Month: August 2019

120. ALMOST DEAD – PART TWO

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

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

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

And it does…

5. Viral Pneumonia –

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

6. MRSA –

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

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

7. Back Surgery with Complications –

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

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

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

119. EYES OF WONDER

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some suggestive exercises –

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood