WELCOME TO SELF-HELP AND RECOVERY FOR BEGINNERS!

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For both men and women, knowing where to begin a better life can be overwhelming. I’m only the doorman to tomorrow. I can show you where to start, but I will not tell you where to go.

“…it’s easier to undertake a journey when the entrance is clearly marked.”

When I first set out to seek out new avenues and new sources for self-improvement, I made a trip to my local book store expecting to find exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t. I stood there facing several hundred choices wondering where to start. Surely someone had written a beginner’s guide, a square one launching point that wasn’t overwhelming. My goal was to find something not only easy to read, but informative and entertaining. I sought plain and straight forward instruction on how to move ahead in my life. I wanted a resource that would offer the basics and inspire me to continue researching whatever subject might stimulate my interest.  After thumbing through several dozen publications, I found out rather quickly my thirst for knowledge was being offered to me through a fire hose. There was no doubt every answer conceivable lay buried in the pages of the volumes I was wavering in front of, but the process of sifting through endless manuals to look for what appealed to me was not one I was eager to attempt. For the most part, each title addressed a specific topic, and that was fine, but my tastes were much more generalized. What I longed for, even though I didn’t know it at the time, were the right questions. Eventually, through trial and error, I became interested in specific authors, various subjects, and diverse teachings. Even though the road I chose was slow and treacherous, I never stopped progressing. There is, however, little doubt in my mind, I’d be a lot further along than I am now if it had been somewhat less intimidating. It is my opinion that the absence of an easy first step keeps many a wandered traveler from finding their way home.

There was a time when I was truly certifiable. I had nothing in my world that someone would have wanted in theirs. In 1995 I was drinking two-fifths of vodka a day. Since July 28th of that same year, I have been in recovery. As the years progressed, I worked on various elements of my character that needed nurturing. My health improved as did the rest of my personal life. Abundance flowed in, while misfortune waned. In the summer of 2007, came one of my biggest wake-up calls. I had hit the high mark of my weight–347 pounds. After committing to a weight loss program early in 2009, I lost over 105 pounds in six months without loss of energy or strength. I now tip the scales at an average of 220. I’ve had heat stroke, carbon monoxide poisoning, viral pneumonia, MRSA (staph infections), pulmonary embolisms, and car accidents. There are those who may use similar events to convince others how unlucky they are; I use them to prove how fortunate I am. I’ve survived these and other temporary setbacks with flying colors. If attitude is everything, then I’m the direct result of the resolute belief that life gets better every day.

My attempt with this blog is not to provide a goal, but rather an introduction. I’m not a scholar, nor am I a counselor. As a matter of fact, I’m a plumber; a blue-collar worker who has no problems getting his hands dirty and breaking a sweat for a living. Hopefully, my background will offer an approachable and relaxed alternative for those just starting out. I know it’s easier to undertake a journey when the entrance is clearly marked. I’ll never tell anyone where to go, but I’ll be glad to talk about where I’ve been and if you want to visit these places, I’ll simply point the way.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

120. ALMOST DEAD – PART TWO

ALMOST DEAD – PART ONE is, of course, the first part in case you’ve missed it.

If you’re wondering why I’m including this topic on my blog, the answer’s simple. Most of us have experienced some sort of overwhelming, life challenging stumbling block. Many have had much worse than I’ve ever experienced, no doubt, BUT I feel it’s important to point out how we can (eventually) use these detours as inspirations rather than excuses. Some people move and reshape the world from wheelchairs, and there are those who, by their own hand, have trouble getting off the couch long enough to accomplish even the most basic of needs. It’s a mindset, one I still struggle with more often than not. Some areas of my life are well ordered, while others I label as totally chaotic. My ego, my attitude, is what holds me back from progressing in a productive, positive manner. Remembering I have indeed moved beyond my worst periods of uncertainty helps to reestablish determination and allows me to tackle areas in need of attention. This next statement is from another post of mine, and it sums up my historical dynamic.

The beauty in the fabric of my life comes from all those events which have had a pleasant outcome; but the strength of it lies in those circumstances that have challenged me to be a better person. I’m therefore MORE thankful for the pain I’ve moved past than the pleasures I’ve experienced. I do not seek suffering as a means to improve myself, but there’s a wonderful comfort in knowing it’s capable of eventually providing increased gratitude.

And it does…

5. Viral Pneumonia –

I never knew one could “catch” pneumonia; figured it was just something that happened if the conditions were conspiring against you. Apparently I was wrong. Now, for some, viral pneumonia can be rather mild, not in this case however. I’d originally contracted symptoms almost a month before on a cruise and came to the conclusion I had a bad cold, really bad. I was hacking like crazy and it hurt like I needed to push razor blades out of my lungs. Looking back I’m shocked the airline that flew us back early didn’t reject our request before we even got on board. I spent a few hours facing away from everyone and trying as hard as possible to not cough into my hat. After returning home I still had a few days off before resuming  my job. During this time I saw my doctor and they concluded, inaccurately, it was just a cold. I even had a chest x-ray because of the added pain I was experiencing. They told me I’d pulled a muscle and to take it easy. I went back to my normal grind thinking life would get better and better, but my energy level was just gone. The more I worked, the more I depleted my resources because, unknown to me, my body was using every ounce it had to fight the infection in my lungs. Finally, one day, when I was working on a two inch copper drain line in the ceiling of an office building, I realized I’d had enough. I was coughing up blood and it felt as if someone had taken a home-run swing at my rib-cage with a telephone pole. My breath started getting shorter and shorter and by the time I made it home I could barely breathe. I don’t scare easily, the other incidents where I had one foot on a banana peel and the other in the grave were nothing compared to this. I really thought I was going to die. If I’d been alone it wouldn’t have done me any good to call 911 as I could barely get out a whisper of a single syllable at a time. I had to write down what was wrong. My wife got me in the car and we sped off to the hospital where a real diagnosis was finally made of my condition. I spent two or three days (I don’t really recall) under close observation and was sent home with a bunch of antibiotics. I went back to work soon thereafter but It was another month before I felt normal. Since then I’ve had two more bouts of pneumonia but neither of those were as bad as that first time. It’s totally disabling, and I wouldn’t wish it on Satan himself.

