Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Floating, Sinking, Rising, Falling, Sneezing, Splashing

Hey all. It's been a while. Nothing of great excitement has been happening, really. Took last week off from work to focus on writing my entry for this year's Short + Sweet Musical festival, and I'm happy to say it's done: script, music and lyrics, as well as a demo of all the songs that runs for approximately eight of the allotted ten minutes (which is good, because there's also dialogue in the script). Won't give too much away too soon, but I can reveal the title: it's called Float N'Sync: The Rise and Fall of the Bad Streak Boys. In case it's not too apparent, it's got a boy band theme. And to be honest, I'm recycling some of my music from a children's theatre show I did in Perth sometime back. Does anyone remember Everybody Loves A Boyband? Yes? No? Here's an edited demo recorded a couple of nights ago, in context of the ten-minute musical:



What else? Ummm. That's really it, I guess. I stopped the Prozac regime for a little while and realised that I still need it, so I'm back on it daily now, and I've been feeling much more optimistic about things in recent days. I think the fact that I was able to put together this ten-minute musical is a step forward in itself. Oh, and I should mention that I've decided to stop going to my current therapist – in fact, I kinda stopped cold turkey without even telling her, though I'm thinking I should at least inform her of my intention not to continue. The reason being, I'm thinking increasingly that it might be important for me to speak to a counselor or someone who's also well-versed in the religious side of things, so that I can bring the below-blogged God element into greater play in our discussions. Not that my current therapist has been closed off to it, but... I dunno. It seems weird to introduce religiosity into what is essentially a clinical psychology session. So I guess we'll see how things go from this point forth.

Also, following the below-blogged email to the American "against my better judgment", I've since received a reply from him. He didn't say too much because, as I suspected, what could he say? But he wanted to ask if he could share songs from FTL with his friends back home. He did mention, concerning the issues, that "I want to help, but I really don't know how". Which is more than fair. He added that: "I think people would be greatly moved by your music, Nick, and I would love to share it. I hope this isn't inappropriate." I think what I should be kinda positive about is that he clearly wants to continue to support my work despite all that's happened... and that he doesn't seem to have closed the door on a future friendship if ever that might be possible. And I'm kinda glad about that. I did tell him I wasn't ready to revisit FTL at this point though, so.... the FTL file-sharing that he was hoping for will just have to wait till a later date.

On another note: last night, at around 4am, I was awakened by sneezing from my mom's room. The weird thing is, it wasn't my mom's sneezing (Dad was away at work at the time) - rather, it was my middle-doggy Chloe, who, for some odd reason, had contracted a major sneezy fit and was sneezing in rapid succession for, I kid you not, almost 20 minutes. The poor thing! We couldn't figure out what had caused it... and when we looked at her nose, we saw it was crooked!!! (I subsequently realised it was because she was wrinkling her nose, the same way we humans would do when something's irritating it, which is why it looked odd on the end of her snout.) Anyway, from what I could figure out, something had gone up her sensitive nose and was causing a major case of the aaaah-chooos... but it sure was scary for a while there. I was almost prepared to drive her to the vet as in last year's instance of middle-of-the-night canine contingency. Fortunately it didn't come to that. Phew.

Finally, since we're on the topic of doggies, here are some pics of my puppy Ashley, who, my mom and I have discovered, is crazy about water. She kinda literally goes barking mad when she sees water, and tends to splash it around if it's in a container or chase after it barking if it's poured across the ground. Here are some pics of here having a splashing good time over the weekend... right before we gave her a bath. Till next time... enjoy.

 Wheeeee.

 Wheeeee.

 Shake.
 Allll wet.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

If I Could Take His Place

Here's an example of why I find it hard to let go of God and the idea that He had called me to serve Him through music. Check out this song below, performed by yours truly. I worked on the arrangements yesterday and recorded it tonight, but it was written 13 years ago in 1998 during the first of the personal  "milestones" I mentioned in the previous blog post below. Here's the more compelling argument: that I find it hard to believe that two young men, just shy of turning 18, both without formal training in music composition or theology, could spare a few hours over one night and write this song without the work of some sort of divine inspiration. That, to me, doesn't make sense. There has to be something more. There has to be a bigger game plan here!

Or am I just fooling myself??

Either way, hope you enjoy the clip, despite having to put up with yours truly singing. No lyrics; try to listen and take the words in just by listening. Incidentally, this song was once used to reenact the Crucifixion in a church. Can't remember what year it was, but they performed it, even though some people have commented that we fictionalised a thing or two. It doesn't matter. I think the story, and the overall significance of the piece, remains. Okay, I'll shaddap now. Have a listen.

Good God

Some people ask me why I keep pursuing God when this pursuit of God seems to be giving me more heartache than joy. I was thinking about this recently, in evaluating the way things have unfolded over the past few months, culminating in the (retrospectively perhaps humiliating) email that I sent to the American below. The thing is, all that I mentioned in the email is true: that we did start to believe that God had determined our paths should cross, and that He was playing a very active role in our lives. To what end, though?? I have no idea. Though I'm beginning to feel I'm on the cusp of some sort of understanding. Okay, cusp might be too generous a word. The understanding might be far, far off yet. But I think there's a a slight glimmer of one, somewhere on the distant, distant horizon...

After I sent the email, I did pray. And an image that came to my mind, whether or not divinely inspired, is that sometimes a weak structure needs to be knocked down so that a new, better, stronger structure can be built. But, as some of my friends remind me, what do all structures need? A firm foundation. And what's the firmest foundation of all? God. Supposedly.

Here's the thing. I spent more than 10 years writing songs for God. I wrote my first song (with Kevin Ong) in 1994, when we were both 14. We wrote it over the phone, and that song, For Me To Live Is Christ, has since been used in churches in Penang and in Perth, and for friends' weddings. For 10 years I believed that God had called me to serve in His music ministry. And somewhere along the way, there were signs: like an acquaintance who, during a prayer session, claimed she saw angels above me playing musical instruments. Oy.

More than ten years, and more than 50 songs for God. Not all of them were necessarily good. But the point remained: surely, surely I had been moved to write these songs by some sort of divinity. I'm finding it really devastating to think that I'd squandered all that time pursuing a "calling" that in fact wasn't meant to be. And right now, boys and girls, therein lies the dilemma: that with everything that's going on, it's really difficult to accept that God is real, and things are meant to be, and that this is all for a greater good, all this heartache and confusion and vulnerability and downright depression.

So I don't know. But let me share something else. That in the course of my starting to deal with my sexuality, I've had three major "love interests". I won't mention who they are, but the long and the short of it is, God - or at least the notion of God - was/has been present in all three. The first, in 1998, involved me finally confronting my feelings towards a guy and telling him during a Life in the Holy Spirit seminar, oy vey. 1998 was also the time I was struggling with life abroad in Sydney, during which I time I also conceived Follow The Light. I mention Sydney and FTL very specifically because:

Cut to 2005/2006. The next major love interest, in Perth. He was one of the people in Follow The Light back when it was staged there. Good heavens. Then there was this whole thing about me having to leave Perth and accept the fact that I had to come home. In the midst of all that drama, I received a message out of the blue from my cousin Shaun, who claimed God had told him to tell me to "hold on to Him and He will take you on the ride of your life". Shaun also quoted a message from the Bible: "I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future". I blogged about this back then here.

Cut to: 2010/2011. Wouldn't you know it, the third love interest. The American. What recurring themes do we have? Follow The Light. The struggle with "being where I need to be". The questioning of whether God has a plan for me. And, interestingly enough, sometime back in February that same cousin emailed me and said: "I'll repeat the message I shared with you all those years ago." And he repeated that exact same Bible quote. In the meantime, I had been given a book about discovering God's purpose, and wouldn't you know it, I'd received that exact same book in 2005 when I had to leave Perth. Odd coincidences, no??

The point is: it's really, really odd that the three major times of emotional turmoil in my adult life have all involved the same elements: the questioning of God's role in my life, the need to be happy being who/where/what I am, and... Follow The Light. Is that the message? Follow The Light? Who's the light? God. Jesus. Three major milestones, and in each case: Follow The Light. Am I reading too much into this? Or is there a very, very clear point, a very distinct message here?

I don't know. All I know is, I'm still thinking about shaky foundations and weak structures needing to be torn down so that stronger structures can be rebuilt. I'm still unwilling to believe that I spent a third of my life composing music for a deity that doesn't exist, or worse, doesn't want me to love Him or glorify Him. And it's becoming increasingly harder to believe that this crazy situation that I've been in these past few months have been but a series of random happenstance. Surely there's a bigger plan at work here. And I'm hoping that's really a glimmer of understanding on the far-off horizon, and not just a mirage borne out of desperation and thirst – something that's simply not there.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Probably Against My Better Judgment: Another Email to the American

Hey man. I know I said there'll be silence from me from now on, but I guess I lied.

Messages

I just found a podcast online of a sermon you gave at the church in Puchong in April. I don't know why, but today I felt the urge to Google your name. Don't know why I did it, but I came across that podcast. And it hurt to listen to it, to hear your voice, but I did, all 25 minutes of it. And though the stuff you talked about has nothing (much) to do with our situation, this is what's going through my mind at this point:
  • That if you recall, somewhere along in our discussions, we began to get convinced that our friendship was willed by God.
  • That FTL had to happen at this particular time, and you had to be part of it, so that our paths could cross, because God determined it.
  • That we had so much in common, including the whole depression and similar-personalities thing, that this has to be more than coincidence.

Do you still believe that?

Today, after the long silence between us, after that brief chat and the couple of online messages/email I sent, I'm sitting here on this lovely Sunday afternoon, thinking, ruminating still, wondering what the point of all this was. And I know it's hard for either of us to provide any answers, but I'm just... flummoxed, I guess. By several things:

  • By the scope of which all this happened. This has been surprisingly, and inexplicably, debilitating for me. The fact that despite how little time we actually really spent together, there's an intensity of feeling I have toward you, made worse and not better by our "friendship break". Like I said, man, I've thought about you literally every day since December. And it was worse when May came and went, and I didn't know if you'd stayed or left. And that made me wonder even more about you every day, to the point that I had to get in touch with you just to be sure.
  • By what I actually want from you - a friendship? We had that. More? I know I can't have that. So what do I want? I don't know.
  • By why this had to happen to begin with. Is God trying to test me? Fix me? Was this something for you to learn from? Or did God want both of us to learn something through this?
I feel this is majorly unfair - to me and especially to you - because this is something neither of us signed on for.


Anger

See, I'm angry. Really angry. Angry that FTL, which should have been one of my proudest achievements so far, is now a source of hurt for me because it reminds me of the time we spent together.

They say if you wanna get over someone, then remove the things that remind you of him/her. But what happens if the things that remind you of a person are the things you were once so passionate about??
  • I look at the keyboard, and it reminds me of you.
  • I try to write a song, and it reminds me of you.
  • I listen to music, or try to write a new musical, or plan to go to the theater, or even think of listening to a Broadway cast recording and it reminds me of you.
  • I watch TV or read a book and someone has a similar accent, or they say or show New York City or North Carolina or Vermont - for heaven's sake!! - and it reminds me of you.
  • I try to pray, and wouldn't you know it, that reminds me of you.

So how do I not think of you? I know I don't willingly want to. But all these things - what used to be normal, familiar, routine, comforting even - now triggers off thoughts and feelings.

I've been angry - more enraged - about this entire situation, which meant i've been angry at you by association, even though none of this is your fault.

You inspired me, Justin. You really did. I mean, I listen to something like Snow/Angels which I wrote after our last real-time chat at KLCC, and I wonder, where the hell did this come from? And now I can't listen to it anymore.

Rightyo. So I feel like:
  • God made me meet this guy with whom I had so many things in common. Not just the arts and music stuff, but also this passion for God Himself, which had been fading within me.
  • And through meeting you, these passions began to grow again: a renewed passion for the arts and music, a renewed passion for God.
  • And from all this passion, which seemed almost as if it had been God's intention, grew a different sort of passion - one motivated by inappropriate emotion.
  • So it's like God said, "You need a morale boost, nick, here's someone who can help you"... and so he made our paths cross ... and then he said, "Okay now that you feel good about yourself, how about feeling really, really shitty??"
Well okay then.

The question is: did God really have a hand in all this? Or is this all just fucked-up little ol' me??


Just Keep Coming Back For More

You asked me why I kept coming back to God even though I struggle with being gay. And I gave you an answer: Because I feel like my Soul longs for Him, but my Body and Mind aren't strong enough. Because I feel like God speaks to me through music, and has been for a long time.

Because I want to believe God loves me and wants what makes me happy in spite of my sexuality.

And this, our situation, Justin, captures the struggle in quite a profound way:
  • I'm gay, and that has made it difficult for me to be friends with someone I consider to be a great guy (that's you).
  • I'm gay, which has made me it incredibly difficult to reconcile my sexuality with being Christian. And you, too, were struggling with Christianity, though for a very different reason. :)
  • I'm gay, and yet God introduced me to this great guy, who helped me reexamine what it means to be Christian, who helped me become more confident in my music and who inspired me to write more music, through which, as I've mentioned above, I once believed God speaks to me.
  • And all this is resonating within me right now in a very confused, hurt and heartbroken way. Like, WTF, God??
I wish I could know for sure if God really wanted this to happen His unknown purposes. Because I'd hate to think he was putting us through this for nothing - or worse, that He isn't even real.


Grace

In my anger about the whole situation, I've stopped praying to God and starting blaming Him, and subsequently cursing him, and then denying Him. Because, let's face it, it's just easier that way. And yet, God help me, I sat through your entire sermon. Partly because it was you delivering it. Partly because I wanted to hear what you had to say. Partly because I wondered if God would tell me something, move me in some way, through that sermon.

It did. He's moved me to say all this to you.

I know you can't provide answers. I know you can't and shouldn't act as a balm to try to make me feel better, even though in all honesty a part of me wants that.

I feel majorly ripped off, that what seemed like a potential friendship and professional connection had to devolve in this fashion, taking all my passions with it.

But here are some further thoughts.
  • I don't want to be angry at you Justin. Because it's pointless and undeserved.
  • I don't want to be angry at God, either. Though I know God's big and gracious enough to handle it.
  • Most of all, I don't want to be angry at myself anymore. For ruining this, our potential friendship, our potential working relationship. And for consistently being so vulnerable in front of you, and then feeling foolish in retrospect, which makes my brain blame me repeatedly for being stupid, stupid, stupid.
In your sermon you talked about anger, and injustice, and letting go. I pray for the grace to do that.

I'll be honest, man, a part of me wishes I hadn't met you. I hope you understand what I mean by that, within context of all this - that I'm not saying that to be spiteful. And yet a part of me wants to believe that no matter how much I might have tried, I would still have wound up meeting you, because God wanted it.


Hope

You once said you feel like your faith as a Christian has led to musical theater being taken away from you. This isn't the same thing, but in a small way, that's what's happened here. I feel like my joys have been taken away from me.

The thing is, Justin -
  • if God took your passions away from you to test you and make you a better Christian...
  • if he made you cross paths with someone the likes of me in order to challenge you and make you grow in faith,...
...might he be doing the same to me right now?

Isn't there something about the refiner's fire? Gold being put into the flames to be purified or something like that? Might that be the case here?

I don't know. And I know you don't know. Only God knows. But I can hope.

I hope one day He helps me (and you, if you're still invested in this after all this) understand.


Forgiveness

I think a large part of why I can't move on is because of the amount of blame I place upon myself for all this. You might have noticed, since December, each time I spoke to you, I apologized. And i'm going to do it again. I'm sorry. But the time has come for me to stop apologizing, and stop placing blame on myself, and feeling angry at myself.

I remember something you mentioned in an online chat sometime back: that there is "boatloads of grace" here.
Do you still believe that?

I'd like to. But before I can surrender to grace, I need to reconcile. With you, with God, and with myself. (And also, somewhere along the way, my erratic behavior because of all has caused me to hurt others, including the loss of another close friendship, but that's another story altogether. So reconciliation with others I might have hurt along the way.)

I'm sorry, Justin. From the bottom of my heart, I'm sorry.

I'm going to try to pray tonight. For grace, hope, and forgiveness. And I think your little sermon might've helped me reach this mustard-seed of faith. (See what I mean by how you inspire me? Damn you!) *smiles sadly*

You once said to me, "God uses you." I believe He uses you, too. And I hope that keeps you going in your pursuit of God.

Thank you for the sermon.

Thank you for never slamming the door, as it were, in my face. I hope you don't slam the door in my face after reading this.


God bless you, always.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Last Letter

So at 630am this morning, I woke up with those thoughts in my head again. And then, in a moment of sheer brilliance and stupidity, I added the American to my online chat list, saw he was online, and actually initiated an online chat. Yes. The long and the short of it is, there's been some sort of closure, at last, achieved, and I hope to the heavens that it was the right step to take. He didn't say very much, though one thing he did mention was this: "What can I say that will be helpful right now?" It sounds a bit cold, I know, but I get it: in context, what could he say, when I was telling him all these rather emotional things in an attempt to move forward with my life? Wow.

We ended the chat and I tried to go back to bed because it was, like 7am, while he had to go for dinner, which pretty much explains away whether or not he's still in Malaysia. Just a few minutes ago I sent him an email titled Final postscript (I promise), and I wrote this. I'm going to blog this because a) only a selected unfortunate privileged few of you can access this blog at this point (who knows what's going to happen when we move away to more general, public-readable topics?), and b) I'd like a record of this email but would like to delete it off my email account so that his contact details aren't saved. I've removed his name, though, to protect his (and my, to some degree) privacy. So here we go:

Hey man,

Just a couple more thoughts that I didn't think to say earlier because I was either overwrought (damn my melodrama!) or too sleepy (damn those global time differences!). I probably don't need to say these things, but I fear if I don't I'd probably just replay them over and over in my head wishing I'd said 'em to ya. Don't worry, this won't take long. Without further ado:

i) I'm sorry that your final days in KL were rough, as you said. I don't want to make sweeping assumptions about your overall experience in KL and how much it met your expectations or otherwise, but I gather it wasn't smooth-sailing all the time. The last thing I'd want, though, is for the stuff that transpired between us to add any sense of negativity to your time here: like, "This happened, and that happened, and oh yea, there was this guy...!" :)))  I really hope that whatever your memories of KL, whether positive or not-so-positive (and without intending to disregard the significance of your life in KL beyond yours truly), that the time we did share as friends, or my attempt at being friends, alone or in a group situation are memories you'll retain fondly.

ii) I'd like you to know this: when I told you I want to make a friendship work between us, I sincerely meant it. And by that, I mean, I really thought and believed I could do it, and I wanted to do it. Unfortunately that belief = denial = self-detriment. But I really did want it to work, dude, and I sincerely never wanted to make any appropriate moves to jeopardize any opportunity we had at building a friendship. However, at the risk of waxing sentimental, my mind believed it, but my heart didn't, I guess. And then the heart started conflicting with the mind, and it was a downward spiral from there. Oy. (Hark! Do you hear that solo violin play as I break out into a heart-wrenching lament about unrequited love?!) :)

iii) I do think about that first day when we met after Short + Sweet Musical, and that day we first chatted over lunch (spaghetti?? in Malaysia?? what were you thinking??) --- how uncomplicated it all was. And it still bums me out that we couldn't follow through on that (or at least I couldn't). But as you mentioned when we chatted online earlier, who knows, this might all be temporary, and sometime in the future we might be able to pick up this friendship the way it was meant to be. (Caveat: Even as I type this, I'm aware that even harboring these hopes right now comes from a place of emotion. But that can't be helped, unfortunately, at this point.)  If there's a lesson for me to learn here, it's about how to relate to other people, how to recognize any tell-tale signs of more-than-friendshipness, how to think, act and react accordingly, and how not to think, act and react. And also how to appreciate people for who and what they are, and all that they have to offer. These are valuable, if painful, lessons that will serve me well in the future. Hopefully that future will involve you back in my life as my friend (see Caveat above). And if your faith in God is as strong as it's been since we last chatted in real-time (mine isn't, but I'll deal with that), then yes, let's leave it in His hands. Que sera sera.

And finally:

iv) I wasn't kidding when I said all this might end up in a theater play or musical sometime. So when that NickChoo production arrives on Broadway, look out, xxxxxx!! Working titles: Choo On This. Or more likely, WhatCHOOWant?!

:)

That's it, for real this time.

Thanks for your continued patience, understanding and support, xxxxxx. Please look after yourself OK?

Take care man.

Sincerely, wistfully and affectionately,
~Nick

Monday, 6 June 2011

Peek-A-Boo

Current mood: Melancholy. But, to distract myself, here are pics of my lovely doggy Ashley, who isn't home right now because we've sent her to the vet's to be spayed, and now the house is super quiet and Chloe, who has been pretty much bullied by Ashley since the pup's arrival, is having a lovely time reclaiming her space. It's just temporary, Chloe. She'll be back...

Anyway, here are pics of Ashley, as well as a couple of video clips I discovered in my mobile phone taken when she first arrived in September last year. The weird barking sound in one of the clips is me, trying to get her attention. Arf arf. Enjoy.



Younger days: