Sunday, March 26, 2017

Full Circle

I haven't written in 6 years. I haven't felt the need to make time for it. Yet now, as I find myself at the beginning of another crossroads, I see the wisdom in writing down my thoughts and feelings.

Our universe has many cycles: The seasons repeat. The heart circulates. Life is followed by death, and from death comes new life.

On April 1, 2005, I made a choice to accept myself for who I am despite what my community thought of that choice. I've had a lot of time to learn and grow since then. My knowledge of neurology and psychology have increased. I've often looked back at that moment with pride and gratitude in recognition of the courage it took to finally stand my ground. Yet, in many ways, it was merely an act of self-preservation. Is it still courageous to reach out and make a change, but only after you realized that you have no other option left? I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself again.

Pre-BYU Life

Samuel Nieves
Age: 21
Religion: Mormon
Strengths: Science and Math
Weaknesses: English and Social Sciences
Fears: Never overcoming his homosexuality
Desired Occupation: Oncology

I remember the day I decided to study oncology. It was the winter of 2003 and I was mopping the floor at my Aunt's restaurant near the end of my shift. My first semester at BYU was about to begin and I knew that I needed to start thinking about a major and career.

I kept repeating to myself some advice from my mother. I needed to focus on my strengths and my passions, and then find a way to turn those into a profession. I knew that math and science had always seemed easy to me, but that meant some kind of job that wouldn't often associate with people. I considered teaching seminary, but couldn't see how math or science would ever be involved. These conflicting passions were getting me nowhere and I thought myself in circles. I remember asking myself, "When you die what kind of life will you want to have lived?"

It was one of those moments when started speaking honestly with myself. I'd recently finished a mission for the Mormon church and I knew that I wanted to keep that feeling of service and purpose alive as long as possible. The sense of being on a mission to help other people had felt exhilarating. I'd become addicted to the emotional rush, to the deeply felt sense of purpose and service. I admitted that a desk job would never really make me happy. I'd tasted the sweet fruit of service and I knew that I'd never be satisfied doing anything else. Every other job in comparison seemed meaningless and ephemeral. I knew that if I ended my life without being able to say that I had made a lasting change to the human race, that I'd feel a sense of loss and regret. I need a to be a footnote for humanity before I die.

This was how the idea of oncology seeped its way into my thoughts. I didn't know the term oncology at the time, but I did know that cancer rates were on the rise and we still didn't have a cure. I thought about it over and over. I didn't need to be the person who'd cure cancer, but if I could be one of many fighting the good fight, that would satisfy me. Oncology hit all the marks. My BYU advisor suggested Nursing as a good pre-med major to get me started. I was ecstatic to have found my calling in life. I believed it was God's plan for me.

The Wheel Turns

My mother is a strong willed and very practical woman. I remember her being skeptical of my choice to study oncology. She weighed the debt and years of studying for a medical degree against being able to support a future wife and children. She felt that I'd do better with a non-social and math-based major like accounting. It was a realistic, practical, and stoic choice. My heart sank.

At the time, I was still very religious and believed that parents have divine access to inspiration and counsel for their children. I was also attending counseling to eliminate my "same-sex attraction disorder". My church affirming counseling suggested that I needed to obey all of God's laws if I ever hoped for a cure. My parents and counselors agreed that my desire to help others was admirable, but ultimately it was this same sensitive nature that was part of the cause for my homosexuality.

Perhaps this is why I keep returning to oncology? I never really got the chance to test out the path for myself before it was ripped away from me. When I want something or someone, I'm pathological about obtaining my desire. I never stopped wanting to learn about cancer. I've always perked up at any mention of the subject. Yet, I still sacrificed that ambition. I buried my dreams along with my sanity in my desperate attempt to become a heterosexual. My strengths and passions have certainly morphed since, but oncology still hits every minute mark on my list for a fulfilling profession.

Building my career in IT was always a means to an end for me. I was good at it and picked up the education quickly. I knew I could make good money, and remember thinking that IT would give me the time and space to figure out who I was outside to the church.

I Never Saw Myself as a Doctor

Despite having teachers as far back as elementary school suggesting I'd probably become a doctor someday, I never saw myself practicing medicine. It simply wasn't ever on my radar. Sure, I could see myself as an astronaut or scientist, but never a doctor. Besides, I'd always viewed doctors as elitists. I was raised poor, and I knew my place in society. I'd often prided myself for being poor. To me, being poor seemed virtuous. I'm still a little uncomfortable with the idea of making a lot of money.

And even though I gave up oncology so I could have more time to figure out what being a gay man means to me, I believed my mom had valid criticisms. The idea of going into $100,000 to $200,000 in debt just for a chance to become a doctor, is a huge risk. Sure, I'd love the education but putting that amount of debt on my shoulders is a big burden.

Can I take such a big risk for something that I can't be sure about? How can I know if medicine is truly right for me? How can anyone really know anything? I had convinced myself for a time that IT and application programming was my calling, and for a while it was fun... but then I somehow lost my drive for it. How can I know if medicine won't be the same?

Since there really isn't a purpose to life, does it really matter what I do anyway? I mean, do I "really" have to leave a footnote for myself in the book of humanity? I remember seconds before my car accident that I thought of my husband... and how it was probably okay if I died, because even though I didn't accomplish everything I wanted, I knew that I had tried. Maybe that's what this is really about.

Risk Be Damned

This is a big dream. This will probably be the hardest thing I will ever have to do, maybe even harder than coming out. But if I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I tried my damnedest, I think it will be enough. Maybe this is the real moment when I can look back with pride and gratitude in recognition of the courage it took to finally go for my dreams.

Friday, April 22, 2011

So Beautiful, I had to Cry

God, I need to update this blog...

I was driving to my new job today and heard this on the radio, and cried:

A poem by Edward Ledford, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, appears toward the end of the renga. Ledford experienced the Sept. 11 attack at the Pentagon and tells Montagne what he found in the building's ruins.

"Right where the Pentagon had sheared off, on about the third floor, is a dictionary on a pedestal still open and apparently untouched," Ledford says. "And I always thought that had a lot of symbolism."

Ledford's poem reads:

Pathogens injected Trojan-horse-style; temple walls crumble
before a small
lexicon, altared and stable, unsullied, too briefly a miracle. Our

neo-tragedy was their crazy carte blanche.
You'd think they'd have read their Homer. But, like

slapping the moron beside the bully, we invade Babylon to
applause, which muted, a-hem, throats cleared for political

Soldiers are nothing more than pharmakon charged with the
damned's duty,
enlisted to oaths that only finally matter when we wish they
didn't. The

soldier-philosopher turns the gun on himself to salvage some
A smirk and crooked smile, Heh heh heh, sure showd em, didn
we, Dead-eye.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Attachments should be celebrated!

Something magical happened to me the other day while I was out with a friend of mine. I've been lucky enough to have recently found another gay Buddhist around my age, and it's been a great blessing to finally have someone that I can closely relate to in spiritual matters. We decided to hang out by eating dinner together and ended up talking for hours about anything and everything.

The Moment of Enlightenment
In the middle of dinner a song came on in the restaurant that neither of us had heard in years. It instantly brought me back to a time when I was a little boy. I remember being alone in my living room and singing my heart out! I imagined that I was as strong and fabulous a women as was the glorious Whitney Houston. My friend confessed to me that he had done that too, so we came to the conclusion that it must have been the thing for little gay boys our age to do. We had a good laugh about it.

On a whim I decided to download the song to my iPhone so I could listen to it on my way home. I hadn't sung it in ages so I didn't remember the words. I had no idea how much this song would relate to my recent divorce. If you're new to my blog, I recently left my husband of 4.5 years, and the change has been very rough for me at times. The song was "I Will Always Love You":

If I should stay,
I would only be in your way.
So I'll go, but I know,
I'll think of you ev'ry step of the way.

Bittersweet memories,
that is all I'm taking with me.
So, goodbye. Please, don't cry.
We both know I'm not what you, you need.

I hope life treats you kind
And I hope you have all you've dreamed of.
And I wish to you, joy and happiness.
But above all this, I wish you love.

And I will always love you.
I will always love you.
Ooh, I'll always, I'll always love you.

That song has changed my whole attitude about how I want to handle my emotions regarding my separation. I found it interesting during my mediation to realize that this is exactly the same attitude that I first experienced when I had just left my husband. Yes, I felt a lot of pain. But at the same time I was very joyous. I was happy that the constant worry, anguish, and self doubt would soon be over. But despite it all, I knew that I would always love my husband and wished him nothing but happiness.

Upon seeing this, I then asked myself "So then David, what changed?"

Suffering from my Attachment
I then began to question myself so I could find out why I had felt so angry, hurt, betrayed, lonely and especially confused about my divorce. Since I had started off with clarity, joy, appreciation and excitement about my failed marriage then how did it change so drastically. The answer was surprising to me.

We modern humans are beings dominated by cultural norms, beliefs, and expectations. Soon after my divorce I remembered feeling guilty for the clarity and joy that I was experiencing. I feared that others, especially my ex, would see my joy and view me as uncaring or callus. I didn't want him or my loved ones to think that my marriage wasn't important to me, when in fact, it was the most important aspect of my life. So rather then being grateful for what my marriage had taught me, I chose to obey my cultural beliefs.

I was told by many that I needed to allow myself to grieve and even feel anger because I needed to acknowledge that I had been emotionally abused. Their words didn't match with my beliefs or my emotional state, but for some silly reason I trusted that they must be right. I tried to find ways to awaken to the truth that I should be angry, sad and feel victimized.

Now that I realize how ignorant that all sounds, I feel like I have learned something powerful about myself and the nature of attachments.

Letting Go, When You Are Ready to Let Go
Attachment to spouses, the idea of marriage, and even the idea of self preservation is really just an illusion. I admit that honest pain and sorrow can come from loss or injury, but even that has a realm that we can control. We are all ultimately the master of our own ship in the sea of life. We get to decide if 5 min is all we need to grieve or if it's 500 years. We don't need to listen to society and we don't need to follow their bad example of holding onto the impermanent.

I loved my husband. I'm grateful for what I learned by being married to him. I loved with him. I cried with him. I was intimate with him. Because of him, my life was changed. Where is the bad in all of this? The bad is where I decide to create it. The joy is where I chose to see it. Some people may think I am callus, ignorant, lying to myself, and even a little delusional for saying that I am happy that I will always love my ex.

Nevertheless, I chose to appreciate the love I had. I will love again. Maybe it will only last 4 minutes and then never exist again in my life. Maybe it will last until I die and even continue beyond that. Ultimately, I think I relearned that nothing really is guaranteed or permanent... but doesn't that also mean that our experiences and the things we tend to emotionally or mentally attach to... should be that much more special to us, perhaps even celebrated?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Found a cool blog that I related to today...

I found this site and thought I'd share it with everyone because it meant a lot ot me...

"About 2500 years ago, a man named Siddhartha Gautama sat under a tree in Northern India and started meditating. He had decided not to rise until he had answered those same big questions that have always bothered mankind. He wanted to understand everything as it really was and not as it appeared to be. After a prolonged period he came to a perfect understanding of what reality was. This great event is known as his “enlightenment” and he was thereafter known to all as the “Buddha”, meaning “the enlightened one”.

The Buddha developed theories to explain his understanding. He typically looked at reality from various viewpoints. In examining the nature of existence he said that there is in fact no inherent existence in anything at all. Nothing in the entire universe has existence in its own right. Everything depends upon something else for its own existence which can therefore only ever be “relative” existence. Another of his findings was that even this relative existence is not permanent in any way. It is constantly changing and the prime reason for change is the law of cause and effect (Karma). The basic “content” of everything is therefore “nothingness” (Shunyata) and only manifests as “something” when a temporary set of conditions, or “energies”, are present. So everything in the universe is the result of a cosmic interplay between the unseen (energy) and the seen (matter). None of these results is constant because the causes themselves are always changing.

With regard to human happiness the Buddha taught that we must learn not to cling onto “things” such as possessions or relationships as sources of happiness because there is no permanent substance or reality to these things. He taught us to regard ourselves as an integral part of everything and everyone in the entire universe. Because we are essentially “one” with everything and everyone we can only be truly happy when we realise that we cannot be so on our own. To be truly happy we have to strive to make everyone happy and we must work on our own minds so that we can see things clearly. The great Buddhist qualities of loving-kindness and compassion are a natural result of this kind of thinking.

“Oneness” with everything is easy to say but difficult to grasp. It is useful to resort to analogies to help us understand. Analogies can form part of our contemplation of life, part of our meditation. The following is an example of how we may contemplate our oneness with everything.

Imagine that you are a wave, a single wave on the surface of the vast ocean. The ocean represents the universe. You have a separate identity in that you have movement and form and an apparent life of your own. You may be a small ripple or you may be a giant tidal wave with terrible power at your disposal. There are many other waves each having its own characteristics - these represent all the other living beings in the universe. You are not the ocean and yet you only exist because of it. You are made of it and you cannot really distinguish the difference between the water making you up and the water forming the vast ocean itself. You cannot exist without the ocean and the ocean cannot exist without you because it is impossible to distinguish where you end and the ocean begins.

The Buddha instructed his disciples not to accept anything as true simply because they heard it from a respected person or simply because it was written in holy scripture. He said that they should test every theory in the laboratory of life and in the light of reason and logic. A teaching should only be accepted it can be proved in this way. This thinking should be applied to the whole of the Buddha’s teaching, collectively referred to as the “Buddha Dharma”. He went on to say that we should base our very lives on the Dharma and not on him as a person."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Attached to Detachment, or just too scared to live?

Where do I start!? Well, I guess this was the experience that pops out most to me...

The Mormon Guy
So I was walking down the hall way of my university and suddenly had this feeling "David, log on to Grindr". LOL, needless to say I was surprised by the impression. Why should I log on to a gay hookup site on my iPhone? I wasn't feeling needy or insecure for the most part and was really happy that I hadn't logged on for a while.

Nevertheless, when I get a spiritual feeling/message I usually tend to follow it, so I did. (Yes, I know, I'm crazy, so sue me) I found this guy, who I'll call Matt to protect the innocent, and holy shit... Had I known what would have happened with him I think I would have shut off my phone and never talked to him in the first place. Sigh, so I found Matt's profile and liked that he wasn't looking for a hook-up, plus he was super cute. We started to chat a little and a few days later we decided to meet up and have brunch together at Einstein bagels(I love it only second to Starbucks).

Get this! We both went to the same high school and graduated together! It turns out that we ended up having a large amount of things in common and we talked for two hours before he had to go back to work. Later that day we met up again for a movie and we ended up talking in my car until 2am. Being around him felt so magical. I loved his innocence and his beautiful smile. Every time we'd find something else in common my heart would jump with excitement.

His Situation
Something unique about Matt is that when we met he had never been kissed... ever! We talked about a lot of things, but mostly we talked about his struggle with questioning his sexual identity. Basically, it was like having a conversation with my myself 6 years ago for long hours into the night. We met almost every other night and mostly just talked, and I started to fall for him.

Needless to say, this was a bad idea unless I wanted to repeat a lot of the same mistakes I made in my recently failed marriage. But he was so cute!!! I tried to keep asking myself "What kind of a relationship would a seasoned gay Buddhist have with a bi-curious/gay questioning Mormon?". It was difficult to distance myself and I'll admit that I didn't do a very good job of it, especially after I gave him his first kiss.

Despite his constant flirting, leading me on, and always ending with comments like "But I'm not gay", I learned a lot from Matt. I think sometimes in life we need to brake ourselves out of our comfort zones and dare to ask the unthinkable. Talking with someone who was obviously much more conservative than myself and who is just starting to form his own opinions forced me to question why and how I had formed mine. While the lessons were difficult and very painful to acknowledge, I found a relief in a sacred truth that I discovered about myself....

---What I learned---
Despite the fact that my religious and political views permit for open relationships and sexual acts outside of marriage as long as no one is harmed or abused, I realized that for my own emotional, spiritual, and psychological well being, I can't. Maybe it has to do with the fact that my ex cheated on me within our first year of marriage. Maybe it's because I was slightly glad he cheated, because I feared that I would have been the one to cheat on him first. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I felt neglected and unwanted for the last year of my marriage... BUT DAMNIT, it's how I feel.

I'm coming to terms with the fact that sometimes it's okay to lay down the law and not accept anything less than what you asked for. I was so afraid to be judgmental and so attached to the idea of detachment, that I forgot that in this world we all have to deal with the emotional, physical, and psychological states that our lives hand to us. It's not always easy and sometimes our lives can be racked with suffering. But the only way we can get through it is by acknowledging our desires and attachments for what they are. Some are simply an unavoidable part of life. Some we create ourselves... and sometimes... a nice mocha latte is the only way to get through it!

I started to date someone new recently. He's cute, funny as hell, and more importantly, he believes in monogamy. The idea of a relationship still scares the hell out of me and I expect to end up hurt, alone, and insecure in the end. But perhaps, maybe, just maybe, I might end up learning something from him... and if I'm terribly lucky, he just might make me a happier person.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Too Hurt to Let Go, Too Scared to Cling

It's been a month. Time flies.

I began sewing my rakusu for my jukai ceremony that was going to take place this December, but I had some issues with scheduling so it has to be postponed until April. I'm grateful for this unexpected change, and if truly honest, I think my jukai might be better suited for a time when I am more emotionally whole and not still licking my wounds from the divorce.

Insta Zen - Just add water!
Here's some thoughts that I've been having recently. I've come to the realization that while I embrace and love Buddhism for all of it's teachings and the stability it helps to provide me... when it comes to handling my emotions... I'M SO NOT A BUDDHIST! I've always been drawn to it and agree with it's core philosophy, mentally. Nevertheless, embodying the wisdom of the Buddha seems to be something that I don't do so easily.

I thought that reading, studying, and meditating would be easy and that I could make a smooth spontaneous transition from Mormonism to Buddhism with little effort. I thought that I might chant "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" a few times, sit in lotus position, be groovy and BOOM, insta Zen Buddhist where I'm Ooooooom all day and have no cares in the world. Kinda like born again Christians, I figured I'd have some monumental moment of enlightenment and then I'd be set. BOY! Was I ever wrong.

I heard a dharma talk from a gay Buddhist fellowship I found online ( that described my situation perfectly. Essentially he stated that while walking along the Dharma path we can often encounter emotions or situations where we are tempted to forget our practice and put ourselves in a mode that he liked to call "over thinkie". This describes me in a nutshell! I over thinkie CONSTANTLY!

A friend of mine, who clearly does not understand Buddhism, constantly chastises me for my actions by saying "That's not very Buddhist of you". To which I'd like to respond, "That's exactly why I'm Buddhist". I'm not a Buddhist because I'm groovy and chant ooooooom all day. I'm Buddhist so that I may become a Buddha, and often, I am.

I think it's going to take me years to finally start a habit of thoughts that I would like to have. I'd like to be able to see my emotions or situations objectively without attachment skewing my perspective. I'd like to be able to love freely without the fear of loss. I'd like to be able to put in my best effort and accept the results regardless of the outcome. More importantly, I'd like to be able to have self confidence and a sense of self worth without expecting that love to come from the outside. Nevertheless, all these fears and faults are a part of me, I'm human, and they're not going to go away.

Real Zen
I guess I should be more patient with myself. Whenever I go to zen and especially the dharma talks, I always leave feeling a sense of clarity and peace in the acceptance of my humanity. It's very freeing. But why do I so often need the help of others to reach this point? Perhaps, I just need time. I've learned an important lesson this Thanksgiving season. People have needs. I don't understand how they started, where they come from, or what they mean. I think though, that if my zen practice has taught me anything, it's taught me that I shouldn't try to obsess on the "why" and should focus more on the "now what are you going to do about it".

Moving On, Healing +5
That said, I've dated around and have been looking for someone who might want to have a connection but without the expectation of a long term commitment. I mostly found people that either wanted commitment, or there wasn't a real interest in a mutual connection. However, recently I found someone who I connect with and who completely supports me in my desire for companionship without expectations or intense emotions. He has never asked for a relationship and doesn't do anything that would indicate a desire for romance. In fact, we don't even discuss my divorce. We simply play video games and share flirty affections. It's odd that as soon as that need for reassurance was filled, suddenly, I now feel the desire to commit to him..... As confusing as this is to me I'm trying not to judge that emotion and am waiting for it to either pass or develop into a mutual desire for a romantic relationship.

This week I've been stuck in the "over thinkie" stage. His flirtations might indicate a willingness for a romantic relation, however, his words and other actions never deviate from respecting my desire for lack of romance. In other words, he either respects me enough to hold off on that desire, or possibly is in the same stage of life that I am. Disregarding his response, if I pursue a relationship, will I lose the emotional stability that I've been longing for and finally found through him? If I'm rejected, I might fall back into depression and feelings of intense rejection. If accepted, my fear of inevitably being hurt again is likely to resurface and ruin the romance regardless.

After some wonderful advice from several dear friends, I've decided to take a zen approach to the situation. Perhaps, I should just appreciate what I have for the moment. I have a need fulfilled, I'm stable, I'm happy, and I feel attractive. Perhaps, I should just let life happen. If romance develops then I can appreciate the good and bad from it. If the "just friends" status never changes then I can appreciate the good and bad from it. Rather then focusing on my fear of being hurt from love again, or focusing on my fear of being rejected again.... I think I'll just enjoy whatever it is at the moment.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Too Scared to Leave, Too Hurt to Stay

I never thought I would have that word associated with me.

I used to imagine that if I lived right, did what my church leaders told to do, and tried my hardest to live the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Mormon church, that I'd live a happy healthy fulfilling life.....

Then, REALITY CHECK, you're gay, it's still not going away, you gotta face this now. So after tons of heartache and pain and counseling I have another REALITY CHECK, the Mormon church isn't God's perfect organization and it's wrong about homosexuality and a number of other issues. Then, I come out and think the new gay world will be heavenly with lots of fun,laughter, and finally I'd find true love...REALITY CHECK, most young gay men are as horny and immature as young straight men!

BUT, I worked through dating and heartaches until I meet the man of my dreams. We moved in together, got married, bought a house, and started to live the American Dream. Times were good for the most part, and I often thought it would be heavenly forever. I thought I was through with my REALITY CHECKs!

Finally, I had found myself. I had found my place in life and knew what I wanted. I discovered Buddhism and regained a spiritual foundation for my life. I knew that life was a journey and tough, but I assumed that if I lived right, did what my heart told to do, and tried my hardest to live a moral life that people would eventually respect me for, that I'd live a happy healthy fulfilling life.....

Is it any wonder that life through me another REALITY CHECK?

Despite the efforts of my wonderful husband, I wasn't happy. We both made mistakes, and we both got hurt, only this time, I didn't know how to move on. I still wish there could have been a way for us to work things out, and sometimes I honestly hope that it's all a dream that I'll wake up from. Why is it that the older I get the more drama seems to become more a part of life rather then something I can avoid? I've keep asking myself questions but I find no answers.

Things used to be so clear when I was Mormon. The prophet says this, so I do it. The Sunday school teacher said this, so I agree. The apostle said this, so I believe it. But then life through me a REALITY CHECK that I couldn't continue ignoring. I finally found the one question that they couldn't answer, and it was the only answer I wanted and desperately needed.

Now as a Buddhist, I'm encouraged to become comfortable with idea of "not knowing" so I can eventually find out for myself.... but that doesn't make the not knowing any easier. Sometimes, I just wish they'd tell me what to do. It's completely liberating to be allowed to freedom to make my own path and discover truth for myself, yet at the same time I'm completely debilitated by my ignorance and therefore inability to decide.

Was my husband emotionally abusing me with his lack of interest?
Was I causing myself pain where there was none?

Did I drive him away?
Would it have gotten better or ended up worse?
Is enough ever enough?

When should you leave someone, even if you're still in love with them?
Are we better off apart then together?

I don't know

One thing I do know, is that it hurt like hell and I only decided to leave because someone finally told me what to do. My counselor asked me when I was finally going to put my foot I left. The pain, numbness and disbelief that day reminded me of the day I came out. It felt like shock, terrible, horrific, life ending shock.

Today, this is my only consolation....
"Sometimes, making the wrong choice is better than making no choice. You have the courage to go forward, that is rare. A person who stands at the fork, unable to pick, will never get anywhere."