Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why do I recommend such a painful book?


Please forgive my ramblings as I answer the following question:

Why do I recommend that others read the book No More Goodbyes by Carol Lynn Pearson?

I guess it because of the understanding that it gave me. I think back to my views on the gay thing two months ago. I would have been nodding my head in agreement with other sisters in Relief Society that made strong comments about gay marriage and gay couples adopting children.  I would be thinking that Satan is working hard to destroy the family by leading people to believe that they are gay. I would see girls holding hands in the hall and think how sad it is that kids at school are choosing to be lesbians because of the attention they get from it.

Let me share a few of my experiences with students that help me realize how far I’ve come:

A few years ago I had two male students that I was very close to. They were best friends, and I had the privilege of being their teacher all 3 years they were in high school. They seemed to enjoy telling me about their lives. We talked about great music groups (like They Might Be Giants), they told me about the girls they liked and were asking out. They gave me a Mickey Mouse trophy that says "World's Best Teacher." One of them later invited me to the temple when he took out his endowments for his mission, and I recently attended his wedding reception. The other one (who is not member of the church despite the example of his best friend) left to work at Disney World. I communicated with him via MSN messenger frequently. Then one day his alias on messenger was 2q2bstr8. I asked him what was up with his new alias, and he said he came out in October. I typed "Oh" and the conversation pretty much ended. It weirded me out. I wondered what kind of friends he had in Florida that had this influence on him. I didn't initiate chats with him anymore. He came to visit me again in my classroom about a year after that, and I was kind, but I was weird about it somehow.

I had a teacher's aide 2 years ago that was gay. He was a great TA, and I learned to be comfortable as he told me how mad he was when his car was stolen because his "clubbing pants" were in the car and stolen as well. I actually kind of enjoyed getting to know him, and even though I don’t specifically remember our conversations, I know I learned more about the gay world than I had before to that point. I guess I have become more accustomed to such students over the years, but still, I realize now that I did not really understand them.

And then the book NMG opened my eyes. I understood that it was not a choice, that it was not limited to weird teenagers seeking attention. I fear that I have had many gay LDS students that I don't even know about that were sitting in their closets, not knowing what to do or where to fit.

As I share my feelings with other teachers, I have received a much more positive response than I ever imagined. One is in his bishopric and told me of a young man in his ward that comes and shares his feelings and research with him. He also told me of his sadness that this young man was denied the chance to serve a mission because of his orientation.

Two of the teachers that I eat lunch with know Bruce Bastian (owner of Word Perfect, I think, and former member of the LDS church, and also gay, of course) from being in the same "family" with him at BYU years ago. They have been very understanding and a joy to talk to, and I think they have learned much from me regarding my dedication to my marriage and the open communication that Scott and I have.

Other teachers are loving and supportive of me, yet also willing to share their belief that God could never reveal that marriage is anything but between a man and a woman because of how it is tied to church doctrine, and because of that, their political participation in CA is justified. (That comment came from my closest friend at school last week as I shared with her my recent struggles.) I swayed the conversation another direction, but I am going to slowly share more with her. I already suggested that she read NMG, and she was open to it. Maybe next summer when we have more time, maybe sooner.

One teacher looked shocked. She didn’t understand how it was even possible for us to be married with children. I felt like she was worried about me and my marriage. She knows how emotionally weak I can be. We didn’t have much time to talk, but I quickly tried to comfort her in regards to our marriage relationship by saying that we were enjoying the men's Olympic swimming events together, LOL. I think that just shocked her even more as she thought about it and realized what I was saying.

The responses have been different, but no one yet has been negative or begun treating me differently. Many of them have assured me that they don't think any less of Scott. Last year my closest friend always told me what a wonderful husband I have any time I mentioned how involved he is in helping with the children since my job is more restrictive than his is. She hasn't changed that opinion. Maybe none of them want to risk not getting hand-dipped chocolates from us for Christmas. LOL

Anyway, sorry I am rambling through my feelings of the week, but I feel like a missionary spreading good news to my co-workers about wonderful people. I am so impressed with the MoHo bloggers. They are some of the most incredible people I have ever learned from and I am so grateful for their insights and the circle of wagons that I feel I am a part of.

I feel like a different person. I know I would have continued to love Scott without reading NMG. But I also know that I would have continued to worry about our marriage. The book helped me to let that worry come to a head and then wash away. I don't know what the future holds for us, but I don't worry about it as much anymore. I think I might even worry less about it than I did in other rough periods of our marriage. The worrying didn't go away immediately. It came from many conversations with Scott. It came from trying to help him explain to his dad why he has chosen to make no firm commitments to what the future will bring. It took a group of MoHos and their crazy and interesting and gut-wrenching blogs to help me realize that Scott and I are not alone in this. It took time and tears, but it was worth it, in hindsight.

Maybe I am different. Maybe other people would dwell on the negative "what if’s" in the book and wish they never read it. I guess it might not be the answer for everyone. But for me, I am so grateful for the education, for the enlightenment, for the chance to feel the pain of those I used to roll my eyes at. For the chance to share the love and the joy and the acceptance. For the chance to feel like I have a higher calling at school than to just teach math.

I don't think that NMG would be so effective in being a fruit of knowledge if it wasn't so blatantly and honestly painful. It is up to the individual to determine if the potential harm of reading the book is worth the possible benefits.

At some point after reading the book, I told Scott that I needed a break from everything. I needed a day when I could just stop thinking about everything, stop feeling the pain, stop obsessing about it. A miracle day where I could literally forget his news to me, forget the stories I had read and let life be back to normal.

Most of the time I don't feel that way anymore. I look forward to reading the Moho blogs and the conversations I will have with Scott each day. Right now I am struggling with putting my thoughts aside so I can focus on school. It got easier toward the end of last week. I got a lot done and I think that next week will be even easier to set thoughts aside as I am encompassed about by about 200 teenagers, names and faces to learn, a relationship of trust to build, and a journey to embark on for the next 9 months. I am excited to see if my newfound confidence boils over into my teaching, if my newfound love of a group of people I didn't understand helps me to love all of god's children, brown skinned, white skinned, shy, obnoxious, frustrating---whatever makes them who they are, with a new energy that I haven't had for a few years. To see if that love will make a difference in their lives and in their futures. So many possibilities. I am getting excited for it! Last June I dreaded that we had recently locked ourselves into a 15-year mortgage and other debt that requires me to continue working. Now I am grateful for an opportunity to serve and to grow.

As for anyone considering whether or not to read NMG, or to have their spouses or others read it, I think the answer needs to come from within the heart and from Heavenly Father, who is so mindful of each of us. Here I am crying about it, but I am often overcome with the love that I feel Heavenly Father has for ALL of His children. As for myself and the affect that NMG had on me, I am reminded of a story I’ve heard about God transforming us into mansions through painful remodeling. I’m sure the remodeling is far from done, but I can see the progress.

2 comments:

Beck said...

I am grateful to you and Dicho for recommending so strongly that I read NMG. I do not regret it in the least, even though it added drama to my life (but then again what doesn't).

I have been hit by the reality that this isn't ever going to get easy - it's always going to be a struggle. That sometimes wears on you, and the fatalistic aspects of the book got to me.

But as I've reread and thought more about it, even though statistics and both communities (the gay community stating that such things as MOMs are contrary to our authentic selves and against our natures and shouldn't be tried, let alone endured) and (the straight community - read Church - encouraging men like me to marry to "overcome" my attractions, and now taking a 180 degree turn and discouraging such marriages at all costs - unless the SSA individual is willing to put aside his feelings enough to love fully a daughter of God - but even then it's doubtful)prove the "inevitablity of pending disaster, I am motivated to move onward and upward to prove that IT CAN BE DONE!

Thanks again for your encouragement and postive outlook on your new situation, and may you have the best new school year as you see your students with new eyes and fresh understanding.

Damon In CO said...

Serendipity-

I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed talking to your husband, reading his blog.

I already admire you and your spirit. I look forward to getting to know you better also!