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

152. PAYING IT FORWARD

When I was in kindergarten we lived in a modest apartment in Bakersfield California. The couple who resided above us were older and the husband was retired from an unusual job, he had owned and maintained a variety of vending machines which included those small glass encased ones at the entrances and exits of stores designed to entice kids into begging money from their parents for cheap trinkets and bits of candy or, of course, gumballs. Pennies were easy to talk my parents out of, but silver coinage was another matter, so when I did manage to get my hands on larger denominations, my excitement rose considerably. Nothing I managed to buy was all that thrilling, but it was the anticipation of the unknown which made my eyes go wide at the sight of colorful and usually pointless baubles.

One night there came a knock.

“Good evening, I’m the gentleman who lives upstairs.”

My mother let the man in while I bounded towards the visitor with enthusiasm. My fear of strangers at that age was limited to one-on-one encounters, meaning while in the presence of my parents any such apprehension would never have manifested. As he stood there with his hands behind his back, he looked at me and smiled. 

“I have a gift for your son” and with that he produced a good sized plastic bag stuffed with dozens of gumball machine prizes. I was stunned that an almost total stranger would go out of his way to randomly give me something without really knowing who I was. All my previous gifts up until then had some sort of expectation attached to them. My relatives and parents gave me all sorts of things, but they were always because an occasion such as my birthday or Christmas had arrived. This was the first instance of random generosity I had encountered. He went on to explain where he had acquired his stash of miniature toys and thought I’d be happy to have them.

None of the individual items were all that impressive, but the event itself has become one of my favorite memories. As a result of this incident, I too was eventually inspired to periodically give without expectation of repayment, especially to strangers. Every once in a while when the mood strikes me I’ll take notice of the abundance in my life and the urge to share will strike. If the person does know I’ve done something, and they say they would like to eventually repay me, I always say, “just pay it forward.” I’ve occasionally purchased items when the person in front of me realizes they can’t afford everything they’ve picked out. Sometimes I’ll buy the order behind me in line at the drive through. I’ve also bought scratch tickets for whoever’s next in line, whispering to the cashier to tell them it’s a gift.

Other times I’ll be a total nutcase about it and I WILL ask for something in return, but this is rare.

A few years ago I was walking into a 7-11 and a young woman approached me asking for a dollar. One dollar, nothing more. I told her to wait. As finished my transaction and stepped out I said, “I’ll give you the dollar, but first you have to do this.” and I started doing the “old prospector dance”. After a few steps I stopped and went Ta-Dum! With a  dumbfounded expression she informed me she wasn’t going to do that, and I said with a goofy voice and an overanimated gesture, “Then you can’t have it.” She looked annoyed so I made a compromise, “I’ll tell you what… I’ll do it with you.” She sighed and we both started dancing in front of the store. My goal was to get her to at least smile, which she eventually did when we stopped. I then handed her the bill. “Here you go, not only did you get your dollar, but now you feel better too.” Honestly, I think being a dork is in my genes. 

To this day if I have change (or I can bum it off my wife) and I pass by those machines full of juvenile surprises, I’ll buy a bunch and leave them on top for the next kid to unexpectedly find so they too can share in a tiny bit of the joy I felt as a boy. Maybe someone years from now will remember their random discovery and they too will be inspired to pay it forward. 

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

151. ADOLESCENT SENIOR MOMENTS

When I turned eight my parents abruptly informed me that no more allowance was forthcoming. I was somewhat baffled since I had never really gotten one to begin with, so I immediately demanded back pay. I was serious and they thought it was funny. I suppose it WAS pretty funny. In any case they prodded me into generating my own income by suggesting I contact our neighbors and ask if I could do any odd jobs for them. Thus started my working habits at a fairly young age.

I was raised in the mountains of Colorado about twenty miles west of Castle Rock between 1971 to 1980 from the age of seven. The community we lived in was quite spread out and I really was one of those kids who had to walk quite a ways to the bus stop, often in horrible weather. Sometimes going to see a friend took an hour or more before finally reaching them. I didn’t complain because I never knew any better, it’s just the way I was raised. There were, of course, a few kids my age around, but I was close with only two or three over the years. In time the majority of my friends turned out to be those I sought comic book money from by doing various chores. Most of these people were, in fact, senior citizens.

Their names live on in my memories. Ed, Jack, Darlene, Kathy, Paulene and Paulene, Cecil and others had me doing all kinds of things for them over the years. Shoveling snow was usually the biggest one, but often it was gardening, chopping wood, cleaning gutters, hauling coal (a lot of people still had coal fed furnaces) cleaning trash, and clearing weeds.

Jack, the gentleman I eventually did the most work for, had me accompany him once a month to town so he could have someone help him to shop at health food stores, which were, at the time, rare… and for some reason remarkably tiny. Nothing like Whole Foods existed. I used to buy carob bars ( I know, ick… ) and other weird trinkets when I was out and about with him. One of his stops was around the corner from a used paperback bookstore, which for me, was like hitting the jackpot. Forty-five years later the bookstore is still there but the market is sadly, not. Jack definitely needed help carrying his groceries, but one of the weirdest things he’d have me do was swap out wheels on his pickup when the weather was bad. One set had chains preinstalled on them, the other had regular tires. By this time I was in my early teens so my strength and size were more valuable and I could swiftly handle such cumbersome duties. In the winter the weather was often harsh where we lived, but once we had usually reached a lower altitude, increased traction was no longer needed so his solution was to change the chains in this strange manner. Honestly it made no difference to me, there was no judgement on my part because I took any opportunity to get into town and explore. The money I earned was secondary. The saddest thing I did for him involved one of his dogs, which I of course knew quite well. One of them had crawled under his home and died. Jack needed me to get him out of there so I wriggled into the structural space and crept on my hands and knees through all the spiders and bugs. I got a hold of him by his leg, and dragged him free. It was quite a distance, maybe thirty feet or so. Once outside I proceeded to dig a grave. I buried him with as much dignity as I could and placed a makeshift marker in the spot. I cried the whole time.

One of the Paulene’s I knew was the owner of a car dealership and had two homes, one of which was close to my normal school bus stop about three quarters of a mile from my home. One day she asked me to do something strange. Her house was built in such a manner that the foundation walls were in place for a basement, but the builder had, for some reason, filled it back in with dirt, and most of it was to the rafters of the main floor. There was enough room to go down the stairs to a hollowed-out area where the propane furnace sat, but the rest was inaccessible except for a doorway to the back yard directly across from her makeshift mechanical room. Since it was a walk-out design, there was a way to exit the “basement” without going upstairs. By this point you’ve guessed what she wanted me to do, dig out her basement so she could finish it. It was easily a thousand square feet, and to add complications, the heat from system had dried out the soil (for what was likely thirty years or more) all the way to the mantle. I cheerfully accepted, and for the next several months I spent every evening after school digging out that rock hard earth. I’d end my shift with watering down the top so the following day I could scrape off about a half inch. I did waste a lot of time watching TV upstairs as she was really never there, but I ultimately got it done over the course of several months. In 1979 I made 100.00 off that job and walked away feeling like Midas.

Looking back I now see a common thread most of these people shared. Ed Cummins lived in a trailer and had advanced emphysema. Cecil Bookie had a small home in the valley where she sat, retired. Miss Rodgers was pretty much in the same boat as were several others, and Paulene was a widow. Basically they were all… lonely. It never occurred to me then, but often I spent more time just sitting and talking with these people than I did doing whatever they said they needed. Perhaps that was their primary goal to begin with. And while I enjoyed their company I didn’t label it as friendship until much later in life. Looking back I’m glad to say it was mutually beneficial as well as an honor to have served these people.

My understanding is when I left the neighborhood another kind young soul, a neighbor I knew of but was not friends with, took up my services and continued where I left off, so that’s comforting. I’m glad those who relied on me were not left with burdens they couldn’t handle on their own. These days the culture of youth going door to door to ask for work has vanished. My wife and I  have lived in the same home for twenty years now and never once has there been a knock from someone looking to earn a few extra dollars. Perhaps it’s because the comradery I had grown up with in this country has grown increasingly caustic, full of fear and suspicion. Some are faster to grab a gun instead of wield a smile when the doorbell goes off, but perhaps the real truth is many people want to be left alone these days, and that’s a shame, because those who desire solitude will assume the rest want it too.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

150. POSTS ONE HUNDRED THROUGH ONE HUNDRED FIFTY SUMMARY

When I started this blog almost nine years ago it was upon the recommendation of my editor. She suggested my skills in writing, as well as expressing myself, would improve with practice. Hopefully she was correct. I know when I reread some of my old posts they lack a smoothness that later ones do, but self-evaluation is not a good indicator of quality, so my assessment is most likely off. While she is continuing to work on my book, (which is almost done, promise) I cannot afford her services on this forum, at least yet. Some of my favorite entries on this list are numbers 102, 104, 106, 107, 136, and 141. I doubt this entry will get seen by many, but it’s a good tool (one of three now) to see and access all my topics in a condensed format.

Here are 100-150. The titles in bold are links to each page.


101. WHAT’S YOUR CALLING CARD? How people sell themselves, mostly subconsciously.

102. STAYING YOUNG What I’ve done to keep a youthful outlook.

103. A MAD LIB FOR ADDICTS PART 2 Just what it says, fun AND serious.

104. IF I COULD SNAP MY FINGERS My deepest wish, totally serious.

105. TWENTY-THREE YEARS IN RECOVERY Thoughts at twenty-three years, I NEVER write about my yearly anniversary with any aforethought.

106. THE SEVENTH SENSE Explaining my REALLY odd sense of humor.

107. AN UNPOPULAR OPINION The futility of trying to get rid of what’s unwanted. .

108. HOW I STARTED IN A.A. – PART ONE Self-explanatory.

109. HOW I STARTED IN A.A. – PART TWO Self-explanatory.

110. HOW I STARTED IN A.A. – PART THREE Self-explanatory.

111. HOW I STARTED IN A.A. – PART FOUR Self-explanatory.

112. MY SECOND FAVORITE JOKE Gosh, I hope no one is offended…

113. SEEKING HIGHER POWER A.A. themed.

114. PLEASURE AND HAPPINESS How most think these are synonyms. They’re not.

115. THE REAL MAGIC WORD It’s NOT “please.”

116. WHO AM I? Trying to be objective in the mirror.

117. ALMOST DEAD – PART ONE Self-explanatory.

118. TWENTY-FOUR YEARS SOBER Skipping on down the recovery road. 

119. EYES OF WONDER The inner “child” is NOT a child. 

120. ALMOST DEAD – PART TWO Self-explanatory.

121. THE 21ST CENTURY PLAGUE A worldwide self-defeating mindset illuminated.

122. SOBRIETY VS. RECOVERY My definition on the difference between the two.

123. HOW DO YOU FEEL? Learning how to “feel” after years of indifference.

124. OPEN EYES Just a thought.

125. SEARCHING FOR INSPIRATION What works as motivation in my life.

126. LOVE POEM Written for my wife when I first met her.

127. GODSHOTS PODCAST WITH LYDIA CORNELL The first of many to come.

128. LET’S BE WEIRD Why weird is cool, and highly productive.

129. SILVER LININGS IN THE PANDEMIC STORM CLOUDS My intentions if things go south.

130. IN SEARCH OF THE ENEMY Where to find our true adversary.

131. GOODBYE, DAD A few words about my father.

132. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS IN RECOVERY Thoughts on my silver anniversary.

133. SUICIDAL TENDENCIES I’ve been there

134. SILENT RESPONSE Sometimes this is what is wanted most.

135. GODSHOTS PODCAST WITH LYDIA CORNELL # 2 – HOW TO MAKE WISHES COME TRUE Second of three on this list.

136. THE GREAT EXPERIMENT Existence itself approached as a lifelong experiment.

137. MANAGING FEAR Using what we want to avoid to leverage what we want.

138. 10 LIES WE BELIEVE, 10 TRUTHS WE IGNORE Some probable surprises.

139. SEEING 2020 – 20/20 Looking for the good in a bad year.

140. A BRAND-NEW LIBRARY Tossing out my old user manuals and finding new ones.

141. AN EMPATHIC PATH What if empathy was taken to extremes?

142. IF AND WHEN The power of one word vs. the weakness of the other.

143. 26 YEARS SOBER My yearly mindset on this day.

144. PATIENCE The real fuel for everything.

145. THE BRAVEST WORDS Hint, it requires a ton of humility.

146. LET’S TALK TALK Observations and experiences on the skill.

147. A BLOODY CHILDHOOD A painful past does not need to equal a miserable present.

148. IN SEARCH OF PEACE Looking for a precious commodity these days.

149. GODSHOTS PODCAST WITH LYDIA CORNELL #3 The third show I’ve appeared on.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

149. GODSHOTS PODCAST WITH LYDIA CORNELL #3 –

 Lydia Cornell 

Here is the third podcast with Miss Cornell. Although it is in video format it does not need to be watched, nothing visually presented is necessary to the content, though I must admit, Lydia is a lot more pleasant to look at then I am…

This is the third one  I’ve done with her. The major topic of our discussion is focused on her passion for what she has labeled as “Godshots” ™ which are coincidences that are highly spiritual in nature.  

Please take a little time to find out more about Lydia. She’s an enthusiastic woman who really does want the best for everyone.  

Links to referenced pages below are in bold, just point and click.  

For those who might recognize the name, Lydia Cornell is a star of the highly successful sitcom from the eighties, “Too close for Comfort”.  Her name under the picture is also a link to her IMDB page. In addition to an acting career, she also runs two blogs, PoliticallyHot and GodShots. Her resume’ includes a wide range of projects, talents, and passions from writing to mentoring and even stand-up comedy. Please visit her links to learn more.

We originally connected on another web site known as Quora. We have common ground in recovery, and it’s here we began communicating our enthusiasm for helping others.   

Listen to previous podcasts by Lydia here.

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind. 

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

148. IN SEARCH OF PEACE

Peace seems to be lacking these days. The idea seems so elusive, so distant. If it could be bought and sold, it would be the world’s hottest commodity. People often say they want peace, all the while disguising their definition of it behind actions of selfishness. “As long as I don’t have to sacrifice my lifestyle, I’ll support those who suffer.” Not exactly an attitude of any religious or spiritual belief, is it? I truly believe the fires of separation are fueled by complacency. As we elect to stay in our comfort zones, we often take the stance of someone watching a colleague on the playground getting beat up while quietly saying to ourselves, “Boy, I feel bad for that kid, but I’m sure glad it’s not me.” A lack of gratitude for all our blessings mixed with a mantra of “what about me?” is an extremely common and toxic mindset these days. This is the pinnacle of an arrogant or selfish attitude. 

The majority of mankind does seem to worship those who are successful in a materialistic sense over those who have an abundance ethics and serenity. We bend our knees in awe of those with power and wealth instead of doing so in reverence for those who embody kindness and tolerance. People often claim they do otherwise, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s almost always an outright lie. Actions always reveal our true focus of devotion. 

I’ve said this for years, and I reiterate here, “The easiest way to tell good people from bad people is that good people get along, and bad people don’t.” A lack of trust and cooperation characterizes the most poisonous, corrupt, and evil people in history. They believe they are right while thinking and arguing that everyone else is wrong. Their actions, which often include third grade childish tantrums and shallow name calling, are designed for personal glory rather than a greater good. If someone disagrees with them, they’ll not only kick them out of their circle, they’ll do so with extreme prejudice. The more public they can paint those they oust as a new enemy, the more they’ll convince themselves of self-righteousness. They want “yes men” around them, they want drones who blindly support whatever nonsense spews out of their pie-holes. These people are NOT interested in peace, they seek domination and worship. Every action is designed to prop up their ego.

We need to stop basing our leadership on outer or superficial qualities and look to those with inner strength and virtues. Humility, as far as I’m concerned, is the greatest principle a person can own. There stands a harsh dichotomy. The people with the best qualifications will most assuredly NOT want the spotlight in any way, shape, or form because such pursuits will not match their belief systems. Yet as elusive as they are, look we must. Worship of people through the lens of their avaricious accomplishments is a worldwide addiction, one that in the end, will erode all forms of cooperation leaving nothing but a path of chaos and destruction behind us.

We do tend to band together for great causes when bad things happen, and this is a good reaction. We do not, however band together when good things are stable. If we did, our comradery and accomplishments would skyrocket in  strength and stability. By ignoring this possibility we throw our ultimate potential in the trash. Why must horror, violence, death, and misery be the only catalyst that bonds us in solidarity? Why must we wait for blood to be spilled before we seek brotherhood? Is this our nature? Can we not rise above instinct and self-interest and reach out with Love without thinking we’ll diminish our lives by doing so?

There’s a saying attributed to Victor Hugo, and it’s appropriate as it gets.

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

NOW is the time, before things get much, much worse.

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With Love and compassion,

Daniel Andrew Lockwood

147. A BLOODY CHILDHOOD

My childhood was lived in fear. I never had any siblings so I was sole the victim of my mother’s rage several times a week. Many times she would set an alarm clock next to the counter where I was washing dishes and if it went off before I was done, she’d start beating me with coat hangers at the sink. If I missed even one speck of anything, same consequence. I was screwed either way. Yes, I’ll admit I was indeed slow and I hated doing it. Gosh, I wonder why? When she was too lazy to vacuum, she used to make me crawl around picking things out of carpet while she pointed out what would catch her eye, and if I missed something, WHAM! Usually my whippings would not commence unless she made me strip totally naked first. As a little kid, even as young as kindergarten, I was often left home alone, and on the way out the door mother would take great pleasure in turning around to say, “When we get back you’re going to get a spanking.” The waiting was always worse than the actual incident; mental torture combined with physical pain.

All too often I’d go to school bruised, bleeding through my clothing. No one ever noticed that I knew of. I was the primary target of her mental instability and usually for some sort lousy excuse like “You’re not like other children, you’re much worse.” At the time I thought I actually was the catalyst of her behavior. As a result I spent a good deal of my childhood in introspection. Looking back all I can think is, wow. I was six, seven, eight, nine years old, who does this to a little kid? I was fed, clothed, housed, and so on, but to be honest, I never felt loved.

By default my father was just as guilty as my mother because although he was aware of what was happening, he never tried to stop anything. I didn’t realized this until it was pointed out in my early thirties. THAT sucked.

It’s a good thing my parents never had more kids. Who knows how they would have turned out.

There’s no doubt I was different and weird, still am, proudly I might add. Even as a boy my thoughts and behaviors were odd. “I’m learning patience, I’m learning what NOT to do to others when I get older, I’m finding other ways to eke out joy and peace from other avenues.” I was admittedly prone to be self-centered, loud, and pushy. These were traits I (hopefully) eventually grew out of as I became more and more self-aware.

Now, my life was NOT constant torture. I got birthday and Christmas presents. I had a few friends. I never went hungry. My parents did fight at the top of their lungs at least once a week, but they did not do drugs or drink, and of the two channels that we could get in the mountains, at least one that came in clear got my go-to, get away from reality show five days a week, Star Trek!

For years I blamed my adult misfortunes on a messed-up childhood. When I finally sobered up in 1995, my recovery came with a gift that allowed my burden to no longer be a matter of any consequence. I stopped blaming the past and started owning the present.

There’s another definition for removing blame from our lives it’s called…

FORGIVENESS.

Read on with a little courage and you just might find some peace.

Now, forgiveness is NOT what most people define it to be. It’s not saying you’re okay with what the other person did. It IS saying that you’re going to simply drop all those feelings of bitterness, hostility, rage, angst, revenge, darkness, and so on you may have toward someone. Why? Because no matter what, no one can take away your pain, no matter how much they may want to, no matter how much you want them to, you are the one who must drop it. You are the only one with the power to let go of the feelings that are ruining your life and giving you cancer.

Get it now? They cannot feel or remove YOUR pain, ever. No one is capable of that no matter how much of an empath they claim to be.

Good. I’m happy you understand.

My parents were, and still are, just screwed up people, and that’s all. In the middle of a shared insanity they had a kid who was caught in between. When I realized this it broke my heart. I have pity for them now. Their pain is something I do not have the power to remove. I wish I could.

You know, I was drinking two-fifths of vodka a day in the mid-nineties and it eventually caused an aneurysm while I was driving, yet I’m still here and so are you.

I have a great life. I have a beautiful wife who also is my best friend, a very good, well-paying job, a nice home, my credit rating is about as high as it can get, we take nice vacations, and we have plans for the future that include all kinds of pleasant things. Many years ago I would have used a gun on myself had I owned one. Glad I didn’t.

All the miracles and gifts I’ve received since my mental rebirth have been because I refuse to blame anyone for anything in my life anymore. NO ONE AT ALL. By the way, this includes everything labeled both good and bad.

Can people get over childhood neglect and abuse? Yes, and when done right it’ll propel one to the stratosphere of achievement.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

146. LET’S TALK TALK

     

     I like to talk. A lot, probably too much. I know the all too familiar taste of my own foot, and the bitterness of saying the exact wrong thing at the worst possible moment. Over the years these incidents have forced me to hesitate ahead of opening my mouth. They’ve also taught me (through way too much trial and error) how to be tactful. One would think I’d slow down eventually, but I haven’t actually backed off my tendency to blither away with joyful abandon. I have, however, fine-tuned my idiot meter to a point where I rarely cringe after saying something.

     I enjoy listening to people who speak well, and have a healthy jealously of those who tend to address their audience as if they have a script memorized. I’d LOVE to think my skills in this area are above average, and someday maybe I’ll get a chance to test my confidence in this arena. I’m currently working to do podcasting on YouTube to link to this blog and we’ll se how this venture plays out.

     I believe the true art of talking is not necessarily about what’s being said, but in large part it has to do with knowing and respecting the audience. If don’t say something that’s wanting to be heard, I’ve lost the game before it even starts. I feel the absolute BEST are… comedians, and ALL great comics have the same three behaviors in common.
 

  • They will NOT say something they themselves don’t find interesting or amusing. One cannot help but laugh at someone who can’t get through their own joke without cracking up. I’ve seen plenty of comedians who are obviously going through old material, and it shows.
  • They ALL have a visual act that accompanies their delivery. Even such people as Stephen Wright and Bob Newhart, who are both famously reserved and indifferent, STILL present their characters with skill and precision. When you think of a few of the stratospheric names of the comic stage, George Carlin, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, Jim Carrey, Steve Martin, and Jerry Seinfeld you’ll have an instant picture of them in your head because of how attached their demeanor is to their content. God, especially Rodney. All you have to do is think of his face and you start laughing.
  • For good or bad they wait for the audience to react. Whether it’s thunderous applause and laughter, or bushels of rotten tomatoes catapulted at them, they practice timing. Johnny Carson, at least in my opinion, was a both a horrible AND a brilliant comedian because his schtick was knowing he sucked and then playing off the reaction rather than the delivery. THAT’S confidence in yourself, and people are drawn to it.

     You’ve probably seen performers who were just shuffling from one joke to the next with almost no variation in their voice or stance and wondered what was missing. I would say watching mannequins with monotoned prerecorded messages is pretty much the same experience for a lot of wannabes. If YOU don’t enjoy what you do, sell with enthusiasm (or at least a gimmick), and allow criticism, both good and bad, no one will pay attention. Enough about comedians, but you must admit, they are great examples of the art of speaking.

     Actors are also in the fold, and those who speak with magnificent skill are well remembered. Personally I’ve admired Cary Grant, Yul Brenner, Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson, and my favorite, Anthony Hopkins. Keep in mind that they too also have a very practiced and recognizable body language which works in perfect synchronization with whatever they’re saying.

     I’m well aware all of my examples so far are men, which stands to reason because I’m a man, and I’m going to be drawn to align and emulate those whom I admire. I, of course, in no way am purposefully ignoring women, it’s just that I’m more comfortable equating my aspirations with other males.

     So, onward with what I want to keep “talking” about.

     When I need to address someone on an important topic I use a trick to keep my thought process focused and flowing with a nice variety of words. Almost anyone can pick this skill up and I have explained and demonstrated it to several people over the years who were surprised that they too could do it so effortlessly. In the early nineties I was watching an interview on an early news show with the wife of someone who was then considered a dynamic public speaker. This is where I first heard of this technique. The interviewer asked her what made him so good at what seemed like instant, unprepared speeches. She said he clears his mind and imagines a blank blackboard in front of him. While he speaks, he simply let’s words manifest which will perpetuate what he’s trying to communicate to the listener. He then picks the next best option and continues the process until it’s no longer needed. I tried it, and to this day when I really do concentrate on keeping conversation on topic, it serves perfectly. Give it a shot and see for yourself. Now, you WILL find yourself pausing occasionally to make good choices, but to the listener it comes across as if they are witnessing someone who really cares about saying the right thing, which, of course, they are.

     One last point (and it is a selling point) I’d like to make is the usefulness of Toastmasters International. I’ve attended before, and they are extremely helpful for almost anyone who needs to hone their speaking skills for their careers or other personal reasons, and that seems to include the vast majority of humans to begin with. They allow people to attend for free for a while (which I encourage) but they’ll eventually ask them to sign up to get past a certain point. The dues are minimal and totally worth it. It’s been some time, but I believe they may be around 200.00 a year with payments allowed. Assignment material and other membership items like newsletters will be sent to your home. There is a structured itinerary and you can usually proceed at your own pace. The “classes” I’m familiar with usually last two hours once a week and have several segments in which members will participate including, speeches, interviews, telling jokes, improv, AND evaluation of your classmates among other things. It’s pretty casual and the people are, in my experience, very friendly. They also sponsor contests that go all the way to major cities and beyond. They are, as the name indicates, worldwide with thousands of chapters.

     Remember, speaking is a skill, one which can be mastered and leveraged to sell and create the deepest and wildest of dreams. Maybe someday I’ll see you out there changing the world because you read this post. You never know.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood


145. THE BRAVEST WORDS

I’ve always felt the idea of people suggesting to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” when all hope has drained away is not only a waste of time, it’s the height of indifference. Those who jump to criticize may think they see a solution, but there’s no way to guarantee the person being judged will embrace their opinions. Some dig holes so deep that eventually all they see is darkness and all they hear is silence. When hope vanishes, so does our desire to take action. If you’ve ever been in a place so depressing it reaches all the way to your soul, you’ll know what I mean. On occasion I’ve been asked “How do you know when you hit bottom?” In my experience it comes down to having only two choices left, we’re either willing give up completely, or we start screaming for assistance. I prefer to endorse the latter.

I don’t want to give the impression we don’t (usually) own the skills needed to find our way out of unwanted situations, of course we do. In most cases our setbacks are balanced by a combination of exercising the proper emotions and taking necessary actions. Unfortunately, many eventually find themselves slaves to a broken mindset, and that mindset is “Whatever the cost, I want instant gratification.” This manifests in a variety of ways. Drugs and alcohol are probably the most common, but there are others. Gambling, food, shopping, sex, and many others are also themes of self-abuse. The common denominator is they cater to physical cravings rather than mental or spiritual ones. All are designed to change how we feel from the outside in.

When we are deeply lost in nightmarish places, our only way out alive requires bravery. This means we must sidestep our OWN ego, embrace humility, and with loud sincerity, scream for help. Help is therefore the one of the bravest words. While there are certainly legions of people who look for any reason to stomp on us, and are more than happy to see us fail so they can feel “they’re winning the race”, there are actually MORE willing to reach out and help. Not only that, those who offer assistance normally ask for nothing in return, other than to perhaps “pay it forward”. If you believe the opposite, you’ve embraced one of the biggest lies in life.

This is an important step to growth, the first one, but it is NOT the path itself. The journey from desperation to gratitude will require an even more courageous act, and here is where many stumble. The highest act of bravery is embracing help; acceptance is therefore the bravest word. This is where we face a point of no return, and many times the familiarity of pain is more comforting than an unknown future, no matter how promising it looks. When we accept what we ask for, when we are willing to pay any price for salvation, we pass the ultimate test. Unfortunately, we cannot ask for help with conditions attached, it doesn’t work that way. This is why we often hesitate. It means admitting we are broken and unable to stand on our own. We must totally rely on the direction and experience of others if we are to survive. Faith in the hand that reaches out is an act of humility. Trust is the word that embraces the most courage because assistance is ALWAYS under the discretion of those who offer it. We aren’t allowed to make the rules, and failure to accept this can be a massive roadblock to redemption.

How do we determine if a so-called lifeline is a deception, a trick designed to take advantage of our situation? Is there a way to know if the hand willing to pull us from the abyss is the right one? This is easier than it sounds. Ask yourself, “Does this person have in their life what I need in mine? Do they practice what is necessary for nurturing the spirit rather than the exploiting the body? In other words, look inside rather than outside for the characteristics you seek. Evaluation of a potential savior is not that difficult, nor does it take all that much time.

There are some bullet points, that, in my opinion will help refine an assessment of those promising salvation.

  • If your first reaction is anger or insult, this is a good sign. Why? Because those who makes you instantly happy are catering (subconsciously) to your old beliefs and patterns, and since this is what’s causing pain and suffering to begin with, you’ll just have to make up your mind this response is both healthy and normal.
  • Do they want to clone themselves or or do they simply want help you become the best version of yourself you can be? Most criticize intending to inflate their own ego, they seek to justify their behavior by showcasing how you “aren’t like them”. Those who point out your cracks and flaws without looking for applause are in the correct mindset. This one can difficult to assess, take your time here.
  • Everyone has flaws, everyone. This is one of the most important pieces of advice I’ve ever been told, it’s difficult to practice, but 100% on target. “Do NOT look for examples of the teachings in the teachers, just look for examples of the teachings.” Why? Because when we judge the source before evaluating the information, we lose both instructor and lesson.

If you don’t think I know what I’m talking about, you’re wrong. I’ve been to the edge of oblivion, and I know how it feels. I also know how to get back, and trust me, without a map, we’re forever lost. It really does seem all of mankind’s pain comes from the unwillingness to pull over and ask for directions.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

 

144. PATIENCE

I’m NOT accident prone, but since I am in construction, I’ve had my share of mishaps. I wear my personal protective equipment diligently, but no matter the caution I take, things do occasionally happen. Cuts, bumps, scrapes, punctures, twisted ankles and knees, smashed fingers, minor burns, and so are on the usual menu of occasional injuries. There have been a few fairly bad ones over the years, one involved tripping and falling plus a couple of major lacerations on separate occasions. I will say it’s been a long time since I had an incident that needs to be reported, and I intend to keep my track record clean. ALL of these events, however, have one thing in common. At the time of occurrence, I had become frustrated or lost my temper, mostly because I wanted to speed things up.

In my history lack of patience has always led to unwanted outcomes. One might think my experience with this personal truth would keep me from repeating the equation. Sadly, my resolve is not as disciplined as it should be. I do indeed become agitated from time to time, but my emotional state is nowhere near anything that could be labeled as theatrical, though I’m sure some of my colleagues who have witnessed such outbursts were, nonetheless, highly entertained. Fortunately my (negative) behavior has waned as I’ve aged, and I’m pleased to say it’s been some time since I’ve pulled the trigger.

My occasional lack of impatience has clearly been a major catalyst leading to an overabundance of disappointing results. Since I’m aware this is true, it then stands to reason exercising the opposite behavior should reap highly beneficial rewards, and it has. Calm dedication has been the most productive energy I’ve ever expressed. Everything which has come to me and made my world a better place always has had its roots in consistency.

On what would seem like the other hand, one of my root beliefs is to let go of what I’m driving myself into the ground trying to manifest. This initially comes across as a dichotomy to my resolve, it isn’t. Letting go is NOT giving up. Giving up is being in your boat lost on the ocean and deciding to poke a hole in the bottom, then sabotaging the radio, and finally tossing all provisions overboard. Giving up is suicide, so please don’t do this. Letting go is being in your boat, admitting you’re lost on the ocean, finding an unknown port, and deciding to hire a person you’ve never met to take you somewhere you’ve never been. This requires a ton of faith. It’s still YOUR boat, make no mistake, you’ve just… let go. What I’m saying here is, letting go IS a form of patience; maybe the highest form, because it requires the total absence of ego or self.

In A.A. there are two dominant sayings, “Let go, let God” and “One day at a time”. If you’re not a “God” person, an agnostic, then “Let go” all by itself will suffice. In any case, these short philosophies are designed to promote consistent action tempered with patience. When we ask for help and react with tolerance and gratitude, the world will eventually roll at our feet.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood


143. 26 YEARS SOBER

When I stopped drinking, I found I was dying of thirst. Yes, I had a temporary longing for what I’d left behind, but this wasn’t the REAL issue; my mind was suddenly parched. Just as stated in my entry, 140. A BRAND NEW LIBRARY, I went full bore into the ocean of new information, and while I spent my early days on the beaches of exotic mental locations, these days I find my wanderings to be less adventurous.

The winter of my life is nearing, I’ll be 57 this year, but this doesn’t mean I’m approaching the end, it simply means my outlook has shifted to different priorities. I no longer see the world as something to be conquered, I do not see life as a competition, and I certainly have no need to prove anything to anyone other than myself. That being said, I do still have high aspirations, and when I die, I plan to leave behind a full calendar of appointments and pursuits. What does bother me a little is my speed has slowed somewhat. I watch TV when I don’t need to, I waste time when I could be making the next move on my chessboard, and worst of all, I talk about what I want to do more than just doing it.

Time to shift gears.

For some reason I’ve begun to equate comfort with peace, and while I’ll always seek peace, it’s not necessarily incompatible with occasional doses of chaos. A comfortable life is, in a word, boring, and I’ve become way too comfortable, predictable, and repetitive. I’m NOT looking for discomfort, it’s a life of surprise, stimulation, and challenge which has been missing for far too long. Anticipation and excitement, in the proper proportions, are wonderful ways to spice up life. There’s nothing wrong with status quo if it’s what someone wants, but it’s not for me.

Today marks the completion of my 26th year of recovery and to celebrate I’m making a resolution to be in a much different, much better, and more rewarding place a year from now.

We’ll see in a year if my resolve has been strong enough. Don’t bet against me.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood