Shattered Silence

Shattered Silence

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Best and Worst of Times

It has been ten years since I graduated high
school.
As of May, it has been ten years since I finished high school. This July my ten-year high school reunion will take place. It’s hard to believe that a decade has passed since I was an eighteen year-old. The few years following my graduation in 2004 were some of the best and worst that I have ever experienced. This time in my life was highlighted by a number of firsts—new, fresh occurrences and events that I had never before experienced.  Some would happen only once and never again.  Others would be repeated over time.

The christening event of my newly-acquired adult life was attending my first semester of college, just minutes from the home I was still sharing with my mother and stepfather. I enrolled full-time, with a government grant to fund my education, and began classes in January 2005, after a well-desired summer and fall break from educational responsibility.

To summarize the misadventure of my first four months of higher education, it suffices to say that I didn’t apply myself at the full measure of my capabilities, making the entire semester a disaster. Consequently, my failure was the basis of my decision not to enroll for another semester, also making that the first time I dropped out of college (which I would do more than once in coming years).

After a brief summer on my own,
I had to move in with my dad.
With my college career ruined (for a time), I sought out other ways in which to become independent and grown-up. Naturally, at least for me, the best way to do this was to get out into the world (or at least the next town) and try living on my own. So, I packed a few things from what little I had of my own at my mom and stepdad’s house, and moved with a friend into a cheap student apartment just a few blocks from where I had attended college. This was another of my firsts during those years—living away from parents under my own roof that I was paying for myself.

My brief summer stay in that apartment was a time of my life that I think back on often, and with a lot of happy feelings; sometimes I wish I could go back and experience that summer all over again, even if I didn’t get to change anything that happened. All of it could happen the same way again—like the retelling of an epic story, tragedies and triumphs altogether—and I would still be content just to live it once more. I made new friends, experienced new things, and had plenty of room to stretch my independence. 

There were some difficult lessons learned that summer, and they were learned in the hardest ways; but I’m grateful for that now, because those things have stayed with me, and have made me better. It was in that apartment, pondering alone one night with a set of scriptures that I reconnected with my spiritual self, from which I had been separated for some time. One highlight of that summer was attending my first Kelly Clarkson concert that July, which substantiated a long-time obsession with the singer that I am well known for among my friends and family.

After that incomparable summer—my last summer as a teenager—I had lost another job (my second time being fired that year), and was forced to move in with my father back in my hometown; my mother and stepdad hadn’t given me the option to move back in with them when I left, which, looking back, was a blessing. My relationship with my father during those years was not the best, which encouraged me to get back out on my own once my finances were in better order. I moved back into my childhood home with my father in August 2005, and stayed for a little over a year.

I began attending church again, this time with
young single adults my own age.
Back in my hometown again, and a bit more comfortable in familiar surroundings, I began attending church again, this time with other young single adults, another first for me. I had been largely absent from the Sunday worship services of my faith—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)—while I was away on my summer exile. As an adult aged 18 to 29, I had the option to attend church and other activities with members of my faith who fell within the same age range, in a special, separate congregation, or ward. There I met new friends and reconnected with old friends from high school with whom I have stayed very close.

During that time, I worked in telephone customer service and as an aide in a care center for disabled children and young adults. Neither jobs were really ones I wanted to keep long-term, but they helped me pay my bills while getting free rent from my father. Both jobs, however, didn’t last long, and I was again fired from both; the growing trend with me and employment was a problem with attendance. 

This began a crescendo of an addiction, you could say, with sleep; I used sleep like a drug to forget and temporarily escape my responsibilities and problems, or anything I didn’t want to deal with at any given moment. This escape tactic and coping mechanism began with problems in high school, which you can read about in my other posts, “Walk Like a Man” and “Dear Andy.”

The next of my firsts would shape my financial stability for the next year or two. I spent my nights in the late spring of 2006 in a trade school to earn my nursing assistant certification (CNA). It was the first successful course of education I had completed since high school, and it boosted my ability to find jobs that I enjoyed, where I could help and serve others, while earning better pay. 

My sins weighed down upon my for years until
I finally confessed them.
In the summer of 2006 (though I wish I could remember the exact date), I made another first-time decision that would change my life forever. It was when I went to my Bishop, the leader of the first ward I ever joined, and confessed to him that I was attracted to men. Not only that, but I had been having sex with men since I was 17 years old and still in high school. My promiscuous activities were spiraling out of control, and I felt that getting closer to God and attempting to forsake my sins would bring about more peace in my life. To learn more about the teachings and beliefs of the LDS Church in regards to homosexuality or same-sex attraction, click HERE.

Subsequent to my confession and the beginning of a process of repentance, I also began reparative therapy, also known as conversion therapy, with a locally-renowned psychologist. The aim of the therapy was decrease my same-sex attractions, and possibly even make me straight. But I quickly became frustrated with my therapist’s attempts to help me, and ended my weekly sessions with him, never going back to anyone to attempt to change my sexual orientation again.

I dropped out of the therapy because I felt that I couldn’t be content in my homosexuality until I had tried—successfully or unsuccessfully—to have a monogamous relationship with a man. These feelings led to another first-time event as I got my first boyfriend. My relationship with him only lasted three months before I decidedly couldn’t be happy living contrary to God’s commandments anymore. I broke things off with him in the early fall of 2006, and returned to the spiritual care of my Bishop and the process of cleansing I had begun a few months before. It was the only time I ever tried to date my same sex. To read about this experience in more detail, see my post “The Greener Side.”

By late fall of that year, I would land a job working as a CNA for a home care and hospice company, travelling all over the county caring for individuals of all ages. Perhaps it is a little embarrassing to say, at my age, but this was the best job I’ve had in my life (thus far). And true to form, I would lose it, too; a combination of things led to that loss, which leads into another first.

My uncontrollable swearing tics cost me the best
job I ever had, and others, too.
It was in 2007, while I was working as a CNA, that my battle with Tourette syndrome became even more grueling. That was the year I developed coprolalia, a rare symptom of Tourettes that involves vocal tics of swearing, cursing, and the (often loud) uttering of inappropriate words and phrases, often at the most inopportune moments. My one-time boyfriend, with whom I spent a lot of time, had the habit of swearing recreationally, and I am almost certain now that joining in with him in his foul-mouthed talk eventually brought me to a point of no return.

Soon I was swearing every few seconds, especially when excited, upset, or stressed. Most unfortunately my word of choice was the dreaded “F-word,” which slipped in between sentences like an impatient, interruptive child begging for attention. The patients for whom I cared daily, most of them elderly, began to notice my foul language, though they knew I had Tourettes and had seen and heard my other tics. Slowly my patient load decreased as more and more patients or their spouses or family members began calling my boss to request a new aide in their home.

Immediately I requested a dose change in my tic-inhibiting medication, which only increased my level of lethargy, drowsiness, and drained me of energy; this did not at all help my “sleeping addiction.” My supervisors were amazingly understanding, and did everything they could to help me. But eventually we came to a crossroads, and, regrettably, they had to let me go. It was a terrible blow to my financial circumstances, and my self-esteem. I would eventually recover to some point, and even make it back to college again, but I have yet to hold another successful job as long as I held my CNA position.

After months of spiritual cleansing, I could enter
the temple to perform baptisms for the dead.
By the winter of 2006, my Bishop felt that my repentance was complete. I was once again able to partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, similar to the Catholic communion; this is a crucial ordinance in Mormon worship that takes place every week in Sunday church meetings as a way to reflect upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and renew our devotion to Him. I also received a temple recommend, which allowed me to enter Mormon temples to perform the ordinance of baptism for the dead, as mentioned by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.

My circumstance were finally beginning to improve; and with a small financial gift from my Bishop (from donations of my ward members), I paid the deposit on a new apartment in a new town not far from my hometown, and moved out of my father’s house to start a new life. I moved in February 2007. While I worked as a CNA, before the coprolalia began, I was enjoying the bachelor life, and a life clean and pure from sin and transgression. I began attending a family ward in my new town—a little reluctantly because of the swearing tics—and it was one of the best decisions I made while living in that apartment for the next two years.

By 2008, I was highly active in my faith, attending regular Sunday meetings as well as weekday activities with my ward members and their families. I developed more relationships, and have held on to many of them to this day. After a period of time, my new Bishop and I agreed that I was ready to advance in my Priesthood authority, and I was ordained an Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood in August 2007. 

Then, in January 2008, I began preparing to enter the temple, God’s holy house, to receive the higher ordinances of the Mormon faith, known as the endowment. I was open about my homosexuality with my Bishop and other leaders, and they supported me in my desire to receive my temple rites; I viewed it then as the icing on my spiritual cake, so to speak—the last official step in my spiritual journey, in order to better prepare myself for the possibility of a lifetime as a single gay Mormon. I have since become more open to the opportunity of marrying a woman, which would also take place in the Temple. To read more about why a gay Mormon would consider marrying a woman, try my posts “The Road Less Traveled By” and “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

This photo of the Provo Utah Temple was taken the
day I entered that building to receive my endowment.
On March 8, 2008, I entered the Provo Utah Temple, accompanied by many friends and family members, to receive my temple ordinances. It was one of the happiest days of my life so far, and the crowning moment of all the experiences I had had during those four years since my high school graduation. Today, six years since my endowment in the temple, I remain steadfast in the gospel of Jesus Christ and active in my faith, in spite of my continued attraction to men, which passion I must carefully bridle.

Truthfully, not all my firsts have been accounted for in this post. I have left out one of my most beloved and significant influences of the past nine years to create a more poignant effect for this inclusion in my blog. It is not an event or a happening, but a person—someone who was by my side during nearly all of the events I have just listed. In a previous post, “The Greener Side,” I wrote a little about my relationship with this person:  a special girl named Danielle.

I actually went to high school with Danielle; she was a year older than me, but I really only knew of her rather than actually interacting with her on any occasion. However, we finally made a friendly connection during that first semester of college in 2005. She also happened to be good friends with the cousin of my best friend, so I had a chance to talk to her a few times. Though I’m not entirely sure how it started, we began meeting up on campus in between or after classes. We wrote notes to each other, and traded them in between our meetings. Soon I invited her to my parents’ house, where I was living then, to hang out. We would eat snacks and watch our favorite childhood cartoon reruns, something we shared in common (adults though we were).

I couldn’t possibly contain all of my memories with Danielle in this post without it becoming a novel; but from that semester on, she and I grew only closer. Several of her friends became my friends, and mine hers, so we were spending even more time together socializing. When I moved out for the first time, she was a constant guest in my apartment. It was my blossoming relationship with her that made that summer unforgettable. We stayed up late, often with other friends, watching movies, hot-tubbing and swimming, and playing games. After she would leave my place in the early hours of the morning, she would call me when she got home, and while lying in our beds in different towns, we would talk on the phone until the sun came up. Then the next day we would do it again.

I wanted Danielle to be my girlfriend; it seemed
only natural with all the time we spent together.
I remember the night that I thought that I wanted to date Danielle steadily. It just clicked that I liked her, a lot actually, and that the most natural step to take next was to ask her to be my girlfriend. There was protest from one mutual friend when we made our plans to date known, and it caused us some grief; but we moved past the issues involved, and started dating. She was by my side during that first Kelly Clarkson concert, and we sang every song together.

She was there for me when I lost several of those jobs. She attended that single’s ward with me, though we were paired off together, and I was proud to display my love and affection for her. I kept a secret inside me, however, because of my attractions to men. I still desired her, but I also wanted to experience the other world of homosexuality; I was intimate with men many times while she and I were together. I found out later that she suspected I was gay, but she never mentioned it to me directly. She allowed me to wait until I was ready to tell her.

She was the one who told me about the nursing assistant school, which was owned and operated by a family friend of hers; she even came to some of the classes with me. She helped me study and fill out and practice my flash cards. Indeed, she was involved with so much of my life. She was my best friend. After months of knowing her, taking trips together, and becoming intimately connected in so many ways, I knew that I loved her—I had fallen in love with Danielle. I felt like she could be the woman I could marry. But I was still conflicted in my sexuality and wasn’t ready to give up my sexual encounters with men, which I felt were necessary to fill a longstanding void in me and alleviate my psychological turmoil.

Even on the night I went to my neighborhood church building to confess to my Bishop that I was gay and sexually active, she was there to support me; though she knew nothing except that I wanted to make some changes in my life that would require confession. She gave me a note of encouragement to take with me on my walk to the church, which I read just before I entered the building; it brought stinging tears to my eyes. 

On a drive alone up the canyon one night, my admission to
Danielle that I was gay finally came, and not to her surprise.
A few months after the meeting with my Bishop, I told Danielle, too, that I was gay, and confessed every act of indiscretion I had committed while dating her. That was September 2006, and we drove up the canyon together just to be alone for the occasion. It was more of a funny thing for us, as close as we were at that point. We laughed about the odd and crazy experiences I had had, and about how she had really known all along, and was just waiting for me to be ready to tell her.

Just as I can’t really tell where my romantic relationship with Danielle began, I can’t really tell where it started to end, either; but end it did. As we attended the single’s ward together, she was introduced to other men, and I was at that time deciding that I, too, wanted to date a man monogamously. We were the best of friends still, and occasionally kissed each other, but there was no real definition to our relationship any longer. Things between us had evolved, and they would never be the same. 

She confessed that she liked some of the guys in the ward, and I expressed how much I wanted to start dating men myself. She was shy, and I did my best to encourage her to flirt and show interest in other men. I still was in love with her, and I didn’t expect my encouragement to lead her into the arms of another man. But I also couldn’t expect her to wait for me to figure out whether or not I was happy dating men and possibly return to her if I wasn’t. 

Some bridges were burned between Danielle and I; but we
never completely lost our powerful connection to each other.
As my relationship with my boyfriend began and ended within three months (and I even introduced him to Danielle once), I desired to return to the church and back to Danielle. But her closeness with one particular man had grown stronger during that time, and they had declared themselves a couple.  My feelings told me that that man was not good for her, but I wasn't sure if it was just because I selfishly wanted to keep her as my own.   I remember standing before both of them on one occasion, outside a church during a single’s dance, crying almost uncontrollably and begging Danielle to leave the other man and be with me. The man knew that she loved me, and said so, trying to console me; Danielle confirmed her love for me, but told me gently that dating her new lover was the path she wanted to take then. I left their presence devastated.

Eventually Danielle would marry that man; then in a few years, they would also divorce. I continued down the path that I had chosen, progressing in the gospel, and making lasting changes in my life after experiencing so much difficulty. Danielle wasn’t living far away, and we were still best friends. But our time together became shorter and less frequent. The enjoyment and pleasure of her company seemed to be only a glimmer of the bright shining romance that we shared that summer of 2005. And though our relationship would never really be the same again, sometimes talking to her or seeing her makes me feel like nothing has changed. 

Danielle is still the one person, besides probably my mother, who knows me best—all my likes, dislikes, favorites, faults, skills, abilities, traits, feelings, emotions, experiences, tastes, talents, and all the rest. She’s still the person who can laugh with me about things that were funny to us five, seven, or nine years ago. She’s still the one woman whom I can look in the eye and honestly feel that, had circumstances been a bit different, I could have made her my wife. And though we don’t get together often, she is still my best friend, and the only woman I have ever truly been in love with.

The poem I wrote for Danielle, about our changing love,
still reminds me of what we could have had together.
Not a tenth of my legacy of friendship and courtship with Danielle can be told here; but I hold it all my heart. And all of what we went through together has built me into the man I am now, in many ways. I’m not sure if it is a good or a bad thing, but Danielle is the pattern to which I compare all other women nowadays, if and when I date them. All I know is that I would want any woman who would become my wife to be just like Danielle: My best friend in the whole world, the one I can laugh with, cry with, and the one I desire to be with forever.

Once, Danielle asked me if I would write a poem for her. I don’t normally accept such requests, because inspiration for writing isn’t something I can force. But when things started getting rocky between us, and emotions were high, some inspiration did come to me, and I wrote a poem for Danielle. It was a May evening, and there was a soft rain pour outside, which started the pattern that repeats in the verses. 

It was not the romantic sonnet that perhaps she and I had hoped it would be, but it was meaningful and accurate of our relationship. It remains one of my favorite free-form poems that I’ve ever written, and a beautiful portrayal of two lovers drifting apart, but not forgetting each other as they embark on their individual journeys.




Not the Only Thing

~

Raindrops are not the only things falling today—
I look into your eyes and can see the tears you are holding back.

The color of my eyes seems to reflect my somber emotions.

Love is not the only thing I feel for you—
The frustration and pain I possess condenses in my eyes; it’s so unusual to me.

Time becomes almost still as a single tear falls;
My imagination magnifies the sound as it meets the pavement; it pierces my thoughts.

I am not the only one who is alone here—
My offering to you lies coldly on the ground, unnoticed.

You turn away, but don’t seem to want to go;
If I reach out, will you take my hand?

I fear we are so far away that no one can save us.

Our moments together are not the only things being wasted—
Your hope for a better day waits upon my ultimate decision;

My serenity lies only in you.

We are heading for unknown destinations, both not knowing what may become of us;
But I hope you can see me there on the horizon.

The sun descends upon who we once were, 
setting the firmament aglow with orange and red;

But the sky is not the only thing burning tonight—
Already abandoned bridges are aflame in the darkness,
The light of them guiding us on journeys down diverging paths.

I know I must leave, but I do not know where I’m going;
My stubbornness enshrouds all my doubts and gives me false hope.

But I am not the only one who is uncertain of my future—
You continue to run from everything that you know is right, 
determined to reach happiness.

Can’t you see that we are both lost, slaves to our own indecisiveness?

But I know, even now, that our hearts will lead us to each other again.

I hope to find myself out there, though I’m not sure if it will really happen.

But if I do find something more that this life can offer,
How much will it really matter if you’re not here to share it with?

A beloved friend is not the only thing I would lose if you left now—
But if you go, you will take my whole heart with you.

~

- Wade A. Walker -
May 21, 2006


Danielle and Wade — Summer 2005
~

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2 comments:

  1. Wade, Thank you! Thank you for writing that beautiful post. I love the way you write, I love reading everything you write, I look forward to reading your blog. So many wonderful memories we shared that summer. I can't believe it has been 9 years already, when it often feels like it was only yesterday that we experienced this time in our lives. As I was reading, I could clearly remember almost every detail of our time together. All the times we spent singing Kelly Clarkson, driving around and talking, dancing together, making fun of other friends, watching cartoons, writing notes, many talks on the phone, swimming, staying up all night, cuddling, crying, laughing, kissing, talking,....So many things we did together, and so many memories. You are still my best friend too, and even though we don't see or talk to each other much, I still think of you often. Thank you for all the sweet things you said about me in your post, it made me cry. I love you Wade!

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  2. Dani, thanks for reading and commenting. I also had so many memories going through my head as I prepared this post. I laughed more than once thinking about all the silly, crazy things we used to do and say and talk about. And there was also a little despair in remembering some of those hard times, too. I remember talking to you on the phone a month or so ago, telling you I was going to write this post about you, and chatting about how things were going in our lives. It was like nothing had changed, and I'm so grateful that we've held onto that love and friendship. I think we will have it forever! I love you, too!

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