Gratitude

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


140. A BRAND NEW LIBRARY

 

I had no idea what taking out the trash would do. All I really knew is I was done with my old perspectives and expectations. I gathered up everything I used to believe in and hauled it to the cosmic dumpster, and as you can speculate, it took several trips.  At any rate there I was at the age of thirty, starting over from scratch. The vacuum it created surprised me. All of the sudden I was in possession of an empty house. Fortunately, I immediately accepted the idea of being open to criticism, especially from those who obviously had something I wanted. Admittedly it never felt good, but I was convinced my old ways were suicidal.  One might think this would leave me hollow when in fact it turned me into a magnet, a sponge as it were. There was obviously little for me to cling to so I tossed out my desire to defend myself as well. The freedom and thirst my purging left in its wake were overwhelming sensations, and I was quickly determined to replenish my rooms with furnishings of discipline and quality, and the first one I wanted to rebuild was my library. Other than working with my mentor and following his suggestions without question (since all of my old habits and directions were out of some nightmarish Dr. Seuss travel guide) I soon found myself buried in books. Alan Watts, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins were common authors, and titles like “The Peter Pan Syndrome” and “Stage II Recovery” by Earnie Larson also made their way into my mental athenaeum.

My collection grew rather quickly and along the path I discovered a new way to absorb information. I drove a lot in those days (still do as a matter of fact) and instead of having the radio droning away in the background (playing songs I no longer cared about) my attention turned towards audio versions of what I’d been drawn to study and explore. I read a ton as a youth, but most of that was fiction. Now with renewed zest I turned to unexplored categories. Philosophy, religion, and self-help became my go-to focus. Slowly, like a massive puzzle coming into focus, MY picture, my understanding of how life needed to proceed for me became clearer and honestly, more beautiful, more synchronous.

My first excursions into the world of spoken books was rather antiquated. Cassettes often lay scattered in my cab along with a crappy radio to play them on, but play them I did. As my funds and accessibility to better technology increased I acquired CD’s. Eventually I purchased an iPod into which I crammed hundreds of titles. These days I use an iPod Touch, and for good reason. I’ve found nothing better to carry and play books on. There are services I could pay for, but they are extremely limited to accessibility and all too often they offer only abridged versions of what I’m looking for. Not only that but I already own a ton of hard copies and this acts as my own foolproof replacement policy. Also, once on my iPod I can backup what I’ve downloaded to a cloud. In any case, it’s extremely easy to use, durable, and portable.

It’s unfortunate, but many books are simply not yet available in audio format, so a more tactile approach is required. That being said, sometimes there’s no substitute for the feel and absorption of the written word in an old-fashioned manner. It can be an almost meditative experience, spiritual if nothing else, at least for me. Another downside is some seminars I want still exist only in cassette format, and while this is annoying, at least they do exist.

For those who are looking for a jump-start on some decent titles, both books AND seminars, here is a list of my favorites.

Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

This is the granddaddy of self-help literature. The title is deceptive for those with shallow aspirations. Some of the writing (first published in 1937) is a bit off-color, but it’s said with good intentions nonetheless. This is a GREAT place to start a foundation of building a solid and rewarding life.

Alcoholics Anonymous – AKA – The Big Book

I read this book twice a year at least, and I’ve been in recovery for twenty-five plus years now. For those who are in the grip of addiction AND are willing to admit it, this is a good source of information. Anyone who has gone through the program is going to argee it can actually apply to anyone, not just addicts. Once you get past the stumbling blocks of what a “higher power” is, the doors open. Different versions are written for different addictions, but the message is the same.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

First published in 1946 this book was written by a concentration camp survivor and is often referred to as the third school of psychology past the teachings of Freud and Jung. It is both depressing and highly uplifting. Hard to read, hard to put down. If you think you have a horrible life, your wrong. After finishing this tiny book your outlook will improve significantly over what you have as well as what you may have overlooked. It’s a truly inspirational book worth multiple readings.

There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every ProblemWayne W. Dyer

Anyone who reads this blog knows this man is my main (but NOT singular) source of inspiration. I Love all his books, but this is my favorite. Keep in mind spiritual means “of the spirit”. Religious connections are not necessarily applicable here, although some religious beliefs are referred to within the pages. There are two stories on the audio version that make me cry every time.

Personal Power II – Anthony Robbins

Anthony Robbins? That really tall goofy (but good looking) dude who sells self-improvement programs in old infomercials? Yup. Seriously, this man is light years past my spot on the food chain and he has the genre’ dialed in. I’m not belittling myself here, my goal has always been to encourage a first step, shining a light on the doors people are looking for. He, on the other hand, offers up a detailed roadmap to your wildest fantasies and his lifestyle matches his beliefs and ethics. This program, which is quite involved (and a bit aged now) is right on target. He’s engaging, entertaining, and brings real tools to the table anyone can pick up and use. There’s usually tons of his stuff on eBay, so go that route first. Also check Craigslist in your area. This is NOT a book, it’s a seminar.

I have many other authors in my collection, Deepak Chopra, The 14th Dalai Lama, Louise Hay, Marianne Williamson, and so on. Yes, even the Bible is in my iPod. I’m not pushing anything here, just sharing. If you really want a better life there are so many choices. Please don’t think you have no route, you’d be surprised just how accessible it is with a minimal investment of money and time. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a good trip, especially when it leads somewhere you’ve never been?

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind.

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

 

139. SEEING 2020 – 20/20

I’d be lying if I said this year has been easy for me. Just like almost all of us on Earth, the pandemic has quite honestly hit close to home, touching everyone I know in one form or another. Early on a friend of mine at work lost his father to it. I looked over one day and saw him weeping, still barely holding the phone in his hands. Some of my family members have had it and I’m beyond grateful they are still with us. Our planet has been, and continues to be scared, in pain, mourning, and yes, angry, frustrated, and just plain exhausted. We feel caged, lashing out at anyone who tightens our restrictions, all the while not realizing we are the ones who built the prison to begin with.   

I see 2020 as a divine test, an exam we will either pass or fail. There’s no middle grade on this one, and regrettably, it isn’t over yet. Religious people always want some sort of “sign from above” hoping for divine rescue to whisk away the darkness falling upon them while at the same time obliterating the perceived enemy. What they don’t seem to realize is the hand of God, when it comes to correcting the mistakes man has burdened himself with, has historically come in the form of floods, disease, and unfortunately, extinction. God’s solution to our problems (when they get completely out of control) is to effectively erase almost everyone on both sides of the conflict. If we are to survive, if we are to persevere, we MUST look to each other for salvation.

What then is the best way to help our fellow human? Is it by charitable means? Is it through kindness, tolerance, and prayer? Should our energies be focused in the name of cooperation and encouragement? I do indeed believe these are worthwhile paths, and I swear I practice every one of them, but in my experience there’s a much higher calling we all can choose to act upon, the projection of constant gratitude.

I’ve been debating whether I should put a list on this entry of my setbacks this year. Everyone has a similar one, and many, in fact most I would imagine, have ones that make mine look rather tame, but I thought it best to show that even though I can come up with an inventory of negative events, I’m ALSO capable of generating one of a positive nature. I think the exercise of doing this is good not only good for my soul, it’s also capable of resonating beyond just my tiny existence and will hopefully inspire others to do the same.  

I’ll try to keep what might be interpreted as complaining or, of course, generating excuses for self-destructive behavior, to an unemotional, somewhat dry summary.

  • There have been deaths, my father in February, and a coworker, one of whom I was quite fond of. He was the son of a supervisor of mine, the same man who hired me almost twenty-two years ago. He (my supervisor) committed suicide the day after thanksgiving in 2019, so now both are gone.
  • I’ve had some weird medical issues pertaining to, of all things, amnesia. I’ve experienced two episodes this year, the latest, and more disabling of the two, taking place on December 1st of this year. The doctors, who have been slow to respond, still have no idea what’s causing this. I’m currently not working as a result.
  • Our Hawaii vacation we had paid for lock stock, and barrel, was, for obvious reasons, cancelled. We got back about 25% of our costs. Several thousand dollars lost.
  • By my own hand, literally, I’ve regained a ton of weight I managed to lose last year.

Those were the big “negative” events beyond other shared roadblocks with mankind this year. And while they did push me back on my heels, I’m still standing, as it were. This being said, it’s rather easy to come up with a list of positive events, and this is where I choose to direct my attention.

  • My wife managed to find new employment that, conveniently enough allows her to work, for the time being, from home. Coincidentally the wheels started turning on her new path just weeks before the pandemic. In fact, she worked from the main offices for some time before being shuffled to her current base of operation.
  • I too, being an essential worker under the categorization of new construction, never skipped a beat. Having skills at building laboratories and medical facilities came in all too handy.
  • Our Honda we bought new several years ago was paid off just prior to the ensuing chaos, so this was a nice relief in our finances.
  • Believe it or not my 401k has gone up a lot this year. (I recommend to everyone who has one to consult with financial advisors before dolling out percentages to what might look profitable to an untrained eye.)
  • My company is angelic as far as management goes. They work hard with me to ensure my needs are met and their kindness and ethical practices are truly rare. I do my best to keep my behavior and skills worthy of such compensation. This company also pays for short-term disability which I am leaning on for the moment, albeit reluctantly; but it is a blessing.
  • I reached a milestone in my recovery in July; twenty-five years. I know it’s just a number, one day at a time of course, but it’s a nice marker nonetheless.
  • I said above my father had passed away in February, and although it affected me in ways I hadn’t expected, I was still happy to see him suffering no longer.
  • We never ran out of toilet paper.

So obviously I have some wonderful energies being sent my way, and I am constantly openly, as well as silently, thankful. Could I take the first list and totally ruin my life with it, disregarding the second list in the process? Easily. As a drunk I was a master of excuses, and those skills that expanded my misery are still programmed into my mind. Luckily stronger, more powerful, and consciously practiced skills now override those old, dusty habits. I still have moments of depression, fear, and doubt, just like most, but my track record at this point is leverage and practice is enough for me to find inspiration to look forward rather than dwell on the road behind me.

This ACTION of constant gratitude is how I feel we are best armed to help others find their way out of desperate suffering. Without judging or preaching we can, by example, be living proof to others there is a way through life’s cruel labyrinth, there is hope, and eventually, peace.

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind. 

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

136. THE GREAT EXPERIMENT

One of my basement beliefs, one a good many may disagree with, is that our behaviors are more important than our objectives. I think how we decide to act is far more productive, and in the long run, satisfying to our spirit, than creating and moving toward a vision. Both are important, even necessary, but in my experience, character is shaped much more by how we choose to get somewhere. The way in which we travel and the things we do along the route is where we find and reveal our soul. Our resolve to do it repeatedly is prompted by reaching the summit of one’s vision, and in doing so, know we can take up a similar quest again. I suppose it could be equated thus, “If life is a road trip, then how important is the course and carriage as opposed to the destination?” Many philosophers have pointed out the secret to living is about the journey, and I agree. Goals are inherently necessary or movement through life becomes stagnant, pointless; but when we look back, reminisce as it were, do not our thoughts almost linger more about how we got there than it was about finally accomplishing our mission? I think the secret to living is to make our life’s vision all about the journey by creating interesting and creative intentions that force us along new and challenging paths. The circle (or perhaps spiral) becomes symbiotic between method and objective.

Here lies the real question, “What would happen to our lives if we concentrated on our conduct rather than focusing on an outcome?” I have other posts on this blog addressing the importance of asking quality questions, and in my opinion, this is one of the best. If outcome is all that matters, then it’s almost inevitable we will forgo our ethics to reach a conclusion. I’m not willing to compromise my principles, so I choose to, in every situation, practice my beliefs. For example, I will not abandon kindness in favor of cruelty just to win the race. I once heard a man say, “If life is a journey, then the faster you go, the quicker you reach the end.” If this is true, then the higher the speed, the lower the quality of our experiences.

I threw away a good portion of my life, fifteen years at least. I have no compunctions about it, but I do intend to do what I can to regain ground, and I must say, so far, so good. I made a decision years ago to treat the rest of my existence as an experiment. When I first sobered up, appreciation and gratitude for everything rose massively. Situations many would call boring or ordinary had me looking at the miracle of the moment most ignore. It forced me to slow down, and in turn it gave me an insight to a secret, one I talk at length about in another blog post, 118. Eyes of Wonder. The secret is this, the more we look forward, anticipate as it were, the more we force our perspective of time to slow down. Think of your own childhood. Did it not feel as if your birthdays were three years apart? That Christmas was never, ever going to arrive? When we were children, we spent all our thought processes, all our energy looking forward. It didn’t matter if we anticipated a pleasant conclusion or not. As adults we tend to look back, both in the framework of reminiscence and regret. It stands to reason, the more we concentrate on the past, the more we neglect what’s in front of us, and in doing so we speed up the arrival of our future. If I’m correct about this, then the reverse is true. The more we look forward, with either dread or eagerness, the more we force our awareness of time to decelerate. This realization was the first part of my intended “experiment.”

The second part was to concentrate on my morals. If I were to move forward with a plan, I needed parameters. The willingness to set and stick to behavioral boundaries is what separates us from the common animal. We have the ability to look in the mirror and say “I’m going to be a better person than I was yesterday, kinder, more tolerant, less indulgent, better informed, more productive, less selfish, more empathetic and less judgmental, and so on.” This list reflects my personal intentions, but you get the idea. Grizzly bears do not get up in the morning and say to themselves, “Today I’m going to be a better bear.” Doesn’t happen. We own the ability to circumvent our instincts, and that’s a divine gift, one many throw in the garbage.

Once I had both parts, I had the vehicle to move forward with my life’s “experiment.” I will choose to constantly look forward to tomorrow (without ignoring the moment, this is important) and do so while attempting to become a better person than I was yesterday. If you’ll notice, my plan is absent of a specific destination, but without manufacturing them, I’d have a difficult time collecting research, so I do set goals.

I’m not immune to distractions and I often find myself wandering off the road, this year (2020) especially. I get flat tires, run out of gas (physical neglect), I pull over to indulge in crappy roadside gift shops (materialism), and get bored (lose faith) BUT… I always eventually keep going. Here’s to better roads worthy of stopping to take pictures, enjoying the ride,  and meeting new people along the way.

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind.

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

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

 

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

118. TWENTY-FOUR YEARS SOBER

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

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

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

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

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

117. ALMOST DEAD – PART ONE

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

1. Car accident

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

2. Carbon monoxide poisoning

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

3. Alcohol Withdrawal

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

4. Heat stroke

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

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

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

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood