Friday, January 5, 2018

The People We Once Were

At the age of 24, I sat each of my family members down individually and told them my truth. I told them my deep dark secret, knowing it would change everything. Even though I had already been in a relationship for a few years at this point, I was still very much naive to how coming out would forever impact my life. Not only did I not realize the depth of how it would change MY life, I also was blindly unaware of how it would alter the lives of my family and friends as well. But for the first time in my life, I was making a decision that I knew was in my best interest and no matter the repercussions, it had to be done.

We all make choices in our lives. Choices that effect not only ourselves but those around us and possibly even further depending on the choices made. While our intents may be pure, to each choice we make there is a cause and effect. Sometimes our choices causes pain and harm but we do not get to choose the consequences. All we get to choose is if we make the choice or not and then the ripples begin.

At 24, I was unable to keep up the lie anymore and I had to tell my loved ones that I was gay. I have made many choices that have effected my family throughout my life. From them sitting scared and confused in the waiting room of a police station to me leaving for two years while I served an LDS mission in Detroit and now me choosing to live away from them in California … I have put these people through a lot (to say the least). I am grateful that these events, along with so many others, have made us stronger and more compassionate towards one another. To think of how far my family has come and how understanding they now are is a tribute to what incredible and empathetic people they are. They have been forced to open their eyes and see things from a different point of view and they are each better people because of it. However, when I was 24, all I could think was how I had to end the bullshitting. I had to let go of the expectations my family had for my life and that my religion had placed upon me. I had to stop lying. Making that choice was harder than almost any other I have ever had to make.

In the years since coming out, I often wonder why I waited so long or why I held myself back. The main answer to that was, quite frankly, religion. Feeling as if there was something wrong with me and God wouldn’t let me through those pearly gates for being the man He had created. I was so scared that I was doing something unforgivable by being myself and allowing love into my life in a way that felt so natural. No matter my reasoning, I cannot blame religion or anything else on why I chose to hide or stay in the closet. I am accountable and the choices were mine. As odd as that realization has been, it is truth. I chose to lie, I chose to keep this aspect hidden (as best I could) from those around me. I chose to be in the closet and I obviously chose to eventually come out of that closet. But the choices, nevertheless, were mine to make.

While we all have the ability to make these choices, they tend to bring reality checks knocking at our door. I use to have a dream to live in California and work for Disney. Choosing to follow that dream has cost me everything (literally everything, California is as just as expensive as you think it is and then times that by 10). Jokes aside, I lost the life I once loved. The house I made my home, the dogs I loved with all my heart and even the guy. Perhaps people should be more honest about what it takes to chase a dream or there should be a book titled “Chasing Dreams for Dummies” because it is not always a Hollywood movie where everything turns out perfect in the end. That being said, I made a choice to not live my life with “what if” hovering above me and now I have to live with that.

With each choice we make, our perception shifts and we see the world a little brighter or a little darker depending on the results. I, myself, have noticed lately how darker I have allowed my perspective to become. I use to be care-free and I use to laugh so hard it hurt. I use to love life. I loved that version of me. Now, as I near 30, I find myself a much more anxious person and not nearly as care-free as I use to be (or would like to be). As I make new friends out here (and I have made some great ones) it makes me a little sad that they don’t know that side of me. They have met a more reserved and cautious version of that little boy that use to stand center stage and sing his heart out.

As I have reflected on this more and more over the last few months, I have had somewhat of an epiphany. With each interaction I keep in mind that we are all those 10 year old versions of ourselves just dealing with these adult reality checks that keep being thrown at us. Some of our 10 year old selves are a little hurt and a little bruised while some are just happy as can be. As we have gone through life we’ve all been the “good guy” and we’ve all been the “villains” at one time or another. We learn with life that not everyone always has the greatest perception of us and we must take accountability for the roles we have played. We must be cognizant of the ripple effect our choices and actions have. Breakups, along with other life events, remind us that things may not have always been as they appeared to be. People change and they grow but if you are not changing and growing together in a relationship the world will find a way to let you know how divided you have become. Some say people don’t change but I have to disagree. I challenge each of us to truly look inward and ask ourselves if we feel we are the same person we once were. Life forces change upon us little by little - it is as simple as that - and as each change comes upon us, that is where we gain control. We get to choose how to react or move forward. And we must do just that; move forward.

2017 was rough, and I let it get the best of me. Now that 2018 has arrived, it’s time to figure out how I want to move forward. In years past, I have given myself a motto to serve as motivation throughout the year and I believe Twenty Eighteen is demanding I continue this tradition. I choose to continue establishing my new life out here in California and in order to do so I must continue to stop bullshitting. I have to remind myself that I have to be the change I want to see in this world and I am accountable for the circumstances I allow myself to be in. The old me wouldn’t have put up with a lot of what 2017 brought my way. I love who I use to be but that doesn’t mean I can’t become an even better version of myself. A version that includes who I use to be while also remaining true to who I have become. My hope is that we all live our lives by our own terms. Stop being scared of how you think your family will perceive you or the life you want to live. Stop holding yourself back because you’re afraid that you might actually be happy in the life you deserve. Demand your own happiness. Realize that by allowing others to know your truth that you are helping this world become a more compassionate and understanding place. It is scary to go off the beaten path and to imagine a world where you can live your life the way you want but if we don’t make the changes in our own lives how can we ever expect this world to progress. In retrospect, me coming out to my family was not a big deal. But by choosing to come out and live my truth, my family has changed. And that change will continue on with the next generation that they are raising and so forth.

Let yourself live the life you see fit and be the best version of YOU. I told my family my truth when I was 24. I was scared to death that it would change everything … and thank God it did just that … it changed everything.

Monday, February 27, 2017

It's My Party & I'll Pee Where I Want To

During my Junior year in high school, I was the editor of my school’s yearbook.  As is tradition with yearbooks, our school held the superlatives in which a lesbian couple won “Cutest Couple” by a landslide.  It never crossed my mind that anyone could conceive a problem with this, and not because I too was/am gay, but because I am a human being. 
I remember sitting down and having conversations with a group of adults in the school district discussing how to handle the petitions parents were making over the yearbook and what to do regarding the issue at hand.  I remember there being one day in which I was kept in a conference room so that the news media could not ask me about the yearbook and I feel ashamed that the end decision resulted in handing out stickers with our yearbooks so parents could cover the faces of these two girls. #2005forthefail

While that may have been 12 years ago and a few laws have changed, the mentality of so many have yet to catch up.  Recently, the newly appointed POTUS has kept us all on the edge of our seats as changes have been made right and left.  On Wednesday, February 22nd, he withdrew the Obama-era protections for transgender students in schools that let them use bathrooms corresponding with their identity.  Stepping away from these protections is a stance in and of itself and is already causing ripple effects.  One view point the President continues to make towards issues in the LGBTQ world are that the states should handle them.  The idea that my civil rights should be determined based on which state I live in is a complete smack in the face to it being the year 2017.  I personally never voted for Obama but I have to say I’m grateful for what he did for the LGBTQ community.  Under his reign as President, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” ended, he condemned conversion therapy, aids help was strengthened and marriage equality became a reality.  The concept that each state gets to determine which rights i’m privy to is disheartening.  Imagine if women’s rights or black’s rights were up for state to state discussion. Or for those of you who happen to be straight and need a little more understanding, imagine if it was up for debate within each state whether or not you got to be legally bound to your family.  You may be husband and wife in Michigan but in Utah you just get to pretend for the sake of pretending. (Have fun doing your taxes!)
On a side note with all of this bathroom nonsense, I want you to really think about something here and I'm going to make bullet points to emphasize what I am saying. 
  • No matter the sexual preferences of the attendees of any restroom, no one should be making unwanted advances towards another and if this is happening to you I would hope you are reporting this. 
  • If this sort of thinking is the actual issue then shouldn't my being gay entitle me to be using the women's restroom so someone of the same sex doesn't look at me or I them? 
  • Being transgender deals with your gender identity, not your sexuality.  This means that just because someone may be transgender - it does not mean they are attracted to the same sex.  
  • More United States Senators have been arrested for sexual misconduct in bathrooms than transgender individuals. #Notalternativefacts

In response to Trump’s decision to back out of the fight for the rights of transgender kids across America, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (along with 6 other religions) joined in support of the President’s change (please pause here for my dramatic and long sigh). For a religion trying to paint a picture that they are supportive, they certainly like to go back and forth on things. In March of 2015 the church made the news for proposing a bill that was anti-discrimination for housing and employment.  This was announced as a memorable and historic day for the church and their stance on LGBTQ members.  So basically the church agrees that we should be able to have jobs and houses and everyone should still love their LGBTQ family members but we are still apostates who shouldn’t have families, we shouldn’t be granted the ability to marry, our kids can’t get baptized and now the T in LGBTQ shouldn’t even be able to pee where they feel comfortable.  (But its OK because as long as they claim to love us … they can still sleep easy knowing they get to go to the Celestial Kingdom) 
I struggle every time the church decides to take a political stance.  Not only does this thinking contradict the need for separation between church and state but it hinders the progress of civil rights in the land of the free.  I am obligated to respect that they have their own views on many topics but they are a church and that is very different from them being the government.  I understand that in the state of Utah they might as well be two in the same but that is perhaps why they continue to get away with making political stances without having to deal with the tax consequences that should follow.  In this world there are over 4,200 religions.  With such a large number of differentiating beliefs, how chaotic would it be if they all started telling the government how to do their job?  For example; Hindus don’t eat beef, Muslims don’t eat pork, Buddhists are vegetarians and Mormons believe in moderation in all things.  So who should win in that debate if all religions start demanding that THEIR way be THE way?  
At the end of the day, I wish these men would stop hiding behind their religions to make choices based on their own arrogance and start taking accountability that these are their personal feelings and dare I say insecurities. Instead, what ends up happening is a problematic and unfortunate series of circumstances from making people think God hates them for being who they are.  It is not God who is against their lives; it is the men who do not understand the lifestyles.  This is an extremely dangerous game of cause and effect for it instigates depression, doubt, fear and way too many cases lead to suicide.  When did religion stop being about how to teach your followers to live in a world of diversity and start being about condescending upon the lives of others so your followers are more comfortable in their judgments? Please remember dear Bible goers that we learn in the book of Matthew that we are judged based on how we judge others.  Diminishing diversity does not mean it goes away.  It only means we are a weaker nation for not finding a better way to utilize the strength these individuals can bring to the table.  Any minority or any person that has had to fight against the mold, has a strength within them this country could surely use. This country is divided and our marriage to it is being tested for better and worse.  Those who seek equality must continue to raise the bar (a term the LDS church is more than familiar with). 

I was so proud to be an American – not on January 20th, but on January 21st when millions of protesters took to the streets all over this country to show that they will not be silenced. It was amazing to see this country come together like that.  My journey is my own, as is the case for all of us, but I look forward to a time when we can look beyond putting stickers in our yearbooks to cover people’s faces for who they are.  I look forward to a time when kids won’t have to come out to their families but instead they can grow up in an environment that allows them to feel safe no matter their sexuality or gender association.  I look forward to a time when the USA stops acting as if this is something that can be shushed or looked over and sent to the states for decision. Since being an out and gay man, I have felt a responsibility to make sure my family and friends are more compassionate and understanding towards the LGBTQ community.  For most of them, I was the first gay man they knew and it gave them a reason to begin to TRY to understand why so many things like this matter. I am so proud of how far some of these people have come.  Now that I have their support we form an even stronger and even more diverse unit.  If every family were to grow closer and more united in these instances, think of how strong this new and modern “community” could become.  It would be one that fights for each other’s rights and embraces diversity. No matter your race, gender, sexuality or beliefs, we would all find a way to stand together and find strength from within.  This group could then continue the fight and make sure that we are all given equal rights throughout this nation, which IS under God and SHOULD be indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Now THAT would surely be a way to make America great again. (And no one would even have to wear that awful red hat!) 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

We Love a Charade

I have this memory ... of when I was a kid that is so impressed on my mind that I’ve never been able to shake it.  As a young boy, I had always known I had tendencies and feelings towards boys instead of girls but just as a child comes into their own with sexuality, I came into my own understanding as well.  As the pieces of my puzzle began falling into place and I began to realize that I was in fact, Gay, I began to wonder what to do with my life.  I remember one particular Sunday, I was sitting on the end of the pew during church and I was attempting to analyze the thoughts I was having in life that were not the ones I was "supposed" to be having.  I remember coming up with the decision that I would move to California where no one would ever know of the life I was living and I could work at Disneyland because that was a place I felt happy.  It was in this exact moment that my future was shaped in my head.  This was the dream that would carry me through the dark times and give me hope when I would feel there was none.

When I conjured up this dream of mine there was no such thing as social media so it seemed extremely feasible that I could live somewhere else and no one would know I was gay.  I could live my life in secret and no one would be the wiser. As time passed, I never lost sight of this idea that I could live in California and be happy there.  It was a place I could see myself living and be the real me without judgment or hurting anybody that I loved.  In time, it became my driving force.  I was going to get out of my hometown of Murray, Utah and I was going to move away to work for the Mouse. 

As high school ended and I’ve returned home from the mission (that I never thought I’d go on), there have been reunions and weddings that I have been invited to that I have quite frankly steered away from.  When I was still in the closet, I dreaded having that conversation where people would ask who I was dating or what I was doing with my life while I secretly was in a relationship and my job was anywhere but getting me to California.  As I mentioned earlier, social media wasn’t a thing when I initially decided to move to California but by the time I got home from the mission it was the sole purpose of the internet (or so it seemed).  I avoided reunions simply because everyone seemed to be moving on, getting married and having children.  It was hard for me to compare where I was at in life next to the lives everyone appeared to be enjoying on Facebook.  I constantly felt like I was failing at life and I was in desperate need of changing my perception.  Fortunately, I am now out and the times are different from when I was a kid.  Yet, as forward as this world has progressed, I still have felt the need to move to California.  This last May, I received a phone call offering me a position with my company that would move me from the safety and security of my life in Utah and would send me to the unknown land of Beverly Hills, California.  For someone that has visited Cali as much as I have, I had never been to this part of Los Angeles and it was practically foreign to me.  I ended up moving without a place to live and was so unbelievably unprepared for what would lie ahead.  Never in my life have I been more grateful for the loved ones in my life who helped me during these early months of my life in California.  Without being as prepared as I should have been, I packed up and made the move to California because “Dreams Come True,” right?

By definition, Naïve is an adjective meaning a person is innocent or showing a lack of wisdom or judgment.  Laugh if you will but I never would have considered myself as naïve. Coming here, however,  and having the experiences I have had has shown me that 'Naïve' is exactly what I was.  Regardless of the fact that Los Angeles was never where I pictured myself moving to, it is where I ended up and I have had to make the most of it.  I moved out here with plans to get a 2 bedroom apartment so friends and family would have a place to stay when they visited.  As adorable as the thought of a 2 bedroom apartment was, I ended up with a 325 sq. foot studio apartment.  That’s right folks, I just moved from 3,000 sq. feet to 325 sq. feet.  (Cute, right?  I thought so too)  Long story short, everything that could possibly go wrong has definitely gone wrong.  I have never felt like the World was beating me up on a daily basis until this move.  It has been one learning experience after another and I am ready for things to start to calm down but they do not appear to be doing so. (1st World problems, I know.) 
There is a common phrase that reminds us how Comparison is the killer of all joy.  As hard as it is to admit that I have allowed myself to compare my life and self-worth with the perfect lives everyone appears to be having on social media, it is a truth.  I decided when I initially started this blog that I would be honest about my life and this is an aspect I have struggled with even to this day.  Watching those close to me make their lives seem fabulous on the internet when I know what is really going on has opened my eyes to the charade that we all make our lives appear as.  Don’t get me wrong, I am guilty of doing the same thing.  Then again, who wants to take a selfie or have a photo-op during a sad moment to forever remember how miserable you were in that instance?  I think I've decided to view Facebook from here on out as our own scrapbooks and we just get to look in on all the good stuff that happens for one another.  (You all probably came to this decision back in 2009 ... thanks for the memo!)
While I am acutely aware of how idiotic it is to compare my life with anyone else’s,  I can’t help but wonder if the even tougher comparison is that of where my life currently is verse where I dreamed it would be at this point.  My own silly idea of where my life should be vs. where it is.  I am almost 29 years old and that scares the shit out of me.  I pictured my life having so much more purpose and doing something meaningful in a career that I sought out and loved. If life has shown me anything it is that we have choices to make and those choices have consequences and we do not get to choose those consequences (as nice as that would be).  I moved out to California earlier than I probably should have and I know that, I’m not unaware of that fact - but I am here, and I did not make it this far just to make it this far.  I am making this dream a reality and it is rough and it is scary and I have never felt more alone in my life but there is no place else I feel I should be.  I write this not for sympathetic comments or words of encouragement. I know I will get through this because of the incredible support system I have back home and my own inner strength.  I write this to show that it's okay to show that not everything is perfect in this life and also to tell myself that it's okay not to always be okay.  It’s not a glamorous road but it’s a road nonetheless and it will take me where I need to go.  I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and for some reason I have to go through this. 
 Truth is, we all compare and we all put on a certain level of a charade.  It is a way to cope and move ourselves from one mindset to another.  Whether we are convincing ourselves of that charade or others, maybe the charade isn’t so much a lie as it is a hope.  It may be something small like a hope that you’ll have plans this coming weekend or it may be large like a dream job with Disney in California, but that hope or that “charade,” if you will,  is what can carry you through when all seems lost.  I said it earlier and I will say it again how grateful I am for those that have helped me or been a support to me while I have been out here. From that little kid on the church pew to the 28 year old in Beverly Hills, I’m getting there slowly but surely. I’m one step closer to that dream -  Now I just need a mouse trap!  (Wink Wink)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Christopher J Photography

Hello Friends!

For those of you who do not know, I started a photography business this past year called Christopher J Photography.  I have always loved being behind the camera and am overjoyed that I have had the opportunity to start this journey.  2015 was a great year and I look forward to seeing what 2016 has in store for the business. 

 If you or anyone you know needs photographs taken, please feel free to contact me by heading over to http://www.christopherjphotos.com and clicking the link at the top labeled "contact me."  I would also love if you followed me on Instagram (@christopherjphotos) and of course on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/christopherjphotos)! Thanks for reading my blog and thank you for taking the time to check out my photography page as well! Best wishes in 2016!


Monday, November 9, 2015

Updating The Ol' Testimony

As a child, when I would wish to bare my testimony, my Mother or Father would kneel by my side at the podium at church and tell me what to say and I would repeat after them, “I’d like to bare my testimony, I know this church is true …” and it would continue from there. As I have lived my life, that has been the basis for my testimony.  Serving two years proclaiming to the state of Michigan that I knew this church to be true was one of the greatest times of my life and I sit here as a 27 year old man, humbling myself as I clarify that I no longer believe that everything that goes on in the Mormon church to be true. Allow me, if you will, to bare my new testimony. 

In my first blog post, I express that I knew from the beginning that there was something different with me. Even before the age of 8 I knew that I found boys cuter than girls and even though I didn’t know what the term “gay” meant, I felt I needed to keep that part of me a secret.  I met with my bishop when I turned 8 years old and I prepared myself for baptism, as the majority of children do in the church when they come of age.  My father is an amazing man and he would sit me down in our family room on our plaid couch with the television on mute (because there was always a game on) and he would ask me about Joseph Smith. He would take me into our front yard and teach me how to hold onto his arm as he would practice dunking me in the baptismal font.  In the church, it is very apparent how “not okay” it is to be gay. You are suppose to grow up, get married to a woman, and have babies to multiply and replenish the earth. So naturally, when it came time for me to go through the temple before my mission, I continued with suppressing the truth and I (for lack of a better term) lied in order to receive those blessings of the temple and to serve a mission.  
Though my time spent lying about my sexuality has fortunately come to an end, I am still faced with a variety of matters that I often feel the need to bite my tongue with (I know it’s hard to think I bite my tongue .. but even I have my moments).  When I came out, and even to this day, I have people tell me that they support me BUT they wouldn’t vote for me to have equal rights or they support me BUT they don’t think i should raise a family or that I should be able to get married.  Allow me to say that if you support me, you support me getting married, having a family and you support my hypothetical children that I may or may not be having.  If you support me, you understand that I deserve love and I deserve all the same rights that you and your spouse deserve. If you support me, you also agree that my hypothetical children deserve all the same blessings and experiences that your children will be able to partake in. If you do not support these things, please do not tell me that you support me for few things will boil my blood quicker. 
With the news that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has decided to publish in it’s handbooks that anyone in a same-sex relationship is an apostate and that their posterity, whether adopted or biological, are not allowed the opportunity to be given a name and a blessing upon birth or to be baptized until the age of 18 (and only after disavowing their parents), I find myself at a substantial loss of understanding.  Some have argued that this law has been around for years due to polygamist children and this is nothing new.  My argument back is that the church’s own 2nd Article of Faith states that “Men shall be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.” Why would any child not be given an opportunity to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost simply because of their parents?  The age of 8 is when a person becomes accountable, not when their parents “choices” are put on the chopping block.  

I would never wish ill-will towards another person's child.  I have supported my sister’s and their children as much as I possibly can and to think that someone would not do the same for me breaks my heart.  Would my children (again hypothetical) be lesser than yours? I have heard many state that it is unfair to ask an 8 year old to understand the significance of having to disavow their family at such an early state.  However, I recently asked an 8 year old if they even knew who Joseph Smith was the day before their baptism and they had no idea who I was talking about. Perhaps we should be questioning what all of these 8 year olds are aware of because quite frankly - they are taking on a covenant and let’s all agree that hardly any child or adult for that matter understands the full significance of a covenant with the Lord.   Another question that baffles me is why would my child have to disavow me in order to receive the blessings of the church but my temple attending family members do not have to disavow me in order to keep their recommends? This particular point leads me to feel that the current leaders of this church are simply in fear that children growing up in LGBT homes may find “gay love” to be normal and one day when these children become the leaders of this church, laws and ordinances may change because they do not see the problem.  I do not hesitate when I say that it is so very apparent how fearful the leaders of this church are in regards to the LGBT community and how they have such a lack of understanding towards them.  Anyone who feels that the church is accepting needs to take a serious look at the issue.  

I had always thought that when I have children of my own, I would want them to know the doctrine of the church. I would teach them myself or I would even suck up my pride and take them to church so that they may have those blessings.  I am not even a parent and I can testify that once you have children, your life is no longer your own and you must do things and make sacrifices for your children.  After this past weekend, I now would no longer take my children to church after what has taken place.  What would the purpose be if they are not able to receive the blessings that were once bestowed upon me?  I fear how many blind sheep are listening to the leaders of the church and just going along with this decision.  When I was preparing for my mission, I remember my bishop telling me that I would obey my Mission President without question, even if he told me to go stand on my head in the corner.  I disagreed immediately - for was this church not restored through Joseph Smith questioning his local leaders and asking God himself for truth? Is this church not founded upon personal revelation and seeking wisdom for one’s own soul?  I recently heard a comedian who joked that Christians (in this particular joke he is referencing Mormons) should stop caring so much about what is “law of the land” vs. what is okay by the church and just let “the Gays” do their thing because even if we are given the same blessings in the church -  we (the gays) aren’t getting in through those pearly white gates so you all get the last laugh.  I found this humorous and actually thought it was a good point.  Why do so many have such strong opinions against gays having rights? I have never for the life of me seen why anyone should not be treated equal no matter their skin color or their sexuality.  All this is doing is giving me a big head that MY life impacts all of yours to such an extent. (Joke)

I bare my newly ‘updated’ testimony that I know my Father in Heaven loves me and is so aware of who I am.  He did not make a mistake by making me gay and He knows I did not “choose” to be gay as well.  He knows of the life I live and that I continue to strive to be a better man each day.  I know that the Atonement of Christ covers all of our Father’s children and not just the straight people’s kids.  As my own father sought to take me under his wing and teach me of the gospel of Christ, I know that I would do so with my own children.  I know that my Savior died for my sins and that the price he paid was not only for those that believe in the LDS church but for all of God’s children, no matter what they believe.  The atonement is not something to take lightly and I am so grateful for what Jesus Christ did for me on that cross.  I know that whatever happens to me on this earth, I will account for in heaven and I hope that I will be able to say that I stood for what is right, no matter the cost.  I was raised LDS and I believe that it is the most true church on the earth but I do not believe it has all the truth. I believe it is a church ran by men who make mistakes just as I do each and every day.  I believe that one day, maybe not in this life, I will have answers to so many of my questions.  Above all else, I believe that the day will come when my Father in Heaven opens his arms and holds me so very tightly.  He will hold me to make up for all the times I felt alone or that I had no one to talk to. He will hold me for all the times I wished things were different or questioned 'Why' and had no answers. Today,  I am so grateful for this opportunity to be gay.  I am grateful for this blessing that has made me have an open mind and has taught me how to be compassionate towards my fellow men.  I am grateful that I am still able to feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost and that I have had the opportunity to show so many how to open their eyes as well.  I am so proud of how far some members of my family have come from the day I told them I am gay and I pray for those who seem to continue to feel I have a disease or for those who continue to not understand.  I pray that all children, are given the same blessings from God no matter who their parents are or what “choices” their parents make.  I know that my life is in God’s hands and that there is a reason that all of this is going on.  I pray that those who are depressed or feel alone in this world know that they are among so many others who understand them.  I testify of these things and I would urge each and everyone of you to look at your own testimonies and truly decide what you believe to be true as well.  Maybe that doesn’t agree with what I believe and maybe it does but we could all use the refresher.  That is my testimony, and that is what I now know is true. Amen. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Defining Ourselves

Never one to sugar-coat a situation, truth is that sometimes you drown. I have felt like I’m drowning more and more over the past year and even more so as the last few months have passed. Life’s changes have a way of making you look at things in different perspectives. Paths you weren’t planning on taking become the road more traveled and the life you once thought you longed for seems farther away from where you are headed. Throughout my life, I have struggled with depression (surprise, surprise). Having depression can be a heavy load and as of late, while still drowning, someone seems to have tied bricks to my ankles.  My depression effects every part of my day and particularly the little mind-games I play with myself in terms of how I perceive a situation or more importantly my own self.  My sister has a plaque in her home that reads “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” Now, I am sure we’ve all heard that at one time or another and the amazingness of that quote is more than apparent.  Aside from the fear of failure however, how incredible would it be if we could look at these moments in our lives from the perspective of hindsight while we suffer through our consequences and decisions made to see that everything will truly be alright in the end. 
We are all the creators of our own destiny … or so the saying goes, yet I feel as if every possible outside factor is taking hold of my life right now.  It makes me wonder if I am psychologically forcing myself to be in this place because I feel I deserve to be punished and perhaps I am playing the “woe is me” card versus how much truly is out of my control.  How much of the shit show that is swirling around me is created by my own self and why does it seem so matter-of-fact impossible to stop the chaos?  I have witnessed people of all ages go through their own  (for lack of a better word) “mid-life crisis,” and I refuse to believe that I’m going through this at the age of 27 but what if it’s a mid - mid-life crisis? No matter what I want to call it, at the end of the day I need to stop looking for whatever rational is going to make me feel better about my situation and just face the music.  There are times I witness others going through depression or having a bout of anxiety and I instantly think to myself how silly they are being and how everything will be just fine.  When it is me wearing the depression hat or having my own anxiety issues, that I very much have, I feel like my world is consumed and the ways out of the situation do not seem obtainable.  Funny how life has its own way of humbling us and reminding us that we are no different than one another.
In the personal wars we face in the span of our lives, the most damaged casualty can often be our own self-worth.  We gauge our success and worth by our jobs, our relationship statuses or by the amount of weight we have lost.  We see each other’s lives on Facebook and everyone else appears to be so happy.  They look as if to lead these perfect lives and the comparisons become overwhelming. At the end of the day however, are we still good, worthwhile people even if our employers or ex’s don’t agree?  Can we still be considered successful in life if our relationships do not work out or if we don’t have the stick figured or muscled physique we long to have?  I ask this because I feel all of it.  I will be the first to tell you that I have a prideful side to myself and that I love my jeep and I prefer to have the newest iPhone model.  I’m the guy that will drive 20 minutes out of his way to shop at Super-Target rather than walk into Walmart that is only 3 minutes away from my front door.  I’m more than aware these things do not matter in the long run and yet I find myself following these rules I have set for myself that get me nowhere in life.  No one knows where I bought my deodorant or at what store I purchase the cereal I eat for breakfast (okay who are we kidding I eat cereal for lunch and dinner as well).   These are things I have put in my own way and told myself that I need to do things this way in order to feel good or to be happy yet I cannot (for the life of me) understand why I have put these barriers in place. 
If we’re being completely honest, I have been having certain struggles in my place of work that are making me a nervous wreck.  These concerns bring me to realize how I am not where I thought I would be at this point in my life and bring about the unfortunate realization of how much harder those aspirations seem to be from where I currently am in my life.  Those close to me know that I have a tendency to push people away when I am going through a difficult situation and it is safe to say that I have stayed true to my pattern as of late.  It was brought to my attention that I am trying to change a lot about my life and I am trying to do it all at once.  This can be stressful and I am letting it consume my ability to function in my day to day life.  The other day, after a rather emotional day in the office, I sat in the hot tub at the gym and allowed myself a few moments to attempt relaxation.  While there, this elderly gentleman started chatting with me and within a few moments I learned that he use to work at my current place of business and that he as well use to do photography and the kicker was when he told me that he worked for Disney and knew Walt himself and began to tell me stories of their encounters.  I sat there in complete bewilderment. I had just had one of the worst days at work and out of nowhere I am meeting this man that has lead the exact life I want to lead.  On this particular day I had turned my phone off after leaving work and just requested to be left alone and to be honest I was rather annoyed when this gentleman began interrupting my alone time but I needed the conversation that took place to happen at just that moment. It showed me I’m not doomed and that I can have these things I want so badly in life.  The goals I have set for myself are obtainable because I was sitting there listening to a man tell me how he has done all of the many things I plan to do with my life.  It was surreal and felt like one of those moments in the movies where your guardian angel comes to tell you a message and you turn around and they are gone in the blink of an eye. 
We must have hope. As with everything else in life, it is so much easier said than done but we must stop putting these barriers in place that prevent us from living more simply and finding joy in the little things that so easily can put a smile on our faces if we only give them the ability to do so.  We must stop considering our lives failures only because we are not able to see our current situation in hindsight or an immediate result.  As hard as our circumstances may seem, there is always at least a ray of light in the distance.  Things do turn out for the better and we must remember, as Walt himself always said, to “Keep Moving Forward.”  We never know when our outlook may change or when the rainclouds will part but we must be open to the possibility that today just might be that day.  And if we feel like drowning, like I very much do at this very moment, perhaps we should stop waiting for a flotation device and just start swimming for our lives.  These challenges we face are only what we allow them to be . . . so why do we put ourselves through the ringer, when all we need is not attend the boxing match.  Here’s to hoping we all find that ray of light sooner rather than later (or at least remember how to make our own flotation device out of our jeans like we were taught in boy scouts).

Monday, May 4, 2015

Opposition in all Things

In the course of the last month it seems major events are happening every day in the lives of many of my closest friends and family. My parents celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary, friends are having babies, graduating with their masters, getting married and purchasing homes.  I truly embrace these moments and am so thankful to see good things happening to good people.  2015 seems to be turning up as a great year for some amazing people and I could not be happier for them.  While I feel as if certain aspects of my own life have been put on hold for the time being, these causes to celebrate have got me thinking and in true “Chris” fashion I have to put it into writing before I explode. 

As it does with almost everything, with the good comes the bad.  This little nasty tic we call opposition tends to find its way into almost every aspect of our lives and yet there are times we act surprised when it breaks up our course.  One fairly recent situation where opposition made the Utah news was when a select few decided to oppose sustaining the church leaders during the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints General Conference this spring.  I have had a few discussions in regards to this and I have found it interesting that some are angry that they chose this opportunity to stand and oppose.  These members had gone through the proper channels of speaking with their bishops and stake presidents and yet still didn’t feel as if they were being heard.  When President Dieter F. Uchtdorf took to the podium he asked if any opposed and these individuals took that opportunity to stand and do so.  It makes me wonder, however, with so many being angry that they made their voices heard during conference, when is the right time to take a stance and speak up for what you believe in?  It has been rather interesting speaking to family and friends about this particular event and hearing the differences of opinions.  I for one think that it was handled well and I hope the church speaks with those members who were brave enough to let it be known that they have questions.  Opposition is hard to face and from my stand point, it appears as if they are seeking answers and being told to quiet down. 

Being gay and having been raised in the LDS faith, I feel fortunate that I have that foundation to live my life off of. I feel it gave me a good understanding of my Father in Heaven and I’m grateful for that and the relationship I have with Him.  While I have stopped asking ‘why I am gay’ or ‘why this had to happen to me’, and embraced the life I have been given to live, I do still question a thing or two from time to time.  I watch the broadcasts and the reports the LDS Church puts out in reference to its LGBT members and I am concerned that they are simply trying to defend themselves rather than seek honest answers to some extent. For myself, I am not so much concerned about getting married in an LDS chapel or what my stance is with the priesthood, as much as it is with my eternal salvation.  I do believe life goes on after this life and I do believe that there are tiers of salvation.  One of my family members use to make comments that they were sad I would not be able to spend eternity with them.  My mother, being the amazingly witty person that she is, recently commented on this to me and said “You think any of us are going to be in the celestial kingdom? We’ll all be together, don’t you worry.” While I found this funny, I do hope to be with my family forever when that time comes no matter how bonkers we drive each other here on earth.

What I am currently contemplating is how I can apparently be damned from the get go for something I have no agency over. I did not choose to be gay, I have no agency over this matter and yet according to the LDS faith, if I dare act on this “ungodly” act, I will not make it to the highest kingdom.   For the sake of my soul this obviously concerns me.  On that same note, this is a religion that emphasizes the importance of finding love and growing a family unit as a foundation of one’s life and yet I am not supposed to take part in that.  This, more than anything, is what I wish I could find closure on.  The lack of agency and yet I seem to already have my fate decided for me.  It is a bleak and discouraging outlook according to what I have read or been told by members of the church however this is where I know God loves his children and I am not some forgotten black sheep that has no hope.  As much as I would love to see the leaders of the LDS church tackle that question, I continue to prepare myself that this may be one of those things I simply never know the answer to in this life.  Let me state yet again, as I have in previous posts, that I do not hold ill will towards the church. I grew up in this religion, I served two years of my life preaching of my testimony that God lives and that part has not changed for me, nor will it.  That being said, I do not hold myself accountable to the Mormon lifestyle for some obvious and some not so obvious reasons.

There is no genie in a lamp, no wishes to be granted, yet we all find ourselves in those inevitable spots in life where we seek for miracles or specific blessings. I hope one day I can celebrate a 35th wedding anniversary or have children of my own as I have watched so many others experience.  I do not think these desires make me a bad person nor do I think they would cause harm in this world.  I also do not think that a loving Father in Heaven would want me to abandon those dreams either.  As happy as I am for the many great memories being made this year in my family and friends’ lives, I hope one day they will have the opportunity to be as happy for me. Until then … I’ll keep hunting for that magic lamp.