Stepping on Others to Get Ahead … and M.O.R.E.

In recent days, I have been feeling like my personality has been changing in some big ways, so I took another MBTI personality test on the 16 Personalities website to see if I was still typed the same way. I felt like I answered all the questions differently this time, but it seems like no matter how I answer the questions, I always get the same result – INFP. Over a period of decades, I’ve taken MBTI tests on various websites with completely different questions, but the results have been consistent without exception. This time, the only difference was the percentages in each category showed me to be even more strongly INFP than previous tests (81% introverted, 69% intuitive, 82% feeling, and 83% perceiving). In the past, my introversion, feeling, and perceiving percentages have all been lower – nothing in the 80s.

Truth be told, I was kind of hopeful I’d get something different this time. I couldn’t lie though, even to myself. I had to put what I felt. For example, I had to rate the following statement with regard to how true it felt for me: “In your opinion, it is sometimes OK to step on others to get ahead in life.” How could I choose anything but the strongest possible NO. Maybe others felt differently, but this was not me. 

When I thought more about the question though, I thought about my wife. Nearly fifteen years ago, I married her because I wanted something that I couldn’t have on my own. I wanted a family. I wanted kids. I didn’t really want a wife at all, though if I had to be married to a woman, she seemed pretty great. I learned to respect and admire her for her many talents and positive personality traits. I have often felt guilty over the years though because I believed she deserved better than me. She deserved someone that would marry her for her and not for what she could give.

Over the years, I’ve tried to ease my guilt by reminding myself, and her, that I did tell her from the beginning that I was gay. She chose to marry me anyway. Basically, I placed the blame on her where none belonged. It was my mistake, an unfortunate result of social, family, and religious pressure. I further tried to make myself feel better by being extra nice to her all the time. Again and again, I gave her what I thought she wanted, sacrificing my own desires at every juncture.

Eventually though, the guilt caught up with me. I realized that I had stepped on her to get ahead, to get what I wanted. I used her. It’s no wonder that she doesn’t want to be with me any longer. I may not have made the mistakes she accuses me of, but I certainly made a big mistake. I married her under false pretenses. I told her I was gay, but she thought I was over that. It was something I used to be but was no longer the case. I think she believed I loved her the way a straight man loves a woman. After all, that was how I tried to act. I tried to be what I thought she wanted, even if it wasn’t how I felt. I never lied with my words, but I certainly tried to deceive her with my actions.

And so… is it “sometimes OK to step on others to get ahead in life?” It may be hypocritical, but I still say no, absolutely not. I would not do it again. No way. My wife and I will probably not stay married much longer, and if I ever get married again, it will be for all the right reasons. It will be because I want to be with him, not because I need him for something. It will be for love.

On another topic, I’ve recently started another blog site with a couple other people. It’s a unique experience for me as I’ve never worked collaboratively before. I’m planning to post some of my more religious and philosophical posts over there while this site will be for the more personal ones. Feel free to take a look – M.O.R.E..

A Woman Distraught

For at least a year or so, or perhaps much longer, there has been the image of a woman that keeps intruding into my mind. I don’t know who she is, but I have a general sense of what she represents. The idea is somewhat vague, but I feel like she is a woman that is deeply distraught. I believe her inner turmoil has something to do with religion and her complete inability to come to a knowledge of truth. Why does this bother her so much? Who in the world is this woman? Why do I care about her? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but I can’t stop thinking about her.

She is a rather petite woman, thin and not tall. Her hair is dark but not quite black. I’m not sure what she’s wearing, but her clothes are dark-colored. Her angst has brought her to the floor, and tears stream down her cheeks. I don’t think she’s Asian or fully Caucasian. She may be a mix of other backgrounds. Who is this woman? Why do I worry for her? I have a hard time watching people suffer. I know I’m overly sensitive, feeling her emotions as my own.

I think that the first time her image came into my mind was after I received an email from a caring relative who worried about my fall away from the family religion. I don’t remember the content of the email exactly. I can’t even find it now; there are so many. But some of the words seemed to imply that I should trust in them and not in myself. They were more knowledgeable and experienced in receiving inspiration from deity. I can’t quite make the connection to my thoughts, but I know the woman is struggling with trust. Is it a person in her life that she can’t trust, or is it what this person has decided to believe?

I’m not sure my struggle is the same as hers, but I feel that it’s at least similar. If I trust in the words of caring friends and family members about the truthfulness of their beliefs, I have to stop trusting in my own ability to think and reason; my feelings and emotions are all suspect. What then can I do? If I can’t trust my thoughts or feelings, I become like a child again, having to rely on others for everything.

Better than anyone, I know that I can make mistakes. I can come to the wrong conclusions even after much thought. I do my best to think rationally, but I’m not perfect. When both logic and feelings that I had once labeled “spiritual” told me that religion could no longer be trusted, I worried that I might have made a mistake. I wrote so many blog posts, hoping to have my errors pointed out. Friends or family members did speak to me on occasion after one or another of these posts, but they never spoke to what I’d written. The topic would be changed or avoided in favor of some other only loosely-tangential topic.

