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  • StevenF

Open Letter To David Archuleta

Updated: Jan 18

Two days ago, singer David Archuleta posted this video to his Instagram account. It was raw, real, honest, and for me, heartbreaking and traumatic. I applaud him for sharing such complicated feelings, feelings I have lived and experienced myself. I felt inspired to write him. I have no idea if David will actually see this letter, although I will make every effort to see that he does.


Dear David,


I watched your recent Instagram video about the struggles you’re dealing with.


Twice. From beginning to end.


It was heartbreaking to watch the turmoil and pain you’re experiencing. I genuinely wanted to reach through that screen and hug you and tell you that everything is going to be all right, that you really can have the peace, love, and grace you desire.


You see, I was you. If Instagram had existed when I was 31, I could have easily created such a video with similar thoughts, themes, musings, and angst. Back then, though, I was more apt to keep it inside, letting it eat away at my soul. I am so proud of you for sharing yourself at your most vulnerable.


By the end of your video, I was sobbing. Not just because of the love and compassion I have for you, but because, in a sort of post-traumatic episode, it was all so familiar to me and brought back recollections of pain, anguish, and confusion I have, thank goodness, left behind.


I am nearly twenty years older than you, and although we obviously have lived different lives, I see so much of my past self in you. I want you to know on a very deep level that I. See. You. I understand quite intimately what you are experiencing and feeling, so feel free to consider me a possible future version of what life could be for you.


This is what I want you to know:


I am married to a wonderful man. He makes me better than I ever thought I was or could be. We have known each other more than 17 years, had a commitment ceremony (before gay marriage was legal) 13 years ago and were legally married 8 years ago. We both come from religious backgrounds (he, Pentecostal; me, LDS) and still love God very much. More importantly, we know He loves and blesses us just as we are. We do all the things you talked about in your video: eat breakfast together, go to movies, go on walks, go out to eat, support and nurture each other in our goals and progression. We are happy. We are at peace with who we are and where we are in our relationship with each other and in our relationship with our Father in Heaven.


Isaias (my husband) is one of the best people I know. I truly can’t imagine my life without him. We don’t have children of our own (our choice), but we have cats. Lots of cats. And they bring great joy to our lives. A friend once said that after I met and made the choice to be with Isaias, it was like the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy goes from black-and-white to color. Choosing Isaias certainly has made my life more Technicolor when previously I had simply been existing in a drab world of black, white, and gray. Oh, so much gray.


I also want you to know this:


It was not easy getting here.


I have lived so much of the same angst, insanity, and grief that is evident in your video. I know how exhausting it is to wear a mask, to live behind a façade of supposed happiness and fulfillment, and “play a part” which I no longer have the energy or ability to play anymore.


I know how devastating it feels to worry that I'm disappointing everyone, mostly God, by finally accepting myself and pursuing that which I believe and hope will bring me happiness even though the core belief system I have had my entire life has told me again and again that it will bring me the opposite.


I know the impossibility of being told the only path to exaltation and true happiness is through heterosexual marriage and yet not wanting that at all.


I know the injury to my soul to constantly believe I am “bad,” “wrong,” “sinful,” that God is “disappointed” in me, and that I am somehow a “terrible” person who is choosing evil over light by embracing something I have tried so hard to avoid, shun, and disavow.


I know how weary it feels to try and try and try and try and try to live the kind of life I think God and my church want me to live and to feel ashamed and guilty that I am simply unable to do it, that I am somehow some faithless failure who is too weak to do what is required of me.


I know how scary and painful it feels to think that life would just be easier if I wasn’t here anymore, that if God just took me from this life, I wouldn’t have to deal with this endless, unwinnable struggle anymore.


I know how frustrating it feels to have people tell me to not “give up” or “give in,” that God only gives me what I am strong enough to handle, that I just need to “endure to the end,” that this life is but a moment in the eternal scheme of things; and I know how awful it feels to think that I am just going to “tolerate” my life alone and devoid of the joy and peace I long for.


I know the anger, bitterness, and repression that occurs when, unable to express my true self and desires, I feel like I’m screaming a silent scream that no one can hear or understand and feel like I can’t be who my heart tells me I am.


I know the complex, conflicting feelings of wanting to do the “right” thing when the thing I’ve been told my whole life is “wrong” actually feels like the right thing.


I know the devastation of feeling like my very identity is unclear because I’ve based that whole identity on a belief system that doesn’t fully match up with the truth of my very heart, soul, and being.


I know the confusion, shame, and guilt that rack my soul because I so want to allow myself to fully love the person that makes me feel more loved than I've ever felt before, but I’ve been taught by my religion that pursuing that love is a terrible sin.


I know the perplexity and conflict of having Heavenly Father tell me that I’m okay, that He loves me just as I am, that he blesses my relationship and union with the man I love, and that He wants me to find joy in that relationship when the belief system I have ardently followed my whole life tells me that such a relationship would lead to eternal damnation and unhappiness.


I know the pain of wanting so badly not to injure someone of the opposite sex because I know I can never be what they want me to be and that if I were to pursue a relationship with them, it would ultimately cause both of us a lot of heartache and grief.


I know the loss—the deep loss—and grief that come with having to reevaluate my whole belief system because it doesn’t fully align with what I feel so profoundly in my heart and what, frankly, God has revealed to me personally.


I know, David. I know.


The confusion. The pain. The turmoil. The anguish of soul. The bitterness. The anger. The shame. The guilt. The disappointment. The constant need to please everyone else to the detriment and destruction of my own soul.


I know it all.


But I also know this.


Now.


Peace. Love. Acceptance. The freedom to be who I always felt I was but never dared to allow myself to be until I met Isaias. God’s grace. Grace for myself. Understanding. Being comfortable in my own skin—at long last. Happiness. Joy. Fulfillment. A relationship that makes us both better.


Now it so happened—likely not by coincidence—that after I watched your video, I felt inspired to listen to a song that I loved during my angst-filled years but which I have not listened to in a while. It is “You Can Still Be Free” by Savage Garden. I include some of the lyrics here:


Feel the presence all around A tortured soul A wound unhealing No regrets or promises The past is gone But you can still be free... If time will set you free...


Time now to spread your wings To take to flight The life endeavor Aim for the burning sun You're trapped inside But you can still be free... If time will set you free... But it's a long, long way to go


Keep moving way up high You see the light It shines forever Sail through the crimson skies The purest light The light that sets you free... If time will set you free...


Sail through the wind and rain tonight You're free to fly tonight And you can still be free... If time will set you free... And go high like the mountain tops And go high like the wind don't stop

I thought about you—and me—as I re-listened to these lyrics I had not heard in some time. You are at a very interesting crossroads in your life right now, David. And I am here to tell you that You. Can. Be. Free. Believe it or not, all this anguish, pain, and confusion can evaporate. I am evidence of that. You can have such a joyful life, David. A life perhaps you never thought was possible. I don’t know that I ever truly believed it was possible. But it was. And it is.


It’s not easy. It’s not quick. It’s not without pain or difficulty.


When Isaias and I first fell in love, I tried to shun it, to block it, to pretend it wasn’t happening. I was, at that time, trying to be a “good,” stalwart LDS man. Isaias and I were just friends. But the connection I felt with him was so unlike any of the ones I had tried to have with women, and I wanted it.


Oh, I wanted it.


Those early days of our relationship were not without grief as I battled with my conflicted feelings of my religious beliefs vs our relationship. I can’t say that it was easy or that I didn’t cause Isaias pain with my inability to decide what I wanted. There was much shame, guilt, and vacillating involved. And it was only when I thought I was going to lose Isaias that my path became crystal clear. And I chose him.


Like you say in your video, the desire to be with this man I chose was not primarily one based on sex. (Isaias and I did not consummate our relationship until after our commitment ceremony, the closest option we had to marriage at the time); it was based on the connection we felt, the friendship that had developed, and the desire to spend our lives with one another because we loved—still do!—each other.


Choosing him, of course, came at a cost: I was eventually excommunicated from a religion I had devoted my life to, in which my identity seemed to be enshrouded. And I was fearful. Because I had always been taught that excommunication meant I would be cut off from the gift of the Holy Ghost. It felt like excommunication would mean my life would somehow implode. It felt like my identity would be lost forever. Perhaps my very salvation. But I also knew how very much I loved Isaias and how much he loved me. And I had finally found what I had been searching for but was afraid to have. At the time, I said I would rather choose "wrong" and feel the way I felt with Isaias than choose "right" and live the rest of my life in the misery I had previously been living in. Even if that meant supposedly losing my salvation. So I chose him.


And guess what?


I didn’t lose the Spirit. I didn’t lose God’s love. I didn’t lose His blessings. My relationship with Him is very good. I feel like I am on exactly the path I am supposed to be on. My life didn’t implode. No, in fact, it eventually got better. It was gradual, but it got better. Much better.


I still attended my LDS ward for a few years after my excommunication until I realized it was no longer working for me and understood that I was carving out a new identity for myself, a better one. A happier one.


I hold no animosity towards the religion I grew up in, and believe me, I understand those who do. But I have always said that some of my very best qualities are due to my having been raised in the LDS faith by parents, family members, friends, leaders, and a community who were largely doing what they thought was right and best. Mormonism will always be a part of my identity because it shaped so much of who I am and what I believe about God. But it is only a part of my identity, just as my sexuality is only a part of my identity. I had to find balance in my life to be happy with myself. Choosing Isaias was the right thing to do, and I have never—repeat, NEVER—regretted it.


I am much happier now. Much healthier emotionally. So much more me.


Men are, that they might have joy, David.


Right?


When I watch your video, joy is not what I see. That’s not a judgment. Like I said, I have totally been there. I see turmoil. Confusion. Angst. Crisis.


But I want you to know—desperately want you to know—you can have that joy. I hope the 50 year-old you can help some 31 year-old who is struggling with his gay feelings and let him know how awesome your life is, how happy you are with a partner who brings out the best in you, with whom you share your life, goals, and love. And yeah, do all the mundane things like shopping and paying the bills together. With whom you can go on trips. Have adventures with. Support each other through the good times and bad.


You can have it, David. You really can.


Follow the path that is right for you. Only you and God can truly know what that path is. As for me, the path I took has made all the difference. Live your life the way Heavenly Father reveals it to you.


I'm praying for you, David. I'm praying that you find peace and love and grace with yourself.


I wish we could truly see ourselves as God sees us. Because if you and I and everyone else could view ourselves the way God sees us, we would always know that we aren’t broken. We aren’t damaged. We aren’t terrible people. We aren’t what our truly limited lens causes us to perceive about ourselves. He. Loves. Us. So much.


A few last words of advice before I close.


Be patient with yourself. This is a process. When your world has been shaken up and the very foundation on which you have built your life feels tenuous, it will take some time to adjust and move forward with the new knowledge and light you receive.


Never lose your light, David. I promise you, you won’t lose it if you truly follow your heart. I don’t know you, obviously, but based on what I do know, you have so much goodness, light, and love in you. Keep sharing that. Keep giving. Keep serving. Don’t allow yourself to become bitter. Ever.


Keep sharing your story and your struggles. Keep being honest. You are helping a lot of people by sharing the most vulnerable parts of yourself.


Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. One thing that has really helped me in my own journey is to keep all the things that bring me light and joy and throw out all the stuff that makes me feel heavy and weighed down. As you reevaluate your own belief system, hang on to all the stuff that makes you the best version of yourself, and get rid of all the stuff that brings you down. So much of who you are is because of the belief system in which you were raised, and a lot of that stuff has made you the beautiful, caring person you are. Hang on to the good parts of that.


Allow yourself the grace to realize that you can have a new purpose and new identity, and much of that purpose can still align with your old one.


Therapy can be beneficial, so as you look for a therapist, find one who allows you to be and experience the full range of you without judgment or bias.


Finally, as I thought about how you have had a hard time lately feeling inspired to write new music, I thought what a metaphor this is for your life. You have spent so much of your life—and again, I’m speaking metaphorically here—singing the same songs, and you are discovering that those tunes are no longer working for you, no longer giving you the joy you thought they should. Give yourself permission to write some brand new songs, songs you never thought you could—or should—write. And don’t be afraid to share those songs with the world.


David, I don’t know you, but I feel great love for you. I feel empathy for what you are going through. I feel a deep compassion for you in a way that feels personal. I want you to be happy. I want you to feel about life the way I do today. You can. I know it with the core of my being. I pray that you will find that joy that currently eludes you. I think you’re on your way. I really do.


David, all my best to you. Sincerely. All my prayers, love, and compassion are yours.


And, hey, since I’m already thinking about Savage Garden anyway, this was another song of theirs that I found especially inspiring during my days of struggle. Maybe it will help lift you up too. I think of these words as if Heavenly Father is speaking to me:


When you feel all alone And the world has turned its back on you Give me a moment please To tame your wild, wild heart


I know you feel like the walls are closing in on you It's hard to find relief And people can be so cold


When darkness is upon your door And you feel like you can't take anymore


Let me be the one you call If you jump I'll break your fall Lift you up and fly away with you into the night If you need to fall apart I can mend a broken heart If you need to crash then crash and burn, you're not alone


When you feel all alone And a loyal friend is hard to find You're caught in a one-way street With the monsters in your head When hopes and dreams are far away And you feel like you can't face the day


Let me be the one you call If you jump I'll break your fall Lift you up and fly away with you into the night If you need to fall apart I can mend a broken heart If you need to crash then crash and burn, you're not alone


'Cause there has always been heartache and pain And when it's over you'll breathe again You'll breathe again


Let me be the one you call If you jump I'll break your fall Lift you up and fly away with you into the night If you need to fall apart I can mend a broken heart If you need to crash then crash and burn, you're not alone


Heavenly Father is always with you, David. As He’s already told you, He loves you just for who you are, and He will be with you always. He knows the most intimate desires of your heart. Most of all, David, He wants nothing more than for you to be happy. Choose happiness always.


Much love,


Steven [I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you like this post, please let me know by liking it or sharing your comments below.]

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