The CHB Diaries, Addendum Or The Best And Sweetest "Yes"

Two and a half weeks ago, CHB threw a cooler into the back of his truck, zipped up his red jacket, and drove us through Provo Canyon.

The sun was setting, low and lazy, when we found a grassy spot near the river. We rolled out a blanket and set down the blue and white cooler. The two small tubs of Hagan Daaz ice cream were cold, nestled among the dripping ice cubes.

We listened to the clicking crickets, CHB dipping into my tub of coffee and me dipping into his tub of chocolate peanut butter. It was a sweet and perfect exchange.

As I lifted the lid of the cooler to put the ice cream away, I saw a book bathing in the pool of melted ice.

"What's this?"

I pulled the book out and carefully removed the plastic wrapping. I immediately recognized it as one of the hardcover books--the beautiful Penguin Classics--that CHB has been gifting me throughout our courtship. Every month or so he offers up a new book for no good reason at all (which is really the best reason to give a gift).

Our initials were engraved on the cover.

"Our initials!" I said.

"Look inside," he said.

I opened the book; CHB had carved a proposal through the thick pages of text.




Tied to a red ribbon book mark and resting within the deep groove of the exclamation point's point (!) was my great-grandmother's ring.

In one fluid and fearless movement, I passed the ring to him, he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife.


Of course, yes. It was the easiest "yes." The best and sweetest on my tongue "yes."

Then, we rested on our backs and watched the bats swoop through the milky blue sky and felt chilled by the night air.

And then, my whole body was full of light.

The Uintas Long and Late

CHB and I spent a couple of days exploring the Uintas mountains last weekend. How do you capture the expansive swallow of the precipices or the clean snap of a pine cone under your feet? Pictures and words can't quite narrate the allure of the macro... 

nor the allure of the micro...

I'm convinced the Uintas' story is best understood by walking long and late through her quiet trails.

He Is Gifted In The Art Of Alchemy

A photo from our weekend backpacking trip to Packard Lake, The Uintas

Do you remember that scene in Breakfast at Tiffany's when Holly Golightly (played by the eternally enchanting Audrey Hepburn) explains to her friend Paul Varjak that she doesn't get the blues so much as the mean reds?

"The blues are because you're getting fat, and maybe it's been raining too long, you're just sad, that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid, and you don't know what you're afraid of."

I get the mean reds, too. Out of nowhere they latch onto my body, beleaguering my bones and suffocating my cells. They make my guts feel crowded and dizzy. It's like a giant bruise, spreading purple and pulsing. For several days this week I was battling my way through a mean red onslaught. I was feeling angry and trapped. Most maddening of all was that I couldn't figure out why my world felt cracked.

I went to CHB's house on Sunday to seek some refuge, but only ended up feeling angrier. For hours I tried to explain my bruise to him and bruised him in the process--as the mean reds are anything but elegant. Finally, in a moment of total vulnerability and exhaustion, I said to CHB, "I don't like myself." And I didn't. Not in that moment. Not with all of the clumsy and cruel thrashing about that I was doing.

Without missing a beat he walked over to me--me who was crouched in the chair like some frightened animal--and held on tightly.

I cried hard into his shirt. He laid his hands on my back.

I said, "I feel alone."

He said, "I'm here."

And the three days of darkness left. Up to the sky they flew, swift and immediate. My cracked world let in the light. My bones sighed, my cells expanded, and my guts relaxed. Every drop of venom pulsing through my veins went sweet. It was nothing less than alchemy.

In that moment, I thought back to my dissolved marriage and the ways in which the man I chose to love ten years ago was not interested in tending the bruise but only intensifying it.

Then I thought forward to the man I'm choosing to love now. His heart is crystalline. He is a healer of bruised spirits. His love changes me. It's clear, he is gifted in the art of alchemy.

At The End Of The World Or Where I Pay My Respects To Lucin, Utah

The end of the world is located in Lucin, Utah. This is also where the Sun Tunnels live.

Here, at the end of the world, you can watch a fat, sinking sun lick the earth. She leaves the entire planet in her wake, bathing everything in an orange and juicy glow.

You can use the tunnels as a telescope and survey the scrub brushed moonscape. If you're lucky, you may see coy foxes, feisty badgers, giant eared jackrabbits, quiet coyotes, and a snappy little scorpion with extra ordinary powers of persuasion.

You may even want to stop by a honky tonk karaoke bar for those mini cow burgers. 
You know the ones. From the mini cows.

At the end of the world your hair can't help but dance, and you can't help but feel a little sassy. 
It is the end of the world, after all.

Journal Jubilee (Buckle Up!)

This photo of the Columbia Gorge has nothing to do with this post. It is pretty and was placed here to suggest that Oregon may be the most beautiful state in the union.

Preamble: I have really missed writing on my blog. I've discovered that me no write, me no happy. So here we go again. Hiatus undone.

I've been sitting on my bedroom floor this morning with 22 years worth of journals sprawled out around me, giving me the distinct look of a crazy-eyed protagonist in an episode of Hoarders. I hoped that in reading through these journals I would be able to better map my world and find a key to the door labeled "understanding my interior self." I wanted to find the patterns in the text, like some sort of secret code that would illuminate at my command and gift me with a grand revelation about Who. I. Am. As I am second to none in the art of navel gazing, I had high expectations of self-realization. After a full morning of reading, my conclusion is this: I am delightfully common, prone to melancholy, and boy crazy, more or less.

Join me, won't you, in revisiting the Junes of years past:

June 1991 My American Girls journal allotted me five measly lines of text a day which meant that it was imperative I write the most mind blowing things that I experienced in a 24 hour stretch. June 8: "Dear Diary, Brooke and me went to a movie. Last night we went to a birthday sleep-over. We rented movies and put on press on nails. It was fun." I'll tell you what, twenty years later, and I would still consider press-on nails worth mentioning. 

June 1993 I was listening to a lot of Richard Marx while pining after my first love, Shawn B. Shawn left for a 4 week summer vacation to Utah, and I could not be consoled. "Now I'm listening to a Richard Marx song that's making me even sadder...whenever I listen to a slow Richard Marx song, it makes me cry." So apropos, 14-year-old-Krisanne. So apropos.

June 1996 My high school boyfriend, Nick N., was leaving for college and our good-bye wasn't as romantic as I had envisioned so I took it upon myself to construct a different, much better ending in my journal. "I hope I get my chance again to watch him leave, and I'll shout 'Fare thee well my bright star!'*, and I'll know that that good-bye was very, very, truly good."

*I dramatically quoted Indigo Girls lyrics the entire summer due to my firm belief at the time that all of life's experiences were best expressed through lesbian folk rock.

June 1999 I was living in Africa with a Namibian tribe called the Himba. Yes, ok, I'll admit, this is uncommon, quite joyful, and completely unrelated to boys. "As I write, baby monkey's are playing in the trees above me." When will I ever be able to say that again?

June 2003 I was divorcing a man who repeatedly told me, in myriad and sometimes quite imaginative ways, that I was a waste of his time. It goes without saying, this was a very sad time for me and a huge score for my melancholy.

June 2008 This was the summer of spiritual reckoning. I spent a lot of time alone in South Korea and subsequently had some empty, quiet space to philosophize. I wrote about this Book of Mormon scripture: "Behold there is a time appointed that all shall come forth from the dead." (Alma 40:4). It occurred to me that this is our ultimate goal in life: at some point we will all awaken from the long sleep that is our constructed reality. "The dreamers awaken, the dead revive, the spiritually dead are given a jolt of electricity. Our purpose is realized: to wake from the dead." 

June 2011 Last year at this time, I had "come out" on my blog as a supporter of gay rights. It was a tremendously scary thing for me to do precisely because of the backlash that I feared would ensue and that did, in actuality, ensue. I quoted Leonardo Da Vinci in my journal, "Where there is heat, there is life" and mused that perhaps "these hot, heartbreaking circumstances of my life are re-birthing me." I'm convinced they still are.

And here we are. June 2012. I suspect I am slightly wiser than I was in June 1991. The school of life has knocked some sense into me (fo shizzle). Yet, I'm still fairly common, still enamored with my darker side, and still completely boy crazy as evidenced by growing collection of CHB blog posts. Without discounting the great gift we all have to transform ourselves, there is something comforting in finding that the more things change, the more they quite often stay the same.

This Is A Break, Not A Break Up

I need to take a small break from the blog. I'm not quite sure why but it has something to do with a pulling away from my virtual life and a pushing towards my actual life. I think a balance can be struck between the virtual and the actual, and I will be back in a few weeks when I've figured out how to straddle that line gracefully. Until then, I will leave you with these iphone pics of CHB at one of our favorite pizza places in SLC: Este Pizzeria. "Why these pics of CHB?" you ask. Because he's scrumptious, that's why.




THe CHB Diaries, Part VII, or Ezekial 36:26

CHB responded to my declaration of love in one concise, CHB style paragraph that concluded with the following: "I would love to be able to spend more time with you. I hope for that potential as well."

He wanted me to move out to Utah. He wanted to know me. This was happening.

I was elated and then, with a jolt, immediately paralyzed by fear. My thoughts morphed into piranhas, their ugly little spear teeth attacking my psyche with merciless frenzy.

First round: Piranhas 1/Krisanne 0

During this round, I suffered a slew of Krisanne related worry. "What if I can't find a job?" "What if I can't find a place to live?" "What if he decides I'm not cool enough or interesting enough or pretty enough or enough enough?" "What if, in the end, I am alone?"

Second round: Piranhas 2/Krisanne 0

During this round, I suffered a slew of CHB related worry (which was really just another form of Krisanne related worry). "What if he's afraid of commitment because of his divorce?" "What if he decides this is too fast? Too soon? Too much?" "What if he is overwhelmed?"

What if...what if...what if...

It was at that moment of the great WHAT IFS that I knew I had to radically shift my thought process. My 'Aha!' moment came when I realized that this move to Utah wasn't about CHB. Not really. This move was about me overcoming my fears of loving fully and being loved fully. I had been so hurt by my previous marriage that I had closed myself off to love. For almost a decade I engaged in a string of long distance relationships because they were safe. They were removed. They didn't require too much of me. At last I had reached a place in my spiritual development where I was ready for a real life, honest to goodness, close distance relationship. Whether or not this real life relationship with CHB worked out was besides the point. The point was that I was choosing to be courageous. I was choosing to cast off the protective armor so carefully forged by my fears and be vulnerable. I was choosing to offer up my heart in all of its naked glory.

It didn't escape me that this move to Utah would also give CHB a chance to cast off his fears and choose to walk with me into that space of not knowing. Together we had the opportunity to take up residence in the fiery center of things where the best and fiercest healing takes place.

And so with my "Aha" moment carefully tucked away,I packed my bags two months later and settled my body and heart in Provo, Utah. In the 18 months since, CHB and I have fought tooth and nail to be free of our fears and open to love. It has been painful at times. It has been exhausting at times. And it has been the most meaningful endeavor of my life. I think this journey of ours is so poignantly summarized in the words of Ezekiel:

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."

--Ezekiel 36:26

I am trading in my heart of stone for a heart of flesh and in so doing have gained the heart of a good man, the love of my life, CHB.

Final Round: Krisanne and CHB 34589723492837594385723948729348752934875/Piranhas incinerated

Far Between

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming (aka The CHB Diaries) for this important public service announcement. The email pasted below was composed and sent off to my family about 5 minutes ago. I got to thinking in those 5 minutes since, "I don't want just my family to know about this project. I want everyone to know." Yes, reader, I want you to know. And you. And you over there. There are cosmic changes coming about. Big swells of love and empathy and understanding are rolling through the dirt and waves. I don't care where you stand on this issue, you have room in your heart for all of God's chillun: gay, straight, or somewhere in between. I promise you, you do. Read on:

"Hi family,

I wanted to share a project with you that I've been working on. My friend Kendall Wilcox is an openly gay Mormon and filmmaker. He's working on a documentary right now called Far Between which is a compilation of interviews with hundreds of people who have tried to navigate the very difficult waters of being LDS and homosexual. Kendall doesn't have an agenda other than trying to open up dialogue and build empathy for people who are living on the margins of the Mormon community.

As part of the project, Kendall is posting short, individual interviews with gay Mormons on the Far Between website:

I've been writing summary blurbs for several of the interviews--giving you an overview of the clips. If you go to the website and click on the "Watch Stories" tab you can watch some of these interviews and read some of the blurbs. It's quite incredible how similar many of these stories are and yet, how differently each person has chosen to deal with their situation.

Kendall also made a short "It Gets Better" film with a group of gay BYU students. I can't tell you how empowering this has been for the gay and straight alliance community on campus. Here is a link to that film:

Kendall made another "It Gets Better Film" with the general Mormon population--I'll be in that film! I will send you that link once he posts it online.

I hope you get a chance to watch some of these clips--they're moving and at times heartbreaking.


The CHB Diaries, Part VI

When I moved to Mexico, CHB and I had left the relationship in that sloppy, liquid limbo space where nothing is defined. We weren't together, and we certainly weren't exclusive. But we weren't disinterested either. At least I wasn't disinterested. I was, as I constantly reminded my Mexican friends, muy muy interested. Because things were operating in that sloppy, liquid limbo space, I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of communication with CHB. Would we skype every day? Would we IM? How many texts a day was too many? It turned out we didn't talk much at all. Five texts a day and a weekend skype date quickly dwindled to one text a day and nary a skype date. As our communication morphed into non-communication, I felt that familiar jab in my gut--the darting fear that CHB had changed his mind about wanting to be with me.

I tried to avoid my fears by immersing myself in the experience of living in Mexico. I stayed out late, eating sweet and spicy corn while listening to live jazz music in the heart of the city. I walked to my Spanish classes in the cold morning snap and then used my arsenal of new words to teach art classes in the afternoon. I fell in love with the colors on the city walls, the taste of ducles, and the roll of the language on my tongue. I even went on a few dates with men who didn't speak my language. All of this--the sights, the sounds, the great immersive experience of living in a foreign country--was enough to keep me from wallowing in my insecurities about CHB.

After two months in Mexico, I returned to Portland. I had hardly talked to CHB by this point and thought I had come to terms with the fact that he was merely a good memory. A bright star burst in the night sky. Operating under the assumption that it was over between us (Occam's Razor, after all), I called CHB shortly after coming home. I told him that I had fallen so deeply in love with Mexico that I wanted to go back to school to get my PhD in Latin American Art. He didn't say much upon hearing my plans. Some silence. Then, we exchanged pleasantries and with no real intentions of ever talking again, said good-bye.

I thought about CHB every day after that phone call. For the next two months, while I was busy researching PhD programs and working on application letters, I thought about him, his face, his voice, his kiss. He was imprinted on my mind's eye like the shock of a camera flash. Every time I blinked, he was there. I felt as haunted as I had in Korea.

One afternoon during the haunting, I received a letter in the mail. Jacob's sister-in-law was a burgeoning friend from months previous, and we had become pen pals of sorts. She had sent me a letter in which she wrote, "I'm sorry to hear that you won't be my future sister-in-law after all." I read that line again and then a few times more. It didn't seem right. Something jarred inside. I knew, in some quiet space in my body, that things were not over with CHB. I was not ready to give up my title of potential future sister-in-law. I decided I had to tell CHB how I felt. I had to tell him that despite the fact that we lived several states away, and despite the fact that I had every intention of moving across the country for my PhD, I wanted to be with him. I needed, now more than ever, to see about him.

With a deep breath and an exhale I wrote:


i like you. and i think about you all of the time (i say this at the risk of sounding totally uncool and pathetic). i know we decided to just be friends--it makes the most sense. but if you ever feel like you're in a space to take a risk, please let me know. if you just want to be friends with absolutely no potential i can go with that. but i hope, if i'm being really honest, that the potential part of our friendship is still floating around out there somewhere.

ok, that's nice to breath out loud.


With a prayer and a click of the "send" button my petition was off, my vulnerability moving at lightening speeds through the internet.

To be continued...

The CHB Diaries, Part V

This photo was taken on CHB's last day in Portland

Shortly after returning to Portland following my whirlwind weekend in Utah, I was offered a summer teaching position in Mexico. A close family friend and University of Arizona Special Education Professor invited me to join a group of UOA students on their yearly trek down to Guanajuato where we would teach art, reading, English, and dance at a community center in the rural outskirts of the city. I have a vagabond spirit and thus an insatiable need to travel--this was an opportunity I couldn't refuse. Moving to Mexico for the summer also meant postponing any kind romantic developments with CHB.

I wanted to see CHB again before I left for Mexico, so I invited him out to Portland to spend a few days with me and my family. He flew out on my birthday weekend which was a total delight. The first night in Portland, CHB joined me and my family for a birthday dinner at a Thai restaurant in Southeast Portland called Pok Pok. We joked and talked and filled our bellies with spicy Thai street food. It was the first time anyone in my family had spent time with CHB, and their excitement in meeting him was unprecedented. Due to his great taste in basically everything that boys like, my younger brothers were just as besotted with CHB as I was. My mom bombarded him with get-to-know-you-questions. My dad told him he looked like John Mayer. Really, what more could you ask?

The next day CHB and I indulged in as much Portland culture as one afternoon would allow. I took him through the literary labyrinth that is Powell's Bookstore. We walked over bridges and beneath Bonsai trees in the Japanese Garden,  grabbed dinner at Ken's Artisan Pizza, and went to Nike Town where he bought me a pair of bright orange sneakers. Later that night we strolled through the historic neighborhoods in Northwest Portland and sat in a beautiful old church to hear my friend Jon perform with his choir.

After the concert, neither CHB nor I were ready for the evening to end. We went back to my house and pulled out a 1950s French film from my brother's pretentious and obscure movie collection (he's a filmmaker, so it's ok). We plopped on the couch and both fell asleep within minutes to the movie's soothing, muted rustle. We woke up as the movie was ending, finally ready to call it a night. As CHB was about to stand up and head to the guest room, he paused.

He looked at me for a few seconds.

He leaned over. 

And he kissed me.

Oh the fireworks and confetti. Crazy Time's Square fireworks and confetti. It was, hands down, the most perfect first kiss I have ever had--the physical equivalent of seeing CHB at church that afternoon in Korea: giddiness, warmth, and connection. I didn't sleep much at all that night, as I kept running the kiss over and over in my head, not quite sure if it had really happened. At points I was convinced I had imagined it.

Early the next morning, I drove CHB to the airport, my brain still buzzing from our kiss the night before. We said goodbye, unsure of what the future harbored. I was moving to Mexico for the summer. CHB was going back to his home in Utah. Gratefully, we had no way of knowing that it would be another 5 months until we would be together again.

To be continued...

The CHB Diaries, Part IV

I stood in front of the mirror of my bathroom at La Quinta Inn near the Salt Lake City airport, where I had flown in from Portland two hours earlier. I fiddled with my hair for the one millionth time as I waited for his call. The butterflies in my stomach were manic. Finally, my phone rang.


"Hi, it's Jacob. I'm here in the lobby."

"Ok, I'll be right out."

His voice was softer than I remembered it. Somehow that quelled the nervous tension darting through my body. I adjusted my shirt, grabbed my purse, and shut the door. The walk to the lobby was maddening. I couldn't manage thoughts any more complex than, "Ok. Ok. It's ok. Ok. It's ok. Ok. Ok."

I walked into the lobby, and there he was. The first thing I noticed was his height. It was striking. As we hugged, his 6' 3" frame loomed over my nearly 5' 3" self. The second thing I noticed was his energy. There was something so unbelievably gentle about him, something I hadn't noticed in the 5 minutes we had spent together more than a year ago. His was still, peaceful, and devoid of all expectation. To use a Buddhist term, he was Zen. My nerves settled down one more notch.

We left the hotel and drove to a quaint restaurant called Fresco Italian Cafe, housed in one of Salt Lake City's older neighborhoods. I don't remember what we ate but I do remember talking a lot for fear of that dreaded first-date-silence and drinking several rounds of diet coke, what I like to think of as Mormon booze. You know, just a little something to take the edge off. Because of my furious imbibing, I went to the bathroom at least three times during the course of our meal. CHB told me recently that he thought I was having bowel problems at the restaurant. (When I consider it, I am still amazed he asked me out on a second date).

After we finished our meal, we drove to Gilgal Sculpture Garden to gawk at the giant Sphinx rendered as Joseph Smith only to find that the garden had closed for the evening. Seeing as it was only 9 pm on a Saturday night, I just assumed that CHB had a plan B. I felt deflated as it became unmistakably clear that he was driving me back to La Quinta Inn. My heart sank. Unlike Zen Master CHB, I had a list of expectations for how the evening should go and coming home early was not on that list. Standing outside of the hotel, CHB gave me a quick hug, and we parted ways. Even though the dinner had gone swimmingly (despite my frequent trips to the bathroom), I was convinced that he just wasn't that into me. I called my mom in tears.

"He dropped me off at 9 pm! He doesn't like me. He changed his mind." Sob sob sob.

"I'm sure it's fine. He has a long drive back to Provo. He probably just needs to get home," said my mom, ever the optimist.

"If a guy really likes you he does not end a date at 9pm, no matter how far he has to drive home!" Indignant sob sob sob.

"I think you should wait and see how the rest of the weekend goes."

Pause. Sniffle.


My mom was right. In talking to CHB later, I learned that there were several reasons he dropped me off early that evening, none of which had anything to do with how he felt about me. And, gratefully, CHB gifted me with a proper late evening date a couple of days later. Sitting at dinner with a couple of friends on Monday night, I heard the familiar chirp of my phone. It was a text from CHB. "Do you wanna come over and listen to the Beatles on my record player and drink coke from a bottle?" (Can we just pause for a moment and acknowledge how adorable that text message was? Coke from a bottle? Love it.). I scarfed down my last California roll, and with proper and polite goodbyes, I made haste to Provo.

That night CHB and I sat in his room and listened to the Beatles until 2:00 am. We talked about real things, honest things--like some of the difficult experiences we had each gone through with our previous marriages and how we had been changed by those experiences. I could feel our respective boundaries softening as the evening wore on. I felt engaged and comfortable and safe. It was better than I imagined it. It was, like CHB himself, Zen.

The next day I flew home to Portland, our conversation still swirling around in my ears and settling into my heart. I could feel the ground move beneath me as my world began to transform. I felt my body tip forward towards a bright and unexpected future. "This," I thought, "is what it feels like to stand on the precipice of love."

To be continued...

The CHB Diaries, Part III

One of the photos I would always look at when perusing CHB's Facebook page. This is CHB and his mom in Korea shortly before we met that fateful Sunday.

After getting over my initial embarrassment and disappointment in finding out that CHB had a girlfriend (a surfing Californian beauty queen that we'll call 'Mildred'), I thought that perhaps this bit of information could help me finally get over him. He had Mildred. I had an on-again-off-again Gus. We were both taken. Considering the circumstances, I couldn't conceive of any better opportunity to just move on for crying out loud. But the logic of my heart and the logic of my brain so rarely see eye to eye. Heart logic eventually won out, and I found myself thinking about CHB again which included the *ahem* "occasional" perusal of his Facebook page (don't pretend like you don't do it, too).

It was just a couple of months later, during one of my "occasional" perusals, that I noticed CHB and Mildred weren't Facebook friends anymore. Oh sweet-sweet-stomach-flip-victory. Welcome. Come in. Make yourself at home. I wish I could say that I felt sad for CHB. Ending a relationship stings regardless of how the demise comes about. But even now, when I look inward and excavate the deepest corners of my soul, I can't find any empathy related to that moment of discovery. Not a speck. All that resides there is utter elation.

A few days later I struck up a conversation with CHB on gchat. I had no intention of making an overtly romantic move, but I wanted to reconnect with him. I wanted to be in his virtual space again. We talked about the fact that I had one more month left in Korea and that his parents would be coming home from their mission shortly thereafter. We made tentative plans for me to come out to Utah for their homecoming. At that moment, everything felt possible. Almost immediately, however, my misty veil of infatuation was punctuated by stings of guilt; Gus and I were still together. As wobbly as our relationship was, he was my boyfriend. I tried to convinced myself that CHB and I could just be friends while I continued to sort things out with Gus, but the most honest part of me knew that I didn't want friendship with CHB. I wanted to fall in love.

I was at a crossroads. I couldn't balance my ever increasing feelings for CHB and feel ok about being in a relationship with Gus. It wasn't fair to anyone involved. So, shortly after I returned home from Korea, I broke up with Gus. It was a difficult stretch of time following our break up, but I knew that it was the right decision. It opened up some emotional space for me and gifted me with more courage and confidence. It was a necessary severing as it made room for possibility.

With this new found possibility tucked into my back pocket, I walked onto an airplane headed to Utah. Now. Now, I could really go see about a boy.

To be continued...

The CHB Diaries, Part II

Two weeks after submitting my petition to the universe, "I want Jacob Knudsen to be in my life", I received a Facebook friend request.

And so began several weeks of correspondence--each email gifted me with a better understanding of CHB's life experiences, his likes, dislikes, memories, family, his hopes. I learned about his love for jazz music as he would always attach two or three of his favorite songs to each email. I learned about the hot air balloon ride he took in high school and his ever expanding sneaker collection. I learned about his reverence for nature and his undying devotion to Coca Cola. Each email made my stomach flip and was immediately acknowledged with a long and carefully articulated response.

The emails led to courtship. On two occasions, CHB asked his parents to arrive, unannounced, at the Kindergarten where I worked to give me bouquets of blooming, fragrant flowers. At one point, CHB even offered to fly me back to America for a first date(!).

I wanted this. I wanted to know more of him. To somehow be closer to him. But it felt fast and a little overwhelming, too. And what of Gus? We were still corresponding, and although we occupied friend territory at this point, I could feel that perhaps our break was melding back into something more than friends. Gus was safe, he was known, he was kind, and smart. CHB was unknown, he was a glimpse, a bright flash in the sky, and a bit of a dream. I knew I had to make a decision: completely break things off with Gus to pursue someone I hadn't spent more than 5 minutes with or break things off with CHB to pursue someone I knew and trusted. I chose the path most traveled, the path of lowest risk. I ended my correspondence with CHB, the man I had invited into my life two months earlier. I said a resolute "No thank you" to the gift I had sought and been granted.

Even though I was determined to move forward with Gus, I continued to harbor feelings for CHB. I knew it wasn't fair to Gus to have my divided attention, and so I tried to push out all thoughts of CHB. I deleted all of our emails as I found myself reading them over and over. I tucked the notes he had sent me into the bottom of a cardboard box. I tried (mostly unsuccessfully) not to look at his FB page and dissect comments written on his wall by pretty girls. My deepest self--the knowing part of me--wasn't on board with this stubborn suppression, and so CHB emerged elsewhere. Because I wouldn't allow him in my waking life, he emerged in my sleep. For the next 6 months I had a dream about CHB every week. Every. Single. Week.

After 6 months of these dreams, I couldn't take it any longer. I needed to contact CHB and reach out and somehow reconnect. He was occupying my mind and my heart with a doggedness that demanded resolve. It was around this time that Gus and I were going through another "break not break up", and so I contacted CHB. Holding fast to my courage, I IM'd him and asked if he would like to join me for Christmas. I was flying back to Portland, and 'you know, I would really enjoy having you around.' A pause. Then, a 'no thank you.'

My heart sank, and I felt foolish. Ah yes. He had a girlfriend now. Well, why wouldn't he? Did I expect him to spend all of his time dreaming about me as I did him? I suppose some part of me hoped he would be just as haunted as I was. Embarrassed, I resolved that this was my definitive answer from God to move on, move forward, to stop seeking my bright flash in the sky and continue to seek those safer, softer lights.

To be continued...

The CHB Diaries, Part I

Do you know how CHB and I met? No? Well buckle up. You already know? You can move along. There's probably an episode of Downton Abby somewhere waiting to be watched.

I began this blog on the eve of my great flight across the ocean to South Korea. I wrote my first post in a hotel room in Seattle the night before I hopped on a plane for Seoul where I would pull on a smock and teach art for two years at an English immersion school for economically privileged, impeccably dressed 5 year olds.  I wonder if any part of me knew that this foreign journey would lead me beyond the paint and the smocks and the adorable Asian kinder kids to meet the love of my life.

About a year after I moved to Korea, I began dating someone back in America (we'll call him Gus). Gus was wonderful--smart, kind, and hard working. He baked his own bread for Pete's sake. Gus and I had long conversations and good laughs. Gus came to visit me in Korea two times, and we had even longer conversations and better laughs over rice tea and bibimbop. Despite this affability there was always a deep down niggling; I felt as if something wasn't quite there. I couldn't find that mysterious spark of chemistry, that elusive je ne se quoi. Because of this niggling, my relationship with Gus was of the on again off again variety--it was never quite on, and it was never quite off.

It was a Sunday afternoon. I was feeling a little morose, confused, and flat. Gus and I were still relatively new to our relationship, yet we were already going through one of our "breaks-not-break-ups". After a long subway ride through the city and a hefty trek up the hill past the smelly garbage sacks and the corner market, I made it into the chapel and plopped into a pew just in time for the opening hymn. Almost immediately I saw that just a few pews ahead of me a tall man with curly dark hair was sitting with Brother and Sister Knudsen, a beloved missionary couple in our ward. I knew they had a son who was single, and I prayed to God (literally) that this was him. I was sitting with my girlfriends, and the entire pew was vibrating with anticipatory chatter.

"Who is that?!"

"Is that Brother and Sister Knudsen's son?"

"Is he married? Look at his ring finger!"

For the entire church meeting I couldn't stop staring at him. He was so ridiculously handsome, but more than that I was aware of some ethereal pull inside of my gut. I felt a little pop pop in my stomach, and I knew the mysterious spark had arrived. That ever elusive je ne se quoi that I had been clawing after in my relationship with Gus was making herself known in this stranger and with an obviousness and inevitability that shook my bones.

Due to a combination of innate shyness and the blur of twitterpation, I didn't speak to CHB nor seek him out for the remainder of our church meetings. However, I knew that Brother and Sister Knudsen were hosting a dinner at their house for all of the single adults that evening, and I hoped a bright red hope that I would see him there. Even if I didn't talk to him, I still wanted to stare at him more and fantasize about our future babies.

I walked into the Knudsen's apartment that night, and there he was--CHB--standing all lanky like at the head of the buffet table guarding the sushi and looking as cool as one can when surrounded by raw fish. My eyeballs froze at my feet. I couldn't look at him. I was so nervous. I was also very hungry so I forced myself to take slow, shuffle steps toward the table to get my food. What was I going to say to this man who had knocked me off kilter? When I reached the table and was face to face with CHB the pop pop in my stomach was immediately promoted to a BOOM! BOOM! He reached out his hand and said warmly, "Hi. I'm Jacob." Just like that. I'm sure I introduced myself, too, but considering the state of my brain at that moment in time it probably came out sounding like, "Hi. I'm blooooorrrggup." CHB and I didn't talk for the rest of the evening (turns out CHB is just as shy as I am when it comes to love), but that did not stop me from sneaking glances/stares and planning potential wedding destinations. As I was leaving, CHB finally engaged me in a conversation (victory!); we spoke briefly about the fact that he was flying back to America the next day. I smiled and wished him a safe flight when all I really wanted to say was, "What? No! Blooooooorrrrgup!"

I left the Knudsen's apartment feeling both elated at my good luck in meeting this man and deflated at the thought that I may never see him again. When I arrived home, I did the only thing I knew to do. I immediately grabbed my journal, and I wrote on the top of the page, "I want Jacob Knudsen to be in my life."

To be continued...

Simple Gifts

Collection by Camilla Engman

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

--excerpt from the Shaker song "Simple Gifts"

I have been involved in an intense love affair with technology and media for the last couple of years. Like many of you, I am continually enamored with the vast oceans of information flowing through my computer screen from Google Reader to Facebook to Pinterest to Gmail. I am ever inspired by the musings and creativity of design blogs; I am delighted by the curated treasures of my Pinterest friends; I am amused and often edified by comments and links posted on Facebook. Yet. Yet...I think the time has arrived for me to claim God's gift of simplicity. For me, this means I need to harness those waves of information with a bit more skill than I have thus far; I need to spend less time immersing myself in the waters of the world wide web.

As the Shaker song implies, from simplicity flows freedom. Simplicity will gift me with the freedom of more silence, more experience in the world, a heightened awareness of God's words, and more embodied, human interaction. It will gift me with the freedom to surround myself with the things that make me happiest. The Internet is my momentary thrill, but I feel deep, roaring joy roll through my body when I am touching hands, looking into eyes, feeling breath, listening to voices (human and animal), standing before mountains, pushing against the wind, and smelling damp soil. God speaks to me not through pixles and binary code but through the soft underbelly of the earth where shiny beetles mingle with the knarled roots of a pine tree. This is the aliveness that I miss.

Like the Shakers, I want to find myself in the place just right where I sit with people and the outside air and give voice to love, offer my respects to lasting delight. I don't think this means I need to absolve myself of all Internet immersions, but rather decrease them so as to make more space in my body and my surroundings for this dynamic simplicity that is my gift to claim.

The Lived Experience

I just finished listening to a Radiowest interview with my friend Kendall Wilcox, an openly gay member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons!). Kendall is currently making a film about homosexuality in the Mormon church with the hopes of opening up a more empathetic conversation about what it means to be gay and Mormon; in his interview, Kendall acknowledges the complexities of this issue and seeks to understand everyone regardless of where they fall on the spectrum: gay and proud, gay and not proud, straight and gay friendly, straight and gay unfriendly, etc. I am inspired by his emphasis on empathy; he seeks to understand where people are coming from and why they believe what they believe. He carefully considers those different viewpoints even if they are at odds with or potentially threatening to his own worldview.

I was really struck by Kendall's use of the phrase, "the lived experience." He points out the dissonance that often exists between our beliefs in the way things should be and the reality of how things are. If we loosen our grip on ideology for a moment and really seek to understand someone's lived experience of being gay (or being an immigrant or being on welfare, etc.), we are one step closer to operating from a space of true empathy. Engaging with someone's lived experience doesn't mean we need to completely shift our opinions on a particular issue. It just means that we are opening ourselves up to more nuance, more compassion, and, frankly, better decision making.

After letting this interview stew for 24 hours, I've come to the conclusion that I would do well in taking a page from the book of Kendall. It is easy for me to demonize those who don't think like I do or to dismiss their beliefs as less evolved. It is a breeze for me to cling to ideologies and worship at the altar of liberalism instead of really sitting for a time with those with whom I disagree (mostly conservative Republicans. Ha!). Really, how prideful of me. That sort of attitude does nothing in progressing the cause of empathy. It doesn't mean that I can't speak up for what I feel is right or good or true. It just means that I should avoid snorting and sighing audibly when other people disagree with me. It really means that I could do better at seeking to understand the lived experience of everyone, especially those who see things very differently than I do.

I suppose that is enough of an "Aha!" moment for a Sunday afternoon. If you, too, would like to reduce your audible snorts and sighs and engage with the lived experience, I highly recommend listening to this Radiowest interview:

Things I Do Not Like (A Confession)

Chocolate Ganache Torte, you tempt me not

Do you know those things that everybody else seems to like but for which you just can't cast your vote? Well, in an act of confession, I've decided to offer up a short list of things I do not like (that everybody else seems to like):

1. I do not like playing games. There. I said it. I think this makes me anti-American or, at the very least, a threat to the traditional family. Granted there are a few exceptions to this rule as there are with every rule (Go Cranium!), but by and large I just do not enjoy playing games. It awakens within me the most hideous expression of an otherwise dormant competitor. I do not like to lose, and I boil when I do. I suppose I could force myself to play games in an attempt learn good sportsmanship but really I'm too busy working on my more immediate flaws. If you invite me to play a game with you, I probably will play out of courtesy but please know that I am un-enjoying every minute of it.

2. I do not like chocolate desserts. Candy bars aside, I am not fond of chocolate sweets: chocolate mousse, chocolate torte, or that rich double double back flip chocolate cake that no one can resist. Me? Pass the apple cobbler please.

3. I do not like taking baths. I lay (lie?) there in that delicious hot, bubbly water for about 5 minutes and then begin thinking of 1 million things I would rather be doing. Also I am anti-prune hands, and those wrinkled fingertips are part and parcel of bath taking.

4. I do not like relaxing at tropical locals. I think my aversion to tropical vacations is similar to my bath aversion. I lie (lay?) on the beach for about 5 minutes and then begin thinking of 1 million things I would rather be doing that don't involve fancy umbrella drinks or hang gliding.

I am so curious...are there things you dislike that everyone around you seems to adore?

He Has Me Transfixed

He has me transfixed.

Transfixed: To pierce with a sharp implement or weapon.

It doesn't require any effort on his part. His mere existence cuts through to the heart of me. His presence requires of me hard things, painful things, transformative things. He is gentle, forgiving, and kind, and yet he demands, in his non demanding way, that I shed the unessential to make room for the essential.

Unessential: ego, being right, avoiding pain, masking fear, pretense

Essential: love

This. This being in love. It hurts in the most exquisite way. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Offer A 'Holy Yes'

"Say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist."-Natalie Goldberg

A 'holy yes'. Not to be confused with 'just yes'. 'Just yes' means that I will endure life with stone-faced stoicism and a hope rooted only in the great hereafter. 'Just yes' means that I speak ill of pain, branding her the ugliest part and parcel of life--an inevitable evil, a cross to bear. 'Just yes' means that with each stripe I bear on earth I expect a reward in heaven: 10 choirs of angels, please. 'Just yes' is suffering the heat of the fire without praising her light.

But a 'holy yes'--A 'holy yes' means that I will bury my feet in the soil, rooted in the here and now, tilting my head to the sky in gratitude; I will make room for the sublime and the unsightly, recognizing that they are often one and the same. A 'holy yes' means that I will see pain for what she is--a glowing ember, a divine heart, a merciful gift disguised as my greatest fear. A 'holy yes' means "Thank you God. For everything. Even the shadows. I am made light." A 'holy yes' is learning slowly, ever slowly, to appreciate pain's sharp blade. What better way to carve a space in my heart for joy to grow?