Magic Pills

I just read a blog post that has really got me thinking.  It started with a tweet on Twitter.  Anita1956 said, “Would I take the straight pill? Here’s my answer.” with a link to her blog http://tinyurl.com/aa78mp.  Here’s what she said:


The Straight Pill

Date March 13, 2009

If there was a pill that could make me straight

…..Straight in body

…..Straight in mind

…..Straight in heart

…....I would not take it.

If taking such a pill would restore all my lost friendships

…..And regain my parents pride

…..And give back my families respect

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking such a pill would return me to my former ministry

…..And the admiration of the congregation

…..And the loving welcome of the church

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking such a pill would replace the love I have for my wife with an equal love for a man

…..And we could legally marry

…..And we would be granted full rights under the law without fighting for them

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking such a pill would mean no one would reject me for being who I am

…..And for saying what I believe

…..And for standing boldly as one who follows Christ

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking such a pill could take the world back in time,

…..Before I came out of the closet,

…..Before I said I was gay

…..Before I knew I was gay

…..Before inequality touched me

…..Before hate revealed its ugliness to me

…..Before anyone rejected me

…..Before anything was lost to me

…..Before I ever questioned God’s love for me

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking that pill would make me straight

…..And famous

…..And wealthy

…..And talented

…..And adored

…..And beautiful

…..And thin

…....I would not take it.

…....I would not take it.

…....I. Would. Not. Take. It.

I would never take a pill that would make me straight because

…....I love being who I am

…....I love being whole and free

…….I love seeing the world from where I stand

…....I love knowing God from this place

…....I love feeling passion burning in me for equality

…....I love being part of a people who are courageous and relentless

…....I love being one in Spirit with every queer youth

…………..With every gay man and woman

……………With every bisexual man and woman

…………..With every transman and transwoman

……………With every ally and friend

……………With everyone who questions, doubts and searches

…….And I love being one in Spirit with you

……………Bound in hope, and faith, and love

……………Bound in God

If there was a pill I could take that would make you straight

………..And taking that pill would end all your confusion and anxiety

……….And remove your fear that God has rejected you

……………I would not take that pill even for you.

You are gay.

…..You are not wrong.

…..…..You are not sinful.

…..…..…..You are not evil or perverted.

…..…....…..You are not unworthy.

…..…..…..…..…..You are not a mistake.

…..…..…..…..…..…..You are not to be ashamed.

You are gay.

…..God loves you.

…..…..God holds you.

…..…..…..God stands with you.

…..…..…..…..God delights in you.

…..…..…..…..…..God calls you “My own.”

If there was a pill that could make me straight

…..And make you straight

…..And you

…..And you

…..And you

…....I would not take it.

…....I would not take it.

…....I. Would. Not. Take. It.

Before I even clicked the link to her blog I answered that question for myself.  “Yes!  I’d take that pill in a heartbeat!” Being gay is one of the biggest struggles I’ve ever dealt with in my life and most of the time I feel like if I could chose not to be gay, I would.

Growing up in a “Christian” home as a gay boy is an incredible challenge.  It is made abundantly clear to you from the beginning that homosexuality is wrong, that homosexuality is a perversion, and that homosexuals are damned for all eternity.  There is an incredible amount of fear that is driven into Christian children about hell and sin and damnation and we learn from a very young age that we want to do everything in our power to make sure we don’t go there.  This results in tremendous amounts of guilt and shame.

For me, the shame was too much to bear and I denied who I was for most of my life.  I chose to believe that I was not gay, that there were other, perfectly legitimate reasons why I was aroused by the images of the male models in the International Male and Undergear catalogues I subscribed to when I was a teenager.  I convinced myself that one day, when I met the woman God had in store for me, I would be physically attracted to her and I would feel normal and complete.

I finally began to admit to myself that I was gay and accept who I was about four years ago and I said it out loud for the first time when I told my therapist two years ago.  By this time, I had read the bible, The King James version, from cover to cover and learned that what I had been told my entire life was cut and dried, well, it really wasn’t.  I learned that there were a lot of discrepancies between the things I had been taught to believe and what I determined for myself in those pages.  I learned that while the Bible is an important resource that there is more research to be done and so I did.

I researched on-line the question of whether homosexuality is an immorality, whether it’s a sin and what it means to be gay and a Christian.  When it all started, I went in search of something definitive that would tell me what I was already sure must be true:  That Homosexuality is, in fact, an irrefutable sin.  What I found instead, was a whole lot of the same rhetoric, the same answers and explanations about why homosexuality is wrong, with all of the same holes that I had yet to explain away.  The same holes that made me question the accuracy, the validity of what I’d been taught.  These holes left me with questions and doubts.  The explanations didn’t sit well with me.  They didn’t feel… They didn’t feel true.  I believe that we all, each of us, possess a spirit that is to some extent or other, in tune with the Holy Spirit.  I started to realize that the reason these explanations didn’t feel or seem right to me is because my spirit knew they weren’t.  My spirit was hungry for the truth.

So I dug deeper and I found several resources with more information.  I found resources that did a better job of explaining what the various Biblical references which are used against us might have really meant.  I found scholarly authors who had a deeper understanding of what the times and the languages were like, and how the Bible might have been translated incorrectly over the generations and centuries that have passed.  And I found a reminder that the God I love and serve is a loving God who wants the best for me, who wants me to be happy.  I finally came to accept that the thoughts and feelings and urges that I was stifling for so many years, close to 30 of them, were normal and natural and a part of me, who I am, the way God made me.

I didn’t take this information lightly, and I didn’t set out to find justification for me to behave in a way that was not morally right.  Honestly, I set out to prove, once and for all, that what I was taught my whole life was absolute fact and that I had to continue to suffer until God saw fit change me and make me “normal”.  I resisted the things that I read that told me that I was OK as a gay man.  I resisted the urge to rejoice at the affirmations that I found because surely, as my mother would have told me were she involved, I was “possessed of the Devil”, I was “being deceived.”  Surely it wasn’t possible that I could, in fact, be gay and be acceptable in God’s sight.  But the evidence mounted, the case was made over and over again… and my spirit?  My spirit was at peace.  I stopped hurting.  I started healing.  I told my four closest friends.

I still struggle with the internalized homophobia that I was raised in.  I still struggle with accepting myself, but now, it’s because I’m programmed this way, not because I really believe that there’s anything wrong with whom I am.  I have to believe that as time moves on, I’ll struggle less and less and be more and more content in my life.

What I really struggle with, though, is the shame.  Not shame because I think there’s something wrong, but shame because I’m so sure everyone else will.  I get anxious when I write something like this because I’m sure that someone will read this and tell me that I can’t be both gay and a Christian.  (Of course I can.)  I’m afraid someone will read this and begin to scrutinize me and my behavior in a different way now that they know I call myself a Christian.  (I’m not living my life for those people, but no one likes to be judged.)  The truth is I hold myself up to the measure my mother has set out for me and I know I fail miserably.  Most days I’m OK with that.  I know I will never measure up to her expectations and I know that most of her expectations are unreasonably high anyway, but part of my internal programming is to see her expectations as those of all Christians and I assume I’ll be judged and condemned by all of them for one reason or another once they learn that I call myself one of them.  (I don’t really call myself one of them and I suspect that will make for another lengthy blog post in the future, but the terminology is the same even if the intent is different.)

The shame that I struggle with has crippled me with regard to coming out to my family.  Not a single member of my family knows that I’m gay while I have to believe some of them may suspect.  It is with this knowledge that as I bring this post nearer to its conclusion and prepare to press that “publish” button I am shaking and feeling genuine anxiety about putting this information out there for the world to see.  You see, my Twitter account updates my Facebook status.  My brother is my only immediate family member who is on Facebook.  I post links to my new blog posts on Twitter which means they’ll show up on Facebook as well.  It is not a stretch to think that my brother will actually see this post and because I am such a coward, this is how he’s going to learn the truth.  Will he say anything to me?  I don’t know.  Will he tell other members of my family?  He might.  Am I disappointed in myself that I can’t just say it to them?  Of course I am.

So if such a pill existed that could make me straight, would I take it?  I’m afraid that is not as simple a question as I first thought it was.  I’d be inclined to take it.  I’d never have to worry about telling my family the truth.  I’d never have to worry about facing the internalized doubts and fears that persist.  I’d never have to worry about having to tell people in my daily life.  And I’d never have to worry about trying to learn how to date as a gay man, or find someone that I could happily spend the rest of my life with.  Life would certainly be easier if I were straight.

On the other hand, maybe taking that pill would be like turning my back on everything that I learned in this process; that God did not make a mistake when he made me; that I am gay because that is how God intended it; that there is nothing wrong with me just because I’m gay; and that God loves me every bit as much today as he did the day I invited him into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior and the only thing that has really changed is, now, I know the truth.

If there was a pill that I could take that would make me straight, would I take it?  I’m sad to say that it would be a tough decision to make, but in the end, No, I would not take it.


———————————————————————————————

My special thanks to Anita, author of the blog that started this, first for writing the post to begin with and second, for granting me her blessing to re-post it here for all to see.

Such A Twit

twitterI’ve recently fallen pray to a new addiction.  It’s called Twitter and it’s more fun than one person is entitled to have.

I “follow” 52 people, most of whom are famous celebrities.  I have 13 followers following me.  Many of whom, again, are famous celebrities.  I interact with these people every day.  I read their messages, I laugh at their jokes, I click on their links.  We have a good old time.  ‘Course none of them are talking directly to me, and with one notable exception, I’ve never received a reply to anything I’ve directed at anyone specific.  Yes, that’s right!  @therealnph (to use proper Twitter lingo) has tweeted at me… ‘Course the jury is still out on whether he’s really the real NPH, (That’s Neil Patrick Harris, for those not in the know) but I guess I can now say “I’m friends with ‘therealnph’.”

I’ve really enjoyed being on Twitter.  It’s open on my computer all the time, whether I’m at home or at work.  I’ve got two separate apps on my iPhone for accessing the Twitter platform.  I’m always on Twitter and it’s great fun.  However, I can’t help wonder what Twitter feels like to someone who is like I was most of my life; easily discouraged, insecure, feeling unloved and unwanted.

You see, being on Twitter tests my ability to handle rejection and judge my own self worth.  Having been clinically depressed most of my life, having based a lot of my self worth on whether or not other people wanted me around (or how I perceived whether they wanted me around), I could understand how someone who experiences these things would quickly be discouraged, possibly even hurt, by being a Twit.  It would be easy to develop a false sense of popularity, or cool…ness.  I don’t have five real friends so 52 twitter friends seems pretty impressive, ‘course most of them don’t know I’m following them. (Doesn’t that make me more like a Twitter stalker?) I’m just one of a legion.  And those that follow me, probably follow everyone who follows them.  Let’s see…

hal-sparks-autographHal Sparks is being followed by 656 people and  following 327 people.  I’m one of those 327.  OK.  I guess I’m special.

hayden-panettiereHayden Panettiere is being followed by 341 people and is following 81.  Not only am I one of them but she added me as someone she’s following within minutes of me adding her as someone I’d follow.  I guess that’s kinda special!

gavinnewsomNow, Gavin Newsom is being followed by 1351 people and is following 1262 people.  I’m one of those people, but that’s 93% of the people following him.  More importantly, Gavin Newsom is the Mayor of San Francisco and running for Governor of California.  I’m sure his following me is politically motivated…  More importantly, I’m certain Gavin Newsom himself rarely, if ever, sees his own Twitter timeline and the person/people really seeing my tweets are interns working on his campaign.  Me?  Not so special.

livestrong3I follow the LIVESTRONG foundation.  Livestrong has 5905 people following them and they’re following 6182 people.  This would imply that they’re following 100% of the people following them and then some.  Once again, me not special.

scharzenegger_narrowweb__300x3790Arnold Schwarzenegger is being followed by 16,760 people and is following 16,487 people.  I’m one of those people, but that’s 98% of his followers.  Among the masses, am I.  (Who let Yoda in here?)  Arnold is our current Governor so obviously his Twitter activity is politically motivated.

maria-shriverMaria Shriver (mostly just ’cause I can) is being followed by 6708 people and is following 5515.  Well, that’s only 82% and she started following me pretty much immediately too.  I guess that would be kinda special but she’s the Governor’s wife.  She has her own political function.  Again, pretty sure it’s an intern of some sort running her show.  Besides which, nothing has been posted in her name since I signed up.

barack-obama-for-presidentOh, and then, of course, there’s Barack Obama.  Followed by 298,345 people and following 287,407.  That’s 96%.  I’m one of them, added on the same day.  I’d feel special but I’ve never been more sure of anything than I am that The President of the United States is not running his own Twitter account.

I seem to have gotten a little lost in my point making.  Oh yes.

While I could be wrong and one or two of the people I listed up there might have found something interesting in the very slight bit of information they might find about me, I doubt it very much and can only assume that adding me as someone they follow was somehow a political/career move on their parts.  If what they thought of me mattered, or if I was counting on Twitter Popularity to make me feel good about myself that would probably hurt me.  If I had some real hope of becoming friends with famous people because I Tweet (and if you’re reading this, I do want to be your friend.  Let’s do lunch!), I’d certainly be setting myself up for a fall.  But I don’t expect that’s going to happen. I take Twitter for what it is and I do not expect anything more than what I’m getting.

Clinical Depression is not something that just goes away.  For me, it’s under control now.  I’ve learned a lot about myself and about life and I have, at least some, of the tools necessary to deal with it.  So while I admit that I get pangs of unwarranted negative feelings about what happens on Twitter, I am quick to remember that this is not where my value lies and not what my self worth is based on.  It’s just a fun thing to do!

Oh!  And Hal, Hayden, Mayor Newsom, LIVESTRONG dudes, Governor Schwarzenegger, Maria or President Obama (or any of your Interns), if you’re reading this, thanks for following me on Twitter and for stopping by my blog!  You’re my favorite Comedian, Actress, Mayor, Charitable Organization, Governor, State First Lady, or President (or any of their Interns) reading this at this moment!

Well, Either You’re Closing Your Eyes to a Situation You Do Not Wish to Acknowledge, or You Are Not Aware of the Caliber of Disaster Indicated. Ya Got Trouble, My Friend, Right Here, I Say, Trouble Right Here in River City.

In case you haven’t heard, times are very tough.

unemploymentMillions of people have been laid off from their jobs and the national unemployment rate is 7.6 percent as of January.  In California where I live it’s higher, at 9.3 percent.

The state of California is broke with a $42 billion budget deficit and it’s only getting worse by the day as the state legislature can’t seem to come to an agreement on the budget.

Can we all agree that times are tough?

I’ve known this all along but somehow I guess I didn’t really get it.  I’ve been suffering from “not me” syndrome.  “Yeah, it sucks.  Yeah people are hurting and I wish I could do something, but at least it won’t happen to me.”

Before anybody get’s too worried about me, no, it hasn’t happened to me… not yet, anyway.  For weeks, maybe even months, Douche Bag has been saying that we have to tighten our belts and cut back on spending, but he’s also been saying that we were not going to be facing any lay-offs.  “Senior Leadership” has stated that it won’t benefit The Company that Created the HMO to lay people off because after you pay severance packages you don’t realize any cost savings for at least a year if not longer.

Last week an e-mail went out from the President of Operations addressing the current economic crisis.  The e-mail said that we were facing some lean times.  It said that in an attempt to deal with these lean times they were taking certain measures to ready ourselves for the tough times ahead.  Among those measures was freezing the salaries of the top 500 employees.  This is a good move.  It proves that they are not just out for themselves and that they are trying to take care of their employees.  The e-mail went on to say that while The Company that Created the HMO was still going to give merit increases, they were reducing the overall budget for the increases by 1%.  Normally, my region’s budget is 3% so this year it would be 2%.  Not great news but livable.  In addition they were still going to give out the annual bonuses that we traditionally get in March.

Honestly, I had full expected to get absolutely nothing this year.  Not an idea I enjoy but not surprising, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise when the follow up e-mail came today.  While The Company that Created the HMO as a whole is following those measures, it has been determined that some regions will need to take additional measures, determined by the market they serve.  Northern California is one of those regions.  Not only will the top 500 Executives have their salaries frozen, but not a single one of the Northern California non-union employees receive a raise before fourth quarter when they will re-evaluate our financial status.  (Read, probably not then either.)  We will still receive our bonuses, which comes as a surprise to me but, raises will not be happening.  And then the big shocker, the e-mail stated that it will not be sufficient to maintain our 2008 staffing levels.  We must reduce the number of full time employees.  There’s no other way to read that, there will be lay-offs.  I think, perhaps, it would have been good if they’d included in that information when and how many they are planning, but at least now we know that it’s going to happen.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the last few weeks, as rumors started flying, about how I could see this playing out and there are a number of scenarios that could play out that would leave me vulnerable.  I have the most seniority in the department, besides Douche Bag, and my function is somewhat unique, in that no one else in the department does what I do.  It could be that the seniority will save me, but on the other and it could be that the seniority also makes me too expensive to keep around.  It could be that the uniqueness of my position will save me, but then again I do have a counterpart in another building that does the same thing and there was a time when our jobs were a one man operation for all of Downtown Oakland.  There has already been a proposition that the functions I currently perform should be consolidated to this other person leaving me free to take on other responsibilities.

I see three possible scenarios with that as well:

  1. Captain Oblivious will approve the proposal to consolidate the function to my counterpart and I’ll continue working here fulfilling other responsibilities – and potentially finding a way to like my job again;
  2. Captain Oblivious will deny the proposal with concern that doing this would leave me vulnerable to being laid-off;
  3. Captain Oblivious will approve the proposal and instruct that I be laid-off.

I have a peace about this.  There’s nothing I can do to change how things will play out.  I go to work everyday and do the best job I can do (when I’m not reading or writing blog entries or Tweeting) and wait to see what happens.  In the end there’s not much more I can do besides leave it in God’s hands.  I trust that he will lead me through it.

Yes, times are tough, but things will turn around.  They always do

One Down, Two to Go

Stop me if you’ve heard this. I thought I’d told this story but I’m not finding it in my archives.

When I was about seven years old, Scornful Mother asked her boss if she could do the Janitorial work for her office of about 35 people for extra income.  Now, for SM this amounted to coming straight home after work and picking up the three of us kids, taking us out to eat at our then favorite restaurant, Bill Knapp’s, and then taking us back to her office where she put us to work.   She sat at her desk at the front and did who knows what while we cleaned.  I won’t go into all the crap feelings that surround that topic, but what I want to say is that even from a young age, I have always felt like it was stupid that she took us out to eat before taking us to “her second job”, effectively canceling out the additional income with the additional expense.

Dead Beat Dad, who was raised by parents who did seem to think that how other people in their lives spent money was somehow their business never hesitated to express his own judgment at Scornful Mother’s penchant for taking us out to eat and then complaining about not having enough money.  It’s funny how, despite my own feelings on the subject, I have the inherent need to defend her.  “She was raising three kids on a secretaries salary.”  “She worked all day and had to feed three kids, at night.  Who wouldn’t rather go out to eat than have to come home and cook after that?”

There was a disconnect in the story for me.  I remember Scornful Mother taking us to the grocery store.  We had to walk around in a single file line behind her and not touch anything, including each other.  I remember the grocery cart being filled to the top.  What was happening to all this food if we were eating out all the time.

A couple years ago, I happened to be in the same place with Dead Beat Dad and CPA Sis, and somehow this topic came up.  CPA Sis told him, “What you don’t know is that she’d have panic attacks about writing such a big check, spending so much money all at once.  She’d get to the front with her full cart and she’d experience anxiety about it and have to leave the cart behind, without buying any of the groceries.”

I never knew this.  From a rational perspective this seems ridiculous to me.  I know it’s not good money management, and yet I can understand it…

credit-card-debtIt is my goal for 2009 to pay off my credit cards and have no debt aside from my car payment which I do want to pay ahead on and get completely out of debt ASAP.  I received a very large income tax refund this year.  Not enough to completely pay off my debt, but a large amount all the same.

I’ve already written a check to Green M&M to pay off all the money that I know I owe her.  (Over the years there have been lots of loans which will never be repaid.)  I’m just waiting for the check to go through the bank.  Part of my “new leaf” has meant keeping close track of my expenditures, how much I’ve spent, when I spent it and when it comes through, and how much I have left to spend.

I just went on to the website for the credit card with the highest balance (and interest).  The balance on the account was $887.05.  I knew I needed to pay it off.  I knew it was a financially sound decision.  I knew I had to do it… And still, my finger hovered over the mouse button for several seconds before I clicked “submit”, with thoughts going through my head like, “But this is 65% of the money I have to spend.”  and “I won’t have any money left after I pay these off.”  Suddenly, I had a flash of understanding about what it must have been like for Scornful Mother at the prospect of writing those “big” checks at the grocery store.

I’m proud to say, I clicked the submit button, and in that one move, I wiped out a third of my credit card debt!  Yay, me!

Now, If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to cuddle up in the corner and wait for my pulse to return to normal and cry it out!

Patience, Grasshopper

I guess when I was a kid, I wasn’t  very patient.  Scornful Mother used to tell me on a regular basis to have patience.

“Honey, you just have to have patience.”  She’d tell me.

“I have patience!” I’d reply exasperated.  “I’m a Pediatrician.  I have little patients.”

I’m sure it’ll come as a huge surprise to find out that Scornful Mother, didn’t find this particularly amusing.

Unfortunately, I’m really not much better now than I was back then.  I’ve learned that throwing a tantrum or heaving an exasperated sigh, usually won’t make things happen any faster.  And I’ve learned that, sometimes, things that are not within my control?  I just have to wait, no matter how much it sucks.  When I keep my wits about me and remind myself of this fact I usually do OK, but it’s easy to get really uptight about it and throw a tantrum (even if it’s only in my head.)

bbbsI’m in one of those situations right now.  A little over a year ago, I applied to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program.  At the time they were not able to accept me into the program because I have a DUI on my record that I got in January, 2004.  BBBS requires that you not have had a DUI within five years, and that you only have gotten one ever.  I reapplied late last year, knowing that it would take time to get the process done and that by the time it was all settled I’d probably have hit that 5 year anniversary.

It’s been a bit of a long haul.  The person with whom I’m dealing laid my application aside and forgot about it.  I waited nearly two months before I finally e-mailed her to find out where things stand and that’s when she realized what had happened and set me up with an interview.  I understand how something like that can happen, they’re a non-profit organization and they’re understaffed, I’m not really angry about it, it just adds to the level of stress I feel about it.

I had the interview and it went fairly well.  The coordinator told me then that it would take some time to find a suitable match for me.  As liberal and progressive as the bay area seems to be, she told me that a lot of parents and guardians do express a desire for their child not to be paired with a homosexual.  This is disappointing certainly, but not such a huge surprise, I guess.  She told me at the end of the interview that she would send out my reference checks the following week (It was a Thursday night) and then it would just be a matter of how quickly they came back.  She didn’t send the reference checks out for three weeks.  Again, they’re understaffed so I can understand how this can happen.

A couple months passed after she sent the reference checks out and I hadn’t heard anything, so finally, I checked in again with her, and it was at that point that I was informed that I had, indeed, been accepted as a Big Brother.  She informed me that there is an orientation/training session “late in February” and that she’d get back to me with more information.  I’m still waiting to hear about the training and I already know I’m going to have to follow up with her to get the information.

I’ve passed the five year “anniversary” of my DUI.  I’ve been accepted into the program and now I’m just waiting to be matched to a “little”  I do understand that these things take time and I’m not angry or upset about it, it’s just the waiting…

I hate waiting!  And I’m anxious about this.  I know it’s a good thing for me to do and I hold a lot of hope that I’ll be matched with someone with whom I can really connect and be a help.  I’m sure that once we’re settled into the relationship it’ll be great…  I’m just dreading the first meeting and I want to get it over with!

I hate waiting, but I’ll just have to have patience.

I have patience.  Wait– Let me say that again.  I have patience.  Give me a minute.  I’ll convince myself in a sec… I have patience!

Oh, LORD, give me patience!!!  And if you could hurry?  That’d be great!

It’s Just Emotions Taking Me Over

big-edenLast night I watched another gay themed movie I recorded to my DVR, off the Logo Network, Big Eden.  I didn’t really know anything about it other than what I’d read in the very brief description on my DirecTV programming guide.

henry

Henry, Big Eden

sampa1

Sam, Big Eden

Big Eden is the story of Henry Hart an out artist living in New York City who is about to have a gallery opening when he receives a call from a friend in his hometown informing him that his Grandfather who raised him had suffered a stroke.  Henry abandons his opening to go back to see Sam, who he calls “Sampa”.

dean

Dean, Big Eden

Not long after arriving back in Big Eden Henry finds out that his childhood friend – and unrequited love – Dean has moved back to Big Eden after his divorce, with his two young sons so that his parents can help him raise his children.

pike

Pike, Big Eden

grace

Grace, Big Eden

Henry is introduced to Pike a Native American man who operates the local general store.  Pike is known to be very shy, but Grace, the friend who notified Henry of Sam’s stroke asks Pike to assist Sam and Henry by picking up meals from the local busy body widow and bringing them to Sam’s house for the men (apparently Henry can’t cook).

The movie has a rather predictable element to it; a love triangle between Dean, Henry and Pike and an unsurprising outcome with Henry and Pike falling in love.

There were several things about this movie that I was surprised at how I felt and reacted to them.  To start with, Henry has never told “Sampa” that he’s gay.  It’s never really explained why this is, it’s just clear that Henry is afraid.  It seems as if everyone knows the truth except for Sam, or does he?

Henry is asked at one point, “Do you really think he never figured it out?”  And that question is answered in a scene late in the film when Sam confronts Henry about what his plans are.  Henry came back to Big Eden to check on Sam after his stroke, and stayed for a year.  Sam tells Henry, he’ll be “joining” Henry’s Grandmother soon and he’ll need to know what to tell her.  After Henry attempts to avoid the conversation, Sam says to him, “You won’t tell me who you really are.  Why?  Is it shame?  Did I teach you to be ashamed?  ‘Cause if I did, I did a terrible thing.”  Henry responds by bursting into tears and laying his head in his grandfather’s lap, allowing the older man to comfort him.  After Sam dies, Henry says to Grace, “I never told him.” to which Grace replies, “Well.  He knows now.”  I was a little confused and maybe slightly annoyed that no one pointed out that clearly Sam already knew.

It is clear from the beginning that Pike is attracted to Henry and wants a relationship with him, but Pike has always been a very stoic and quiet man, easily rattled and embarrassed, unable to adequately express his thoughts and feelings.  For a time he seems almost to dislike Henry as he avoids contact.  Day after day, Sam and Henry invite Pike to join them in the meals that he brings and he declines.  Then one night, Henry is out and Sam invites Pike to stay.  Finally, Pike accepts.

After just a few days of delivering meals to the men which have been prepared by a local widow, it becomes clear that the meals are not very pleasant tasting.  Pike takes a book entitled “The Joy of Cooking” from his lending library and studies it.  The next day Pike prepares a delicious meal and delivers it to the men.  The regular invitations are extended, the usual declination given and Pike returns home where he himself eats the unenjoyable meal provided by the widow.

As the movie progresses it becomes clear that Pike has feelings for Henry which he does not know how to express.  Many of the peripheral characters begin to see what’s happening and attempt to help.  Eventually, Pike comes by with a meal for the men but Sam is asleep.  Henry invites Pike to join him and after a few attempts to escape, Pike finally agrees.  They have a very pleasant conversation and a friendship grows.  Naturally, as must happen in such a story, Henry does not see what’s happening.  Henry is learning more and seeing more of Pike but does not understand Pike’s feelings.

Midway through the movie, Sam has a medical episode and has to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance.  Henry spends the night at the hospital with Sam, awake all night.  In the morning, Dean comes and takes Henry home.  It’s been clear that there is a relationship developing between the two but it’s slow and awkward.  Until this moment, you’re not really sure what is going on with Dean.  After returning to Sam’s house from the hospital, Dean offers to cook some eggs for Henry and while he is cooking there is a moment of vulnerability and tenderness when Henry places a hand and then his head on Dean’s shoulder and places his other arm around Dean.

dh-kissDean pushes the pan aside and turns toward Henry.  The two embrace and there is a brief kiss before Dean turns his face away and they hug.

“I can’t,” Dean says.

“I know,” is Henry’s reply.

“I want to.  I just can’t,” Dean repeats.

“I know,” Henry says again.

There are a few things about this movie that affected me.  The first is the relationship between Henry and his “Sampa”.  It is so clear to the viewer and to everyone else in Big Eden that Sam knows Henry is gay.  There’s even a scene when Henry is away at a town picnic so Pike stays and shares dinner with Sam.  After they eat, the two men go out by the lake outside Sam’s house to watch the fireworks.  They’re still outside when they hear Dean’s truck pull up to drop Henry off.  Pike and Sam observe what might be construed as a tender moment between Henry and Dean but but is in actuality more a push-me-pull-me exchange about the nature of their relationship.  Sam looks at Pike and says, “I’m sorry, son.”  He knows that Pike has feelings for Henry but they both assume there’s something there between Henry and Dean.

I struggle on an almost daily basis with the idea of what it would be like to tell my family that I’m gay.  The situations are different.  Henry was just afraid with no real explanation as to the reason why.  I come from an extremely conservative fundamentalist Christian family which believes that homosexuality is a sin and to be gay is to be damned.  I do not share in their sentiments and do not have any guilt about my orientation, but being able to tell them the truth and to explain my beliefs to them is a far more difficult proposition with very unpredictable outcomes.  I watched this movie, and particularly the exchange between Sam and Henry about seeing “Grandma” and I thought, “Just tell him!  It’s clear he already knows and it’s obvious he will accept you!  What have you got to be afraid of?  Do you know what a precious gift this is?!?

I imagined what it would be like to be in a position of knowing that what I have to tell would be graciously and lovingly received without any judgment or condemnation, to know that I could be open and completely truthful about myself and my life with the people who are supposed to matter the most.  Unfortunately, I live with the knowledge that very much the opposite is true.

The real irony is that I suspect that most if not all of my family knows, or at least suspects that I am gay, so it would not come as a surprise to them, yet I’m certain they’re also hoping that I’ll never accept it, that I’ll never act on these feelings.  I’m sure they think that as long as I never act on the feelings and I never say “I’m gay” to anyone (including myself – too late), then it won’t really be true and I won’t be damned.

The second thing about this movie that affected me was the general existence of the character, Pike.  I could relate to him, in a lot of ways.  In the real world, I also tend to be very shy and socially awkward.  I don’t really know how to talk to people I don’t know very well.  I’m very awkward with my feelings and don’t really know how to communicate them effectively or productively.

The third thing about this movie that affected me, which actually relates to the second, is the scene I described between Dean and Henry.  When it’s finally clear to everyone that there is an attraction and feelings between the two, when they finally kiss, and then Dean backs away, saying, “I can’t,” a part of me screamed, “Why not!?!  What are you so afraid of?  Do you know how lucky you are to be loved?  Why be so afraid of your feelings?

And then I began to think about myself.  I began to think how I can’t relate to him after all.  I can’t think of a time when I have felt a powerful attraction to a person.  I can’t think of a time when I was just so overcome by passion that I wanted to rip our clothes off and make love, right then and there.  I can’t think of a time when I was so distraught, or was with someone else who was so distraught and in need of comfort, that the most logical course of action seemed to be sex.  I can’t think of a time when physicality was —

Well… I can’t think of a time when physicality was not a terrifying prospect.  I can imagine that, assuming I somehow found myself in a situation like Dean did, that I’d react very much the same way he did, assuming we even got as far as a kiss.  I can imagine I’d be just as afraid to act on my feelings.  And it makes me angry.  Why should I be so afraid to act on my feelings.

But the thing is, I’m inclined to say I don’t have feelings.  I’ve only been “in love” once and it turned out not to be real.  It fell apart at the first sign of trouble.  And I haven’t dated much in the 15 years since.  I’ve thought a bit lately about the relationships in my life and how I’d feel if they ended.  With the exception of my friend Eve, I don’t really imagine being terribly upset about the end of a relationship and I already know that relationship is going to end so I have time to prepare myself… I hope.

I’ve thought about what my reaction would be if one of my parents died.  I don’t think I’d have much of one.  I don’t think I’d be terribly upset.  I think I’d be relieved in a lot of ways.  I’ve thought how I’d feel if one of my siblings died.  I don’t expect I’d feel much differently.  I’d be a little more upset if CPA Sis died because she’s the only one I’m really all that close to.  But if Ex Con Older Brother died, I wouldn’t even feel like I’d lost anything.

What I’ve determined is that I don’t feel strongly enough about anyone, or anything, to have a strong reaction.  “I don’t feel anything” I thought.  “But wait.  I can be very emotional and passionate when I feel like I’m being mistreated or abused… So I’m only capable of experiencing negative emotions strongly?  That sucks.  And it doesn’t help my case any.  I’d like to date.  I’d like to fall in love and share my life with someone.  How do I do that if I don’t feel positive emotions?

You know, I was beginning to wonder how I was going to bring this post back around and this is it:

I don’t feel positive emotions.  I don’t feel attraction or affection and certainly not love.  So if I somehow found myself in a situation where I was so affected by and attracted to a person (male or female) as Dean was in this movie…  I’d have to be all over it.  I hope that I would not let that moment pass by.

Everything Ends Eventually

radioactive-happiness-face

It was my plan to write today about happiness.  How sometimes, happiness is a choice and one that can be very hard to make and how frustrating it is to have to make that choice over and over again.  That was my plan.

I just got some news that upset that plan and, of course, me.

I’ve written in the past about my dear friend, who for these purposes I call “Eve”.  I met Eve when I worked in retail 12 years ago.  I liked her and enjoyed our friendship but some things happened along the way that for a time we weren’t as close as we once had been.  When I moved to California, I assumed I’d never see her again, indeed, I never thought I’d speak to her gain.  I don’t think I realized then, that her grandparents live in the bay area and she has a long-standing tradition to come to the bay area to visit her grandparents the week of Thanksgiving and when the time came for her to come visit the first year I was here, she contacted me and invited me to come hang out.

I was really glad she did, and with the trappings of our previous work relationship, and with all the rumor and hushed conversations of others out of the way we had the opportunity to really grow in our friendship and our love for each other.

Earlier today, I logged on to Facebook (evil site that it is) and found that I had been “tagged” in a note by Eve.  I looked at it to find that it was one of those “25 random things about me” lists.  (Random thing about me #1:  I’ve been dreading being asked to complete one of those!)  As I read her list, I noticed that number 15 said this, “My mother and I have an amazing relationship, I die a little inside knowing I have less than 12 months to spend with her before she moves to the west coast.

“Awesome” I thought, “Now maybe she’ll make more trips out here and I’ll get to spend more time with her.”

Eve told me years ago that her mother was planning to retire to the Bay Area so she could be close to her parents.  I always secretly hoped that Eve would move with them, or shortly after them, and we could be close again.  A few years ago Eve’s mother took a huge hit when the stock market faltered and she lost a significant amount of money.  Apparently, that’s when they decided to move west, but some place a little less expensive.  So today, I asked Eve about this:

Self:  So I didn’t realize your parents were going to move here so soon. Where are they going to live?

Eve:  In Portland, OR or Vancouver, WA.

Self:  Oh. I thought they were moving here.

Eve:  No.  And, my Grandparents are even moving up to Portland or Vancouver, too.  So this Thanksgiving will be the last time I head out that way

Self: Oh, no.

Eve: Yup.  So I’ll get to see you in Feb and in Nov and that’s that for awhile

Self: Well, you’ve just totally bummed my day!

brokenheartThis is tragic!  My heart is absolutely breaking!  I don’t know what my life would have been like without her in it.  I don’t know if she had any real impact on my existence, other than to have been the one person I knew I could come out to and know there’d be no negative repercussions.  But I know that these brief, and few and far between, visits that we’ve shared over the last 11 years have meant the world to me, and they’ve been the life’s blood of our friendship.

I feel like our relationship is ending.  Is that silly?  I mean, in this day and age with Instant Messengers, and Facebook and iPhones with text messaging, is that silly?  The problem is, I’m doing what I always do.  I’m thinking about this a few steps ahead.  Yes, I’ll see her, however briefly, when she comes out to visit next month, and I’ll see her again very briefly in November.  The visits will be fun, but they’ll go much too fast, and there will be a cloud over them.  And in November, when she walks me to my car (if she walks me to my car) and hugs me and says good-bye.  It will be for the last time.

I haven’t been to Tulsa in five years.  My sister and her family have moved to New York.  I’ve lost touch with all of my other friends besides Eve.  I love Scornful Mother, but I can’t stand to be around her for long.  Going back to Tulsa, really isn’t in the cards.

Ultimately, I’m only a very small part of Eve’s life and I don’t fit into the rest of it.  I’ve met her boyfriend twice, but I don’t know him, I’m not completely comfortable with him and I don’t think he’s completely comfortable with me.  I’ve never met his two children but I know they’re troublesome and I don’t really feel like I should be involved in that.  And despite the way I speak of Eve, we don’t really have the kind of deep connection where I would be welcome and convenient as a part of her every day life, however briefly.  Therefore, going to Tulsa, with the purpose of visiting her doesn’t seem likely.  And even if I did, I couldn’t get away with being there and not seeing/visiting/staying with my mother.

So, I’m doing what I alwasy do.  I’m thinking about this a few steps ahead and what I see happening is, our interaction will dwindle.  Eve is never on Instant Messenger any more.  Occasionally, I talk to her via the chat function of Facebook, but it’s not very convenient and it’s very infrequent.  We exchange one line comments and topics on Facebook but it’s all very superficial.  We don’t spend much time on the telephone.  And text messeging is no way to carry on a conversation.  Soon it’ll be nothing but comments on each other’s Facebook activity.  I don’t imagine I’ll ever see her again.

funny-pictures-sad-cat-blackandwhiteIt is at a moment like this, when I’m faced with difficulties and sad things that are not within my control, which really aren’t about me, that I remember just how much of an effort it is, how much hard work it takes to be happy and at this moment, I can’t put forth the effort it requires.