Monday, May 20

Music Competition: Ends Tomorrow

Ever since sharing who I am here on (Gay) Mormon Guy I've wondered about the balance of what I write. Part of me wants to be as inspiring as possible, and avoid the mundane, so that everyone who arrives here is lifted to the skies (yeah, pipe dreams, but whatever). Part wants to be as transparent as possible, but still (somehow) have the blog be worth reading.

Today's more mundane.

The Facebook music video competition I'm in ends tomorrow. It's really close - within a few dozen votes. I'd love if you'd take a moment to listen to my song and vote for me now and tomorrow. You'll need to (1) "Like" Art City Records on Facebook, then (2) click this link to go to my voting page:

You can watch the video on the voting page. Just scroll down.

You can vote every 24 hours - today and tomorrow - until it ends at 11:59 tomorrow night (Utah time)

There... I actually asked for help. What is wrong with me that this was so hard? That I still want to delete it? Is it pride? Wanting to appear totally self-sufficient? Wanting to believe I am? Wanting to preserve the appearance of relationships without ever really letting people in? *sigh*... at least I'm learning.

And I'll also share with you why this is important to me.

Music is a big part of my life and my goals in sharing hope with the world. I don't want to be a pop singer or sing in movies; I want to bring people to Christ. Write and sing music that you'd hear in an Evangelical church, write and sing music that you'd hear in an LDS Fireside, and bridge the gap between them so that people will grow to love their neighbors.

I had a dream in the MTC before going to Rome on my mission. In my dream, the Pope died (it happened while I was there), a temple was built in Rome (it's being built), and then I found myself standing on a rock ledge high above Rome, singing. Singing the gospel through song. I don't know exactly what the third part means, but, right now, I want to record an album (in Italian) to give away at the open house for the Rome Italy Temple - to help people remember what they felt there.

Long-term, I want to release albums that speak about Christ that people can feel comfortable sharing with their faithful families and friends - to help friendships and families grow together toward Christ.

The sponsors of this competition at will write, produce, and publish a song for me if I win. They'll bring in professional musicians, vocalists, produce a music video... and then release it across the world. It's going to be a Christian/Gospel song if I have my way, and the first of hopefully many to help people grow in their faith. It'll connect me with more people who can help me make this happen. And if they like me enough, after the first song, they may produce another, or an entire album.

That's why. Hopefully being real doesn't scare too many people away.

Sunday, May 19

One Heart, Many Minds

This post is pretty haphazard. Just a warning.

It's strange. Just a few days ago my life felt almost worthless. I was smashed flat and felt awful, unwilling to reach out to anyone. Today I almost don't remember it happening... and if you asked me to re-live the moments when I was down, I don't think I could.

I think it has to do with the mix of being bipolar and having ASD. Maybe. Because a lack of empathy fits with one... and dramatically different emotional experiences in the other. Maybe I have trouble empathizing with myself.

Who knows.

I had the thought earlier today that there are some amazing benefits to being bipolar. One of them is the ability to literally see life, the decisions I make, and my goals and dreams from multiple different (and often exclusive or contradictory) perspectives.

Some days I think I'm Superman. I read once that megalomania - the belief that you are the center of the universe and have significant influence on the outcome of events - is a common aspect of the hypo manic or manic highs of bipolar. When I was younger, I though I'd grow out of it. All the adolescent development books said I would. But at that point I was 21 and dealing with issues that they said middle-school-age kids overcome. It hasn't happened. And then sometimes, some part of me tells me that, I'm so awesome that it's really true - the world revolves around me and I can do anything. Except believing that, regardless of any evidence my brain could share, would be about as arrogant as possible.

Some days I think I'm worthless. Depression is part of bipolar. An inferiority complex is pretty common, too. And on days when I'm down, I honestly believe that I'm worthless... totally and completely useless. Most people can't see this side of me. One of my dance teachers did, though. Her name was Kathleen Sheffield, and during a conference in her office she told me that she could see through the assertive, confident outside shell... and that she was concerned for me. She asked me if I lacked in self-esteem and I told her yes. I think it shocked her that I was willing to own up to it... but it's never really been a facade. It's just been the perception of others. Inside my head, I realize that feeling inferior and worthless is probably part of depression. Or, maybe, it's true, and I really am worthless. Except that would be horribly self-effacing... and goes against the whole "divine worth" idea of the gospel.

And then sometimes, most of the time actually, I believe both. Superman and worthless. Useless and invincible. Able to change the world and yet unable to do anything worthwhile. I realize that both are unreasonable. But as long as I believe both of them - that on my own, I can do nothing, but with God all things are possible - I find that it works somewhere in my mind.

It's like having a committee of people with different goals and values, but all mostly aligned, running my life. Sort of. Maybe this doesn't make sense...

During the lows, in depression, I find myself only motivated by the deepest motivations. Only moved by honor, duty, love, and others. Fun disappears, as do a thousand other things. But I refocus on the important things in life.

During the highs, I find myself drawn to change the world, burning with desire to make a difference, wanting to save the world in every way possible. And with the energy and willpower to make it happen. All the things on my résumé began during a high - with a spark of hope and the impetus to learn something new to shake the world.

Then the résumé building disappears, and I re-center on what is truly important in life again.

Sometimes people ask me about the things that have happened in my life - wondering why I've taken so many sideroads, why I am who I am today.

The reality is that those pathways follow a pattern. During a high, I have greater capacity and desire to do things, so I do more. I branch out into new ideas and new territories.

I spend the in-betweens fulfilling the commitments I've made.

While I'm switching into depression, my emotions turn off completely, and fierce rationality takes control. Things that don't make sense, or lack substance, disappear.

Then depression hits, and every commitment comes under the microscope. Only a few things remain. In those moments, when my own personal self-worth has zeroed out, anything that focuses on me loses its value. But things that subvert my own desires and needs to those of others - service, honor, duty, and love - become the only way to value what I do.

Coming out from depression, I've grown closer to God and look to Him for guidance in choosing the right things to do... and the cycle begins anew.

There are deep issues with this cycle. Most of my relationships suffer when I'm depressed. More than suffer - it's like trying to be friends with someone who has multiple personalities. Outward-facing to inward-facing, rational to emotional, with switches that can happen overnight.

But I'm honestly grateful for it. For the person that it has made me.

Thursday, May 16


For years I've wondered if it's even worth trying. And felt, often, like it wasn't.

Friendship, I mean. Trying to get close to people. Being there when they need me and opening myself somehow to them. It didn't feel worth it because I cause so much damage... feel so awful... and I don't know that it will ever go away. I have so many problems that inevitably some of the main factors of my relationships are miscommunication and pain. Somewhere in my head I thought that all I needed to do was find the right girl who could see through everything on the outside and understand and love me - someone I could love back - and then I wouldn't have to worry as much.

I thought I understood.

And then, twice this week, people told me about experiences in their lives. Where a parent has an autism spectrum disorder and struggles to communicate and understand love... first from the perspective of a child, then from a parent.

Both ripped me apart.

Will this never end?

It never hit me that my difficulty developing relationships would extend to my kids someday. That the things I face in the outside world could become obstacles to being there for them... in the walls of my home. That having autism/aspergers could make me less of a father and push them away from me... be a barrier to enabling them to feel loved.

It makes sense. This probably isn't going to go away suddenly... and it already influences my ability to communicate with my siblings, parents, and others. Why not my kids someday? I guess I always hoped it wouldn't... and yet listening to others makes me wonder, for a moment, about having a family at all. I've wanted nothing but to be a dad for all my life - that and a missionary. But if I can't be there... if I can't help them feel loved... if I can't be the kind of dad I want them to have... can I even want a family?

I don't know. Maybe it's still worth it, because the things I'm learning make me into a better person. Maybe I can learn enough to overcome the worst of it, someday. Maybe I will be a good father somehow. But right now I find myself wondering, even about the desire to have a family here. My dream to have a dozen kids and raise them in the gospel... Yeah. I don't know what to want anymore.

I still want it though... because I believe it'll be worthwhile. I just... knowing what I know, what girl would ever want a guy like me? And what kid would want me for a dad? I don't know the answer to that. Just that the journey will always be hard.

Saturday, May 11

Life and Death

I was in Chicago when I saw on Facebook that the daughter of a couple in our ward had passed away, after giving birth to her sixth child. I've never met her, or her husband, but I know her parents - they've served in my young single adult ward for the last two years and been part of our family every Sunday during those years.

This family has been part of ours when we needed people most... with us far away from our own parents, they've been sitting in the back row of the chapel for years now. When my sister was recovering from cancer surgery, they were there for us. When my little brother had leukemia, this sister brought us food - to our home and to the hospital in Salt Lake where he was going through chemo. Vegan food, because she knew us well. She came to our home and scrubbed walls so that he could be safe between treatments. Laughed with our parents at family dinner when they came to visit from Chicago. Stopped and talked with me for months when our Saturday afternoon shopping trips crossed paths each week. And always had a smile whenever we saw them.

