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.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A look in the mirror of time.

Often, too often in fact, I find myself looking back on a particular period of my life and wondering where "it" all went wrong.  I sit back and chastise myself repeatedly making poor decisions, and I relentlessly pummel my  inadequate planning.  It generally starts off as a simple look into my past.  I begin a walk down memory lane and suddenly it all comes back.  I'm in a situation, and I get to watch myself from a third person viewpoint.  I sit back and watch my past as a normal person watches a horror movie. 

    "No dummy!  Don't do it!" I say to myself,  sometimes loudly.

    This type of reflection is very helpful for future decision making, but occasionally I find myself stuck in one specific memory.  It may take days or weeks to properly move past, or it may take as much as years.  Ive developed some psychological tools to help myself recently, and this blog is dedicated to passing them on to other people who may find them helpful.  I am certain that I am crazy, but I am also certain that I am not the only person who reflects internally and occasionally becomes stuck. 

     Tool 1.  You can call it reliving the situation.  Most often I find myself upset because of a way that I reacted to something, generally when I became upset or had a feeling of low self worth. 
I take the situation and recreate it in my mind, and I turn it into a positive ending. 
Step one is to clear your mind completely through  breathing excercises or meditation, and step two is to simply imagine the entire situation up to your reaction.  Change your reaction  Right before you remember yourself react.  You may have to do this over and over again but it will work.  Just always imagine it the same way you imagine a memory. 

Tool 2. 
This one is a simple tool.  It is tried and true and has never failed me.  Call a friend. 
Don't expect advice.  Don't expect answers.  Don't call somebody involved in the situation.  Just ask to talk and follow through with it.  Don't hold back.  Don't be afraid.  Be yourself and say what you want to say.  Often these things in our hearts are the things most necessary to be said out loud.  Friends always know what to say to put your heart at ease.

Tool 3. 
Imagine your life the way you want.  How does that look?  Are you happy?  Why are you happy?  Who is in your happy life?  What do you bring to their life in this world?  How close are you to this happy life now?  Would reacting differently in the past have helped create that life? 
If the answer is no, then you have your reason to move past it.  If the answer is yes then I have a statement for you...
Too Bad!  You can't go back to the past and change anything, but you can let the past change you!   Make sure that you don't make the same mistake twice.  Don't screw it up and Don't give up on yourself.  Aside from our parents and children we are our own biggest fans.  Be who you want to be, and start being him or her Today Not Tomorrow.  You have to start by trusting yourself, and everything else falls into place. 
I hope this reaches and helps at least one other crazy person like myself. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

How Being Bullied Affected My Life

Here's something many people dont know about me: i struggle to be happy.  Every single day that i wake up i get pumped.  I intentionally pump myself up in an effort to become the most positive person around me.  I live by the words "itll all work out"  and "give it time, itll make sense" but every day i have to remind myself that i am happy.  I have a beautiful wife and 2 beautiful kids.  I  am blessed with a great job, and some great opportunities.  So why do I feel this way?

To answer this I find myself in a time machine in my mind.  Im going back to my earliest memories... way back to what i had early in life. 
For those of you who didnt know me, i was always very small for my age.  I was almost always picked last on sports teams and i constantly found myself digging in and taking verbal abuse from the other kids.

I was very sensitive.  I would cry if the right person taunted me enough because i couldnt figure out what i was feeling. 
You see, most of my life i was told that I could do anything.  I was told that all i had to do was focus on school and it would all work out... i was never truly taught how to handle conflict.  "Go get the teacher"  "if you have to defend yourself, make sure you do it with honor"  well thats great and all, but i didnt even know what honor was and telling the teacher either got me picked on by the other kids or worse: i sometimes got in trouble for tattling.  I struggled to make friends, and often found myself being pushed around on the playground for being a loser. 

Sometimes these "bullies" were my "friends". 
I just had to stop typing for a few minutes to deal with some memories i had surpressed i guess... the more i type the harder this gets.

