Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Complicated Love: A Thousand Restraints

So, I created quite the cliffhanger with my story of having fallen in love, didn't I?

The tale itself fascinates me. I figure since it is the primary reason I decided to start a blog in the first place, I shouldn't hesitate to get out of me this incredibly taboo, somewhat horrifying, and ultimately glorious thing.

One fine Sunday afternoon, not too terribly late in the year of 2015, a new member was introduced in our Elder's Quorum meeting (from hereon out, I am going to assume you understand my references here. Feel free to ask me any questions if you aren't Molly Mormon or Peter Priesthood). He was good looking, somewhat laid back, and he mentioned he was a recently returned missionary who had shared my same mission language. He was definitely the kind to garner the attention of the ladies in our young single adult ward. Hilariously enough, I remember greeting him in our shared mission language and not being very impressed when he couldn't understand me--it had been longer for me since the mission days; I should have been the rusty one!

At one point, he was given a calling in the Sunday school, and he found himself short a teacher at the last moment. He got a hold of me and asked if I could stand in for the absentee teacher.

Me? Teaching Gospel Doctrine for the first time in my life? That was such a no-brainer--I love teaching in virtually any capacity. So I went ahead and gladly prepared and conducted the lesson that Sunday.

Now, that was such a small thing to me--I just enjoyed so thoroughly the opportunity to do it, although I didn't think a great deal of it all. I was therefore surprised to be pulled aside by none other than Joseph (a pseudonym for the guy I mentioned earlier), who did so for nothing else than to thank me for what I had done for him.

Such a simple thing. Yet so moving.

The depth of his sincerity was so touching, unlike anything I had felt in the past. He made me feel like a million bucks for doing something that I already felt privileged to do in the first place. But it was more than that. Was it that this was one of the first times that I had been verily and truly acknowledged and validated by another guy? Was it also because he happened to be very attractive as well?

Perhaps, but more than anything, that depth of sincerity opened my eyes to a very kindred spirit.

Around this time last year, I recall being in the same car as him and a few others as our ward went to a combined activity with other wards (I remember hoping silently that he would sit up front. Maybe I was afraid I would get a nosebleed from sitting so close to him in the back, as is so common in the anime I am so fond of :-)). I don't quite recall how the conversation led where it had, but he opened up about quite a serious medical condition he had had at one point, one that you wouldn't think he would have had, especially for his above-par physical condition.

That was also quite unusual/interesting. The curse of the men of my generation isn't so much being too "macho" to be open and vulnerable about things, but often being too superficial to talk about anything that had much weight or consequences. Just witnessing him willingly volunteer this about himself made my heart open up to him that much more.

You see, in a lot of ways I could be considered demisexual in addition to being homosexual, as while I can definitely find men I've never known attractive, it seems that that attraction very quickly evolves into something much, much greater once I have also grown to love them in so many ways because of who they are.

As I came to the point that I began to acknowledge same-sex attraction for what it really was, I received a strong spiritual impression that, between the physical, emotional, and even sexual attraction that I felt towards him, the Lord was giving me a few prime indicators that I needed to strike up a friendship with him.

Now, don't mistake my choice of words. Even given what I felt, my heart of hearts saw friendship as not only plausible, but appropriate as well. Part of me definitely craved more (this is a twenty-something-year-old man with what can be a voracious sexual appetite writing here), but in the council between reason, spirituality, and same-sex attraction that took place in my mind/heart, all agreed that pursuing a platonic relationship would be for the best of the whole. 2015 was a year that I felt much more deeply the need to develop stronger relationships that extended outside of my family, so this was a test to see how far I would go to step outside my bubble of introversion.

I still remember that Sunday. Joseph asked me if I could pass the role for that particular Sunday school class for him. He told me how great he thought I was for doing that for him. What I particularly remember was feeling like I was asking for a date when I approached him--no, this was much more daunting even than asking a girl on a date. But I simply said that I was trying to improve and be more sociable, and asked if he would be willing to do something with me sometime. He mentioned that he often hung out with a guy in the ward that I knew from high school, and that he would definitely invite me along the next time they planned to do so.

For a while, we hung out on a weekly basis, with the common denominator of Joseph, this mutual friend (I'll just call him Solomon here) and myself. Sometimes it would just be the three of us and maybe one or two other guys, but Solomon also had a habit of inviting numerous other individuals. It was not very easy at all to get to know Joseph any better at all on these weekly occasions. To reveal a bit about myself, as someone who is naturally introverted, I learned from all of this that I wasn't too fond of large get-togethers--often Solomon would invite a number of people from the ward, including a handful of sisters. These were nice enough, being girls that I knew from high school, but I noticed with the group we had, often there would be talk amongst smaller groups, focusing on things. I might say that with a bit of derision, but truly, I would much rather talk about each other, how we were doing in life, what our troubles and concerns were, as opposed to superficial things.

Most particularly where Joseph was concerned.

I really wanted something more intimate than these large gatherings had to offer. But I didn't know how to go about what I sought.

After what seemed only to be a few weeks, Joseph mentioned that he only had a few weeks left before he would be leaving to attend school. That time vanished quite quickly--I remember the last gathering we had before he would be leaving. This was a late evening last December (2015), where a number of folks from our single adult ward communed in a McDonald's not far away. Although I am the last person to espouse McDonald's, I was just glad to be there. When we approached the end of that evening, everyone took turns recalling our favorite memories with Joseph, whereupon we got up and said our farewells. After I had stepped outside, and when he approached me, he choked up a bit when saying goodbye to me.

Why did he choke up then? He didn't respond that way when saying goodbye to anyone else. But there was something in that hug, something he seemed to be expressing, even if without words. I don't know what it was, but nevertheless, it was very touching. Yet again he made me feel like a million bucks, even though I felt I still didn't know him nearly as well as I would have liked.

And then he left. At once, I missed him greatly, and lamented that I hadn't gotten to know him nearly as well as I had hoped to, while also feeling very grateful that I had acted on the spiritual impression I received as I did. The time that I had spent with the others that often commiserated with that group very quickly diminished to nothing, as Solomon became distracted with the girl he would later be engaged to, and with that lack of a ringleader, I didn't make much effort to connect with the rest. It didn't appear that there was much potential to connect in truly meaningful ways with the others.

I felt a consistent impression to pray on Joseph's behalf in the following weeks and months. It was the most I could do, considering that he wasn't very easy to get a hold of. I did manage to get in touch with him on one occasion, just for long enough to realize that my prayers were warranted, even if I didn't know why. I eventually became reconciled to the fact that life had caused him to move on and away, so I did my best to follow suit.

Then suddenly, I bump into him in the hallway before Church on Easter Sunday of this year.

Come to think of it, I forgot to mention that he mentioned his intention to visit when he was on break from school. It was a pleasant surprise, on all accounts.

Preceding Elders' Quorum that day, he made a point of sitting by me, as he frequently did before. The little things like that that he does mean a great deal to me. I asked him nonchalantly about his plans while he was in town for the week. He invited me to come over to one of the girls' houses for a movie later that week. It was nice, but no different than the past gatherings. He was going to be leaving the following day, and, after some consideration, I asked him (via text) if he would like to go on a trip to the Temple before he needed to leave, just him and I. Unfortunately, I didn't hear back from him until after he was on his way. But he did say among other things, in his own words, "You're a good guy, Aaron. Thanks; hope to see you soon!"

In my attempts at making friends, I came to understand through a potential friend that I was trying to spend some time with, just so happening to be an attendee of the same school, that the end of that trimester at school was approaching, which ended just a week and a half ago. Although I wasn't able to set something up with this new friend, I was able to put two and two together. Sure enough, I saw Joseph walk in last Sunday during our first meeting, which is now Elders' Quorum. It felt great to see him and chat with him a bit. He made a point to sit by me during Sacrament meeting (which, again, I love it when he does that). But I noticed that he seemed, I don't know, a bit put out. I wondered if I was reading too far into his body language, but some of the topics discussed seemed to make him visibly uncomfortable. Later in the afternoon this last Sunday, despite my initial feelings that I should give him some distance and let him reach out to me for once, I texted him to feel out what may have been bothering him. Now, I was very much against this, and had an internal battle with one side fighting that I was imagining things, or perhaps even fabricating them because that was what I wanted to believe.

But then there was the fact that he chose not to take the Sacrament.

Was it just me, or did he intentionally choose to be close enough to me that I would take notice?

Through our text conversation, and with an olive branch that I tactfully extended, he and I ended up going for a walk at the park, when I invited him to talk about what was bothering him.

Joseph then proceeded to open up. As this is a place for me to share anonymously my thoughts, feelings, and experiences, I will keep confidential certain details that he shared with me. That said, there became even more reason for me to be empathetic toward him, as I have been through and still now feel the effect of some of those same things he is now facing. He shared how hurt and frustrated he had felt toward his parents, who did a great job this last Christmas at making him feel as though he didn't exist, and how that was somewhat of a catalyst for him, leading him to struggle with some things he had dealt with in the past. We talked about a number of things for a healthy hour. Being more intimately aware of some of his circumstances, as well as the fact that he had the next trimester of school off, has had its consequences, but as this post has become lengthy enough, I will settle to share more of my feelings in my following post.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Life: Like a Rose (Beautiful Yet Prickly)

I have felt a need to do this for some time now. I may be young, but I feel that I have much to share here.

My name is Aaron Lakely. Or rather, that is the pseudonym that I go by here. I consider myself a servant of the Lord, first and foremost, and would feel greatly satisfied to know that He would also consider me as such. I am a holder of the office of an Elder in the Priesthood, or the authority of God delegated to man to act in His name, a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And I have an interesting story to tell.

Of late, I seem to have had a peculiar number of trials of faith. Physical trials that have made it difficult to pursue the career that I have literally been told by God Himself to initiate. A falling out from within my family by one who chose to make an issue of my career path.

And the one that has me writing this now.

I want to ask you a question--have you ever fallen in love?

Forgive me for the assumption, but for our purposes here, let's say your answer was yes. How did that make you feel? Did you feel this subtle warmth throughout your body, or better yet, within your soul? Do you feel like there are hands gently pressing around your heart, causing your breathing to change? Do you feel this almost electric sensation when you are around this other person, with a deep and abiding longing to be with them at all times? Do you wonder, if indeed within the context of similar religious beliefs as mine, whether or not you had some sort of connection to this person before the world was, something profound enough to warrant this sensation that rises from the very depths of your soul, of your existence?

Whatever your responses were to these questions, mine were "yes", every time.

I am very new to this in a number of ways. I am young, in my twenties. It was not long ago at all that I was serving as a full-time missionary, speaking the Celestial language (which is not English, by the way). I am single, and very much a prospective husband and father. I have been on a few dates with a few girls since I have been home. All of these have been pleasant, but none of them were responsible for giving birth to this undeniable love I have felt from the deepest recesses of my being.

You might be thinking, "That's great! That's fantastic! When do you plan to propose? Have you thought of the honeymoon?" Ad infinitum.

Well, it's a bit more complicated than that. I am most certainly stricken, but...

He is one of my dearest friends.

Now, don't misunderstand me. I am studying a language with what appears to be dozens of personal pronouns. I would not be so careless as to stumble with one of the very few English has.

You see, I experience same-sex attraction. It has been quite a ride, coming to terms with one of the most controversial of human experiences, especially of our day, one that instigates horrible name-calling, anger, hatred, and the collective bigotry of all the extreme conservatives our society has to offer.

And you know what? I am grateful for it.

You hear of many, seemingly cornered between the formidable Church ("formidable" being a fitting word for the church that truly belongs to Christ Himself) and apparently irreconcilable sexual desires and appetites. How many scores of people, how many thousands have thought that there was no solution between the two, or between homosexuality and religion in general, only to either reject and/or dig up their Providential moorings, or to take their own lives in order to seek reprieve?

