Thursday, March 23, 2017

Things haven't been the same.

Things haven't been the same.  They haven't been the same in a very long time.

March is an eventful month for me.  It is the month in which I was born, it is the month in which my Granny was born, it is the month in which my Uncle was born, and it is the month in which my mother's mother, my grandmother, who I called Nunu, passed away.  March is both the month in which I was born, and the month in which a very real part of me died.  

It isn't popular to talk about your feelings.  People believe this to somehow be an indicator of weakness.  The only thing that is socially acceptable to say when someone asks how you are doing is "I'm good, and yourself?" or a variation on that theme.  This is not going to be one of those blogs that states that I am fine and that it will all be ok, and that is not an acceptable response to something like this.  

I have been toying with writing this for a long time, but kept coming back to "The perception others have of you personally is your reality professionally," which basically means that anyone who sees weakness in a personal life could interpret that as weakness in a professional role and this blog could hurt my career.  This is so much more than that.  I also worry that I may lose a friend or two over this.  There is a lot in here, and I hope that you can accept me for who I really am.   This will stand as record to people who know me that a person can withstand crippling depression and only the ones closest to them might even know.  

 I need to first start by thanking you for making it this far.  This will not be an easy read, but I think it will be worth your time.  I sure hope that it can be worth my time.  My goal is both to bring awareness to the way that depression manifests itself in my life, and to get it all down on paper because that helps me process emotions.  

For at least the last 3 years I have been struggling with it, but it didn't start then.  It started in March of 2010.  7 Years ago I got a phone call from my grandpa, Pop, at 2 am.  He said he needed me to get to his house.  I asked what was going on and he said that the paramedics were working on Nunu.  I put my shoes on and told Brook where I was headed.

Brook and I had just moved in together.  We had a wedding planned for the 17th of April, and it was all thanks to Nunu and Pop.  They had helped me get her ring because I wasn't in a financial state to do so.  Nunu took payments from me monthly, and she had just called me a few days prior to tell me that I no longer had to pay her and that the remaining balance on the ring was to be a gift to me and Brook for our wedding.  I actually cried real tears.  I was so overwhelmed at the amount of love shown to me that I cried for at least 10 minutes.  I called my mom and told her, then I called Brook and told her.  She was ecstatic as well.  We were going to be so happy, Brook, Anna, and I were going to have such a wonderful life with our little family.  

When I pulled up to Pop's house I passed it up at first and parked on side of the road.  I stared at the 2 ambulances...I needed to catch my breath, and get my heart rate down.  Pop needed me to be strong for him, so that's what I was going to do because that's what I always remember being growing up.  I was the rock.  I was the strong one.  I could do this.  I needed to be there for him.  After I psyched myself up I got out of my car and ran half a block to my grandmother's house.  I got inside and and found him seated at his small table.  He was staring into space.  I said hi and asked him what was going on.  He told me that Nunu woke up foaming at the mouth and got his attention.  He started crying and asking "what am I going to do?" over and over.

The wedding shower was strange without her.  Everything felt forced.  Nothing felt right.  I sat there and pretended to care.  I smiled for pictures.  I gave Brook the warm smile she needed when she looked to me.  I loved her so much that I couldn't bear to tell her what was really going on.  I couldn't tell her that a part of me was dead and that I didn't know how to feel.  I couldn't delay the wedding even though I was not in an emotional state to get married.  I couldn't fail her like that.  I had a duty to live up to.  It was my job to be Brook's rock, and emotional support so I couldn't feel anything negative... so I turned my emotions off.  

I could hear the paramedics in the other room working on her.  They shouted "Juanita" over and over again.  I listened as they tried to bring her back.  after about 15 minutes They said that they got a faint pulse and that they needed to get her to the hospital right away.  I asked them what we could do, and they said to get a list of her medications and get it to the hospital.  I hugged Pop, and I watched as they rolled my shirtless dying grandmother off and loaded her in the ambulance.  I called my mother and told her what was going on.  Then we packed up and left for the hospital.  

The Wedding was harder.  I had to pretend to have so much fun.  I put on a smile as family and friends arrived.  I laughed hard at jokes, and I drank Tequila to cover up my sadness.  I danced all night even though I really don't like dancing.  I smiled at Brook the way she needed me to smile.  I laughed with her.  I danced with her.  I had a little bit of fun with her.  I felt guilty about that.  I felt like I wasn't allowed to have fun.  If only I had listened when my Grandmother told me she wanted to talk more before I hung up because I was crying.  Her first heart attack was estimated to be around that day.  Maybe she wanted me to bring her to the hospital.  I might have been able to save her and then she could have been at the wedding.

We met my mom and siblings at the hospital.  She was ok.  I was not.  I still pretended to be the rock everyone needed.  I turned off my emotions.  We talked about Nunu and how we were going to have to see her sick, but we knew she would be ok.  We got optimistic news from the doctor, and I started to feel hope.  We waited.  We waited for what seemed like an eternity.  Then the doctor finally came in and told us that he could not save her.  My grandmother was gone.  I would never hear her voice or feel her hug.   I would never eat her roast, or get to laugh and joke with her.  I would never again be able to see her smile, or for her to speak her words of encouragement that she was always forthcoming with.  She was gone, and everyone needed me to be strong.  So I pushed all of that down... and I said something about a better place. 

Life after marriage was great.  I pretended to be happy, and Brook was happy.  We built a life on this.  I pretended to be relatively introverted because thats what kind of life Brook wanted, and I didn't want to show her my weakness.  I wanted to make sure that she knew that I could be her rock, so I was.  I pretended to be everything she hoped I was and believed I was because I needed one of us to be happy and I knew that I couldn't be.  We raised our daughter together, and we eventually bought a home.  Even then I lied and said that the home we bought was what I wanted, but it wasn't.  It wasn't even close.  

It wasn't until I saw her lifeless body that I believed it.  Nunu was gone. I hated my life for the first time in 5 years or so, since the last time that I had dealt with depression.  I wanted to die.  I didn't want to process any of it.  I looked at her and smiled.  I became that rock again, and I hated myself for showing a momentary weakness.

I've been a chameleon for so long that I had forgotten who I really was.  I've been some people's biggest cheerleader.  I've been the guy that tried so hard to make others laugh.  I've been that awkward dude that has trouble not sounding like Sheldon Cooper.  I've been a liar, and a dang good one.  I've been hateful, and loving, and angry, and happy. and sad, but understanding.  I have pretended to be all of these since the day that she passed.  I have smiled at strangers and given hitch hikers rides.  I have been balanced and focussed, but it is all a lie.  Inside... Inside I have been broken.  

I noticed it about 9 months ago, maybe earlier, but I remember distinctly saying it out loud to myself for the first time. I can't feel emotions.  I am broken.  I was pretending to feel, but I was so busy being everyone's rock that I forgot how to be human.   I was detached from everyone around me except for my kids.  I have been teaching them to be their own rock.  Not to rely on someone else.  I want them to grow up strong and to not feel a weakness in being alone.  I forgot how to be me.  I forgot who I was.  I tried to remember, but I had been pretending too long.  

I got out of bed every day with the intentions of changing the world, and by the time I was returning to my bed I was sad that I made it through the day.  You see, Death, was a welcome friend.  I would have greeted him as I greet all of my friends.  With a warm smile and a handshake or hug.  I didn't want to continue to pretend.  Pretending to be happy was exhausting.  Making people laugh brought my fleeting joy, but it did not bring me real happiness.  Nothing I tried helped.  I tried being outside more.  I tried to sleep more.  I tried talking to people, but with very rare exceptions it came out censored because I didn't want my friends to worry about me.  It was like I was a shell of a person.  I pretended to be fine.  I worked through it.  I found new reasons to be at work and I worked nonstop.  I thought I had found the worst of it.  I was wrong.

About 4 months ago I went from wishing for death to contemplating inviting him myself.  I would be laying in my bed and think "I wonder what my gun would taste like."  I would be driving down the road and wonder how lucky I would have to be to get hit by a train.  I sometimes thought about the best way to go, but I was too afraid of what my family would go through to actually do it.  I told Brook about it.  I told her for the first time and I made her hide my ammo to my guns.  

I was borderline suicidal for the last few months, and it caused me to open up to a lot of people.  I told many people how I was feeling, and through those conversations started tracing the origin of my depression.  I traced it back to Nunu's death.  I traced it to my poor handling of the emotions I was supposed to process, and I cried in my parked car for almost an hour.  For the first time in forever I felt something.  Overwhelming.  Unreal.  Something intense.

Now I can't stop.  It's usually overwhelming.  The emotions are coming at me full force.  It's like I have never felt them before, and it is terrifying.  I have felt betrayal, and anger, and joy and happiness.  I have also felt something that I hadn't felt in a long time.  Love. It's different than I remember, and it comes in waves. I love so many people around me, and it is o so many different levels.  It is way intense.   I remember who is close to me and I am trying to get to all of you.  I owe you an apology for not telling you that I was hurting sooner.  I would want to know if you were hurting, even if you didn't think that I could help.  It is my duty as a friend to not keep secrets from you.  I also must apologize to the people who I have pushed away... so basically everyone. 

Depression is a funny thing.  It can shut you down completely and make you forget who you are, but for me it only took one catalyst to pull me out.  It was finally being myself, Finally finding the source of my pain and dealing with it, and  finding a reason to smile that doesn't involve making someone else happy.

I made a roast a couple of months ago.  I tried to recreate what Nunu did to hers.  I ate it with potatoes and rice (two starches, I know... Craziness) and carrots.  it was delicious.  Honestly with my culinary abilities it was probably even better than I had when I was growing up.  As I ate the roast, I swear I could feel her telling me something.  

I am sure that it was just my imagination, but if she were here I know that she would have wise words for me.  Since she isn't I can only guess that she would read this and say to me and anyone else reading this "You can't love somebody else until you can learn to love yourself."

I was lucky.  I didn't need medicine to get out of my funk, but a lot of people do.  Depression isn't something that is a purely emotional issue.  It strikes on a chemical level and causes these emotions, or lack of emotions to form.  I was very lucky to heal internally the way that I did.  If you are reading this and you are struggling right now, Don't give up and don't hold it in.  Tell someone.  Get professional help if you can.   If you need someone to talk to that will never judge you message me.  You will get through this.  No Matter your struggle.  You will get through this.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

My biggest fear is...

When I was 10 years old I played little league baseball.  I was able to hit the ball in practice, but when I played in an actual game it was different  I would watch the ball pass me.  One.  Two.  Three. Four. WALK.  I got walked to base more than anyone else on my team.  I would watch the ball pass.  Unable to muster up a swing for how stupid would I look if I missed the ball...  I never played baseball on a team after that year.

When I was 12 I started taking karate classes.  I always wanted to.  I spent so much time perfecting everything that I learned.  I became relatively good.  I distinctly remember going to a tournament in the Chalmette auditorium.  The floor was slippery.  When I was sparring I couldn't help myself bu to fall.  Repeatedly.  I lost the final match I was in because I couldn't keep my balance.  I remember feeling like I looked ridiculous.  I stopped going to the classes not long after that.

When I got to high school I became part of the marching band.  I made some great friends. I learned so much about myself in those 4 years.  I learned so much about music and leadership.  during my 4 years I helped to teach people marching fundamentals and I helped teach people some basics of music as well.  Near the end of my sophomore year I had a chance to audition for Drum Major.  I wanted it.  I chose not to try because I did not believe that I had a chance.  When my friend who I regularly played video games with was selected I was happy for him, but I was very unhappy that I did not even try.  It was a bitter moment for me for quite some time.

In college I became a charter member for our local chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi.  I gave everything that I had to the fraternity.  I spent most of my time doing fraternity related activities.  I made some of my best friendships in the fraternity.  When I left school due to a lack of funds and my losing a scholarship I realized that I would not be an active part of the fraternity and it devastated me.

Throughout my life many opportunities have presented themselves.  I have let many pass me up.
Some things I was forced out of.  Some things I stepped away from and gave up.

My biggest fear is giving in to that voice that tells me that I am not good enough.

Almost everyone has one.

That voice that tells you that you are not good enough.

The voice that knows exactly what to say to make you want to give up.

That inner weakness that wants to drive you to fail because it is EASIER to fail.
Staying at home is easy.
Staying in bed is easy.
Not caring is easy.

That voice is the reason I never swung at a ball.
It is the reason that I worried about how I looked.
It is the reason that I never auditioned for drum major.
It is the reason that I had a hard time not being active in my fraternity after I left school.

Nothing worthwhile will come without obstacles or hard work.

I for one REFUSE to listen to that voice anymore.
It never got me anywhere.
I daily tell it to SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP.
My weaknesses have NO Power over me.

I coach myself daily on how to improve.  I spend energy making sure that I have enough confidence to get through the day without giving in to my inner weakness.

I will NOT give up.  I will work outwork my competition until I am at the top and I will never stop working to be the best.

I will not give into my greatest fear... which when it is broken down to the most primal level is the fear of missing my potential because I did not work hard enough or because I quit.

You have the ability to ignore your fears as well.

Just do it.

I have been wanting to write this blog for a while.  I knew that telling my facebook friends to expect something from me was a great way to make sure I did so.

Thank you for reading this whoever you are.
Even if you are future Joel looking back at this post for a reminder.
Remember that while hard work does not always equal success, failure is a choice.
Choose not to fail.

Choose not to give up.

Be Amazing.

Monday, January 25, 2016

You know nothing Joel Vogt- Part 4

Several weeks ago I started a blog series detailing my journey to God as it stands so far.  A friend asked me when the next part would be posted, and honestly I had procrastinated doing this because there are so many things I want to talk about...

 Part 3 is Here.   Please read one, two, and three if you have not already done so.  There will be no test, but I do feel that it is important to grasp where I was coming from in this section.

*Trigger Warning* If you cannot emotionally handle a story about loss I recommend that you close this now and wait for the next installment.

I need to as you now that if you are a Christian and you are doubting your faith please stop reading and continue with the next installment when I post it.  Some content in this could confuse someone who is not 100% grounded in their beliefs.

I convinced myself that my tiny bits of proof were all I needed to be strong in God.  I convinced myself that my faith would never waiver because I could PROVE God's existence to myself.  I convinced myself that I would always have a relationship with him because I could always come back after I have made mistakes.... after all I always could feel his presence guiding my life.  Even when I chose to ignore him I could always feel a guiding hand. 

I always believed that if people close to me died I would know that they were okay.  I believed that God would allow them to talk to me and tell me that they were happy or whatever.  Remember that I relied on MY power to strengthen my beliefs.

I am pretty that it was March 17th, 2010 around 2 am that I received a call from Pop (My Mom's stepdad).  I was playing Final Fantasy XIII on the Xbox 360 and I had just started to get into the game and understand it.  I had my headset on, so usually I wouldn't hear anything but somehow I heard the phone ringing.  I will never forget the words he said "I need you to come to the house.  The paramedics are working on Juanita."  

I asked him "Is she ok?  Did she fall?  What Happened?"
He simply replied "You need to get here now.  She isn't breathing!"

I hung up the phone.  I sat still on my sofa.  I couldn't move, or maybe I didn't want to move.  

Finally I went to tell Brook.  I put my shoes on and drove to their house.  a 5 minute drive took me 15 because I was terrified of what I might find.  When I finally got there I drove past the house.  I didn't want to stop.  I didn't want to see her dying.  I didn't want to be involved in that moment.  I turned around... I thought about what Pop must have been thinking and I parked the car.  I sat there unable to move again.  I had to go in.  I had to go.  I had to Walk.

When I finally got out of the car all of my fear left me.  I ran into the house to find Pop sitting at the kitchen table.  I saw him sitting there with his head in his hands.  I looked in the bedroom and saw the EMTs working on my Grandmother.  She was unresponsive.  

I looked back at Pop to see the most helpless look I have ever seen on a man's face.  He was as scared as I was.  I know he had to see the same fear in my eyes.  I hugged him, and together we reassured each other that she would be okay.  I didn't feel like she was going to die so I KNEW that she wasn't.  
"I HAVE A PULSE!" I heard coming from the next room.  "It's faint, but it IS there!"

There was Hope.

The next thing I really remember was sitting in the family waiting room at the hospital.  My mom and most of my siblings had arrived.   We sat there for what seemed like an eternity.  All I could think about was the last time that I visited her.  I had left very quickly because she had Shingles and I was afraid to catch them.... that and I had to go do something I thought was more important.  
That wasn't the last time I would talk to her though.  two days before this she had called me to tell me that the engagement ring that she helped me finance would not cost me another penny.  She had paid it off as a gift to me and Brook for our wedding.  I cried that day.  It was the first time that I had cried in a long time.

The doctor finally came in, and all I heard was "I'm Sorry."  Everything else faded out.

The rest of that night is not important.
What came after is.

I waited for her.  I waited for her to come to me.  I did have a dream that she talked to me, but I never felt  her presence.  I never felt her love in the room.  My mother said that it was because she was too busy to talk to us because she was catching up with her mom and brother.  I didn't buy it.  I knew what was really going on.  God wasn't real.  

The only thing keeping me Christian at this point in my life was my "gift".  It seemed that my gift was just something from my imagination.  

I began to give up on my faith.  

It is funny how when you believe in something SO strongly that it sometimes only takes a small moment of doubt to convince you that you were wrong all of the time.  All it takes is for your proof to be slightly questionable for it to make the whole story seem off...Especially when you think yourself into logical circles.

Over the years following my Grandmother's passing I had many moments of revelation.  I thought that I had discovered new proof of God.  Sometimes it was a testimony of a  near death experience, or a psychic that could prove the existence of God.  Other times it was a feeling that there had to be a god because evolution could only go so far.

Near Death experiences are easy to explain away.  Psychics can be debunked because none of them have won the lottery....  Feelings are fleeting and perhaps the worst thing to base any theory on.

Psychologically I could see how I had created all of my ideas about God.  I understood that I LONGED for some sense of purpose.

I came to a conclusion through a lot of research.  Jesus Existed.  He was simply a good man.  the Bible exaggerates his abilities.  
There is a God, but no eternal life.  Obviously if there was eternal life my grandmother would have contacted me by now.  
My gifts come from my lineage, not from this "god"
My Childhood was a lie and I have wasted my time.

I slipped into a depression unlike any that I have ever known.  I began to try to fill the whole that was left in my life.  I drank a lot.  I played a lot of violent video games.  I went out with friends.  I worked non stop.  I did anything and everything I could to get my mind off of God.

When my second daughter was born I found myself in a pickle.  
I had been living as a closet atheist.  NOONE knew but me.   I had counselled people who struggled in their faith.  I had spent time showing them how God would be there for them.  I had lied to so many because I didn't want anyone to hurt knowing what I knew.  

 I had to have my daughter baptized to satisfy my family and "just in case" I might be wrong I didn't want to damn her for eternity.  

In faking it I found myself feeling God's presence again.  It was faint like a whisper that you hear from across a crowded room.  

I felt him.
I knew it was real.
It could have been a conversion moment...
but I was Scared.
I was so scared that I retreated.  
I rejected the very idea of God.  
"He isn't real.  He isn't real.  He isn't real"
If he was real what would he think of me?
He isn't real I convinced myself.  The feelings that I have are just my subconscious mind rationalizing what I am imagining.
I turned away from him.
I put up barriers to keep him away.
I need to suppress this subconscious feeling until it disappears.

Soon after that I told my wife everything.  I told her about my atheistic belief.  I turned from God 100%.  I stopped going to church even when I had the free time because I couldn't stand to hear his name.

The words God and Jesus set me off.  They made me so angry.
When someone said that they needed God to help them I viewed them as pitiful and weak. 
When someone said they would pray for me I would thank them but I would secretly be so disgusted and feel so dirty that I had to get my mind off of it.  It typically ended in my drinking or playing video games.  Whenever my daughter became more involved in the church I got sick to my stomach that I was lying to her.  I didn't want her world to crumble the way that mine did.  

I lived like this for 2 years of my life. 
Angry all of the time.

Then one day I saw my friend Kayla post on Facebook about how strange it was to be in a church without knowing anyone.  

A few days later I got a strange feeling.
I called Kayla.  I asked her to take me to church with her.  I didn't want to.  I know that she could feel that.  She kind of pressured me and made me commit to be there.  I wanted to stay home, but I didn't want to let her down...  I didn't believe that anything would change.  I simply thought that I HAD to go to make sure.

From the moment that I walked into that church I could feel it. 

True, Forgiving, Constant, Unconditional,


Even after I turned my back on him so many times.  He was there Waiting for me to turn back around.  He was waiting, and loving me the whole time that I was away.

I promise to continue this soon.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

You know nothing Joel Vogt- Part 3

Several weeks ago I started a blog series detailing my journey to God as it stands so far.  I feel that today, on the eve of the birth of our savior, it is appropriate to continue this series.

Part 2 is here. Part 2  Please read one and two if you have not already done so.  There will be no test, but I do feel that it is important to grasp where I was coming from in this section.

     Something I haven't shared with you yet is the bouts of unexplained weirdness that surrounded and supplemented my faith in God while I was growing up.  I, on 4 separate occasions saw what I believed to be ghosts.  I sometimes knew things before they happened, but I could not control when or how that ability would appear (it was always insignificant stuff like randomly vocalizing the next card that a friend played in UNO right before she played it).  I felt that I had my own "proof" of God because I was "connected" to the supernatural.  I remember prayers that were answered VERY specifically.  I knew God existed because without God these supernatural things could not happen or exist.  I always said that God knew I was skeptical by nature, so he must have given me a little more proof than other normal people.

Right after I spoke with my Priest about becoming a priest I was asked to write a letter to the church announcing my interest in the priesthood.  I was unable to read it at church due to some crazy scheduling thing so my dad read it.  He read it in front of the church.  He told everyone how proud he was of me.
A few weeks later I realized that I didn't want to be a Catholic priest.  I did not want to be stuck in a commitment for the rest of my life without the ability to father children.  I did not want to give up on having amazing love and relationships.  I wanted to get married.  This was a huge mentality shift for me.  I believed that all I wanted was to be a priest and overnight it changed.  I was left with a hole to fill... my plan... my ambition. It didn't matter to me what God wanted me to do with my life.  IT WAS MY LIFE!!!  I was going to do what I Wanted.

I became embarrassed that I had given up.  I was embarrassed for my dad.  I didn't want to tell people that I changed my mind.  I didn't want to embarrass myself or my dad at the church by telling people that his son who just felt called so strongly had decided to turn from his decision so quickly and for such selfish reasons.  I contemplated lying to everyone about it as well, but I thought that would be significantly worse when the truth came out.  I finally decided.  I stopped attending church, but I didn't stop believing.

Still convinced that psychics and ghosts and spirits and things exist on our plane I read a book that my mother gave me.  It was written by Sylvia Brown the famous psychic.  It went into strong detail about what death would be like and what we could expect on the other side. She taught me techniques on reaching my spirit guide.  Surely I, someone of great spiritual power (in my mind)  could accomplish reaching my spirit guide as simply as she did.  After all I did hear millions of voices all talking at night.  She said that was an indicator of strong psychic powers that were just waiting to be tapped into.  I continued to speak at length with my friends about Christianity...meanwhile at night I was meditating trying to contact a spirit from the other side.  I started delving into Astrology along with this.

Around that time I went to a class for work.  It was a very in depth class about many things, but mostly about being in control of ones self and how one person can affect their self greatly. We stayed in a hotel overnight and one of the women in the class said that she did Tarot readings with regular playing cards.  She said that she practiced it as an almost lost art.