I was constantly rejected by groups of boys from kindedgarten til 2nd grade.  There i began to realize that i got along better with girls than boys.  I clung to my friends, the girls, who would sometimes even tell a teacher for me if i was getting picked on too hard.  At least they did something when all i did was sit there and cry "joel the mole who cries in his hole."  "Wheres your "nunu" crybaby?(thats a reference to what i called my grandmother)  "Look everyone, I made him cry again"(his name was james... i remember him well.  I wont post his last name in case he is a decent person now.) 
I grew up eventually.  I remember being in 7th grade sitting in front of a kid who was held behind a year.  He always messed with me.  One day  When the teached stepped out for a minute he started hitting me in the back.  The first 4 i ignored, but on the fifth i stood up and turned around and yelled  "you know what "m"(for anonymity again),  im really tired of your shit."  The teacher came back in and looked at me shaking mad, and looked out at a stunned class.  He told me not to curse and reprimanded "m" for messing with me.  This is the first time i remember sadness turning to anger, and the first time i remember using anger as a weapon. 

Over the years i started using anger as a defense mechanism even before i was attacked.  I got so used to being attacked that i stayed angry... almost all of the time.  I never got into a fight at school, but i was taunted so many times.  I would just fire back a snarky remark and walk away.  Hoping that i could hurt them by keeping them from seeing me cry.  Over the years i stopped crying all together.  I stopped listening.  I became disengaged. 

I was so very distant from what was around me until my sophmore year.  Johnny Lala told me about these "HALO" parties that him and his friends had.  Then he invited me.  Because i had become so fantastic at video games, i was quickly accepted.  This introduced me to the joy of friendship, and what i sometimes call "pack mentality." 
Over those three years of high school i found myself being more and more accepted.  I finally found a clique.  I finally found a group that accepted me.  I clung to Halo as my lifeline to society.  I also began trash talking for the first time... and that led to bullying.  I took all of my hate and anger and used it as fuel to make other people feel bad.  I threw out words like daggers to people below my social rank.  I would take abuse daily and dish it out at every opportunity.

I later used my ability in halo to make friends after high school.  I clung to the series throughout college and beyond as it was my coping mechanism.  It allowed me to belong to something that i was good at.  Many other things were involved in making me who i am but none so much can explain my emotional state as my relationship with those games.

This is the result of everything ive explained: i couldnt feel certain emotions without working at them, Barring a selct few variances.  Instead of what i think is happiness, i felt the same way i do when a dissonant chord resolves.  Its a sense of complete.  I didnt felt sadness like i used to either.  I felt anger and hurt.  I didnt get dissappointed.  I got angry.  I didnt often feel helpless.  I got angry.  Really this all went on until i realized that i had another option. 

I stopped.  I stopped blaming others for my problems.  It isnt their fault that i didnt stand up to my attackers earlier in life.  It isnt anyone elses fault that i was too weak to help myself.  I was so weak that i took my weakness out on others.  That wasnt anyones fault but my own. 

I do still find it hard to be happy.  Im find im constantly thinking that i must be missing something.  I find it hard to cry because ive been so strong for so long.   Crying in front of someone is vulnerability.   I cant bring myself to let the tears fall.  I cant let go of some things in the past, no matter how small, because of the potential.  I find myself obsessed with the potential more than the actual.  That goes for people i meet in every aspect of ny life too not just opportubities in my own life.  I have a tendency to see the best in people that they cant see themselves. 

  I cant sleep now...
I might not finish this post.

Who am I?  What do I feel?  Why am i where i am?

Everyday i answer these questions on the drive to work, or in the shower, or some other opportunity to be alone. 
"Im Joel Vogt.  Im happy because i should be and I am damn good at my job.  No person in this world is more confident than i am.  Noone.  Not a single one.  They reject me? Forget em, I dont need em.  Laugh at me?  Doesnt matter because it isnt my fault that they aspire to be like me.  Im a winner and im good at everything i put my energy into.  Not everyone can say that.  Put that confidence to work and please try to be more humble" 

The only thing i generally feel is confidence.
Ive replaced all of that negativity with it due to my chanting over and over in my head.  Im good at so many things. Im strong willed... and i owe it to being bullied. 
Sometimes Im vulnerable, paranoid, scared, hateful, doubtful, untrusting, lonely, angry, and many many other negative emotions.  These i owe to myself being human. 

Sometimes replacing all of those positive emotions with confidence is a strength.  Sometimes it is a weakness.  Lately  i cant seem to figure which is which...  its been weird lately.  Like the whole world is shifting.... ill pick that up in another blog soon.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Losing and physical pain are life's natural teachers

What do losing and physical pain have in common?  I posed this question a few hours ago and I was surprised not to see more responses.   Last night I had something hit me.  It hit me like it's been staring me in the face. I'm a loser.  I've been a loser my whole life.

