My Decade in Review: 2019

What a year. What a decade.

I was 23 when this decade began. Just over 18 months after returning home from my church mission.

I joined Twitter two days before this decade began, on December 29, 2009. So I’ve been on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook throughout this decade.

Looking back: I’ve logged tens of thousands of posts and comments on these three platforms (over 13,000 on Twitter alone). That number boggles my mind. I’m not ashamed of or proud of that number… it simply is. But it boggles my mind.

2010

I began attending a singles ward in January 2010. I made some amazing friends back then– some of whom are still some of my closest friends.

2011

In 2011 I started to grapple with and in small ways at least, began to accept my sexual orientation and began therapy with my still current therapist to aid me on that journey. He is still one of the best people to ever come into my life… and it was all slightly accidental, but not coincidental. I believe I was guided to the right person to see me through my journey over the rest of this decade. I started coming out to people in this year, 2011. Very slowly and gradually, I came out to dozens of people over the next several years.

2012

In 2011 I started to grapple with and in small ways at least, began to accept my sexual orientation and began therapy with my still current therapist to aid me on that journey. He is still one of the best people to ever come into my life… and it was all slightly accidental, but not coincidental. I believe I was guided to the right person to see me through my journey over the rest of this decade. I started coming out to people in this year, 2011. Very slowly and gradually, I came out to dozens of people over the next several years.

2013

In 2013, I married that girl. Together, we paid off all of the debts I had prior to our marriage, became a one car household (and almost fully paid off that new car while saving for a house). We got pregnant with our first child.

2013 also began one of the most difficult parts of my life concerning my already below average mental and physical health, as my anxiety heightened, my depression deepened, and I began to gain weight at an alarming rate. I kept the weight in check with a series of diets, ballooning up and down slightly over several years.

2014

2014 brought about the purchase of our home, and the birth of our precious daughter: my princess… Mari. She is an absolute delight!

In 2014 I also began my now current business, doing web design. That business has evolved significantly since then, but 2014 was the start (coming up on 6 years in a couple months). I went through a period of severe illness (still not entirely explained). I learned that I had sleep apnea, severe asthma, restless leg syndrome, and non-allergic rhinitis (which is a bizarre phenomenon which means I’m just “extra sensitive” to environmental changes and particles, but not allergic)… they also thought I might have celiac disease, so I underwent a (“very fun”) endoscopy to round out the year (no celiac disease).

2015

In 2015 I quit the job at that law firm. I also had another period of severe illness for over a month immediately after quitting the job where I had a fever and severe complications. I may have had mononucleosis (again… I had it at age 14 as well), but did not go to the doctor due to some complications around acquiring private health insurance at the time. I was getting better by the time that was sortefd out (did I mention how much I LOVE the healthcare.gov marketplace? Don’t get me started…).

2016

In 2016, our second daughter was born: our precious Elli. We found out in January at the 20 week ultrasound that she would be born with a cleft lip and palate. We were gratefully able to process that emotionally, meet with the craniofacial team at Primary Childrens Medical Center, and prepare for her arrival. My wife gave birth using the hypnobirthing method, which compared to our experience with Mari’s delivery, was a truly beauitful experience to be a part of. Elli’s arrival, even though she struggled so much with food, and gaining weight, followed by her first surgery in October 2016, she persevered. Mari also really began speaking fully (in sentences) in 2016, which was a fun development.

2016 also began the most severe period of depression of my life… which would last more than 2 ½ years. I cycled through suicidal ideation almost monthly, and once in 2016 came very close to a suicide attempt. The fact that I owned life insurance and was within the two year limitations period for suicide literally kept me alive during this period.

At the end of 2016 leading into 2017, we sold our house, downsized our belongings significantly, and moved to North Ogden to stay in my in-laws basement to reduce our overhead while I continued to build the business.

2017

In 2017, I continued working on the business, and started to experience real personal growth while simultaneously battling with depression. I made good progress in my own therapy, in a business growth program I joined in June (and continued for 18 months), and through involvement with other groups which greatly facilitated my personal growth, coming out of my shell in some big ways. All of these things helped me on my path toward mindfulness, self-acceptance, personal accountability, and working through (and winning against) depression.

2018

In 2018, I began the final leg of my journey toward complete self-acceptance, including finding love and respect for myself, and growth to push beyond my typical modes of operation.

In January, I read a blog post which deeply offended me, but also helped me realize that deep inside my heart, I hated myself for being gay. And upon recognizing that, and the ugliness it was, I realized I could not abide feeling that about myself. On January 27, 2018, I began a journey which continues today: to understand who I actually am, and who I actually want to be. I began to shed what I believed others expected of me (much of which wasn’t true, or wasn’t important). I started to let go of things I had held onto… slowly, these false beliefs started to melt away.

Also in January 2018, I was one of two panelists at a special Church leadership training for local leaders in Riverton, Utah on the subject of same-sex attraction. I knew many of the local church leaders in the room from growing up in and living in Riverton as an adult. In that moment, I came out publicly to about 150 people (effectively quadrupling the number of people who knew about my orientation)… some of whom I knew already, some of whom I didn’t know… but none of whom knew my story up to that point.

I will never forget the hugs, handshakes, and thank yous shared with me after that meeting as a veritable “reception line” of church leaders shuffled by to talk to my co-panelist and I. The Spirit was strong there that night. I felt supremely and purely loved by my Heavenly Father– in a way that I hadn’t felt for a while… I felt that everything was okay; that I was okay and not currently or previously a broken human; and that I would be okay. The most tender moment for me is when my former Webelos cub scout leader (now a bishop) came up to me and hugged me, and asked for reassurance that he had never done anything to hurt me regarding my orientation. I assured him hadn’t (which is 100% true), and we hugged.

About the same time, I remember seeing “Queer Eye” on the “recommended” section in Netflix, and thinking to myself “no way I’m watching that.” But shortly after that late January experience, it came up again, and I kid you not: the Holy Spirit said to me in the clearest of terms “You need to watch this show right now.”

I started watching Queer Eye that moment. I tried to open my heart and my mind and listen to what I was feeling. To hear myself and the Spirit, in addition to what was in that show. My heart melted. I literally just sobbed episode after episode as I began to recognize all the little things I had hidden away: things that I hated about myself; things that I believed about myself (and about other gay people); and I realized just how toxic this was to me. As I let go of all of these little “micro beliefs,” I began to feel a peace and a hope and happiness in a way I had literally never experienced before. For a time at least, the clouds of depression simply melted away. This was such an unusual experience!! How??

I had more experiences like that as I, for the first time, truly began to understand mindfulness and allow myself to accept my thoughts and feelings as they arrived and decide what to do with them without judgement… only love.

Also beginning in January, my wife and I also truly began to make progress on several problems we had in our marriage for many years. We began to truly and openly communicate with each other in ways we had never done before. We both became more aware of our feelings and our thoughts, rather than simply our actions. This was in large part to me finally starting to reintegrate the fragmented parts of myself back into one whole. I had been fragmenting myself for so long, it was no wonder some of those problems existed in the first place.

In April 2018, we welcomed Emma into our world. This little bundle of joy (and pain) is so amazing and wonderful. I cannot imagine life without her light in it.

In September 2018, I lost my grandmother. She was my last living grandparent, and although we weren’t very close, I had a great deal of respect and love for her. I was thankfully able to come back to Utah in the middle of a conference I attended in Denver in order to attend her funeral. I lost my other three grandparents in the previous decade. 🙁

2019

In January 2019, my wife and I both got jobs in Salt Lake County and moved back south 1) to be closer to friends and family, and 2) because both of our careers had more opportunities here in Salt Lake than in Weber County.

About this same time we also became aware (mutually) that the cracks in our relationship, at least some of them, could not be repaired, and we weren’t sure if either of us could accept that and/or envision a life together going on living that way. It was just too painful day in and day out. It simply wasn’t possible to do as we could not simply become different people or suppress parts of who we are (this is both related to our differing orientation as well as some other factors which need not be public). And so, we decided to seriously and prayerfully consider ending our marital relationship.

Around the same time, I felt a strong desire and prompting to “come out” publicly. I had been debating this action for almost 7 years. It never felt right before (employment situations, church situations, family, personal doubts about my reasons for wanting to do so, etc.). After serious contemplation and prayer, I decided on a date (my birthday), and decided what steps I wanted to take before doing so.

First among those steps was talking to important people in my life first, before surprising the world publicly on my birthday. I had sweet experiences that I will treasure forever as I talked to my siblings, other family members, and close friends. It was beautiful to watch them learn and grow with me.

Then the day arrived… I had gone through 6 or 7 drafts leading up to the final post. It had been proofread by a half dozen people (at least– maybe more?). I remember that I had decided previously what time to publish. This was no small matter, as I might have postponed it ALL DAY had I not decided to publish at a specific time (see my favorite quote, also one of my life maxims…)..

When that time came, I opened Facebook and copied and pasted the text I had typed and just hit publish without further hesitation. I knew if I paused at all, I would change text that ought not be changed, I would water things down, throw in apologies and caveats that were unnecessary, or generally just delay or mess it up.

I had prepared myself for some backlash, fearing it would not go over 100% well (in particular there were certain people I thought it would no go over well with– and to be fair, it may not have in private, but they haven’t shared that with me)…

What I had not prepared myself for was the genuine and overwhelming outpouring of love and support I received from hundreds of my friends and family on Facebook. Although 6 people unfriended me that day (to this day, I’m honestly not even sure who: I just know my friend count decreased by 6 within  24 hours), and I did get a couple of bothersome, though not overtly offensive, messages from people… 100% of comments were positive and/or supportive. Beyond those two bothersome messages, I received dozens of additional messages of support, affirmation, and love from friends and family. Also, two other of my friends came out to me. It was awesome. 🙂

I could not have been happier with that decision.

Later that week, my wife and I had made a final decision: we were getting divorced.

This has been both a heartbreaking experience, as well as an uplifting one. As we did so, we both came to understand ourselves and each other in ways that we hadn’t appreciated during our marriage. Although our romantic relationship came to an end earlier this year, our friendship for each other grew in other dimensions in ways it never had before.

We determined to take steps to ensure our kids knew they were still very much loved, and to understand we are all still a family, though we are no longer married and live in separate houses. We will still get family photos done together each year, we still do activities all together (like for Christmas we all went to the aquarium together), and we made sure that both of our oldest kids had a really good therapist to work with to make sure they are getting what they need, and that we know best how to help them. It was really hard on our oldest for the first few months (she had increased symptoms of anxiety), but she has adjusted well now to the new dynamic.

I am still working through some stuff. That’s pretty normal. One of my policies (per Dr. Brene Brown’s suggestion) is that I do not share personal stories too broadly unless I have come to own them, having fully processed the associated emotions. This is important.

What I will say: my mental health has improved dramatically over the last few months… probably the best it has been in, well, decades. That’s huge! And I did that without medication… who knew that taking care of yourself makes such a huge difference?

I’m certain I will have more to share in the future.

Guten Rutsch!

One of my favorite phrases in the German language is the way they wish each other Happy New Year. The phrase is “Guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!” which means “Have a good slide into the new year.” I love the visual of momentum heading into a new year!

So, to all who may read this: Guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!

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