My feelings are quite different, however.

I have every intention to dive into the various aspects of my background, of what I would dub "this many-splendored thing called life" in subsequent entries. May it suffice me to say, at least for this very moment, that I have come to acknowledge same-sex attraction as a God-given gift.

Now, you are probably trying to conjure up an image of me growing a third head, for the total oddness of what I just stated. Perhaps you are one who even experiences same-sex attraction for yourself; perhaps that was all but blasphemous to you, to consider a blessing the very thing that, in your case, may have been the cause of grievances untold, unnumbered.

We live in a society where good is derided as evil, and evil is praised as good. Solutions to the everlasting were never destined to come from those whose shutters they so determinedly glue shut before their very eyes, denouncing the light that waits on the other side.

I say, what a tremendous opportunity it is to shed light on those who are in darkness!

I am very strongly of the sentiment that same-sex attraction is so terribly misconstrued, misunderstood, misrepresented by the loud voices of the world. They tell us in so many words that such is an indicator that our ultimate destination is express the procreative powers of divine origin so imminent within each of us with the man of our choosing (or at least, that is the case as it would be for me).

In my view, that is a textbook example of the word "misunderstanding".

I do not know from what religious background you may come from, if stemming from one at all. But I'll have you know that there are few things of greater value than to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God. An ancient American prophet once said, "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." It has been by this power, in the course of my studying and pondering this subject, that I have been blessed with a great deal of enlightenment that far transcends my tender years and what little experience I have, as potent as that experience may be.

You see, I view same-sex attraction as a catalyst to developing deeper, more meaningful relationships in life. I have been denied, rejected, and betrayed so many times by the men in my life. In the rare event that I should have an experience that defies the traitorous track record that has faced me, finding a man or men that would not only be worthy of my trust but also reciprocate with their own, I would most certainly cherish that more than one who had not had a soul riddled with such deep wounds.

There is a term I came past once that I felt explained my desire at once: "emotionally intense platonic relationships." The kind of thing you would see back in the day, of men who would move heaven and earth to protect the bond of kinship between them, the ties that ran thicker and deeper than blood, the love that "exceeds the love of women".

Certainly there have been many such cases, and some in the not-so-distant past. I'm sure you can think of an example or two.

Were these men that were afraid of what big society would say?

Were these men whose relationship would take a sexual form behind closed doors?

Were these men gay as a result of loving each other more than life itself?

I can't speak of the instances you brought to mind, but in my mind, the answer to each of these questions was a resounding "no!".

And what of this? Has God ever at any time condemned mankind for charity and eternal bonds existing between men? Has He ever insinuated that He had anything less than such a divine, exalted relationship between Himself and the other men that have proven themselves worthy of entering into His presence?

As far as I know, all God asks of us is to reserve the divine power meant for creating human life to be used under His command. Considering that this, the most powerful of all things bestowed upon mortal humankind without mixture, has only such a simple commandment--"Use it as I say"--, I don't believe God is asking for too much at all. Perhaps what He would say to us is that men who are attracted to other men simply have much more of a need of such life-changing platonic bonds than your traditional homosapien.

However, I would be a fool to say that adhering to God's laws surrounding procreation is as simple or as easy as it is for those who are opposite-gender attracted. Sure, all such a man would have to do is fall in love with a girl and marry her to have God-sanctioned intimacy as a constantly available feature of life. However, for the same-gender attracted folk (or men, as the case is here), the questions are eventually raised: "When will I fall in love with a girl? How? Will I get a single date in with her once she finally comes up from Brazil, before she is engaged and married to another man? Will intimacy be awkward?"

And my favorite, "What happens when/if I fall in love with another man?"

Hence my point:  I may say that same-sex attraction is blessing and a gift as I perceive it, but that certainly doesn't mean it makes my life any easier. "面白い" is the word that would come to mind, as the Japanese would say.

Welcome to this crazy thing I call life!