Saturday, June 6, 2015

At the Table: My Table

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YM sat at the table. He had been sitting at the it ever since he came out a year and a half ago. Running his finger along its dusty yet smooth, beveled glass edge, he contemplated everything on it. His eyes traced its encompassing perimeter. Over the long, disciplined years in the church, it had always been inculcated that staying at the table would result in a fulfilled life with a loving, committed marriage and family, and YM would be able to thrive through life on a deeper plane of emotion, connection, and love...almost like another dimension, distinct from that of the single life. YM heard the echo of countless cold cacophonic admonitions from past Priesthood pulpits: get over yourself. Stop wasting your prime courting years on foolish, ephemeral youthful pursuits. Focus on finding that eternal companion. That is the Great Plan of Happiness.

This table was familiar yet uncomfortable; he knew his place, yet he felt empty when his eyes probed the faces of the others at the table—he wouldn't find his companion here among his family and friends. YM yearned for that deeper plane of emotion, connection, and love. YM wanted to feel whole, complete. After all, it was inculcated in him from a very early age. But sitting at this table required finding a companion among those at the table or none at all; that is, that plane could only be reached by embracing the emptiness.

YM, flustered but ever stoical, lifted his gaze and glanced around him. He spied another table behind him, across the room—too distant for association yet within conversation range. He scooted his chair out into the dead space between the two tables, where nothing ventures but quick, bidirectional disapproving glances and pointing fingers. He received stealthy, uncertain glances from those at his table. He hesitated but wanted to meet some of these other people.

YM conversed, socialized, and became familiar with those at this other table. They weren't scary, evil, or trying to disrupt those at YM's table, but they were different than those at his table. YM listened to them, to their stories, to their experiences, and he identified more and more with them at the expense of friendship with some of those at his table. YM directed his focus back to his table and shared with his family the experience of meeting his new friends. Some of YM's past relationships with those at his table had been very trusting but had turned sour, and some even abusive.

YM had learned about abusive relationships from some of his friends and family: excuses, rationalizations, explanations, apologetics, and hope had once kept them tied up in these abusive relationships. He had also seen the courage in some of those closest to him, when they finally broke free and ended the relationships. Sometimes, it was healthier just to get out. They were much happier and much more stable emotionally. YM hoped that they would be among the more understanding part of the people when he explained that he, too, felt abused, over and over again by those he once trusted at the table. He was jaded, always excusing the inexcusable, refusing to examine his relationship and wellbeing at the table for fear of finding more to excuse and rationalize.

This other table seemed to welcome a wide variety of experiences, including YM's. Some of the people there even seemed to have found that deeper plane of emotion, connection, and love—the kind not typically available while single. YM felt drawn. But he feared the severance of all his friendships at his table. Would they merely classify him as "another one that left the table?" That seemed to be the unforgivable label, the one that is slapped on the chest of anyone returning to the table for a visit or to converse, the one that identifies someone who needs rescuing.

YM didn't want to be a rescue project. But how could they understand? He just wanted an open conversation between the two tables and to be free to move between them. After all, who could blame YM for wanting what was available on the outsiders' table, what had been inculcated in him all along: a deeper plane of emotion, connection, and feel whole, have a loving, committed marriage and family? That's exactly what's on the table—the other table. Might whatever is on the table for one person be on a different table for another person? Might YM's family and friends be able to change their paradigm just a little? To accommodate his worthy desire?

Dan Bunker

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