likely out of my league, but I'm doing it anyway. It'll be a great excuse to grab a picnic blanket, take out a sandwich and some fruit, and maybe even make some new friends.

I'm also starting my next business. It's called Epiphany (the name came to me in a wash of inspiration... pun not intended), and I have never been more excited about a business. Our opening day (as long as everything falls into place) is Saturday July 1 at 6:00pm at 12 W Center Street in Provo (inside The Sweet Tooth Fairy). Epiphany is an experience designed to change the way people live their lives. The groups and individuals I've taken through have all loved it. You laugh, cry, sweat, feel, and ultimately hopefully find your own epiphany for change. If you want to come, you're welcome to - just show up at 6:00pm. There's more information on the website - Epiphany

And... once those are happening, I'm also starting Grace again. This one is the most currently stressful, because Grace was such an awesome experience the first time around. And the fear of doing it wrong the second time has kept me from even trying. To counter that, we won't have an official start... just slowly collect people who want to be part of it and have adequate time to practice and perform.

And, finally, I dusted off two of the novels I've been writing (truthfully, it's been years since I touched them) and started adding to them again. I think the goal I made on Saturday to write 2000 words a day (what it would take to finish both by the end of Summer) might be pushing it, so I'm just going to stick with writing as much as I want, when I feel like it.

Oh. And I'm trying to start dating girls again. Someone suggested I download a swiping app... but those are problematic because I swipe left on everyone. I think going old school might work better. So if anyone wants to set me up on a blind or double date with someone who lives within 10 miles (max) of Orem, I'd love your help. Please don't tell me about the girl, because I already know that doesn't work. Just set us up. If you tell her I'm gay then let me know so I'm not wondering if I have to come out over dinner. And if we get married I'll pay you a finders fee or let you name my fourth child or build a wing of a hospital in your honor or give you a hug or something.

I guess a lot is happening.

Saturday, June 10

5 Friends: Turmoil

One of my biggest concerns in learning to make friendships involves a fear of betraying the people I try to befriend. I sometimes... often... ok, pretty much every single time I want to get close to someone... feel that there is no possible way to adequately prepare people for what being my friend will entail. A dozen IRB-approved waivers, endless vulnerable soliloquies, and even reading my mind through a binge of (G)MG wouldn't cut it.

I realize that everyone is different from their first impression. That everyone has flaws. That everyone needs people who forgive and work to improve their lives. But, for better or worse, real or not, I honestly also feel like I'm an outlier in this world too. As people get to know me, I inevitably end up as someone dramatically different from what they expected. And I wish I could fix that.

I also sometimes feel enormous guilt for even trying to make friends. While others see me as a totally normal (or perhaps slightly different) person, I know, fully well, that most of my friendships will not work out. I know from past experience that I will probably leave indelible marks on the lives of the other people involved. And while some marks may be positive, others have caused unimaginable chaos.

I've realized that I can't take responsibility for all of the chaotic things that happen in other people's lives when I'm around them. Some are directly my fault, caused by my own personal, knowing mistakes. Others are my cause - where I do something and unknowingly cause pain - like when I dated three best friends in a row (they didn't live together... how was I supposed to know they were best friends? Or know that I wasn't supposed to anyway?) or when I asked a girl for dating advice because she was the only one I trusted... and she was interested in me. And others just happen. Family members get sick, challenges intensify, life gets more and more complicated, and the fact that complications seem to magnify in my presence isn't my "fault," persay. Sometimes I try to convince myself that people need to get through their challenges and maybe it just speeds up the process. But that really doesn't work. I've seen enough people start to get close to me and then have once-in-a-lifetime emotional breakdowns that I can't just sweep it under the rug.

But those aren't the worst.

I can forgive myself for the chaos I didn't directly cause in someone's life.

The worst are the things that I could have known better, should have known better. The mistakes I make because I'm human, mortal, and imperfect. Some are mundane - I text someone too many times, or use the wrong words in a conversation. Some are manageable - I forget people's names and, often, everything about them within less than a day unless I write it down in a note file on my phone. 

And some... these are the ones that keep me awake at night... some are things I do that are simply wrong. True sins, where my actions turn away from God and lead someone else down the path to darkness. I don't even feel comfortable writing them down. And even as I feel more comfortable, I tell myself that I can't place what they were, except for the most atrocious ones, because in the moment I am so deeply ashamed that I bury them in the furthest recesses of my mind.

As much as everyone sins, as imperfect as the entire world may be, the fact that *I* am a sometimes servant of darkness, and that *I* have marred, shattered, and destroyed people and potential close relationships in that role... that's a pain only God can take away.

The people stay. Burned indelibly in my mind are those whose lives and feelings and souls I've hurt. I might forget a friend in a day. But the people I hurt decades ago... I still remember. I still remember throwing a water polo ball at Jenny Welter's face. A moment killed what was there. I didn't realize we had been friends. Years later I still feel regret.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the enormous mistakes I make in life and relationships. I'm sorry for often being accompanied by chaos and change. I'm sorry for being imperfect, yet appearing normal. I'm sorry for building people up and then letting people down. I'm sorry for my sins, my inadequacies, my poor understanding of everything. I'm sorry for affecting lives and relationships and friendships and families. I'm sorry for everything I've done that has caused pain. To each of you, and especially those I care for most and your loved ones, I am sorry.

I can't promise I will make no more mistakes. On the contrary, being close to me will likely always bring turmoil... and I am woefully imperfect. But... and this takes effort for me to believe... it's worth it. I am worth it. A friendship with me is worth it to me, and worth it to even those I've hurt. And that's why I'm willing to try and try again.


Jagged rips
Fiery wounds
Caution blends with pain
Forearms tear and scratches burn
And yet I blunder on, believing.
The ache lingers
And then, within a moment,
Is quenched by the aroma
Of the rose.

Friday, June 9

5 Friends

Research by Robin Dunbar and other happiness researchers indicates that the happiest people have five friends that they can turn to for everything. Of the thousands of people I may recognize, the hundreds I may know, and the dozens who are a part of my life, five should be close enough to touch my heart and soul.

For most of my social existence, this paradigm has simply highlighted the loneliness that is my life. I've had friends, even close friends, but almost never those to which I could turn for everything in life.

Recently, however, I've come to believe that *everyone* - even chaotic, socially inept people like me - should be happy. That I should have close friends as well.

Hence 5 Friends.

I want to make 5 Friends - real friends - that can be a central part of my life.

I have no shortage of fears or qualms. The vast majority of my attempts to build friendships end catastrophically... and I don't think that's an exaggeration. I've been told on more than one occasion that being my friend was the most stressful and painful experience of a person's life. That fear, along with enormous failure rates, has made it hard for me to really make friends in the past.

But I'm going to do it.

And I believe I'll succeed. I'm already partway there.

To all the people that I meet in the days and years ahead, to all those who have crossed my path thus far, thank you for your help and patience along the path. I hope that you can help me learn and improve on my imperfections... and that the relationship we have, long- or short-lived, will lift you up.

Perhaps you'll even become a lifelong friend.



Alone I sail upon the sea
Its glass reflecting
The clouds above, the falling rain,
As tears upon the water.

Distantly the hail of welcome calls
And ships approach,
Their wooden bows beckoning
To stay the course and board.

There is no flag to hoist in warning.
But none would heed its code.
Only nearness can betray the water's guile.

No ship nearly normal 
Could ever hope to leave
Such utter chaos
As trails within my wake.

Broken masts
And cargo lost
Each a priceless shattered piece
To which I've no recourse

Is it folly, then, to think myself
In a future state
Capacious to calm the waves
That swirl around me?

Or somehow hope that sailors
Might see the unseen break
And navigate 
To closer, safer shoals?

Some break yet at a distance.
Some seem to almost breach.
And for each that makes the journey
I find pain.

And yet.

For each that makes the journey,
I let myself believe 
That one will pass.
And then another and another.
Until *we* will sail together
Upon the waving, stormy sea.

That there might somewhere be
Other 
Sailors on the sea
Like me.

Friday, May 26

Awkwardness and Autism

I'm awkward in the worst way possible. When social grace has any leniency towards actions and words, my actions fall neatly within the margin of error. I look normal, sound normal, feel normal to those who interact with me. But when lines of communication get entangled (as they often do), or the stakes of a relationship rise and closeness grows (as usually happens), my dance of normalcy disappears. I find myself blindly making misstep after misstep, until the other dancers simply walk away.

Some people forgive me for my social faux pax... over and over and over again. A rare few see through the muddled mess into who I really am. But I think most people on the receiving end of my chaotic awkwardness feel subconsciously betrayed. I had seemed so easy to befriend at first glance. So straightforward. And then somehow, suddenly, a series of mistakes ensued and the relationship became unbearable.

I get it.

In a perfect world, people would be able to see through the problems that others face. To see them for who they really are and overlook the jarring problems they face. To instantly forgive the autistic people, those with personality disorders, and those facing untold emotional stress... and to be there for them. People would see that under my shortcomings, I live and breath for people. That I care so deeply that my life revolves around them - around guiding strangers to meaning, easing the burdens of the sick, helping anyone who will listen find happiness and peace.

But I don't live in a perfect world. My world is nowhere near perfect.

And in my world, someone who looks and acts normally in most situations, seems sincere, but then makes more and more major social missteps... is usually attributed personality flaws. If the person was a really "good" person, he would just fix his issues.

And so it goes with me.

I've been named by pretty much all of them.

I've been named uncaring, unloving, too caring, too intense, overconfident, unresponsive, creepy, mean, too nice, too invested, not invested enough, too physical, not physical enough, proud, dishonest, too honest, pessimistic, too optimistic, unfaithful, blindly obedient, hypocritical...

And ultimately not worth the effort.

That's reality.

Classes and counseling have given me tools to navigate most situations and look and feel normal. I can interact with most people and they never dream that they're talking with someone whose social persona is riddled with potholes. But I am a walking landmine, and most of my relationships explode.

And even when I tell them (since I often do) that my autism will likely push them away, people pishposh the heartfelt statement... And usually forget I predicted it would happen.

For a guy whose love language is quality time, who loves people more than life itself, and who thrives on deep connections with others, I've got a major problem. And for much of my life that problem has been depressing at best: I'll likely never be as close to people as I want to be. And, in a twist of bitter irony, if I try to get close to them, I run a real and major risk of losing the relationship completely.

So I can be surface-level friends with lots of people. They think I'm normal, a bit standoffish, a bit too proud, a bit too caring. They see chunks of me floating around, but aren't close enough to be smashed by them. The people I want to be close to usually end up running away.

I'm pretty sure I would run away too.

...

That's a pretty depressing reality. But that's part of being autistic. Deeply needing connection with people, and being pushed away by them and labeled as uncaring or broken or creepy or too intense has ripped me apart emotionally time and time again. I can't even count the number of times that I've tried and failed, each time burning yet another potential connection.

Another depressing reality is that there are only so many people with which to try. Propinquity - or the science of physical proximity - shows that most social relationships are based on proximity. Someone who lives just a few minutes away is far more likely to become a friend than someone who lives further... and beyond a given distance, the chance drops to almost zero. I don't travel much, and my ability to communicate through text, email, and social media is even worse than in person.

...

Yeah.

But there's a redeeming reality as well. One that, in the face of my likely hopeless lifelong battle, gives me strength and hope and peace.

God is real. This life isn't all there is. And if I follow Him, it will all work out.

