Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"The Swan"--a tribute to the victims of the Orlando shooting

My mommy was laid to rest two weeks ago tomorrow.

I woke up to birdsong early on the morning of her funeral. The birds were so loud, they woke me up at dawn--way too early. I couldn't get back to sleep. I felt sick to my stomach. Jenni, Chris and I (the first three born) had eaten at Leatherby's the night before--the very Leatherby's where Mom used to take us as children, right near where we grew up in Kearns. It was nostaglic and sweet and I'm glad I have that memory.  That morning, though, everything felt cold and bleak and my stomach felt unsettled. I took a shower. I put on my suit. I got my violin. I looked over my notes for my talk. Then, by myself, I walked over to the chapel where my mother's body lay.

It was a horrible feeling, that solitary trek.

I got to the chapel and was shocked to see the hearse, and then individuals who had arrived early to the viewing to pay their respects. I didn't know how to react and was dazed and numb and very morose. My accompanist, John Sargeant, saved me and pulled me into a quiet room with a piano so we could practice. Before we started playing, John got out his camera and asked if he could record us. My brain didn't know how to process this. It felt odd and weird to record myself feeling so somber--this horrible day, my mom a few rooms down in a casket. He said that I might never want to use the footage which would be fine, but that it would be good to capture it so that I could use it if I ever did. My mind felt skeptical, yet at the same time, something in me knew he was right. We recorded two takes. Only one worked because of the angle of the camera.

Today, I have realized I want to share that footage. I emailed John and told him to take his upload off of "private." I want to share it so you can see this part of how I said goodbye to my sweet mom, certainly, but more importantly, sharing this footage is the only way I can think of to memorialize, in my own small way, those who died in Orlando.

Before I do, I need to explain why this song is significant to me. I explained this in my talk at the funeral and I was crying so hard I could barely make it through the explanation. "Le Cynge" ("The Swan") is a piece by Camille Saint-Saens, who is one of my favorite composers.  It was very significant to my mother's family as it is one of the songs my grandfather used to play through the halls of their home as they all fell asleep at night. Even through all the years of her illness, my mom always recognized "The Swan," and wept every time I performed it for her.

What I had never realized until I was preparing to play this for her funeral is that this piece depicts a dying swan. It is the "swan-song"--a representation of the legend that there is no sweeter birdsong than the song of the swan, who has been mute all its life, as it dies. This legend is, of course, inaccurate--swans do not sing a sad, beautiful song as they die, nor are they mute--but the symbolism of the piece is so powerful to me. It makes me think of my mom's song as she died--those ten terrible years, in which, as she left us, she communicated beauty, grace, longsuffering, gratitude, and endless faith. The song of my mother's death is the most beautiful song I've ever heard. She was the swan of this piece--shuddering, flapping--eventually folding into death with grace and beauty and tragedy. The last four notes of the piece felt like a message to me as I practiced and performed. In them, I heard the words "I'll see you soon..." each time. It brought me peace.

The men and women who died in Orlando were swans. Their voices and struggles were, likely, largely unheard. Lolly served her Spanish speaking mission in Orlando, near the very place they died. She has still not brought herself to look at the list of names to see if she knew anyone who passed away, but even if she didn't know them, she knew them, the Latino population of Orlando, and she loved them. She and I also deeply love our LBGTQIA+ brothers and sisters. This group is part of the great queer collective to which I belong. Because of this I know something of their muteness, or of the inability of some of them to share all of who they were in life. And it breaks my heart to know these beautiful lives were taken so early.

What I have noticed in the days since their murders is that, in death, each of them is singing a loud, beautiful song. I have been amazed at the voices of empathetic response from surprising corners--unlikely people who have heard this collective swan-song and had their hearts softened to the humanity that was lost. Their song is an anthem that people all over the world are finally hearing: that they lived, that they were real, that their journeys mattered, and most of all, that they should not have died for being, and celebrating, the beautiful people they were.

This rendition is my gift. I performed it on the very day my mother was buried. This footage is sacred to me. Yet this very personal monument of grief is the only fitting tribute I can make to those who died. It is a feeble offering, and I am no professional, but I hope the melody conveys the tragedy and beauty of the deaths of these beautiful swans, whose song will live on for years and years to come. And I hope that in those final four notes, you too hear the words "I'll see you soon..."

Saturday, May 28, 2016

She's Gone.

She's gone.

After more than 10 long years of suffering, and 12 days of being largely unconscious and not taking food or water, my sweet mother Michele Mousley Weed passed away this morning at about 6:00am PST from complications of Early Onset Alzheimer's disease. She developed the disease in her late 40's, lost herself to it piece by piece through her 50's, and died today at the age of 60.

I keep reading that paragraph over and over, crying.

I was able to fly out last week and spend several days by her bedside. I will always treasure that opportunity. 

This picture is the day I said goodbye, which was Sunday. Before catching my flight home, I kept saying my last goodbye and then going back to her bed to kiss her forehead and say goodbye again. I kept saying "how do I just walk away? How do I walk away from her?" It felt so gauche, so crude, to leave her there in that bed so I could get on a plane. I finally gave her one last kiss, then made myself walk out the back door of the care-facility because I knew it would lock behind me and I couldn't get back in. The urge to run back to her was overwhelming and primal. My sister Jenni followed me out, and she and I just held each other sobbing (she was saying goodbye then too). I still feel it now, that urge. I still somehow regret I didn't run back to her, though there had to be an end, a separation, at some point.

That moment felt so arbitrary.

As the days continued to pass, it started to feel like she might never go. Denial set in, telling me that she would forever be in that bed in Idaho, receiving morphine every three hours, stirring occasionally, largely peaceful, her body still warm and living, her spirit still inside of her.

And now, she's gone.

She's gone at last.

She's gone decades too soon.

She's been gone for a long time.

I will forever be grateful to my father, Stewart W. Weed, who stayed by her side until the end. He promised her he would never leave her side when they got the official diagnosis and she was very afraid. And he kept his promise at great cost. He retired early, sold his home, and moved to a remote town he'd never been to in Idaho so he could afford to live with her in a care facility. His health began to fail in the last year due to the extreme stress. He nearly died himself, keeping that promise. His love and devotion, and ability to stand by his word even at incredible sacrifice to himself, is the greatest example I've ever seen of true love. It is something I will treasure all my days. It is the example I will follow.

It's now time for me to walk downstairs and tell my daughters that their grandma, whom they never knew without this horrible disease, has died.

And yes, something has to be done about Alzheimer's. Something has to be done about this terrible disease. It is vicious--more vicious than most people realize. I had no idea, myself. And we need to realize it. We need to understand that it is about so much more than forgotten names and missed appointments, and repeated stories--that is so much more horrifying than old grandparents saying funny things that make no sense. It is more degrading, heart wrenching and debilitating than one can even imagine, and the number of its victims increases every year. We need to be doing something about it. We need to be finding a cure. I have more to say about this, but I will have to say it another day.

Today, I will be with my tiny family, and I will cry a lot, and will write down memories, and I will help plan a funeral for the best person I've ever known.

Love to all.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The truth about the Mormon Mental Health Association

If you have ever contemplated looking for a Mormon therapist, or are interested in mental health as it relates to Mormonism or issues around sex addiction and pornography addiction, this post will be of interest to you. If not, this might not be your thing, and that's cool.

How do I even start this?

People often say that human beings love a scandal, and I'm not sure I disagree.

And, as it turns out, there's a bit of a scandal happening in our own backyard. If it's not a scandal, then it's at least something to be aware of if you are an LDS person who ever seeks out professional help from a therapist.

I don't report on this "scandal" to be sensational. As you'll see, I have very clear and specific reasons to be talking about this, and for attempting to set the record straight about an organization who has chosen a name that affords it credibility and status that, frankly, it doesn't deserve.

Consider this post as warning.

A couple of years ago, I was thrilled to find a new organization called the "Mormon Mental Health Association." I am Mormon, I am a psychotherapist, I love fellow Mormons, and I am deeply committed to helping people find ways to maximize their mental health. It seemed like joining this organization was a natural fit. Plus, as I looked into it, I noticed that this organization had a solid stance against reparative therapy (therapy used to try to "fix" gay people and make them straight, which, turns out, is impossible and serves to really mess people up when it's attempted for reasons you can probably imagine). As someone who was subjected to reparative therapy for many years as a youth and young adult, I was incredibly happy to see a Mormon-based organization that so clearly disavowed this highly problematic therapeutic practice, which is being outlawed in many states because of the way it harms people.

I was one of the very first people to pay money to join this group.

Since then, there have been events that have occurred--from the mildly fishy to downright manipulative and professionally negligent--such that I, for one, am no longer associated with this organization, and I regret giving them a dime.

Things got weird right out the gate.

First, the organizer of the group told me she needed to interview me before I could be "admitted" as a member of this organization. This seemed very odd to me--as a Mormon and a licensed mental health professional, was my credentialing not sufficient evidence of my qualification to be included in a group of Mormons who specialize in mental health? I was disconcerted, but I was also willing to go forward with the interview because I had nothing to hide.

Then, the interview never happened. There was some scheduling difficulty, and then . . . radio silence. I was baffled. I didn't know what to make of this, especially when a dear friend and colleague let me know that she was never asked to do an interview in the first place.

After that I didn't hear from the organization for a really, really long time. When the same colleague would mention receiving messages from MMHA (she and I had both joined right around the same time) I couldn't figure out why I wasn't hearing from them. Eventually, by accident, I discovered the problem. Somehow, instead of sending information to the the email address I had listed in my application, they had begun to send me information to another email address I had created half a decade ago when I started my private practice, and had never really used. To this day, I still don't know how they got this email address. Did they find it in an online search about me? Were they worried about me being a part of this group, and if so, why? As a gay Mormon, was I not "Mormon" enough for the Mormon Mental Health Association? I couldn't figure out what the problem was.

Soon, the real issue became clear. And it shocked me.

Several months ago the head of the organization sent out an email to its members to hold a "vote" on a position policy regarding, of all things, sex addiction.

Now, I am a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (or CSAT). What this means is that along with helping people with many issues like depression, anxiety, marital discord, and communication, I also spend time helping people who find themselves unable to control compulsive sexual behaviors. These are often people who are deeply religious, people who you wouldn't imagine to have such struggles. They are good, good people. And they are experiencing the horror of not being able to control their behaviors, doing things ranging from hours and hours of pornography use to taking advantage of prostituted women or men on a daily or weekly basis, to exhibitionism to . . . you name it. These are things my clients--who are amazing people--experience in their lives. These behaviors are devastating to my clients. The consequences are real, and the pain these people feel--often interlaced with profound religious shame--is breathtaking. And that's not to mention the betrayal trauma inflicted on spouses when discoveries of these secret compulsive behaviors are uncovered, which is another thing I specialize in. I work hard to help spouses cope with the deep wounds they feel when they have experienced a betrayal, the pain of which I outline in this article.

Therapy with people in these challenging circumstances is incredibly intense, multifaceted and complex. I have paid thousands of dollars and have spent hundreds of hours in trainings and supervision with incredibly gifted clinicians to learn how to appropriately and effectively treat individuals and families that have encountered these problems. And the number of people who experience difficulties with these issues is staggering. This is something that affects many, many Mormons.

I was stunned when I got the email regarding a vote on this issue. Guess what the vote was? It was to exclude sexual addiction from being talked about as a problem amongst Mormons.

Yes. You read that correctly.

They were voting to take a position that sexual addiction is not real, that any behaviors related to sexual compulsivity are the result of religious messages and other mental illness, and that treating sexual behaviors that people can't stop (after years and years of trying) as an addiction is not an acceptable way to help clients. They were making this claim even though there is no peer-reviewed science backing up their conclusions whatsoever.

They were going so far as to not letting clinician use the words "sex addiction" as they describe their specializations and even worse, not letting people like me list the fact that they are officially certified to help with sex addiction in their biographies.

I find this highly negligent.

If I am seeking help with eating disorders, I want someone with experience and training in treating eating disorders. Therapy with someone without that specialty can lead to worsening the problem, not helping it. Likewise, if someone has discovered that they or their partner has dealt with years and years of compulsive, clandestine sexual behaviors that has put their marriage (and sometimes their very lives) in jeopardy, they need to be able to find someone who is trained to help in that very complicated circumstance. CSATs have extensive training and supervision regarding how to treat trauma, how to help marriages where betrayal has happened, and how to heal relationships without worsening the trauma. Couples who see someone without that training are often told very damaging things. Wives who have been betrayed by their husbands are often told that they are the reason their husband is acting out sexually because they are repressed and prudish--when really they are neither of those things. Instead, they are traumatized by the betrayal, as well as by the ways sexual addiction has affected a husband's behavior (both sexually and non-sexually). Not surprisingly, the response to that trauma often includes not feeling comfortable or safe having sex with their husband, the very person who has hurt and betrayed them. These spouses' traumas are then discounted and explained away by theories of religious repression and lack of sex ed. Often, they have been told that told they are the problem by their sex-hungry husband for many years, and this message is then reinforced by the ignorant clinician (or religious leader). This further traumatizes the spouse, often leaving the marriage in a shambles. This is just one example of the deeply complicated, multi-layered complexity of working with people who are confronting a type of betrayal that, because of its addictive nature, happens again and again and again.

Someone without the appropriate training would not be able to make heads or tails of situations as complex as a multi-year marriage interlaced with multiple betrayals and the profound denial-based messaging this dynamic creates in a couple. It is my observation that untrained clinicians often do more damage than good when they try.

Being able to see the designation of "Certified Sex Addiction Therapist" is critical for clients in this vulnerable state.

When I got this email, which included a "survey" for the members of the organization to "vote" on the issue, I was deeply frustrated and very, very concerned. Not only was the fact that this issue was being put to a vote incredibly concerning to me, but the voting itself was profoundly biased. It did not present two sides of the issue and ask a group of professionals to use their discretion and judgment to make a collective choice. Instead, it presented one side of the information very sensationally, cited no research to back its claims (aside from quotes from a few random Master's level clinicians), and gave no primer on the actual issues being discussed. This was how they were deciding an official policy decision!

I suddenly realized that this was the modus operandi of the entire organization--even with the issues I happened to agree with. This was not a scientifically robust community searching out the answers and positions that would best help the Mormon community. It was a very small pocket--perhaps even a pocket of one--of people who wished to project the biases of their own experiences and opinions onto an entire organization, and in turn an entire culture--all while brandishing the name the "Mormon Mental Health Association." More about that later.

I reacted quickly and incisively. I found the email address of every member of the board of the organization and sent them a lengthy message with my concerns. (If you're interested, I've included the email I sent them below.) To summarize, in the letter I point out that the field of process addictions is so young that there is very little robust peer-reviewed science for or against sex addiction, and that to take such a drastic stance against sex addiction with such a paucity of data verges on unethical. (Interestingly, even in the months since sending that letter, I have encountered groundbreaking articles establishing a clear connection between pornography and addiction-based neurological reward centers, like this one or this one. If the MMHA were truly an organization interested in robust scientific inquiry as they claim, they would have already encountered this research, and would not require someone like me to point such articles out.) Additionally, in the letter I pointed out some of the logical fallacies of their conclusions, explained why a position against sex addiction would not be good for Mormons, and then said that if this action went forward, I would no longer be a member of the organization. I also informed them that if they took this step, I would feel professionally obligated to alert people to the highly problematic nature of this decision.

Though I heard through the grape-vine that my email had caused major waves, the formal response was pitiful. A tiny email from the founder of the group which said basically nothing--one or two sentences long. The response was so drastically negligent and non-conversational that I had other members of the board contact me separately apologizing for how wildly inadequate the response I got was.

After sending the email and getting no response, I felt powerless and very concerned. It seemed apparent to me that the action of taking this official position was going to go forward--how could it not, when the system was rigged to get the outcome that fit the leaders' bias?--and I didn't know what to do about it. Part of me wanted to fight. Part of me wanted to rally all the professionals I know who are passionate about helping the issue of sex addiction and push against this. But then, as I thought about it, I wondered if my time would be better spent building something different and more helpful rather than trying to tear something down I disagreed with. I contemplated the idea of doing nothing directly about MMHA and their policy (kind of a "not my circus, not my monkeys..." stance) and instead focus on building resources that would help the vulnerable population I was concerned about. I have many plans in play to accomplish this end. As months passed, I forgot about the situation and was leaning towards not acting.

UNTIL last week when one a dear friend of mine contacted me in a panic. This person texted me asking what my thoughts were about the position she had just read by the Mormon Mental Health Association regarding sex addiction.

Do you see the problem here? Do you see how that question sounds? Do you see how what she saw must have struck her? How it must have felt to read that position coming from a group with that name?

This is a personal friend, whose story I happen to know. I happen to know of her devastation when confronting issues of sexual addiction in her marriage. I happen to have seen her shed tears, and wonder if she should leave her husband (an incredibly good man) because of his dishonesty and his compulsive sexual behaviors. When I received this text from her, wondering how a Mormon Mental Health Association could so blatantly disregard her real-life experience--both the pain she went through for years, as well as the recovery and healing she experienced when she and her husband received treatment from Certified Sex Addiction Therapists--I knew immediately I needed to write this post.

There is a reason my friend texted me within days of this organization posting their official statement. It is because she felt harmed by this position, most especially in the context of the word "Mormon" brandished in this organization's name.

There is a reason the church does not generally allow organizations not affiliated with it to use the word "Mormon" in their title. It is because that term has cultural significance. It is a term that adds credibility when being assessed by populations who have no way of knowing that credibility was earned by nothing more than typing the word "Mormon" into the name itself.

When people hear that "the Mormon Mental Health Association" thinks this or that other thing, they are often, just as my friend did, going to assume that the Mormon church, or an organization endorsed by the Mormon church, thinks that thing.  That is not okay.

And I have to take ownership of my own problematic behavior here: back when it was associated with a cause I believed in (the disavowal of reparative therapy), this incongruous messaging didn't seem so bad. I regret not thinking more deeply about this then. Now that it is affecting me professionally, and affecting people I love, the highly deceptive nature of the branding, the poor messaging, and the biases of this organization sing out loud and clear.

The truth about the Mormon Mental Health Association is that it is neither Mormon, nor particularly concerned with the pursuit of scientifically-based mental health. More so, the organization is a reflection of the cultural biases of its creator and some of its leaders, who appear to hope to make an impact on the trends of Mormon culture by using the word "Mormon" as part of its branding, even when it is highly deceptive, and perhaps even illegal, to do so. This is ironic when their own code of ethics reads: (2.4) MMHA members seek to be aware of personal bias, such as religious or ideological views, which could interfere in allowing clients to explore freely within a therapeutic process.

Obviously, it would behoove them to follow their own stated guideline.

And here's the real kicker: being Mormon is not even one of the requirements of becoming listed in the directory of the Mormon Mental Health Association, nor is there any requirement to clarify one's connection to the LDS church at all. You can be Mormon, former-Mormon, never-been-Mormon, or even excommunicated-Mormon--and there is no requirement to outline your link to the church. The only thing ostensibly connecting any of these therapists to the Mormon Church is the very title of the organization itself--a very flimsy umbrella of association for a public who will be hungry to find therapist who who share their beliefs. To be clear, I have great confidence in well-trained clinicians of any religion or creed to treat LDS folks--indeed I often refer my surplus of LDS clientele to professionals who are not LDS (and always inform said clients of the religious difference so that the client can make an informed choice). What I am saying here is that I believe that to become a member of an organization called the "Mormon Mental Health Association" as a non-Mormon, and then to not clarify your status with the religion, is tantamount to false advertising. Yet the organization makes no provision that a practitioner make explicit these differences in believe.

Apparently, they're so busy making sure professionals aren't allowed to mention their documented certification as a sex addiction therapist that they can't be bothered with minor details like making sure an LDS client seeking out a Mormon therapist from the Mormon Mental Health Association is informed whether or not the therapist listed is, in fact, an actual member of the Mormon church.

In conclusion, I want to say that I really don't relish in posting this. There are people I know and very much respect who are part of the MMHA, and I don't want them to be maligned in any way because of this association. I dislike the idea of trying to tear something down instead of spending my energy elsewhere--building something I believe in. After this post, I plan to do exactly that, and let the cards (if any) fall as they may. That being said, I would feel deeply negligent if I didn't publish a post outlining what I know about this situation so that people like my friend (when searching for Mormon therapists or even Googling "Mormon Mental Health Association") can find helpful information regarding some of the more troubling details of this group instead of just assuming--as the advertising implies--that this is a legitimate group affiliated with the Mormon church.

All right. Enough serious talk for me for one day. Time to go play with my kids.

Below is the letter I sent to the board:

Dear MMHA board,

I recently got your email with the proposed changes and direction regarding sex addiction within the MMHA community. I am sending you this email because I have some significant concerns about it that I thought you might want to be aware of. I have written the following in response to the emailed proposal, but wanted to email it to the board specifically (instead of submitting it in the form) so that it can be a dialogue as opposed to a random, anonymous response.  Consider the following as if it were written in the “comment box” on the survey you sent MMHA members:
The opinion that sex addiction does not exist is not based in science. It is based on the personal biases and conclusions of individuals like the clinicians quoted in your proposal. To wit: instead of peer reviewed science backing the claims contained in your proposed statement/position, you have included nothing more than quotes from practitioners who hold the opinion that sex addiction does not exist, or could be explained through differential diagnosis. However quotes from probably-very-good clinicians do not a peer reviewed, robust scientific analysis make. For the MMHA to take such a definitive stance on this issue without proper scientific backing is very concerning and, in my opinion, verges on being unethical.

While general addiction science and treatment is well established and recognized in the psychological community, the science behind process addictions (like hyper sexuality, gambling addiction, food addiction (binge eating disorder), and internet gaming addiction) is still very nascent, as evidenced by some of the research proposed within and about the DSM-V itself. While at least one field study has already indicated that proposed criteria for hypersexuality are valid and reliable, it will be many years before our field has definitive answers regarding the diagnosis and classification of any of these disorders. And that's okay. That's how science works. Sometimes it takes time.

In one of the quotes from your proposed statement, a clinician admits that the "struggle" of hypersexuality (or at least its symptoms) "is real." That means that these symptoms are showing up in practitioners’ offices, and must be responded to. At this point, the science is so fledgling that no specific modality, treatment model or even diagnostic criteria for said "struggle" has been decided on by the broader scientific community. As such, taking a stand that bars a completely valid treatment model (addiction therapy) when there is not sufficient scientific research to justify its exclusion is jumping the gun in a big way, and in this case seems to reflect deep bias and a profound misunderstanding by MMHA of the sex positive, non-religious-based stance taken by Certified Sex Addiction Therapists, of which I am one. 

Weak, mostly anecdotal articles exist that will buttress the biases of either side of this dialogue, but there is currently a paucity of robust, peer reviewed literature on this topic in either direction.  It is important to note that a lack of robust scientific studies is not proof that sex addiction (hypersexuality) isn't real in the same way that a lack of people testifying that the sky is blue does not prove that it is purple. This is a logical fallacy called argumentum ex silentio (argument of silence) and it is a grossly negligent basis for a policy decision like the one(s) proposed by MMHA.

Inchoate science and a lack of definitive research does not preclude clinicians from treating presenting symptoms of this "real struggle" using best practice, research based modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and group therapy, etc, which are the bedrock of the addiction model. To claim otherwise before there is robust scientific data sufficient to back that claim is a severe overreach.

If this is the policy that MMHA adopts around this issue, not only will I no longer endorse, support, or participate in this organization, but I will feel a professional obligation to publicly discredit the non-scientific, non-research based nature of this decision. Obviously, I am only one voice, but I feel strongly that publicizing accurate information about this decision would be especially critical for the LDS community, given that the sex negative messages propagated by the LDS church arguably create a larger population than average of people who--because of negative messaging around normal developmental behaviors like masturbation, arousal, developmentally appropriate experimentation, etc.--have especially maladaptive sexual dysfunctions that call for appropriate, best-practices-based interventions (like addiction therapy, among others) to resolve.

This is not to say that addiction therapy is the only solution. Naturally, any good practitioner will rule out differential diagnoses, as the quotes in your proposed action suggest. But when those rule-outs come up empty, addictions treatment is a perfectly legitimate, scientifically sound therapeutic modality choice for the treatment of the aforementioned “struggles” of those who present with symptoms of hypersexuality while we wait for the science to further elucidate this issue. Furthermore, to conflate religiosity with professional sex addiction treatment is a blatant mischaracterization of a professional modality that is not connected to faith traditions of any kind, has a fundamental aim to reduce shame around sexual behavior, and that arguably helps thousands of people effectively respond to the deep wounds and poor sexual health caused by negative religious messaging—i.e. the kinds of wounds and poor sexual health we so often see in the Mormon community.

In reality, I feel that all practitioners within MMHA have similar goals in helping LDS people who have been hurt by the religious pathologizing that happens around sexuality in our congregations: we want our clients to rid themselves of shame, and we want them to be able to live sex positive, healthy intimate lives with their partners. Cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and group therapy, etc. (the essence of addictions treatment), and the sex addiction treatment model as a whole, are perfectly reasonable modalities to employ in order to achieve that aim.

I realize this is a new organization, and growing pains are inevitable. However issues like the one I address here have me questioning whether this organization, which I was thrilled by initially, can adequately represent Mormon mental health practitioners like me who are tired of the church-tethered, insular practices of former decades and wish for an organization based on sound scientific research instead of fear-based, reactive biases. (Biases, misunderstandings, and fear-based exclusions of healthy clinical models are something that the church has been plagued by for many years, so it is frustrating to see that happening here as well, in the other direction.) It makes me question this organization's perception of science, its assessment of what constitutes best practices, and its ability to participate responsibly in cutting edge social activism that would promote the mental health of Mormons. In other words, I contend, and plan to publicly point out, that if the MMHA takes this stance on sex addiction, it will fail to meet its own objective "to be up-to-date on credible, peer-reviewed, best-practice approaches to all issues surrounding mental health and serve as educators of such information.”

At the same time, I appreciate the methodical nature of your decision making process, and the opportunity you have given your members to contribute to the dialogue around this issue. I would be happy to engage in a conversation around these ideas if that were of interest to you. Thank you so much for your time.


Josh Weed, LMFT, CSAT

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lamb of God

I'm doing something very new to me.

This Sunday, and the Sunday after, I'm singing a solo in an oratorio called "Lamb of God." I'm playing the character of Thomas.

I've never, until three weeks or so ago, had a voice lesson. No training. Just a lot of singing loudly in church choirs and being told to "blend, Josh. Blend!" This is a total departure from what I know of myself as a musician--usually I'm in the orchestra. Not on stage, singing.

If I think about it too much, my hands go numb and my gut clenches and I want to crawl into my bed and not come out for a week and a half. But then, I also feel a surge of excitement, and a feeling that I know I'm supposed to be doing this. Remember when I mentioned in my New Year's post that I would be fearless this year? That I would throw my hat in the ring and do things, even when they feel terrifying? Well, this is one of those moments.

There's a whole, long story about how all of this came about that I might get into later. But for now I want you to know this one key thing: I have struggled so much to know how to articulate my thoughts around the policy that happened in November. My thoughts and feelings are incredibly complex, and my pain around it is deep and difficult to put in words. I have been unable to write about it, but please know that--hokey as this might sound--my singing of this song is part of my response to the policy. Words have largely failed me. But this music has encapsulated my emotions and hopes and feelings in a way I've never experienced before, and I mean that sincerely. I've never connected to music on this level, and the circumstances of me doing this were very providential.

So, if you live nearby and if you want to truly understand my feelings--not just about the policy, but about a great number of things--I would be honored if you came and saw my performance. This is an instance where, perhaps for the first time in my life, what I feel in my heart is better expressed not in written word, but in song. (I'm trying hard not to feel cheesy about how that sounds! Because I mean it.)

Please come. If your heart is hurting, come. If you feel confusion of any kind in your life, come to this performance. Not just to see me, but to experience this powerful piece of music, which has made me cry pretty much every day for the last three weeks. The entire oratorio is a treatise on Christ, on His atonement and sacrifice, and on why we are permitted to have hope in the face of cruelty, death and profound difficulty. (Here I go again, trying to describe something in words that can be better described in music.)

If you have a heavy heart for any reason, or just need a spiritual pick-me-up; if you feel disenfranchised and frustrated; if your faith has taken a hit, and you need to feel God's love, this performance will be a safe place for you.

Come. Enjoy this music. Celebrate the ministry of Christ.

Watch me do something utterly terrifying.

And please, whether you come or not, say huge prayers for me that I'll be able to do this scary thing with courage and a solid sense of self, in a way that's pleasing to God.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Winds of Change that Change Nothing

 Photo attribution: here

I am feeling the winds of change here at The Weed.

But that's nothing new. I feel the winds of change over here regularly. And then I write about those winds of change, becoming all meta, and then 80% of the time, nothing actually changes. It's how I do life.

If you've read here long, you've seen posts about blogging--several a year, at least. It's actually one of my favorite topics to write about. I blog about blogging a lot, I think, because like so many things in my life, blogging is something I strive to get better at, and when I suck at it, I try and analyze why through writing. I pick at it over and over and over trying to psychoanalyze and motivate myself. I blog about blogging because I'm constantly trying to crack the code of how to remain committed to doing this, even with my ADD and my four kids and my career as a therapist and my other career as a writer of books that haven't been published yet. There is a seemingly endless concourse of starts and stops in the history of this weblog--always, the epiphany: "Ope, I'm finally gonna do this regularly herewegoooooo!!" leading, sometimes just days later, to a big red stop sign in my head.

In recent years, those halts have been brought on by huge, cataclysmic (to me) events that stop me in my tracks. One of the most recent was the church's new policy, which I have yet to tackle in writing (it has taken me a long time to process that sucker, and I'm still heartbroken for so many people I love, but I've found some peace with it. I'll probably write about that soon. (Famous last words, as my Grandpa Woody used to say.)) Other halts include: the time a guy threatened my family on Facebook; the time my Mom went to a rest home; the time I posted about marriage equality and then took the post down days later cuz God told me to; other crises too personal to mention; Etc.

Before things got serious here--back when this was an ADHD blog and a then a humor blog--the halts came mainly with me getting annoyed with my limitations of voice. For much of that time, I felt like I had to be only funny and absurd, and there was no room for serious things, and it stymied me. As I've chronicled before, my coming out post in 2012 (over three years ago! Whoa!) was, in part, the result of me having writer's block on this very blog and Lolly saying, in what felt like an almost offhanded remark, "I know the problem. The problem is that you need to come out of the closet."

I had no idea how right she was. Doing that opened up both worlds of authenticity in my blogging, as well as worlds of complication.

When I started this blog in 2010, it was on a day where I felt similar to how I feel in this moment. I was about to turn 30 years old, and I was frustrated by my inability to do stuff. I felt disorganized and sporadic and desperately wanted to find a routine. I opened a blogspot blog for the sole purpose of having a place to list, online, the stuff I wanted to do to get organized. Instead what came out of me was this post where I came out, so to speak, about having ADD (presaging later revelations in ways I could never have guessed.)

It's no secret that one of the things that trips me up most as I write in this sucker is knowing how to deal with people's crappy comments. I could give master classes at this point on all of the ideas I've tried in order to overcome this hurdle. "Water off a duck's back!" I say. "Just ignore it," I say. Somehow, though, I have such a hard time with that. So much of the feedback I've gotten over the years has been beautiful, wonderful and supportive. So, why then the one comment that's grating? Why is that the one the tinges the conversation for me, gets me distracted, makes me waste time?

I've been having some thoughts about that--about why negative comments trip me up so much. Maybe that will be tomorrow's post.

If I post tomorrow.

Because that's the joy of the life of Josh Weed. I never know the staying power of anything I start. I never know if some effort will last six years, as this blog has now, or come screeching to a halt the next day. When I started this blog in 2010, there was no indication, whatsoever, that it would become a blog written about in major periodicals around the world, or that it would end up with a tally of visitors in the millions. That heyday has, of course, seen more robust moments. But that's the beauty of my spastic, impetuous life: who knows what the next heyday will look like? Who knows but that I start something today, just like I started in February of 2010, that through hard work and luck, will yield amazing dividends that change my life for the better in innumerable ways as I keep plugging along, just like this blog has?

That's why I start again every time I fail. That's why I write about blogging so dang often here and constantly try to feel the winds of change pushing me towards consistency, even though they often lead to no change at all. That's also why every time I fail in my attempt to write here consistently, I pick myself up again, dust myself off, and start anew. I know it might be annoying to read about these attempts, or about my difficulties with critical comments. I know that each time I promise to be consistent and then only write for a few days or weeks and then fall off of the planet, I lose people's trust--that is totally understandable. I would have the same exact reaction as a reader.

As a writer, it's an occupational hazard. I accept it.

But please know that every false start is the way my brain knows how achieve my Goals with a capital G. Know that each time I try to recommit, I am committing to something deeply important to me. Know that I have loved every minute of writing in this blog, and I have loved interacting with all of you so very much, and hope to continue to do so for many years to come, if you don't get too sick of me.

When I'm being generous and loving and understanding to myself--giving myself grace, as they say--I realize that every "broken promise" in this endeavor is not a failure--it is simply another step in my tenacious pursuit of my dreams, kicking the stone farther and farther down the path. And if there's one thing I can, with 100% surety, promise you about myself it is this: I do not give up on my dreams. Ever.

No matter what.

Thanks so much for sticking around while I make those dreams happen in the face of internal demons and other adversity and lots of of starts and stops.

It means a lot.

In the meantime, I'm gonna be better at posting. No, really. Pinky swear!

(And thus my post about the winds of change concludes with nothing having changed at all, bringing this post, and probably this blog itself, full circle. Aaaaaaand scene.)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Trip to Rexburg + I won a thing!!! + Aging. (It happens.)

In September or October or some month in the past I spontaneously took a trip down to Idaho with a former early-morning seminary student of mine (shout out, Spencer Transier) who was going there to forge his destiny and stuff.

I was going there because my parents had just moved into an assisted living facility. Which, in case you were wondering, really sucks.

The drive down was great--uneventful and nice and picturesque, like any good road trip should be. Here's a poor picture from the drive:

I'm always amazed I haven't been tapped to work for a magazine with photos like this.
Oh, side story: at one point I was introducing Spencer to Radiohead (which I viewed as part of my responsibility as his former seminary teacher, obviously) and in order to give context to the brilliant progression of their musical output over time I was like "well, you know "Creep" right?" expecting him to know exactly what I was talking about. And he didn't. So I sang the chorus. "Cuz I'm a creeeeep, I'm a weeeeeeirdoooooo . . ." Still nothing. Then I was like "Really Spencer? It was one of the most popular songs of 1995. How have you never heard this?" And he was like "Josh, I was born in 1995."

And that's when my soul died.

Guys, Spencer isn't some junior high student. He is a returned missionary. He drives. He's done years of college. He is old enough to drink. Maybe. I can't remember. The new mission age thing throws me off. But the point here is that I might have never felt so old as I did in that moment. And for a man three gray hairs shy of officially being salt and pepper and three years shy of his 20 year high school reunion, that's really saying something.

Anyway, we got there, and a bunch of stuff happened that I have trouble remembering because it all happened months ago, but I'll try.


I walked around campus and visited the old haunts from when Lolly and I were there together. You know, last century. Literally.

Lolly lived in this apartment. I ate dinner with her and her roommates almost every day my Freshman year.

Here is the Snow Building (music), where I spent a lot of time my Freshman year. It looks the same as it did in 1999.

I spent a lot of time wandering the campus after a long run at the track. It felt so familiar and peaceful, and was really wonderful. Lots of good memories.

Later that day, we went to visit the assisted living facility where my parents are living. It was hard. The facility was nice though.

 My sister Jenni and I during the dinner they served us at the assisted living facility. We are Klassy.

 This picture of my dad feeding my mom breaks my heart and fills me with joy all at once.

After that we went to a park nearby to hang out with my dear friend Sarah Dunster. She and I have been writing friends for years, Skyping to workshop poetry and beta reading one another's stuff, and when I told her I was visiting my parents in Rexburg at the assisted living facility she was like "Josh, that is next door to my house. I am looking at that assisted living center from my window." I couldn't believe it. It felt moving to me, and very synchronistic. I feel a lot of comfort knowing that she lives near them while I can't. Anyway, she could only come to the park for a few minutes so I didn't get a picture of her, but I did get some of the rest of us.

 Mom and Dad on a bench.

It was such a beautiful day that Jenni and I decided to go walking through the park with the kids. The air was autumn-crisp. Her kids were chasing, playing tag. Jenni and I talked about life and about what was happening to our family. As we walked I saw some swings, and couldn't help myself. I hopped on, and it felt so refreshing to fly through the air like a kid again. I couldn't contain my childlike laughter as I soared higher and higher--it felt so freeing and wonderful, like I had accessed a part of me long forgotten. Jenni pulled out her camera and snapped some photos. "You're gonna love these," she said, and I was glad she thought of it. She sent them over to my phone and when I looked at them, I couldn't stop laughing. I don't know what I expected to see (something youthful? something carefree?) but it definitely wasn't this:

 What whimsy!

Such childlike wonder....

And/or I look like a disabled koala bear that's about to sneeze.

One of those two things.

The rest of the shots were also hilariously awful:

 That swingset's about snap old man. Go home.

 It's tragic that such genuine, childlike laughter could look so awkward. 

 My favorite part of this one is the shadow--somehow that shadow so perfectly captures the ridiculousness of the giant man-child soaring through the air above it.

I don't know why, but that moment of freedom and childlike wonder which I thought would be so beautifully captured on Jenni's phone and then the way the actual pictures bitch-slapped back to reality was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Absurdity is fun, I guess. And humor helps to process pain.

Here's a picture of me looking relatively normal. To restore balance to the universe.

After this, we had dinner at a Mexican Restaurant. It was really difficult. My mom struggled the whole time. But it was very nice to be together.
I had some really healing, beautiful things happen this trip. It was wonderful to be with my parents. Going to church with my dad was soothing--the way his ward was already reaching out to him (in part because of Sarah's advocacy in ward counsel before we got there) felt comforting. And then the last night I was there, my dad,  my brother Chris and I all had dinner together. We talked and laughed and ate really good food. It was cathartic. 

The next morning Spencer came and picked me up, but before he did I was able to spend time with Chris. I talked to him and gave him a blessing, and it was really really clear to us both that he and my parents were supposed to be there (he lives in apartment close to them), and that even though it was hard, God had some important things planned for all of them.  

I'm very glad I was able to make the trip.

I'm also really, really, really glad that I'm on Friday #2 of 2016 and I am on track of keeping my goal of writing a post every Friday.

Go me!!!! 

2016--I will OWN YOU.

Oh, PS, an awesome Weeder named Wendy Simmerman posted this link on my Facebook page yesterday, and I realized I forgot to tell you all about something important. I won a thing!!!! A year ago!!! And now I waited so long to tell you that the contest is open again!!!! Because that's how I roll!!! (If you click on the title it will take you to a PDF that I think is free, so you can read the actual piece. It was based on a blog post I wrote years ago, so it might sound a little familiar to some of you.)

(For the record, the plan is to write these things on Friday and post them on Monday--you know, when people are avoiding their horrible jobs all day more apt to have an online presence.)

All right. Finis.

Friday, January 1, 2016

At the outset of a really big year...

This year feels big to me.

I'm halfway through being 35. Maybe that's why. If there is any youth in me left, I feel like it's about to eked out in the next few years, like the last blobs of toothpaste in an almost empty tube. I still look almost young, but my hair has started to gray. Wrinkles are coming. I sleep less.

Nobody prepares you for 35. There are no after-school-specials about what it's like to be wedged halfway between young-adulthood and middle-age. There are no road maps for this time--when the early thirties somehow feel so young and vibrant and nearly-linked to your twenties, yet your later thirties feel so adult and serious and nearly-linked to your forties, and you are smack dab in-between both of those worlds

It's hard to describe, I guess. But the feeling of it is starting to make me take things seriously.

I take this new year very seriously because of it. I'm starting to realize so many things. Life goes quickly. Youth fades fast. Energy dwindles. Aches increase. Responsibilities threaten to overtake all of your hours. At this age, the future is now less of an amorphous, seemingly endless expanse of possibility in front of you. Instead, you have begun to inhabit that space. There are other dreams still, but if you aren't careful, they begin to take on a different timbre--less pie-in-the-sky and filled with hope, and more realistic (aka, pessimistic).

I don't care for that. I choose to continue to believe in the power of my dreams. Even the most scary of them.

I have been feeling recently like I'm in the middle of some kind of bridge, or some kind of transition.
I feel it right now, while my family is all together for the holidays. Right now, most of the people I love on this planet are with me still. It feels flimsy and temporary--but also like an amazing gift. It feels like this very rare chunk of time when nearly all of the people I deeply care about are still breathing, eating, living--still accompanying me on this rock. Admittedly, I haven't experienced much death in my 35 years, and I feel lucky (and also a little bit ill-prepared). My parents are both still here. All four of my siblings are still here. Lolly's parents are here. All of her siblings are here. All of our respective children are here. My best friends are still here. Most of the people I love with all my heart are still with me.

I know how lucky I am for that. And I have a sense how temporary it is.

I don't mean that to sound morbid. This is not some prediction of calamity or tragedy, though certainly no human soul will escape those bogeymen.

It's more like this: last week I was in Coos Bay and I was spending time with my Mom's mom. She is 92. She is spunky, articulate and refined. She is a farm-girl who wished to leave that behind her when she grew up, and so married my grandpa. He was more urbane and academic and provided well for her, and she never looked back. I sat in her little house on the bay, and I played the violin for her on one of the instruments my grandpa made. I sat talking to her about her daughter, my mom, who is dying. And it occurred to me that besides some of her children and their progeny, all of her people are gone. No siblings. No aunts or uncles. No parents. No spouse. And she will soon lose her second child.

She is, in so many ways, alone. The last vanguard of our clan, a relic and a gift to her descendants, but largely alone in this world. She has no peer-group, no contemporaries. They are gone--all of them.

This loss is something that happens. It is a matter of course. It is part of the cycle of life on this planet. It is natural and filled with grief and tragedy, because it's also filled with love, and it is the fate of every human who lives enough years: we eventually lose our tribe.

But I am at the opposite end of that. I am an adult looking over that precipice. All of my tribe is still here. We all sit before that great cliff and enjoy one another's company, and I can see how all of us will eventually leave one by one. But we haven't yet. We have a few precious moments left where we are all together, where we can all sit in a room with each other and eat and laugh and be a unit. But it will end, slowly and gradually, in a natural progression of loss. And I can see that somehow. I can see how lucky I am to be where I am at this dot on the spectrum of time. I have my tribe now, and it's beautiful, and it simply cannot last.

I'm so grateful for that gift, and I'm so grateful that most of my family decided to be together this season.

So yes, this is a new year. And I feel the weight of my own humanity. I feel the power of my internal forces urging me to bravely fling myself towards my dreams--even the most terrifying ones--and I also feel the temporariness of that endeavor--the fleeting nature of the seconds and minutes and days that remain at my disposal.

And so I will do it. I will run toward the realization of my dreams, bumbling and tripping and falling all the way. I will not be deterred by the bruises and cuts and scrapes along the way. I will rebuke shame and its internal voices. I will be brave and do hard things. I will take risks. I will do the things I feel called to do, even the ones that leave me breathless with fear. I will speak instead of remaining silent. I will create, and then create again. I will throw my hat into the ring over and over and over in the endeavors I care about, even after met with many failures. I will take care of my body, and I will eat good nourishing food, and I will spend time with my wife and daughters and siblings and dear friends because I know that our time together is finite. I will do the things I love, and observe the beauty around me. I will work hard and play hard and rest well. I will make self-care my clarion song, so that my filled cup will overflow into the lives of as many people who thirst as I can reach. I will give and I will love and be brave and vulnerable. And I will tell jokes and laugh and celebrate and have fun throughout it all.

I am so grateful to be alive, and I'm so excited to see the wonderful things this year holds. I have the feeling this will be an exceptionally big year--probably with really high highs and really low lows. And I'm excited for it all.

Thanks for being there. Happy 2016.

Here's a picture.

We are very excited for 2016!

Oh wait. Just remembered that we took a fun one last night.
Right after the ball dropped! Happy New Near! 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


This is another sad post about my mom. Today's her birthday.

BTW, I have another post I'm working on about my trip to Rexburg, which was a really great experience. But before I finish that, I felt the desire to post what I wrote on my Mom's Facebook page today. It is so weird to write on the Facebook wall of a person who cannot read it, yet is still alive. I will never get over how strange that feels.

You are 60 today Mom.

I have actually dreaded this birthday. A few years ago, when we really started to lose you, I had a horrifying, irrational wish (because that's how grief works): I hoped you would leave us completely before you turned 60. My reasons maybe make sense only to me--your child.

I wanted people to know.

I wanted, when I told this story, for people to understand how early you were taken from us. For some reason, the thought of saying you passed in your fifties made me feel like people would "get it." People would automatically say "Oh, that's so young! And such an unusual age to die of Alzheimer's..." Imagining being able to say you left us in your fifties made me feel that people would immediately recognize that what happened to you was traumatic and devastating. Whereas, it felt to me that saying 60 or 61 or 62 would lead people to think "Oh, she was elderly. It makes sense that she died of Alzheimer's, just like my grandma did."

They wouldn't know.

They wouldn't understand that you have been gone for so many years already--that you missed the end of your eldest child's twenties, and the end of your youngest child's teens. They wouldn't know that none of your grandchildren were able to meet you as *you* nor that so many will likely not meet you at all. They wouldn't understand that you were taken from us so early--decades before you were supposed to leave us. They wouldn't know that your own mother, at the age of 92, has a mind still largely functional--can still walk and talk and write and be witty. They wouldn't understand my loss for what it is.

I'm still not totally sure why that felt important to me. But it did.

And yet, now you are 60.

And instead of feeling cheated of some strange, grief-based numerical anecdote, I choose to feel grateful. I am grateful that I saw you last weekend, and that I was able to hug you, and that during the three days there was one moment of partial lucidity where you seemed to recognize me for who I am. I choose to be grateful I can still hug you tightly and feel your warmth--the same warmth that comforted me as a little child. I choose to be grateful that we are all still with you, learning from you. I choose to be grateful for the Lord and His timing--for surely if he knows the fall of the sparrow, he certainly knows when to take home a majestic, wonderful woman such as you.

I choose to trust that in the end, all will be made right--and that all that seems so broken and fractured and upended now will be rectified. I choose to celebrate you and all that you are. I choose to delight in the days or months or years you have with us, and I choose to savor these last remaining moments of your presence in my life on this planet. For, what a gift that is! Although you cannot speak, I choose to celebrate the pieces of you that remain: your neverendingly cheerful disposition; your laughter and your tears; and most of all, the shimmers of faith and gratitude that, through all the disaese, somehow break through, reminding me of the essence of your soul.

Happy birthday Mommy. May this year bring you many moments in which you can bask in the presence of those you love, and may it bring you anything else the Lord needs you, or us, to experience.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Strange, the things that bring out the grief.

A sentence, transcribing my mom's journal.

She says "I'm going to miss Relief Society, but I'll be back soon enough. . ."

She is 25. I've just been born. She has been called to be in Primary, and she is excited to be working with the kids for the first time in years, but she says she'll miss being with the other sisters in the Relief Society.

But she'll be back to it. Soon enough, she'll be back.

Soon enough.

But what about now? What about now that she is in a memory unit? What of her current "calling"?

She won't be back. She won't be back to Relief Society soon enough.

She won't be back to any of us soon enough.

My heart is breaking.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sometimes Saints Swear

Hey! I'm posting again like the champion blogger that I was always destined to be. YAY!!!!!

I have a few things to post in response to my last entry, because apparently I can't blog about anything except blogging itself. That's how the professionals do it, you see... (false)

The truth is, this post gets really serious, and is all about who I am as a blogger and as a person and what you should expect from me. It's something of a refresher course for those who might not know me well. Buckle up, because I get a little passionate, but it's all stuff that needs to be said.

How to begin?

Okay, so remember the time I made a joke in the middle of the night three days ago about sending an inappropriate picture of my body to an advertising group and them confusing it for a deflated party balloon?  And then remember how the day I posted it I talked about seeing an actual picture of a deflated balloon on the WWW (translation: World Wide Web) but decided not to post it because I'm a respectable human being who doesn't post stuff like that on his blog?

Screw that. Here's the one I found.

I couldn't have taken a more perfect picture for that joke if I tried. Amiright???
Image source: here

The reason I suddenly feel it is imperative to post this picture is twofold.

First, the day I posted the joke, an awesome Weeder named Leisha Mareth delighted me by finding another picture than the one I found and posting it in the comments on Facebook, and it was so hilarious I decided then and there that I needed to share it. (I also concluded that the Internet is totally crazy, and you can find ANYTHING there.)

But before I shared hers, I felt it only fair that I share mine. Kind of an "I'll show mine if you show yours" type of thing, if you know what I'm saying...

You ready for this?

Yes. That just happened.
Dear Internet, I'm sorry I can't source this picture. It was posted to Facebook.

Somehow, she found a deflated balloon picture that was even better than mine. 

Which begs the question (except that it doesn't beg the question because "begging the question" is a philosophical fallacy referring to an attempt to prove a premise using another premise that itself requires proof and yes, I am a huge huge huge nerd why pray tell do you ask???)--ahem. As I was saying. It begs the question: just how many pictures of deflated balloons looking like human anatomy exist on the World Wide Web?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it--(yes you, with the nose)--is to find a deflated balloon anatomy pic that is more hilarious than either Liesha or me and post it in the comments here or on Facebook. 

Consider the gauntlet thrown down.  

Side note: My favorite part of challenges like this is the haunting possibility that nobody will take the challenge and I will experience the awkward shame one feels when he says something like "yeah, I'm sure I'm not the only one in this room who still wipes boogers on the carpet sometimes, right?" *chuckle chuckle* followed by complete silence while everyone looks around awkwardly leaving you hanging as the seconds tick by and you try to figure out how to recover and then you blurt out "Oh, yeah, me neither!" and it totally works. 

(No. It doesn't. It doesn't work at all.)

The second reason that I felt it very important to actually post the picture was a comment I received via email from a Weeder. Now, before I share this comment, I have to say that literally almost every response I received on my post the other day was positive, warm, beautiful and filled my heart with joy. No joke. It actually filled me with joy. I had felt scared to post after so long,  and I am so thankful for all you people for somehow still being here with me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for still reading. Thank you for being kind and generous, and for saying the exact right things to help me feel your love and support. 

This community is a blessing.

Also, I must say that I have no doubt whatsoever that the person who sent me a message is a sweet, wonderful, amazing human being, and I really appreciate the intentions behind what they were saying. Really, I do.

That being said, their comment made me want to douse myself in gasoline and set myself on fire with frustration. Their comment represents one of the things I hate most about blogging and humans and myself and my own sensitivities and religious culture.

I've decided not to share the actual email itself because it was sent to me privately, and I can truly see its good intentions. I don't want the sender (who I assume will be reading this) to feel embarrassed or ashamed--really don't feel bad, friend. I know your heart, and I'm not angry at you. But your message has made it clear that I need to clarify some things.

I will summarize its basic message (this is not an exaggeration, btw):

Your last blog post makes me concerned about you. It had gay jokes and swear words and it destroys the image that I have in my mind about you as being a righteous man. Seeing that post makes me question your church life and your marriage and your mental health. You are changing from when I started reading your blog--for the worse--and I am sad for you and very worried about you. Please seek help.

Getting feedback like this makes me feel two things. First, it makes me feel very grateful that people are concerned about me--it is touching to know that people want what's best for me. 

But secondly and more importantly, it makes me extremely extremely frustrated, and allows me to see that I need to make a few key concepts clear, because if I got this message from one person, he or she surely represents more people who feel the same way. 

Here is something that I wish I could effectively communicate with my life:

Human beings are complex, beautiful creatures. They cannot be put into boxes. And when you send me messages like that, it makes me feel like you want to put me in a box. 

You cannot.

I am many things. Things that might seem contradictory to you.

I am a gay man. Yet I am a Mormon man. Both of these things co-exist.

I am deeply religious. Yet sometimes I say "inappropriate" words. Both of these things co-exist.

I write passionately about incredibly deep subject matter of a highly spiritual nature some days. And other days I write silly, absurd posts about funny things and make crude jokes because they make me laugh (and I firmly believe that some days you just need to look at the absurdities and cruelties of life and choose to laugh.) Both of these things co-exist.

The theme goes on. I am deeply faithful, and I am crass. I am deeply empathetic, and yet sometimes painfully honest. I am kindhearted but sometimes brutal. I am tender, but sometimes bitingly sarcastic. I have a deep, meaningful inner spiritual life and am very much in touch with spiritual things but sometimes I watch rated R movies. *the crowd gasps in dismay* I read scripture and say prayers every single day of my life but I also research serial killers and depraved accounts of abuse in my spare time sometimes too. 

I drink Mountain Dew. A lot.

I am not ashamed of these things. These things make me a human being. These things, and more, make me unique. They make me who I am.

I am unconventional, and I had an experience last night (which I can't share) that showed me yet again that, at least with me, the Lord doesn't view my unconventional, "inappropriate," poorly mannered habits (that are a part of my personality) as a liability. He uses them to bless the lives of others, sometimes in very profound ways. God doesn't want me to fit into some cookie cutter picture of human perfection. He wants me to be me. That is a line from my patriarchal blessing even. I am told to "reach out in love" and to "be myself" as I interact with others.

The truth is, I come by these things naturally--perhaps even genetically. I come from a long line of amazing individuals with profound connection to God. And I also come from progenitors who are crude, blunt, funny people who are unconventional and uncouth. These things are a part of my heritage, and I am not only not ashamed of them, I am proud of them.

My dad has been a bishop and in a stake presidency and worked for the church education system his entire career ending it as the Institute Director at a university, and he is the person I learned how to have a sense of humor that pushes boundaries from. He is funny and crass and compassionate. He says things some judgmental people might deem "inappropriate" and does and/or watches things some judgmental people might deem "inappropriate." Yet, do you know what he has been doing for the last 9 years of his life? Can you even begin to comprehend the level of his devotion to God and other humans? Let me fill you in: he has been taking care of my mom as she dies of Early Onset Alzheimer's. He has been with her every single day, and he has cleaned her feces and has hand fed her her meals and has watched her body and mind deteriorate even though the stress of it is literally killing his body and now half his face is paralyzed and he started going blind in one eye. He just moved into a care facility with her (even though she's not even yet 60 years old), and is doing so because he found one of the only facilities in the West that will allow him to live in the same room as her in the memory unit. He left his entire support system and moved to a tiny town in Idaho so that he could keep the promise he made her that he will be by her side until the day she dies. He is a saint, and a man of God, and one of the best people I have ever known, and you are not going to look at me and tell me that because he has said a few swear words or told some unsavory jokes that his standing in the eyes of God is compromised because that is, if you'll pardon my french, complete and utter bullshit.

He is a whole, complete person--multifaceted and nuanced. And his crassness doesn't detract from anything. In fact, it complements his spirituality and makes him relatable and human. It is that very crassness that has allowed my dad to touch people's lives. It is that same sense of humor and crudeness that has allowed him to be human and relate to people, and touch thousands of students over his decades-long career in a way that, without his being himself, would have been unachievable.

And more importantly to my story, it is that same openness and realness and crassness that made my father relatable to me. It was what allowed a 13 year old boy to know that he could come out to his dad as a homosexual and not be judged. Do you think if my father was uptight and proper and well mannered and offended by crude words that I would have felt comfortable telling him that I was attracted to men at the age of 13? I'll answer for you: NO. It was this very openness and realness and crudeness that allowed me to be real with him, which in turn has allowed me to become the man I am today, writing these posts, saying these sometimes inspiring things that have touched you. 

Don't try to put people into boxes. Don't judge people for their choice of diction (words are just words, people!) or for the things they do that are on your own, personal, culturally derived "list of things that are inappropriate but that are found nowhere in scripture that I kinda judge people for." If you do that, you will miss the boat. You will miss what humanity is really about. You will miss the diversity of our populace, and you will miss out on knowing amazing people, and it will be your loss.  
In closing, I want to be very clear.  On this blog, I will often write spiritual, moving things. I will also make jokes about human anatomy, and I will be crass, and I will say things I find funny. I will do it in the tradition of the Weed heritage, and I will do it because it is who I am, and I am not ashamed of who I am. On this blog, I might post pictures of balloons that look like penises, and I might say words you don't choose to use in your personal life, and I might describe truths you find to be uncomfortable in ways that are honest and graphic. I might talk about sex. I might talk about flatulence. I might say things that you find offensive. This is what my blog has always been. Heck, during its first year (2010) I held a giveaway and the prize I gave away was a vibrator that I won in a white elephant gift exchange. This stuff is not new. THIS IS HOW I ROLL. And contrary to what this person's email insinuated, I am actually no different now than I have ever been on this blog.

The logo at the top of the page here says that I am "all kinds of real." I intend to live up to that motto. I always have, and I always will. This is what allows me to be a good therapist and a good writer and a good father and a good husband and a good friend. This is who I am, and how God made me, and I know that He is most proud of me when I am fearless and bold and open and authentic and vulnerable. In this space, I plan to share who I am. I am not ashamed of who I am.

I am going to be me. Crude, crass, deeply spiritual, empathetic, nerdy, funny, happy, real me.

And if you can't stomach this idea, I will not be offended. If it's too much, please, choose to read something else for both our sakes! Seriously, no hard feelings. I get it. To each his own.

You might feel pretty open minded and chill, but chances are that one of these days, I'm going to make the joke or say the thing that offends you. But if you're game, I invite you stay. If you're open, I invite you to sit with with me, and sit with your discomfort. I invite you to challenge your own notions of propriety and your assumptions about manners and what makes a good person. I invite you to continue to challenge your ideas of sexuality. I invite you to ask yourself what theses things really mean to you, and I invite you to sit with more complexity and ambiguity.  But most of all, I invite you--each one of you--to continue to be a part of this beautiful community of imperfect people living good, solid lives and sharing with each other because, though I've been absent for a few months, it is one of the most rewarding communities in my life.

Thanks for being there guys. 

(Oh, and PS, don't forget about the deflated balloon contest! *crickets chirp*)