WELCOME TO SELF-HELP AND RECOVERY FOR BEGINNERS!

11_milky_way_road

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

132. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS IN RECOVERY

12 Step Jewelry Alcoholics Anonymous 925 Sterling Silver Men's AA Unity Ring with Turquoise

“Stick around and the miracle will happen.”

Well, the miracle happened…

These words were spoken early on from those who encouraged me, and I still hear them frequently when attending meetings. At the time I had no idea what the “miracle” was. All I wanted was to just not hurt anymore. That alone would have been, and eventually was, a blessing in and of itself. It was astonishing the amount of misery I put myself through, throwing up several times a day, every day. Seeing blood pour out of my mouth (and everything else that came out of me) was a ritual I got used to. I’d shattered the vessels in my face so many times I looked as if I had a permanent sunburn. I hadn’t had a real night’s sleep in years, choosing to pass out, day, after day, after countless, pointlessly lived days. Such is the insanity of self-destructiveness.

As my recovery finally began to move diligently forward, the hurricane of pain slowed and eventually subsided to the point where I began to function somewhat normally; yet this was STILL not the miracle. My sleep improved, and my horrific nightmares dwindled; and this was still NOT the miracle. I began to laugh, enjoying the smallest of what most would consider mundane moments while looking forward with enthusiasm to whatever tomorrow had to offer; this too was not the miracle. On a leap of faith I switched jobs. I went from working over a decade and a half of mostly graveyard shifts to the beginning of a career that still supports me. I moved into an apartment on my own without a net under me. I began to pay my bills on time. My refrigerator always had food. I got a decent vehicle. I met the woman I Love. The list is long, and continues to grow, but all these things do not define the miracle spoken of in the Big Book.

Although I had read it several times, the passage had escaped me, droning on frivolously in my mind while I went through the motions of repetition. I must say, once I zeroed in on it, the revelation was both astonishing and, in my case, accurate. In the fourth edition of the Big Book, in the chapter “Into Action” at the bottom of page 84 and on to the top of page 85 it says this –

“You will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, you will recoil from it as you would from a hot flame. You will react sanely and normally. You will find this has happened automatically. You will see that your new attitude toward liquor has been given you without any thought or effort on your part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. You are not fighting it, neither are you avoiding temptation. You feel as though you had been placed in a position of neutrality. You feel safe and protected. You have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for you.”

There was a time where I thought of alcohol every minute. Every minute; and I’m not kidding. When we choose to carry chains, we are never unaware of their presence, so the best we can do is justify their existence. Alcohol was my calling card. It was my foundation for blame as well as my attempt to escape. I spent so much of my life pointing and running, and then the day went by where I just stopped. I didn’t think “today I will stop”. The monster withered when I ceased to feed it. It quit tapping me on my shoulder every time I had a Pavlovian trigger. I quit looking for liquor stores on my way home. On the other hand when I saw a billboard or commercial advertising booze, I thought nothing of it. There was neither a feeling of superiority over thinking I had beaten my demons, nor a fear I might slip. As said in the text above, I was placed in a position of neutrality. Do I see it these days as something I’ve beaten? Nope. Instead I have a knowing that my path of progress, or recovery to be more specific, will continue to nourish tomorrow and starve yesterday.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

131. GOODBYE, DAD

My father died on February 15th of this year. It was a Saturday and I was working when my phone went off. I knew what the call was about before I even looked. He had been slipping away rapidly for the past six months, his mind eventually catching up to his deteriorating body, both of which were now just bits and pieces of who he used to be. Departure at this point was just around the corner. The last time we went to breakfast, about six weeks prior, I caught him in a moment of clarity, “You know Dad, if you want to check out there’s no shame in it. I’ll be fine, really.” Honestly, I am glad he heard me. I hope someone reminds me someday, if I am hanging on, fearful of what lies beyond this existence, of the same truth, that life is only a parenthesis in eternity.

We had a weird relationship, more like brothers than parent/child, anyone that knew both of us would readily agree on this observation. As a teenager and eventually an adult I found myself living with him on and off on several occasions, Once I awoke to find him standing over me in my apartment saying he had left his girlfriend and was moving in. We split the bills (which were always late) and never had anything worth eating in the fridge. Our TV was a piece of crap and matched what little furniture we had. We really did live at the fringe of minimum standards. It was not uncomfortable, just sparse. The only really good advice he gave me I think happened by accident. When I was fifteen I left my mother and finally moved in with him. He then laid down his intentions insofar as his parental duties were concerned, “Okay, here are the rules, I don’t care what you do. Quit school, do drugs, go to jail, does not matter, but know this, if you need me to bail you out, too bad. I have my own life and I’m giving you, yours.” I am not too sure he did this as a favor to me, although it did turn out that way. The time did indeed come on several occasions when this “law” was put to the test. He stood by it, and I quickly learned I was the unwilling owner to all the reactions of my actions. It did not keep me from a self-destructive lifestyle, but it did teach me to never expect a net when I fell.

I never knew until after I sobered up, almost twenty-five years ago now, just how much remorse he carried. I was way too self-centered to realize just he much he hated his own life. In our last year together, he lamented he did nothing he was proud of, and at the risk of sounding arrogant, I pointed out that I would not exist unless he had been… involved. I could empathize with his point of view because I have been buried by mountains of shame myself, and I know the hopelessness and depression it can generate. Even so he never complained about his surroundings, and he decided early on he was going to make the best of his situation. We were fortunate and the nursing home he ended up in was professional, and his caretakers, kind. I was also lucky that it was only a few minutes from home.

As his health waned so did our public social activities. To keep him entertained I would swing by pawn shops and buy movies for him. Truthfully, it got kind of hard finding titles I thought he would like, which eventually had me inadvertently purchasing several in duplicate. Often, I could come up with twenty to twenty-five at a time, but for the most part it was a dozen or so. Movies had always been a common thread of enjoyable discussion so I was thrilled when he called me and told me he loved “The Whole Nine Yards” which I think is well written and hysterical, but isn’t normally the type of film my father would go out of his way for. Unfortunately, his eyesight started deteriorating past the point where he could see the screen, and I really do think this is where he decided to start (purposefully) shutting down.

My father-in-law’s Wednesday visits were a wonderful highlight in his week, and he and my wife’s father eventually became good friends. His demeanor would always perk up when he talked about him, and I feel blessed to have married into such a caring and loving family that extends well beyond my wife. They helped to make my father’s last days a lot brighter.

I’ve been struggling with whether or not I should share something that happened only a few weeks before he passed. If I do not, I now know I will regret it. He left a message on my cell while I was working, and it broke my heart. He was crying, saying he wanted to go home. “I want to go home, I want to go home, please take me home, son.” It was my Dad of course, but it did not sound like him. He sounded like a little kid, lost and scared. I tried to call back, but he was not answering, so I swung by after work.

“I got your message today”

He started crying again, “I want to go home son, I just want to go home. Funny thing is I don’t know even where home is.”

I took his hand, “Yeah, yeah you DO know where home is, go there if you want.”

Well… he went home.

Be at peace Dad, finally… be at peace.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

130. IN SEARCH OF THE ENEMY

If there’s one thing I know for sure it’s this; frustration, fear, anger, resentment, and hate will never claim to have sprung from their true origins, they’ll always look to blame their existence on outside circumstance. As long as we own the power of reaction, we have leverage over how we feel. This is one of life’s most important truths.

Right now the world is coming at us in ways we’ve never dared to imagine. We stand at the edge of a worldwide hurricane. We feel the breeze turning into an inevitable tempest as the skies on the horizon go from grey to black. We are indeed being attacked, and our defenses are minimal at best. We do however, have defenses, and those who make the best use of them will eventually walk free of the storm. 

Who then is the real enemy? Who or what do we ultimately need to defend ourselves against? Is it the government for what we convince ourselves is lack of proper action? Is it the media for either over-hyping or under-prioritizing the dangers we face? Is it our neighbors who are in hysterics, buying out mass quantities of products hoping to isolate comfortably? Is it the disease itself? I say no, and here’s why.

None of the above examples are anything we have an active power over. We do on the other hand have the power of reaction. Awareness and manipulation of this strategy is the foundation of monuments. I’ve stated many, many times both on this blog and in person that we cannot change life from the outside in, we can only do it from the inside out, and here is where our real enemy lies; it’s ourselves. When we choose to blame, we relinquish self-control. When we choose to blame we fully acknowledge the problem and discard any thought of seeking solutions. 

I do not deny there will be victims, and I pray I will come to know none, but I do know there will be a lot less in the end if we choose to abandon frustration, fear, anger, resentment, and hate. We MUST bring water to the fire. To stoke it further is to align with its intent. Obviously then we must move forward with the opposites of these negative emotions. Confidence, Love, joy, and kindness are therefore the “weapons” we must wield. These are NOT weak defences, for does it not take MORE strength than usual to project this strategy? If you think doing so is going to be tough, then so be it, be tough. I for one believe composure during the most violent of situations is the highest state of mind one can achieve. You can either lead others with this approach, or follow the rest to almost certain self-destruction. 

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

129. SILVER LININGS IN THE PANDEMIC STORM CLOUDS

I’m in Colorado. Per capita we are a huge hot-spot in the United States for the pandemic now sweeping through the world. All too soon I’m sure we will be on isolation protocols, it’s part of an inevitable domino effect, and I for one will be prepared, at least mentally. This is NOT the time for fear, I’ve done plenty of that in my past and it has no appeal, use, or leverage in my life anymore. I have skills in place learned and practiced through my program of recovery that deal with such threats very efficiently; namely the “Serenity Prayer” which is really just a re-affirmation we can only control ourselves. The way we choose to act and react is the ONLY power we can exercise discipline over. Outside circumstances are not only beyond our control, they are are, for the most part, unpredictable as well. 

My suggestion to others is this, sit down and write out everything you’ve been putting off, be it tedious, fun, or necessary, and create a schedule to start working towards what you want to purge, create, or improve upon. Lack of purpose is extremely efficient fertilizer for all kinds of unwanted outcomes. Trust me, I speak from experience. Keep an emphasis on scheduling. Write out what you are going to do, what time to get up, what you want to accomplish first, by noon, and by the end of what would be considered a “normal” work day. Stay at home parents will no doubt have the easiest time adjusting to how the world is shifting, but the rest of us will be left with giant gaps in our daily habit. 

Who hasn’t thought about getting back to long neglected hobbies and pastimes? Many have dusty crafts, unread books, half finished drawings and paintings (me, me me!), and partially written manuscripts and poetry. There are those with cars waiting to be worked on in their garages, work shops with plenty of supplies, and gardens to start soon. Boredom is fueled by an inability to do what we think we’ll enjoy while at the same time convincing ourselves what needs attention requires too much effort. I call B.S. on this attitude. Excuses hold us back more than any other thing on Earth, and I’m not beyond manufacturing all kinds of seemingly creative ones myself. Do it all the time, which makes me something of a hypocrite. In any case, I’m much better at following through on my duties, hobbies, and dreams than I used to be, so at least my track record is constantly improving. 

I’ll gladly share my intentions and hopefully my example will inspire others to follow a similar path. 

Productive things to do in my life –

  • Exercise daily every morning in place of work. (while watching recorded shows)
  • Clean the grill. (we use it three to four times a week)
  • Clean and organize the garage. (THIS should take a while)
  • Clean and organize my storage room in the basement. (this should take even MORE of a while)
  • Separate what I need to donate. (WAY WAY too much, kind of a clothes whore)
  • Do classes from The Great Courses, both new ones I want to buy and those I already own. (math skills, language skills, writing skills, science, Shakespeare, etc.)
  • Complete online classes offered by my work. (there’s a bunch, and it will endure my willingness to be committed to my job as well as educate me on necessary work place skills)
  • Download my giant audio library of self-help, self-improvement programs to my iPod. (this is time consuming but it pays off.)
  • Organize and clean my work van and tools. (not bad now, can always be better)

