Threads of Life

August 20, 2008

(I’ve been reading a book called The Art of Aging, by Sherwin Nuland, and a section of that book spurred this post.)  

Have you ever thought about who is affected by your life.  The fact that there are people out there who gain something simply from your existence on the planet.  This is to say nothing of the people in your day to day inner circle, those whom you see and speak to on even a somewhat frequent basis.  

I’ve heard life referred to as a path that you travel.  Your path crosses with any number of other people, but imagine that as we each travel our life paths we trail behind us a fine thread.  With each human connection that we make our thread becomes wrapped with the other person’s.  Sometimes our thread wraps intricately and for a duration with another’s, but sometimes two threads only cross one another at one small, delicate point.  Regardless of how interwoven you become your life is always connected to the people you encounter along your way.  And because of that the impact of your life is felt far beyond your comprehension.  

Back in January, on my old blog, I wrote about a friend who had died suddenly.  He was in his early thirties.  What I didn’t say at the time is that I had very briefly dated that man.  It was nothing serious and we didn’t really stay in touch, but I saw him around every once in awhile.  So when I heard that he had died I was taken off guard by the strong emotions of sadness and grief that I felt.  I didn’t know where the feelings were coming from and I remember staring at the picture that accompanied his obituary for what seemed like a long time.  It didn’t make sense to me.  

Now, you could probably delve into all kinds of deep explanations for why I felt what I did.  But I think the explanation that makes the simplest sense is that his life had crossed and interwoven with mine.  His death rippled back along the thread he’d trailed throughout his life and when it struck the point at which it crossed with my own life, I felt it.  It took me back to that point along my life path.  

The sadness and grief I felt were minute compared to what his parents and loved ones must have felt.  But it was sadness and grief nonetheless.  And if my friend is out there somewhere then I hope he knows that I cried when I heard that his life had ended.  His life was short, but it is connected to many other lives that are still carrying on.  And so, in a way, he goes on too.  

While your life may be in your control, it is not your own.  It is wrapped up with the lives of many others.  Your life today ripples back and connects to people, places, and times that you may have long since ceased to think about.  It gives new meaning to the statement, “You’re not alone,” and it testifies to the thought that no man is an island.

The roots of all our lives go very, very, deep, and we can’t really understand a person unless we have the chance of knowing who that person has been, and what that person has done and liked and suffered and believed.” -Fred Rogers, Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers

Just as life experience takes time to accumulate, so does a relationship. I like to think of a relationship as something that forms and grows between people. You don’t just meet a person and suddenly have a relationship. We cheat ourselves of the beauty that can come from a well-formed and nurtured relationship when we try to force those things that we want, and need, to come naturally. But those things may not come at all. And somehow I think we convince ourselves that maybe if we hurry and make it “serious” really fast we can stop a relationship from becoming what we don’t want it and need it to be; Like a game of musical chairs where if you get there first, you win. Or maybe we’re just impatient.

You cannot cheat time. It does not matter if you spend every waking moment with a person for the first 6 months that you know them, you still only know 6 months worth of information about them. “Cramming” may have worked for you on exams in school, but the same principle does not apply to getting to know a human being. Spending every waking moment with the person you are dating gives you a skewed vision of who they are as a person. They existed without you by their side before. What kind of person were they then? Because that is the person that it is important for you to know.

With forced and rushed relationships people lose, hard. It’s not that I’m saying that whether you rush or take your time getting to know someone that the outcome will necessarily be different. If the timing is right and you match up with the person in the right places it will work. But if the relationship fails then the speed that you’re traveling and the degree that you and the other person are enmeshed together is going to affect the amount and the severity of the damage done on impact.

I know a man that in the first four months of this year has gotten serious enough with a man to be calling him his “partner” and to say that they are “planning their future together.” I know a woman who met a man last summer and two months later was engaged to him. Four months after their engagement they were married and moving their children in together. All during the craziness of this woman finishing nursing school.

Whoa.

Extreme Home Makeover is a show that I enjoy watching on occasion. And somehow that came up with a man I met while I was in New York. He is an architect, and I remember him saying something to the effect that from an architectural standpoint such a speedy construction brings up a number of questions when it comes to quality and stability. How long does a fresh foundation need before you put the weight of a house or relationship on it?

It’s the complex detail of anything, be it architecture, people, or a relationship, that make them truly beautiful and worthwhile. Detail takes time to form and to appreciate. Something significant is lost when we rush. Great damage can be done when we try to cram another person, and allow ourselves to be pushed, into a space that doesn’t truly fit the intricate details of their, or our, individual humanity.

Take a breath. Recognize that something that is right today will still be right tomorrow, then enjoy today for what it is and where you are. Trying to be where you want to be in the future today will always be a futile effort. You lose the present when you fail to live in it.

Life Changes

July 3, 2008

Published in the May 22, 2008 edition of QSaltLake

Before we start, I should mention that this is my last regular installment for QSaltLake rather than just disappearing without explanation in June. I’ll be graduating the last day of May and relocating to New York City shortly thereafter. My life, it is a-changing.

Things are no longer mapped out for me. There is no schedule of required classes that I must take. It’s a very exciting time, but a sad time, because I’m facing the loss of so much that is familiar. But I wouldn’t trade my life and where I am right now for any other situation.

Along with the grief and excitement there is also fear. I would say that I am afraid, but that’s not exactly right. I feel fear about all that is unknown in my future, but I’m not afraid. I’ve thought of a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t turn my life upside down and move across the country, but each and every one of those reasons is based in fear. My decision to go, on the other hand, is based on the big picture of my life. It’s this bigger perspective that tells me if I don’t do it now then I never will, and I will regret it later.

My own move got me thinking about the role fear plays in all of our lives. I’ve learned that our fear represses us, not our religious upbringings or our life circumstances. It’s the fear within us that we might try and fail to be better, to be different, to be happy, to be free and the inaction this fear causes that keeps us from living on a higher plane. And it’s not just your own fear that can repress you.

People will often doubt your ability to do something because they doubt their own ability. I have a friend who has been living in New York City for the last two years and there are still people who question his ability to successfully do so. Many people filter their vision of what’s possible for you by comparing it to what they think is possible for them. Needless to say, these people often sell themselves short.

Not wanting to sell myself short I’ve asked myself how I can leave the life I have in Utah. Here I’m surrounded by family and friends, people I love, and who love me. There is familiarity and comfort here, so how can I possibly pick up and move across the country? Well, I don’t believe that life can remain as it is, in some sort of suspended animation. Life moves on, and you’d do well to keep moving with it. Attempting to keep things as they are is a very efficient way to drain the vitality and happiness out of your existence. Life is fluid and much shorter than any of us can understand from our mortal perspective. If this life is all that I have then I’m determined to live the hell out of it. And if there is something more to come, then I will welcome whatever it may be. I’ve resolved to live and experience my life as I know it now.

The only reason I’ve ever written in a public forum is the chance that something I share might be of value to another. But there have been many unexpected benefits that have come to me through this column. A quote from one of my last nursing school lectures explains it well: “Increasing one’s openness to self and others is the basis for being able to establish healthier interpersonal relationships.” And that’s really what life breaks down to, interpersonal relationships. You can throw a party, but if you don’t let anyone in the front door then you aren’t going to have a very good time. Be selective, but make sure that you really are letting people in. This column has allowed me to let you in and I’m much the better for it. So, thank you.

I hope for you what I hope for myself; that you love honestly and live openly, and that the dreams that don’t come true pass quietly and are overshadowed by even greater realities.

QSaltLake would like to thank David for his hard work and contributions, and give him our warmest wishes for a sucessful and happy future in the Big Apple. Hey, David. Remember us to Broadway because we’ll always remember you.

What I’ll Miss

July 3, 2008

Published in the April 24th edition of QSaltLake.

With my impending graduation and relocation I’ve been thinking a lot about Utah and the things that I’ll miss the most once I’m gone. The main things being: work, school, the terrain, and the people. 

The Dodo Restaurant

When I was a little boy I used to think that it would be fun to be a waiter. A year and a half ago I was getting sick of my current job and looking for a change. I had a friend who worked at the Dodo Restaurant downtown at the Gateway who suggested that I come work with her. I did. 

Now, I’ll tell you that a year of waiting tables was probably enough. The thrill is gone. But I’ve stuck with it for two reasons. 1) Because I didn’t want to bother trying to find a new job so soon before graduating and relocating, and 2) because I really love the people I work with.

One of the things I’ve become aware of while working at a restaurant that’s been locally owned and operated for the last 25 years is that Utahns love their national chains. Don’t get me wrong, The Olive Garden has it’s place in our economy, but I think it’s important to support locally owned and operated businesses. 

I should probably say that neither the owners nor the management of the Dodo Restaurant know that I’m writing this. But I value business owners who value and support our community. And the owners of the Dodo certainly do that. The management and staff are an eclectic and accepting group of people. In fact, they’re some of the best people I’ve ever met. 

Apart from the Dodo at the Gateway, a new location will be opening May 1st in Sugar House on about 1400 East and 2100 South across from Sugar House Park. The food at the Dodo is good, especially the Baked Cream Cheese appetizer, but it is the desserts that truly set the Dodo’s menu apart. My personal favorites are the Chocolate Coffee Toffee Tort, the Banana Cream Cheese Pie drizzled with caramel, and the most popular dessert on the menu, the Tollhouse Pie. But really, you can’t go wrong. (Alright, so I’ve always been really honest in this column, so I’ll tell you that the Lemon Chess Tart is just a glorified lemon bar and the Hazelnut Raspberry Tart has never really thrilled me. It’s not that they taste bad, I just need more “wow” with my after dinner cup of coffee. But other than those two I don’t believe you can go wrong.) Now if only you people would stop being such homos and order some dessert once in awhile!

Westminster College

When I tell people that I go to Westminster College they’ve either never heard of it or they say something about how expensive it is. The truth about Westminster is that it is more affordable than people realize. The campus is beautiful. The learning atmosphere is exceptional. And it’s the furthest thing from BYU (see previous sentence.) Sometimes in life you do get what you pay for. 

The Terrain 

Utah is undoubtedly a beautiful place. I’ve come to appreciate views of the valley that I never noticed before I knew I was leaving. Have you ever looked out at the twinkling valley lights from the Avenues or East Bench on a clear night? Have you seen how those same twinkling lights are ampliphied by a reflective blanket of freshly fallen snow? Or have you ever noticed how the diverse mountains that make up the Wasatch Range look remarkably different depending on your vantage point in the valley? And all of this is saying nothing for the beauty of Southern Utah or the uplifting experience of looking out from the top of any of the elevated mountain peaks found throughout the state. I think it’s true that the more you’re surrounded by something the less you see of it. 

The People

But what I’ll miss the most about Utah is the people. Because it’s the people you share your meals with that make them truly beneficial to you. It’s the people you go to school with that make the hard work bearable. And it’s the people you share the view with at the top of the mountain that make it memorable. It’s people we miss, not places. 

Sometimes I don’t appreciate what I have until it’s gone. But I’ve found that more often I don’t appreciate what I have until I realize that I can’t keep it forever.

20 is the new 15

July 3, 2008

Published in the March 27th edition of QSaltLake.

20 is the new 15 

I’ve been working as a waiter for the past year and a half. It’s taught me a lot and I’ve enjoyed much about it, but as with any service industry you get to see the very worst in people. It’s often a practice in deep breathing. 

If you take nothing else from this column, please take this: When you go out to eat your tip should start at 20 percent of your food cost. And that’s just for your standard run-of-the-mill service. When I say food cost I mean the cost of all of the food and drink that you order. Did you catch that last part? If you don’t like something and end up sending it back to the kitchen, then that is a lot of extra work for your server. If you decide not to replace the item you didn’t like with something else, which is an option that your server should graciously offer, then when you pay your server at the end of your meal be sure to include in your head the cost of the returned food when you figure your tip. 

Verbal tips are what cheap people use to make themselves feel better about their poor performance as a human. Verbal tippers leave you a bad gratuity after they verbally praise you, the food, the service and the whole experience that they’ve just had. Your server’s self-esteem is not hanging on your opinion of the meal and their service. Show your gratitude with your gratuity.

A lot of people come very close to tipping an acceptable amount. But you know, you’d think that last dollar or two is just going to kill people! If your check’s total is $35 then shell out that extra dollar and tip $7 rather than rounding down to $6. You’re not going to miss that dollar. I promise. 

I guess the cold hard truth is this: If you can’t afford to tip 20 percent on your meal then you probably shouldn’t be eating at a restaurant with sit-down service. If you can afford to tip 20 percent or more and choose not to, then you’re very likely a person that values money and things over human beings. That’s a sad way to live, but one that we probably have all been guilty of in our lives at some point. The good news is there are many opportunities to overcome this mindset of inanimate “things” over people. 

Remember three things: nobody likes a cheap bastard, everybody knows that bad tippers are bad in bed, and bad tippers have at some point in their lives intentionally kicked a puppy. 

Survival of the Fittest Everyone 

When I’m your server I stop by your table after I drop off your food to make sure everything tastes OK. One time I was serving a man and woman, probably in their mid-40s. I approached their table and asked in a pleasant tone if everything had come out alright. They stopped eating, looked at each other with blank expressions then turned their heads slowly to look up at me. They stared for a moment without saying a word then turned their faces slowly back to they’re food and resumed chewing. I’m sure that for just a second my head cocked ever so slightly to one side as my brain came screeching to a halt. But I quickly recovered and walked away from the table, not sure what had just happened. 

This is why zoos are so wrong. Because when you lock all the lions up, everyone survives to adulthood regardless of their ability to navigate through the wilds of our society. It’s the people that cruise along in the passing lane on the freeway with 10 cars stuck behind them that would have been Mufasa’s dinner had they been born back in the caveman’s day. 

I realize that we all have our moments when we’re that person, but some people are hogging more than their fair share of the stupid! 

Gay People Get Around

I’ve read studies that have found gay people to eat out and travel more than their straight counterparts. I believe this is true. Gay people get around more than straight people do. There’s no point in doing something more than everyone else if you’re not going to be the best at it. Remember, you don’t get anywhere worth being unless you give more than is expected.

Published in the March 1, 2008 edition of QSaltLake.

I believe that every human being is in some way broken. And when I think of broken things I picture sharp, jagged edges. If you’ve ever had experience with such sharp objects then you know they can harm you. This same principle applies to human beings. Our broken parts make it highly likely that we will hurt other people, usually those we care about.

If a person is not ready for something they are seeking, then I believe they will unwittingly drive that very thing away. So it is that our jagged edges often keep what we desire from coming within our reach. The challenge is recognizing what parts of ourselves need some smoothing.

Now, our jagged edges are not always a negative or unnatural thing. After a break-up, no matter whether it was “clean” or “messy,” a person has any number of jagged edges that make him or her unsuitable for any kind of serious dating relationship. A responsible, self-aware adult will make every conscious effort to smooth out these hurt parts before they let another person get close.

A very common form of false advertising in the dating world is to present yourself as available when you’re not. Recently, I’ve been struggling with this challenge. I plan on relocating after graduation, and I’ve come to realize that this has rendered me undateable. Right now it doesn’t matter who I meet or how spectacular they are: I am just not in a place where I’m going to allow an intimate relationship to happen. I need to graduate and live as an adult with a real adult job before I’m going to be open to any kind of serious dating. That’s my truth right now.

I say this like I really believe it, but if I’m being honest with you, which I am, then I have to admit there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe what I’m saying. I’m a hopeless romantic and my heart wants to believe that if the right person came along tomorrow, I’d be open to that possibility. But in my head I recognize that this isn’t true. And while my heart often chooses the direction, my head picks the course.

While I’m unavailable due to my outwardly changing life situation, I have a good friend who is unavailable because of an inwardly changing life situation. While the outward appearance of my friend’s life is very organized and stable, he recognizes that he needs to be at peace with a lot of internal issues before he can find the relationship he seeks.

I have another friend who has found himself on the other end of this situation twice, in just the last six months. He keeps meeting men who present themselves as available, they’re really not. These men are in transition themselves and have refused to recognize, or have not yet recognized or accepted, that they are not in a place where they should be seeking a serious relationship. My friend has picked up on this fact in a much clearer and more straightforward way than these men have. I think my friend’s ability to notice this has to do with the fact that his life is conducive to that which he seeks.

If you imagine the state of being capable and ready for a relationship as a beautiful and unique landscape, then you can imagine why those who are not ready for it would be incapable of accurately describing it. And how this in turn would be the bullshit detector those who have seen this landscape could use to determine whether another truly has seen it.

No matter what a person appears to be, she or he radiates their truth. And while you may not be able to put your finger on what about them puts you off, your core will often sense what they don’t want you to know. Often, this is something they themselves don’t even realize.

Loss

July 3, 2008

Published in the February 1, 2008 edition of QSaltLake.

I write these columns about whatever’s been on my mind right before a deadline. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about loss. All kinds of loss: lost love, lost loved ones, lost dreams, lost experiences, lost youth, lost hope, lost expectations.

Loss is a huge part of living. Despite what a lot of people think, it’s not a bad thing – the fact that something could go away when you don’t want it to gives that thing value. If nothing could ever be lost, you’d never be in a position to gain anything.

One of the most obvious forms of loss is death, and this type of loss has the greatest emotional effect on me. In a recent nursing school clinical I cared for a patient who had recently been diagnosed with a fatal form of cancer – the same kind that took my grandmother. I lost her ten years ago and yet, when I heard my patient’s diagnosis, something rolled over inside of me. I realized how this very same diagnosis had affected my life so many years before.

But sometimes loss isn’t so dramatic and final. I feel that when we date – or put ourselves out there in any way – we are prone to experience loss. Often times when you meet someone and start to get to know them, you have great hope for what the future could hold for you. But all too often, things don’t go as we want. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there is still a sense of loss, even if we understand logically that things weren’t meant to be, or wouldn’t have worked out. That’s just what happens when expectations aren’t met.

Loss comes in many degrees, shapes and sizes. It can be wrapped up in a person, an experience or a secret hope. And all of these variables affect the impact it has on a person. Loss is different for everyone, and nothing you feel after a loss is wrong or inappropriate. Most of how a person experiences loss is internal, not something a lot of people get to see. This is why it’s important not to measure how you experience loss to how others experience it. It’s the actions we take after a loss that are most important.

A friend recently suffered a very significant loss, one that is on a level I have never experienced. In struggling to figure out how to support her, I’ve come to accept that, after sustaining such a deep loss, she’s existing in a place that I simply cannot be. In certain ways our losses isolate us. They put is in a place that demands we find a new perspective.

Acknowledgement of a person’s loss can have a significant impact as he or she grieves. When my grandpa died I felt completely disconnected from the experience. But as the police-escorted funeral procession made its way through the streets of the small town where my grandparents lived, total strangers stopped what they were doing and stood silently as we passed. The firefighters, who were out in front of the fire station washing their truck, stood tall with their hands on their hearts. These people didn’t know my grandfather, nor could they see the faces of my family members behind the tinted glass of the cars. These total strangers stood in acknowledgement of a life they knew nothing about and a family’s loss they were not experiencing. It touched me then, as the memory of it still touches me today. That experience reconnected me to the world as I was experiencing it at that moment.

To finish, I’ll share something I wrote to the friend I mentioned earlier: Take all the time you need. When you feel like crying, cry. When you feel like you need to be alone, be alone. Give yourself what you need. And when you need to, ask others to support you as you seek what only you can find. As you said the other day, the world just keeps on going no matter what. The world will keep on going but it will not leave you behind. The experience you’re living every day is one that will speed you ahead of the rest of the world. It will progress you past many of your peers and drop you in a place that will allow you to experience life more fully and in greater depth. Live it with all your heart and don’t be ashamed of the pain.

What I Want

July 3, 2008

Published in the January 1, 2008 edition of QSaltLake.

“Why yes, yes, I am. And I hope you are, too.” At least, that’s what I wish my response would have been when someone said, “Oh, you’re one of those picky bitches, aren’t you?” Sometimes people ask what my type is or why I’m single. “Why” questions, in general, are often self-defeating. As for what I look for in a guy, well, that one is simply a difficult question. Let me explain: Imagine that each letter of the alphabet is a character trait, physical feature, life goal or direction, etc. You have to realize that nobody is going to be every letter of the alphabet to you. Some people might be letters G-M, which happen to be what you’re looking for physically, but they may be missing letters A-F, which are all the positive character traits you want in a partner. Any person could be any combination of what you’re seeking. But which letters of your ideal relationship are most important to you and which can you live without? 

Life is about compromise, balance and work: What do you compromise on? How do you maintain balance? And how much work are you willing to put forth in any one aspect of your existence? 

I have to be honest, when it comes to gay relationships, I haven’t seen too much that I really want to emulate. That doesn’t necessarily say anything negative about the gay relationships I’ve encountered and become familiar with, they’re just not the kind of relationship I hope to be in someday. It doesn’t mean they’re bad or not as good as what I want, they’re just different from what I’m seeking. I feel that knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do want. 

When I was a young Mormon boy, I dreamed of getting married and having a family, although I never spent too much time imagining my wife – that was one detail I left rather fuzzy. When I came out, I reevaluated the dreams and desires my religious upbringing had instilled in me. I asked myself what I really wanted for my life and what I felt was really possible in my future. 

One of the conclusions I came to was that I do want children. Not because God commanded that we should multiply and replenish the earth, but because I think I’d be a good dad. Also, I feel having children is an unparalleled human experience that anyone is lucky to have. 

I also decided that I still want a committed, monogamous relationship. Not because society frowns on less traditional relationships. But because everything I’ve learned from observation, personal experience and formal education on the subject leads me to believe that this is the type of relationship that will bring me the most happiness and fulfillment. Also, I don’t share well. 

Some of the most difficult things for me to verbalize are what I’m attracted to physically. But I can tell you this: I look at the chiseled, hairless, model type of man the same way I used to look at the cadavers in my college anatomy class. They’re interesting, sometimes you want to lean in for a better look, and they can make you marvel at the human form, but I don’t want to touch them. 

I believe that if I pull myself together and get my life on track, that if I take care of myself, then I will in turn be able to recognize someone who also loved himself enough, and valued his life enough, to have done the same. Someone with whom I can live happily ever after because we worked for our happily ever after every day we were together, and a good number of our days before we met. 

And what if I never meet a person with whom I can live happily ever after? Well, I’ll still be in a good place, because either way I found myself first. 

But I’m not telling you any of this because I think you actually care what I want. I’m telling you this because I know what it feels like to wonder if you will ever find what you want. It’s a discouraging thing to know that and be unable to find it, especially when so many of the people around you don’t seem to have the same problem. I shared what I want and have not yet found, because I believe that every human being seeks validation for his or her feelings – validation that is often found when realizing that others have felt what you’re feeling, feared what you fear, and found joy despite it all.

Dating: Empty Scrotums

July 3, 2008

Published in the December 1, 2007 edition of QSaltLake. 

A few months ago I was on a date and the man sitting across the table told me that he could see and talk to dead people. Specifically two dead people, but I’ll spare you the hour and half worth of details. People, I hadn’t even gotten my entrée yet! What do you do in that type of situation? I’m still not sure. All I could think to do was drink more wine.

But, hey, we’re all a little crazy. I can handle crazy. But what I seem to be running out of patience for is all these timid gay men. Logically we know that every man should have two balls, but, surprisingly, many gay men don’t seem to have any. How can this be? And where did all those balls go?

To answer that, let’s talk about timidity. You never know the potential of anything until you try. Of course, nobody wants to be vulnerable, but the vulnerable spots in which we consciously place ourselves can also be the most rewarding. And when it comes to human relationships every spot is a vulnerable one, particularly because we fear being disappointed or flat-out rejected. Rejection can be brutal, but it can’t kill you, which means it can make you stronger. I should know, because I’ve been rejected many times. I’m not saying that rejection doesn’t sting every single time – it’s not a pleasant thing – but being accepted or rejected doesn’t lessen or alter what you have to offer.

It’s OK if someone isn’t into you the way that you’re into them. Think of it this way: There are plenty of people who you don’t want to date or who you don’t find sexually attractive, right? The same is true for everyone. Chemistry between people is a mystery. And while attraction is difficult to understand, the lack of it on one end does not reflect poorly on the other end.

If you’re interested in someone, but you’re afraid to make a move, then you need to suck it up and get over it. If you’re insecure (who isn’t?), then you need to find a way to get a handle on that. In learning how to cope, it’s okay to accept that you’ll probably always be a little nervous, especially when it comes to talking to someone you want to go out with. The point is to not let your insecurity get to you and run your life.

Sometimes I wish a light would go on over people’s heads if you were interested in them and they were interested in you. But there is no easy button for dating, and really, it’s probably good that there is no such light. It would be pretty upsetting if half way through a conversation you saw the light turn off.

Someone told me once that you should mirror the other person’s actions. Although people can often be impossible to read, it’s a good idea to follow this rule: If you’re the one making all the moves or sending all of the text messages, then that probably isn’t a good sign. But you don’t have to learn to read the signs that someone else is putting off. If all else fails, you can just use your words. Be honest, communicate and cut out the games. Don’t make assumptions and don’t reject yourself for the other person. Focus more on communicating your desires and interest and less on protecting your ego. Egos can be ugly things, they can push people away, and they’re often used to guard against genuine human contact.

I respect anyone who has the balls to approach a total stranger. It takes courage and a sense of self, and for most people it’s very difficult. So the next time someone approaches you, in person or otherwise, and you’re not interested (for whatever reason), I hope you will communicate that as gently as possible. And if you ever approach someone who makes it clear they’re not interested in you, please remember that their reason doesn’t matter and please don’t ask. Then handle the situation with some grace. If the person you approach is rude in their rejection of you, then recognize that you’ve just been handed the opportunity to be the bigger person; the bigger person who just found out that someone on whom they took a risk doesn’t deserve you.

I know that there are a lot of good people out there who have a lot to offer, but who don’t go after what they want for various reasons. To quote Friedrich Nietzsche, “Is life not a hundred times too short for us to stifle ourselves?” So go for it, and no matter the outcome, be better for it.

Published in the November 1, 2007 edition of QSaltLake.

“When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package.” –John Ruskin

In a recent nursing school clinical, I was interviewing a “client” in an effort to determine resources that might be helpful to her and her family. In response to my question about whether or not she had difficulty meeting her health care needs, she stated that sometimes she has to cancel her doctor appointments when she doesn’t have three dollars to cover the Medicaid co-pay. That reality in her life has stuck with me. 

I’ve seen, first-hand, extreme poverty in both Russia and South America. I had multiple opportunities in these locations to witness just how unfair life can be. But this instance of poverty so close to where I live and work struck me in a whole different manner. These types of experiences, of which I feel lucky to have had a few, have made me consider the world in which I exist from a different perspective. 

I’m currently in my psychiatric nursing rotation and the Psychiatric Advanced Practice Registered Nurse who teaches the class has emphasized the importance of using the statement, “I hear you,” rather than, “I understand you.” You can never truly understand another’s life experience. You see the world as it filters through what you know and have experienced. But attempting to understand another person, even if it is from your perspective on the world, is important. I think it helps us to become more authentic, and it validates the unique life experience of both people involved. 

I know that most of my energy in life is focused on myself. I feed myself. I go to the gym to workout. I go to school to get my education. I go to work to pay my bills. I don’t think my focus is different than it is for most of the people I know. But because life requires that we exert so much energy on self-care, the time we spend focused on others becomes invaluable. 

I believe that gay people are some of the most compassionate and considerate human beings out there. But I also know there is a lot of selfishness in the gay community: after all, great pleasure can be derived from the feeling that you are in some way superior to others. Social exclusivity in the gay community is sort of like Viagra – far more people get their hands on it and lay claim to it than actually meet the requirements for its prescription. 

An acquaintance who reads my columns told me that before he’d met me in real life, I’d come across to him as an elitist. Now, most of the time, I think that I smell better than other people, but that’s about the extent of the ways that I feel I’m superior to others. All human beings are worth the same, and although my mother might disagree, my life is no more valuable to the world than anyone else’s. 

To conclude this very “off the cuff” column, I would like to share one more insight that has recently become clear to me: children are at the mercy of the situations that they’ve been born into. They need people like you to advocate and fight for them. In whatever way you choose. It might be marriage equality, HIV/AIDS education or any other cause about which you are passionate. Of all those who suffer from the disparities in our world, children are the most innocent victims. 

It’s my hope that, as a community and as individuals, we’re able to see beyond ourselves. That we can recognize when those who have less than we do are lifted up, the natural consequence is that it elevates all of us. It’s impossible to help another person without helping yourself. My personal experiences have led me to believe that when you give of yourself in any way, you always receive far more in return.