Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuning In On TRAX

Through my employer, I get a free pass to ride TRAX (public transportation system in the Salt Lake Valley). In the past I've only used it during inclement weather. However, the past few weeks I have taken advantage of free public transportation in order to both save on gasoline and in an effort to be more environmentally-friendly.

I don't enjoy public transportation both because it takes longer to get places and, more so, because I don't like sharing my ride with many of the individuals who ride public transportation. When I'm on a bus or tram, I mainly just want to relax and read a book or the newspaper. I am not particularly interested in engaging in conversation with anyone, even the interesting ones (of which I haven't found many).

I've freely admitted in my blog that I am not a very social person and generally like to be left alone unless I'm with one or two close friends. This goes double on public transportation.

There are many people who ride public transportation that are socially awkward and, in some cases, downright scary. I find it best not to make eye contact with these individuals. I generally keep my nose in my book and sometimes put on some earphones to discourage people from chatting me up. This may sound extreme and not very nice, but it's how I feel.

Some of the people I've encountered on TRAX have bad etiquette and then there are others that just have social or mental issues, I think. I've encountered belligerent homeless youth; kids playing rap music at full volume with no consideration for their neighbors; people having extremely loud conversations, often with a lot of profanity; the guy who tried to pick a fight with someone who accidentally bumped him, etc. These people I have little patience for.

But there are those that are just socially awkward or, in some cases, mentally-challenged. There was the mentally-challenged man sitting directly behind me who half-sang the same eight bars of music from Murray to Salt Lake, pausing only once to admire a policeman's name tag; there was the socially-awkward woman who was trying to strike up a conversation with anyone who would listen to her; there was a 16 or 17-year-old kid who was probably autistic or had Asbergers Disease, didn't make eye contact and was solely interested in technology (he told me everything a person could possibly want to know about my cellphone - smart kid; just a little different); the guy who kept humming really loudly to himself, etc.

And as I see these individuals, both the one who are purposefully obnoxious and the ones who can be annoying without intending to be, it strikes me that God knows the minds and hearts of each of these people. He knows their specific needs and situations. He knows with a perfect knowledge what each one of them is going through and has gone through. And He loves each one of them as much as He loves you or me. And as this awareness comes over me, I feel bad that I am less willing to get to know my fellow members of the human race.

My initial response when I see someone who is a bit strange or different than what I'm used to is "Please don't talk to me!" and then when they do, my first instinct is to put them off because I feel annoyed. And yet, isn't it our job as members of the human race to try to love and support one another; to try and understand one another? Just because we encounter someone who is seemingly different than us, is that a reason to shun or ignore them? I've written about this theme before, both here and here. Differences can seem frightening or annoying, but sometimes if we open up our eyes and hearts, we can actually learn things from others that seem different to us.

I'm not suggesting we need to engage socio- or psychopaths or every crazy we meet. That might not be advisable. But I do think some of the people I encounter on TRAX are just lonely and yearn for a listening ear. Others are people who have something to teach or offer me if I will only give them a chance to enter my heart.

For example, the autistic kid engaged me in conversation about cell phones and gaming systems (neither of which I was remotely interested in), but there was a sweetness in him that reminded me he is my brother; he is a child of God; and he is just as loved and needed as any of us. He reminded me that we are all members of the human family and we should help each other instead of ignoring each other. While I found his actual conversation boring, I actually desired to know more about him as a person.

We live in this age where we tune each other out with our IPods and earphone and computers and music and cellphones. We don't know our neighbors and don't really desire to. We text or Facebook each other even though we're mere feet away from each other. We don't engage one another. We look the other way when a fellow human being is in need. My adventures on TRAX are trying to teach me to be more receptive to those around me.

This is not easy for me. I like tuning people out. I don't often want to "get to know" my fellow man. But I'm glad public transportation is helping me be a little more open to being more connected with my fellow humans. I still have a long way to go, but I'm trying to work on it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Feeling Blue

By nature, I am generally a pretty upbeat, optimistic person. I don't get depressed very often. I have, however, been feeling a bit blue the past couple of days for a number of reasons.

I miss my husband and cats terribly. Since we had our commitment ceremony, I've actually spent more time away from my husband than I have with him due to my job. It's great to be employed doing what I enjoy for a living, but it is hard to be away from the guy I love and our "children." I was able to be with him for two months, the longest consecutive time we've been together since we had our ceremony, and that was really nice. We talk almost every single day, so it's good that we keep up an active communication, but of course it isn't the same as actually being together.

I also feel a bit of guilt that I'm missing out on that time with my spouse and our pets; time that we can never get back. Furthermore, one of our cats is particularly attached to me, and my absences have been really hard on her. She acts out whenever we leave and Jonah can tell she's depressed and anxious, and I feel it is my fault. It's even harder because I can't exactly explain to my cat, whom I love very much, why I keep abandoning her for months at a time. At least Jonah understands my reasons. My poor cat doesn't understand at all, and it hurts me to see her so upset by my absences.

I've also been depressed by my mother's memory loss. It isn't her fault; it's just part of her aging process, but it has been hard for me to watch her age. I'm sure it's equally frustrating for her as well. It's never easy to watch one's parents get older. My dad suffered several strokes that left him physically challenged and changed his personality. It wasn't always bad, but it was hard to watch a once vibrant man be struck down by his physical mortality.

Mom is doing well physically, but her short-term memory is pretty much shot, and I've noticed her sense of awareness is less sharp than it once was, and things confuse her more easily than they used to. Even parts of her long-term memory are not as reliable as they once were. She's been diagnosed with dementia, but happily, not Alzheimer's. She's still able to care for herself independently, but my siblings and I do worry that a day will come when she is not able to do so. When I'm working in Utah, I live with my mom, so I'm exposed to it most often, and it's just challenging sometimes. I admit, too, that I am not always as patient with my mother's mental challenges as I ought to be, and that makes me feel bad.

My mom is one of my very best friends, and I just want to know that she is well and taken care of. I also never want her to feel that she is a burden in any way because she isn't.

I've been feeling a bit stressed by other things as well - nothing of import, but I've just felt a bit agitated lately, and I'm not sure why.

I'm in rehearsals for a great show, and it's coming along very well, and is even a fun piece, but the last couple of days it has just felt more like a job to me than theatre normally makes me feel. I just miss that feeling of creating a piece of art with passion rather than just "grinding out the meat" to pay the bills. I wish I was feeling the enthusiasm I often feel when I do theatre, and it's strange that I don't because this is even a show I was really excited to be cast in.

Anyway, I'm sure it's all just a phase. I anticipate I'll bounce back again pretty soon. I always do.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


It's a nice to see a Republican politician (or former politician) saying things that make sense to me as far as social policies are concerned. Helps remind me that there are, indeed, people in the Republican party who actually feel the same way I do about certain social issues.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Amusing (To Me, At Least)

Every time I pass this building in Salt Lake City, I smile:

This is a nightclub called Club Bliss (previously called The Bay). The reason that it makes me smile is that when I was a little boy, it used to be the insurance company where my dad worked. I actually have fond memories of it, though at the time it was in a sketchy part of town. Sometimes we would pick my dad up, and in his break room, there was a soda machine (the kind with bottles), and sometimes Dad would get me a Fanta Red Cream Soda.

It was a relatively small building, and later in my childhood, the company moved to another, much larger, building.

I guess what makes me laugh is the fact that this stodgy, very serious company was housed in a building that now houses a probably more vibrant, energetic nightclub. It just makes me laugh. I doubt that my father or his coworkers would ever have imagined that the place of their business would become a nightclub.

It just amuses me.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why Do I Seem Happy? I'll Tell You.

I was browsing through a Deseret Book catalogue my mom received in the mail, and there was an advertisement for a teen-oriented book called Why? Powerful Answers and Practical Reasons for Living LDS Standards. The description talked about how the book delves into certain questions teens should ask themselves and answers that support the Church's stance on certain issues. It gave examples of some of the questions, such as "Why shouldn't I just 'try' alcohol, just to see what it tastes like?" or "Why is wearing two pairs of earrings such a big deal? Or is it?"

One question intrigued me: "Why do some people who break the commandments appear happy?" I thought to myself, "Maybe it's because they are." According to LDS Church doctrine, I am breaking pretty serious commandments by being in a sexual relationship with my partner, yet I can assure you, I am not unhappy. In fact, since I found Jonah and came out, I have been happier than I've been in a long time. Believe you me, I am not deluded or fooling myself. I am truly happy.

As I was sitting in church today the thought occurred to me that if my bishop (former bishop, I guess I should say) were to come up to me and ask me if I wanted to take steps to rejoin the church again, I would say that if it meant giving up my relationship with Jonah, not a chance! NOT. A. CHANCE.

It's funny how I was always taught that following the precepts of Mormonism would bring me a fullness of joy and happiness, yet it was choosing something that I was taught was wicked (my relationship with Jonah) that actually has given me that. I wouldn't give that up. If there are those who believe that means I'm choosing Jonah over God, so be it, but I do not see it that way at all. To my eyes, I have chosen both.

I still love many things about Mormonism and, as you can see, I still attend a Mormon ward pretty regularly. I also feel like I still get a lot out of attending the LDS Church. But my relationship with Jonah has brought me so much happiness, joy, and fulfillment, and coming out of the closet has given me so much peace of mind, comfort, sanity, and freedom, I just don't think I could give that up.

Why do I appear happy?

Because I am. I truly am.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Goodbye, Old Friend

I'm back in Utah again after a lovely two months with Jonah. Sadly, I will be away from him for five months (give or take a few days of visits) for work.

Just before I came back to Utah, my neighbor across the street posted on her Facebook page that a man I have known all my life, who lived in the ward where I grew up even before my parents moved in, had passed away. This news was not exactly shocking. Just before I left two months ago, I distinctly remember looking at him as he was walking down the aisle to his seat and thinking, "Brother Walgreen is looking really frail these days." I remember feeling a sense of sadness because Brother Walgreen had never been a frail individual as long as I knew him, and it made me kind of sad that old age was finally having an adverse effect on him.

I guess his last few months had involved quite a bit of pain and suffering, but true to his nature, he always tried to have a smile on his face.

While not shocked by his death, I am saddened. Don't get me wrong; he lived a long and worthwhile life, and after so much pain in his last months, it was good that he and his family could be released from his suffering. It was his time to go.

No, what makes me sad is that there is one less beautiful spirit in the world, and a vital piece of the ward I grew up in is no longer there. Brother Walgreen was truly one of the best human beings I have ever known. He was a giant (figuratively and literally) among men, and this world really is the poorer with him not in it.

He had the greatest heart and was so interested in the lives of those around him. He was always asking me what I was up to (and not in the superficial way that most people are, including myself; he genuinely wanted to know about me and my life, and that was true of his relationships with just about everyone he knew). He was always quick to write you a personal note and mail it to you or give you a phone call if you had done something that particularly touched him. I remember receiving such calls and notes after giving a talk in church or singing or if an article ran in the paper about some show I was in. And again, when he gave you these compliments, it always felt so genuine; he wasn't just being nice - he was genuinely touched or interested.

He served as a bishop when I was growing up, and my bishop when my older brother and sister both went on missions. At his viewing there was a book of remembrance he had made that included pictures and personal notes from all the missionaries that had served during his tenure as bishop. My brother and sister were in there, of course. When I saw that book, so lovingly assembled, I thought that this was exactly the kind of thing he would do.

He served faithfully in his church callings and cared deeply about people. He served his country in World War II. He was such a good, good man. That whole moniker of "The Greatest Generation" describes his wife and him to a tee.

I loved him dearly, and my mom's ward (which I still consider my home ward) will never be the same without him. The world has lost a great, great man, and I cannot stress that enough. Brother Walgreen is celestial material by far. If someone like him can't make it to the Celestial Kingdom, there is no hope for the rest of us.

I will miss him very much and look forward to the day when I will see him again in the afterlife. He has left such an indelible print on my life.

Thanks, old friend!