6. MRSA –

MRSA stands for “Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus” which obviously is (ewww…) a mouthful. I for one am glad it’s most commonly referred to by its acronym. It’s basically a strain of staph bacteria that’s become highly resistant to antibiotics. CA-MRSA (which specifies my exposure was outside a medical facility) is the strain I was lucky enough to make friends with. It started with a sore knee. There was no cut or break on my skin of any kind, which was weird. I didn’t think much of it at first, just figured I’d banged it on something a little too hard, but the swelling kept increasing with more and more pain accompanying it. Finally, after several days I reluctantly went to my physician. My wife went with me and was in the room for the initial exam. The doctor literally jumped back a little when he saw my leg and proceeded to very, very carefully touch it. The moment he did he said  “This is extremely hot, you need to go to the hospital, now!” He must have called ahead because they seemed to be expecting us and I was only in the emergency room for a few minutes. I spent at least three days bedridden, and to be honest, I really don’t remember much of the incident, but I DO remember a few things. I was on a constant flow of liquid antibiotics, I was also on morphine for the pain, and I recall a visit from the surgeon in charge of my case. He was standing at the foot of my bed looking at my knee which was swollen to the size of a football and said “We can’t risk draining it, it could spread like wildfire. We are going to monitor this extremely closely and if the infection moves into the joint itself (apparently it wasn’t yet, and I have no idea how they knew) your leg is coming off with in the hour.” I was in no position to argue, that’s for sure. Soon thereafter my condition improved and I went home. I did need follow up visits of course but all ended up fine, until…

A year and a half later it happened again, to my other knee. Same thing, no break in the skin or visible cut. Luckily my hospital stay this time was shorter and the case was somewhat less severe. I have both legs these days but my knees still hurt occasionally, although that’s probably more my age and job than anything… I hope.

7. Back Surgery with Complications –

On January 16, 2015 I had back surgery. Less than twenty-four hours before I wrote a post on this blog – 76. So close to giving up recalling the weeks leading up to where I found myself. The days to follow were a totally different story. I was eagerly looking forward to some sort of relief from my sleepless nights and 24/7 suffering, little did I know the worst was NOT behind me (yes, pun intended.) The operation went fine although it took almost twice as long as was originally intended, four and a half hours as opposed to an estimation of two and a half. I was told there was more “complications” than anticipated once they had a better look at my condition. No matter, it was done and I figured I could go home and at least sleep. This fantasy was short lived. Now, my memory of a five month period from the start of my injury to when I returned to work is almost a blank slate. I can recall certain incidents, but the timeline is a complete wash. My guess is my mind went into some sort of “wipe” mode, something I never thought could happen. These days I have to rely on my wife’s recollection of events to fill in almost every detail. I’d originally thought my second setback during this time happened right after regaining consciousness from my anesthesia, apparently not. I’d been home for only about twenty-four hours and was resting on our bed when I realized I had almost no energy, I wasn’t actually paralyzed, but I then again I couldn’t move in the slightest. My wife wasn’t home and the phone wasn’t anywhere near me, so I laid there, fading away. At some point, perhaps an hour after the episode began, she came home and I managed to explain my condition. Took me over half an hour to make it to the car, by far the hardest physical struggle of my life. Once I finally made it back to the emergency room I was diagnosed with  pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in my lungs) accompanied by pneumonia. The doctors told my wife if she hadn’t come home when she did I would have died. I recall the head physician telling me I went down to about 3%. He said it was extremely close but I was going to make it. I was another week on the hospital, nine days total. It’s amazing just how much mobility and even muscle strength can be lost by staying in bed for a week, and my heart breaks for those who go through such ordeals, often for much, much longer periods than me. The next few months saw a HUGE weight gain along with periods of boredom and depression. I went back to work in May of that year and while it was excruciating, it was also invigorating. Took a long time to feel normal again, but I did and here I am over four years later, ticking away just fine.

I’m convinced my recovery from alcoholism has given me added diligence to help me to step past everything that’s happened since I sobered up. It would be nice if my life ahead would be guaranteed clear sailing; BUT you know what’s even nicer? It’s knowing I can confront my almost inevitable upcoming setbacks with an attitude valor because I have LOTS of practice.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

119. EYES OF WONDER

Most of my favorite memories were first time events, and I’ll bet the same is true for the majority of adults. These peak moments are anchor points to what we believe is the very best life has to offer, and for most, the older we get, the less we seem to experience these milestones. What was once exciting and anticipatory all too quickly becomes monotonous and ordinary. Childhood is crammed with examples of excitement, while grown-up life is more repetitious. I have nothing against a good solid routine because when it’s disciplined, it can bring great rewards. We pay bills, we go to work, we have food, we have chores and duties, and through these choices we generate comforts and other necessities that keep chaos and uncertainty tamed. On the other hand without spontaneity, or at the very least, something planned to look forward to, it becomes easy to let our eyes glaze over at the thought of another redundant day.

I’ve discussed before on other entries about how time passes differently the older we get, seeming to speed up as we age. As children, having essentially a blank slate ready and waiting to fill with experience and memories, we have no choice but to look forward to everything; it doesn’t matter if what’s expected is good or bad, all we do at this level is visualize the future which carries with it the illusion of slowing down our perception of time. Let’s face it, kids in second grade don’t sit around and discuss life in a retrospective manner. As we grow older and accumulate perspectives and narrative, the more we naturally look back, and this is usually helpful. When faced with one of life’s puzzles we reach back into the archives and extract information that hopefully will aid in properly reacting to or solving what needs attention. It’s an unconscious act for most, and we probably wouldn’t survive without this ability. On the other hand many DO reach back consciously and relive memories in the form of regret. If regret is the main choice of reaction when revisiting the past, we tend to do its equal when looking forward, which is worry. Both of these choices are useless and cancerous. I believe practicing this habit is the fuel that speeds up time because we’ve stopped practicing hope for what lies ahead and acceptance for our yesterdays. The more we want something, the longer it takes to arrive, the less we want something, the faster it’s upon us. Reminiscing and planning on the other hand, the polar opposites of regret and worry, can be a healthy and enjoyable pastime as long as the present remains the main focus of living. This is an abbreviated observation I’ve written about in years back, but revisiting this concept will help illustrate the upcoming point I intend to make.

I don’t know about you, but I miss the having the ability to conjure butterflies in anticipation of upcoming festivities. It was a good feeling, one that often surpassed the actual event. This is because my fantasy of what was to happen had limitless possibilities; I had no preconceptions to taint my optimism, These daydreams not only stimulated my imagination, they fueled visions of what I wanted even further into my future. There were also occasions where I was totally surprised at what I saw as an impulsive adventure. When my parents took me to the Denver zoo when I was nine, and they had kept their plans secret, well, that day is one of the standout moments in my childhood. The first time I stepped foot into a carnival I was probably seven or so, and THIS was like visiting another planet. The colors, smells, the barkers tempting passerby’s with their crap games and even crappier prizes, and the rides at night, spinning and twisting, dressed in neon, and sound-tracked with joyful screams from the riders was overwhelmingly intoxicating. Now when I’ve gone to those places I find myself disappointed, not just because I see past the superficialities of the environment, but because I’m aware I can never re-create the first-time impression from my youth. In actuality this attitude is a LIE, one I all too frequently convince myself of; almost without even being aware of it.

I don’t have children, but I imagine one of the most rewarding joys of parenthood is being there to witness incidents similar to our history as they encounter them for the first time. We cannot help but share in their enthusiasms because joy and bliss are not only extremely contagious, but highly sought after. I’m sure these experiences create an even more powerful bond between family members which is why we seek to manifest such events on a regular basis. I believe the same is possible for those without kids as long as they pursue an identical dynamic with relatives and friends. Admittedly the frequency may be significantly diminished, but for most opportunities are there nonetheless. If this seems like the only way to recapture life for the first time, it’s not. We needn’t be vicarious in going about it, and it’s not that hard to do.

There’s a way to re-boot the adolescent point-of-view, and that is by getting in touch with our “inner-child.” The attitudes of immaturity and irresponsibility are NOT what is meant to be expressed by aligning with this doctrine. There are many who DO think this is the way, and the results can be extraordinarily catastrophic. There are two books, somewhat dated now but still relevant nonetheless, called “The Peter Pan Syndrome” and “The Cinderella Complex” that delve into the idea and disastrous consequences of never wanting to grow up and take responsibility for our own lives. I have indeed read them myself, but admittedly it’s been some years ago. Most will be insulted by the first few pages and never have the courage and humility to actually self-evaluate. Such is the power and danger of letting the ego run our lives. What I’m eluding to here is embracing the idea of seeing the world as we first did, through eyes of wonder. The only thing that prevents us from doing so is our insistence in holding on to a single concept, and that concept is prejudice.

Prejudice is NOT a negative word, it simply means to “pre-judge” something. We all do it, and for the most part there’s nothing wrong with educated use. We know from experience what foods we can and cannot, or at the very least, should not eat, we know what impending weather may cause us to grab an umbrella for later in the day, we anticipate how someone may react if we unavoidably or accidentally upset them, and we express elevated politeness when approaching strangers. All these examples require a pre-judgement of some sort. We want to feel comfortable and assured in most situations. For most the practice goes unnoticed and therefore is usually subconscious. If we force ourselves to become aware of pre-judgments it becomes an easy (choose-able) exercise to pretend there’s no judgement of the situation whatsoever. Don’t believe me? I’m telling you it’s not all that difficult. When we find ourselves able to enter this state of mind we will have reconnected with our true “inner child.” In other words we can manipulate ourselves into having primordial experiences. Again, the key is to remove ALL judgement from what we encounter.

Here are some suggestive exercises –

  • Go to the mall, park, grocery store, anywhere there are a variety of people and just look. Don’t think. If you are struggling with stereotypes then at least focus on finding the most beautiful thing you can about everyone. I’m well aware this too is a judgement, BUT, it’s one we automatically maintain when in the mindset of innocence, which is where we want to be anyway. There’s no such thing as fat, thin, old, young, male, female, clean, messy, rich, poor, and on and on, JUST people.
  • The next time you’re driving, and someone is being what you might usually be label as rude, obnoxious, or thoughtless, entertain the idea this person might be trying to get to their parent, spouse, or child who is dying in the hospital. If this happened to me I guarantee I’d break a few traffic laws trying to get there as fast as possible and I’d bet you would too. I also know this is a judgement, however, if we swap a knee-jerk negative response for an empathetic one, we re-wire our minds to see and experience the world on a whole new level.
  • For most of us the music we grew up with has powerful connections to recreating feelings, events, and memories. A lot are pleasant, but some are downright annoying. The next time a song comes on you REALLY can’t stand, just listen. Pretend you’ve never heard it before. Focus on every part of it, the structure, words, rhythm, and message. Keep in mind the songs you hate are ALWAYS someone’s favorite. I pick music because it’s everywhere, in every culture, and it’s a fast artistic expression of how someone else views their life and world.

There is one more way to reconnect with a puerile sense of awe, even if we are determined to hold onto a judgmental attitude, and that is to actively “take chances.” Doing this on a regular basis will eventually override a lifetime of subjective programming. Taking chances is not as forbidding as it sounds, and there’s plenty of existing evidence in everyone’s lives that can be used as leverage to push us out of our comfort zones. All anyone needs to do is look at their own track record. This next question may be one of the most important observations ever –

“How many times in your past is regret attached to actually having taken a chance?”

Even those chances we took that initially turned out as failures often became the foundations for unexpected rewards. Now ask the opposite, “How many times in your past is there regret attached to having avoided taking a chance?” Personally I have no regrets, I refuse to live in this frame of mind, however, there used to be a time where I overwhelmed with disappointment whenever I focused on my history, so I have common ground with the consequences of holding onto such a damaging perspective. I have another post that addresses this attitude with greater detail. 81. WORDS OF POWER – WHY NOT?. If you’re having trouble with coming up with ideas of just what exactly to take a chance on, simply sit down and write a list of your fears. You’ll have generated plenty of opportunities to put this experiment to the test in a matter of minutes.