So today, when we went to the funeral of their daughter, and saw them crying in the hallway... that was hard. Hard because there's nothing you can do, or say, that changes the reality that death brings. And harder still because there's tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. I'll go on with my life. But when there is a void that's left behind, filling it can take a lifetime.

But what hit me harder than even seeing this couple in tears was a little girl sitting on the ground in the hallway, her feet tucked up beneath her, holding a book to her chest and sobbing. Alone. I don't know who she was. I found myself wanting to reach down and put my arm her, do anything to stop the pain... but felt like the whole world watching would chastise me for doing anything. I thought of the others left behind, others who felt alone - 6 children from newborn to 14 years old, her husband, her parents and in-laws, nieces and nephews and cousins...

There were too many people at the funeral. It felt like the stress and commotion was stretching some people to breaking, the chapel was full when we arrived... so after we spoke with our friends before it began, we left.

I find myself wondering when I go to funerals. And this next section may sound trite or mundane to people who are in pain. Sometimes funerals are sad. Sometimes they're happy. And sometimes there's a clear mix and divide... But age or status of the deceased don't seem to be the deciding factors. My cousin's funeral was incredibly peaceful - she was a midwife and died in a car accident driving home to California. My great-aunt's as well, who passed away slowly from degenerative diseases.

And I find myself wanting a funeral to be something more than just dressing up in Sunday clothes to listen and to cry. Death takes our loved ones away from us until we meet them again; it also signifies the beginning of a new stage of life for those who have passed on... and I think that if we could part the veil between Heaven and Earth, we'd see the loving embrace of friends, family, loved ones, and God Himself welcoming them home. We're both having family gatherings; on earth, there are tears, in Heaven, shouts of joy.

I want funerals to be a celebration of life - a celebration that someone has moved on to something else. Like graduation parties - where you know you will never see the people in your classes, perhaps ever again... but your celebrate the time you had together and the next stage you face in life.

I don't know. If I ever fall in love with a woman... And then lose her... I can't imagine how much pain that would cause. Probably because I don't even know what that would mean - it's a vague unknown that could right now only be imagined. So maybe there's nothing you can do. Maybe my funeral will be a service project and have no speakers at all. Maybe there's nothing you can do to staunch the pain that comes from losing someone - even for a few years. My heart goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one... I just hope that, maybe, when I die, there won't be a little girl curled up in the corner, sobbing... or another one looking through the window with tears in her eyes. I hope that they can share memories, laugh, and smile, and find hope and peace in the reality that the God who made me has finally taken me home.

Sunday, May 5

Whom the Lord Loveth...

I was talking with my dad today, and thinking about all the things that have happened in my life over the last few years.

Mixed in with music, writing, the MBA, and everything else, I've had a closer look at how the Lord works in repentance than I ever imagined.

I've seen it before. I served a mission in Italy, with 9 months in Naples - and the mob is cultural reality. Half the people I taught were part of the mob, and I became conversant with the things they'd have to do to get baptized if they were willing to change.

And then (G)MG became a part of my life. And I became a bystander to watch as God did everything in His power to help His children repent.

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you... (D&C 95:1)

It amazes me. Honestly and truly. Someone tells me about their relationship with a bishop and I'm shocked by the bishop's leniency. Another shares and I'm shocked by his strictness. I watch as God chastens His sons and daughters, puts them through intense humbling experiences, pushes them to the edge of their ability to bear... and then beyond.

All with the goal of changing them into new creatures in Christ. Giving them the hardest/best experiences possible to open their hearts and humble their souls.

I realize that one of the main purposes of life is to help us become like Christ, and that we need intense experiences to help us become who God sees in us.

But sometimes I find myself wondering.

And it helps me remember how utterly incompetent I am when it comes to knowing someone's heart. I'd excommunicate this person; his stake president does nothing. I'd wrap my arms around that one; his bishop calls him to repentance.

Are these priesthood leaders making the right decisions? The best decisions? Those that will help their members come closest to Christ? I don't know. Is there any way to know? The only evidence I have is of outcome, and the Spirit, and the jury is still out on the former. Some guys make the choice to come back - to change their lives and truly commit to being different. Some turn away. And some of those come back years later.

And then I have the scripture in Romans - the scripture that has been most influential in making my life make sense:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

All things work together for good to them that love God. All things.

In this scripture is a promise - if I will love God and serve Him, everything in my life will work together for good. Everything will be a blessing. And the same thing will happen in the lives of the people I meet each day.

From that perspective, I guess the main thing is whether or not my experiences push me to love God and allow Him to be a part of my life. If I'm close to Him, I could go through anything and it would turn out for my good.