Believing that I have to find love, meaning, connection, and happiness on my own, using the tools and circumstances I've got in life with the people in my small circle of proximity, is a short, honest road to failure and death. I've faced reality, and learned at least one thing after decades of trying: It's not going to happen. Most people, especially those exposed to my greater missteps because I want them in my life, aren't going to forgive my shortcomings or see beyond the issues I face. And my social world is far too small to filter through enough people to find large numbers of people who could look past my problems.

Without God, life is bleak.

With Him, I have faith.

I have no idea what my life will actually entail. I'm pretty sure that I'll fight the demons that surround me for the rest of mortality, hoping to find more truly good people who can see beyond the darkness into the light inside my soul. That I'll struggle to connect with and feel connected to people. And that, wanting only to make them happy, I'll unknowingly betray the people closest to me, creep them out, exhaust their souls, make them cry at night, and fill them with anger and isolation and despair until they run away.

But I'll also be touched by God. Blessed by Him. Cared for by Him. And, every so rarely, the demons will disappear, and I'll connect with someone for a moment - heart to heart, soul to soul - and remember what it's like to be who I really am.

I don't know why, of all the things given to people in life, I have this. Why the kid who loves people more than anything carries a debilitating social disability that draws people in, only to then make them flee in fear. Perhaps it's to help me learn to love more. To see beyond the demons that others face. To love them for who they truly are, even if they have never seen the light inside. Or perhaps it's to help others do the same. To give them a chance to navigate the pitfalls and landmines and find their own ability to love and forgive completely.

Whatever the reason, that's my reality. I'm awkward, disconnected, deceivingly normal, and unforgivably broken. 

But whatever the circumstances may be, with God at my side, I know at least one thing: His grace is sufficient for even me. Real happiness comes from being like God and connecting with Him... a happiness even greater than the human connection I crave, powerful enough to overcome anything and give hope in the darkest of times. 

I am awkward and broken. But with Him, my life will be amazing.

Thursday, May 25

Falling in Love with God (read)

I'm in love.

And it is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. Literally everything else seems to pale in comparison...

.
.
.


I got shot down.

And I didn't fall. I'm pretty sure I didn't even feel it. And usually I feel it bad.

There's an interesting story in The Book of Mormon. A Lamanite named Samuel is called by God to preach to the Nephites. He goes into the city, but is rejected and thrown out. While he is on his way home, the Lord inspires him to go back. This time, he climbs the city wall and stands atop the wall preaching to the people.

Some people were touched and changed by Samuel's preaching. Others got really angry and shot him with arrows. But somehow no one was able to hit him. So he finished his message, went home, and we never hear from him again.

I'm usually about as emotionally thin-skinned as someone can get. I fully invest in people and relationships, aware that my heart will likely get shot full of arrows... over and over and over again.

But this week I finally got it.

And by "it" I mean figuring out how to be awesomely happy regardless of what circumstance I'm in. Even if all my relationships fall apart.

I realized this:

By following God I am *guaranteed* the highest measure of happiness.

I've known that for a long time. That's what the gospel teaches - following God will bring the greatest blessings - but somehow I still found myself stuck in the miasma of the day-to-day grind. Frustrated and concerned about this relationship, wondering how that circumstance will turn out, pushed and broken and tossed here and there.

But now I believe it.

And that's it

I don't have to rely on my own lackluster skills in relationship dynamics. I'm autistic, and dumb socially, and I have issues. I don't have to rely on the people on the other side of the relationships I have, or the other people I try to befriend - whether I'll find the *right* people in the limited sphere of the world I can see, or whether they'll accept me.

I don't have to worry about *anything*. 

The promise is that as I commit and dedicate my soul to God, I become His. And He will take care of me, give me happiness, enable me physically, mentally, socially, professionally, and in every way direct my life forever.

And that is amazing.

I got shot down multiple times this past week. The kind of stuff I experienced emotionally would usually leave me totally incapacitated, trying to numb my emotions with a jar of peanut butter, the gym, or the newest stupid video game. 

But this time was different. 

Somehow this week I gave my heart completely to God. And being 100% committed to God, and trusting Him completely, fills me with a sense of... awesome power? Assurance? I thought I had learned to trust God before... but I realize now that I had no idea of the enormous power He had to offer. I'm trying to explain it. It's like knowing the final score of the game that I am playing, while I am playing. Or making up a recipe in the kitchen with the full knowledge that it will be amazing because I've done it so many times before. Knowing that even if this relationship or that friendship explodes entirely, I *will* be happy and find what I need. Seeing the end from the beginning, and knowing completely.

I know that my life will be awesome. I know that I will be happy. I know that God will lead me. And, finally, that knowledge has become a feeling - one that bores deep into my soul.

I think that my problem in the past was that I somehow hadn't given God 100% of my heart. I told Him I believed in Him, that I was willing to follow Him, but I still think that I expected Him to follow my requests. I wanted close friends who understood me, people I could love who loved me back, soulmates to spend my life with. I relied on myself and others to find those - using my own imperfect self to seek out others from a pool of imperfect people to meet my needs. And as I tried, on my own, to find those things, I kept back part of my heart from God. When I inevitably got hurt, I'd turn to Him, but still not give Him everything.

And, just like Zelda's Master Sword, God can't give true happiness until I have completely reached 100%. Only full hearts enable the sword beam. Only a fully given heart can give me what I feel right now.

Today I am, from a social standpoint, in lots of messy situations. I have no idea how my relationships will move - whether they'll go forward, backward, or explode. The chaos and uncertainty there is palpable, and would normally level me to the ground.

And yet I am calm. Collected. Empowered. At peace. Sitting at the bargaining table with all the chips on my side.

And enormously, impossibly happy.

...

I think this is how God feels.

He cries when He sees wickedness and feels rejection, as Enoch saw in the book of Moses. But even if all His children turn away and cease to love Him, He is assured of happiness. He *is* happiness. And the momentary grief is swallowed up in peace and joy beyond comprehension.

This feeling is worth every pain I've ever felt. Every sorrow that has clouded my eyes. Every moment of loneliness, and every burning anguish of my soul. Everything makes sense now. I truly *was* blind. And now I see. The Grace of God has taken hold in my soul.

My life is going to be amazing. Yeah, my heart goes out to people who are in the midst of difficult trials, or who are on the edge of making decisions that will damage their lives. But whether or not the people I care about choose the right, walk with me, or love me back, *my* life will be awesome. If they walk with me, we can both find the road. If not, it will still be amazing. 

I have a testimony that God is real. And, more than that, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds the key to eternal happiness. I can give my heart and soul wholly to God, trust Him completely, and allow Him to chart my path... and in return He will fill me with power, hope, happiness, assurance, and peace.

I think the closest that I've ever felt to being this happy was being in love with someone who loved me back. Being in love, sharing that love, is an awesomely powerful thing.

But even that pales in comparison.

Tuesday, May 23

Love

My earliest memory of love at first sight was in an apartment complex in Italy. I knocked on a door and a woman opened it. In an instant, it was like I had been hit in the gut. God loved this woman, more than I could have ever understood, and for whatever reason I caught a glimmer of that infinite, overwhelming love. I saw what the Gospel could do for her. I saw her family blessed and sealed in the temple. I saw her turning to God during major trials in life and finding meaning, happiness, and peace.

I opened my mouth and began to share the message that I knew would bring her the happiness and peace she desperately desired.

And then she closed the door.

And my heart, still overflowing with emotion, was torn to pieces.

My companion wondered why I was suddenly bawling on a random doorstep. But that's understandable. She was a total stranger. His heart hadn't been torn out. And yet what I felt was real. Real enough that I'm crying as I remember it a decade later. My heart still burns.

And yet, by the time we had walked down a dozen stairs, my tear-filled eyes had somehow turned bright again, and I enthusiastically told the next person of the same message that brought me joy.

Sometime that day, my trainer asked me how it was that I could feel so intensely for someone I had never met... and, more, how I could rebound and keep going when my heart was so incredibly crushed.

And looking back at his question I realized something that day:

I can love people.

In the years since, I've seen that the world is full of people who love by degrees. Most people aren't willing to love completely. They're afraid of sending the wrong messages, they're afraid of everything. Mostly, they're afraid of being hurt - of investing in others too deeply and then being ripped to shreds by shrapnel when it all explodes in flames.

I know I have been.

And yet.

Loving people is worth it. Even if they never love back. Leaning on mortals is worth it. Even if they always let you fall. Caring, praying, fasting for others is worth it, even when nothing ever seems to come of it.

Because *loving* people - really, truly, infinitely loving them and caring about their eternal souls, along with the pain and anguish and joy that comes with it - is an exercise in becoming like God.

God loves. He hurts. He rejoices. He cares about the souls of each and every being on the earth... and He dedicates everything to helping them to become like Him.

This morning I knocked on a metaphoric door and had the same experience I had in Italy. Met a random stranger. Felt an enormous amount of love. Shared a message of hope and peace. Saw how the gospel could change a life, heal a heart, and create a thousand hopes and dreams. 

And they closed the door.

I found myself bawling this morning. And yet somehow moments later had the ability to love and care yet again.

I just want to say that it is worth it. People are worth it, no matter how painful the cost. They are always worth it.

Sunday, May 14

Can I hear the music?


Far too often, I find myself focusing on the things that I *should* do, instead of the joy that the Gospel brings. It can be hard. It can be incredibly hard to dance - perform the actions of the gospel - if I don't feel the same joy that it seems like everyone else feels. But this Mormon message, through its words and unspoken visuals, seems to capture both the anguish that comes from not being able to hear the music, and the joy that comes from dancing when I finally can.

I can hear the music. After years of dancing, I can hear the music.

Sunday, May 7

It's Worth It

The reality of life is that happiness can be found in thousands of places. On the tops of mountains, in starry skies, under branching trees and on windy plains, happiness comes and goes.

There's pleasure in playing sports and eating Cheetos. Smiles to be found in throwing pottery and making soap. Laughter that comes from stand-up comedy and rolling down grassy hills.

And it's real.

In the last few weeks, I've finally organized my business so that, if I don't want to go to work, I don't need to. And along with the crisis of self that entailed I found myself wondering about happiness.

I've believed, innately, that happiness comes from the outside. That marriage and family and raising kids and marshmallows and beautiful clouds would fill my life with joy. 

And they do.

And that's why life is hard.

Because at some point I have to choose. 

The world offers instant mortal happiness, control, and direction. I could chart out my life, go find a guy, fall in love, get married, raise a family, and honestly find happiness in this life.

God also offers happiness. His joy, though, is far less front-loaded. The joy of the Lord comes and lasts, but only as I become a greater man. Major caveat? Undergoing that change takes enormous amounts of effort and a literal transformation of my soul and heart. And the pathway to finding happiness can seems far more nebulous. And it requires more faith than I could ever imagine.

I just want to testify that it is worth it.

It makes sense to me that a true transformation into a being of joy would require the voluntary submission of every part of my soul. From the simple, easily portioned parts of my soul, to the tough, gritty, almost impossible ones to give away.

That said, I definitely don't relish the surrender of my heart. Being forced to choose between what my heart wants and what my soul believes feels like literally ripping my heart from my chest.

But I want to testify that it's worth it.

The happiness, peace, and joy that comes from following Christ and becoming like Him, from peeling away the layers of the natural man and replacing it with light... surpasses anything that the world can offer.

It's worth it.