Several people went before me, and were all blown away by her accuracy.  I remember thinking to myself that I would show her something she had never seen.  I was going to use my "ability" that I still believed was mine to manipulate what she read.
I shuffled the cards per her instructions.
She pulled 3 jacks in a row... stared at me... asked if I did that on purpose... mumbled something about powerful... and the rest I don't remember.  Then she told me that I could learn.  she wanted to teach me.  I chose not to learn, but I took this as evidence that Christianity, as I was taught, was not the only truth out there.

Slowly I started finding ways to incorporate my Christianity into other belief structures.  I was shopping in a walmart for religions and I would take some of this, and some of that...

After all of this...When I still couldn't reach my spirit guide I went into depression, but I didn't realize that it was the trigger until very recently in my life.  I was looking for answers, but I was looking in the wrong places.   My religion that I had built in my mind was wrong.

I tried coming back to the Catholic church and I had many false starts... I would go 2 weeks in a row then stop going.  I could not get a healthy foundation for my beliefs.

I remember one prayer.  It was the first prayer that I prayed in over 2 years.
I had been living with two people who were constantly stealing things to pay rent.  They had stolen from other people, Walmart, and me.  We all basically lived in a drunken stupor.  All I was doing was working and drinking.  I wanted out, but I didn't know how.  I thought that if I had a girlfriend worth my time I would be able to straighten my life out.  I thought that if I could move out that I would be better off.  I had tried meeting women but I was not very good at talking to women.  At that point in my life I was very insecure.  I prayed....
I asked God to send me a woman.  I put in a very specific request.  I asked that she be funny, shorter than me, dark hair and light eyes.  I requested that she be sarcastic, and nice but mean enough to keep me in line.  I asked for her to fit in with my family.  Finally I asked that she one day make me a father.  I also asked for God's guidance in getting out of my living situation.

The very next day I met the woman who would later become my wife, and my roommates and I received an eviction notice because the landlord needed to move back home.

I will write more asap.  I promise.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

You Know Nothing Joel Vogt - Part 2

This is part 2 of a series that I started about a week ago.

Part 1 Is right here. Please read this before you read part 2.

If you are Christian that is not 100% grounded in your faith I must strongly recommend that you do not look up several things that I will write about during this series unfolding. I will Highlight specifics that I think are dangerous in red. Many things in this series may surprise you, or change your opinion of me. You may learn things that you do not know about me yet. You may be surprised, or upset, or angry at me if you love me. You may not feel any of these things at all and I may just be assuming things. I am trusting that God is with me while I write this, and I am praying that the message comes though very safely and clearly. Let's get right into it shall we?

When I entered High School I was finding myself through music. I came into marching band before school started and it became the center of my social circle. I made a few friends in the beginning of the year. they all played a card game every day. I became enthralled in this card game. it became the reason for me going to school every day. I focussed on getting better cards and becoming better at the game more than my work. Between this, and my fascination with the opposite sex I became 100% distracted from the foundation that my faith was built upon. I continued to play video games when I was home, and I spent a lot of time playing Final Fantasy at home in the first two years of high school.

I still attended church on the holidays, and I had a tendency to pray when I wanted something. Sometimes I even made bargains with God. Do this and I will do that... that kind of thing.

I attended CCD classes and I learned about what God was supposed to be.

I began to see strange things more and more at this age. I would catch a glimpse of someone in my peripheral vision. I would sometimes have long episodes of de ja vu. It would seem as though I had lived whole 10 minute periods before. I slowly became interested in Ghosts and other spiritual beings in my freshman year of High school.

I told my mother about these things and she encouraged me to listen more. I did more and more research on the paranormal. It began to overtake my Christian faith. I began to stop asking God for things and I simply used my "gifts" as I called them to justify what I believed. I did not need God or his word to tell me who I am or why I am here.

In my Junior year of High School I met a girl who would become my first super serious girlfriend. She was Pentecostal. It was important to her that I attend church with her for certain things so I did. I went to church with her on and off that year. I learned a lot about the Pentacostal religion and wondered why it seemed so different from what I was taught. I then attended an evangelical Christian church, and a baptist church, and an Episcopal church. I had realized that there was a hole in my spirit. I was trying to fill it.

Just before I received the Sacrament of Confirmation I had started to study Astrology. I was almost obsessed with spirits and ghosts, and I had continued to play video games almost obsessively. I was not able to stay stable in a social situation for very long.

Though it was not the case, I felt unloved by my family. I felt shutout from everything around me. I felt that everyone who once loved me was constantly attacking me. I only found comfort in playing music, video games, or hanging out with that girlfriend.... the one that I broke up with soon after confirmation.

In my senior year of High school is when it would all change. It was a false start that year, and it would not be the last.

It was when someone very close to me told me about the gifts of the Holy Spirit that something in me changed. I started reading the bible. I started asking questions of my friends. I tried to get closer to God. I prayed. I asked him to help me know him. I asked him to fill me with his spirit so that I could know him.

