A Hand to Hold

This blog post is an attempt to write about something that I keep rather private. It’s an attempt to write about something that is sacred to me. It’s an attempt (I hope the first of many attempts) to write openly about my spirituality and my sexuality.

On Sunday, I went to see a production of Lamb of God. This choir performance sings about the last week of the life of Christ. I attended at a local building of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I came away with a lot of feelings.

I sat next to two separate couples. Halfway through the performance, the couples held hands and rested heads upon shoulders. It was intimate and close. Those people had another human who, for that moment in time, was theirs. Those humans had a connection to them that I have rarely, if ever, experienced; within a social setting, they were able to claim and be claimed at the same time. In this world of solitude, they had someone else who they could physically, emotionally, and romantically connect with.

Simply put, they had a hand to hold.

For a gay man in the LDS church, this is not a possibility at all. I’ve been told many times that it is possible to be gay and Mormon. Honestly, I do not see that possibility when one of my deepest desires is to have the connections of those couples that surround me in the church—to have a hand to hold while walking down Main Street or worshipping God. Having an intimate, romantic, physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual connection with someone of the same sex is forbidden in the church. Sure, someone in that type of relationship can attend church and be a part of the community (All Visitors Welcome, right?), but they are excommunicated from the spirituality the church and the gospel it teaches provides. As a man initiated in the priesthood, I am shamed for rejecting my eternal calling of being sealed to a woman and leading an eternal home in righteousness, even though if I were humble and obedient to the Lord and bowed the knee and got married to a woman, I would be destroying that woman’s mortal and eternal life.

The most difficult thing about having been raised Mormon and being gay is that two of the most intimate parts of my life—my spirituality and my sexuality—are put at odds. I want what the church gives: the direction, the purpose, the community, the doctrine. I love the church; I grew up with it and dedicated many years of my life to it. It helped me through dark times and helped me survive an emotionally and psychologically abusive childhood without taking my own life. It’s done great things for me, and I love it and I’m grateful for it. My problem comes when my love of it is equal to the desire for a hand to hold; I want that someone to call my someone and for me to be considered his. But I also want the church and the gospel.

That’s the struggle “Mormon and gay” forces upon people who have grown up in and loved the church, yet find themselves attracted to the same sex. They want both, but one of the two says they do not want them.

Yes, most members are kind and willing to step up and show love. But, institutionally the church rejects its members who want to be accepted in the church community. I cannot sit in a sacrament meeting with the man that I am dating and hold his hand like heterosexual members can with their significant other. I’m sure that many people would be fine with me coming to church with a same-sex partner, but the institution is not comfortable with it, thereby making it a very uncomfortable reality—for what I love and want in this life, I have to give up this other part of my life. For that hand to hold, I have to give up Christ’s hand as provided through the LDS church. And that’s the hardest decision I think I’ll ever make in my life (for the record, I have not made a decision either way).

It’s the reality I face every time I come close to the church—like this past Sunday, when I attended the performance of Lamb of God. I want the feelings that come with the church—the peace from the teachings, the encouragement toward goodness, the community of people who care—but I can’t get past the fact that if I have that, I will never have a hand to hold. As it stands, there is not a place for both. And it hurts, more deeply than you can ever know.

On Form, Looking, and Being: Some Muddled Morning Post-Gym Thoughts

Over the last month or so, I’ve been consistently going to the gym. It’s been tough work. I’m not the most fit person. According to the doctor’s handy guide to body size, I’m what the medical profession would term “overweight, almost obese.” I’m sure that brings up pictures of me as a rather large person, but I don’t think I’m that large. I am no Chris Pratt post-Parks&Rec/now-GuardiansoftheGalaxy (working on it, though. #Goalz). I mean, here’s a picture of me:

Whenever I tell people I’ve been going to the gym, I get the response of, “Oh, you’re not too fat” or “You’re beautiful just the way you are.” Thank you for the positivity. The truth of the matter is I don’t go to the gym just because I’m too fat or want to lose weight. I don’t go to the gym because I want to fulfil some cultural perspective of tons of abs and super huge muscles and beautiful masculinity.

I go to the gym because I want to be healthy.

I go to the gym because I want to be fit.

And, yes, I go to the gym because I want to look great according to our cultural standards of greatness.

The reasons behind that will be in a different post, but for this one I want to focus on why I want to be fit instead of simply looking fit. Hence, why I said I go to the gym to be, not to look in the first two lines above.

I noticed today that there are a lot of people who swing weights while at the gym. This is not good form because instead of using your muscles it utilizes physics to propel the weight up and down.

I tried to put myself into the head of these weight swingers. If I were swinging weights, I could look like I’m lifting a lot of weight and thereby feel like I’m lifting a lot of weight in order to perceive that I am strong and fit and muscular. That plays right into cultural views of beauty and how we must look. It helps you think you’re doing great, but it doesn’t help you actually do great. You leave the gym feeling pumped (“I just lifted 200 pounds, bro”), but you never make any true and serious gainz.

If you use proper form—control your weight movements—then you actually begin to grow muscle, tone your body, and use the gym properly.

That’s why I want to be fit instead of look fit. Yes, I should push myself and try to lift more weights each time I go to the gym. But I shouldn’t do that at the expense of form. The gym is not a race. It’s not about who can lift the most. It’s about consistency. It’s about persistence. It’s about making yourself do better, even if it’s just a little bit better form on the same amount of weight each time.

My Five Tools to Living My Most Effective Life

I use my twice in the title of this blog post because these are tools that I use for my life. I don’t think they’ll work for everyone, and that’s okay. A lot of the enjoyment and fulfillment that comes from this life is discovering who you are and what helps you succeed. I share these in an effort of communion, and I’d love for you to share five tools with me from your life. I might not implement them into my life, but I’d like to hear about them because your life is important to me.

(Random picture of a puppy because puppies are important to effective living, imho. Photo cred.)

Make Bed Every Morning.

I make my bed. Every. Morning. Why? It helps my bedroom feel like a place of peace and stability. When I look at my made bed, I know that sleep is important and worthwhile. Even though I don’t sleep as much as I should, the time I do spend in sleeping is made even more important by making my bed every morning (it’s a mental thing). My bed becomes a calming focal point in my life.

If my bed is made, I know I’ve accomplished one thing, and that’s worth it.

Reset. Weekly.

On Sunday, I clean my room, my house, and my life. After I tidy up the physical things in my life, I organize my computer. I make my desktop look clean and clear. I put files that I don’t need any more on my external drive. I clear out my Dropbox and decide what projects I will be working on for the week. It’s a moment where I get to rest, relax, and rest.

Utilize white boards.

Currently, I have two white boards in my room. I utilize them for different things at different times. Right now, I have some due dates, project titles, random thoughts, reminders, and quotes written on them. They help me physically manifest what’s happening mentally in my brain.

I’m a fan of the to-do list; it goes up on my white board so anyone who enters my room can see it and so that I can be accountable to my white board.

I named one of them Larry, the other Carl. Might change, but I like them right now.

Think. Write. Repeat.

A lot is happening in my brain. I’m thinking about research I’m doing or creative projects I’m working on. I think about people I need to reach out to or little things I can do to help my roommates. When I have these thoughts, I try to write them down. I use my Notes app on my phone because it’s in my immediate vicinity always (hashtag Millennial problems, anyone?).

When I do my reset on Sundays, I try to go through my Notes app and see what I’ve thought about so I know what I can work on. It doesn’t always work (I have a lot of notes from the week), but sometimes it does.

Challenge Self.

The final thing to living my most effective life (in this list at least) is I challenge myself. I am my greatest rival. When I work on things, I want to do them faster and better than ever before. In this way, I continue to become a better editor and a better writer. For me, constantly improving means I’m living. I’m not stagnant. I keep moving forward.

I’ve shared mine, now it’s time to share yours. Shoot me a message or comment on this post so we can discuss what your five tools for your effective life are.

End-of-Year Editing Deal

Hello writing friends,

I am offering an end-of-year deal for my editing services. I edit all types of genre fiction and nonfiction—really, anything that has words or images in it. The deal is as follows:

  • First-time clients get 20% off their first editing job with me (this is a constant discount)
  • If you contract with me before December 31 for a job in 2018, you’ll receive 15% off (if you’re a new client, you’ll receive 20% plus 15% off)
  • If you don’t know the exact work you’ll have ready in 2018, you can sign a preliminary contract. This means you promise to work with me on at least one job in 2018. The preliminary contract holds a spot for you in my editing schedule and saves you the 20% off (if you’re a first-time client) on top of the 15%. If you do not work with me on a project in 2018, you’ll just owe  $15 by the end of the year (this is just to pay for him keeping track of your discount and sending you encouraging emails with memes and writing quotes and other things throughout the year in order to help you finish your writing project).
  • When you sign with me, be sure to tell me who referred you (if you came across this on my website, tell me that and I’ll enter the referral bonus into a raffle for all my clients, including you). I give a 10% discount for each referral who signs with me. The 10% can be used with any other discount.