The inner child awaits inside everyone. It craves a life without judgement. It is who we TRULY are, a being of Love, gratitude, and unending curiosity.

Please follow my blog, comment and share as you wish.

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

118. TWENTY-FOUR YEARS SOBER

Well, here I am, one year away from the quarter-century mark in my recovery. I must admit it doesn’t seem like it, but truthfully that’s a pretty good thing. Sometimes it feels like only a few months since I last drank. I still occasionally have dreams I’ve broken my sobriety, and while they are extraordinarily realistic as well as deeply frightening, I am nonetheless grateful for their continued presence. It keeps me reminded what I don’t want and sometimes that’s more valuable than knowing what I do want. I never think about alcohol in my daily life even though I’m besieged with ads, billboards, and commercials, not to mention a liquor store every two blocks whenever I get behind the wheel. None of these things sway my interest in the slightest. I was lucky in that I never really enjoyed the flavor of alcohol, I just chased the effects of it, so there’s no Pavlovian response to my five senses, thank God.

What breaks my heart the most is seeing others who are where I was and knowing I can’t really do anything to help them, although knowing this doesn’t stop me from (gently) trying. I understand how hopelessness feels, I empathize with what it’s like to want to live AND die at the same time. I wish I could hand over the experiences and knowledge I’ve accumulated to those who need it most, but in the end the best I can do is let others know I was once where they are now and try my best to be an example of someone who managed to find a way out. Looking back on the past two dozen years I’ve done a lot to get where I am now. At the beginning of my recovery I thought it would be an uphill battle, one with overwhelming challenges and unforeseen obstacles. Nothing of the future I had envisioned has come to pass. What I’d feared or wished for never happened. Disaster never struck and fortunes surpassed even my most hopeful of fantasies. Most of it’s been fun, surprising, and completely rewarding. Yes, there have been times of challenge, but my fortitude has easily outweighed every so-called setback. Nothing on my path has been a burden. It’s almost as if I exchanged ten years of my life in payment for what I consider to be a Utopian existence.

Every A.A. birthday I’ve had since I started this blog I’ve written a post to express my gratitude and to share my journey with others. The chances that this particular entry matches closely some of the other ones I have written wouldn’t surprise me. On occasion I go back to read and share other entries, but not the ones published on my birthdays, and I have a very specific reason for doing this. I want what I feel at this moment to be written down without self-bias. I don’t want to taint my connection with spirit. If it so happens to match what I said last year, well, does it really matter?

As a closing thought I will say this, my intuition, my insight, my inner voice tells me that something very, very big is on the horizon in my life, something good, something miraculous. We’ll see what I have to say next year.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

117. ALMOST DEAD – PART ONE

One of the weirdest things about my life is the amount of times I’ve almost died. Despite having one foot in the grave on several occasions I’m (obviously) still here, as cheerful and productive as ever. If nothing else, these incidents have served to magnify a continued appreciation for each day. My ever-increasing gratitude towards life has been elevated by several close calls, though I’m not sure how much more I’m willing to take. This ”payment/reward” program I’ve been both fortunate AND unfortunate enough to participate in is getting old, and I’d like to think I can continue my path of elevated awareness without occasionally standing on the edge of oblivion.

1. Car accident

The day after Christmas December 1980, I was planning on spending the weekend at my (yes, we are still) friend’s house. I can’t remember how I got there, perhaps my father had dropped me off. In any case we were both excited to have some time to goof off together during our two-week vacation from school. In our misguided excitement for the forthcoming weekend of pointless activities we managed to talk my friend’s mother into letting us drive to the nearest town for some junk food. Now… my friend, who had his learners permit, did NOT have a driver’s license yet. He promised to stay on the back roads leading in and out of town. It was perhaps six to seven-mile round trip. His brother, also my friend joined us and off we went. Just outside of the limits of his community we got into a wreck. No one else was involved and there was no property damage. We ended up sliding out of control on a dirt road a driving headfirst into a rather steep ditch where the vehicle, a 74′ Ford LTD, flipped over; on its side first then onto its top. The momentum threw me into the back seat and through the rear passenger window where I did a human impression of a cannonball hitting the ground a split-second before pushing me back into the cab. As I was still flying around, I put my hand to my head expecting to feel my brain. No joke, I hit THAT hard. Well, my head stayed intact, and I had no other real injuries. IF I had been wearing my seat belt, I’d be either dead or much shorter as the dash was smashed flat against the floor of the vehicle. I do wear them these days, BUT in this instance my laziness in not putting it on probably saved my life. The emergency clinic my father (reluctantly) brought me to said I had a concussion of my entire right hemisphere. They sent me home to sleep it off. Doubt if that would happen today. Both my friend and his brother ended up no worse for wear than I was. Events such as these serve to solidify my belief that more than luck guides our destiny.

2. Carbon monoxide poisoning

I was a janitor in the late eighties where we used propane buffers quite often as a final step to our cleaning process. They resemble lawnmowers with either seventeen or twenty-seven-inch buffing pads. They’re heavy, but normally extremely safe. Not this night. Apparently, the store we were working in had forgotten to leave the air circulation system on. This, coupled with a faulty scrubber on the exhaust system of the unit we were using, ended up filling the store with carbon monoxide fumes… only we didn’t know that at the time. I recall feeling a little sleepier than normal, but not alarmingly so. Another man who had just moved from Phoenix to work for our company was with me. He’d never done this type of work before and I was training him in our procedures. He too was unaware of our deadly atmosphere. We got a rude awakening upon leaving early the following morning and walking outside. Apparently the fresh are changed how we felt, and I for one began to REALLY falter. I got in my van after loading up our equipment and started driving down one of Denver’s main streets towards home. The highway had little appeal as it was rush hour and I was a good twenty miles from home. Thinking my symptoms might eventually clear, I headed south with my window down in the middle of winter. My suspicions were correct as to what was wrong with me, but I underestimated my condition. The further I went, the worse I felt. It wasn’t long before my arms and legs began to go numb and it felt like someone took a home-run swing with a sledgehammer at my crotch. Looking back the pain probably helped to keep me somewhat alert. The people around must have thought I was drunk and it’s a wonder the cops didn’t pull me over. I recall thinking if I fell asleep, I’d die, so I started fighting the urge. It finally dawned on me I had to go to the hospital. About five miles from home I managed to pull into the parking lot of a 7-11 knowing someone would be there no matter what. I parked next to a cabdriver who was calmly eating his breakfast behind the wheel, opened my door, and fell onto his hood and then the ground with a thud. He was understandably alarmed and ran to get the employees of the store to help. Eventually an ambulance showed up and they whisked me off to the emergency room. I recovered of course, but this incident was the beginning of the end of my career in janitorial.  By the way, the gentleman I was with ALSO ended up in a different emergency room. He quit after one day and moved back to Phoenix. Don’t blame him…

3. Alcohol Withdrawal

In January of 1995 I was six months away from sobering up for good. I was still working nights and on my way to a job surprisingly close to the store I had carbon-monoxide poisoning in several years prior. This was at the peak of my highest consumption, two-fifths of vodka a day, but on this day I hadn’t had a drink for about forty-eight hours. Anyone who has knowledge about alcohol withdrawals will know this is a dangerous time, I hadn’t a clue, but today was about to be a life-changing lesson in it. I was shaky, felt like crap, but going to work nonetheless. It was a Sunday and still light out. Since it was a Sunday the store closed early making the night several hours longer. This never bothered me since a longer shift always allowed more  time to get things done. As I approached the halfway mark between home and work, I had an “incident”. The whole left side of my body shut down. My eye blacked out as my face started melting of my skull. At the same instant my left arm curled instantly up under my chin, totally useless. My leg was immobile as well, no longer able to activate my clutch; all this while going 70 miles per hour. I tried screaming “What’s happening to me!” but couldn’t really pronounce what I was trying to say as my mouth wasn’t working. I managed to pull off the nearest exit and behind a Denny’s restaurant without killing anyone. I managed to get out of my van in panic mode and began trying to uncurl my left arm while hopping on one leg and trying to see everything through my right eye. I imagine the whole scene was rather comical to the casual observer. After about fifteen minutes of flailing around everything popped back, kind of. My mobility returned as did my vision, but I started involuntarily shaking so hard it’s a wonder I didn’t take flight. I crawled back into my van and continued to work. Going to the hospital never entered my mind. Such is the madness of alcoholism. I arrived to the job early and put on a fake smile while hiding my hands in my pockets as much as possible. When I was locked in and knew no one could see me, I collapsed on the floor. Probably stayed there for an hour before I even moved. I called the A.A. hotline that night and although it was some time before I finally quit drinking, this was the first real domino toward my eventual recovery.

4. Heat stroke

I’m a new construction plumber, and since 1995 my job has required me to work outside fairly regularly. Sometimes the weather conditions can be extremely hostile. I’ve had days where it was twenty below zero and some that were pushing a hundred and ten in the sun. This day was the latter. I was installing gas pipe on the roof of a building and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. It was damn hot and had no air conditioning in my vehicle to occasionally retreat to, so I was toughing it out. I DID keep up on my fill of water BUT I can’t stand salt, so I avoid it. As a result my body doesn’t retain fluids like it should. The day wore on and I after approached about thirty piping cuts I began to feel the effects. When I leaned over my work I was reminded of Robert Hayes in “Airplane!” My face had sprouted a faucet, nothing was staying in me, just flowing through me. I packed up around three-thirty and decided to head to our office which was, fortunately, only one mile from the job site. I wasn’t thinking straight and my mental symptoms were rapidly deteriorating into a state resembling being drunk, which I hadn’t been in about four years. As soon as I got behind the wheel I called my boss and told him what I thought was wrong with me and that I was headed to the shop. He yelled at me, rightfully so, but at this point I was only several hundred yards from pulling in. When I did park I fell out of the van (jeez, I REALLY do keep falling out of vans, don’t I?) and another co-worker, Ralph, saw me and came running. He asked if I was okay and I promptly assured him I wasn’t. He literally dragged me into the building and plopped me into a chair in the hallway while office personnel gathered around to see if they could help. By this time my body was shutting down. Both my arms and legs had become immobile. My skin had dried out and I was dying of thirst. When heat stroke (NOT exhaustion, that’s the first stage) kicks in this is what happens. The brain, which has begun to cook in the skull, says “save the core” meaning, of course, the head and torso. Everything else becomes expendable. All body fluids withdrew from my appendages to save my organs and brain and I became a temporary quadriplegic. No one knew what to do; neither did I. Rather quickly an ambulance showed up and took me to the nearest hospital. I called my then girlfriend, now wife, and she met me there. It took a while, but after several hours and multiple intravenous bags of fluid, I was released. Believe it or not I was back to work the next day, though I probably shouldn’t have pushed it.  Those who have had heat stroke become extremely susceptible to a re-occurrence. The “switch” gets turned on but can never be turned off. If I work in the heat these days I take “Thermotabs” and they work wonders for me. They’re cheap and can be only purchased over the counter, but no one needs a prescription. They aren’t for everyone so talk to your doctor before using them.

Since I’m still here I suppose I haven’t fulfilled my destiny as of yet, which means if I want to stick around, I need to keep a road of continued purpose clearly laid out. So far, so good!

That’s all for now, part two coming soon with three more “stories.”

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

116. WHO AM I?

For years, decades actually, this simple statement, finding out who I REALLY was, was never on my radar. I shuffled through the days with no eagerness, no purpose, and no intent on manufacturing a life of abundance. Status quo was fine. As long as tomorrow wasn’t much worse than today, why would I try reaching towards dreams that seemed more like fantasy than possibility? Looking into the mirror I never saw anyone of value; twice nothing is still nothing; this world with me or without me would be the same. Trying and failing was a much more painful prospect (I thought) than never starting, so motivations were completely absent. Nonjudgmental self-evaluation was something I never knew existed, let alone how to practice, though I DID constantly criticize myself, and this path almost led me to an untimely death. Why? Because in my mind all perceived error deserves punishment, or so I thought. I saw all my “mistakes” as permanent character flaws rather than temporary learning opportunities.

