Month: August 2020

134. SILENT RESPONSE

I have a big mouth. Not so big as it used to be, not so fast to ignore an approach of kindness and appropriate response in favor of egotistical wit or perhaps, more precisely, sarcasm; but it’s still plenty big.

As a little boy I had almost zero filter. While this “skill” becomes more tolerated in those who are of advanced age, it does not carry the same acceptance when it’s voiced by youth. Saying what’s on your mind as a kid, without consideration for whom the audience may be, can result in fast-tracking a lot of enemies, and yes, I had a bunch. Having no siblings, my social skills were atrophied early on. I had a few close friends who tolerated my eccentricities, but they themselves were probably too busy with their own problems rather than point out or be bothered by mine. There were, however, plenty of critics of all ages, but their caustic opinions never swayed me to change. Negative feedback was offered in copious amounts, mostly followed by physical abuse. I got into frequent fist fights with classmates while various adults used me for a punching bag on occasion. This motivated me to become even more entrenched with my habits.

I carried this type of behavior well into adulthood, and because I DID become an adult (at least on the outside) my reactions towards life seemed to be more and more acceptable. As a result, I figured my approach may have been appropriate to begin with. Eventually I found out I was dead wrong. People had simply learned how to ignore what they had neither the time, energy, nor interest to oppose. It was many years before I realized how much I was being politely ignored. In any case my typical approach to communicating was so far off base it was outside the ballpark entirely. My roommate from many years ago had an insight that turned me around, and I’m grateful to this day for his honesty.

My presumption was this, if I’m approached by someone with an opinion, especially a passionate one, or even more so, if they are in a state of frustration and are looking for an audience for their difficulties, then they are obviously wanting some sort of judgement on the subjects being presented. Why else would they turn to me if not for my viewpoint? Alternative reasoning never occurred to me, my ego was too dominant, too hungry for attention and self-verification. I had no idea what they really wanted, but I knew what I wanted, attention, and this action was selfishness of the highest order. I’d take the dreams or nightmares of others and use them to prop up a belief I was being sought out for my “infinite wisdom”. I must admit, on occasion I STILL find myself falling into the well-worn ruts of my past, but I usually catch myself and do what I can to quickly correct my role.

What my roommate, my friend, explained to me was this, when people open their mouths (and hearts) they are wanting foremost to be heard; all they’re usually looking for someone to pay attention to them. If listening is a skill, then listening without thinking about what to say once they’re done is a master skill. High expertise is required to accomplish this, and I’m still terrible at it. The egotistical droning in my head all too often drowns out what the other person is saying. As a result I begin to ignore, or even worse, interrupt them in favor of expressing my opinions. As I said, I usually catch myself (not always) and at the very least ask them to repeat what they were saying while I make a concerted effort to focus on their narrative. One thing’s for sure, IF the other person wants my feedback, they’ll request it, otherwise my duty is to support or empathize with them silently. Acknowledgement of what’s being said need be nothing more than eye contact and facial expressions combined with genuinely paying attention. Whether or not a person is reacting to and absorbing someone else’s delivery is easily recognizable by the person who pitches it. I know when it happens to me. Whenever I’m attempting to communicate I can usually tell if I’m being ignored, even if the appearance of attentiveness is being presented. I’ll bet you can too.

I’m one of those dorks who occasionally hands out greeting cards to express myself. Sometimes it’s a thank you to a supervisor, other times it might be to convey empathy for another’s loss, and every once in a while, just to be a goof. In any event this is, of course, a form of silent communication as well. Not only that it’s a gesture rather than a declaration. Anyone who thinks silence doesn’t have the loudest voice, has never taken time to explore the possibilities.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

133. SUICIDAL TENDENCIES

In the mid nineteen-nineties I used to fantasize about dying, in fact it was my dominant thought process. With nothing but spiraling bleakness ahead, I found little to get me out of bed other than the next drink. I detested my job, I despised anything approaching responsibility, I hated the realization none of my time was productive or creative in the slightest, but most of all, I loathed the mirror. All the possibilities my future once held, and moments directly in front of me I used bounce around with enthusiasm over, had long since faded to grey. Why try and salvage a life that had nothing to offer even if it could be fixed? When a car is hit by a train no one ever thinks the vehicle should be repaired, simply junked. Such was my logic. Honestly, I’m glad these days I didn’t own a gun. I did, however, contemplate other forms of ending my existence. Driving off a bridge was probably the most common. In January of nineteen-ninety-five I decided to go ahead and drink myself to death. This effectively pushed me to my recovery in July of that year, and the reason for this evaded me for many years, but the short answer is I finally gave up trying to fix myself. I decided there was nothing in my head I could activate to make life better; no information, no motivation, no fear from within could be leveraged to lift me out of hopelessness.

Suicide was a real option for me, and while I don’t agree these days with those who make this decision, I damn sure empathize. I’ve alluded to this topic many times on this blog, but this entry carries a more focused look at what I can offer on the subject. I’ve known people who have died by their own hand and I can say for sure, the tidal wave that follows the act, no matter what the self-destructive person thinks, is enormously catastrophic. Most times, when the dominos fall, the damage is permanent. Cheerful people become withdrawn, optimistic ones lose the will to follow their dreams, and sometimes, sometimes, they inspire others to follow in their footsteps, which expands the devastation of previously peaceful lives to profoundly distant borders.

So, so far this sounds like a standard stance on the subject, but the REAL reason I’m writing this entry is to reveal a secret no one lost in utter desperation knows exists. When one stands on the very edge of oblivion, when they are a single breath from their last, when light is nothing more than a memory, THIS is where hope and redemption resides. This place, thinner than a razor’s edge, cradles a power greater than most, even those who are happy and productive, will ever encounter. It’s the catapult to a life of unimagined joy and peace. All it takes is the willingness, while standing on this spot, to let go of everything you were previously convinced of. This IS the price of deliverance. Doing this never occurs to most when facing the final step, so they plunge headfirst into the abyss, all too often ignorantly pulling others with them. All one must do here is cry out for help without holding onto the need to defend oneself. When we ask others to take over our lives, when we remain open to EVERYTHING while questioning nothing, when we drop the accumulated baggage of our lifetime, we are swept by the winds of the universe to a plane of existence few experience.

Those of us who have met the rare souls who have made it back from the brink will tell you these people are the best people they know. They are kind. They are grateful. They are trustworthy and reliable. They are envied by many for having the ability to face life with confidence, but most of all they own a tendency to have unconditional Love for everything, and that includes their reflection. The reason for this is simple, when one has visited hell, everywhere else looks like  heaven.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood