Sunday, September 22

Conference: Good, Better, Best

So I realized this week that this may be the last time I live-tweet all the sessions of General Conference as @gaymormonguy. If I pass round 2 and 3 of auditions for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, any session where I'm singing will be silent. You're not allowed to even bring a phone on the stage as a choir member, let alone send real-time notes to the world.

That makes me a bit sad. Being involved in the twitterstake has been an awesome experience... and has connected me with people who share my passion for media missionary work and who live all over the world.

But then again, if it happens, I'll be sitting on the stand, singing with the choir. That's pretty cool.

Thankfully, the choir doesn't sing at every session... so there'll just be a few sessions missing from the transcript.

It just makes me wonder.

In which spot am I better used?

Live-tweeting General Conference is sort of a mundane example, but still influential. Anyone who can sing can take a spot in the choir. Anyone who can write can take a spot in the twitterstake. But which makes a bigger difference in people's individual lives?

I don't know. 

The choir as a whole is life-changing, but not much of that would be ascribed to me. And you can have amazing missionary conversations on Twitter during the hours that #ldsconf trends and people get interested in what is happening.

And that makes me think about the rest of the gospel, too... callings and places to serve. I'm the self-appointed ward greeter in my ward. I pass out programs, shake people's hands, introduce myself to the people who are new or visiting, and try to help people have at least one person who notices them in Sacrament.

I became ward greeter because before, when I was the ward music chairman and directed the music, each week I would try to meet new people but have to go sit on the stand as the meeting started. And people who arrived late had no one to talk with them... and some of them left early without ever saying a word to anyone. So I asked my bishop to give me a new calling.

But now I see another need. When I'm sitting at the back of the meeting, trying to fellowship the people who arrive late and leave early, I don't sit with other people. I don't sit next to the 8 new people who arrived today - none of which ended up staying through the end of the meeting. Today someone asked me why I always sit in the back, and never with the congregation. Then she saw me stand to meet someone, during the second talk... and it made me wonder. I can't be in both places at the same time. And which is the best place to be?

I'm not completely sure where the best place to stand is for me as far as helping others come unto Christ. I know there are places that I've stood, things that I've done. But maybe there are seasons. Maybe there are shifting needs or I have shifting talents. Maybe...


I think the simplest answer is to be the best that I can be, wherever I find myself. Give the rest to God, keep a prayer in my heart for the people around me, and listen when He calls.

The Sabbath Day is a Special Day...

I am so glad it's Sunday. And so glad that I've been commanded to not work today.

Life has been chaotic for the last few weeks. My house flooding, massive remodeling, a nonexistent dating life, work projects that are always pressing and on my mind... but, by far, the biggest draw on my time has been preparing for Natural Products Expo East. It's one of the biggest natural health trade shows in the world, and I'm leaving tomorrow to represent my company.

We're a new exhibitor at Expo East, so that meant designing banners, writing literature, creating & filling & packaging & displaying samples, designing and building a booth, choosing clothes, designing new packaging for products, building a sales pitch, arranging for lodging and transportation...

I woke up this morning and my first thought was, "I need to make a simple online Google Form so that we can quickly take orders on an iPad."

Great thought. Usually we take orders on order forms, but since we have 70+ products in our line, my first attempts at creating an intuitive online form were cumbersome and much less elegant than the paper & pencil version. Later, I designed intro packages for stocking stores based on the most popular products that we sell so that people wouldn't go into choice shock (20 most popular, 30, 40)... and the new form I designed could be easily converted into an online option.

But it's Sunday.

A part of me rebelled slightly at that thought when it came. This is important. It won't take very long. I have time, and I have to do it. And it's not even really all that much work - computer work isn't physical labor or hoeing a field.

But another part of me turned inside and just asked, "You have two options. What do you choose? What do you really believe?"