One thing’s for sure, I’ve ALWAYS felt like a triangular peg living in a round world; maybe more accurately a star shaped peg. In any case my attitudes and beliefs have never quite seemed to match anyone else’s, especially when I was young. I’m sure this feeling is true for a great many people, but my point is when you (think) you’re a drop of water in a dessert, it’s difficult to find kindred spirits. As a result I began to question if my thought process was totally out of alignment with the rest of mankind’s. Wondering if my sanity was intact was a disturbing notion, one I avoided contemplating. It’s no wonder alcohol and its ability to numb my emotions had an eventual massive appeal.

With these two outlooks on life, basically (choosing to become) an “apathetic alien”, I subconsciously attacked myself from more than one angle. The more I convinced myself I didn’t belong in this world, the more I died a little every day. I’m glad I didn’t.

So, WHO AM I?

I’m now a person who doesn’t care about the question “Who was I?” I remind myself of the past by keeping an occasional eye on my rear-view mirror because it’s good (and in my case, healthy) to know what I don’t want. These days I do indeed look to the horizon (something I NEVER did in my youth) and fantasize about all my plans and dreams, but this still isn’t my primarily focus. I’m hyper-aware I’m neither what was, or what might be. I am what the moment presents, part intent on my part, part what the universe hands me. I refuse to believe I’m the sum total of my (unwanted) history because I try my best to avoid letting previous negative patterns influence the present. Just because I responded a certain way before is no excuse to repeat my behavior under similar circumstances. I’m sorry to say this doesn’t always happen, but I’m much better at this exercise than I used to be. Recognizing a Pavlovian response is eighty-percent of the battle anyway.

Perhaps it would help to define who I am, who I choose to be now by generating a list.

  • I am open-minded.
  • I am Loving.
  • I am receptive to criticism.
  • I am a morning person.
  • I am creative.
  • I am enthusiastic.
  • I am always looking for a good laugh.
  • I am idealistic.
  • I am decisive.
  • I am constantly improving.
  • I am driven.
  • I am a good communicator.
  • I am spontaneous.
  • I am (also) well prepared.
  • I am well connected to my emotions.
  • I am a hard worker.
  • I am in recovery.
  • I am kind.
  • I am artistic.
  • I am concerned more for others than myself.
  • I am organized (at work…)
  • I am blessed.

A rundown of qualities is all fine and well, but coming up with a list of my inadequacies is probably much more important to REALLY answering “Who am I?” It’s important to note I do NOT currently consider these as defects like I used to. I see them now as nothing more than areas needing the most attention.

  • I am a procrastinator.
  • I am a poor listener.
  • I am out of shape.
  • I am impatient.
  • I am an interrupter.
  • I am forgetful.
  • I am disorganized (at home…)
  • I am not using my time wisely.
  • I am putting off my dreams.
  • I am not practicing my art like I know I should.
  • I am not even close to my potential.
  • I am annoyed by reminders of what I should do.
  • I am not as healthy as I could be.
  • I am judgmental.
  • I am wired for addiction.
  • I am stubborn.
  • I am loud.
  • I am undisciplined.
  • I am undereducated.

It’s difficult to self-diagnose, and I’m sure even my closest friends could write a longer list of my needed “upgrades” than I could. The good news is I AM on a path of constant improvement. It’s not as fast as I’d like it to be and I do often find myself taking two steps back for every three forward, but these side trips do not discourage me in the end.

So, “Who am I?”

I’m a work in progress, I’m a person who won’t ever go into “glide mode”. I am opposite of everything I don’t want to be, and honestly, that’s a damn good place.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

115. THE REAL MAGIC WORD

As far as I’m concerned it’s NOT “Please”; though I have no objection to generously using it on a daily basis. The following question should help distill my objective.

“Other than money, what’s the biggest reason you go to work and do what you do?”

The vast majority of us have bills, obligations, and essentials requiring a paycheck. No one can survive without food, shelter, and clothing. Beyond the absolute basics there’s transportation, communication, and most importantly, toilet paper. Further down the list are a plethora of other motivations urging us to seek a source of income. These include entertainment, comfort, and unfortunately, all kinds of bad habits. In all, what keeps us breathing, and hopefully looking forward to coming home, manifests from the rewards of our work. Obviously a massive part of what influences us to be a productive part of society is our ability to generate an income. We’re driven to fulfill what we need and what we want. This is the clay of a purposeful life. Desires and necessities coupled with compensation for our actions and skills are the basic ingredients for what we hope to create. There’s little doubt as to why money is at the top of most people’s lists.

So the first question remains, “Beyond money, what do people expect most from their jobs?” The answer may possibly reveal a highly common thread, one that if recognized by those who can strengthen it, will end up wielding great power. I put this before one of my supervisors years ago to see what kind of answer I’d get and got nothing in return but a blank stare. Just as I figured to begin with, he really had no response. I’m a supervisor as well, and I  do my best practice what I preach, so I knew exactly what my answer was. 

The great lever of motivation is, in a word, appreciation. Those who feel appreciated will usually do whatever it takes to keep the flow of positive acknowledgement from waning. It’s not that applause or title is necessarily sought, just the knowledge that their efforts have had a positive effect on the people they associate with (and their extended environment) is often all the reward one needs to keep themselves moving forward. Yes, money is indeed wonderful compensation for our services, but sometimes a simple “thank you” is almost more valuable to the employer than throwing dollars at the issue. As I continued my conversation (with my then boss) I felt compelled to point out that a crew of people who receive no accolades are, in the end, working only for a paycheck, and that’s it. Few in this situation will step up and and raise their standards above expectations. Those who do remain in such positions for only brief periods before moving up the food chain.

In my youth I had supervisors who were, in my opinion, extremely flawed. As I observed the behaviors of those I thought were incompetent, I made mental notes of what to never do once I got in a position of higher responsibility. One such man was the type to take all the credit for what we had done. Make no mistake, he had every right to, he was the supervisor, but I knew how this affected the rest of us when he’d give his nightly progress report (right in front of us) to the store manager every morning. “I” did this, “I” did that with no tip of the hat to the crew whatsoever. Lesson learned. From then on, no matter what, if someone did something good, I was going to hand them the credit, even if it was something that might make me look somewhat less than 100% efficient. 

Giving credit where credit is due creates powerful allies. It may occasionally chafe the ego, but the price still remains a bargain. It’s easy enough to understand the dynamic of it because the opposite is just as glaringly true; taking credit from others breeds enemies. An egotistical attitude is as common as dust and therefore has little value to those who hand us our paychecks. Humility, on the other hand, is a rare commodity and by its nature demands compensation. Gratitude is the energy of growth and resentment is the fuel of destruction. Don’t be like everyone else looking to tear down as many as possible just to try and shine a light on yourself. Spotlight others for someday they may be in a position to return the favor. 

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood 

 

114. PLEASURE AND HAPPINESS

Pleasure and happiness are commonly interpreted as interchangeable. They aren’t. Like the collaborative relationships of nature, north and south, man and woman, day and night, and so on, they share a singular purpose but have significantly different energies. Embracing or aligning with just one end of the spectrum will eventually result in oblivion for both. This observation can be made in a personal context as well. Our duality of existence is thought and action, or perhaps more easily relatable to most as spirit and body. Both of our “worlds” need the proper nourishment to survive, feeding one and starving the other will result in dangerous imbalances, yet this type of lifestyle is exactly what we are taught.

Looking around there are endless examples suggesting we seek one thing, pleasure, and ALL pleasure is designed to please either the body or the ego. The list is ridiculously long and reminders are everywhere. Ads for food, cars, clothing, money, drugs, image, and on and on are plastered ad nauseum in commercials, movies, television, magazines, billboards, and honestly anywhere our eyes might wander. The hope is, of course, to appeal to our need for pleasure. It may even be safe to say most of it is designed to reinforce our desire to not lose pleasure. In any case the energy that drives our lust for pleasure is… fear. Fear that we don’t have what might make our lives better, fear of not being able to sustain our lifestyle, and fear of being left behind while the rest of the human race steps up their game. Pleasure isn’t evil, never was. It’s our imbalance of pursuit that’s the cause misery. Any life lived from the outside-in eventually leads to pain and suffering. When we identify who we are by external methods we quite literally let go of our control of self-image. Our foundation becomes based on “stuff” rather than ideas. principles, ethics, beliefs, and dreams. The oft misquoted Bible verse from 1 Timothy 6:10 sums up the idea rather nicely, even if one isn’t Christian – “For the love of money (or, all things material in nature) is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

We are creatures of thought FIRST, because without thought, we cannot act. It doesn’t matter if the thoughts are “good” or “bad”, conscious or subconscious; intent always precedes achievement. Yes, outside influences can trigger decision making, but actions are still powered by choice, which means it’s something we can learn to manipulate. Therefore, if one seeks a stable existence, then one must do so from the inside out. Not only that, once we realize how it works, we are obligated to become more and more aware of what we are thinking so what we really want aligns with what we want to manifest. If most of our thoughts (subconscious or not) are negative to begin with, then life has no choice to react outside of us in a destructive manner. It’s not that difficult to observe, negative people lead destructive lives, positive people lead constructive lives.

Happiness is generated from within. It’s produced from an attitude of appreciation, tolerance, empathy, and all the qualities that make up what we label as Love. It’s Love that fuels the power of this elusive emotion. While pleasure is based solely in the physical world, happiness is mental in origin. The journey from our inner existence to our outer one is easier than one might think. Don’t take my word for it, look for examples in other people, especially those who have come back from dark places and you will see the truth of it. If you’ve ever wondered why some are “blessed” with abundance coupled with ACTUAL happiness, it’s because they have learned to live life from spirit first. They are the ones with ethics, they are the ones who never mock or scorn others, they are the ones we are most envious of.

Finally we come to the dual purpose of these seemingly opposing forces. Where pleasure and happiness balance each other out, peace originates, and peace is the most elusive of all pursuits. It carries the most value because this is where we become free from the burdens of worry and regret. This is where we stop judging and start accepting, especially who WE OURSELVES are. This slim border between our two energies is where we as humans are meant to live and thrive. So few have, and they are the ones we worship.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

113. SEEKING HIGHER HIGHER POWER

Higher-Power-Chip_BRM132_1

Twelve step programs can be life-saving paths for those in desperate need of direction and support. My opinion sides with the obvious, they are highly available and free; which means when it comes to people blithering out excuses they’re in a hopeless place where no one will help them, my eyes roll backwards so far I can see my bald spot. One thing’s for sure, the effectiveness of any particular group is limited to the quality of the recovery of those in said group, which means messages and lessons will vary drastically. This sucks, but it’s all too true. It ALSO means when first entering the program one must go to a large variety of meetings before one where healing and more importantly, honesty is required on both sides of the table.

The idea of embracing a higher power, insofar as what’s expected by the steps themselves and those who are willing to help and guide you, is probably the most common stumbling block I’ve encountered. Some oppose the structure of A.A. and similar programs because of what they feel are built-in Christian ethics and ideas. Hogwash. Yes, there are some references to religion, but rest assured no one is forcing this. There are zero recruitment practices encouraged. It exists for two very important reasons, at least as far as I’m concerned.

  1. Most people have some sort of religious background in the first place, and in the United States it happens to be Christianity, which, by the way, covers a plethora of beliefs and titles, most of which don’t get along anyway.  Even if this is only from unwanted childhood experiences, very few people have never been to a church service. Let’s face it, a lot of us grew up with celebrating the holidays of Christmas and Easter anyway through television specials and family events, so there’s a Pavlovian response built-in.
  2. There HAS to be a starting point to the idea of embracing a “higher power.” Where the person goes from here is totally up to them.

The preconception of a “higher power” as needing to be a deity of some sort is nothing more than an excuse on the part of the person seeking treatment to deny help and go back to a self-destructive and self-centered lifestyle. 

