Tuesday, January 31, 2006

4 Reasons to Celebrate

1. 99 cents for the Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Carl's Jr. Best dollar menu item available anywhere.

2. The documentary New York Doll playing at the dollar theater. This film reminds me that the Church is true.

3. NBC's The Office. Good, clean TV-watching fun. Appeals to the business student in me.

4. Purevolume.com. Free .mp3 downloads and streaming for up-and-coming artists. You'd be surprised how many of these people you've heard of. If you haven't heard them, maybe you should.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Killing the Fantasy

"I'm learning, over and over again, that there are some hopes that I just have to give up on if I want to stay sane." -Tolkien Boy in a comment on some random blog.

I wrote this post while I was at home over the holiday break.

At Christmas time I wrote about love. I said love is all around. If I pay attention to the love that I receive from all sources, I can feel fulfilled. That post was supposed to be positive. The truth is, I believe what I wrote there--my life is full of positive relationships and I am generally happy--but it's never been that simple. I would really like to capture the "everybody is loved" feeling I got when I watched "Love Actually" so I could pull it out and apply a good dosage on the all-too-frequent days when I feel completely abandoned.

So here's how I really feel about love...Let me warn you first though; when it comes to love and relationships and all that, my thought processes are circular and inconclusive. More than anything, this is a rant. Unlike the Christmas post, this isn't supposed to be positive or inspirational.

Love is a concept that equally fascinates and haunts me. Feeling it is enlivening and quite addictive. Love can be more powerful than anything else; Food, sleep, and even school seem insignificant in comparison. Love can mean the difference between laughing at my imperfections and wanting to hide under a rock in shame.

It's fair to say that I need love. I guess we all do. For some reason though, I really get hung up on the idea of love and the pursuit of it. Ever since I first discovered the concept, I've been developing an elaborate and fantastic ideal of what love is. I need to explain it in all its sappiness just so you can understand the depth of it. I fantasize about fairy tale love with white knights and happily ever afters. I see myself as a cog in the vast spinning mechanism of this crazy world and yearn to connect on a primal level with someone and just hold on for dear life. In my head its like this vision of me spinning out of control like a cow caught up in a tornado or a whirlpool. Then, I catch hold of that special someone and we just cling to each other and stare into each others' eyes and eventually even though the world is still spinning crazily out of control all around us, we're totally safe on solid ground. In my monotonous life, I crave the intense romantic feelings that make me forget all my worries and give everything just to see someone else smile. I yearn for the feeling of really caring about and being connected to another person-- to be wanted and to want, to be needed and to need, and to mean more to one person than anybody else in the world.

My great fear is that everyone but me will have somebody. I envision the entire world caught up in my imagined cyclone pairing off and finding peace and rest while I remain a lone man in a dark and dreary world to constantly spin out of control. I hear love songs and watch movies with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and I fear that those stories will never be about me. It's a childish fear I know. Self-esteem and confidence is the easy cure, right? Still, it's my fear and I think I have best admit it.

And here's another element of my problem: when I think about that person-to-person connection I think about other fellas. I don't think hetero love could satisfy my fantasy, I really don't. In man-woman love, it seems like one partner is always giving up something (or "sacrificing" to make it sound more noble) for the other one. My ideal of love is a thing where you don't have to give up anything. For one, we'd have similar interests and desires, but even if we didn't, I'd do anything the dude wants just to be with him and see him happy. If I'm with him we could be watching some crappy opera in a rainstorm but it would be perfect. I know other guys can get that way about women. I don't. I really doubt I ever will.

I'm too shifty, nervous, and unsure of myself for straight love. When I think of life as a great storm and my lover as a rescuer, I think only a man has the power to rip me from the current. I know it's not good for me to think like this. I know I'm wrong, but it's what I think.

The sad thing is, and the core of my frustration, is that I've kind of tried to find my fantasy love. Futile attempts to find that private passion between two lovers leads me to do things I never thought I would, like make out with girls I don't love and visit yahoo chat groups and other dark alleys of cyberspace looking for guys. For all I've tried, I've found nothing at all. Some sparks of hope have ignited only to flicker and fade or combust and destroy. The more I try, the more impotent and retarded I feel. I've spent so long being "blah" that I have nothing to offer a relationship. I'm a wallflower, a non-participant. My social skills are like elementary-school level. I'm interested in others who are free, intelligent, witty, smooth, and interesting but I offer them nothing in return. A graveyard of failed romantic attempts has left me cynical and discouraged. I hold on to the fantasy ideal of love but realize that it is forever out of my reach.

Romantic relationships with guys are all about me and my wants and needs and I've realized through experience that when I focus on my wants and needs I only find them growing deeper and find that the sources I look to to fill them are incapable of doing that. I realized a long time ago that no other person would "complete" me and I am likewise incapable of saving another. Like the mother who gently kisses her child to stop the crying after a boo-boo, the affection of another man offers sublime exhilaration and temporary refuge from reality. However, just as a mother's kiss can not heal deep cuts and broken bones, semen and tongue-sharing can not heal my emotional wounds.

The truth is, the romantic high fades. Loyalties are betrayed. Lies are revealed. People are selfish and hurt the ones they once loved. The romance that we hope will end all pain ends up introducing us to new depths of agony. We realize the romance we thought we had was false. As Ricardo Arjona sings: "you didn't fall in love with me, you fell in love with yourself when you're with me."

Love is real and I can have it in my life, but love is not the thing I fantasize about. Love is selfless. Love is changing diapers and doing dishes and visiting in-laws. Love is NOT having sex when you have the chance cause you know it's not the time. Love lasts through time and distance. Love "suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."

In early December, I was sitting in the BYU counseling center when these things hit me hard. I had just described my major questions and worries to the school's counselor most experienced with SSA and as time was running out in our hour-long session, I begged him for some word of advice. He told me to stop worrying and to stop letting man to man romantic love have the hallowed spot in my thoughts. He pointed out that I was living life with a romantic idea of a higher level of human interaction beyond my reach. I compare all my other relationships to that ideal and they all come out seeming insignificant.

That clicked. I've had many good heterosexual friendships with other guys but I always feel like the relationships are weak, because it's not the relationship I've dreamed of and nobody lives up to my expectations. I end up despising others for not loving me the way I want to be loved or for not captivating my every sense and passion. The crazy fantasy is sucking my life away. He suggested I dissect my fantasy, salvage the good, and discard the bad.

Ok, so it clicked. After talking to the counselor, I spent the next two days feeling heartbroken. I listened to my favorite break up songs again and again like Mana's "No Han Parado de Llover." I'm serious. It would have been easier to explain if it had been a real person who broke my heart, but in this case it was something I did to myself. But in a way, I think it's the same thing that everybody experiences when they break up with someone they really cared about--the pain of reality. The realization that the person we were so caught up in who we thought would offer lifelong respite from the chilly waters of this world is just a person and is incapable of doing that for us.

So I was a little crushed, but I trudged on with my determination to let the fantasy die. I gave it a little slogan in my head of "kill the prince" which I wrote in the margins of my notes whenever I got bored in class and even had some fun drawing pictures of the prince's death. I had hope of finding a better way, something real to hold on to. I've been trying to recognize the significant relationships I have in my life and make those count, or just make little interactions count as significant. Like during finals week I worked nine hours alone with this guy at my custodial job and decided to just pretend like he was my best friend and make it work. That's something I had learned to do on my mission with my companions. Instead of always thinking about my "real" friends, to just pretend like my comp was my best friend in the whole world. Well it worked. Custodian boy and I talked about everything and several times he told me that he really liked talking to me. When my roommates wanted to talk, I talked to them and let myself enjoy it. At home, I tried it with my family. It's easy with my brother. We just spent about an hour sitting on my bed looking at his mission photos and talking about all that.

It's a weird thing and I don't know if I can really explain it to you all because I'm afraid you don't all have the same issue I have. But for the longest time, I think I've been investing very selfishly in relationships. If I see a relationship that holds promise of blossoming into my fairy tale fantasy or at least satisfying parts of those needs for me, I am willing to invest in it. If not, like say with my parents or the straight people I work with or whatever, I wonder why the effort?

I've spent years making myself into who I am today, creating a person to someday share with someone else. Now I realize I need to give that up. If I study, it's to make myself smarter, not to please or help someone else. If I decide to learn to dance, it's not to be attractive or create a nice show, its for me to have fun... and so on.

Ok, now I've said all that it may seem that I've had a great epiphany and when you see me next I'll be a new man. Unfortunately, I don't think so.

As I was writing this I remembered thinking something similar in the past and found this e-mail I wrote last summer: "I just can't imagine living my entire life with out that euphoric love, but instead just living to get by. I'm not that into my work and school and stuff. I want to be into someone else. Today after 13 hours at work I joked to one of my coworkers and said 'I've got to get home to the family, eat dinner with them, tuck them into bed...' But really I come home to nothing. I come home to eat a little canned soup and go to bed only to go to work the next day. Where's the joy in that? Yeah yeah yeah, I know there is more than just that. I can go to the beach, work out, have fun, have great friendships, mentor kids, but its like there's always something or someone missing. As my old roommate used to say, my biological clock is ticking. I feel the need to be with someone, share my life with someone who isn't just going to go away after awhile, start making memories. Not that I'm unhappy cause I really love my life and things have never gone as well for me as they have in the last 12 months but as [a friend] pointed out after one recent conversation, I'm really lonely. I guess that's it. I'm lonely. I'm not going to ever get with a dude so I need to stop fantasizing about it. Maybe it would be really cool. Doing LSD might be cool too, but it's just out of the question. So I take the next best thing. I date a girl, I like her a lot, I may even marry her, have kids, love them to death cause they're a little part of me and at least start to experience that deep love. We'll travel together, have bbq's, drive a suburban, mow the lawn and wave to neighbors, share bad days and good days and yeah it could be really nice. I just have to do it and never look back. So why can't I ever stop looking back at the greener pastures in gayland? That's probably my real issue."

That's frustrating cause here I thought I'd had some real revelation in the counseling center in early December but its the same thing I understood last summer. Contemplating this confusion leads to desperation. Instead of continuing to scrape by hanging on to hopes I want to just completely give it up. I want to just close my eyes and sleep. By giving up my dream of a man, it doesn't mean I'll automatically accept a women, in fact I think I'd be giving up on that too cause I'd just be letting my passions fizzle. I'd be giving up on love.

When I think about giving up the fantasy, I wonder if I have to commit what I've come to call "emotional suicide." I love life and I'm too scared of God to ever throw my body off a bridge or anything like that but I could give up emotionally. In running, I've learned to disconnect my mind from my body when the pain becomes too much--like the final laps in a long race. I could do that in life. I could make life mechanical--sleep, eat, work. I could become bitter. I could spend the rest of my life watching people get worked up over little things and think how silly it all seemed. I could be gothic or emo and wear black and sleep until three in the afternoon and forget my own birthday and just generally not give a f@!#. Maybe that's what it means to become a "man." Really? I don't think so.

Or I could just give myself up to this system and just be a good little cog and stop with all this freaking questioning. I could redouble my commitment to the gospel and lose myself in the scriptures, temple, and gospel doctrine. I could start tucking my ninth grade EFY t-shirt into my k-mart jeans that barely reach my white payless tennis shoes. I would go back to being perfectly spotless, never falling because I'd never take off the training wheels. I could just date some clueless BYU zombie girl. I could open the door for her, tell her she looks cute, smile and nod when she giggles and blabbers. Everybody else seems to have grown up and accepted life while I keep asking "why?" and questioning everything... like Santa Claus, Joseph Smith, and myself. Maybe everybody does that. Maybe they just don't talk about it. But everyone else seems so sure.

This is the thing--I've been emo at times and I've been just another cog in the system. I've spent way too much of my life being "blah" and going unnoticed--never speaking up, never opining, never letting myself love or be passionate about anything. Nobody disliked me, nobody liked me. I HATE THAT! That's so boring. Nobody makes songs or movies about people like that. Just once I want the love songs on the radio to apply to me or have some good solid drama in my life. So I think that's why I was a little heartbroken. I'm kicking against the pricks. My will is not in line with God's. I don't know how you want to say it, but the point is, I'm wrong. I'm fundamentally, essentially, basically wrong. I need to be rewired, I need to start over. This is my life. This is the real thing and I'm wasting it. As my blog title says, This is it! These are my glory days. There's nothing to wait for, nothing huge to look forward to. Tomorrow will be like today and like yesterday and I have to learn to make it work.

I told you my thoughts were circular and inconclusive. So that's why it's taken me like a month to post this. I thought maybe I'd edit it someday but I really don't know how. I guess the point is that life is good. I'm doing ok. I need to do a lot less analyzing and worrying and a lot more living.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Save all kinds of time

Google Reader is the ultimate time-saver for the addicted blog reader. It puts all the blogs you follow in one place making endless link-following a thing of the past. The only drawback is that it doesn't include the comments (where some of the best stuff happens) so you still have to click on "show original item" to see those.

For any of you who haven't used it, here's how Google Reader works:

- Go to http://www.google.com/reader/
- Sign in using your Google account
- Enter the address of your favorite blog in the "Search for new content" box.
- Push the button to search
- Click on "Preview in Google Reader"
- Finally, click on "Subscribe" and its added to your list.
- Each time you sign in to Google Reader it will automatically pull up all the updated blogs.

Monday, January 23, 2006

this weekend

This past Friday night I planned a big group date which included pizza and hot chocolate and running around campus acting like freshmen. Event planning and coordination always freaks me out, but this time it worked and everyone went away smiling. At church yesterday all kinds of girls were talking to me and telling me they’d heard about the fun date. I got a “nice note” from one girl who says “I hear you make fun games. I don’t know you very well. Maybe that will change this semester.” So girls are apparently suckers for EFY-esque games.

Later Friday night, Gilmore Guy got me hooked on Battlestar Galactica. I’m trying to play it cool cause I'm afraid of turning into a sci-fi geek but I really can’t wait to see the end of the show.

On Saturday, I met up with an old friend from work who returned last week from her mission to Eastern Europe last. We hung out at our place of employment where I was reminded how hilarious my custodial supervisor is. We went to lunch at Bajio’s and it was just like old times. Amazing how some friendships can hibernate for years then revitalize without missing a beat. One of our other friends was there who is now married and I got to hold her baby and make people think I was the father. Missionary girl gave me a cool Muslim prayer bead thing which I think is bringing me good luck. Last week I sent the recently returned sister an e-mail with the lyrics of “Genie in a Bottle” in her mission language just because it was the first thing that came up when I searched for how to say “welcome home.” This morning I saw a response from her with the lyrics translated back to English and it was pretty dirty…but I think she liked it. She’s invited me and friends up to southern Idaho to ride ATVs and horses. Anyone want to go?

On Saturday afternoon I took some new volunteers for my other job to meet the families they would be working with. Sitting on stained and crusty carpet in a trashy house in south Provo, I met a 10 year old boy named Ryan. Ryan sat quietly in a car seat, crippled by cerebral palsy. We listened for 30 minutes as his mother talked glowlingly about him and her other children. I watched Ryan tenderly hold his 12 year old brother’s hand the entire time. When I mentioned that the two brothers looked like good friends, Ryan beamed and reached up his frail arms and gave his brother a big hug. There was a ton of love in that home—not glorious or romantic or anything but I’m gonna say it was about as pure a love as you get.

I spent the rest of the afternoon ice skating with a bunch of other volunteers and kids and honestly had the time of my life. We played tag and I was pretty much Speedy Gonzalez on skates.

I saw some foreign films in the International Cinema Saturday night with buddies from work. The films weren’t especially great but I got to sleep a little and at least satisfy my international urges for a few days.

Church was churchy and I was tired as usual but left inspired. After church, I home taught and got home taught. Gilmore Guy invited me to dinner with some people he works with. The crowd was international and the food was exquisite (tortilla soup and more). We played Apples to Apples and Gilmore Guy’s friends called me gay but I’ll forgive them. He and I happened to come dressed alike in cords and v-neck sweaters. It was cute I bet. We ended the evening singing hymns around the piano. Honestly.

I had a meeting for my new calling as FHE dad. It’s gonna be sweet. My domestic partner is amazingly energetic and makes up for my deficiencies. We’re doing service this semester with Hispanic families so I’m pumped. After ward prayer (with a bonfire!), my partner and I went around visiting our “kids” and found them all to our liking. Our first FHE is going to Park City to watch the free Switchfoot concert tonight. How cool is that? Yeah, pretty cool.

I talked to my parents and little bro on the phone then had a talk with a good buddy to finish off the night.

Last week I read a bunch of blogs written by a string of gay Mormon bloggers. They are all conflicted and I really wish I knew an answer that could help them. I have no answers but I do have a lot to say myself on the subject so I will hopefully post that later this week but for now just wanted to give an update and try to make you think my life is exciting (in a very BYU-ish way).

I have to go to my dance class now. Uggh. I have an interview tomorrow for the job I really, really want. I better ace it.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Truth

One of my religion teachers alluded this week to a quote by C.S. Lewis that has stuck with me. I finally got around to looking it up. It's from the book A Grief Observed, where C.S. Lewis discusses the test of his faith he experienced after the death of his wife.
He said: "You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it? You never know how much you believe in the strength of the rope until you’re hanging by it over a cliff."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Targeted Marketing


After my last shopping trip, I noticed that my cereal boxes are all pastel colors with promotions for Breast Cancer Awareness and free pink pajamas. I must be paying too much attention to the commercials between the programs on my favorite network-- Lifetime, Television for Women. :-)

TRESemme Lies


I found this shampoo when I was cleaning my bathroom. I've tried it for three days and I don't look a bit more European or like a body-builder.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

and he danced

Waiting at a stoplight with a girl I was dating a long time ago, the country song "I hope you dance" by Lee Ann Womack came on the radio. We both listened to the words... "I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance, never settle for the path of least resistance...And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance..." When the song ended she said "that should be your song." I don't remember my response, but it was probably something snide to the effect of "yeah, right."
Well today I danced. And I danced on Monday too. Monday I danced disco, salsa, country line, and even tried some break dance. Today it was just the Foxtrot-- 1,2,3,4,5,6, slow, slow, quick, quick. As expected, I was rigid and awkward. I only stepped on one toe but I think I did it softly cause my partner didn't even flinch. I'm pretty sure I'm not the worst in the class. Even if I was, I'm trying to tell myself it would be ok. I'll never see these people again. I can afford to look a little silly. At least I don't get all red-faced and sweaty like I used to when I get embarrassed. Now I just get a dumb look on my face.
One of my friends told me not to worry so much what other people think about me. I'm trying to do that and trying to realize that most people really don't care.
With shyness like a fifth-grader I actually squeaked out the words "Will you be my partner?" I danced with a lot of different girls--with Kim and Kelly and Kenzie and Kristy and Katie and a bunch of other girls who's names all sound the same. They were all nice and just kind of giggled when I was way off. Girls are cool like that. I had fun.
I wish my old girlfriend could see me. She'd be proud. I'm actually pretty proud of myself...for starting at least. The hardest part is just stepping away from the punch bowl and onto the dance floor. Like the message of the country song, I guess dancing is really a metaphor for a lot bigger things--like taking chances and being a little crazy. I've squandered a lot of years being afraid to try anything for fear of failing or looking stupid. What a waste. It's ok to step on toes. It's ok to look ridiculous. It's ok to not be perfect. I'm trying to tell myself that.
Sister Samuelson gave a nice talk yesterday about accepting ourselves for who we are, realizing we're children of God with inherent worth. I love Sister Samuelson and it was a great talk, but to really be happy I think we need to do more than just sit around and tell ourselves we're ok as we are. Sometimes we need to change. I don't want to spend the rest of my life as the wallflower on the sidelines of the dance floor surrounded by equally gutless friends making sarcastic comments about the people who dare dance. That's no fun. So I'm going to change.
Have you ever seen the MTV series MADE? I've watched a few episodes. From the MTV website: "On every new episode of MADE, one willing candidate embarks on a mission to transform his or her life. Whether it's to become a varsity football player, a BMX biker, or a surfer, each teenager has a dream to break out of their shell and find out who they really are. Sometimes they make it, sometimes not, and sometimes they realize they had what they wanted all along."
They've had some pretty remarkable transformations on that show. People can change. I can change. I can't really afford a personal life coach and everything that MTV gives these kids so my progress probably won't be quite as easy, but I will change.
So what is El Veneno going to be made into?
Usher.
I want to be smooth like Usher. I want my movement to be liquid. I want to help other people have a good time. I want to speak up in class. I want to be wild and spontaneous and passionate. I want to radiate with confidence.
Ok, you can stop laughing. Yeah, as Usher sings "Now I gotta keep it real now, cause…that just aint me."
I'm not gonna be Usher cause 1. I'm not black, 2. I'm not that hot, and 3. I'm me, not Usher.
Truth is, I like myself. I'm a pretty decent guy with a lot of stuff to be proud of. I just think it’s healthy to realize I've got stuff to work on. My stuff to work on is being a little less self-conscious, less comfortable, and less perfectionist, and being a little smoother and more courageous.
"Tell me who wants to look back on their youth and wonder where those years have gone?... When you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance."
Ok, I’ll dance.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Two Songs

These are two songs that affected me this week. Because its Sunday, the theme is spiritual.

1. Fix You by Coldplay

When I heard Fix You on the radio this week for some reason I imagined God singing it to me.

"when you try your best but you don't succeed
when you get what you want but not what you need
when you feel so tired but you can't sleep
stuck in reverse
and the tears come streaming down your face

when you lose something you can't replace
when you love someone but it goes to waste
could it be worse?

lights will guide you home
and ignite your bones
and I will try to fix you"

2. I So Hate Consequences by Relient K

I found a bunch of cool songs by Relient K online. I was drawn to this song cause of its title but the lyrics really hit me. It's kind of a trick ending.

"And I’m good, good, good to go
I got to get away
Get away from all of my mistakes

So here I sit looking at the traffic lights
The red extinguishes the hope that the green ignites
I want to run away I want to ditch my life
Cause all of my mistakes keep me awake at night

And after all of my alibis desert me
I just want to get by
I don’t want nothing to hurt me
I had no idea where my head was at
But if my heart says I’m sorry can we leave it at that?
Because I just want for all of this to end

And I so hate consequences
And running from you is what my best defense is
Consequences
Oh God, don’t make me face up to this
And I so hate consequences
And running from you is what my best defense is
Cause I know that I let you down
And I don’t want to deal with that

It just now hit me this is more than just a set back
And when you spelled it out, well, I guess I didn’t get that
And every trace of momentum is gone
And this isn’t turning out the way I want

And I spent all last night
Tearing down
Every stoplight
And stop sign in this town
Now I think there might
Be no way to stop me now
I'll get away despite
The fact I’m so weighed down

All of my escapes have been exhausted
I thought I had a way but then I lost it
And my resistance was once much stronger
And I know I can't go on like this much longer

When I got tired of running from you
I stopped right there to catch my breath
There your words they caught my ears
You said, “I miss you son. Come home”
And my sins, they watched me leave
And in my heart I so believed
The love you felt for me was mine
The love I’d wished for all this time
And when the doors were closed
I heard no I told you so’s
I said the words I knew you knew
Oh God, Oh God I needed you
God all this time I needed you, I needed you"