Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Birthday

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*)



Tuesday, October 6, 2015

This is a post I wrote in the middle of the night.

And then I woke up and read it and it amused me. So here you go!

So, I haven't posted for four months, and I just got word that my advertisers are like "listen, we're good." And I was like like "what do you mean?" and they were like "can we just be friends? You know, friends who don't advertise on your blog anymore because you don't post?" And I was like "but I'll miss you and the $30 a month you send me for doing absolutely nothing. Can't we reconsider?" And they were like "Uh, we'll pass." And I was like "I'll throw in one blog post a month..." and they were like "tempting, but we're gonna go with bloggers that don't suck at blogging." And I was like "Are you sure though?" and they were like "yeah" and I was like "FINE" and they were like "stop emailing us pictures of your children. We aren't friends anymore," and I was like "do you want a sexy pic?" and they were like "we're calling the police" and I was like "JUST KIDDING. Can't you take a joke? Don't you know about sarcasm? Also, don't click on the jpg I just sent." And they were like "Wow. Why did you send us a picture of a deflated party balloon?" and I was like "RUDE. I had just gone on a run."

30% of that conversation didn't really happen.

ANYWHO. I'm flying solo is what I'm saying. 

Hey, unrelated, anyone interested in advertising on a blog where nobody posts? 

So listen.

You know how Facebook does that thing where you get a list of posts for like the last eight years that you can "time-hop" to because they want you to feel all nostalgic and also old and also sad that your kids are growing up and also really glad you have other people named Whitney Shafer shop for you now so you don't look like an idiot? Turns out that because I used to post here a lot and then link to Facebook, I've been reading a lot of my old humor posts, and do you know what? That was freaking fun. 

I like to have fun.

So, here's the set up. I have thousands of readers who (in my head) want to read posts about how gay I am and stuff. But all I want to do is make inappropriate jokes and be silly and say occasional swear words and I'm like WHERE'S THE MIDDLE GROUND???

It's like when you are stuck in a job as a telemarketer and all you really want to be doing is being booed off the stage of a local nightclub that has an open mic night for comedians. 

No, that's not it.

It's like when you are in church and all you want to be doing is not being in church.

Wait, no. Not that either.

I don't really know how to explain this. Other than to say that tonight, in the middle of the night, I have felt the urge to write a humor post again. And it has felt really good and fun. And a lot of the real stuff that's happening in my life is so traumatic and hard and inexplicable that I just can't talk about it. And also it's somber and sad, and officially not good or fun.

So, in closing, the three of you who have read this are now on notice: The Weed is back. And he's not getting paid. And he's tired of not swearing. And he's also tired of being serious all the damn time. And he's also tired of writing this mediocre post. And he has some hope that as he does this more, it will get easier again. But he also fears that this might be the last thing he ever writes on this blog, too. Because that's how his brain works: each step forward feels like the beginning of something awesome, or the last step off the cliff. And it's hard to tell which. 

Also, he needs to go to bed because he's too tired to think straight. (Which is why he's gay. Ba dum CHING. See that? Tied it into the gay stuff like a champion. Looks like I just found the middle ground. I am ridiculous and nobody should be my friend ever really good at this blogging thing!)

Good night. 

Oh wait, first, a random picture for your enjoyment:

Date Night! 

(PS, I REALLY REALLY wanted to post a picture of a deflated heart-shaped balloon I found on the World Wide Web because in the context of this post it might actually be one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen--but I decided against it because in the daylight hours, I make proper decisions. #winningatlife)