Let’s take a look at what “higher power” actually means. I can think of no one on Earth who cannot look toward a “higher power.” No one at all. If you are the type of person who wants more money, there are thousands of people who are obviously above you on the food chain. If it’s a peaceful mind you seek, one free of mental torture and anguish, there are legions of people who successfully practice this lifestyle. If it’s alcohol you want to be free from, trust me, there are plenty of those who were once in a hopeless state now willing to share their journeys. ANYONE who possess what we want is indeed a higher power. This is the way of life to begin with. We learn to read, communicate, work, play, and improve everything we do on the heels of those who have gone before us. Without the willingness to be led by others we are left with nothing but trial and error, and while trial and error may ever so slightly advance us toward our goals, it’s a horse and buggy ride compared to the rocket ship of teacher/student. The speed at which we learn from others is determined by a single factor, we MUST be willing to be criticized, which is the same thing as dropping the ego and embracing humility. This is a skill, one that can be honed and perfected, and when it’s wielded with practice and focus, can command the very power of the universe. Take notice that religion is totally off the table at this point. If this way of embracing life leads to an inner understanding of what God means to you, so be it. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter.

I will add this last observation which comes from experience. Don’t let the walls of A.A. (or any 12 step program) hold you in from exploring other venues and ways of expressing your dreams and goals. The Big Book itself says these two sentences towards the end of chapter eleven. “Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little.” Even the authors of this manuscript were insightful enough to admit their way was only a start. I’ve known many people who have sought out other paths in addition to the program and it can be a wonderful, and more than likely necessary enhancement, to a stratospheric life. It certainly has for me.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

112. MY SECOND FAVORITE JOKE

http://whyatt.com.au/

I started off this blog a few years back with my favorite joke. This is a very close second. If you don’t get it, just keep looking…

I think Tim Whyatt is a brilliant cartoonist although some of his stuff can be a little off-color. There’s a link to his website under the panel.

Hope I don’t get in trouble for posting this.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

111. HOW I STARTED IN A.A. – PART FOUR

When I turned twenty-nine my self-worth was non-existent. I really had forgotten, even for an instant, what happiness was. I occasionally had moments of pleasure and amusement, but these fleeting experiences were poor substitutes for what I wanted most. I attempted to manifest what I lacked by serving the hedonistic urges of my body, but I really had no idea how to feed my spirit. The soul needs only one nutrient to live, and I was starving it to death.

I loathed mirrors. All I ever saw looking back was someone not worthy of living. Rosacea covered my face. Massive amounts of straining from vomiting every day further enhanced the look of my existing splintered redness, especially in my eyes. Sometimes my heart would race wildly, so much so I thought a heart attack was imminent. I felt as if my absence from this Earth would improve the lives of everyone I knew, and the sad truth was, I was probably right. To be honest it was only after a year of recovery I could finally face my reflection and say out loud “I am a man!” Thirty-one years into my life before this would resonate as a warm truth instead of an outright lie.

For six months into of my last year of drinking I had sporadic contact with what would eventually become my home group in Alcoholics Anonymous. The man on the other end of the phone (when I’d called in January) was also a part of this circle. That night I was working at an Office Depot doing a monthly scrub, wax, and polish. I walked in, stuck my left hand that wouldn’t stop shaking in my pocket, put on a smile, and kept my distance until everyone left and locked me in. Once I was sure I was alone I immediately collapsed on the floor. No kidding. It was then I said a prayer, though at the time I had no idea it WAS a prayer. Before I made my call to destiny I said out loud in total desperation “I don’t care if I die broke and naked tomorrow as long as I die sober.” This was my bottom. It was also the beginning of my rise (it did NOT feel that way however) because I had, at that moment, resolved to pay any price the universe asked of me. I had painted myself into a corner where my only option was to start screaming for help.

As I said in part three my worst days were yet to come, and since I felt my health had no chance of a return to anything resembling normalcy, I went full-bore towards what I honestly hoped would be a quick death. The pain of D.T.s, my blackouts, and so on escalated. Still, there remained a steadfast flame inside, one that sprang to life the night I said my fateful prayer, it was the candle of willingness. Willpower it seems (also known as ego) had little to do with what I wanted to accomplish and everything to do with my self-destruction. Einstein said it best, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” 

These days I realize being open-minded equates with the ability to admit I’m wrong, and I’d indeed become open-minded, even if the door was cracked ever so slightly, although I’ll admit it seems like it came about by accident, albeit a stupendously fortunate one. Before I quit for good, and during the time I was wavering between sobriety and oblivion, I found myself once more on the phone with the same gentleman whose voice greeted me on the A.A. hotline a few months prior. I was working overnight in yet another location. The previous week had been one of the worst.

“You know Jeff, I just don’t know if anyone can really help me.”

“I actually agree with you, Daniel. I don’t think there’s a single person on Earth who can help you.”

That pushed me back on my heels. I was pitching the victim, and Jeff hit a home run with it, though it wasn’t until many weeks later I recognized the true dynamics of this particular conversation. After a few moments of stunned silence on my part I managed to get out another question.

“So,” I said in a shaky voice, “I’m never going to quit?”

“I never said that, don’t worry, you’ll quit eventually, trust me.”

Well, THAT knocked me down for the count. I felt my lips and face go numb at the truth of it. This moment was the turning point for me. I was both deeply frightened and massively inspired. Here was my “why not?” moment. Soon after this I took my last drink, and on August 28th, nineteen ninety-five I had my first thirty days of recovery in over ten years.

One thing’s rock solid, I had nothing to lose by going full tilt into the program. Two belief systems I owned ahead of time saved my life. First, I’ve never had a problem with accepting a higher power exists. I’ll admit my definition of a “higher power” is somewhat different from most who hold the same conviction, but in the long run it doesn’t matter anyway. No need to explain myself further on this point, at least for now. Second, I had a knowing I was going to express anger toward those people and ideas I was soon to surround myself with, and honestly, that helped with both expectations and tolerability.

I went to meetings the first year about three times a week. Many were in clubs and other fairly public venues like church basements or rented spaces, but it was my once a week home group on Thursday nights (which was in an actual home, my sponsor’s) where the REAL healing took place. I allowed myself to become deconstructed and reassembled here. This is where my spirit became greater than my body. This is where I FINALLY shed the layers of armor, masks, and secrets I’d buried myself under all my life, not just the past ten years. For the first time ever I felt…

human.

Happiness, purpose, prosperity, Love, a career, a real home, and many other facets of my life came rushing in. What I never realized was these things were there all the time, waiting for me to do nothing but step beyond my walls.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood