Sunday, March 26, 2006
Choices and Into the Woods
I wrote an email to my brother in response to his letter. This is what it said:
First of all, I want you to know I really do appreciate your honesty, your thoughts, counsel, and advice. I know it comes from a place of love and genuine concern for my spiritual well-being. And I know you are concerned that the choices I'm facing right now will have serious effects on my happiness and salvation.
Believe you me, I know my choices don't just affect me. I know the consequences of my choices will have repercussions on the lives of everyone I touch. I've always thought "It's A Wonderful Life" is a good example of the effect we have on other people, even when we are not fully aware of it. I have told mom in the past that if it were just about me, if my choices only affected me, I would have come out of the closet a long time ago. But I realize that my choices don't just affect me. They affect your lives as well, and I've always feared the reality that my choices would affect my family and friends' lives in a negative way, and I have never wanted that. Believe you me, I am not out to hurt anybody or disappoint anybody or wreak havoc on the lives of a family that I dearly love.
And I am not looking for approval. I know I won't receive (nor did I expect to receive) that; not with the strong testimonies that you have. And I have always admired you for cultivating your testimony in such a way that it is so strong that you know you must ardently defend your beliefs. I wish I were that way. While I believe my testimony has been strong in many ways, I've also always felt that I've been kind of a wishy-washy, half-hearted member of the church. And I guess the reason for that is no matter how active and spiritual I have been, I've just never been able to reconcile the gospel plan with many of the feelings in my heart.
That doesn't mean I don't believe the Church is true. I know that must sound contradictory in way. But what I mean is this: I have tried so hard my whole life to do the best I can to live my life the way God has commanded me to, and I just don't know that I'm strong enough to do it anymore. I don't know whether it's because I don't have enough faith or that I don't have the determination or the true desire or the will-power or what, but God is commanding me to want a lot of things that I just don't seem to want. I have no desire to marry a woman, and I have little desire to be alone for the rest of my life. But I also don't want to hurt anybody, and I know that if I make the choice to be with Jonah I will inevitably hurt some of the people I love very much. You talk about the many hearts I will break if I make this decision. I suppose I can't argue with you that that is a reality. But what about my heart? It seems like my heart breaks every day no matter what choice I make.
There have been numerous times in my life when I just wish that the Lord would release me from this mortal coil just so I don't have to deal with this anymore. Please don't misinterpret that to mean that I'm suicidal in any way because I'm not. Not at all. I just wish that I didn't have to deal with this anymore because it seems that no matter what choices I make in my life regarding this issue, someone's going to be unhappy. And no matter what I do, I'm going to feel bad. I'll feel bad if I hurt those I love, and I'll also feel bad because I'm trapped in a life where I'm commanded to live one way and yet I don't feel that's who I really am at all. I feel like I live a facade every day of my life and that I'm unable to express what I really feel without the fear of being judged or condemned for it. I put on a brave face all the time and do what I'm asked to do, and yet I feel like I'm living a lie; that I'm trying to be someone I'm not. And I feel like because I'm commanded to live my life in a certain way, I will be alone for the rest of my life, and it just doesn't seem fair or right.
I know life isn't meant to be fair. It's a test, and we're all asked to endure until the end. But this soldier is very battle-scarred and weary, and I just fear I don't have it in me to fight anymore. And Alma is right: "Wickedness never was happiness," which is why all this is so confusing to me. Because in many ways I feel happier than I've felt in years. In fact, since I've been here at [college], I have felt so happy and so fulfilled, and my relationship with Jonah has brought me such joy, and I can't understand why if it's wrong does it feel so right. Perhaps I am under Satan's influence. Well, if I am, he's very good at what he does. I sometimes fear I'm just one of those "honorable men of the earth, who [is] blinded by the craftiness of men."
Perhaps you're right, maybe if I wasn't involved in the career I am, things would be easier and I wouldn't cross paths so readily with people who are more accepting of these things. But God gave me certain talents, and the theatre is where I am the happiest and most fulfilled in my life. I can't imagine what I would do with my life if I couldn't do what I am doing, and quite frankly I feel so much more accepted and at home with my theatre friends than I do just about anywhere else. I feel like I belong here, that I fit here. That I can just be who I am rather than put on a mask all day.
I said before that I would never wish this struggle on anyone, but I do often wish my loved ones could walk a lifetime in my shoes. The only people who really truly understand what people like me go through are people who experience this struggle first-hand and Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. Other people can empathize or sympathize, but they can never know what I truly feel in my heart just as I can never truly know another person's heart. Heavenly Father knows my heart better than anyone else. I am trying to do my best to please him.
I'm just so weary of fighting, and no amount of scripture-reading, praying, or church-going seems to make the battle any easier. I've found somebody I really love who loves me and it's hard to keep an eternal perspective when I have someone who makes me so happy right now. But I haven't made a decision yet, and Jonah has been so good about letting me work this out and is trying very hard to understand where I'm coming from with my religious views and is being very patient and knows fully well that I may continue on the path I've been on all these years. I know that's what you all want for me, and I respect that. It's just such a difficult battle and a tiring one and one that often doesn't seem fair or just or even worth it sometimes. I wish I didn't feel that way. I really do. I love God and I love my religion and I love my family. But I love Jonah, too, and everything doesn't seem as black and white as all that to me right now. Things just don't make sense sometimes. If God said you couldn't be with [your wife] anymore, I imagine that would be very difficult for you. You might argue that He wouldn't ask you to do that, that it would be contrary to his plan; likewise, I don't understand why God would ask me to do something that seems so contrary to my nature. But knowing you, if God did ask you to give up [your wife], knowing you, you would probably be obedient enough that you would. Would I were that strong and obedient myself.
I'm sorry that this isn't what you want to hear. I truly am. And if I do make the decision to give up certain things to be with Jonah, perhaps I will be giving up my birthright for a mess of potage. I really don't know anymore. I honestly don't mean to be selfish, and I hope you can forgive me if I am, but I feel like I've been living my life to please other people for so long, and I don't know if I can do that anymore. And I'm fully aware my actions and choices have repercussions on the lives of those I love, but I also know that ultimately it is I, and I alone, who must face God at the last day and account for my own actions and endure the consequences of those actions, whether they be good or bad. What I do know is God loves me and ultimately, whatever I decide, I have to be at peace with it. And if I make mistakes, I will have to learn from them. That's what life is about, I suppose.
Again, I truly do appreciate your love, support, advice, counsel, and prayers. I really do. I suppose I need them now more than ever. I do love you. That will never change. And I'm glad to know that you love me and that you will never give up on me. That's what Christ does, too. You are a good example, and I am thankful for that.
I love you so much.
Jonah and I went to see Into the Woods Friday night. It is one of my favorite musicals. The original Broadway production actually came out in 1987, when I was still in high school and struggling with these feelings a lot. I came out briefly in 1990, three years afterwards. But I remember these lyrics, which were thought-provoking to me back then and which I was reminded of again Friday night:
Do you know what you wish?
Are you certain what you wish
Is what you want?
If you know what you want,
Then make a wish.
But how can you know what you want
Till you get what you want
And you see if you like it?
All I know is
What I want most of all
Is to know what I want.
Although how can you know
Who you are till you know
What you want, which you don't?
So then which do you pick:
Where you're safe, out of sight,
And yourself, but where everything's wrong?
Or where everything's right
And you know that you'll never belong?
Must it all be either less or more,
Either plain or grand?
Is it always "or"?
Is it never "and"?
Just remembering you've had an "and,"
When you're back to "or,"
Makes the "or" mean more
Than it did before.
Now I understand...
Those are actually lyrics from four different songs, but there is a common thread through just about every song in Into the Woods about choices and learning and experiences. I could write a whole paper on this show. In fact, I often thought about doing a thesis on it. My graduate program doesn't require us to write a thesis, though, so that will have to be for another day. In any case, I often wonder why we have to think of it as you can either be gay or you can keep your religion. Isn't there some way to do both? For some, they choose to follow the teachings of the church and remain celibate. For others, they choose to act on their gay feelings but still have a good relationship with God, even if their standing in the church itself has been compromised. Ultimately, one has to decide what will make them happiest. I've tried for many years to stay true to the teachings of my church and not act on my homosexual feelings. Although in many ways it has brought me happiness, in other ways I have felt completely unfulfilled. I often wonder what it's like on the other side of the fence. Perhaps I won't find happiness there, either, but on some level I feel I'll never know unless I try. What I do know is that I've been very happy and fulfilled with Jonah lately, and if that is wrong, I guess it's wrong. But it feels so right in so many ways. My only regret is that if I choose to be with Jonah, I will hurt some members of my family and some friends. But I also have to realize that this is my life, and as long as I am at peace with my decision, whatever that decision may be, I can't really worry too much about how it affects others because it's really up to them how they choose to react.
Anyway, I guess that's all I have to say for now.