Friday, October 28, 2016

Music and Bridled Passions

Things have been pretty tough for me lately. I definitely am no Job when it comes to the challenges I face, but they are certainly difficult for me as a person. As a result, my last few posts have been sad and depressing, and while I started this blog as a sort of coping mechanism (I love writing), I don't ever want to come off as a perpetual griper, complainer, or pessimist. I'm hoping this post, that I have had a few drafts for, will help change the tone of my other recent posts, and reveal a bit more about who I am and what has crafted me and my character. Here goes:

Passions are funny things. Some people follow theirs with complete carelessness and abandon. Others view passions as things to be scorned and trodden under foot, whether their own or someone else's.

I believe that God could not be considered extremist under any circumstances. Take any two characteristics that are polar opposites, those that appear to contradict one other, and there is some beautiful place that acknowledges a balance and reconciles the two. Justice and mercy, to introduce a prime example.

Is there a reconciliation to be found between overt carelessness and deathly rigidity in regards to one's passions?

One ancient American prophet counseled his son, "...and also see that ye bridle all your passions." the prophet Alma isn't saying to "let the dogs out" (whatever that means--I just know it has some extra connotation to it), nor to squash, smash, crush, exterminate, or extinguish our passions, either. And what a beautiful image the word "bridle" adds to the idea! Perhaps this passion thing has some use to it after all...

Would it be fair to add that we ought to seek to do with it as the Lord pleases? After all, if we were to bridle our passions as we would bridle a horse before going to battle, wouldn't it be self-defeating to ride out to fight for the wrong side of the conflict?

Now, these concepts are rife with applications and implications geared toward same-sex attraction. However, this is the story of the love affair I have had with a lady called Music, and the things we have accomplished in our short but all-too rewarding time together, as she is the one who taught me these things first.

I was considerably blessed to attend a junior high and high school that both had impressive music programs. Throughout those six years, I was thoroughly involved with the choral programs, which I enjoyed immensely and which taught me a great deal about musicianship. I was in my junior year in high school; it was December, and the elite choir that I pertained to was particularly busy, with a performance nearly every day of the week. There was another student in that choir by the name of Natalie Miller (I'm not afraid to use her actual name here) that was playing her instrument of choice alongside another choir. And to listen to her play! It was breathtaking without fail. In that particular instant, I thought to myself, "I want to be able to play like that one day."

Of course, I never thought it would ever be more than a hobby. I was given an early birthday present of an adult's manual to learning this instrument, and although my mom is quite versed in this instrument, I set about teaching myself. I made a considerable amount of progress in the next two years, but not so much that I didn't struggle with more than just the simplest of music.

Then I reported on my mission. The nature of the demographics in which I served meant my musical ability, albeit very limited by this time, was quite heavily relied on. I felt just a little inadequate, making quite a few mistakes when I was called upon to perform. Every Monday, our preparation day, I would be fortunate to be able to practice for two hours. So I would kneel and pray at the beginning of each practice session that the Lord would magnify my abilities and consecrate that time, that I might not drive away the Spirit when the need for me arose.

Over the course of many months, I began to see considerable progress from those practice sessions. At some point the thought occurred to me, "If I am advancing at this rate in just two hours a week or less...

"What would happen if I practiced forty hours a week?"

Then this mighty passion awoke inside of me. It made me feel like a dog kennel trying to contain a raging lion inside. This was no appetite I could sate in two hours a week, nor two hours a day. This voracious, newfound passion born inside of me wanted to practice for hours and hours and hours on end, for years. I found myself composing music in my head during personal study time, triggered by anything that made me think of practicing.

It was as clear to me as if God had appeared to me in person and told me:

My life's calling was to be a musician.

The difficult part came when I had to focus on the work at hand, restraining the desire that devoured me, for the remainder of my missionary service, which was more than year at that time. It was somewhat comical when I was asked by companions, members, and fellow missionaries what I had ambition to do, telling them that I had intended to do something I had practically no experience in doing.

It occurred to me that the Lord could have revealed this massive bombshell to me after I came home. I came to the conclusion that the timing was indicative of His trust in me--I had poured my entire heart and soul into learning the mission language (my favorite of them all), preaching the Gospel, working in harmony with my companions, and virtually everything else. And I continued to do so. I may have never had that revelation had I not worked to be so diligent, even in the years preceding my missionary service--I might be doing something entirely different by now.

Despite the overwhelming desire I felt to indulge in my newfound desire, I gave the people I served my all until the day I returned home.

Then the ever-constant practice ensued. I no longer had to contain the floodgates; the dam was allowed to burst. I was faced by so much doubt--extended family, close family, even my own--surrounding the essential impossibility of pursuing what they considered improbable, even had I possessed years more of experience. Over the first few months, I went through a great deal to uncover the answers. I eventually found a niche, and progressively made a living from there on, and I currently make a living this way.

This all has taught me a great deal. How God could trust Nephi, son of Helaman, with the sealing power. About the marvelous blessings that come when we follow Alma's admonition to his son Shiblon. And the depth of Nephi's (son of Lehi) experience when commanded to build a ship with no tools nor lumber on hand, an unfamiliar blueprint, and no prior experience. I feel like I've set sail on that very same ship, aimed for the promised land, notwithstanding I've still yet to complete the barge. Certainly there is a time, place, and manner in which the Lord wishes for us to put our talents to use.

Without doubt He knows best

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Joseph: Final Chapter

I hope this is the last of it.

So a few weeks ago, I mentioned the prompting that I had during General Conference, one that I resisted. Well, I gave in Wednesday of that week (the first Wednesday of October). I stopped by his aunt's house, which is not quite a block from where the Spanish branch meets. Joseph's car was nowhere to be seen, but I felt I should knock anyways. I talked to his aunt and her husband for a few minutes--really good people, those two. They confirmed a few things for me; first off, I wasn't going crazy. Apparently it's been particularly difficult on him since his best friend essentially fell off the face of the earth (i.e. got engaged and finally tied the knot at the end of last month), leaving him high and dry. There's any number of other things that could be behind their saying that things were rough for him. Second, it confirmed something vague that he had mentioned concerning a job other than his original one. They offered to tell him that I had stopped by, but I told them not to worry about it. I'd like him to reach out to me for a change.

That happened the following Sunday. He texted me to ask how I was doing (in other words, "why aren't you at Church?"). I told him that, honestly, I'd been going through a few things that had really messed me up inside (all of which was due to my feelings toward him and his failure to even just treat me as a friend, and my social failures in an attempt to compensate for that). When he didn't respond, I explained that I changed wards hopefully to help me to resolve that. He asked if it was helping. I responded. 

Then he told me that, in a few weeks, he was going to be moving back home until resuming school, and that he would be staying there during all of his future breaks from school--"So there's that", as he put it. Now consider that "home" for him is some thousand miles or so from here. 

Me: "So I guess I probably won't be seeing or hearing from you for a while, between work and your plans."

Joseph: "Well, I'm hoping to get a group of friends together one last time before then, Nothing's set, but I'll let you know what happens."

My feelings about this are mixed. It feels like he already left months ago. I was already beginning to think that it was such a loss that he decided to take a second job for what short time before he headed back to school in January. I almost wanted him to leave. I was tired of his charade of acting like he still regarded me as a friend.

This past week, while I was still reeling from the whole car situation I was in, I decided to e-mail a letter to myself, as if it was designated to him. In it, I explain my feelings for him, how all I've ever allowed myself to want is his friendship, how I've appreciated the time that he has indeed spent with me, both with and without company, and how I've suspected that he wasn't just accidentally giving me distance, that he's had motives for doing so. In it I explain why I share these things, and that I wanted to give him a way out--there was no need for him to keep pretending if it was simply too uncomfortable for him to be around me.

I've actually thought a great deal about printing it and leaving it for him. I've oscillated a lot, deciding that I would not show up if he did indeed invite me to some sort of get-together, or perhaps not even respond to the invitation. Maybe I would leave the letter behind after the fact. Maybe I would leave the frisbee I bought for his suggested weekly gatherings for Ultimate Frisbee as a memento to remember me by.

Last night I was reflecting. My birthday's next week, and I was considering whether or not I wanted to gather any friends. Then I remembered--Joseph had a birthday right before mine. For all I knew, it had already come and past.

So what did I do? Like a big dummy, I decided to text him.

I waited a few minutes--why, I don't know; if he ever bothers to message me back, it's not usually for a few hours. I went to bed, and woke up this morning to his response that his birthday was next Wednesday, making him a full two days older than me. I didn't him what he was doing, or invited myself to be involved. I simply asked him what I could get him.

First punch to the gut: "All I could ask for is your friendship." I sincerely doubt that he even cares for my friendship. He's just about lost it.