Fun things to do in my life –

  • Write on my blog. (there’s never a lack of inspiration, and sometimes what guides me, surprises me as well)
  • Work on my art, both painting and pen and ink. (several projects I’ve been neglecting for far too long)
  • Watch my collected movies and series. (Battlestar Galactica, Sons of Anarchy, Northern Exposure and a plethora of others, twelve hundred titles in all, so no lack of entertainment here)
  • Complete my book and send it off for publication. (THIS is a big one. Not completing this equals massive regret, something I refuse to cultivate)
  • Listen to music. (Pandora – nothing calms me like Steely Dan, Firefall, Neil Diamond, and Gordon Lightfoot)
  • Sit down and read. (I own several thousand books so no lack here either)

I plan to keep getting up at four a.m. every day just as I do now. 

  1. 4:00 – 4:30 – Shower
  2. 4:30 – 5:00 – Eat Breakfast
  3. 5:00 – 6:00 – Exercise 
  4. 6:00 – 8:00 – Pick something on my “to do” list. Doesn’t have to get done, just progressed.
  5. 8:00 – 11:00 – Education choice
  6. 11:00 – 12:00 – Lunch
  7. 12:00 – 2:00 – Write
  8. 2:00 – 4:00 – Work on my art

The rest of the day will be the same as it is now which includes time with my wife, dinner, and confidently giving a bunch of wrong answers to the night’s episode of Jeopardy! Chores like laundry can happen whenever because I can do other things while the machine does the work. I’m usually in bed by nine p.m. 

One of the biggest reasons I MUST do this is if I don’t, old habits will attempt to resurface, and I have a host of those which almost destroyed me. One of the recent ones is weight loss. I’ve dropped about a hundred pounds since March of last year, and I’m prone to eating all the wrong crap when I let fear and stress dominate my mind, so keeping focused on a daily pattern will help deter me from self-destructive tendencies.

I have no intention of telling others what to do, all I want is to share how I’m going to handle what’s coming for all of us. 

I wish you all the best. 

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

128. LET’S BE WEIRD

I knew something was different about me very early on. The first time I realized this around the age of six. There I was, sitting in bed, joyously scribbling away in my Tom and Jerry coloring book and singing loudly to myself when it crossed my mind I was quite happy with no one else around. I truly remember this moment. I liked being in the company of others just fine, but I didn’t miss them when they weren’t there. I’m almost fifty-six now with no brothers or sisters, but back then there was no way of knowing if siblings were going to be in my life or not, so expectations of a bigger family remained open. Either way it didn’t matter, I craved neither solitude nor companionship, whatever the moment offered was quite comfortable. I also knew this attitude was different than most.

My teachers thought I was a bundle of nerves with a big mouth. I was; still am as an adult, but at least now I have increased self-awareness with my tendencies as well as an ability to redirect my energies, though sometimes it’s a little past my initial expressiveness. I was also rude, but never consciously so. My exasperated mother could not get me to say “excuse me” correctly when I walked in front of, or accidentally got in the way of others. Instead, I had it backwards for years and gleefully said “excuse you” instead, which really did come across as me being bratty. I never meant to be impolite, but I’m sure it seemed that way to those who were in my presence. Most of this stemmed from being selfish and overbearing, a side-effect of being an only child. There’s no doubt this type of behavior in today’s environment would insist on some sort of diagnosis that would require lots of drugs and possibly even therapy. Thank God I was born when I was.  If I were to unknowingly meet my younger self these days I’m sure I would roll my eyes and shake my head.

My personal habits in my youth were almost always directed towards fantasy or science fiction. Reality was fun, no doubt, but the possibility of imagination becoming reality held much more intrigue. I was a Star Trek, Wild Wild West, and Lost in Space kid. My library was soon filled with similar themes as I grew older and began to voraciously read. L. Frank Baum’s OZ books, A.A. Milne, The Chronicles of Narnia, and everything written by Edgar Rice Burroughs filled many hours of mental journeys. My artwork reflected my tendencies (and still does) when a brush, pen, or pencil was above a blank page. My room, my toys, were also in line as well. Everything one could think and create with, construction sets, art supplies, and, of course, books were my go-to playthings. Yes, I had cars, GI Joe, and sports stuff, but they were fall-back activities. I did play softball almost every day on the playground, so physical pastimes were abundant, but my mind was always elsewhere.

As I grew older I shifted away from my nature. What once was a powerful connection to my spirit faded a little every day as I became more and more hedonistic. This is where I deliberately began to withdraw from my fantasies. I went from being inspired by inward motives, to choosing to be influenced by outward ones. The walls effectively went up, and my wings of imagination came crashing down. Here is where I effectively became “normal.” All too soon I had a vast library of excuses for abandoning my hopes and dreams, in essence I joined the “tribe” and began goose-steeping to the tedious drone the majority of the population mindlessly embraces.

What IS normal one might ask? Well, in my observation the behaviors most people share define what’s totally acceptable, not only because they (usually) remain unchallenged, but also because they serve an agenda that justifies excuses for avoiding taking action. This is a cancerous lifestyle because most of our oblivious thought processes are great examples of misery loving company; we cyclically feed on each others bad habits. Please don’t think I’m past this, I’m not. All too often I catch myself joining in the mob mentality, my ego steps in, and I start playing the game with practiced ease.

Normal is therefore –

  • Accusing circumstance for how you act and feel.
  • Being late most of the time; or at the very least being highly rushed.
  • Trying to be different or stand apart from the outside in.
  • Worrying about reputation.
  • Complaining.
  • Thinking it’s inevitable certain “things” must happen the older we get, weight gain is, ahem… a big example.
  • Money equals happiness.
  • Wondering why everyone is so much luckier than you.
  • Hating Mondays, traffic, getting out of bed, supervisors, and your ex. Basically HATING too much.
  • A sense of lack.
  • Constantly comparing ourselves to others.
  • Wanting all the rewards in life without actually working for them.
  • Being overly offended, which, by the way, is nothing more than a covert way of  judging others.
  • Holding grudges.
  • Consistently defending oneself.
  • Pointing out flaws in everything: which is a cowardly act of misdirection designed to keep others from treating you the way you treat them.

Are ALL these observations normal? No need to ask me for reassurance, just look around for yourself and notice the type of body language most present themselves with, listen to the tone and delivery of how people typically speak as well as the attitudes that drive the agendas of average people. Do their motives fit many if not all the examples given above? Sadly, yes. Most people have fallen under the influence of thinking life can be fixed from the outside in, therefore what’s wrong is “out there”. We’re convinced we can change how we act and feel by manipulating the world around us rather than simply changing how we react. “Normal” is a comfort zone because the behavior is acceptable. The more we step out of the comfort zone, OR the more we embrace imagination, possibility, and personal power, the more we’re labeled as weird, because in doing so we don’t fit the tribe mentality.

Let’s look at a reversed list and perhaps this will enlighten as to just how rare, or of course abnormal it sounds.

Weird is therefore –

  • Owning how you act and feel.
  • Never being late, always relaxed.
  • Doing what it takes to be different from the inside out.
  • Not caring about what others think.
  • Bring grateful.
  • Knowing that you can defy the idea of how people age, and prove it through examples.
  • Happiness equals money. (LOVE this one)
  • Feeling blessed no matter how bad things get.
  • Loving Mondays, getting up the moment the alarm goes off to enjoy the day, empathizing with your boss, and wishing the best for your ex. Basically LOVING  everything.
  • A sense of abundance.
  • Comparing who and what you are, with where you were.
  • Willing to put forth any effort to achieve what you want.
  • Not letting hardly anything bother you, which will cultivate empathy.
  • Easily forgiving.
  • Embracing accountability.
  • Looking for the beauty in everything, which prompts others to do the same in kind.

To me it seems that imagination and compassion complement each other, just as ignorance and animosity are obviously close relatives. If nothing else the first list describes someone who is thoroughly boring and predictable, while the second list supports the type of person who is interesting and spontaneous. It’s ALSO important to point out the first list embraces a posture of inaction and blame, while the second one typifies a lifestyle of action and responsibility.

When I abandoned old beliefs and habits and embraced new ones, I reignited long lost passions I’d convinced myself were forever lost. This was actually a side-effect to my recovery, and I did not expect it. I never thought I’d find fortitude just because I wanted to become different, or of course… WEIRD.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

127. GODSHOTS PODCAST WITH LYDIA CORNELL

Lydia Cornell

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 a also a link to her IMDB page. In addition to an acting career, she also runs a blog, PoliticallyHot and a web page called 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.

Our paths crossed by coincidence some time back 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. This, I hope, will be the first of many conversations designed and directed towards offering answers where so many silent questions lie painfully embedded in the souls of those who suffer.   

Listen this and previous podcasts by Lydia here.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

126. LOVE POEM

When I first saw the woman who eventually became my wife, I had two initial reactions. First, I thought she was much younger than me, and second I figured she was way out of my league; I’m glad I ignored my second judgment.

Have you ever felt your chest pound at the sight of someone? For me it’s a vibration of intense magnitude that’s much more spiritual than physical. It’s an actual massive thump, like one’s heart suddenly aligns with and acknowledges divine energy. It was so undeniable in that first moment, and I hoped beyond hope she would react the same way.

She did.

We dated for a while and finally I decided to propose. I figured Valentine’s day would be fitting. My plan had started the previous Christmas. I bought her a Magic 8-Ball and passed it off as a goofy gift, but I had other motives. At the time I was attending night courses for work, and this particular night it began to snow, really hard. When I walked into class I told my instructor I needed to leave to propose to my girlfriend, and he thought that was wonderful. By the time I was walking out the door to my truck he had decided to cancel classes for the night anyway, so the day was lining up to be serendipitous. I called before leaving and asked her to dig out the 8-Ball because I needed it for something. She sighed a little, said she would, and I told I’d be over soon to get it. When I got there she hugged and kissed me and I asked for the toy which she handed me with a weird look.

“Have a seat.” I said. She went to the couch and walked over and I dropped to one knee. She started shaking a little.

“Just a second, I need to consult the ball before I ask YOU something.” I shook it vigorously and it came up “Yes, absolutely!” I showed her the answer with a big smile.

She immediately said “Do it again.”

I shrugged and complied. Again it came up “Yes, absolutely!” and with that I asked her to marry me. She happily agreed and our next anniversary will be our 17th. I married my best friend in 2003 and would wish such happiness as I’ve had since then on anyone.

Some time before we were married I wrote this poem for her.

I Love you baby! This post is for you.

Water Falls

Stranded on an endless dessert,

Lost among the shifting sands,

I wished to quench my dying thirst,

And wash the dust off lonely hands.

The days had trod on tinder skin

And cold nights they cut so deep.

In my eyes I felt the pain,

But had not tears that I could weep.

No strength, no will, no hope was left,

No more torture could I stand,

And so I fell into a dream

About a distant, perfect land.

All the suffering I had known

Was swept into the wind,

And all the fears that kept me bound

Were now coming to an end.

I sensed I was somewhere

I had never been before.

God had granted me salvation

So I could live once more.

I felt my heart come to life

With every waking beat.

I felt the touch of cool, moist air

And grass beneath my feet.

I began to walk upon a path

With strength now regaining,

And where it led I came to rest

In a place forever raining.

Here I washed away sorrows

And my destiny was found

For underneath where water falls

I stood on sacred ground.

It was then I saw the truth

Through the mists surrounding me

That my dream was not a dream

But in fact, reality.

