How you get that lonely

Blaine Larsen – How Do You Get That Lonely

I wish I didn’t know, but if this saves someone else from staring that long into the abyss, then maybe it’s what I’m here for.

I’m sure we all know that there are a lot of people who will be there for you when it’s time to put the gun down, go to the ER before the pills kick in, whatever.  There are people who will help before then too, of course.  I would hope that most of us would be there even for a complete stranger well before that stage of nervous breakdown that leads to even seriously contemplating whether it’s time to leave this life behind.  The problem is that, like waiting until you have a blowout to change a bald tire, there’s no need to get to that point in the first place, and a serious danger in allowing the problem to get that bad.

You see, when I finish my workout, and come home proud of a few more reps, a couple seconds faster run, or another inch off my gut, the walls don’t notice and don’t care.  When I post it on Facebook, and a week later over 300 “friends” have generated a total of three likes and no comments, I really start to want to clean up my Facebook account, but I also wonder what happened to all the people I really thought cared about me, at least enough to click the like button or type a few words of encouragement.

When I come home from a rough day at work, I don’t get a hug or a back rub.  Enough of my close family has passed away or moved away that it’s been six months since I even heard an “I love you,” and that was from an ex girlfriend.  (Long story, but suffice it to say we couldn’t make it work even after three tries spanning several years.)

There’s no love at home; there’s nobody at home to love, and whenever I hear that hymn I just want to walk out and never return.  Combining it with the opening prayer of the Priesthood session basically giving thanks for the things I have wanted all my life but can’t have, well that is just confirming for me that I’m not what this Church wants, regardless of what all the recruiting literature says.

Advertisements

Doubts again…or still

It’s getting to the point where I just can’t believe this Church is the path that God intends for me. I’ve been a member for five years now, and my life has never been worse than since I joined the Church.
Financially: I have $13 in my pocket, $9 in the bank and $3000 in debt. I rent one of the cheapest places in town, and barter away part of my rent and water bill maintaining some of the property for the landlord. My salary isn’t out of line with what I’ve made in other jobs, but after taxes, child support, bare minimum car insurance, minimum payments toward a couple of the debts, electric bill and phone bill (Cheapest cell plan I could find, less than a land line here, and I have to be reachable for work.) I have about $45/week to get by on, including groceries and any other expenses that come up. I’m down to two passable pairs of work pants, and if one of them fails, I’ll have to eat nothing but beans, ramen and rice until the next payday to afford a replacement.
Socially: Not even one passable relationship prospect within the last year. The only ones that even came close turned out to be serious alcoholics, (Including plenty of the LDS ones. As a recovering alcoholic, I don’t need the temptation of someone who wants a drinking buddy as much as or more than a relationship, and some of them get mad when I refuse to buy them alcohol at dinner too.) Many of my close friends have moved out of the area, (or out of this plane of existence) and I can’t afford to go see the ones even just an hour away. (Though the fact that only one of them has come to see me in the last year has me tempted to scratch most of them off the “close friends” list.)
Spiritually: I feel the Spirit more in the opening prayer at political rallies than I do in Sacrament meeting. I’m sure a part of that comes from the blatant shunning that we single males are subjected to, but I also just can’t seem to find any value in having an Ensign article I’ve already read myself repeated verbatim at me over the pulpit.
Physically: I’ve had more health issues in the last couple of years than at any point since I was about eight years old. I don’t know if it’s the stress, if God is just refusing to grant me any blessings of health, or what, but the simple fact is that I’m in worse health now than I was as an unobservant Methodist.

I’ve gone to the bishop, but honestly, that just made things worse. Instead of wise, caring counsel and understanding, I’ve gotten three callings, and turned down two more. One the evening after my divorce was finalized. No guidance other than “magnify your calling and it will all get better.” I tried for years. I ran myself ragged, even added to the debt mentioned above. I let my callings take away from my limited time with my children. Nothing got better. It all steadily got worse. Once, I even spent several days in jail sitting out a traffic ticket I couldn’t afford to pay because I’d already overshot my budget trying to magnify my calling. Again, no help from the bishop; just the counsel to make sure I paid tithing before figuring out my budget.
I’m past the point of hoping for blessings. I’m past the point of believing that there’s some special amount of work that will make things better. I honestly cannot bring myself to believe anymore that He has anything in store for me but His continued indifference and denial of happiness.
Short of some minor miracle, I feel the next time I enter the bishop’s office, it will be to ask about the process of having my name removed from the records.

Hope leads to disappointment

I got to thinking about a friend recently, and all the times I parroted the standard “Mormon comfort” line to her. You know the one; “just have faith that the things you’re working so hard for will happen when you least expect them, and sooner than you think.” It’s the one I always hear when things are going badly, and when I try to open up to someone about how I never seem to find those blessings they all told me would happen. No matter what’s wrong, we’re only told that we have to work harder and be more patient and we’ll get the blessings that are handed to others who don’t work or wait for them at all. They’re always promised to be just around the next corner, no matter how many corners we’ve turned without finding them since the last time someone said that.
It’s really hard to have to apologize for saying that when you’re standing over the casket of a wonderful young lady who wanted nothing more than to find her eternal companion and raise a family in the Gospel. She was barely into her mid 30s when she passed unexpectedly of a heart attack.
We’d gone out a few times, though we lived so far apart that I wasn’t able to see her often enough for anything I would have called a relationship. A mutual friend who lived closer had taken an interest in her, and I was hoping they would work out, so she could finally have what she wanted and what she so fully deserved. Unfortunately, she passed before they got anywhere near that point.
Maybe I screwed it up. Maybe I was supposed to be the companion she was waiting for. I certainly couldn’t ask for a woman with a more caring, compassionate, faithful heart, even if it wasn’t so good at maintaining a steady rhythm. I know we both wanted the same things in life, and we had a lot more in common than anyone else knew. I know that I love her, and while I pray that she will have all those blessings on the other side, I have to agree with some of the commenters over at Wheat and Tares, in that I reject the notion that for some of us, mortal existence is just a placeholder where we exist only to serve the luckier ones until it’s time for us to die and finally get to receive some of that joy.

Think about what you’re saying…again

Maybe it’s just my area, but I do get tired of the people who essentially tell me that I need to abandon myself to be worthy of anything.  Most of it boils down to finances, too; even though I’m currently making as much as I was able to support a family of three on, it’s not enough for “real Mormon” standards.  Though the proclamation states a man should provide “the necessities of life and protection,” some people’s definition of “necessities” is downright ridiculous; there are families living far more happily in rented singlewides than many of these “good Mormon” families in their houses that cost more than I make in 10 years, because those happy families don’t compromise their values for money and material goods.

Thus, according to these people, (who, BTW, include my previous bishop, EQP, and Sunday School President) I should move away to find a better job (meaning I’d see my kids maybe one day a month at most) and/or bend the truth about my qualifications to improve my income.  Apparently, being “poor” (by their standards) is a bigger sin than lying or neglecting family.

Really, the takeaway for me, is that I can’t be worthy, but I could pretend to be someone who is by compromising my morals.

Actions speak very loudly

From a comment on another blog. (Read the post too, but this particular comment resonated strongly with me.)

I’m a single in my early 50’s. I used to sit in the chapel, but found that no one would sit on the same row. In a few cases, if I sat on the end of a row partially occupied by a family, they would get up and move. And I shower every day! Now I sit in the foyer, and it’s a lot quieter than the chapel.
I have noticed that when being greeted in a group of other adults, it goes like this, “Hello Brother Smith, Sister Jones, Mark, Brother Brown”. I’m referred to as though I was still a little boy.

I used to wonder if this was unique to me.  After all, it’s happened to me in at least a couple of different wards now.  Before reading this comment, I’d spoken to a few of our inactive mid singles, and a couple of them had cited this same phenomenon among the reasons they felt out of place and unwanted in Church.  In a way it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one, but also very disturbing to see that it is apparently somewhat widespread.  For all the talk of singles being an “important part of the Church family,” we’re often treated as outsiders.

I even tested the theory that maybe I inadvertently picked an unpopular part of the chapel to sit in, and over the course of a month, tried four other parts on both sides of the center aisle, front and back of the seating.  Always the same result; there was a minimum two seat buffer on either side of me, and usually one row in front and back of me that stayed empty unless we had visitors (who didn’t realize I was single) or Spanish speakers (I guess the bulletin on the contagious nature of divorce didn’t get translated) to fill some of those seats.

Lately, I’ve been catching the evening service at one of those “casual” churches each week, because a friend invited me and while I’m no fan of “praise band” music, they do have very good sermons.  Today’s was about the most important chair in any church; the empty one that should be filled with a new member, a guest, a returning inactive member, or just a regular member who couldn’t make it this week.  That chair represents two things to the congregation in general; first, that there is room for those people, and second, that we need to work to fill that chair.  To the single surrounded by those chairs, though, it represents a strong chance that there will be another empty chair soon.

The Difficulty of Dating

Something I see over and over again is women complaining about not being asked out.
Of course, some of them post this on local LDS singles groups in spite of the fact that I and other men I’ve talked to have asked them out. Others post the “come on guys, ask. I’m not turning anybody down” and then a half dozen of us get together later and realize that all of us asked, but she was always busy, or said yes, then cancelled later.
In other LDS singles groups, I’ve even seen women telling each other that it’s better to accept and then cancel or even stand the guy up than to simply be honest and decline the date.
Well, I think it’s time for a man’s perspective on this.
What goes into asking for a first date?

First, checking the budget and the schedule to see if I have time and money for it. Now, neither of those is free, so there’s always an opportunity cost; I can always find something else to do with the time and money that a date will take. Now look around at what’s happening in the area and come up with a plan.
Then, assuming I already know who I want to ask, there’s overcoming the fear of rejection. This used to be easier; a couple double shots of mid-grade bourbon and go for it. Now I have to do it stone cold sober, so it’s more like 10-20 deep breaths and a five minute prayer that she will at least be polite when she turns me down. (When asking nonmembers, it’s two deep breaths and one prayer that she won’t turn out to be some militant anti-Mormon trying to save me from the Church, or insist on finishing the evening at some place where I’ll hate the music.)
Now on to the actual asking. Even this is more complex, since LDS women won’t offer an option even when they really can’t make it Saturday night. Nonmembers in that situation almost always do a simple “I can’t Saturday, but how about next Friday at 7?” or something similar. LDS women say they can’t and it’s up to you to decide how many alternatives you’ll throw out before you write her off as too scared to just say no. Be warned, though, if she’s not trying to say no and you don’t list off every free evening between now and the Resurrection for her to pick from, she will blame you for not trying hard enough later.
Some just plain won’t respond. That’s always lovely when you have to ask in a text or Facebook message. You wait 24-72 hours, during which time you don’t want to be a jerk and ask someone else, and then you have to either come up with some slightly more polite way to say “thanks for playing, but no thanks for playing with my emotions” so she knows the offer is withdrawn, or wait until the proposed time has passed so she can’t pop in and say yes at the last minute and try to make you feel bad if you did find someone else to go. (Again, different with nonmembers; only one did the silent treatment so far.)
Now, in the event you get a yes, there’s prep work to be done. Clear your calendar, buy concert tickets, set aside some extra cash just in case you end up in a situation where you can’t use plastic, make sure the car is cleaned out, tell your Home Teaching companion you can’t come watch the game with him that day, etc.
So, now it’s the night before the big day, and you’re making that special trip to the laundromat so your favorite shirt will be clean and pressed for the date. You already picked up the rest of the suit from the cleaners, and you’re going to fill up the tank and Febreeze the Taco Bell sauce stains on the passenger seat again in the morning. (For nonmember women, just go get some cheap universal seat covers at WalMart, if that.)
Time to go pick her up; if you’re really lucky, she forgot to cancel because she forgot all about the date, so when you get to her house, she’ll answer the door in sweats and a confused look. Now, if you prayed hard enough, she’ll feel bad and rush to get ready, rather than coming up with an excuse to cancel on the spot.
If she doesn’t cancel…well, I don’t know. I’ve only gotten to that point six times with Mormon women so far, and I winged it from there when that happened. It must have worked, since four of the six resulted in at least second dates, and three in third and beyond.

Now, when I ignore the bishop’s advice to stick with Church women, and ask nonmembers, I’m batting about 50/50 on getting the first date. Past that, the percentages are about the same: somewhere around two thirds will end up with a second date, and half in a third.  Sure doesn’t sound like it’s LDS men that are the real problem.

Starting off

Talking to a few of the other LDS single men out there, I’ve find that my situation is disturbingly common; adult convert, divorced prior to conversion, not particularly tall, athletic or wealthy.
Now, I’ve been told by some unbiased sources that I’m not unattractive, and indeed, when I try the regular (non-LDS) singles scene, I rarely have any difficulty getting and maintaining the attention of the best looking woman in the group. Hard to be sure, given the Law of Chastity, but I know at least a few of those cases, I could have taken her home just for the asking.

In the Church, however, it’s a whole different game. Next weekend will mark a full year without a first date with any LDS woman. Not for lack of trying, either; I’ve been turned down, cancelled on our stood up over 70 times since then.

So, what is it that is such a barrier?
Divorced: believe it or not, there are 35+ year old women out there still looking for a virgin. Not a socially awkward one either, but an attractive, confident guy who has managed not get married or to have sex yet.
Adult convert: I converted after my divorce, with children, so I never went to Primary, didn’t serve a mission, etc. I’ve had more than one woman tell me that I couldn’t live up to her standards because I wasn’t born and raised in the Church.
Non-RM: see above. Never mind that she married an abusive, cheating RM before, somehow she’s sure this requirement will guarantee a good one next time.
Not wealthy: come on ladies, “what do you do for a living?” is a fine pre-first-date question. “How much do you make?” before you even get to last names is a sure sign of a gold digger.
Renter: yep; not only turned down, but flat out told I’m incapable of being worthy to court any good woman because I don’t own my home. Apparently a rented house doesn’t fulfill the “necessities of life and protection” as some women see it. (Or, more likely, they’re looking for someone they can take half the equity from in the divorce that’s inevitable when one partner is using a criteria list like this instead of looking at things like personality and how he treats her on a date.)