#Introvert or #Extovert…Is it a Choice?

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I know this is an obvious statement, but my son is growing up in an entirely different world than I did.

Even though I wasn’t able to ever truly meet my grandfather, summer vacations were spent with my grandmother.

Literally.

My parents would drop me off, and that was that.

It was an amazing learning experience about hard work and enjoying life.

She had a huge yard. I mean HUGE. It usually took me a few hours to mow all of the lawn. And as large as the lawn was, her flower beds were even larger, and grander. Her job was her yard work. She took it seriously.

I enjoyed the routine of being with her during the summer. Every morning was home cooked breakfast. Most of the time it was Cream of Wheat or pancakes, but there was also eggs and bacon.

After breakfast the yard work began to try to get done before the afternoon heat hit us. Grass needed mowing, flowers needed pruning, weeds needed weeding, everything needed watering, and imaginations needed imagining.

Lunch was the largest meal of the day for us. Our family history are “Germans from Russia.”

Let’s take a short step back in time…

Back in the late 1700’s Catherine the Great issued a manifesto inviting foreigners to Russia. Along with the manifesto, she offered some great incentives including free transportation, large tracts of free land, freedom of paying taxes for a long period of time, exemption from serving in the military (including their descendants), and freedom of religion…among others.

Thousands of Germans took Catherine the Great up on her offer and settled in Russia.

In the early 1800’s Czar Alexander I invited settlers (now colonies) to settle down in the Black Sea region, which they did.

Throughout the 1800’s Germans settled all over Russia, but in 1871 the Russian government repealed Catherine the Great and Czar Alexander I manifestos. The Germans lost their privileges, beginning a movement of immigration to North and South America.

But even worse times were coming for those that stayed behind. In 1919 the United States passed very strict immigration laws affecting the numbers of German immigrants coming to America. Following that, a terrible famine hit Russia where it is estimated over 150,000 Volga Germans died.

Those that made it through the famine were rewarded with their property confiscated and they were forced to collective farms.

When World War II hit, the Germans are rounded up and moved to Asia and Siberia under prosecution since Germany was at war with the Soviet Union.

My ancestors came to America in the late 1800’s, but I was fortunate enough to be able to have some of the traditions passed to me from my grandmother, mostly food related, which brings me back to the discussion about lunch being our largest meal.

Since she grew up farming, there were some typical farm lunches. Fried chicken, pork chops, etc. But a couple of times each week I was treated to some German treats. Bierocks (also known as kraut burgers or cabbage burgers) was my favorite. It’s basically ground beef, cabbage, onion, and spices stuffed into a dough shell.

Another was chicken noodle soup and butterballs.

This is not the chicken noodle soup from the can. This was stock made from chicken and homemade German noodles. I found the same noodles here at the Farmer’s Market from one of the Hutterite Colonies. They are finer than angel hair pasta. But it’s the butterballs that make the meal.

Homemade bread crumbs, cream, egg, butter and some spices, including all spice. Mix it all together and roll them into one-inch balls. Toss them in the boiling soup and once they float they are ready to eat. Sort of like a dumpling, but sort of not. I could eat a million of them in one sitting.

Other times it was more American traditional such as meatloaf or hamburger helper. Yes, hamburger helper.

I loved that stuff as a kid.

LOVED IT.

Thinking back, hamburger helper may have been the first thing that I really learned how to “cook”.

After lunch, work pretty much came to a halt to avoid the hot weather. I still had to move the sprinklers every hour, but that was basically it.

Instead, my job was to be a soldier, professional baseball player, Tarzan, cloud namer, bug crusher, and secret spy.

The world was mine. I was by myself on a large plot of land with apple trees for climbing, chicken coups for hiding, and pastures for hitting baseballs.

Cable TV was in its infancy, so there was no reason to stay inside to watch it. So I didn’t.

Dinner was simple, and usually early. Many times it was just a bowl of cereal. And I loved it.

Maybe there was a little yard work to finish up when it cooled down, but mostly we sat in the living room with Wheel of Fortune on, followed by the news. She would either be crocheting or reading her bible.

I sat watching TV chewing on sunflower seeds.

Life was good, and simple.

If anyone came to the house, or if we went out to eat, it was made very clear to me that I was not to speak unless spoken to. Wise advise that I still follow for the most part.

Many kids look forward to the summer so they didn’t have to go to school. I looked forward to staying at grandma’s house. At a young age I was already looking forward to the “alone” time to recharge my batteries.

Could I have been more of an extrovert if I didn’t spend those summers with just her and me?

Possibly.

Introverted “Alone”, or REALLY Alone

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Plenty of “experts” will tell us introverts that we recharge by being alone. I refuse to disagree with that assessment because it is exactly how I recharge.

Sometimes I will stay up late at night just to be awake without the family “noise”. Even if it means I am super tired the next day at work.

