Monday, December 25, 2006

At Last: Tales of My Vacation, School, and the Future

Well, to all those of you who have been waiting with baited breath for the further adventures of Cody - and that probably isn't many of you - here I am at long last to give you an update.

School has been so busy, busy, busy this semester. I think this was the most difficult thus far (and I've had a couple that were really challenging). I just felt like I had so much to do and not nearly enough time to do it. Still, all is well, and the semester ended happily, and I finally got a much needed rest and vacation (more about that in a sec).

The end of the semester has been a little bittersweet. In my speech class our last week we read a very touching short story by Truman Capote called A Christmas Memory. I was already a bit emotional from that, and as we prepared to end class we stood together in a very tight circle, and it dawned on me that at this time in May we would be standing in that circle for the last time and preparing to go our separate ways. I have taken class with these people for nearly three years. We do everything together, and they have become like a family to me. Some I am closer with than others, but I do love each and every one of them, and I am aware that even with the best of intentions we will go our separate ways and possibly lose touch, and there are even some that I may not ever see again. It made me a little sad.

But moving on is also an exciting thing. I have loved this program immensely. Going to graduate school is one of the best decisions, both professionally and personally, that I have ever made; but I also feel ready to move on, and I am both excited and nervous for the opportunities that lie ahead. I still don't quite know yet what I am doing after school ends, but the prospects excite me (though I am also quite certain there will be a feeling of melancholic yearning when all is said and done ("melancholic yearning?" Who writes this crap? lol).

But I am realizing it's the homestretch now, and a lot of mixed emotions come with that.

After school ended (finally!), Jonah and I took a much needed vacation (for both of us) to Disneyland and Universal Studios. It was so much fun. Jonah paid for almost all of it. I wished I could have afforded to pay for some of it, but I'm not currently in a financial position to do that, and he is, so I am very thankful for his being willing to do that. Have I mentioned lately how great my boyfriend is? (And not just because of a free trip or anything; he is just a gem of a man. I sometimes wonder what wonderful things in life I must have done to deserve somebody so special and giving and patient. I hope he truly knows how much he means to me (because, unfortunately, I don't communicate it as well as I would like to).

The trip was so nice. We left on Thursday of last week, and arrived in Orange County, where we took a shuttle to our hotel. We had the misfortune of being on the same shuttle as a very loud and obnoxious family from Iowa. Did I mention they were loud? One of them even turned to me and said, "We're kind of obnoxious." I didn't argue.

We got to our hotel in time to go to the Crystal Cathedral to see a Christmas pageant called "The Glory of Christmas." It's normally $40, but it was discount night, so we got in for $18. Jonah really wanted to see it, and I was interested in seeing it as well. I read about and seen pictures and television images of the Crystal Cathedral before, but had never been there in person. It was kind of a cool building.

The pageant itself was well done. It was basically the story of the Nativity, but they had live animals, a large set, and some very talented singers. They also had women playing the angels, and they flew them in and out. It was pretty cool. I quite enjoyed it and felt a Christmas spirit.

I'd never been to Disneyland at Christmastime, and I just thought it was magical. They sure do go out of their way to make it the "happiest place on earth." It was weird, because I have been to Disneyland numerous times in my life, and the park seemed to take on a whole new life because it was all "Christmas-fied." New Orleans Square was all done up in Mardi Gras beads made to look like Christmas decorations; the Haunted Mansion was all dolled up with a "Nightmare Before Christmas" theme so it was like being on a completely different ride; the Small World ride was all Chistmas-y and instead of hearing that annoying "It's A Small World" song over and over again, it was intermixed with "Jingle Bells" so that there was at least a bit of variety; the character parade had a Christmas theme; it "snowed" on Main Street after the fireworks show, which was kind of cool; there was a huge Christmas tree at the entrance point of Main Street; and, of course, I was with my lovely boyfriend enjoying it all. It just was a different experience than I've ever had at Disneyland, and neither of us had been there at Christmas, so it really felt kind of special.

And, of course, there was all the other cool Disneyland stuff I'm used to doing. We rode Space Mountain (my favorite ride) two times, and I loved it. We rode on Pirates of the Caribbean (another favorite of mine that we didn't get to ride on last time we were in the park because they were renovating it (now Jack Sparrow appears a few times)). I thought I would be annoyed with them tooling around with a ride I've loved since I was a child, but it was still quite the same, so I wasn't disappointed.

We decided not to ride Splash Mountain this time because last time we got very wet, and the weather was just a little too chilly to risk it. I also got a chance to go to the California Adventure Park, which I had never been to before. There was some fun stuff to do there, but it really doesn't hold a candle to Disneyland itself. Still, it was less crowded there, so we were able to get on the rides and attractions pretty quickly (and, really, it wasn't too bad in Disneyland, either, until it got dark). Jonah wouldn't go on the Tower of Terror because falling from heights is something he's not fond of (I don't blame him; I wouldn't want to go on some spider-themed ride for the same reasons) Heck, there's a part on the Indiana Jones ride that has spiders, and it freaks me out (and on the Shrek attraction at Universal Studios the next day there was a 3-D spider that gave me the willies (Jonah just laughed)). Still, he was kind enough to wait for me while I went on the Tower of Terror (which was fun, but not as exciting as I had hoped). We also saw three parades and part of the fireworks show, so it really was a lot of fun.

The next day we went to Universal Studios, which has always been a favorite of mine. Jonah had never been there. We took the studio tour, which is always a lot of fun. There were some new attractions to see, but much of it was the same as it was the last time I went. I love seeing the house from Psycho, although it's not as scary-looking as it was when I was a child. Then it was very secluded and ominous looking. Now there's a Who village (from The Grinch right behind the Bates Motel and a huge plane crash (from War of the Worlds right near the Bates mansion, so it just doesn't look as creepy as it used to. Oh, well. It's still fun to look at.

It was also fun to see the set of Desperate Housewives all dolled up (even though I've never seen the show). I love the studio tour (always have), so I really had fun. Jonah and I would like to do the VIP tour someday (where they let you get off the tram and actually get up close to the sets (and you also get to see some indoor sets as well)).

I don't think we had to wait more than five to ten minutes for any attraction we went on, so that was really nice, and we got to go on everything (many things I had not been on before). We did the Terminatorr attraction, the Shrek attraction, the Waterworld stunt show (which was very wet; fortunately we avoided that - I also find it ironic that they developed an attraction based on such a flop of a movie), the animal show (another favorite of mine), the Mummy roller coaster (a lot of fun); the Jurassic Park ride (also wet (glad I had a waterproof jacket)); the Backdraftt attraction, the Back to the Future ride, and did some shopping as well )I was really glad to find a Spiderman keychain for my roommate (who's as big of a Spiderman freak as I am a Star Wars fan). It was a really fun day and brought back a lot of good memories.

The next day we flew home and then Jonah and I drove to Utah, where my family is. Jonah didn't want me to drive alone, so we went together and he stayed at my mom's house that night and then flew back home the next day. It was a great trip and will always be a great memory for me.

Now I'm home in Utah for Christmas, and it's really been nice being with my family again. I'm also working part time at my old job, which is nice because I can sure use the money.

I also got to see a good friend on Friday who I've previously written about here. It was so good to see him. He and his ex-wife have really had a rough year due to his coming out and their divorce. I feel bad that things have been rough for them, but at the same time I'm happy that he seems to be in a better place. We had a really nice discussion, and it was really nice (for both of us, I think) to talk with someone who really kind of understood and empathized with what the other was going through. We have similar issues, of course, but have taken quite different paths in the way we dealt with it. He has made some choices in his life that really surprised me. I don't judge him for them (after all, who knows if I would have made similar choices had I been in his position), but I have been surprised by them. Still, he seems to be dealing with things in a much more healthy way now than he was, and he seems happy with his boyfriend, so for that I was thankful. Still, it made me very thankful that my relationship has evolved the way it has.

My friend's parents are still having a hard time dealing with his sexuality, but he says they seem to be coming around. I know his parents, and it isn't surprising to me that they are having a hard time (they are both great people, but rather conservative). We both agreed we never thought two or three years ago that we'd be sitting across from each other having this conversation, but we both seem to be in a good place, and for that I am grateful.

I went to church for the first time since this summer. I have missed it, but at the same time I feel somewhat hypocritical when I go to church, and there is, admittedly, an awkwardness that comes from attending now. I love church, but it is different. A good friend heard I was in a relationship and pressed me for details, and, of course, I didn't feel comfortable telling her the details, especially in earshot of so many other members. And I knew she would have a hard time with it anyway. I just didn't feel it was the time or place to deal with it. And, of course, I don't take the sacrament anymore, which feels weird. I was asked to sing and give a prayer and found myself questioning whether it was appropriate to do so (not that I don't have a right to sing or pray in church, but again, it was just that feeling of "I'm not living my life according to these precepts, so is it all right to continue to participate?" I didn't feel guilty or anything like that; I just questioned my status). For example, if you are excommunicated or disfellowshipped, there are certain things you're no longer allowed to do, like take the sacrament or offer prayers publicly or participate in class discussions, etc. Now, I haven't done anything (yet) that merits excommunication, but I am in a gay relationship and intend to keep it that way, so it may only be a matter of time.

My friend and I were discussing that very thing. There is little doubt he will be excommunicated for what he has done. I'm not sure what will happen to me. It would hurt my heart to be excommunicated, but at the same time, as my friend and I discussed, we know it's more of a protection than a punishment because it does release you from the covenants you make as a member of the LDS Church (but also releases you from many of the blessings). I don't know which is worse; to lose my membership in a church I love and to lose the blessings that come with it or to face the afterlife with more accountability.

But, you know, as I was in church yesterday I heard a story that is very common in Mormon lore by author Stephen Robinson:

"...My daughter, Sarah, who was seven years old... came in and said, “Dad, can I have a bike? I’m the only kid on the block who doesn’t have one.”

Well, I didn’t have the money then for a bike, so I stalled her. I said, “Sure, Sarah.”

She said, “How? When?”

I said, “You save all your pennies, and soon you’ll have enough for a bike.” And she went away.

A couple of weeks later I was sitting [my]chair when I heard a “clink, clink” in Sarah’s bedroom. I asked, “Sarah, what are you doing?”

She came to me with a little jar, a slit cut in the lid, and a bunch of pennies in the bottom. She said, “You promised me that if I saved all my pennies, pretty soon I’d have enough for a bike. And, Daddy, I’ve saved every single one of them.”

My heart melted. My daughter was doing everything in her power to follow my instructions. I hadn’t actually lied to her. If she saved all of her pennies, she would eventually have enough for a bike, but by then she would want a car. I said, “Let’s go look at bikes.”

We went to every store in town. Finally we found it—the perfect bicycle. She was thrilled. Then she saw the price tag, and her face fell. She started to cry. “Oh, Dad, I’ll never have enough for a bicycle!”

So I said, “Sarah, how much do you have?”

She answered, “Sixty-one cents.”

“I’ll tell you what. You give me everything you’ve got and a hug and a kiss, and the bike is yours.” Then I drove home very slowly because she insisted on riding the bike home.

As I drove beside her, I thought of the atonement of Christ. We all desperately want the celestial kingdom. We want to be with our Father in Heaven. But no matter how hard we try, we come up short. At some point all of us must realize, “I can’t do this by myself. I need help.” Then it is that the Savior says, in effect, All right, you’re not perfect. But what can you do? Give me all you have, and I’ll do the rest.

He still requires our best effort. We must keep trying. But the good news is that having done all we can, it is enough. We may not be personally perfect yet, but because of our covenant with the Savior, we can rely on his perfection, and his perfection will get us through."
Stephen Robinson, Ensign, Apr., 1992

As I listened to the story for the millionth time, it struck me a very new light: I thought to myself, "I only have sixty-one cents." Sixty-one cents isn't enough to buy a bike; it's not even close. But it's good enough. I feel in my heart that I am doing my best under the circumstances life has dealt me. It's not perfect. It's not ideal. It may not even be according to "the rules." But it is my best at this time in my life, and I felt the Spirit of the Lord testify to me that things were okay between me and Heavenly Father; that my "sixty-one cents" is good enough.

I don't know what the future holds, but I do know this: I feel at peace; I don't feel guilty or stressed or uptight or repressed or any of the things I used to feel when I was trying so damn hard to be something I just never felt I was; and I feel very happy, happier than I've felt in a long, long time. I feel I can be myself, I feel comfortable in my skin, and I'm far more open and much less afraid than I was in the past. The wall that I kept up so long in life is finally coming down, brick by brick, and I am a better person for it. In many ways I understand God's love for me better than I ever have.

I always thought my world would somehow implode if I ever came out; that the powers of hell would somehow descend upon me and cause me misery and unhappiness. I've discovered that it isn't true. My friends are still my friends, my family is still my family, my God is still my God, things are good between all of us, and I am in love and happy with my life. I'm not saying things are always easy or that life is not without its challenges nor do I claim to understand why things are the way they are nor do I even remotely want anyone to think that my choices are right for anybody else (after all, each person has to figure out what's best for them themselves). Nor do I even claim that the choices I'm making will always be the right ones. I'm just saying that at this point in my life, this is the right thing for me to do, and so I'm doing it. It's been an interesting road, but well worth it.

I know I have some challenges ahead (some that I'm kind of putting off facing), but I really am very happy with where I am in life.

Jonah and I had a really great talk last night. We sure miss each other. I was listening to some music the other night that reminded me of him and was just overwhelmed by the love we have for each other. There is no doubt in my mind that that God, through his Holy Spirit, was blessing me with these feelings, and I just thought to myself, "This is right, and this is good." I don't know how that all correlates with Mormonism (because I still do believe the LDS Church is true), but, as I have always tried to do, I'm just trusting that God knows what he's doing and feel very good about our relationship with each other.

That's all. Merry Christmas, everyone.


Beck said...

Speaking for one faithful reader - I'm glad to be updated and to know that you're in a good place!

Much happiness in the new year as you will most certainly have exciting changes and opportunities before you!

-L- said...

I was really glad to read how happy you are now as well. That vacation sounds like a winner (scheming in my mind how to fit it in someday...).

Merry Christmas to you too!

Kengo Biddles said...

Thanks for the update! I'm glad, too, to see that you're both doing well.