Two Degrees off Center: The True Meaning of Christmas

December 8, 2019

Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience.  Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.

Christmas Fire Hydrant

by Rich Keys

I’m currently in a campaign to simplify things in my life. One day I looked around my house and realized all my “I’ll get to it later” piles were building up because there was no place left to put them. I’m all for a lived-in look, but this was getting out of hand and turning me into a Mr. Crabbypants. I knew I’d never do it on my own, so I got the help of Lee, a close buddy in my life, and we started purging and decluttering every nook and cranny from one end of the house to the other—spare bedrooms that had turned into storage rooms, kitchen cabinets, furniture, bookcases, clothes, linen closets, file cabinets, even the garage. If I hadn’t used it in over a year, I trashed it or donated it. If I had three of something, I kept one and got rid of the other two. I found the confidence that I wouldn’t regain all the weight I’d lost over the years, and I got rid of anything XXL. I even threw out all my fast food coupons that I always save. I finally realized that buying two sandwiches that I don’t like is no bargain just because one of them is free, and I started going for quality instead of quantity. Having grown up in this house, I even found stuff that my mom had when I was a kid, or that I hadn’t used since I moved in following my divorce ten years ago. I must have tossed or donated 75% of what I went through. I’m only halfway through the house, but what a difference between the before and after—It’s so much more calm and peaceful in my life.

Every year at Christmas time, society turns into a frenzy as we get caught up in buying more stuff to add to the stuff we already have but never use. We give stuff to each other, and we buy more stuff for ourselves. There’s no place to put it, but we’re told we have to have the newest stuff, the new and improved stuff, and we worship Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Travel Tuesday, and every other manufactured holiday, all designed to get us to buy more stuff.

It’s time to simplify, to cut through the clutter and get back to the basics of what’s most important in our lives, and who and what we should really be celebrating at this time of the year. As for me and my house, the answer is obvious: Tom Cruise.

Last night, I watched The Firm for the umpteen millionth time, and in that scene where the alarm goes off at 4 am and he crawls out from under the covers in bed next to Jeanne Tripplehorn and he’s shirtless, it’s enough to set off my pacemaker. He hits every one of my hot buttons, whether he’s the cocky Maverick in Top Gun, or the young man just coming into his own in The Firm and A Few Good Men, or the mature hunk in Mission Impossible who still does his own stunts at age 57. In fact, his body looks better at 57 than most gym rats at 27. I remember being in the hospital a few years ago when a nurse asked me if there was anything else she could do to make my hospital bed more comfortable. I joked, “Well, if you could get Tom Cruise for me, that would be nice.” An hour later, she returned with a downloaded photo of Tom pinned to a pillow, and I slept like a baby (true story).

So when I see that gorgeous dark hair on his head and none on his chest, the masculinity of his face, his biceps, triceps, and all his other ceps, that physique and those muscles that bulge in all the right places, the combination of self-confidence and vulnerability, his smile and down-to-earth personality, and his ability to hang on the side of a plane during flight or repel down the world’s tallest building without using a stunt double, I start to wonder, maybe there’s something to this Scientology thing that I should look into. I know he’s gotten some flak for being a Scientologist, but one look at him and I think it can’t be as bad as all that.

That’s when the Spirit and my silly critters call a timeout so I can consider all my options (and I only speak for myself and my own journey). I begin to realize that it’s not an either-or thing. I don’t have to give up the Church of Jesus Christ for the Church of Scientology, or any other church or no church at all. I don’t have to walk away from one tribe to be with another. My LDS tribe and my LGBT tribe can live peacefully together in my life. It’s an uneasy truce at times, and sometimes the truce is broken, but we seem to be able to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate another peace. Some progress, a few setbacks, then a little more progress. I realize this isn’t a quick fix, but a long-term investment. As I said, this is where I am on my own journey. Some may feel so bullied and bruised by policies and attitudes that they distance themselves or exit altogether. Others may face the prospect of a same-sex marriage with the love of their life, and they have to choose, as Eve did in the Garden, how to best get back to God’s presence and be with Him along the way. Eve gave up the Garden, but she stayed with Adam.

The key is to simplify—to not get caught up in the hype, but go straight to the Source for help and guidance, and choose quality over quantity. In a church that has no intermediaries, that has a core doctrine that we can get answers directly from God and know the truth of ALL things through the power of the Holy Ghost, He’s shown me how I can have Tom Cruise on my wall and the Spirit in my heart, both at the same time, how the little kid in me can cuddle with my Heavenly Father, and how the big kid in me can cuddle with a Tom Cruise or two in my life. Both kids are valid, authentic parts of my Child of God, a God who is my Heavenly Father, who leads me, guides me and helps me find the way through the speedbumps of life and the minefield that is sometimes the intersection of LDS and LGBT.

Whatever clutter you have in your own life, whether it’s physical, mental, social, or spiritual, I encourage you to simplify, go for quality over quantity, and go directly to the Source for guidance, and you just may be able to bridge the LDS and LGBT in your life a little better, to help each tribe understand the other and learn something new that will help the lion lie down with the lamb. In this day and age, that would be the greatest Christmas gift of all.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.

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