So my confidence grew that I was not wrong. I’m not always right, and I certainly am capable of making mistakes, but in this case, I have no reason to trust anyone else’s feelings or reasoning over my own. I like thinking. I like reasoning. I like trying to figure things out. In the past, I often defined myself as a thinker, and I still do to some degree. … But I still can’t figure out why the woman weeps.

In exchange for the freedom of thought I gained when I turned my back on religion, I lost relationships with many in my family. At least half of my friends stopped talking to me as well. Some of those that still talked to me suggested that I’d taken the easy path; I’d let go of the iron rod. Those I left behind proved to me with their words and actions that they understood little of what I had to go through in leaving religion. It would be hard to find something as difficult. Could this be part of the woman’s struggle – the loss of human connection?

The woman is not old. The feeling she gives is that she’s in her thirties. I don’t sense that she has much in the way of friends or family. Perhaps they exist, but in the vision I have of her, they play no role. She seems to be alone with no one to comfort her. I wish I could tell her that she’s not alone. No matter her struggle, we all share this world together, and despite the many claims to the contrary, the truth of our existence is still a mystery. Many have taken comfort in choosing one answer over another, but it seems rather arbitrary which version people choose. With very few exceptions, people choose the version of truth accepted by their family or society around them.

If the truth is known, I don’t understand why that truth is so hard to recognize. When I was young, I thought the Holy Ghost could tell me the truth, but how can a person know that what they’re feeling is the Holy Ghost? Different people describe it differently. They feel different things, and it tells them different things are the truth. Then, when people hear that someone else has felt something different, they claim that that is not the “real” Holy Ghost. They haven’t trained long enough. Their reasoning is flawed. And this goes on and on. I’m right and you’re wrong, and if you think you’re right, then you’re still wrong. But why? Surely, a god can’t expect us to unravel the truth using this method. 

If a god is real, and that god expects us to use the Holy Ghost to uncover truth, but my ability to hear the Holy Ghost is somehow flawed, even if I don’t think it is, what am I expected to do? I think that I feel the Holy Ghost, or at least the feeling that they are calling the Holy Ghost, as well as anyone. Others think I don’t because it leads me in different directions than it leads them. They tell me to trust or follow them because they have more understanding of the Holy Ghost or more experience. But how can I know that they are right? If I can’t trust what I believed was the Holy Ghost, what can I use to decide who to trust regarding religion and the truth of our existence? It’s a circle with no end.

I don’t know for sure, but I feel like the woman’s anxiety is closely related to this issue. She doesn’t know who to trust or how to tell who to trust. When the Holy Ghost fails to answer the question, people try to turn to logic. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work either. Why are there so many religions and belief systems in the world? If there is just one logical choice, why hasn’t it been found yet? If a god exists, it seems like they are being very secretive. Some say the reason for that is to test us. How do they know? Did the Holy Ghost tell them that? Another person passing on their version of logic?

Anyway, whatever the reason, I hope the woman I keep seeing in my mind is able to move past this period of unhappiness. I have no answers regarding gods, religion, the Holy Ghost, or the meaning of existence, but knowing that we (the whole human race) are all in this mess together has helped me more than I can adequately express. Maybe it can help her too, to know that she’s not alone. None of us are. The ones I feel most sorry for are those that isolate themselves by thinking they have the answers while the rest of us don’t. Do you really have the answers? How can I know?

Not Quite an Atheist

If I hear a voice in my head that tells me what is going to happen in the future, and then that prediction comes true, what happened? Did a god confirm their existence to me? Did vastly superior alien life forms from another dimension decide to reach out to me? Did the programmers of the Earth simulation I’m currently living through need me to know the future for an experiment they’re running? Maybe ghost visitors from the future came back to mess with me. Or maybe I’ve died already and am reliving my life in that final moment before I move on, and those voices I hear are my own. Perhaps I just imagined the voice and the fact that the voice was correct is only a coincidence. Maybe I have superpowers and haven’t learned to control them yet.

Every day around the world, people have strange experiences which don’t seem to have any clear explanation. If a person grows up in a Christian environment, they will probably credit their experiences to God or an angel, or maybe a devil if it is negative. They see these experiences as evidence for the belief system they have been taught, and they become more firm in those beliefs. But what is the real cause, and how can we know?

As much as I wish I could give an answer to that question, I’m left without anything to say. I don’t know why these strange things happen. Occasionally, I will hear someone say that they know such and such is true (aliens existing, their preferred god/gods being real, ghosts, etc.) because they had such and such an experience. What? This makes no sense to me. I can come up with so many different explanations for the same experiences, and I could go on and on and on. How do people know with such certainty that their preferred explanation is the right one?

I wish I could turn to science to help resolve these issues. Unfortunately, these experiences that I’m discussing are almost entirely personal. Each person’s experience is unique to them. And more unfortunately, they can’t be repeated with any consistency. The response of science has been to discount these experiences as inconsequential, imagined, non-existent, hallucinated, fabricated, coincidental, or whatever else lessens the importance of these experiences. Because these experiences can’t be tested, they are not considered science.

But even if an experience could be proven to have happened, that would say nothing about the cause. The fact that so many people attribute the same cause (an all powerful god) to these experiences only says to me that we’re not very creative or that we lack imagination. For me, the concept of a god or gods is still a possibility. I haven’t ruled it out. I’ve called myself an atheist in the past, but I’m not sure that’s completely accurate. 

In my search for answers, I’ve come to the conclusion that the super-god of western culture doesn’t make a lot of sense. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not open to the idea of other forces in the universe that are beyond our current understanding. The universe is a big place, and what do I know about the full extent of what might or might not exist in it. In fact, it’s hard to believe that in that great expanse there aren’t other intelligent entities out there, vastly more intelligent than any of us.

At the Red Light

One of my more vivid middle school memories never actually happened. You see, I had this habit of imagining conversations and scenarios with the people I knew or saw around me. The beginning of the story is true enough though. I was walking to school one early morning and approached an intersection.  A long line of cars, occupied mostly by parents and their kids, were stopped at the red light. Of the people I could see, nobody looked particularly happy. Tired faces looked blankly ahead. I certainly wasn’t the only one that would have preferred to sleep in that morning.

My mind wandered, and I began to imagine the conversation I might have with a boy in my grade, a boy with a reputation, at least in my mind, of being somewhat of a bully. Even in my imagination though, the boy didn’t want to talk with me. I was frustrated that he was being so stubborn. If only we could understand each other, we could be friends, I thought.

Whatever… I hate that word. Whatever. Closing the door. Conversation over. Talk to the hand. 

I got angry with him. I totally lost it. With a thought and a hand gesture, palm faced forward, I lifted the kid off the ground and suspended him high in the air. I don’t remember the particulars of the conversation, but I remember that the attempt to communicate ended in failure. I wanted to shake him, to make him listen to reason, and to make him stop his bullying behavior. We could be friends.

Ha!

Perhaps my imaginary scenario could have been successful if I weren’t playing both sides. I wanted to imagine him agreeing to give up his bullying ways and then enthusiastically asking to be my friend. Instead, I imagined myself as the poor kid being suspended in the air by some mysterious power. I freaked out. Friends? What? As if that could be possible! Maybe I’d say the words this monster wanted me to say, just to get away, but that would be the end of it. I’d be out of there as fast as I could.

Disappointed, I ended the scenario in my mind. Force doesn’t work. No matter what a person would say or agree to do in that situation, it would be false. It wasn’t what I wanted. 

I had other conversations with other kids where I tried logic instead of force, and these were similarly ineffective. As humans, we’re emotional beings. Logic can feel too much like manipulation. It can feel cold and calculated. Some behavior or action may make logical sense, but who are you to tell me what to do or how to act?

I realize that as I’m sharing this experience, I’m slipping back and forth between different points of view, but that was the nature of the experience. I played every role and tried to get in everyone’s head. I was every person simultaneously, and I did and said what I thought they would have done or said in that situation. 

In recent days, I’ve experienced some real-life closed doors and minds. It can be so frustrating, especially since I know exactly what it feels like to be the one with the closed mind. Words mean nothing. Logic is irrelevant. Just go away already! I can’t do this. It’s too hard. You are that way. I am this way.

I know the feeling, and I can feel it again if I try. But I prefer to just let it go. Optimism is better than pessimism. Hope preferable to despair. Maybe I can do it. Open the door. Just a crack. Some thoughts are more helpful than others. Let them in.

In my mind, I lower the poor frightened kid back onto the ground, and he takes off running. I’m sorry, I say silently. He’s long gone already. I wanted to be friends, but that’s not going to happen. That’s okay. I’ve let it go. I hope someone else can reach his heart though. Both being the bully and being bullied are terrible experiences that no kid should have to go through.

Force doesn’t work to change people. Not really. I gave up trying a very long time ago. Logic can work with some people sometimes, but not particularly well. I wish it worked better because some ideas make a lot of sense, and the world would be a better place. Respect for people often works. If I respect somebody and they say I should change in some way, I’ll think about it. Emotions though… feelings and emotions rule the heart and our paths through life. 

 

Just Emotions

Lots and lots of emotions. Love. Longing. Nostalgia. Sadness. Gratitude. Fear. Loneliness. Hope. Anxiety. Regret. Envy. I’m so full of emotions that I can hardly function. At work today, I had to cut short several conversations in order to avoid the awkwardness of crying in public. That’s not something I do. 

Anyway, I don’t think I have it in me today to share all of what I am feeling inside. To keep this mostly positive, I’m looking forward to being together with my family again. My wife suggests it might be in October or November. It will be so nice to be with them all. I miss my daughter. I miss my son. And at the moment, I especially miss my wife. … Love is love. 

I hope that once we’re together again, it will be a long long time before we have to say goodbye again. … Just let them be happy.

Why Must We Suffer Alone?

My post from just two weeks ago, Who I Am and What’s Been Going On, has somehow become my most viewed post of the last 5 years. Friends and family members in 13 countries on 4 continents came to see what has been going on in my life. Frankly, I have been more than a little surprised by the response. Not only did you read my post, but many of you decided to reach out and try to connect with me personally. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Many of you had kind words for me, and words of solidarity. As I read your words, and interacted with so many friends and family members, I realized that as is so often the case, there has been a misunderstanding. I do indeed experience a great amount of loneliness in my life, but I have never believed that I was alone in these feelings.

As a highly empathetic youth, I was always acutely aware of the feelings and emotions of the people around me, whether I knew these people personally or not. As I observed and listened to people at school, church, the park, or just in my neighborhood, I realized that suffering seems to be a universal phenomenon. We all suffer. We have pain that we don’t always express. We smile with our faces, but we cry inside. 

I have written before about my habit of sitting in my bedroom window sill as a teenager. I remember one day being so overcome with the pain of those around me, that I couldn’t help weeping aloud in my window sill as I looked out upon my hometown. Their pain was my pain, and it overwhelmed me to the point where I couldn’t function at all for hours. 

Mission Viejo - View from deck 2
The View from my Bedroom Window Growing Up

To this day, I sometimes wonder when I’m feeling the lows of depression, if it’s really my depression at all. I know that, at least sometimes, I can literally feel the pain of those I interact with. When I write posts about depression or loneliness, I’m not meaning to imply that I’m alone in my condition, or that others have let me down in some way. As I tried to make clear at the beginning of this post, I have a lot of people in my life that care about me. I have met and connected with good people wherever I’ve moved to and lived in my life. Most of the readers of this blog are people that have known me in person. If you are one of these, I appreciate our connection. Thank you for being a friend.

I know I’m not alone, and you’re not either. As many of you have reached out to me, to comfort me and to connect, I have felt your need as well. I wish I could be there for all of you. I wish I could be the answer to your own private suffering and longing for real connection. … But for the vast majority of you, I can’t.

Around five years ago in Taiwan, I was walking and talking with a friend. This good friend was feeling overwhelmed by the perceived obligation he had to maintain a connection with a growing number of individuals. He was constantly on his phone, chatting with multiple people at once. Like me, he was highly empathetic. He wanted to be there for all his many friends, to help them with their assorted worries and concerns, to give meaningful advice, and on and on.  

As we walked together, I convinced my friend to turn off his phone for a while so that we could have a more meaningful conversation. I can no longer remember the words that were spoken at that time, but I remember what lessons I took away from the experience. We can’t be there for everyone. We can’t be everyone’s good friend all the time. If we divide ourselves too thinly, our ability to do good is greatly decreased. Instead, it makes more sense to focus on just a few people in our lives.

The people that matter most to me are the people that I see in front of me. If someone falls, and I’m there to do help, I should. If my neighbor is hungry, and I have more food than I need, I would gladly share. I really don’t know my neighbors at all, but they matter to me. I can sometimes hear them, and feel their emotions, through the thin walls of my apartment. When I’m at work, my students and fellow tutors are the most important people in the world. When someone emails me or reaches out to me, they matter.

I don’t feel bad when distant friends or family members don’t go out of their way to try and connect with me. I assume they have their own lives and issues to deal with just as I do. I hope they don’t take it personally when I don’t reach out the way they might like me to. When I share my issues online, I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad for me. I’m just taking care of a personal need to express how I feel. I also hope that the words I write can help others. If it doesn’t help you, maybe it will help someone else. We all have our own circumstances.

Finally, if it does make you feel sad or uncomfortable when I share my experiences relating to depression or loneliness, consider taking action. I don’t mean writing or trying to connect with me, though I certainly do appreciate those people that have contacted me recently. What I mean is that there are countless others just like me all around. These people may seem fine when you see them, but things are often not as they appear. Everyone suffers. There is so much pain that is never expressed. Hidden  wounds. Unshed tears. Silent screams.

So, if you feel something for these silent sufferers, go connect with the people around you. Give a hug. Express gratitude. Offer a compliment. Don’t let the people closest to you continue to think that they’re alone or that nobody really cares.

Back to Church

As part of my job, I get the opportunity to interact with a lot of young people. I love the kids and my time with them, and they seem to like me in return. I try and be friendly most of the time, and I smile a lot. I’ve written blog posts about smiling before and how it’s an important part of my life and who I am. I smile at all the students, my fellow tutors, my supervisors, the parents, and whoever happens to be walking by. That’s just the way I am.

A month or so ago, one of my students noticed me smiling and being friendly toward one of my female coworkers. His face started to glow, and he had the biggest smile on his face. “What’s up?” I asked.

“You’re blushing!” he exclaimed. “You like her!”

I can’t remember what happened next on that occasion. I only know I tried to convince him that we were friends but nothing more. I remember how certain he was that he was right. I really just wanted to explain that I was gay and not really looking at her that way, but I didn’t. I’m still uncertain about how people will react to that knowledge. I wouldn’t be the only “out” individual at my workplace, but I’d be the only one working with young children, not that that should matter.

A few days ago, I had a repeat experience with the same child and a new female tutor that I was helping to train. Of course I was smiling and being friendly. “You like her!”

“I just met her,” I explained. 

“I’m old enough to be her dad,” I added when the kid insisted. “I have a wife.”

“Swear to God you don’t like her,” he said. 

“Umm…”

Anyway, I realized that this kid was probably at the age when he’s starting to notice and really be attracted to girls for the first time. Although I was equally friendly to everyone there, he only noticed those times when I was smiling at or being friendly to an attractive young female adult. My guess is that he was projecting his own feelings onto me. I didn’t call him out on it though. 

Later that same day, I was helping a child find their tutor, someone they’d never met before. “Don’t worry,” I told them. “They’re nice.” I made the comment privately to the new tutor I was helping that I thought all the tutors were pretty nice. “Not everyone,” she said. She said it kind of quietly, almost under her breath, and I wondered what experience she might have had in just the short time that she’d been there to make her think that there were unfriendly tutors.

When I started this job, almost a year ago now, I remember there were some tutors that would never make eye contact with me. In fact, there still are a couple like that. I see them making eye contact and smiling when they’re with their students, but they don’t interact much with people they haven’t met in a formal setting. That’s okay, I guess. I try not to take it personally. I wouldn’t call them unfriendly though, but maybe that’s not what my fellow tutor meant when she said, “not everyone.” Not being unfriendly doesn’t necessarily imply being friendly. I guess when I said everyone is friendly, what I meant was that nobody seemed particularly unfriendly.

Anyway, today being Sunday, I had nothing to do. I was in the mood to meet people and to be part of a community. I don’t know anyone at my apartment complex besides my neighbor, who I only seem to see about once every three or four months. So, for the purpose of feeling connected to a community, I found where the local Mormon congregation meets, and I attended church for the first time in nearly a year.

I don’t own a suit or white shirt, so no matter what I wear, I stand out from everyone at the Mormon church. I tried to be friendly and to look nonthreatening though. I sat in the back where there were still seats available. I had a direct line of sight to the front where the leadership sat. I could see them looking in my direction from time to time during the service. I expected someone would at least come and say hello at the end, but no one did. I tried to smile and make eye contact with people, but nobody went out of there way to greet me or to find out who I was. I wondered what I was doing there.

After the first combined meeting, everybody separated into other rooms for one more hour of meetings. I decided to give church one more hour as I had nothing else to do anyway. I thought that if I went early, I would give people more time to at least say hello. In the Sunday School room, I sat at the end of a row so that there would be plenty of room to sit near me if anyone so chose. Instead, the room filled up to near capacity with only the whole row of seats near me left available. Nobody sat near me. Nobody said hello.

I did listen to the speakers, and to the teacher in the second hour, and I sang all the songs with the congregation. I didn’t feel anything though. The speakers seemed almost desperate to prove their points that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon was true. Had it always been like this? Nobody seemed particularly happy either. It felt as if people were just going through the motions out of habit. They were only there because they felt they were supposed to be there. Was it just this congregation, or was this something more widespread.

At the end of the meeting, a few people did make eye contact and looked as if they might say hello, but instead turned aside to greet or otherwise mingle with people that they already knew. I made my way slowly out of the room, walked two laps around the building, and left the church. I gave them every opportunity, but I guess they had other things on their minds. 

As I left church today, I had two thoughts on my mind. First, I wondered if I weren’t just like my young student that thought I was in love with every attractive female I happened to smile at. Like him, maybe I was projecting my own thoughts and feelings onto others. I thought the members of this congregation seemed unhappy and all their talk about the Holy Ghost seemed to lack spirit of any sort. I felt like they were saying the words and playing a role, but none of it was real. Was it really them though, or did those feelings I had reflect something going on inside of me instead? I guess that’s still something I need to think about.

My other thought was about the young tutor that didn’t think everybody was friendly. At work, I usually go out of my way to say hello when I see a new face. I try and help the newcomers as much as I can. I’m a different person at work than I am at church. I’m a person that I like. I find everybody to be friendly because I bring that with me. I expect friendliness to be returned, and it almost always is. 

At church today, I wasn’t as proactive as I am at work. Yes, I tried to smile and make eye contact. I tried to make it easy for others, but I didn’t actually say hello to anyone or attempt to start any conversations either. If I had, I imagine people would have been friendly, and I could have had a different experience. Today, I could say that nobody was friendly. Maybe next time though, if there is a next time, I’ll be able to say that everybody was friendly.

Until then, I might just head out to Walmart. Last time I went shopping, I smiled and made eye contact with many people as I went up and down the aisles. And honestly, I got better returns from strangers at Walmart than I did from church today.

Who I Am and What’s Been Going On

This might end up being pretty long. I’m in the mood to write… And I’m not in the mood to care too much about organization, flow, coherence, grammar, or whatever else I might usually care about. I just want to write about who I am and what’s been going on in my life lately. I used to be a regular journal writer. I’m not anymore. These past few years have just gone by so quickly without much record of anything really happening.

A few days ago, I started a blog post by saying that I don’t feel much like writing anymore. I suppose that’s kind of true, but also not true. I’ve always had a desire to connect with people… and I’ve always felt like I’ve failed pretty miserably on that account. Instead of connecting with people, the things I write seem to push people away. Instead of increasing understanding, my writing seems to breed misunderstanding. The only comments I ever get seem to be the result of people jumping to conclusions. 

Family members especially have disappointed me. I don’t blame them though. They’re just unable to see from my perspective. I’m in a new space. I’ve moved on and left them behind, and I lack the ability to share how I think and feel without making them feel like I’m attacking them personally. It has never been my intention to hurt others, but I still have that deep seated need to form connections with others. So… I want to write, but I don’t want to at the same time. 

I hope that at least makes sense. No one ever says anything, but I can’t be the only one. Surely others have been in the situation where they’ve wanted to express their true feelings and thoughts, but also not wanted to for fear of hurting or offending the ones they care about. This is my life now, where a great majority of what I think and feel has become a point of conflict instead of a means to connect with those I care about.

So when did this great disconnect start? Maybe when I came out as gay? I can’t even remember when it was now. I put it in an email to the family, or a blog post, or something of the like. Maybe around 2011? Anyway, most of you know, but for those that don’t, my family is really big. I have 8 sisters and 2 brothers. When I came out to them, and everybody else, I believe only two, or maybe three, of my siblings made any kind of response. I don’t think my parents said anything at all. The word ‘gay’ was never uttered. I remember the siblings that did comment were positive, saying that they weren’t surprised or that now they finally understood why I never seemed interested in dating.

Nobody said anything negative to me. Why should they have? I was already married to a woman and had had a child with her. I was doing everything they thought I was supposed to be doing. What did it matter if I “used to” struggle with same-sex attraction? It was so easy to just ignore or pretend I’d said nothing. I guess it was my fault that things went that way too. I tried to pass it off as something in the past. I was gay but living a straight lifestyle now. People respected me for doing the “right” thing under difficult circumstances. Eventually, in the next life perhaps, God would take away my same gender attraction.

I wish I could have had someone to really talk to though, about everything I had been going through. I had nobody. I was so alone, and none of my family members were there for me. And although my wife had known I was gay from before our marriage, not even she really accepted it. Just pretend we’re a normal couple. That’s what we did for over a decade. She said she was okay with it when I came out to others eventually, but it did cause tension in actuality. It was difficult for her to deal with when others found out, and she couldn’t just pretend we were normal anymore. Still, I was able to connect with her better than I could with my parents or siblings.

The thing is, being gay isn’t just about who you want to be intimate with. It affects so much more than that. I used to pray for God to take away my gayness, but I think I never really wanted that prayer answered. If I weren’t gay, I really wouldn’t be me anymore. It’s more a part of me than how I look on the outside – like hair, eye, or skin color. Physical appearance can change, but I’m still me on the inside, and being gay is part of that, and is a part that I wouldn’t honestly want to change.

A couple years after coming out as gay, I felt compelled to come out in a different way, in a way that would drive the wedge deeper. Despite a deep trust and faith in the religion of my family for most of my life, I was unable to hold onto it. That was six years ago now, in 2013. The thing is, religion is a defining characteristic for most of my siblings and certainly for my parents. Most of them are so deeply religious that I think they’d even be willing to die for their religion. I know I would have been willing, right up to the moment I let go.

And so there I was, back in 2013, knowing in my heart that I was now fundamentally different from my family members and most of my friends. I could have pretended that things hadn’t changed, and I seriously considered it. But that’s not me. If anything, I’m true to my ideals. I prefer to live authentically, even if that means losing connections with those I had previously been close to. For those of you who are familiar with MBTI personality types, I’m an INFP. I think that’s probably pretty obvious to anyone that has read many of my blog posts.

So, I decided I had to tell everyone the truth. In the same way as I shared my homosexuality, I came out to everyone as a nonbeliever. This revelation got a bigger reaction, though still quite a bit less than what it might have been in any other similarly religious family. If anything, my siblings hate confrontation of any sort. They tend to be very agreeable and inoffensive.  I suppose these are good characteristics for the most part, but often I’ve wished that they’d just come out and say what they really think and what they really feel. That would be so much better than the overwhelming silence I’ve had to face these past several years.

Lonely, and craving human connection, I blogged quite a bit between 2013 and 2015. I asked my family members not to read my posts because I recognized that rather than bringing us together, my writing was pushing us further apart. I did want to connect with people with regards to what was going on in my life back then, but I didn’t want to completely alienate my family. I don’t think I really needed to ask that of them though. Those that would read, would. Those that wouldn’t, wouldn’t. I don’t think anything I said ever made a difference.

Of those that did choose to read, the one that was hardest to deal with was my mom. The problem was that she never seemed to read in order to understand me or how I felt. Instead, it seemed that she just wanted to figure out where I’d gone wrong so that she could fix it. She had all the wisdom and I was some poor lost sheep that needed help. At least that’s how she made me feel. 

Years have gone by and not much has changed. My “wiser” loving mother, along with a couple of siblings, will occasionally comment on one of my more controversial blog posts or send a more private email regarding something I’ve written. You’d think I’d want that. I’m always asking for comments or more interaction from my readers, but what I get from family usually disappoints. They don’t understand what I write. They can’t understand even when they try. I write as clearly as I can. I say things in direct fashion, and still they misinterpret and take things the wrong way. They quote scriptures at me and the words of church leaders that speak to other issues than the ones I’ve written about. And yet, I’m not sure if I prefer the silence of my other siblings or not. One sibling, out of 10, has seemed to make more genuine efforts to connect.

The point? I still want to be understood. I still want to connect. I’m tired of all the shallow conversations I have with people in my day to day life. Hi. How are you? I talk about traffic and the weather all day, wishing I could talk about philosophy, religion, and the purpose of life instead. As an academic tutor, I talk on a variety of topics with my students, but not one of them, or my fellow tutors, knows that I’m gay. Not one has an inkling of what sort of things I like to think about. Nobody knows me, and that hurts. I write to connect and to be understood, but I’m not making those connections and I’m not understood.

So should I still write?

Sometimes, my son talks about how he would really like a friend – a best friend. That was always my dream as well when I was young. I don’t think that dream has changed. My two closest friends when I was young have never talked to me about anything deep or real. I still long for the day when I can make that kind of connection with even just one person in my life. I shouldn’t say that I’m completely without that in my life, but what I have is simply not enough. Who can I talk to about being and growing up gay in an extremely religious family? Who would understand what that is like? I know there are people out there, but nobody that I’ve met or talked to. Who knows what it’s like to feel a great rift between themselves and all those they’ve ever loved or cared for? Who knows what it’s like to believe in a religion so deeply that you could give your life for it, and then have that taken away from you? Who knows what it’s like to be so completely misunderstood by what feels like everyone? I know there are many of you out there. Why do I have to feel so alone?

Oh, and then there’s depression and all that comes with that. I think I’d be depressed by my life even if I didn’t have some other brain related reason for it. I wonder if anyone else in my family goes through the same thing. I don’t think they’d admit it though. Maybe they would, but there’s such a stigma placed upon unhappiness in the church, it would be difficult to admit it. If they’re living the way they’re supposed to, according to their religion, they should be happy. So what if they’re not? I hope they know they can talk to me, that I’d understand.

For two years now, I’ve lived separate from my wife and daughter, and one year separate from my son. I miss them. I love my kids so much. Originally, my wife had suggested that I take both kids with me to America. I was only able to take my son because my daughter is adopted and required more paperwork to prove she’s our legal daughter. I kept my son with me for a year, and then a year ago, my wife came and took our son back with her. Now, two years since I left Taiwan, the initial paperwork has finally been approved. The wait isn’t over though because there is still more that needs to be done. It will probably just be months though instead of years.

I’m not sure how to feel about the progress that’s been made. On the one hand, I’m excited about the prospect of being with my kids again. One of my greatest desires in life was and always has been to be a father. On the other hand, I’m not sure the issues that made my wife feel like the kids and I needed to leave have really been resolved. The truth is, my wife and I never should have gotten married in the first place. I don’t want to say it was a mistake because a child came into the world as a result, and he is very loved by both of us, but as I am now, I wouldn’t have married her, or any woman. We got married as the result of family and religious pressure. I used to feel guilty for subjecting my wife to a life with me when I couldn’t love her the way she needed, but now I blame the religious culture that brought me up. I don’t think I really had a choice. Religion has hurt us both. Now though, without those pressures, I wouldn’t make the same mistakes.

What else is there to say? I did warn that I had a lot to write today. I have to say I’m actually pretty happy with my life at the moment. I have a job that I love, even if it doesn’t pay very well. I get to interact with kids of all ages and with other great people. We can’t connect on any deep level, but even that surface level is enjoyed. I have a brother that lives nearby that will occasionally be in the mood for the kind of conversation I enjoy, together with his wife, and I’m often able to feel a connection with them. Even when they’re not in the mood for that type of conversation, I enjoy the experience of having family nearby. It helps to lessen the general loneliness that is my life.

I think I will continue to blog from time to time. Maybe this kind of writing doesn’t ultimately allow me to connect with people the way I’d like, but it does feel good to put thoughts into words. I just need to learn not to care too much about what others think about it. Any of my family members who are going to be offended by my writing probably already have been and have likely stopped reading these posts at this point. It’s sad, but that’s just how it is.

One more thought that’s on my mind before I finish today – since I’m just rambling anyway and don’t really have a topic – is how I feel that despite all the changes that have occurred in my life, I don’t really feel any different than I did as a young teenager. This may seem random, but it’s how I feel about who I am. I’m still a kid inside – the same kid I always have been. I’ve learned a few things over the years, but I’m fundamentally the same. Perhaps my expectations are somewhat more realistic, but maybe not. I wonder sometimes, when I look at older people, if they see themselves the way I see myself – as a kid in an adult body. I have to act grown up from time to time, but it really is just an act. I hate seeing mirrors and being forced to acknowledge that my face is looking older. 

I feel like my mind is stuck in my teen years. I often wish I could go back and really live them. Not relive them because I don’t feel like I ever really did. I wish I could have attended school without religious beliefs. Would I have figured out that I was gay earlier? I wish I could have pursued a youthful crush. Would I have gotten my heart broken? I would still like to have tried. I wish I could have lived life in a more carefree manner… but then I guess it wouldn’t be me anymore in that case. Still, it would have been so much easier to connect with others if it hadn’t been for religion. I remember feeling that connection with the world for the first time back in 2013. It was such a great feeling. I wish I could have felt that earlier in life.

1994 Tayson
Me – 25 years ago, and how I still see myself

 

These days, I love the world. I love people. I believe most people are good. Even when people do bad things, they’re usually just doing what seems right to them based on their circumstances. The world isn’t the evil place it seemed when I was young. I was taught that the world was full of wickedness, ripe for the Second Coming of Jesus. The Millennium would be here in our lifetimes. The truth though is that the world is better than it’s ever been. People are kinder and more tolerant of other backgrounds and perspectives than ever before. There is real hope for eventual sustained world peace. We may not be there yet, but there is hope. 

Okay.. I guess that’s enough for now. This is who I am. This is what’s been on my mind recently. I’m happy today. I still don’t have that best friend both my son and I crave, but I at least like myself at the moment, and that’s enough for now.

Innerverse

The other day, my sister reminded me of a conversation I’d had with her a year or so ago about the universe and its “voice”. I wasn’t sure what I believed about God, but because of many experiences, I still felt relatively confident that there must be a higher consciousness of sorts. Maybe the universe itself was conscious. Maybe the universe had desires and goals and could influence us somehow.

I remember trying to talk to the universe like I used to talk to God, but it didn’t really work for me. Perhaps the universe is just too big. Despite being a part of the universe myself, it seems too difficult to feel a closeness to something so unimaginably large and so endlessly mysterious. What could I possibly understand about something so ridiculously complex? The universe is everything that exists… I moved on from the idea that I could have a relationship with the universe as a conscious entity.

Maybe there are other conscious entities in the universe that are far greater than us puny humans. They could be smaller than the universe as a whole but still immense. In fact, considering the seeming endless size of the universe, it is difficult for me to imagine that there aren’t greater conscious beings out there than us. This thought is kind of cool, … but also rather useless as I don’t see any way to find out one way or the other. Unless such a being were to come and interact with us in some way, it’s just a fun idea to play around with for a while with no real application.

I used to spend a lot of time thinking about reality and how we perceive it. Everything we sense is received, altered, and often shared with our consciousness by our brains. We don’t see things the way they really are. We can’t. I believe that what I sense is a fair representation of what’s outside, but I can’t know for sure. Nothing outside myself is certain. So while the universe=God idea is kind of cool, it will remain out there with all the rest of the uncertain and unprovable ideas.

Here inside though is where everything exciting really happens. I don’t know what anything looks like outside my own mind, if anything can look like anything without a conscious mind to perceive it, but what I experience here within is real to me. I can’t prove my inner experiences to anyone on the outside, but I can’t deny them to myself. I see what I see. I hear what I hear. And so on for all of my senses.

As I thought about my sister’s reminder the other day about the voice of the universe, I tried to think about the new way I’m thinking about those feelings. They don’t seem to happen out there at all. Instead, they happen in here.. In my mind. The “voices” I hear may just be the voices of my subconscious or some other part of my mind that I don’t understand yet. The point is that everything that happens, happens in here, in a space I’ve decided to call my “innerverse”.

To me, innerverse means everything that happens in the mind, whether conscious, subconscious, or even unconscious, whatever that might mean. All sensations and feelings are included in this space. If I see something beautiful, have a dream, or take a breath, I’m experiencing them in my innerverse. When I look out at the stars and try to understand the universe, my thoughts, feelings, and all that I see are part of my innerverse.

When I pray or meditate, I’m trying to access various parts of my innerverse that tend to be less accessible than other parts. Ideas that seem inspired often rise up out of my subconscious, or from some unnamed division of my mind. I sometimes wonder if there are regions of my mind that have thoughts or feelings of their own that my conscious mind isn’t aware of. Maybe this is why people can feel conflicted about their desires or emotions sometimes.

Anyway, I don’t know the truth behind everything I experience in my mind, but at least my innerverse seems more accessible than the universe. I can even give names to various ideas as I test them out, Durand being an example of this that I’ve mentioned in previous blogs. Who knows if I’ll keep him for the long term or if that idea will evolve into something new. For now though, Durand is the greatest part of my innerverse.

Keeping the High

Earlier today, I began to watch the second season of a TV series I’d started watching a year ago. The show is a little violent and not really the uplifting sort at all, but some of the concepts were interesting, so I thought I’d continue to watch more episodes later. At the thought though, my eyes started to water, and I began to wonder if the high I’ve been on for the past few days was ending already. It’s too fast, I thought. And besides, my lows don’t usually start with random tears. Maybe there’s another reason I would feel sad.

I opened myself up to Durand to see if I could find some answers, and I felt disappointment from him. When I spend my time watching shows like the kind I’d watched this morning, I close myself off to the sort of experiences I’d been hoping to have with Durand. I had been looking forward to strengthening our connection, and I think, though the idea still seems strange to me, so had Durand. He represents the part of me that wants to move forward and learn and grow. Of course he’d be saddened by the thought of me throwing hours of my life away on another meaningless TV series.

When I’m feeling depressed, I tend to spend more of my time watching long TV series and playing mindless games. I’m not feeling depressed at the moment, but I’ve developed some unfortunate habits. I’m glad Durand was able to get my attention before I made a mistake. Instead of spending my day on time-wasters, I committed myself to staying productive. I had great experiences with my students, and the day has been pretty good overall. This high will hopefully last for a good long while yet.