Now now now calm down.  Hear me out.    I'm not talking about that guy that lives in his mother's basement at an unspeakable age with no ambition or skill to contribute to society.  I also don't mean that guy with no marketable personality or charm that just creeps around.  You know.  The stereotypical loser.

I mean that I have lost in so many things in my life over and over.  Sometimes my losses were of my own doing.  Sometimes other people contributed to my losses by being better than me, sabotaging me, or some other means.  I have lost at just about everything I have ever done.  I've lost over and over and over again at countless tasks and competitions.  I've lost in relationships both personal and professional. I've lost in competitions as a child.  I've lost in competitions at work as an adult.  I've chosen the wrong job move and lost.  I've made countless mistakes. I've lost, and from losing I have learned how to win.

When it comes to physical pain I love the hot iron scenario.  When a parent turns on an iron to iron clothes very little about the iron changes.  A small light may come on and it may steam if they are like me and always turn it on too hot to begin with.  To a child the iron may simply seem to exist, neither in a "hot" or "cold" state.  Surely a responsible parent would not leave a small child alone with an iron, most certainly not a hot iron.  Let's pretend in this scenario that the child is mischievous and climbs really well.  The parent can spend all the time in the world teaching this child that the iron is hot, but without actual life experience the child cannot fully comprehend or understand what that means.  Yes yes yes tell a child "don't touch that" but all parents know that when you tell most children not to do something they are immediately plotting to do just that.  When the parent isn't looking the child climbs up and badly burns themselves.  The child learns.  The hot iron is hot.

Most physical pain is like this.  Often our bodies let us know when we are doing something that hurts. Yes there are always exceptions like chronic pain or illnesses that cause pain but those are not what i'm talking about.  I'm talking about reactionary pain.  "When I do this, I feel this,"  pain.  This type of pain teaches us how to survive on this planet.  It keeps us from seriously injuring ourselves by making a punishment correlation.  We remember what hurts and we do it differently.  Even when we work out and exercise we sometimes find that the method we are using or our "technique" is wrong because of what muscles are sore the next day.

Losing is just the same.  I am who I am because I'm a loser.  I've lost so  many times, but with each loss has come a lesson.  Sometimes the lesson is simply that I can't succeed in that field.  Sometimes I'm able to look back at my mistakes and learn from them.  I'm always able to be a stronger person because of them.  Sometimes I take losing hard.  That's because it isn't easy.  Just like physical pain losing hurts.  It hurts that basic self worth and pride that is held deep within the human heart.  Most people learn more from losing than they ever do from winning.  Winning is nice and necessary.  If you never win in life the potential to grow to resent competition increases exponentially.  Losing isn't fun, but it is as essential as our physical pain.  It teaches us what not to do and how to do things better.

Neither of these experiences are complete without thought and contemplation.  If a child touches the iron and burns themselves they are doomed to repeat it if they don't realize that their own actions burned them.  The same parallel can be drawn with losing.  Without reflection and analysis of why I've lost so much in my life I could never achieve any level of success.  I'm a loser, sure, but I'm so much more than that.  I learn from my mistakes.  I learn when I get hurt.  I learn when I lose.  Most of all I apply everything I learn the next time I am confronted with a situation.

All there is left to ask is whether you could say the same about yourself.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Anyone remember Joel before Brook... oh boy... I do.

When I was 21 I disconnected myself from most of my friends.  By the time of my 21st birthday I had discovered that I needed around 1/3 of my income to barely survive, and I began spending the rest of it on frivolous things.  As I was single and had nobody to shower with gifts, I simply spent the money on things for my civic or alcohol.  I wasn't happy, pure and simple.  I was downright miserable.  At that point in my life I valued myself based on how many people loved me, or more specifically how much the woman I was with loved me.  I didn't have a whole lot of self worth is what I'm saying.  

I found myself spending upwards of $1,000 per month on alcohol for my "friends" and I and anyone who happened to come around.  Any time that I wasn't working I was drinking.  I drank more alcohol between January and May of that year than I have in the rest of my life hands down.

I kept hoping that in the right setting I would find the "girl of my dreams" and she would make it all better.    I kept trying to change the world around me.  Maybe in the right circumstances I could find her.  Maybe if I try really hard She would just appear.  

In April I started attending a class that opened my eyes a little bit, and it helped me to see that the problem was with me.  I was broken.  I didn't love myself.  I couldn't let go of hate.  Even after knowing all of this, I couldn't find the strength or the courage to open myself up and forgive myself and move on.

It all began to fall apart in May.  My two roommates started bringing weed into the house (Something I said would cause me to have to move) and my  heart began to feel heavier and heavier with guilt and shame.  Even now I can feel the weight of all of it in my chest, so many years later.  
One day, drunk out of my mind, I began to cry.  Nothing spurred it on.  I just couldn't take the weight of all of my self loathing and self destruction.  I remember waking up the next day and talking to God for the first time in a long time.  I sat on the sofa, alone in the house and told God what I needed.  I apologized and admitted my weakness.  I cried more, and finally I asked for one "simple" thing: Somebody to love.  
I even went on to list qualities that to some seem frivolous, but were important..  It went something like this:
She should be shorter than me, with dark hair and light eyes.  She should have an amazing sense of humor.  She can't struggle with addictions because I have an amazing ability to fall into vices and I couldn't succeed in life if she does too.  She has to understand that pizza making was more than a job to me.  She has to be on board with the idea of me being around.  a lot.  She has to be forgiving because I'm sure to make mistakes.  She Must be Sarcastic like me, and completely get my type of jokes.  She has to be into cars and hopefully has a nice car that we can hang out and talk about(Yeah I know).  Oh, and God... if she has a kid that wouldn't bother me in the least... you know I've always wanted kids...
I didn't ask for her simply to make me happy, but also because I wanted to make her happy.  I wanted to see the joy on someone's face when I made their day.

The next day at work I was introduced to our new assistant manager, Brook.  We started talking about life and where we came from.  I don't remember much, but I do remember going home and telling my roommate's girlfriend that I met a girl who was "Perfect" and that I was going to marry her.  

As we got to know each other better Brook told me that she wasn't interested in a relationship or guys in general right now because she was still working on her.  I respected that...sort of.  I wanted to show her how awesome we could be together so I came up with an elaborate scheme... I'll invite her to Taco Bell after close.  But wait... that's a lame date.  Instead of that, how about I make it a group thing.  So we started going to taco bell after close and eating sitting on the hood of someone's car.  Eventually (And as expected) we became the only two nuts to go out there.  

Every Friday night after close we would go to taco bell and hang out.  Just the two of us.  On nights that we didn't go to Taco Bell we texted or talked on the phone... all night.  Some days I wouldn't text her or call her, you know just to not seem overzealous.  On those nights she would message me on yahoo messenger. 

Eventually she went to work for another Store and we began to talk on the phone a lot more.  We still hung out on Fridays and even after she wrecked her car I would go pick her up and bring her to taco bell so we could hang out.  I stopped drinking and moved in with my sister.  

Finally I asked her on a date.  We had known each other for a good while and I figured that if I was to avoid the friend zone I only had another month or two at best.  I asked her to go see Harry Potter with me.  When I got there, she was already in the theater and had bought her own ticket...Obviously this was not a date.  

So I tried again.  I believe it was IHOP.  I got her to come hang out and eat a breakfast for dinner meal with me.  When the server brought the check she asked for it to be separate.... Obviously not a date.  

On the way home from that trip I figured I might as well spill the beans and tell her I had a thing for her. I waited for her response, and I began to run through how to react to rejection... 
Then she said that she had a thing for me too...
So I asked why she kept not letting these outings be dates and she simply said that she didn't know that they were supposed to be dates....
Not long after we were a couple.
Soon we were engaged.
Before you know it we were married.
I thought I knew what I wanted when I asked for her.
but no list that I ever could have put together could have sent me a more perfect woman.  

My Wife.
My lovely wife.
How would I get through this life without you?
You've given me so much more than you could ever know.
Because I know you, every thing in my life is better.
Today I remember how I changed not for you, or because of you, but simply by being around you.
You've shown me how to be a better person.
You've shared in this adventure called parenting that basically consumes my every thought.
I'm more proud of our accomplishments so far as parents than any other achievement in my life.
You've tolerated my hobbies, and even when they almost drove you nuts.
You've held me when I hurt inside, and you are one of the only people to have seen me at my weakest moments. 

You are patient and kind and forgiving.
You never give up on me and you are always there to help me.
I have come so far because of your love.
I love you in a way that I never thought I could love another.
I asked God for a miracle
and he sent me you.
Happy Valentine's Day Brook. the way I didn't spend money on a card this year :)