Wednesday, November 23, 2011
As my "inner Maurice" and "outer Clive" continue to act out their play in my mind's stage, and manifest themselves in real life, I continue to search for peace - peace between these two conflicting aspects of my being. Will my Maurice and Clive ever get together and work it out and come to terms and live at peace together?
Occasionally one hears something at Church and it registers enough to linger in the back of the mind, compartmentalized for future pondering.
One such pondering has been this:
"Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of God no matter the conflict."
As one "conflicted" as I, this thought has lingered: the peace I seek and sometimes find, is not because of the absence of conflict in my life (be that from the pain resulting from serious family issues, or the stress from living a less than authentic life), but because I still feel the presence of God and his acceptance of me, the real me, and my family.
That's what I'm most thankful for this Thanksgiving... that peace, despite or in spite of the conflict, internal or otherwise, that still comes.
Monday, November 07, 2011
There is another level to my feelings about the film "Maurice" that affects me on a daily basis, that pulls me back, that keeps me checked, even left to lock the window tight at night, though longingly looking out at others...
This is in the world of the MOHO community here.
I have been part of the Maurice and Clive world of meeting on a mountain rock, or grassy memorial ground and gently caressing a fellow MOHO's hand, fingering through his hair, or tightly touching his torso... that connection of bromantic friendship that Maurice and Clive experienced.
This stirred emotions inside me that were exhilarating, exciting and "stimulating", a stimulus that in other world would have been embarrassing, but in this time and space were miraculous and beautiful.
Holding him tightly, I felt the "excitement" expand to the point of him feeling it... whereupon he brought it to my attention, and I kept holding him whispering... "I know, isn't it wonderful!" My inner "Maurice" was outwardly expressing himself!
I wanted to go forward, pursuing even more, and becoming more and more "stimulated" to the point that I had to be checked... checked by my other self, my inner "Clive" where propriety ultimately wins out. I got scared. I backed off. I checked myself. I pulled back. I cut off ties. I broke the connection. I locked the window.
Fast forward to this weekend: I wanted so very much to attend the "Circling the Wagons" conference. I wanted to be part of that community, to open that window, to step out onto that balcony, to climb down that ladder or at least allow others to climb up to greet me.
Situations developed within the family that precluded me from going. Our child took some serious missteps that could lead to serious legal penalties and I had to be there to deal with the family situation, supporting my wife and child. I longed to be elsewhere at the conference with fellow MOHOs, but I couldn't. I guess I could have, but I chose otherwise. Family comes first, right? Sometimes it takes personal sacrifice. And sacrifice is defined as giving up something great for something better, right?
I couldn't sleep Friday night. I wanted so much to figure out how to do both - support my family and support the inner me, being fed by those of you who could help me to be more accepting of myself at this special once-in-a-lifetime self-affirming experience. Yet, I was scared. After being out to my wife and two of kids, it still is something that I don't openly express or allow expressing. I pull back. I fear the outwardly "excitement" or expression. I don't allow my inner self to have priority - so I hold back, I don't allow connections. I lock the window, and find myself looking out again, longingly...
I feel very sad to have allowed this to happen. I allow it to happen. I allow circumstances to make my choices for me, instead of creating my own circumstances and being in charge of my own life.
Yet, I did choose well. I don't totally regret my choice. I connected with a child who needed me in a unique circumstance. I supported my wife, not leaving her alone in a time of urgency and real need... and I found myself later on Sunday, "dancing with her in the kitchen" again (what has become a symbol of bonding commitment between us), holding her, loving her... sacrificing something great (my inner self) for something better (our family relationship), placing it above all else.
Is this life always a choice between "great" and "better"? Is there never a choice that allows one to experience and have both "great" and "better"? Is that possible? Or is there always the choice of one verses the other?
For now, I must live vicariously through the input and view of other bloggers who were able to attend this weekend's conference, but also symbolically watching how you live your lives and make your choices. I'm still locking the window, securing the house for another night, longingly looking out at that special mountain rock or grassy memorial ground, my inner-self left to watch and wonder...
Saturday, November 05, 2011
At the suggestion of a dear MOHO friend, especially with my current gay-themed movie watching mood in full bloom, I sat down and watched "Maurice", EM Forster's classic autobiographical gay tale of growing up and coming to terms with homosexuality in Edwardian turn of the century days as a student at Oxford. I had seen snapshots of the story on YouTube, but never had I taken the time to watch it in its entirety.
The Merchant-Ivory beautiful period piece of pre WWI England captured me completely. A huge fan of "A Room with a View" and "Howard's End", I watched it intently and devotedly, and came away thinking how much I have been or am part of the two main characters, Clive and Maurice (pronounced "Morris").
In one scene, Clive is the pursuer of Maurice's affection, and Maurice is the innocent and affectionate friend, never imagining that their caresses or fondness for each other, their playing with each other's hair, or long embraces meant anything but bromantic friendship. How this was me with my Italian friend during my mission... he affectionately in love with me, and me incapable of recognizing his advances as anything more than romantic friendship. Nothing happened until he professed his love for me, and I rebuked him, still some 30 years later feeling the pain of having done so.
Later Maurice rethinks his friend's confession of love for him, and sneaks into Clive's window and hugs and kisses him and professes his love as well... This scene reminded me of being in my friend's bedroom after my mission and returning to the mission as a RM and wrapping myself on top of him and kissing him - and now him shocked, reminding me of my RM status, and that I was to be going to the Swiss Temple that next morning, and shouldn't I return to my own bed.
The roles reverse again and Maurice finds this discovery of male contact insatiable and desires to have it more and more, while Clive returns to the role of proper gentlemen, marrying, keeping up proper appearances, status and decorum. This is when I come to my senses, stop pursuing a life with my friend post-mission, and return home, settle into a proper, righteous role as priesthood holder, provider and companion to a wife, marrying within 1 year. My friend comes to visit before entering the MTC, he still physically wants me, hugs me, kisses me in that guest bedroom, my wife down the hall left to wonder, and I hold back his physical advances reminding him of his temple visit that next day in preparation for his missionary service, and that we must keep our relationship within bromantic terms of friendship, with proper appearances, dignity, worthiness of temple blessings, and decorum above all else - passion be damned.
Oh how I bounced between these two characters, sympathizing and truly understanding each.
Maurice seeks to be cured by a doctor who puts him in a hypnotic trance. I've sought counseling as well, in hopes of finding the cure, or at least the cause for why I'm this way. So far, for Maurice the hypnosis did no good. So far, for me, the counseling has either been of no use or self-indulgent.
In the end, Clive is resolute to a life of self-hatred. He resolves to be a slave to his position, or station in society instead of a slave to his passion. I, too, have resolved to be a slave to my family, marriage, church position, and job status and predominate culture, instead of releasing my reigns and being a slave of my passions for men. I have done a pretty great job of hating myself.
In the end, Maurice throws caution to the wind, potentially losing his status, career, and opening himself to public ridicule and abuse, and allowing passion to win in the end with a man he loves. This part I can certainly understand but haven't yet embraced. It's a nice romantic idea, but not very practical. The two had nothing in common, but their passion. Their interests, education, and common experiences were so vastly different that in "reality" it would have never worked... but the story ends with the observer left to wonder if "passion conquers all", and that being authentic in one's attractions of who one is, is the most important thing.
"Now we shan't never be parted..."
I'm left wondering... wondering if I will forever be the proper gentlemen, secure in my stately home of position, with a loving wife who always wonders who I'm talking to , or what I'm thinking about, and me locking the doors and windows tight from those outside intruders, but while doing so, longing looking to see if anyone may still be coming to steal me away. Or wondering if I could have ever found happiness with my Italian friend had we given it a chance, despite our differences of culture and experience, allowing passion to rule the day, recognizing that church membership, family, position in society, etc. would be lost due to our relationship... but would we be happy? Would the physical passion be sustaining enough? Or would we be on to other more suited to our likings?
"I was yours 'til death once if you'd have cared to keep me..."
Oh the questions. I will never know. My friend, upon returning home early, acquired AIDS and soon thereafter died a miserably painful death. And I, the Clive of the story, was too proud to embrace him in his time of need, of reaching out for my love and affection - leading him to a pathway to self-destruction.
EM Forster's "Maurice" was hidden from being published until after his death, and even upon being published, it was shunned as an inferior literary work in comparison to his other novels. Yet, this film's 1987 interpretation feels real, genuine, and thought-provoking. I want to read his words. I want to obtain a copy and read it for myself. For you see, like Forster, like his two protagonists, Clive and Maurice, like my Italian soul mate and me, we are lost in the world of homosexuality amidst a backdrop of intolerance and bigotry...
What did the hypnotic doctor state - something along the lines that "I would advise you to live in some country... France, Italy, where homosexuality is no longer criminal...Will England ever come around?... England has always been disinclined to accept human nature". What a great line!
It's interesting to read some of the YouTube comments:
"aren't we so fortunate to have been born in a day where it's less sucky to be gay"...
...whereupon another responds: "Man, how can we expect change when even all you guys are fighting about what the "right" attitude should be for homosexuals growing up during this time. Of course he wanted to be cured, who wouldn't want to be cured of something they are told everyday is wrong. When it's shamed in the house and in church. Now we have people to talk to, supporters, and support. Seriously, don't judge what you don't understand. We weren't there, we didn't live it".
Whereupon I respond with a chuckle... little do these commentators recognize the world that is mine that is still as Edwardian England here and now in the 21st Century Utah, as in 1913 England, where we are still and always will be "disinclined to accept human nature", where we still make choices that may seem counter-intuitive or incapable of living authentically... and where we "shouldn't judge what we don't understand."
I am there. I am here. I am living it still.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
I've seen bits and pieces of it, but never have I sat and watched the entire movie before now. I know, I know... I should have my MOHO membership card revoked for sure. But maybe I didn't feel ready for the emotions of "Prayers for Bobby", until now...
I was alone this past weekend and I really had so much work to get caught up on, but I felt so empty inside - I couldn't work. So, I took this "opportunity" and watched Bobby's suffering. Whether it was the exact time period represented of my high school and early college years that registered so deeply, whether it was the overwhelming self-righteousness, whether it was simply the loneliness of not being understood, even by oneself, or whatever, I came undone. I came completely undone.
I haven't allowed myself to cry like that for some time. I sobbed uncontrollably, (grateful that no one had seen me break down so terribly) shaking and blubbering to the point that it scared me. What was I crying for like this? I knew the storyline, and even the ending. I wasn't surprised by the portrayal of family misgivings, heart aches, and coming to terms with such deep tragedy, but I was surprised by being swallowed hole by the grief and angst within my own misunderstood soul.
I just let it come out... as if this grief and pain was coming up and expressing itself from within the secret depths of my being. Why was this happening? What is going on? Why do I feel so ashamed? What am I ashamed of? Am I ashamed of who I am as a confused gay man? Or am I more ashamed that I have allowed myself to refuse to express the emotions and feelings and anger of a hidden, frozen man - thus permitting life to happen instead of be lived.
Except for the fact that I would not permit myself to recognize these feelings of my high school self, this could have been me - the perfect, sensitive son of a "perfect all-American, religious" family, the son who could do no wrong, and desired nothing more than to please his parents and embrace their beliefs and make them proud and happy, to the point that forever, I would keep from them the longings of a grocery store stocker boy who drooled over the beautiful young men parading through the supermarket. The son who wanted to kiss a girl to prove to himself that he could, only to be found receiving a mission call never having kissed anyone (guy or girl) and a friend (who was a girl) who wanted to be sure I could honestly tell my companions that I had kissed a girl, laying a big fat one on me. The son who was the obedient, faithful missionary, who found out while serving at the end of his mission how fantastically amazing it was to kiss a man instead - and the amazing way it made this missionary son feel, until the time to return home and face the family - amazement being replaced by fear, guilt, shame.
Only once did I feel like taking my life, the despair and pain of "coming out" to my wife and the grief, frustration and hellacious agony it caused her to suffer... such suffering that made me realize it would be better for her , for our kids, for everyone, if I were to disappear from this life. I contemplated how to do it... it wasn't the freeway overpass in front of an 18-wheeler, but instead the leap from the hotel balcony window at the corner of 2nd South and West Temple. I parked my car across the street and contemplated how it would feel to jump and be free of this fear, guilt, and shame, and free those I loved from their agony over what I was, what I had become.
That was nearly seven years ago. Seven years! Seven years of suicidal thoughts. Seven years of driving my wife crazy with confusion, self-doubt and depression, sucking her into my closet, instead of opening up and coming out. Seven years of looking over my shoulder wondering what she is thinking or feeling as I might tough a guy or give him a hug beyond the 3-pat back slap priesthood quicky hug.
And so there is no relief. Coming out to her just complicated things. Yes, we are closer and understand each other better, and in some ways we are improving because of my coming out to her, yet, it has certainly complicated things.
Why didn't I jump? I guess, like always, I'm just as afraid to die as I am to live...
NOTE: there was a particular scene that struck me as funny. It was the one where the two religious leaders were sitting in hard-back chairs in front of the family on the sofa, trying to offer some condolences, but coming up short. One by one, family members left until the mother was left alone with the clergy. It made we think of home teaching and how often I felt like the clergy in the chair uncomfortable in being there and the family not really wanting me either. I chuckled a bit. There was another meaning, though, where I thought: What if those were their home teachers? What would they have said? Would they have been able to have compassion and offer sincere and meaningful hope of the unconditional Love God has for each of his children, including and maybe particularly for his gay children?
Would they? Could they? I hope so... Could I? Most definitely!
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
As noted, while finding myself in the bachelor mode for a week or so, I've felt inclined to look into watching a couple of gay-themed films. I rewatched Latter Days and Brokeback Mountain. I've commented on these in the past and the only thing I can say now after a couple of years, is that how much I feel for the plight of these men portrayed in these films. I've noted before how real Latter Days was for me, having developed a bromantic / romantic relationship (innocent as it may have been) similar to Elder Davis' with a simple hug and kiss... Had it not been for a very understanding companion at the time, I'm sure I could have been sent home as well, and faced some sort of discipline.
With Brokeback Mountain, I was so emotionally charged the first time I watched it. This time I felt nothing but emptiness, even a void of emotions. It was like being suck dry. The only part that really gets to be personally is the deception played between Ennis and his wife and that she knows and when he is caught, what torture I feel inside with the portrayal of real deception.
Upon my search for some other films, I came across this short film called "Touched" that "touched" me more deeply - maybe because it was new to me and caught me off guard, or maybe because I can definitely identify and see myself literally in the main character (a 53 year old pudgy Mormon man with glasses, who was married for 23 years with 7 kids, coming "out" at 45 and now searching for meaning in his life - stopping in a gay bar for no other reason than an exploration of a "spiritual" journey of hoping to "touch" someone or be "touched"). Other than the gay bar and the 7 kids, this could be me most definitely!).
I typically don't clip videos, but this one may be an exception. (NOTE: WARNING - viewer discretion: the language is pretty rough).
What is amazing to me, other than seeing myself in the main character's eyes of a man being attracted to a beautiful young man with a gorgeous young beard and smile, a young man half his age, easily the age of children (now if anything sounds exactly like me - that is me!), is that the biggest desire is to connect, to hug, to simply be held, to be "touched". There is no sex. There is no nudity. There is nothing other than a hug, being held, connecting. As much as the young man needed it, it was wonderful to see the older man offer himself to someone who wanted to hurt him - and being rewarded for the "connection" he needed as well.
Maybe I'm the only one, but in my world, in my situation, with my circumstances of "lack of connection" and "lack of touch", this really registered deeply... more so than with Christian and Aaron, or Ennis and Jack.
How do I do this on my "spiritual journey"? How can I safely put myself out there without going to the "gay bar" or without the deception and hurt of Ennis's wife? Even the guy in this short film had to let his marriage and religion go, to be placed on this journey... I'm not ready to do that (if ever)... yet the yearning is still there.
I'd be interested in your comments as always...