It's a question that I've found my heart asking more and more recently. When I'm faced with a choice, it's not really about what I know... or about what has happened in the past. It's about what I choose. And that choice illuminates what I really believe. If I believe that I'll find greater meaning, goodness, and life happiness in working on the Sabbath when I don't need to, then I'll make the fillable form. If I believe that God will bless me greater for keeping the Sabbath holy than the blessings that would come otherwise, then I wait until tomorrow.

And that's why the Sabbath is such an amazing gift.

Not only is it an opportunity to put down the stress of the week, it is a commandment to do so. A commandment so important that it superseded almost any other thing in Israelite times.

In a time when life is complicated, and stress seems to be pulling me apart at the edges, I'm grateful for the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy, so that I can get some rest.

Now I need to figure out studying for my Mormon Tabernacle Choir test. That's the next thing trying to convince me of its Sabbath-day worthiness. I don't study on Sunday. But this is for a potential calling as a music missionary. *sigh* Maybe I'll just go home teaching instead.

Tuesday, September 17

I passed phase 1 of #MoTab Auditions

I got a letter today addressed from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I was bracing myself for rejection... since the last time I opened a letter like this was for Stanford.

No rejection. Just a congratulations and invitation to move on to round 2 of the audition - a music skills and theory test.

Ironically, this morning I called the choir office to see when they were sending out letters. Their answer, before I could ask, was that they were sent out yesterday. The mail came early today.

It was so early that when I followed the directions and called to reserve a loaner copy of the textbook used for the test, the people at the choir office were taken aback. Yes, I did get my letter today. The postman may sometimes mix up my address, but this one was definitely right.

As a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir I think you're set apart as a missionary for the Church - to share the gospel through music. You know the feeling when you're putting in your mission papers and going through the pieces before they issue a call? That's my feeling right now. I hope they call me on a mission.

Thursday, September 12

Feelings, Faith, Friendship, Fear... and Frustration

One of the hardest things for me to see is others developing friendships. When I can see people connecting and developing relationships, slowly or quickly, it highlights in my mind the lack of connection I have with the people I love.

And it hurts.

It's the reason that family reunions, after only a little while, make me find a quiet place, curl up in a ball, and cry. Every time. Mission reunions do the same. To a lesser extent, it happens at social gatherings for my ward, impromptu parties... almost any group setting. It even happens in movies. Yeah.

It hurts because, for whatever reason, getting close to people hasn't been a part of my life yet. I've tried in every way I know how. Prayed for help and seen therapists. Read books and done a thousand things differently. And it hasn't worked. At the end of the day, I'm still an outsider. Still alone.

It hurts when I watch others because it reminds me that this - connection - is still something that I want.

Most of the time the feeling of hurt - which I think might just be intense loneliness - isn't part of my life. It's a long story, but I've come to terms with the fact that I might never be close to people.

In order to survive, I do two things. First, I change the nature of the emotions I feel. Loneliness, isolation, and disconnection are usually seen as bad things. Feelings that are seen as incredibly painful... and totally miserable. That's not an acceptable definition. If my life is going to be full of loneliness, isolation, and disconnection, I need a different paradigm in order to thrive. Being miserable isn't an option. I can't honestly tell myself that loneliness is a good thing, because the opposite - connection - is a good thing. Maybe in the context that it has helped me develop a better relationship with God. But at least I can tell myself that it isn't miserable. That I'm not doomed or cursed. And, usually, I can convince myself well enough that the pain goes away and I believe it. I try not to focus on it, and most of life loneliness is there, just under the surface... but since it's always just there, it's not an issue. It only becomes an issue when I remember that it's there - in situations where I see relationships developing firsthand.

The second thing I do to survive is offload some of the responsibility. For a long time I tried to make connections. Really, really hard. And I tried because I believed that my loneliness was my fault. That if I was a kinder, nicer, more caring and inclusive person... that somehow the world would help me connect with people. I looked at what society teaches, and it teaches that if you're lonely, you should reach out to people. You should be there for them. There's even a song that I heard once that says something like, "Be that friend, be the kind, that you pray you might find, and you'll always have a best friend come what may." And I honestly believed it. Everyone else could find friends by simply changing bits and pieces and sometimes big chunks of their personality; I was sure that I could do the same.

It was a good thing. I became a kinder, nicer, more caring and compassionate person. I reached out to people and tried to do the things that I wished someone would do for me. I became more aware of people's needs and desires, and learned how to help them get through difficult experiences. I realized that I had an ability to help people work through inner conflict, maybe because there is so much inside my own life. But while serving others gave me peace and joy, it didn't meet the social needs that I had. At the end of the day, I still had to turn to God and say, "I feel totally alone. Help me feel loved and help me know that everything will be okay." I still wanted someone mortal I could turn to... someone to be a friend to me. And every time I was there for someone who needed a friend it made me wonder if I would ever have that myself.

That experience filled me with guilt and shame. Society takes for granted that anyone can simply make a few changes and be accepted, loved, and connected for who they are. That's what we preach - be authentic with who you are, be open and honest with your feelings, and life will just make it work for you. But it didn't work that way. I was open, honest, authentic, real, did everything the books and people told me to do. People told me I was their best friend. They tried to connect with me. And yet it didn't work... and for a long time I thought it was my fault. Until I simply realized that it's something I face. It's not their fault. It's not my fault. It's just part of my reality, and something that will influence every relationship I or someone else tries to initiate.

God was there for me. Part of this experience has been learning that He can be there for me in every way. That He can be my physical friend. A shoulder to cry on. Someone to bounce my ideas and give me feedback on what I'm doing right and wrong. He can listen to my stories and help me find meaning, point out the things I can do and help me avoid the things I shouldn't. He's always there. Never too busy to listen, always wanting to be deeply involved in my life... and throughout the day I find that He has placed things to help me remember that He cares - sort of like the napkins my Mom would put in my lunch the few times I ate lunch at school; she would write messages on them that always reminded me that she cared. God does the same thing.

So I've learned to live, and maybe even thrive, in a life of isolation. I don't guilt myself when I can't develop connections with people, I reach out to others, and I'm grateful for the people who reach out to me regardless of the feelings inside my mind.

Which means that, after years of trying, I find myself wondering, still, if it's worth it to try to go beyond just living and relating with people who reach out to me. If trying to develop a friendship with someone who already has friends is even going to be a positive impact on their life. If they're in crisis, maybe I can do something to help. But if they don't have major crises to solve, or when the crisis is over, what do I really offer? What do I have to give that's worthwhile? I have problems. Major problems. Being my friend will always be a frustrating, chaotic, even painful experience. Is it worth it in the end?

And if the answer is no - if my relationships really do drain people instead of lifting them up - is there any other reason to try? Am I worth trying for?

I don't think that my feelings merit placing a burden on someone else. I can deal with my own feelings and find peace without needing to inconvenience someone. It doesn't make a difference if people tell me that I'm worth it. Really. It doesn't. I don't know how to change that belief... or if I'm even open to it changing right now.

I don't know. Part of me still wants to believe that I can connect with people. Maybe I just haven't found the right people yet. Maybe I haven't learned a crucial skill that has left a block on my side of the road. Maybe I'll have a breakthrough and finally move forward.

The other part of me is tired. Tired of trying, tired of what feels like rejection... even when people are trying their best. Tired of turning back on the vulnerability with hope of developing something instead of it just being there. And tired of inserting chaos into people's lives and wondering if it was the right thing to do.

I don't know.

Except that the side that God is always on is the one that tells me to reach out.

That's the compact we have - God and me. It's not super complicated... but there are clear terms. I commit to reach out to people, and focus my life completely on them. To be there for people when they need me, to be the friend they need in times of crisis or distress, no matter what the impact on my own life. I commit to being kind and open to everyone, and accepting them whenever they try to get closer to me. And I commit to trying to befriend someone when God tells me to, even if it doesn't look like they need help on the outside. In return, when I need someone to talk to... when I need to feel loved... when I need a friend of my own, God is always there for me. Really, truly, honestly, completely there. And it works.

So it looks like I'm going to keep going in that direction. It's the only choice that makes sense.


At least I know He's with me.

A Thousand Dreams

Today's a rough day.

This morning I had a dream I wanted to come true. I could see the pieces falling into place, leverage the resources I had at my disposal, and push myself beyond my comfort zone to make it happen. I made phone calls, drew up plans, and talked with others.

It's something I've wanted... for a while, but never told anyone about... because I'm afraid that if I share the dream, it might never come true. Writing that makes me laugh, since one of the best ways to kill a dream is to share it with no one, and one of the best to make it happen is to share it with everyone you know.

I'm still not really ready to talk about it. At least, not at this point on the page. I'm sure I'll make myself tell you in a few paragraphs.

Well, I was heavily engaged in putting together the pieces for my dream when I pulled back to gauge the difficulty of each of the pieces still left.

And then I realized that I really didn't have the resources to make it happen. It wasn't that it couldn't happen if someone else were in my place... it was that I stepped back and looked at myself, and what I could bring to the table. The one thing my dream needs most to become reality, I can't offer. I could pretend, but to really be honest with myself, and with the others it would end up involving, I'd have to admit that my biggest weakness overlays the greatest need. And I don't know anyone, right now at least, that has a strength to lend to mine.

I was trying to start a contemporary Christian a cappella group.

BYU's a cappella club has tryouts this next week for groups, and, traditionally, that's the perfect place to launch new groups. Tons of people just breaking onto the a cappella scene, passion, fire... and at a place like BYU, there are bound to be at least a few people passionate about every genre.

I've been in another group for a while now, and I've seen how the dynamics work. It's really not all that hard to set up or coordinate. You find some music, get people together, find a way to choose parts and a meeting time, and sing. Costumes, choreography, solos, and everything else all sort of comes along the way.

Except that, in order to put together a group, I need to be able to form a cohesive group.

Of all the things I've tried in life, forming a group is one thing where I've always failed. This isn't just transference of a few experiences. It's something that happens over, and over, and over, and over again.

Like I said, I could pretend. I know the pieces for putting together a group. Maybe I could even convince people to join the group because they had passion. But would that really be fair to someone else? I know I wouldn't want someone with my track record to be putting a group together. And what if it doesn't work out, like has happened in so many other cases? Can I be the person that ends up crushing someone else's dream?

I feel torn.

Part of me says to go for it. Leverage the talents I do have, and be honest with people and leverage their talents as well. Realize that this isn't something I'm doing alone - if it goes anywhere, I'll have other people whose talents complement my own.

And part of me says to run. Or at least wait. Life is crazy busy, and might get busier fast. I have work that is really important, relationships that already need help, callings and volunteering that are continually in need. My life needs so much already.

So I'll wait.

Today's a rough day.

But it's a good day, too. The rain is softly falling, and God is reminding me that He's here in my life. Jesus Christ is my Savior... and with Him, all things will be possible. That makes me feel at peace. Completely at peace.

Wednesday, September 11

Memories of 9/11... and Hopes for Tomorrow

I was in German class.

We weren't in our normal classroom that day - we had gone to a computer lab for some type of interactive learning software - but I don't remember much of what we learned. I don't remember much German at all, even though that was my second year in high school.

My teacher turned on the newly installed television and we watched the footage of a building burning.

I don't remember having any feelings. Looking back, I know that, from the outside, that would be strange - not really having any strong feelings at all. I think my dad was actually on a trip to Washington DC (he never goes on trips, so I wonder how accurate that memory is), but no fear, anger... just nothing. Emotions weren't a part of my everyday back then. They lived and breathed in me when they wanted to, and then would disappear entirely without a trace.

I remember someone telling me that the world was banding together in the wake of 9/11. I had never been to New York that I could remember, didn't know what the twin towers of the World Trade Center looked like. I lived in a Chicago suburb and my life just kept moving on. I do remember one thing though. One day as we were driving across the country, we approached a toll booth and the operator told us the car ahead had just paid our fare. Something in my mind connected the occurrence with 9/11. The world was banding together. People were becoming kinder... and I felt I could see it in anonymous service. It helped me remember to be kind myself.

When they installed the automatic tolling system on Chicago roads it made driving faster, but eliminated the opportunity to pay for the person behind me. I don't think anyone brought that up at the meetings involved. It was years after 9/11 that the systems went into place. By then most people had gone back to life... anxious to get where they are going until they realize there is so much more to mortality.

Some days I wonder about the difference in feelings that we all share. I feel like even if a catastrophe hit me close to home - if I lost my family and the people I know and was scarred for life - life would just keep going. Things would change, I'm sure I'd be sad, but life would keep moving forward. And not long after, the emotional intensity wouldn't be a part of my day-to-day.

That sounds Vulcan.

But I'm not going to tell myself that my feelings (or lack/difference) are wrong. Feelings are feelings - it's actions that matter. And mixing together my faith with bipolar, ASD, and same-sex attraction means that I have a plethora of both converging and divisive feelings.

I think the world will only become harder as time goes on. I want the world to be a better place. I don't really understand people, how they think, how they feel... what makes them do the things they do. But I care about people enough to want them to find the happiness I've found in the gospel... and to help them find happiness in any way I can.

Sunday, September 8

*sigh* :)

Some days life is just good.

Today was one of those days.

Stressful beyond measure - cleaning up the flooded basement, realizing my car windows were open during the deluge yesterday (and the seats are still dripping), scrambling to create programs for church and organize an impromptu choir for ward conference, teaching Sunday school with a member of the stake presidency present on 0 second notice, Twitter not working on my phone while I live-tweet the #CESDevo (CES Devotional)... the usual.

But, in the end, it all worked out.

We pulled up the brand new carpet and it's safely drying. So we re-lay it. Whatever. I used towels in the car to keep my suit dry. The program was functional and had at least some of the right people on it. The choir swelled from 6 people right before church to over 20 when two of the six members got desperate. Sunday school turned out beautifully. And Twitter sent the tweets eventually, and Elder Nelson's talk was really good.

In addition, I had a few conversations with friends where I got to see the Spirit touch their hearts. I realize that God is continually touching lives... even so, it's always amazing to be there to see it happen.

I'm sore, exhausted, happy, and loved.


Life is good.

Thursday, September 5


I must have eaten too many carbs today. Maybe. That could be the issue.

Whatever the reason, right now I'm feeling an interesting type of loneliness. The interesting side is that I can't really think of anyone I want to talk to. Or what would fix the feeling.

Is that a sort of strange introversion? Where I feel the need to be close to people, yet don't really want them close? Am I just a horrible person for somehow judging all the people who do want to be close to me... and not wanting to reach out to them when I need help? What is happening?

After thinking about it a bit more, I'm realizing that it's probably not just a bout of loneliness. My unplanned experiment this morning to see if eating excess carbs has an effect on my mood... looks like it will have another data point. This is probably depression of some sort.

That is so interesting.

I want to understand what is happening inside my brain.

But is it really? I feel like sometimes that could just be a cop-out. Sometimes depression covers real issues and problems... and the reality is that even with people who are trying to get close to me, I find it so hard to relate. So hard to stay connected. And so easy to just disappear and start over again.

I'm grateful for the people who do try to stay involved in my life... even with the chaos and stress that surrounds me. For a family that loves me even when I can't feel it. For people who consider me a friend even when I can't respond in kind. Hopefully, someday, I can feel the love you have for me... and find ways to return it as well.

In the meantime... yeah. At least it's making me think about life, right? And this is a minor sign that I should probably stick to my zero-carb diet.