Be sure to capitalize on this wonderful opportunity! You could earn up to 45% off your editing.

Contact me today to learn about my pricing and services, and see what I can offer you.

19 Days, 5 Hours, and 25 Minutes Later . . .

I just finished The Wheel of Time series audiobooks. Over the last two months, I’ve been able to follow the adventures of Rand, Egwene, Mat, Perrin, and the numerous cast of other characters that Jordan used to reveal his world to us. I will be going back through the books in order to create a series of blog analyses of certain aspects of the text and world. Before that, though, I want to leave you with some thoughts from the series.

  1. Scope

The Wheel of Time has received a lot of flak for its epic scope. The series began as a trilogy and then turned into a fifteen-book behemoth saga about the impending destruction and salvation of an entire planet.

Each book (sans the prequel, New Spring) is roughly more than 800 pages, with the longest (The Shadow Rising, book four at 393,823 words). The total word count for the entire series, including the prequel, is 4,410,036 words. That’s a lot of words. (Hbint: a typed, double-spaced page is about 250 words per page. That’s roughly 17,640 double-spaced pages.)

I love this aspect about the book. I love the gargantuan effort it is. I love that it’s truly epic. When I think of epic, I think of Beowulf, the Odyssey, and Paradise Lost—epic poems written before there were typewriters and computers. These are stories on the grand scale, just like the Wheel of Time is.

The scope of this book is epic, and it delivers on that promise.

  1. Side Characters

The epic qualities of this series provide for the excellent use of side characters. Jordan really knew his characters. Many parts of the novels follow side characters down side plots that are woven back into the entire pattern of the story. I love these moments because side characters—especially well-developed, dynamic, and defined side characters—make or break a story for me.

One of my favorite side characters is Sebban Balwer. Introduced in the sixth book, he works for the Children of the Light and then moves with the main characters once the plot continues. His character is fascinating, though, because of how Jordan uses him. If I remember correctly, he doesn’t get a POV chapter, but through his interactions with the other characters, we see the depth that Jordan put into this character who could just be filling an archetype.

  1. Gender

Gender in this book is complicated and nuanced, just like it is in the real world. Yes, women are high in power (being the only gender to have access to the magic system at the beginning of the series), but sometimes Jordan’s treatment of women feels rather patriarchal. I actually rather enjoy this part of the series; it shows how imperfect we are as humans. Even with a society that has women in a place of power, there are still issues related to gender.

One of the good qualities of gender in the Wheel of Time is that it departs from former science fiction and fantasy series and their treatment of women. For example, The Sword of Shannara and The Lord of the Rings contain large travel journeys where the travel group contains only male characters. The Eye of the World added female genders into the travel group with characters Moiraine, Egwene, and Nynaeve. While I can’t claim Jordan’s series was the first to do this, I do believe it to be one of the most epic and largescale stories that did it, even with numerous examples of it not being done before him.

So, here I sit, typing after 19 days, 5 hours, and 25 minutes of listening for the past two months. I feel fulfilled. I feel like I want to delve more into this world with another reread. I feel like I want to understand more of what this text has to offer because it has a lot to offer.

New Website: Under Construction: Stay Tuned

It’s been a long time coming, but I wanted to update to a new website that was more focused on blogging and representing my work/services that I have to offer. So, without further ado, here is my new website.

I’m sure it will be a little bit klinky over the next few weeks. But, I hope it will be a great place to combine a lot of things.

One of my main goals with this website is to create a presence through blogging more—especially about books. Since I have deleted all of my social media accounts to focus more time on people, writing, and books (in that order), I still need a way to have a presence online. It’ll be these blog posts (which will mostly be reviews of books, thoughts about writing, and important updates in my writing career) and this website.

I hope soon to set up a way for you to receive updates in your email for when a blog goes live. Stay tuned.