Lately, however, I have really become fascinated, if not addicted, to movies, books, articles, stories, about being alone for more than just a few hours. For example, the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed. While she did the Pacific Coast Trail, I have read a ton of books about the Appalachian Trail. I want to attempt that Trail so bad sometimes I dream about it.

But I could never leave my job for that period of time.

Plus it would be hard for me to leave my family…but it’s sad to say that it’s really the job that holds me back.

I have even mapped out different routes to walk across the country instead.

But that trip faces the same obstacles.

Castaway was on the television yesterday. I’ve seen it dozens of times, but I still stop to watch it. Or at least some of it.

There is a little part of me (maybe more than a little) that thinks I could survive.

As long as I didn’t have to deal with the plane crash.

Or the fish (can’t stand seafood).

Or the bad tooth.

But for all the easy stuff like not talking to anyone except a volleyball and growing a long beard…well, I guess that was really the only easy stuff…I could totally nail.

The book The Road by Cormac McCarthy has also fascinated me. Not just his book, but many that are of that same post-apocalyptic genre. Just a guy trying to take care of his family without all of the modern conveniences that we have grown accustomed too.

Well, there is also a lot of bad people in those books, and that would suck, but it’s the lack of people and sense of urgency and purpose that I seem to attach too.

Wool by Hugh Howey is like this too. When I read Wool, I immediately started reading all of his books. He has a way of tickling my introverted side where there are less people to deal with, and a set order for everyone to follow for survival.

Maybe it’s just a mid-life crisis entering my system, but I am really craving that long period of nothingness. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would immediately start planning to try to hike the Appalachian Trail next year.

And probably write a book about it.

With that said, no one from Aerosmith has contacted me about my offer. I guess it’s not much of an offer on my part, so I should say that no one from Aerosmith has contacted me about THEIR offer that I suggested.

Sigh.

#Depression is a Bitch

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This is going to be a tough discussion.

Not easy to type either. Or talk in person, or even think about.

But depression is a bitch. And I have it.

I don’t know when. I don’t know where. I don’t know why. But I have it.

On the outside, you would never know it. Hell, people in my “inner circle” wouldn’t even know. I’m an excellent actor. After all, I am an introvert that does a ton of public speaking.

I’m not in the medical field. I have no real research, so this blog is only going to be about my experience. Don’t take it as medical advice.

Seriously, please don’t.

But I have to talk about it. If anything maybe it will be beneficial for me. I don’t know if we introverts have a higher rate of depression or not. It would seem to make sense to me since many of us cherish our alone time. But with alone time comes that dreaded thinking time.

A little history about me.

I grew up in a middle class family. A happy family for the most part. After graduation from High School I joined the Army and spent four years being a soldier. A successful soldier.

When it was time to get out, I did. A buddy and I drove around the country in a U-Haul truck until we ran out of money in a small town in Montana. If you have been to Montana, most towns are small.

About a year later I moved to the capitol city, and even though I struggled to get back in “civilian mode”, I was fortunate to land a decent job that allowed me to pursue my degree while working.

College came much easier to me than High School did, and I graduated with a 3.5 gpa.

I met my wife (The Hippy), we got married and enjoyed travel vacations as my career became more and more successful. We were able to buy a house, and though it took a long time, were blessed with an awesome son. We’ve also been blessed enough that The Hippy has been able to be a Stay-at-Home mother for that awesome son.

So why do I battle that bitch depression?

I don’t know.

I do know that I would go through what I called my “blue” periods at times before my diagnosis.

They didn’t register much to me though. It was in my mind it was just my time that I needed to be alone to recharge. Perhaps it was.

Perhaps I just didn’t recognize the truth.

Finally a little over a year ago I told my doctor that I thought I might have a little depression.

But when I got my prescription, it was an eye opener. My bottle had the lovely diagnosis on it of treatment for “major depression.”

MAJOR.

To be honest, it was kind of a relief. I didn’t have to wonder. I didn’t have to WebMD myself. It was in black and white.

MAJOR.

But treatable.

So it’s been over a year now. My meds have been increased slightly once, but for the most part it helps. People still don’t know. People would be shocked. When someone asks how I’m doing as part of opening a conversation, I don’t really answer. My answer is, “How are YOU doing?”

I still have times when I am sitting alone “recharging” when I wonder if I am really recharging or being depressed.

When I was down in Denver last week I had the opportunity to have dinner with a high school buddy of mine. I haven’t seen him since we graduated nearly 25 years ago. I haven’t seen anyone from high school since then since I don’t live in Colorado anymore.

I actually was hoping during the day of our bro-date that he would cancel. This was a good friend of mine. Someone I still consider a friend through Facebook. But I just wanted to sit in my hotel room, order room service, and do nothing.

He didn’t cancel.

I’m glad he didn’t.

I enjoyed reconnecting with him. It was by far the best part of the entire week. He’s also kind of a hippy dude, like my wife.

The moral, if there is one…if you “think” you may be battling depression, talk to your doctor about it.

