27 June 2009

Dear Avery

I was surprised by your letter, but glad you wrote it. Your intelligence and good faith shines through again. And as before, some of it is a bit cryptic. No doubt you intended that, as in all your other posts. That's fine. Blogs aren't homework or subject to some governing body's rules on what you must necessarily write about or how you must express it. If it helps you to "spew stuff" then that's fine.

Detailed and often harsh self-examination is normal at your age. You are trying to figure out who you are, where you fit, what you want, what is your purpose, what and who you love, what you aspire to be. You've reached a stage in life where you have some mature thinking skills and can start to consider all this in serious ways. That's good. Winnowing out the "whining, pathetic, yucky, gross" parts of yourself so that you can identify the steadier, clearer, positive, and even nobler parts is a good exercise that everyone should undertake. Frequently, in fact, regardless of age. If you don't feel like you're making any progress, try writing down specific goals, things to achieve, and a chart of how and by when you want to get there. Start small but stick to the plan. Nothing succeeds like success. Once you reach a goal, set another one slightly more ambitious. Over time you will show yourself that you can indeed move forward, that you're not stuck in "suffocating darkness."

I was struck by your belief that you can't find within you "the bright light that others seem to radiate with their words, their joy and peace and comfort and understanding" that they relay to you. This isn't something that can be forced, Avery. Nobody that I know sits down each morning and consciously says "OK, how can I radiate my bright light today?" and then actually does it. That's not how it works. The light is not the purpose. It's just a natural consequence of being true to yourself, pursuing what is best within you, and trying to reach out and help others along the way. Your blog tells me you have a significant spark of creativity and a gift not only for observation but empathy as well. So perhaps you shouldn't worry so much about whether your own light measures up to that of others. Everyone's gifts are different. You are still finding yours, I think. Remember what Pres. Hinckley's father wrote to his discouraged missionary son: "forget yourself and go to work." I don't say this as criticism, but perhaps if you looked for ways to give time and empathy and caring, to share your talents with others, you might find your own "bright light" surprising even you.

I have indeed mentioned and commented on your references to the friend that you "let go of" and said goodbye to. You said you thought it was best for both of you. I fully respect others' freedom and choices for what they think is best for their lives. I wouldn't change what you or he have done or thought even if I could. That said, I also have serious concerns for anyone who puts himself into Jeffrey Robinson's hands.

Part of my job, Avery, is to research and analyze situations, identify problems and gaps and try to fill them, and to resolve any disputes or discrepancies I find, based on objective evidence. I've been professionally trained to do this and have had some success with it, I think. I have used those same skills to investigate Dr. Robinson and his agenda. I've read his writings and things written about reparative therapy and about him. I've read about NARTH, his main affiliate organization, pro and con.

Your letter acknowledged that I can see further than you. And I have to tell you, Avery, I'm persuaded that the evidence is against Mr. Robinson and everything he advocates. A consistent thread through all of that research is that one has to start such therapy believing that change is possible, but the weight of educated opinion seems to be against that. Robinson's methods sound to me like Peter Pan's method for flying ("just believe, and you can fly, with a little of my pixie dust"). You can find a more colorful version of my opinion elsewhere; for now, it's enough to say I have good grounds to fear your friend's money and time are being wasted and his trust is misplaced. This is why I couldn't help feeling that it might not have been necessary to do as you've done with this relationship. For now, of course, you have to respect your friend's choices. But I think there's a good chance they may change.

You said you didn't "have a handle on human relation or emotion" and didn't "know how to love or to like or to be a friend." That at age nineteen you didn't even "want to see what is ahead," you already feel overloaded by life and are not even sure what you are, wondering day to day how you will get through the next one.

That's a lot to chew on. But I think your own words belie a lot of it. Your blog is a way for you to get a handle on how you feel, and at age nineteen you have a lot of time to figure it out. You come from a loving family and have had at least one friend to love, so I think you know how and just may be afraid to try it with others. As far as wanting to see ahead, don't beat yourself up about it. Nobody can. Think, ponder, figure out what you want to be, then figure out how to get there. That's the best anyone can do. And unless you get hit by a large vehicle, lightning, fatal disease or Osama Bin Laden, you are going to continue to wake up every morning after somehow managing to get through the previous day. So let that go. You'll do it without trying.

You worry that I and others are frustrated with your "insolent, myopic vision," apologized for it and asked that we not be angry. Oh Avery, no need for that. You are far more normal than you realize. You just have a gift for expressing the angst in words better than most. There's nothing to be angry about or forgive. The only thing that worries me about you is that you are too hard on yourself and you don't see the intelligent, talented, brimming with potential person that others do. Let some of that stress go, okay? Have faith in yourself and in the God who made you and endowed you with all this capability. It will all work out in due time. Meanwhile, don't stop writing. Even if it's cryptic.

Big hugs from big bro Alan

1 comment:

Ezra said...

Wow, this letter probably could have been written to me.