Thursday, December 30, 2010
Ever since the "phone call" with my missionary son on Christmas, I've been thinking a lot about what I can offer him as he struggles to know why he's really there serving full time and preaching to a people about making changes in their lives and sacrificing and committing themselves to a new plan of life, even though he doesn't fully believe in that plan for sure himself.
It's a hard dilemma. He is finding a lot of "success", and loves the people, the culture, and the connections and bonding that he's making with them, and I keep emphasising that that is a miracle in and of itself - the ability to get beyond one's self, to care so deeply about others and their needs that desires and passions are centered on serving, helping, assisting and connecting with them. That is one of the greatest miracles of life!
But when he asks me if I believe he really should be there and "fake it" to the end, and will it be worth it? And is it the right thing to do? and "why do I still feel empty inside"? I can't help but wonder what to tell him... I hesitate. I stumble. I can't utter the words that I know it is the right thing for him to do. All I can come up with is that I want him to find happiness in his service and find joy in his love for the people he is serving and to not worry about the rest. But that comes across as shallow and empty. Honestly, I don't know what to offer him. Do you?
Ned's most recent post used the term: "fake it until you make it". That clicked with me as the title to what this thought process has been as I contemplate advising my son, and then reflect on my own life. When I think about it, I've been playing the "fake it until I make it" game so long I don't know how to think or act otherwise. And that makes me sad. Yet, I'm the good and faithful father. I'm the patriarch that knows all. I need to be the guiding light, the messenger of hope, the champion of what is right and true. So, why do I feel empty inside when I should feel full of light and knowledge?
The other night I finally watched "Inception" and it struck me that I've been living my life in different dream states. I have layered dreams of varying realities, stages upon which I play my life... sometimes I'm a gay man fantasizing about life in an open, loving relationship with another beautiful man. Other times I'm a married man to a wonderful wife, with family and kids and everything is well and we're working together for the common goal of "perfection" through living the Gospel and experiencing that redeeming effect of the atonement. And then there is the layer where I spend most of my dream state of reality being pulled by both other dream states until I feel like I'm going to literally rip apart.
I've been playing these roles within these dream levels that I find it hard to know what is real and what is just that - a dream. So, I keep "faking it until I make it" survival mode.
If that's the case, what then is reality? Like the Leonardo di Caprio character, once one lives his life in these different dream states for so long, it becomes very difficult to even recognize what is real and what is just a dream.
So I feel hypocritical in telling my son that what he is doing is the best for him. I feel hypocritical in telling him to just keep "faking it" until he finally gets it and gains that conviction that he personally feels is lacking. I do have my convictions that have come at a terribly personal sacrifice and price, and I cherish them, but I don't "know" it all, and as such, I keep "faking it" until some day I might "know"...
but the idea that he's got a gay father who hides this basic truth from him, a man who pretends to be one thing on Sunday, the priesthood leader and faithful husband and devoted father and believing, never doubting, church member; and then another thing all together opposite in his mind, a conflict and battle raging inside of dream states of drastically juxtaposing worlds where love and expression and honesty and faithfulness create images and feelings of a fantasy that can only exist in a dream world, for they NEVER could be reality...
leaves me void of advice and council to give my son. Do I tell him that the only way to live this life, the only way that I know how to survive living in this life...
is to "fake it until you make it"?
Where is the wisdom in that?
When he asked me point blank what I thought he should do, and if I could even understand what he was going through as his doubts are getting the better of him, I wanted to reveal to him right then and there my "secret"... It was the first time that I thought he might be able to understand and accept me for who I really am, but with wife and daughters listening in, I couldn't do it - it wasn't the right forum for them. But the thought has resonated with me since then... I can see the day that he will be able to accept this truth about his father. Yet, I am haunted by that possibility: Will he accept the hypocrisy that has been the story of my life once he knows the truth?
Maybe none of this is real!... maybe I'm just lost in a fourth-tier dream state and there is no way of getting out without losing my mind.