I didn’t want to. I don’t know how long I have been suffering, but I didn’t want to admit any weakness. But I am better for it.

Yeah, I have to take some meds each morning. If I miss them I have some pretty jacked up dreams at night. But ultimately I think it makes me a better person.

You deserve to be better too.

Trust me.

Worst Vacation Ever – Except for me…it’s AWESOME!

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My wife (The Hippy) is about 900 miles away from me right now.

She is in Las Vegas with a few girlfriends. I am sitting at home taking care of our six year old kindergartener and our nearly 16 year old puppy.

She is recharging in Sin City (hopefully without all the sins).

I am recharging in silence and solitude.

Don’t get me wrong…as introverted as I am, I can enjoy trips to Vegas too. But they really do exhaust me. Her trip just happened to fall in line with our son still being in school and our puppy still enjoying life. (Unless she is traveling with us in the camper, we always keep one person home for when she passes.)

This is the first time in nearly two years I’ve taken a vacation. Yes, two years.

It’s not the first time I’ve traveled. I have had the opportunity to go all over for work. DC, Boston, New Orleans, San Fran, Dallas, Austin, Denver, Chicago, Seattle…just to name a few. Usually I am traveling on my own, and then sight seeing on my own too. Of course, with headphones on and my cell phone ready to be at my ear in case there are conversations heading my way.

So what does an introvert do on his first vacation in forever?

Nothing.

Ok, that’s not exactly true.

I have completely redesigned our living room. And kitchen. And bedrooms. And basement.

And our camper.

And mowed the lawn. Twice.

Sound like fun? No?

How about relaxing? No?

Ok, definitely sounds like a way to get recharged for work, right? No?

Well, maybe not for you. Guaranteed not for The Hippy. In fact, she is probably freaking out right now in the middle of all the neon and slot machines dropping coins (it’s been a long time since I’ve been there and I hear they don’t actually drop coins anymore…that sucks) knowing that I am clearing out the house.

In know there are thousands of articles regarding Introverts needing peace and quiet and Extroverts needing everything else. I’m not going to reiterate all of that, except to say that for me, it’s true.

When I get back to the office on Tuesday morning, I know I will be asked the mandatory question about what I did on vacation. And I also know that when I tell the truth, they will most likely tell me, “Worst Vacation Ever.”

I’m an Introvert, not an A**hole, mostly

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Saturday afternoon a good friend of mine (one of the few I would call “good friend”) called me. Me being me, I let it go to voice mail.

“Hey, my band is playing tonight. You should come check us out.”

Worst message ever.

Ok, maybe not ever.

I sent him back a text about 10 minutes later saying that I would try to make it. I waited 10 minutes so it wouldn’t seem like I screened his call.

I didn’t go.

Sunday morning I got a text from him. “Thanks for coming out you a**hole.”

Keep in mind that he is a good friend, so him calling me an a**hole didn’t hurt my feelings. In fact, there are much more creative terms of endearment we call each other. My reply was, “You’re welcome.”

He knew that the chances of me showing up at a local bar on a Saturday night was pretty much zero. He knows that the chances of me showing up at a local bar any night of the week are pretty much zero.

It’s just too much for me for a couple of reasons. For one, there are people there.

Ok, that takes up reasons 1-8.

Also, I don’t have the best hearing. I served in the Army and my hearing sucks. That comes in handy a lot of times, but not when I am expected to socialize someplace where there is loud background noise. I spend a lot of time incorrectly answering questions that I thought I misheard.

Or I end up looking anti-social. Ha!

And when I do hear them, usually it’s conversations I’m not really interested in having. A lot of times it revolves about the things I do in my career. I spend 60 hours per week dealing with my career, why would I want to talk about it when I am “off the clock?”

Anyway, it’s something that us introverts are faced with many times. One of my Friday posts on Twitter read, “friday. Friday. FRIDAY! Not a chance I go out tonight.”

It’s too exhausting. It’s not how most of us introverts recharge. It’s how my Hippy wife recharges. It’s how my six-year old son recharges.

No, my six-year old doesn’t hang out in bars to recharge…that I know of.

But it’s not how I recharge.

I recharge by sitting on my couch. Or chair. Or floor. Or bathroom. Or bed. Or a bubble that I am trying to find out how to create. I recharge with silence. I recharge with a book or even a good movie. Sometimes a bad movie. I recharge with blogging. I even recharge with people watching.

I can be out in public; I just don’t need to be engaged. I can sit for hours and watch other people. Hell, I can sit down and watch Judge Judy or some reality show just so I can see how much better my life is. And quieter.

That doesn’t make us introverts a**holes. At least not for that reason. It just makes us unique, just like everyone is. We are all unique.

Still, I have a lot of friends. Not “good” friends, but friends. I have a very small circle of “good friends.” Those are the people that I trust. Those are the people I would do anything for.

As long as they don’t ask me to go out in public. Just kidding.

Sort of.