1—Alone this Christmas, more white in my beard and time I wrote about the summer of ’98—THE ONE THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING
I realised a few years go that I had stopped wishing I had a river I could skate away on at this time of the year, like Joni Mitchell is singing on the radio.
I am home alone this year, so it’s not the best Christmas—but it’s not the worst either. In fact, I’m quite happy to be having a relaxing day, and I’ve talked to my mother and my sister earlier. Because of the ongoing (and new) COVID restrictions, I accepted that I was not going to be in France this Christmas. British households are not allowed to mix, and friends know I feel more comfortable doing my own thing than attending their family Christmas dinner.
Unlike most Mormons, I don’t really celebrate Christmas anyway: it is much too pagan and Catholic for me. Cromwell had it banned during the short-lived Puritan Republic, and it was not much observed before the 1960s in Protestant Scotland for those reasons. Christmas is not part of the Mormon liturgical calendar—since Mormons do not have one—but Church members sing Christmas hymns in church and put up a tree at home. Temple Square in Salt Lake City is the place to go at night. It is stunning with its bright and colourful lights.
Dreams are important, but dreams that can never come true are silly fantasies that need destroyed.
I used to dread Christmas. I used to feel so alone and disconnected from others, and even more estranged from my family than on any other day. Songs of joy and peace everywhere I went were like teasing that bordered on bullying. It was always a huge relief once the holidays ended and normal life resumed. My outlook started to change when I grew closer to my sister and started celebrating Christmas with her family. Now I love spending Christmas with my young niece and nephew, as they make it so much fun. I finally partake of that spirit I could not understand. I was no longer an outsider. I wish I was with them today, but I don’t feel sad.
I suppose Christmas was not the reason for my malaise, but my aversion for it was a consequence of it. Life is better for me now than it was 5 years ago. Five years ago, it was better than it was 10 years ago, and life is incredibly better now than it was when I set foot in Britain shortly after my excommunication. I can’t believe I’ve been here 20 years!
This morning I vainly despaired when I saw more white in my beard, looking in the mirror while shaving. It happens more and more now. It makes me feel like the best has gone by. I think of missed opportunities, real or imaginary, and all those dreams that I must put on the shelf. I look in the mirror. I look older and blame it on lockdowns. I think of the things that I will never do again and, maybe worse, about the things that I will never do now. I feel tired all the time. At 45 I start realising that there is going to be many more ‘last times’ than ‘first times’ now.
Perhaps I am just tired of lockdowns. Better than having a mid-life crisis. I was hoping to be traveling between the third and the fourth wave of COVID but it’s unlikely since we are entering another full lockdown tomorrow. At least it will be easier this time around as I won’t be tempted to step outside like I did when the air was balmy and the sun shone. I am a real homebody and it’s worse in winter.
I count my blessings: because I enjoy my own company and don’t go out that much, my life hasn’t changed that much since COVID—apart from the traveling. I am fortunate enough to have a job that is fairly secure and requires me to see people face-to-face, which means that I have had real interactions with folk since the summer. I am healthy emotionally, spiritually and physically. I always pray for this. I am able to help others. I gain knowledge, and I keep exploring my place in my religion. I still have hope that the future awaits around the corner.
Sometimes I want to breakaway, though, and move to Madrid, Spain. But maybe I’m too old for this now. When I moved here at 25, failure did not scare me, because I had nothing to lose. So it’s bittersweet that my situation is different now. I wonder if this is it, if I have come as far as I can go, if I haven’t done enough to make it count. In the five years that preceded my moving to Britain, so much changed, so fast, while I have little to show for the last 20 years. Yet finding yourself when you are a student with same-sex attraction (and in the LDS Church) is the type of watershed that simply cannot be perpetuated. It would be extremely unhealthy if it did. So I should praise God that I have found the stable life that I craved for.
A former missionary messaged me from Canada the other day to ask if I had pictures of him when he served his mission in ‘98. I’ve just gone through the boxes I keep in my wardrobe. No picture of him but the pictures I have found told me that it was time to move on to the next series of posts. I concluded ’97 over a year ago, so it is time indeed!
That summer was the real turning point in my life, the pinnacle of those five years.
I will get my journals to complete the tableaux. Do I wish I could go back? I ponder for a minute and come to a conclusion: the answer is ‘no’. And it is too easy to say that I would do things differently, would enjoy life more and wouldn’t torture myself over things like I did. It would not be me. Even if I had the knowledge of what would come. What would be the point? It would be terrible, in fact.
I am still burning with the fire of my convictions and I am not afraid to be my own person. So I don’t feel like I have lost much in that department. But I have learned a lot and I practise what I have learned. I now understand that dreams are important, but that dreams that can never come true are silly fantasies that need destroyed. I have decided that it is more important to follow your wisdom (while listening to your heart) than it is to follow your heart (and ignore the voice of wisdom).
I will be working from home again now, so I will have time to explore the summer of ’98. The pictures are here beside me: the first love smiling by the pool; the mentor who helped come out; the friend for life that I met then. That summer was the real turning point in my life, the pinnacle of those five years I have mentioned. Everything in my life I divide between before and after that summer.