Sunday, June 30
I went to the North Star summer fireside last night. I've tried to be involved in the community since last November, but (like everyone else) even though I know that people care about me I find I still have major qualms about my ability to fit in.
So last night as the fireside started I wondered if sitting by myself was (probably) a sign that I had simply arrived later than most, (potentially - it's happened in the past) that people were giving me space, or (the inexorable possibility that isn't true yet still crosses my mind) if people just weren't interested in being near me.
The fireside was good. Nathan Gibbons - a therapist who works at the MTC - along with Jimmy Merrell - a researcher in the Deaf community spoke about things that seemed useful and worthwhile to the group. But more, it made me feel good about my own progress. Not that I've made a ton of visible strides recently, but I feel like life is good - and perspective seems to be the most important part.
As the fireside ended, the awkwardness descended yet again... and I found myself talking with people, wanting to dive deeper, yet stuck feeling like it wasn't going to happen. I want to get close to people, but I have no idea how to do it... and the feeling that people don't care still sticks in the back of my kind. I don't know where the feeling comes from. I know that people care about me. Tons of people told me, personally and specifically, that they were glad to see me. And yet, even surrounded by people who know me, understand some of the things I'm going through in life, and care about me... I still struggle to make connections. I'm sure it didn't help that I had to leave sooner than I wanted; my little sister was opening her mission call and had already postponed the event half an hour. She got called to the Brazil, Santos mission - leaving for the Brazil MTC at the end of October. But I still had time. *sigh*
Ironically, today I was released from my calling as ward music co-chair and called to be a ward missionary and member of the fellowshipping committee. So a major part of my calling is to develop better relationships with people. Right now I know the ward well enough to tell who is new... but even remembering their names after a minute or two is stretching it. Maybe I'll get lucky and the blessings from my calling will bleed into my normal life.
Either way, I definitely have a long ways to go.
Posted by Mormon Guy at 1:23 PM
Friday, June 28
that all my stress comes from people. Everything that makes it hard for me to sleep at night, that makes me eat when I'm stressed, that triggers depression, that makes me cry, that burns me out, that pushes me into a corner with no way out, that makes me want to run away from life... comes from people.
And sometimes I feel like it isn't worth it - this trying to be in the world around me.
It would be so much easier just to pull back. To stay alive but disappear from the social parts of life. To only do the things I want to, instead of adding in the things I know I should. To forget about people when they're not physically present or if their relationships cause pain.
I've thought about finding a way to just start over - maybe moving to China to teach English, or just moving to China without a job in place... though that might be a little harder. Except that I'm pretty sure there are people in China, too... and that relationships would be just as hard or harder.
There's no escape.
I had a recurring nightmare when I was little - soldiers that would follow me no matter where I went. I could run as fast or as far as I wanted, but eventually the distant sound of drums would wake me. No place could hide me. No one else existed in the world... only massive tin soldiers marching to the sound of drums, walking slowly but inexorably towards the only living being on the planet - me.
I've wondered what that nightmare meant... especially because of the ending. One night, in the dream I got into a spaceship and left the earth behind... and finally the drumming stopped. I was free. Right now I realize that one potential interpretation would be that I'll have my trials in life until I leave life... and that maybe for a few moments here and there I'll find respite... but the only thing I can do is try to run until it's time to leave.
That sounds depressing. I'd rather not be depressed right now. Depression usually makes a dent in my plans, and I still have to plan 6 musical numbers (and find just as many talks...) for Sacrament meeting on Sunday. I need to be motivated enough to make a bunch of phone calls.
Maybe I can figure out a way to lower the stress I'm feeling right now. I'm sure I can... I'm just not totally sure how to do it.
Posted by Mormon Guy at 8:28 AM
Wednesday, June 26
Today the US Supreme Court issued two rulings that cut at the heart of the battle for marriage. DOMA, and Proposition 8.
The first - DOMA - regarded the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Since the federal government administers a number of benefits to married couples, but has no "voting precinct" other than Congress, Congress passed the law during the Presidency of Clinton to ensure that the federal government would only support marriage between a man and a woman - ruling out all other definitions for the purposes of federal benefits. Since the federal government holds jurisdiction in military bases and other areas, as well as determining social security and tax issues, this was a key position. The Supreme Court ruled that DOMA, by exclusively supporting marriage between a man and a woman, "singled out" homosexual marriage, along with other any other form of marriage not listed already supported or that in the future may be supported by a given state.
This ruling essentially says that the federal government, as far as benefits and other uses, is ruled by the most lenient state or states as per definitions of marriage. If a given state decides to acknowledge a given marriage, the federal government will follow suit.
The second ruling was that the supporters of Proposition 8 - an amendment to the California constitution that declared marriage as between a man and a woman that passed via popular ballot - lacked standing before the court to support their case. Since the state of California, which would have had standing, refused to support the new constitution, supporters attempted to keep it alive. The declaration that they lacked standing before the court means that voters, regardless of any supposed interest they may have vested in their state constitution, do not have the legal right to contest court rulings regarding their constitution.
That is sort of troubling to me, personally, because it essentially says that, unless the Constitution - state or federal - is causing me "personal harm," I have no legal right to object to any part of it. A strong moral belief, or even support for a constitutional amendment doesn't seem to hold sway.
Either way, this ruling leaves the prior ruling in place, which was made by a homosexual judge in the district court just below. That ruling said that the constitution of California was unconstitutional by admission of the new amendment.
The duality of the rulings makes me a bit frustrated. By saying that the federal government must follow the lead of the states (as per the ruling on DOMA), it sounds like the court is supporting state sovereignty in marriage. That's how marriage has always been defined - by the states. But by perpetuating the ruling made by a federal court on a state constitution - declaring it unconstitutional because of the admission of a marriage amendment - and by effectively closing the door to anyone to ever petition against it again, it sounds like the court is supporting federal sovereignty in marriage. By doing both, it looks like they are just making a political play... and it's obvious that they are for gay marriage.
I'm not going to start talking about the issues of the future that these rulings have opened. For today, I'm frustrated that my government has decided to endorse yet another thing that leads away from God.
Posted by Mormon Guy at 10:23 PM
Saturday, June 22
1. I finished an outline for the novel (series?) I'm writing called Jason & the Rockbiters. I began it a bunch of years ago, but stopped writing because I didn't feel I had the writing skills to make it happen (and the plot had died). I gave the first few chapters to my brother and he still remembers being frustrated when I didn't know what happened next. But as of today, the outline is finished, and it includes some pretty awesome twists and turns. Now I just need to write it, and my writing skills have improved dramatically over the last years. I think it may need to be a multi-book thing because of the character development needed to pull the ending off. But it's moving. Definitely exciting.
2. Worldwide Broadcast tomorrow. This is the first time that part of New Mission President's Seminar has ever been made public. And I have tickets to be in the audience at the Marriott Center. Epic. And I know some of the people who are helping translate for rebroadcasts and who are working on the website that will launch along with the broadcast tomorrow. And, years ago, when I was working on curriculum development for the MTC, I helped write outlines that actually got used by apostles in mission president's seminar. I'm sure they're a hundred editions beyond, but I still feel connected. Really exciting. And I guess I'll be live-tweeting.
3. My family is in town. I forget how much I miss and love them when they are gone until they come back. And how much better of a person I am when I can bounce ideas off of my little sister or talk about them with my mom or dad. They're here for a while... and I'm glad that they are... I think that's the reason why the outline for Jason & the Rockbiters suddenly happened - I was talking with my little sister about life and it occurred to me that I should just try to write an outline and see what happens. I'm excited to see what else happens.
4. Totally random, and probably uninteresting, but I went to a family pool party today and didn't sunburn. I stayed out of the sun for a bunch, coated myself with sunscreen, and got out before I started feeling burned. And I'm not. :) For someone who has skin that is usually either snow-white or magenta, that's exciting.
Friday, June 21
like the tri-stake young single adult pool party tonight. My stake president came to my Elder's Quorum and promised us that we'd find our eternal companion at the party. So why wouldn't I get excited? He looked right at me when he made it. That's a pretty hefty promise.
And then I get to the pool party, see the crowds milling together - groups of people meshed and flowing from one to another - and remember... I don't even know how to phrase it. It's like an overwhelming shyness mixed with gut-wrenching fear and discomfort at even being there. At stake dances I would sit in the church foyer because I felt like I should be there, but couldn't bring myself to go inside. At the pool party I didn't have a small group of people who could be a buffer for me and help me get to know new people. I didn't have a role to play like I do when I'm hosting a party, or when there's a topic already decided for conversation. The only thing I could think of doing was playing with my little brother, who's in town with my family, or practicing diving on the diving board, or just standing in the pool alone... neither of which put me in contact with anyone else, let alone a potential eternal mate.
I left the party frustrated with myself because I couldn't talk with anyone. Frustrated because I had been so excited, maybe even blithely so, and had somehow forgotten what inevitably happens to me in unstructured large-group gatherings. And frustrated with myself because I could feel myself wondering if I'll ever be worth it - asking questions that I should be firm on... answers that I've gotten a thousand times. And yet I still find myself wondering. If I have trouble talking with people, if I carry massive emotional and other burdens, if...
How is this ever going to work out?
God can do amazing things. Incredible miracles. Mold man from the dust and call down fire from Heaven. But will I be up to the task? Can He mold me into something worthwhile? And what kind of woman would ever want to spend eternity at my side?
And how many times will I need to experience things like this to be humble enough to let them just happen? To learn to accept it and move on? To have faith that God will fill in the parts that I can't... and help me in the places where I fail?
Thursday, June 20
... is to be a missionary, a husband, and a father.
If I can have those, I don't need anything else. I don't want to be rich, or famous, or the instigator behind a massive change in the world. I don't want an Olympic medal or a glamorous job. I'll be okay living with just enough to get by, wherever and however it happens... maybe teaching Primary for a couple of decades.
I realized that I've been stressing about things in life that don't really matter to me - what I'm going to do professionally... how I'm going to fix our broken sprinkler system... thoughts about my business... mundane things like that - when I have pretty much everything I need in life already.
I may not be married, or really understand how I could fall in love with a girl just yet... but hey - there's nothing wrong with not understanding yet. That's where faith comes in. And in the meantime...
I have great opportunities to share the peace and hope I've found in life, time to spend with my family, and the promise that, if I'm faithful, I'll receive every blessing God has in store for me. I already am a missionary, and slowly I'm developing the skills to hopefully be an awesome father & husband someday. Pretty cool.
Life is good.
Posted by Mormon Guy at 11:58 PM
Tuesday, June 18
I got a new home teaching assignment with my younger brother two weeks ago. We met with one woman who is passionate about mental health counseling and mentioned that she had tried volunteering with the Utah County Crisis Line. I've wanted to see how the crisis line works for a while... and recently felt pushed to actually go apply to be a volunteer. The woman we home teach mentioned that it hadn't been a good fit for her... and I found myself wondering why. (As a side, she's helping with a research project on depression and religiosity and they need more participants; there's a short, anonymous survey at lds.co/d where any of you with diagnosed depressive disorders could help with their data collection)
I went to my first training meeting last night. It started out how I had expected - taking about the issues of people in crisis, methodologies for helping them find peace and reduce stress from acute problems, outlines for resources that are available in the community.
And then we got to the section called "Boundaries"... and it was like I had walked into a brick wall. Two-thirds down the page it said, "Don't share any information about your own life. If people ask, say, 'We're here to talk about you, not me.'"
I can understand a need for anonymity. It was something I safeguarded for years. But when I talked with real people, I always shared my real story. When they called me to ask for advice, I could think of stories and experiences that helped them realize that someone cared and had been through similar experiences. And at the Crisis Line, that's not what they do.
One of the volunteers who's been there for a while said something after that made me think. "Who you are is your superpower. What are you going to do without it?" (I mentioned (G)MG and my experiences helping others as one of the reasons I wanted to volunteer)
I don't know what I'm going to do. If someone calls and is suicidal because they are severely depressed, have same-gender attraction, and are going through a crisis of faith, I don't know that I'll be able to just listen without feeling like I'm lying on the phone... or withholding something that may be far more useful than a list of community resources and half an hour on the phone with a nameless, anonymous listener.
People call me to call me. People call the crisis line to call the crisis line. But somewhere in my heart, I believe that they have the same motivations - not just looking for someone to listen, but someone to listen who can understand what's happening from personal experience, and maybe say something that will give hope or perspective or anything in darkness.
Crisis Line does amazing things - things that, perhaps because it is an institution, are out of reach for individuals on their own. They make a huge difference in the lives of people each day. I just find myself wondering. Maybe this will be the impetus to start my own version of a crisis line.
I've realized that the home teaching and visiting teaching programs of the Church are designed to take the place that Crisis Line does for some people. The problems that are too big to solve on your own, but don't need the help of your bishop... except for the issue of shame. People who have problems or concerns that they see as shameful (regardless of actual cultural views) are less likely to approach people they know... hence the need for people on the outside who can bridge the gap. If we could eliminate shame, then home and visiting teachers would be perfect. Ideally, that would happen. Practically, it doesn't make sense to assume it will. So maybe this will give me some of the pieces to put together.
Either way, it'll be a good learning experience. And helping people in crisis is never a bad thing.
Posted by Mormon Guy at 11:58 AM
Monday, June 17
I look across the street and see a beautifully manicured lawn and garden. Mine is a mess, with weeds and brown grass and a completely broken sprinkler system yet again.
My brothers' rooms are clean. Mine, again, is a mess.
My little brother just got engaged. It's been almost a year since I went on more than one date with someone.
Many of the people I know have careers. Or know what they are going to do in the next year or five. I don't feel like I know anything... and don't know which way to go.
A teacher in Sunday School today asked me how to be a good friend. She told me I was a friend to lots of people. I had no answer. Ironic that I don't feel it.
People think I'm too busy for friends, or that I have tons of them. But when we try to get close it doesn't work... because I don't know how to be a friend.
One place I feel useful is at the temple. But I wonder if I'm really good enough to be a worker there... even to the point of not going some weeks.
I live with my brothers, but feel like I would be closer to them if I didn't... because I inevitably do things that cause strife. When we work together, I find it's better to work on the opposite side of the house. Otherwise, something will happen to push us apart.
People ask me for help, and I feel more broken than they are.
A guy who just moved into the ward asked me after Church if there was anything else happening today. He sounded like he wanted an opportunity to get to know people. I thought about inviting him to dinner, and inviting others as well, but I didn't do it. I told myself I was tired, and fell asleep as soon as I walked in the door coming home.
I asked someone to be our choir director two weeks ago. She hasn't held choir yet, and people ask me why, and I feel like it's my fault.
I still deal with depression, with loneliness that doesn't go away even when I'm with people who love me, with inadequacies and frustrations that keep me awake into the night.
I'm alone, lost, broken, tired, and worn out.
I feel like, comparatively, I am nothing.
And yet, somehow, it's okay. Because, even with the reality - that there are a thousand things I could/should do better - I feel peace. God loves me.
Maybe it's okay to be nothing.
Friday, June 7
Some of the people who make me think most are people who are faithful to the Church because of major difficulties in life. In their stories I see people who've tried to find hope and peace in other places and found it in the gospel. People who, even in a world where self-indulgence is rampant, realize that there are more important things, and who make eternal covenants with God and come closer to Him. Who realize that life is good... even with things that maybe don't look as attractive at the outset.
I sort of put myself in that category... because I feel like anyone who has major issues to overcome needs to become a personal convert to the gospel. Not that I'm going to write that I'm inspirational to myself, since that probably sounds a bit arrogant... but I can't rely on the testimony of someone else. My life sometimes looks awesome and sometimes looks rough. I'm 27, just finished graduate school, have a partial interest in the business I help run, remain totally single, and am trying to figure out my life in the context of having bipolar and ASD. And there's the same-sex attraction issue, which right now just makes it frustrating to try to find people to date. Some days (when depression hits or I can feel the loneliness of ASD throbbing inside my brain) I feel like life is smashing me flat, but the reality is that, even on my most difficult days, I have a pretty awesome life.
Last night I went to a career workshop for adults with Asperger's/high-functioning autism. I was hoping to find some direction for my life so that I can figure out where I'll enjoy a career. Over the last few years I've changed jobs over and over again, creating a resume that has lots of stuff, but that only indicates the fact that I haven't found the right fit. It's been a huge stressor for me in recent months, and I felt totally alone and isolated when I compared myself to my classmates in the MBA program.
But at the workshop, I realized that, comparatively with at least some other people with ASD, I have it pretty good. I have job options that I could probably follow if I needed to. I have my business - which brings in at least something yet doesn't require 50 hours a week of work. I made it through college and graduate school quickly, without having panic attacks or dropping out, don't have gazillions in student loans, and only once got failed due to interpersonal stress. I've had amazing opportunities given to me - publishing books, performing, creating tools that influence lots of people. And I think I know what I want to do, have the experience and passion... and just need to find the right opportunity to make it happen. I realized at the workshop that everyone hasn't had those same opportunities. I was definitely an outlier.
I look at the same thing with depression. Yeah, some days I feel like the world is falling apart, and it's all my fault. But, again, comparatively outward and even to my own past, life is good. I haven't been really suicidal in a long time, and over the years I've been able to feel depressive episodes coming - even to the point that I can prevent them if I do the right things. I'm not on medication. I don't have to eat zero carbs to control my mind. And having been through the roller coaster of hypomania-depression, I can empathize with people who are there... and somehow know what to do to help them come out alive.
I don't know. Everyone has very different things in life that they face. But I feel like life itself is always good... and that one of the secrets of life is realizing that everything that happens to me is a gift from God (mortality and everything in it) - but it doesn't define who I am. Who I am is simply based on what I choose to do with that gift. Finding the good in all things makes life better, and makes me better.
Some things are intensely painful. Some seem so hard to be impossible, and maybe they are. But I've slowly learned that everything in my life is designed to help me learn joy - to learn to be a better man - and the pain, when I leverage it, is always worth it in the end.
Posted by Mormon Guy at 10:52 AM