I was asking God to give me exactly what I wanted.

He had reached for my hand and I had said... no.. you have to do this for me.

I wanted this blessing so I could prove his existence to non believers.

I wanted to be the reason that people believed in God. I wanted to give them undeniable proof. I wanted this so badly that I attempted to write a research paper for my English class that would prove the existence of God. I wanted to do this mainly because I had been told that my English teacher was an Atheist and I wanted to prove him wrong.

I wanted to be a hero.

I wanted to be God's hero.

That research paper got a 41 out of 100 by the way.

That was the last time I tried to prove his existence. I stopped reading my Bible.

I didn't stop believing but I did not ever give my Life to God.

I always did what I wanted to do no matter what it meant to God.

I would apologize later and I would feel shame and guilt, but it did not stop me.

I stopped believing in Hell and Satan because I started to believe that, in my enlightened 18 year old mind, these things had to be simply created to scare people. (I thought that I knew everything)

I began slowly surrounding myself with people that believed in either nothing or another religion in an attempt to convert them with nothing but the summary of my beliefs. I must confess that I surely did more harm than good. I certainly had the "Holier than thou" part that I had been exposed to my whole life down... but a Biblical Scholar I was, and still am, not.

I slowly stopped caring...

Then my dad had a conversion moment back to Christ. He has a blog about it. I will link to it next post if I get his permission.

During this time we began attending church again. I got on a first name basis with the priest.

When I went off to College I still attended church with them for a little while.

One night when I was sitting in my bed in my dorm room I had a wild idea pop into my head.

I started to think that I should talk to my dad. I needed to tell him what I wanted to change my major to. I spoke with him. I talked to my friends. I explained it to my adviser. Then it was time to talk to my priest. I had to tell them all....

I felt that I was being called into the Catholic Priesthood.

That's it for part 2 Ladies and Gentlemen. This one was a little tougher to write. I hope that it wasn't too hard to read. A lot of time was cut out here, but I didn't want to include unneccessary filler material (normal life for someone that age).

It was hard to delve that deeply to pull as many of the ups and downs of my beliefs as I could.

I am mostly writing this as a record for myself, so that I do not have to keep digging up memories that sometimes are not completely there, but if this entertains, informs, or educates even one person on even one topic then I am glad to share it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

You Know Nothing Joel Vogt - Part 1

It has been over a year since I have posted on this Blog.  I have many excuses, but it all comes down to my lack of direction in my writing.  My initial reason to start this blog was lost.  I forgot my purpose... my direction.

I am starting a series today.  This will be primarily about my journey to finding God.  If things of this nature typically offend you because you feel that they are preachy or talk down to people I Strongly encourage you to read this anyway.  I was just like you a few months ago.

 I am not sure how many parts there will be.  I will be sharing many things with you that I have mostly kept to myself.

If you are Christian that is not 100% grounded in your faith I must strongly recommend that you do not look up several things that I will write about during this series unfolding.  I will Highlight specifics that I think are dangerous in red. Many things in this series may surprise you, or change your opinion of me.  You may  learn things that you do not know about me yet.  You may be surprised, or upset, or angry at me if you love me.   You may not feel any of these things at all and I may just be assuming things.  I am trusting that God is with me while I write this, and I am praying that the message comes though very safely and clearly.  Let's get right into it shall we?

This next paragraph is how this story was relayed to me throughout my life.  Sorry Mom and Dad for any inaccuracies or continuity issues.

My mother and father met in high school.  My father was very active in the Catholic church and my mother became so after they got together.  When they were both 18 they found out that they were going to have a child together.  They got married before the birth and they began teaching CCD classes. (For my protestant friends it is best related to Sunday school, or religion classes).
March 7th, 1986 was a Friday.  At 5 pm on this Friday My mother gave birth to me after many many hours in labor.  Upon my exit I broke her tail bone.  This does not seem like an important event in my life, but it is.  I harmed my mother coming into this world.  I did not do it on purpose, but I did it nonetheless.  I did not want to come out, and I had to be pulled out with forceps. I had to be dragged into this world kicking and screaming, and in doing so the person I had been closest to in my life got hurt.

Being raised by two CCD teachers is an interesting life.  I knew the priests at our church.  I knew many people from the people who worked at the church or the CCD office.  I attended the Catholic School. Everyone that I met there knew me even if I didn't know them.  My life revolved around church, and everything I was taught involved God.  I was allowed to play Street Fighter and Donkey Kong and Mario, and I was allowed to watch Power Rangers, but I was not allowed to watch Ninja Turtles because they were too violent.
.  I remember something  that happened when I was 4 or 5.   I had a dream about Jesus.  I don't remember the actual dream, but I do remember telling my Granny that I had the dream.  I also remember lying to her about it later and telling her details that I knew weren't true.  This is the first lie that I remember telling.  I told her that it was baby Jesus that came to me, and I told her things that he said...

I had been raised to believe that the Devil was the worst thing that you should be afraid of.  I was terrified that the Devil was going to come take me away if I did something bad... even though that is likely not what I was taught.  I remember laying in bed and dreaming of him.  I DO remember this one.  I couldn't have been in bed for more than 20 minutes.  I Saw 3 wrinkled up balloons on the ground.  As I moved closer to inspect them they started to inflate.  Each balloon was morphing into a strange shape... it was a face.. and ANGRY face.  It was the face of a wrinkled up old angry man with ears that resembled Yoda's Ears.  I sprang out of bed crying.  I ran into the Living room where my mommy and daddy were and my daddy grabbed me up, and he asked me what was wrong.  When I told him he prayed with me for a good long time and he held me as I cried.    I felt safe because he told me that I was safe.  I knew that my guardian angel was there to protect me.  I knew that God was there to save me.  Mommy and Daddy were like superheroes, and I always trusted them.

Life continued in that way until my parents divorced when I was 7.

Divorce in itself can be difficult on a child, but this was something tougher for me to deal with than just a divorce.  We stopped attending church.  It wasn't right away, but it did happen.  I still attended CCD classes, but I did not attend church very often if at all.  My mommy stopped enforcing her rules about me only listening to Christian radio.  My daddy slowly became More and more angry about little things.  They both remarried and neither couple went to church weekly.  I stopped praying every night.  I was still a strong believer but I had no direction. I just believed what people told me and I did not have an age appropriate Children's Bible.  I slowly lost my core.  I lost what was the basis of my life.  This left a hole that needed filling, and Video games were the right shape and size to make me whole again.  They were challenging, and kept my mind off of the chaos that had become my life.  Video games slowly became my life.

When I needed to escape I could always find my escape in Zelda and Final Fantasy.  It was just challenging enough to keep my attention, but not so hard that it made me want to give up.  Just thinking about it now makes me want to go play.... but I won't.  Don't worry.  This is much more important to finish.  

I knew the ending, but I had to be the hero and save everyone.  I had to be the guy who defeated the evil.  I had to be the superhero.  I didn't realize it at the time, but what I was really feeling was that I had to be like Jesus... and Zelda and Final Fantasy helped me feel like I was accomplishing that.

That's all for part one.  I hope it was a relatively easy read.  I will start right where I left off for Part two.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Letting go

Several years ago my mom and stepdad were helping my grandmother clean out her shed.  I remember being was around 14 or so years old.  They pulled out several toys from my childhood and set them by the garbage to be taken out.  I distinctly remember one toy in particular.  It was a riding toy, mostly white, with a bear's face on the front and a blue seat that could be lifted to gain access to the space inside of it for storage. 

When I saw this toy I was flooded with memories.  Though I had not played with, nor had I seen it in years, I immediately gravitated towards it.  I sat on it.  I opened the compartment.  I remembered being a child and worrying about childhood things... like the time i pooped my pants riding it. 

When my mom told me to leave it alone because it was garbage I protested.  I demanded that because it was mine I should get to decide what happens to it.  I felt sorrow at the thought of losing this toy again.  I did not want our time together to end again, but it was taken from me and thrown into the trash pile. 
Nobody knew it at the time, but I cried later that day.  I could not let go.  I could not accept that I would never be able to put my tiny hands on that toy again.  It was not a symbol of fun, but a symbol for being young.

This has been a constant in my life.  I have something.  It could be as simple as a toy, as complex as a relationship, or even just a feeling of that period in my life. I lose it whatever it is I no longer have it.  Sometimes I don't notice at first, but often I notice immediately.  As soon as I become aware of it  I grieve for what is probably a longer period of time than the average person.    I move on after much grieving.  Then,  after I mostly forget about it I am reminded again about how much fun I used to have. 
This starts the grieving process over again.

Grief for me is the period of time it takes to realize that something is out of my control.  As a human being I desire control.  I want to feel powerful.  It may only be power over my own life, but controlling your own destiny is a very desirable thing for many people.  When I hold onto these things I am really just holding on to my emotions about these things or people or time periods.  I want to feel the way that I felt when these thing were a part of my life. 

I have often longed for things to be simple like they used to seem.  There was a time that I thought my ideal life was within grasp and I barely missed it.  For a long time i believed that I had missed out on the perfect life.  It took my wonderful wife and children to show me that my ideal life at that time was not my ideal life forever.  As I have become more Daddy and less Joel I have discovered that I am really not in control of much.  Adding to that is that the more I try to control, the more stress I have and the less things go the way i want them to go. 

Every time I let something hard to control go I feel a sense of relief.  Every time I give up on something impossible I get closer to my true potential.  Every time I remove the chains holding me back I move forward just a bit more.  Letting go of the past makes room for more future.