Second punch to the gut: "Actually, I'm going to be headed home today." Ouch. No get-together. No notice. I wouldn't even have known he was gone if I wasn't the one to text him just hours before he left. I told him I did have one thing I wanted to give him (i.e. the frisbee. I had no use for it, and it just makes me think of him).

Third punch to the gut: *three hours later* "Actually, I'm already on the road. I guess you can send it."

I'm fighting back the powerful urge to use expletives here.

"Well, I guess I'll see you around then. Or probably not."

Those last three words were the closest I ever came at expressing my anger and hurt at him. What person does that?! I was so hurt that I deleted the entire conversation. I made to delete his number from my phone as a contact. No sooner had I done that than did he have the nerve to send me this:

":( Hey, I'm sure we'll see each other. I really appreciate having you as a friend (:"

I deleted that too.

"Not if I can help it."

Of course, I only think that last line in retrospect. He was right to call me a friend--I was, in the truest sense. So hollow, however, were his words of appreciation. He could hardly grant me the time of day, and even then, it felt so much like discreet avoidance. He doesn't deserve to hear what I'm feeling. It would truly be like casting pearls before swine.

I'm so hurt and frustrated. I wish I could disappear. I can take a stab from a sharp blade. Those wounds heal much faster. Why, then, does he insist on striking me so deeply and repeatedly with the dullest of butter knives, with such ambiguity? What did I ever do to deserve being treated this way? Why did I have to ask him about his birthday? Why couldn't I just leave him alone and forget about him? Is this what I get for trying to be a true friend? Is this my curse for caring for others more than they care about me? I'm aching all over, and not just from doing loads of deadlifts and leg presses I did at the gym yesterday.

Some birthday present.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Masculinity: Something I Aspire To

As time goes on, I hope to share more and more about myself. I have been intentionally vague about certain things, as I haven’t, as of yet, decided if I would rather have a smaller amount of anonymity. I might do away completely with my pseudonym and the more distinct elements of my life that identify me specifically, but until then, I hope you wouldn’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to get to know me better. I don’t mind opening up on a more personal level, but my wide-eyed, innocent trust in humanity is quickly dying (insert sly remark about presidential election).

That said, things lately have got me thinking about masculinity. Very gratefully so, I have recently gotten into bodybuilding, which is something interesting, when you consider my stature, which is tall and relatively slight. I have never liked the idea of being weak or “skinny” but that is something I eventually resigned myself to in my formative years. Fast forward to my mission, when I started designating time toward exercise every day, and have retained that habit ever since. I stopped seeing myself as someone who was physically weak, and as the years have passed, I have become increasingly enthusiastic about my workout goals.

Just a few months ago, I decided to invest in a testosterone boosting supplement, and subsequently a gym membership. I had virtually always stuck to bodyweight exercises that I did from home, but with a little extra supplementation, a lot of food, and the stress of performing the same exercises but now with twice my body weight, I have seen some palpable progress. Once I reached the age of an adult, my weight completely stagnated. My mom would tell me that for my height, I would be considered anorexic, although never for any lack of eating. The many members who fed me throughout my mission are what you would consider food enthusiasts, and a few looked at me and treated me as though it was their life’s goal to plump me up. They never really stood a chance though—I definitely held my own with what they dished out (which was absolutely delicious without fail), but never did my pants grow tighter. I did grow an inch, however.

Now, on the other hand, I have gained a solid twelve pounds that I never had before, which is nothing less than a miracle. If for no other reason, I’d like to share a few of my goals here, so you folks can help me to stay accountable. Percentages are in relationship to my body weight, which is 100% now just as much as 100% will be my future weight at the time I reach these goals:

Squat: 90% --> 133%
Deadlift: 100% --> 150%
Bench Press: ?% --> 100%
Pull-Ups (Consecutive): 6 --> 20
Side-Splits (Degrees): 165 --> 200
Center Splits (Degrees): 150 --> 180

I am particularly grateful for my timing to take interest in bodybuilding when I have. It has been one of my more effective coping mechanisms when emotionally handling the whole Joseph situation (which I need to write another update for), and it has proven to me again the power that simply taking care of our bodies can carry into the rest of our lives. My motivation for my business and my progress within it have increased dramatically, I feel more self-confident, my negative feelings towards things out of my control diminish, and I feel more like a man.

Let me elaborate more on that last point. I’ve discovered in the last year of me coming out that one of my biggest pet peeves is when someone infers that a) they suspected all along that I was gay, or b) they consider me flamboyant.

News flash for those people: I’m not flamboyant!

Now, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with being flamboyant, but by my own preference, it is a quality that makes me uneasy and that I don’t associate with at all, even if I have at times. The only feminine qualities that I ever want to identify with are the ones that every guy could use a healthy dose of. Considering the other half of my pet peeve, one of the highest compliments you could pay me is that you would never have guessed that I was gay. Not because there is anything wrong at all about being gay, but because I don’t consider any of the outward signals and indications of being gay as having been assimilated into my personality.

As for what I think of masculinity, I think of a few traits. I think all men should be courageous, honest, trustworthy, worthy of emulation, deliberate, respectful, dependable, strong-willed, determined, motivated, putting God’s will before his own, seeking to be worthy of the Priesthood, etc. I also thing a man should take good care of himself, as he is able, and I would also side with the bumper sticker that “real men follow Jesus”, the Man among men, and that besides, he ought to do his best to live true to his own personal values and to the values that until just recently have been qualities taught in society as being worthy of admiration.

On the other hand, I think every guy could learn a thing or two from some of the many qualities that are traditionally associated with women: being kind, caring, considerate, loving, patient, intelligent (don’t argue with me on this one), creative, nurturing, selfless, spiritual, appropriately affectionate, etc. Perhaps there are indeed qualities that each sex is naturally predisposed to, but then again, I believe there is consequently much that we can learn from each one. Maybe that’s why I feel strongly about homes with both a mother and a father. Perhaps we stand to gain much if we, as a society, didn’t polarize and stereotype the positive aspects of each gender, and emulated the good qualities of those around us.

Now, I mentioned earlier how I consider Christ to be the Man. I love how He held no preconceived notions of what kind of person He ought to be. He didn’t rely on the judgement of those around Him; instead, He eschewed earthly opinions and demonstrated every quality and characteristic worth having. I think what I am trying to get at is that a real man is full of charity, or at least actively aspires to it. One of the most manly men who ever lived once said, “For without charity ye are nothing.” I couldn’t say it any better.

So if someone tells you to “be a man”, I hope you’ll think twice about what that ought to mean.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Welcome to My Madness

So, on Wednesday I get up really early--I practice a bit and head to the gym and finish with time and to spare to attend to my business. But I notice my car was making some strange noises on the road while on my way to the gym, and they persisted afterward. I started praying that whatever was making that noise would remain intact until I was finished for the day, as my only three appointments were unusually close together so I might accommodate a new stop. As the noise worsened, I just prayed I would get to my first stop in one piece. Needless to say, I had a tire that completely exploded beyond any hope of resurrection.

Of course I, like the smart guy I am, forgot what I had learned exactly a month before when my other rear tire went flat on my way to my first appointment on that day, and I wanted to put my spare tire on:

My spare tire kit is missing a lug/star wrench.

I panicked as I went through the options that would most quickly put a lug wrench in my hands, as to not completely offset my entire day. I can't tell you how happy I was to see the highway patrol for a change.

As soon as I could catch my breath later that day, the first thing I do is by a lug wrench for (knock on wood) the next time one of my tires decides to spontaneously combust. As my car was getting fitted with another tire and I donated plasma, I was talking to one of the phlebotomists as she poked one of my fingers (my favorite part...not really). I incurred the "knock on wood" countercurse again when I told her, "At least it wasn't my car."


Remind me not to do that again.

The next day was a great one. I had six total stops. At one place I was given a gift card with a note thanking me for all I did for the residents there. I had enough time to spend my break at lunchtime to write most of what will probably be my next post on the grounds of the local Temple, located conveniently between my morning and afternoon business.

Thursday was a beautiful day.


Fast forward to the end of my day. I'm not quite even a mile away from home, yet traffic slows to a complete halt, like it's wont to do on that 35-mph street during rush hour, which I conveniently avoid most of the time.


And for good reason.

This is the equivalent of my Friday this week, as I have no urgent business on my actual Friday, I don't schedule myself on weekends, nor on Mondays or Tuesdays. I'm looking forward to a long weekend of practice to prepare a series of projects I hope to present in November.

Then, I look in the rearview mirror...

Just in time to see a red truck approaching...

Much faster than someone who's trying to stop...

He swerves hard to the left, but not in time. He hits me, pushes me into the car in front of me...

And that one into two more cars.

***Congratulations, Aaron! You just survived your first car accident!!!***

Irony is a funny thing. This guy just so happened to work at the place that I had gone to the day before to have my tire replaced.

Poor kid. Four cars he had involved, and not a lick of insurance.

You should have seen the cute decal on the back of his truck: "F%*# off", it said.

I was still in mint condition, save for some minute soreness in the right side of my neck that surfaced the next day. I was laughing and joking with the other drivers and the insurance guy. I was largely concerned about the offending driver, who was all but in a panic. I drove without insurance for a little while when I was driving my first car, so I could imagine how I would feel...very vividly.

The last two cars drove away with hardly so much as a bump. The SUV in front of me was built like a tank, taking very minimal damage considering the force with which I was shoved into it. It drove away, sporting as a memento my Toyota insignia in her bumper.

The truck was ultimately impounded.

And my poor Cammie...She's now a Camry sandwich.

The back was still intact, but the front looked like I was pushed into a boulder--beyond salvation.

After some help from my mom, we unloaded almost all the contents of my (messy) car into her car, all of which now litter my bedroom. I was debating whether or not to practice after all. In the end, resorted to brownies (not a good choice for my stomach) and one of my most oft-visited vices: video game binge-ing (Why, Sans? Just why?).

I don't mind tough things happening to me in life, but I wish I could have a larger gap of time to allow me to get the ground beneath me--and keep it there for a few months--before I'm swept off my feet again. Maybe I'd actually stay standing.

My frustration is admittedly recoupled by the social thing again. Last Sunday a few people from the singles' ward actually reached out to me, including Joseph (that's something for another post) and my now-former home teachers, who finally took me up on my offer to have a guy's night which they suggested we have on Wednesday. One of them wasn't going to make it, so they rescheduled for Friday, when I really could have used some time to get my mind off of things.

Then the other wasn't going to make it.

I finally turned down their offer for Saturday. It was this sort of thing that motivated me to leave the singles' ward in the first place--what's a friend that you can't depend on?

This isn't meant to be a pity party--just me narrating my life's events, in an effort to explain why I'm where I am. I want this to be more of an invitation; I updated my profile just before I made this entry, which I plan to progressively update as I choose to share and reveal more about myself. My e-mail for this blog can be accessed there. This is an open invitation if you would like to do or say anything to cheer me up (anything but the old "just keep going--things will get better". I know that (*smiley face*)). I could use some cheering up, or something to look forward to.

Oh, did I mention my younger brother rode my mission bike to work yesterday and got it stolen?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

An Unfollowed Impression

I enjoy General Conference. I feel that if there are any men a solid two generations older than I am that know what they're talking about, the General Authorities would fall into that category.

After the Sunday morning session, I went to my friend Linda's house to watch the final session. Linda is a Catholic lady from New Mexico that I met when going on splits with the missionaries that pertain to my home stake. She had the TV on a channel that was two hours late, playing the end of the morning session before the afternoon session was scheduled to start. President Eyring was speaking.

For some reason something he said caught my attention on the second listening. I'll confess that it's hard for me to listen to President Eyring--maybe I just can't keep up with his train of thought. But when he admonished to reach out to those who felt lonely, a distinct thought came to mind:

Reach out to Joseph.

Ugh! That's the last thing I want to do right now!

That's also the very first thing I want to do right now!

But I'm tired of our one-way friendship. I'm tired of never hearing from him unless we visibly see each other. I'm tired of having to keep moving my pawns because my opponent won't get off the john.

I want him to reach out to me for once.

Then my frustration at my social failures hit me again with some great force. I don't want to think about him every single day. I want to move on. But the emotional state that throws me into makes it difficult to find motivation to do anything other than waste away in front of mind-numbing video games, like I have for the last two days.

I feel horrible after reactivating my dormant addiction to video games. The remark of another blogger that "the antithesis of addiction is connection" has really resonated with me, and explains the psychology of my thought process over the past year. But that connection is a tricky critter to find.

Long story short, I went home before I could change my mind that Sunday afternoon. That impression I received that "Joseph does not need your space" keeps ringing in my head. But I can't help but wonder if I'm imagining things. My intuition has been spot on where he's concerned in some instances, yet in others, I am left empty handed with unanswered questions of what could have been if he had just reciprocated the I-just-want-to-be-friends side of my interest in him. Overall, I'm prepared for the very real possibility that I may simply never hear from him again if I stop making the effort.

I just hope it doesn't take an eternity for me to stop thinking about him every single day.