Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Light in the darkness

The Candle

Image by Rickydavid via Flickr

From my private journal.

I sit here in my living room next to the only lamp that’s lit in the entire house.  For the half hour prior to me picking up my pen, the only light in the house was made by three tea lights and a votive candle.  I spent that time laying on the couch enjoying the dimness, letting the shifting glimmers of light cast by those small flames dance around me.

There’s something magical about such a scene.  Whenever I sit in such lighting, I get a sense of peace and comfort.  It’s as if the near-darkness stills the world around me itself, swallowing up ll the cares and worries of my life.  In such a setting, there is no place for the myriad distractions I normally face.

And then there’s the light.  Tiny and almost fragile, it flickers and dances.  And yet, it’s intensely bright in comparison to the darkness around it.  It becomes all the more beautiful and powerful for that contrast.

And that play of darkness and light allows me to turn inward.  the still silence allows me to see that same interplay within myself.  For I can see the small sparks of passion, love, courage, and compassion twinkling in my very soul.  They wait for those perfect opportunities to shine brightly into the rest of my life and the world around me.  They are ready to shine even in the darkest and most empty of times.

After all, that’s when they’re the easiest to see.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sometimes, there’s only so much you can do

ethernet-cable.jpgOne of the things that I have learned over the past few years is that there are certain consequences to having a blog under your real name and a visible presence on social networking sites.  Namely, people from your past suddenly start finding you again.  This can be both a pleasant surprise and an unpleasant experience.  This is especially true when said friends last associated with you when you were a completely different person — say an evangelical Christian who identified as heterosexual.

In most cases, I’ve been very fortunate when people from my past pop up.  They either don’t comment on how I’ve changed (though I suspect some of my old high school classmates might actually be pleased to learn I’ve loosened up since leaving Williamson) or they’ve expressed curiosity and a desire to understand how I got to where I am today, given my starting point.

This week, I had one of the — fortunately rare in my cases — less pleasant experiences.  A friend from my first two years in college decided to contact me expressing a strong desire to rebuild our friendship.  She also expressed remorse for how badly a prior attempt to rebuild our friendship turned out.  That previous attempt was extremely short-lived, so much that I never revealed any of the changes I had undergone.  It simply became clear that a friendship was not possible — at least not the kind that was being sought.

So when Lynn apologized and asked again to rebuild a friendship, I did so with some hesitancy.  I still got the impression she had expectations for what the friendship was going to be like — expectations based on the person I was in 1993 and which would not be met by the strong, self-loving person with a decent sense of boundaries that I am today.  But I’m also the kind of person that wants to give people the benefit of the doubt.  So I told Lynn that I’m willing to be friends, but that she needed to understand the kind of friendship I could offer due to the changes I’ve gone through in my life.  To give her an idea, I gave her the address to my website so she could learn about me again.

Alas, it would seem Lynn can’t deal with the person I’ve become.  I’m not entirely surprised by that, though I had hoped that things may change.  So she’s decided to let me go, though she promises to be there for me and be my strongest supporter if I should ever choose to “leave these lifestyle choices.”

To that I say, “Bah, humbug.”  I tried the good little straight boy routine before and it almost cost me my life.  I simply have neither the desire nor a compelling reason to return to that nightmare.  And if it means that I will have to struggle on without Lynn’s support and friendship…well, let’s be honest here.  I’ve thrived without her support and friendship since around 1994, and I’m pretty sure I can maintain that trend indefinitely.  After all, I wasn’t the one who sought to renew our friendship after all this time.

In the end, I think that’s what bothers me most about this experience.  Lynn came to me looking for something.  She talked about how she had missed me and wanted me back in her life.  But the moment she realized I no longer met her expectations based on her recollections that are over a decade old, she suddenly decided that wasn’t possible anymore.  Not only that, then she started acting as if I would eventually be the one that needed her.  That’s just not the way things work in the world I know and understand.

In the end, I’m a bit sad.  I don’t like realizing that there are just some people I can’t maintain a friendship with.  And in some ways, I’m sad that Lynn is unable to maintain a friendship with someone who doesn’t meet her expectations and is apparently even unwilling to understand what happened in the sixteen years she’s been absent from my life.  It tells me that blessing I offered her is still need of fulfillment:  that she finds the healing her soul needs.

The sad irony is that she now probably thinks it’s my soul that needs healing.  If only she took the time to learn the truth.

Remembering a family man from my past

In an entry on Mutiply, I talked about my perspective changed in regards to getting involved with a guy who has kids. It seems proper to note that while I’ve only become fully aware of this change, the actual change process has been a long time in the works. In fact, I can trace its beginnings back as early as 2001.

Back in 2001, I met Mike, who I ended up dating for four years. Mike didn’t have any children of his own, but was fiercely devoted two his sister’s two sons, especially David, who was in his mid teens at the time. In fact, he was so devoted to them, you would’ve thought they were his own kids.

Again, this level of devotion was very attractive for me, for all of the same reasons I mentioned in the previous post. And there was the fact that Mike was devoted and close to his family in general, including his mother. (To be honest, he struck me as something of a “momma’s boy” at times.) That in itself was also an attractive quality. I myself have always been close to my family, so it was nice to see that reflected in the person I was with. Of course, I also think that it was a bit of a comfort to me, as my family was becoming more distant at the time, too. So it was nice to be reminded that such closeness could still last, even if not in my family. (Fortunately, things are on the mend in my own family now.)

Of course, in the end, Mike’s closeness with his family contributed significantly to the end of our relationship. This is mainly because in the four years we dated, Mike never reached the point where he was comfortable coming out to his family. This meant that he spent that entire time leading a double life, keeping our relationship safely separated from his relationship with his parents, sister, and nephews. This also meant that when his time was limited, that time was usually spent with his family rather than me. After a while, that simply became unacceptable to me. Along with other issues, I finally confronted him and ended our relationship when he admitted he was unwilling to do anything to resolve these issues.

In retrospect, I don’t hold Mike’s devotion to his family against him, even if it did contribute to the end of our relationship. To this day, I consider that a positive quality and something I’d still find attractive. However, I do take issue with his unwillingness to integrate his devotion to me and his devotion to his family, because his failure to do so was the real problem. To this day, that fact is something of a sore spot in my life, though I’ve mostly made my peace.

Through the grapevine, I’ve come to understand that Mike’s gone back to dating girls, and has been with the same girl for at least a year now. I guess things are going quite well, at least from what I can gain from indirect sources. When I first found out about this, I was deeply hurt. In fact, I won’t say I don’t still feel a twinge of pain over it now. However, I’ve come to be more accepting of his choices, and I hpoe he can truly find happiness with this woman. After all, I don’t think he’d ever find happiness with me or any other guy. Because it’s become clear to me that he could never make that choice that would ultimately be necessary. So I hope he can find happiness in the choices he has made.

I know I have. And to be honest, I’m starting to realize that my new choices since breaking up with him have offered me more chances for happiness than I ever would’ve had with him. (I just hope that doesn’t sound too cruel.)

Anyone And Everyone: My Comments

In my previous post, I talked about a panel discussion hosted by the GAGV after a free screening of the movie Anyone and Everyone. In that post, I mentioned that I chose to share a few comments based on my own experiences. What follows in this post is an outgrowth of what I chose to share. I chose to modify and refine my comments here rather than offer an exact quote for two reasons. the first is that I don’t remember exactly what I said. The second is that I feel I can say more and say it better, and wish to do so in hopes that it might further help others.

One of the things that I loved about the movie we watched is that many of the parents admitted that it took them a while to come around and accept their children’s sexuality. Prior to that point, they even admitted to trying get their children — even through manipulation — to change their minds and live a “heterosexual lifestyle.”

However, one of my biggest criticisms of the movie is that none of the parents gave a time frame, but instead left people to draw their own conclusions on how much time “a while” amounted to. Indeed, I myself was left with the impression that most of them were measuring that time in terms of months, if not weeks. The sad truth, however, is that for some parents, “a while” can be measured in terms of years.

I came out to my mother back in the early part of summer 1996. I’m not sure when she told my father that I was gay. I know I never did. After her reaction, I just never felt like I could bear it. She did not react well, and it is a truly painful thing to watch your mother cry, knowing that you caused those tears.

For years, my parents and I lived in a sort of unspoken standoff. They clearly loved me, but there was now an aspect of my life that we simply would not talk about. Indeed, I remember more than one time when I bitterly commented to friends that my relationship with my parents was fine just so long as we didn’t discuss my love life (or religion, but that’s fodder for another post). If it came up, my mother quickly turned quiet and moody, and I tried to find the quickest way to move the subject on. And the subject never came up with regards to my father.

It is only now, almost twelve years later, that I really feel that I can openly talk to my parents about this aspect of my life. And I have to admit that I still find it somewhat frightening to do so. Even after over a decade, I can say happily that things are finally improving, but we still have a ways to go.

I should also note that to the best of my knowledge, my parents still believe that homosexuality is a sin. I doubt that will ever change. And though I wish they’d change their views in that respect, I do take comfort that they’re coming to a point where they can at least accept that aspect of my life and embrace me for it despite their own feelings on the topic.

So to anyone who thinks their parents might react negatively, I would offer some advice. My first bit of advice is to come out to your parents anyway as soon as you’re ready. But my second piece of advice is to realize that you may be in for a long, rough road, and you need to be prepared for that possibility.

That means having the support you need to help you through the rough times. That means having someone to be there when you need to cry if and when your parents are less than understanding. That means being ready to offer your parents resources to help them with their own emotional processes during this time. The more prepared you are, the more likely it is that you can make it through such a difficult process, hopefully long enough to see some positive outcomes from the whole ordeal.

To close my thoughts, I’d like to offer a bit of story from my own experience. Four or five years ago, I was eating Easter dinner with my parents. As the conversation progressed, we got onto the subject of grandchildren, and my father said something about me having children. My mother took on a forlorn, bitter tone and announced, “Jarred won’t have kids.” I think I might have actually cringed at this point, as this was not a topic I really wanted to have dampen our Easter dinner.

However, my father completely surprised me by saying the first thing he ever did on the topic of my sexuality — while in my presence at least. He took a consoling and even optimistic tone of his own as he reassured my mother, “You never know. He might end up meeting a nice widower with children.”

Never let the long, rough road get you to a point where you close yourself off to the possibility of such an unexpected turn of events.

Anyone And Everyone: The Discussion

In my last post, I reviewed the movie, Anyone and Everyone. In this post, I want to briefly discuss some of the highlights from the panel discussion that the GAGV hosted after the screening I attended.

The panel consisted of four people. The first two people was a woman and her gay son. Her son is highly active in the GAGV Youth program. The two of them shared their experiences from when he came out to her. The other pair were a married couple who also had a son come out to them. Likewise, they shared their own experience. Then the audience was invited to ask questions or offer their own comments. Much of the question period focused on how people could further help our gay and lesbian youth, as well as help them during the coming out process. A few also commented on the realization from the movie that parents of gay children often have their own coming out process, a concept the parents on the panel were able to offer more insights on.

One brave young woman spoke up with a somewhat different question. She told of her initial attempt to come out to her own parents. She indicated that her parents’ reaction was so bad that she eventually told them it was all a lie and that she had just been frustrated with her boyfriend at the time. Tonight, she was looking for advice on what to do, because she realizes she still needs to come out to her own parents, but isn’t sure how to proceed from here.

I think that one of the most remarkable things was that everyone on the panel as quick to express understanding with regards to her choice to go back into the closet with her parents, and rightfully so. I’d imagine the young lady probably feels a great deal of guilt over making that choice, let alone admitting it to a theater of sixty or so relative strangers. So it was appropriate that they addressed that first. They then went on to encourage her to try again, but to take her time and be sure she’s ready. They gave her a lot of advice, including suggestions on literature she might want to acquire and even that she might want to consider counseling to help her through what could be a difficult process.

Towards the end of the discussion, I decided to speak up and offer a few comments of my own. One of the things that I had noted as the discussion had progressed was that the panel consisted of parents who were relatively accepting of their child’s sexuality right away. I felt that someone needed to speak up to offer some insight on the other possible experiences, especially after hearing the other young lady speak about her own bad experiences. So I raised my hand and took a deep breath as I received the microphone. I hope to share my own thoughts (although it ill likely be a modified and refined piece rather than an exact quote from earlier) in another post. However, i will say that it was well received and I had more than one person thank me for speaking up afterwards.

Anyone and Everyone: The Movie

This afternoon, I went to a free screening of Anyone and Everyone. The screening was sponsored by WXII, ImageOut, and the GAGV.

The movie was a one-hour documentary about a handful of families with gay children. (As an aside, I should note that “children” in this post is used to describe a family relationship, as everyone in the documentary was over the age of eighteen, as near as I could tell.) Both children and parents alike talked openly about the coming out experience and how everyone responded to the situation and handled the revelation. The families themselves were from varied backgrounds. Families from liberal and conservative backgrounds as well as religious families (including one Mormon family) participated in the documentary. Also, various ethnicities and various geographic regions were represented.

As each family told how their child came out and shared their emotional experiences and how they handled the situations, the viewer got a strong sense of the variety of responses that gay children face when “breaking the news” to their parents. They even told the heartbreaking story of one young man who was thrown out of his own home upon coming out to his mother. Fortunately, for that particularly guy, he found a family willing to take him in.

Fortunately, the rest of the families came to some level of acceptance and found a way to maintain their relationships with their children, though the road was not always smooth. Indeed, some parents admitted to starting out trying to change their children at first. In fairness, it was good to see one lesbian in the documentary admit that she could’ve handled the coming out process a bit more tactfully and sensitively. I felt this helped to remind everyone that we kids make our share of mistakes in the coming out process, too.

One of the most touching parts of this movie for me was to hear some of the fathers’ responses. At least two families told how upon finding out, the father immediately wanted to call their gay son. The one wanted to reassure his son that he was loved no matter what. Another wanted to call and apologize, because he realized that he had said some things that were hurtful, especially now that he knew his son was gay. In a world where most gay men expect our fathers to be the most upset due to our sexuality, it was moving to see fathers who showed such deep concern and compassion for their sons in such an instant way. The fact that these men were not the type to be accepting right away (both had come from conservative upbringings) merely underscored just how meaningful their immediate actions were.

After the movie, the GAGV invited some of their local speakers to hold a panel discussion. I hope to review the highlights of that discussion in my next post.

For those who may be interested in seeing this movie, both screening information and ordering information is available on the movie’s website. (See the link in the first paragraph of my post.)

Unplugging and Decluttering

Erin and I started a great comment conversation on my previous post regarding “unplugging.” We both agreed that neither of us are ready to “unplug” (at least not completely). After all, how would I get my blogging fix? Though I do think that disentangling oneself from the fast-paced electronic and telecommunications world for short periods of time is good. When I’ve done it, I’ve found it gives me time to recharge and relax. After all, far too often, I begin to realize that my planned time relaxing at the computer isn’t as relaxing as I thought. But then, I think many things we do to “relax” often prove not to be very relaxing, i we were to look at things more honestly. So when my computer time becomes more of a strain than a joy, I take it as time to leave my computer turned off and find more rejuvenating activities.

But personally, I think that this is an example of a much bigger problem. In general, I think we as people tend to fill our lives with a lot of clutter when it comes to our schedule. We fill as much activity (and sadly, I’m including the time spent in front of the television with this) in our daily lives as we can, far too much, if you ask me. And then we complain when we feel drained and exhausted at the end of each day. This is not reasonable behavior, so why do we do it?

Personally, I think we’re driven by the quest for something, most likely satisfaction. If we can just fit that one more activity into our lives like we’ve been thinking about, maybe we’ll feel like we have a full and complete life. Maybe we’ll feel like we’ve accomplished something then. Maybe we’ll finally find what we’ve been yearning for. (Of course, I also think that a desire to avoid ourselves on some levels is a major contributor. But that’s probably best saved for another post someday.)

The problem is, this is the classic case of confusing quantity for quality. Much of these activities in our lives ultimately hold no meaning on a deeper level, I think. They entertain us. They keep us busy. They give us a superficial satisfaction that we’re out doing something. (And as a former recluse, I can certainly appreciate the allure of that feeling.) But they don’t really effect us on a deeper level. In the end, they don’t satisfy.

I think it’s important to occasionally look at our daily lives and the activity we fill it with and look for the clutter. It’s important to notice the activities that aren’t necessarily serving the purpose we thought they would and honestly re-evaluate whether they are worth our time, time that could be spent on much more fulfilling pursuits (like the rediscovery of self). It’s time to slow down and look for quality activity in our lives rather than the fast-paced race that leaves us exhausted and never quite as satisfied as we had hoped.

Thoughts from Game Night

Last night was another COAP game night. It was a fun time, despite the relatively low turn-out. There are actually a number of things I could write about based on last night’s events. However, for now, I’m choosing to focus on something that came up during a discussion between Woody and Mark during the “meeting” portion of the night.

Woody and Mark have been involved in COAP for long periods of time, so they got reminiscing. At one point, Woody started talking about his history with COAP and his pattern of disappearing and coming back. One of the things that he pointed out was that often, his disappearances occurred at the same time he started seeing someone, while he came back after the relationship ended. Mark commented that this is common, and even joked that it’s the “gay lifestyle.”

At this turn of the conversation, a couple of thoughts entered my mind. The first one was a sense of relief that I’m not the only one prone to this kind of behavior. Indeed, one of the things that I realized when I started coming to COAP events was that I’d have to fight the urge to drop out when I eventually get into a relationship. So it was nice to know that other people have those same tendencies.

But then, I had to ask the question. Why is that? Why is part of the “gay lifestyle” to drop off the social circle when you meet that special someone. Is it because we see the social circle as nothing more than a marketplace for picking up our next lover? That’s certainly a frightening thought in itself!

Of course, I should note that I don’t think this is strictly a gay thing. I’ve noticed that a good number of heterosexual couples tend to lose track of their friends over time, too. After all, my parents don’t get out nearly as much as they used to (though my father does socialize more through their church than my mother does). Often, they’re content to do their work, meet a few communal obligations, then head home.

But it seems to me from my observations that it happens much more quickly and suddenly amongst gay people (especially men). While heterosexual couples may become more insular and reclusive over time, it seems like we do it at the earliest opportunity. Which I don’t think is healthy, for reasons I covered before. So why do we do it?

Personally, I think it’s in part because we’re often afraid of finding true love that we’ve become obssessed with it to the exclusion of everything else. So when we’re with someone, all of our attention turns towards building and maintaining that relationship. After all, we’re not sure when the next one is coming along (and with only a small percentage of the population to work with, finding eligible, desirable lovers can seem like a daunting task), so we want to do everything we can to make it work. So we allow other friendships and our other activities to come along. Add to this the fact that the early stages of any relationship can be quite intoxicating and addicting, and it becomes an understandable pattern.

But realizing this doesn’t make continuing the pattern a good idea. In some ways, I think it demonstrates why we — both individually and collectively — need to break this pattern.

It’s all about how you use it

I have to admit that I have a strange relationship with money. I’m not going to sit here and try to tell anyone — or even myself — that I don’t like having money. If my boss was to stop by my desk tomorrow and ask me if I’d like a raise, I’m not going to say no. After all, I like being able to spend money on various things.

However, I don’t feel like a slave to money, either. I do understand that ultimately, the only money I really need is the money to buy the necessities for staying alive. Anything after that is gravy. And I love my gravy.

However, I’ve also realized that how I spend my excess money is extremely important to me. I’m not the kind to become obsessed with buying the latest gadget or must have thing. Nor am I obssessed with keeping up with the latest fashion (not that men’s fashions change nearly as drastically as women’s fashions, anyway). That’s not my style at all.

Granted, I like to shop for quality when I do buy things. So when I go out shopping for new work clothes, I’m as liable to hit something a bit more expensive than Wal-Mart or even Target. (Besids, those stores often stop carrying clothes at one size below what I need, or only carry clothes my size that are horribly tacky.) And when I bought a laptop a couple months ago, I spent the extra money to get one I’d really like.

But at the same time, I don’t care to buy a lot of “stuff” just to have “stuff.” For example, a couple of years ago, I began to re-evaluate my attitude towards computer games. At the time, I was buying a new computer game every other week. I’d play each game I bought for about two weeks (often never mastering them or beating them if they had a quest mode of play), then get bored with it and never touched it again. As I noticed this pattern, I really asked if the time I spent playing each game was really worth the $40 a title I was paying. I decided that it wasn’t, so I’ve changed my game buying habits. I still buy the occasional computer game (and still often play them for a couple of weeks), but it’s something I only do every couple months or so. I found it hasn’t detracted from my life at all, and I’ve certainly found more enjoyable uses for the money I’m saving.

On the other hand, I think one of the best spenditures of money I’ve ever made was back when my niece, Alyssa, was two years old. Disney had re-released “The Little Mermaid” just before Christmas, so there was a merchandizing craze going on at the time. During my Christmas shopping, I had found a four foot long stuffed Flounder (the character from the movie, not a real flounder). I decided to buy it for Alyssa for Christmas.

Christmas Eve, my sister and her family had dinner with my parents and I at my parents’ home (I was living at home at the time). My sister decided to let Alyssa open one gift that evening after dinner. Because of an incident that had happened when my sister and her family were heading up from New Jersey, we all agreed she should unwrap Flounder.

I cannot begin to do justice to the experience of watching Alyssa open her gift. When she finally got the wrapping paper off and looked into the eyes of a Flounder almost as big as she was, she let out a shrill screech. The next five minutes, all this little girl could do was hug her new friend tight and screech, “He’s so cute!” It was a beautiful sight, and I can’t think of a time where I got so much joy out of $40 I had spent.

In many ways, money is more about making my life comfortable. It’s about creating moments like that, where I get to add to and share in other people’s pleasure. Whether I’m buying presents for my nieces and nephews, treating my friends to a meal, or giving an overworked and underpaid server an outrageously generous tip, I enjoy seeing the smiles it can bring to people’s faces.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can certainly be used to create situations that encourage happiness.

This is my home now

When I moved to the suburbs of Rochester almost two years ago, it was with some concern. I had lived in rural Pennsylvania all my life prior to the move. There were things that I knew I was going to miss. For example, I was going to miss the rare evening when I would look out the dining room window and see a black bear wandering through the yard, looking for food. I’d miss the twice daily trek of wild turkeys through the backyard during the winter as they came for the corn my father put out for them. One of the beautiful things about my life back home is that it was a nice area, surrounded with the beauty of nature.

But I gave that up, knowing I needed some changes in my life. I knew that I needed to get out where I could meet more like-minded people. I needed to find an area where I had more socialization options than going to church or going to the bar, neither of which appealed to me all that much. So I gave up my nice comfortable life in the middle of nowhere and moved to suburbia in an overgrown town along Lake Ontario. And almost two years later, I’m happy to admit that it was quite possibly one of the best decisions of my life.

I’ve come to like the fact that I live in an area where everything I want is within a five block radius of my home. I love the fact that if I decide I want to go out for a bit and do some reading or writing while surrounded by others, I have five or six different coffee houses to choose from. (And that’s not including the Great Abomination, Starbucks.) I like the fact that there’s a significant number of gay people and Pagans (and not to mention gay Pagans) that there are clubs and organizations set up for everyone to get together and socialize.

And yet, I’ve also discovered that while I may no longer have a black bear traipse through my yard, I can still find the beauty of nature here in this busy city. Rochester has no shortage of parks, and all of them are quite beautiful. My favorite one right now is Genesee Valley Park. Just yesterday, I was there and had two mallard ducks waddle past me, not six feet from where I stood. It was an incredible experience, and I even had to call a friend just to tell someone about it.

I’ve grown to truly love this area. In fact, I’m coming to think of it as home, which is not something I expected to happen when I originally moved here.