 

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

125. SEARCHING FOR INSPIRATION

The older I get the more I know what the highest personal achievements in life are, and surprisingly, in the end, we don’t seem to want anything material at all. We may think we do, especially in our youth, but what’s truly sought after are the feelings that come from what we’re convinced will trigger whatever state of euphoria we seek to manifest. Many (including myself) buy into false repackaged, cliched, and resold icons associated with happiness which usually revolve around power, money, and fame. When people find they cannot gain footing on this type of path, drugs inevitably become the number one go-to in pursuit of mood-altering experiences, and I can understand why; it’s easy, extremely available, and it works…sort of. I myself was a slave to the idea of alcohol induced tranquility just like millions of others. If you don’t believe this to be true, take a ten-minute drive through the nearest business district and count just how many places you pass by who sell liquor. Damn near every street corner is testimony to the immense popularity of booze. Illicit drugs are a bit more covert, but I’d wager almost no one on Earth is unaffected in their own family by their ubiquity and use. All too often this path becomes extraordinarily self-destructive; physically, yes, but more importantly, emotionally. When we force our state of mind to change from the outside in, we ignore spirit and embrace pure hedonism. We also forget how to express ourselves naturally, how to explore our passions and allow our sorrows. I know from experience when the spirit dies from lack of nourishment, so does the body.

Complete contentment, peace, ecstasy, excitement, harmony, and bliss are good examples of the type of heightened emotions everyone wishes they had instant access to. Unfortunately, we’re all too familiar with the opposites such as discouragement, conflict, depression, boredom, apathy, and misery, and believe it or not it’s here the secret of inspiration can actually be found. Stick with this article and by the end you’ll be, well… inspired. Trust me.

We are creatures of negativity for two very distinct reasons, but this isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing. We have built into our limbic system the “fight or flight” response which is on the constant lookout for the safest path. There are those who confront this instinct by intentionally risking limb and lifestyle, either for excitement or to challenge tendencies, but it’s always there in one form or another. And this skill is extremely useful, no doubt about it. Our ancient ancestors knew enough to be afraid of danger and avoid unjustifiable risks. The second reason is a little weird. We approach most tasks and challenges with a mindset that says “how can I fix this?” OR “how can I improve this?” As a result we automatically look for lack, and when we do, we force our minds to notice and all too often manufacture flaws, even if they don’t exist to begin with. One thing’s for sure, very seldom do we walk through life carefree and totally accepting of the world around us. Those souls who do are almost nonexistent. This is why we identify with negative points of view so easily, it’s a covert  and highly practiced habit to begin with.

The least desirable emotional states I listed above are actually easier to understand and diagnose than their counterparts because of the way we’re wired. They aren’t simple, no illusions here, just more relatable, more common as it were. I’ve stated this many times on this blog, I’m no doctor nor am I a professional on any subject I bring up, all I try do is share how I’ve moved past those barriers in life so many of us seem to share. Most states of negativity I’ve found a way past, although I don’t practice what I preach as much as I should. My ego occasionally gets inflated, I look for excuses, and play the victim from time to time, there’s no doubt about it, BUT I do know how to get beyond these temporary setbacks

There’s a one-word response for neutralizing negativity. Those I’ve named above, discouragement, conflict, depression, boredom, apathy, and misery have a redundant thread.

  • Discouragement = giving up on taking action
  • Conflict = absence of seeking cooperative action
  • Depression = unwilling to take action
  • Boredom = no action at all
  • Apathy = not caring about taking action
  • Misery = not taking the correct action

Obviously the key word is… action. Action designed to avoid destructive tenancies is, by default, creative in nature, and all things creative hold the seeds of inspiration. If this is true, then it stands to reason creativity breeds inspiration. You see, most believe inspiration comes before creativity. Not true. If you want to be inspired all you need to do is choose to be consistently active in your own life. The activities don’t have to be all rainbows and unicorns, and most likely they’ll be annoying rather than comforting, though this isn’t always the case. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what the nature of your activities are as long as they’re intended to be part of a bigger (positive) picture. Think of life as setting up dominos, once they’re in place all that’s needed is a push on the first one. Yes, the preparations can be tedious and time consuming, but the payoff is easy to visualize. The satisfaction of seeing them make a predetermined pattern, to act in a perfectly synchronized, harmonious manner is pure gratification. The same logic can be applied to those goals and dreams we so often abandon because the road leading to our visions seems overwhelming and hopeless. Little steps and movements all too often lead to huge accomplishments, in fact I would say this is the only way one finds themselves seeing their dreams come true.

When I look back at the things I’m grateful for, the accomplishments I’ve followed through on, they all consisted of constant, small, sometimes almost imperceptible movements. Most were drudgerous, but in the end it has always been more than worth it. The price is not that high upon appreciating the worth of the finished product. Seeing one’s goals make the finish line IS inspirational, and THAT inspiration is what is needed to start all over again on a new, perhaps even more impressive task.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

124. OPEN EYES

 

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

123. HOW DO YOU FEEL?

These days I wear my heart on my sleeve but it took a few decades to get there. Hiding my emotions from others or altering them to get a desired response is a useful and necessary skill, one I’m quite practiced at, however, I now realize attempting to ignore my passions or repress my reactions from myself is one of the most unhealthy choices I can pursue. For years my reflection stirred nothing but apathy. As a young man I never looked past my own eyes in the mirror, the thought never occurred. Curiosity for what I was past flesh and blood held almost no interest, and so I went about my days in a constant loop of mostly hedonistic pastimes.

I did read, draw, and write on rare occasions, but as time wore on my withdrawal from everything I used to love from a cerebral perspective eventually shrank into distant memory. My existence became extremely superficial. Television and movies ate up a large chunk of mindless time-wasting. Alcohol, of course, sped up the slowing down of my humanity. Projects and pursuits I used to get excited over lay in corners, boxes, and shelves, covered in dust, and fading from memory. All this served to dull my senses and separate me from anything resembling abstract thought. I had nothing to look forward to nor did I have any interest in creating anything anticipatory.

My vocabulary simplified to match my emotional range. Everything was fine or okay. I really had no ups and downs unless you count going from being relieved I didn’t die one day, to wanting to the next. Describing my life was detached from actually feeling it. I walked around for years totally numb, unable to connect inner interpretation to outer situations. My spirit was buried, unable to function. All I was was existence without substance, a shadow of reality.

Getting back to a place of authentic expression took a lot of work. When I first cut the rubber band binding my inner monologue, it burst forth with unexpected energy. This led to bipolar behavior for quite some time. My highs were extremely high, and my lows matched them. Like a ball bouncing from a great height, my passions finally found a somewhat normal rhythm and settled into manageable patterns. There are still deep end experiences these days, but they’re rare and pass quickly. I think the initial danger, when I finally embraced a dynamic lifestyle, was the temptation to align too much with becoming either intensely negative or overly optimistic. Either one of these roads could easily have been one step too far and I would have passed a point of no return. A bitter, hostile attitude towards life had a genuine appeal since it feeds the ego and mine was already well developed, but magnifying this aspect of my personality would have been suicidal. On the other hand, looking at life through “rose colored glasses” also presented alluring temptations. I could go about my business with no concerns about the future whatsoever; however, “blind faith” can be a dangerous journey, one that keeps my eyes looking skyward instead of forward. Luckily, I found a comfortable alternative to either of these two routes. Surprisingly, it’s NOT a middle road, but rather a different one.

I’ve often referred to myself as a “pro-optimist” which isn’t even a real word, but it really does describe how I move through my days. I’m usually highly optimistic as long as I’m actively investing in my ambitions. This path normally allows me to check and balance my emotional state. When I’m involved, blame is absent and responsibility is active. Yes, there’s no doubt most life’s “game” is comprised of random events, but when I have a hand in my own future it (usually) allows me to manipulate key elements, most importantly, my own attitude. As an example, I can be happy everything turned out well, OR I can be pleased I now know what not to do should similar situations arise. Granted, the aforementioned outcome is preferable, but either way my perceptions coupled with direct actions make for a recipe that cannot disappoint. If I look at things in this manner, there is no such thing as failure, and my emotional state has no choice but to align with satisfaction either way. Please note I cannot take this same approach if I am totally separated from an event, which is way I insist on participating in my own life.

Becoming desensitized to life went hand in hand with my subconscious choice to live in a strictly reactive fashion. Once I chose an active life, I had no alternative but to become emotionally adept. I wonder if the same is true for others who were just as lost as me? The title of this entry is not asking how the reader feels, it’s asking “how does one learn to feel?” I know how I did, and it’s one of the skills that keeps me enthusiastic about living.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood