Self Actualization

96. IN SEARCH OF PERFECTION

I’m an artist, though not nearly as prolific as I used to be. In my basement I have thousands of dollars in supplies. All mediums, tools, and colors wait patiently for my return to the tablet or canvas.  The variety is so extensive that I had to buy a huge tool chest (no taboret is large enough) just to hold and organize some of it. When the mood strikes, I’ll sit down and express myself; meticulously taking my time with every movement. It’s weird but I can go back to a picture I started years ago and continue working right where I left off. I like that about myself because there was a time when I had no patience or desire for continuing such endeavors; if I couldn’t finish it in one sitting I’d tear it up or throw it away and all too often never even start over. It’s also a (slight) burden because I know I don’t have the drive finish some things that might turn out quite well. It’s almost as if I gain more satisfaction from the experience than the finished product. In either case I’d rather own the latter deficiency. Why? Because for me it lacks a lot of negative self-judgement.

As much as I would LOVE to embrace the idea of not judging oneself, I still find this skill useful as long as I don’t initiate self-punishment when I see a need for improvement. There’s no doubt it’s difficult to not step over this line. There are times where I feel shame for not perusing my dreams, and this attitude does nothing for making my life a better place to live.

Years ago, when I first started plumbing, my supervisor said something to me I still use on a daily basis. I was obviously grouchy about my progress as an apprentice because no matter what, I would want my work as perfect as possible. He noticed this behavior and came to the rescue with this philosophy, “As long as what you’re doing will function and is to code, accept it and keep going. When you’re done, stand back for thirty seconds and ask yourself how will I do it better next time?” This mindset keeps the creative juices flowing without the added burden of becoming frustrated.

Do I still occasionally take things apart and start over? Not really; used to though. When I do start over it’s normally because someone else put together what I would never. I’ve got some things on my job now someone else did that I’m going to change. I’ll never tell them though; doesn’t matter anyway.

I feel the secret of pursuing perfection lies in the acceptance of what we think are flaws. The greatest example (that I know of) at expressing this is Bob Ross. Yes, he was an artist too, but unlike how I used to be he saw “mistakes” as opportunities to change an occasional misstep into something beautiful; or perhaps a better definition may be that he chose to find and recognize perfection in chaos. When we do so we aren’t lowering our standards by accepting an inferior product or outcome, far from it. What we are doing is learning how to adapt, accept, and progress, and this is a superior talent for moving through life, at least in my opinion.

Look to the what the universe has surrounded us with. Is anything truly imperfect? One cannot point to a tree and say, “This is flawed”. It may indeed be diseased, dying, split from lightning, or damaged by a storm, but its state is never imperfect because it simply is what it is. Everything is part of the natural flow of the cosmos, including your creations and accomplishments, your actions and reactions. Don’t negatively judge them, remember this automatically invites self-punishment, use them instead as stepping-stones to guide you where you want to go. Knowing what we don’t want is a wonderful companion to moving toward what we do want, but there’s a huge difference between progress and foolishness. I’ve said this before, and I mean it again. One cannot invite improvement by walking backwards and constantly judging where we were. This is called the path of excuses. Turn around and move towards the future……a rear-view mirror will do just fine for remembering and reminding us of what we’ve moved beyond and all those “happy accidents” will eventually become the building blocks of tomorrow.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

95. THE GIFT OF GIVING

frogs

My home is full of crap. I’m no hoarder, that’s for sure, but I do have a lot of stuff. Collections begun in my youth are now gathering dust and taking up room. I have a box of coins including an 1800’s penny that’s (for some weird reason) twice as thick as our normal ones, an Edgar Rice Burroughs library of over four-hundred books that spans several first editions along with a host of publishers and all kinds of release dates, a decent A&W root-beer collection that contains cream soda mugs, wall tiles, signs, and giveaways, and I own a really good vinyl selection of both Queen and Neil Diamond. Other things include over 500 movies, a lot of tools including some I’ve never even pulled the trigger on, and way too many clothes. None of these items bring me peace of mind, pleasure, or urge me to go home faster at the end of the day.

So, what can I either create or attract that WILL enhance feelings of  happiness and security? For years I was fixated on changing my state of mind from the outside in, which explains why the bottle had so much appeal; I could easily alter my emotional structure and ignore reality, at least temporarily. I empathize with others in this elusive quest. A mind free from worry and pain has great allure. Anything that does this is, even superficially, will tempt most. Unfortunately the absence of what we don’t want does not invite or manufacture what we do want. This was a serious flaw in my logic I failed to notice. When I began to equate who I was by manipulating the environment, I began to change both my possessions and, artificially, my mental state. It seemed reasonable at the time; my thoughts will turn into reality and paint the picture of my life as I fantasized it to be. This reverse path quickly led nowhere. It fed upon itself and produced a lot of regret. I was attempting to alter my reactions (a VERY important observation) from the outside in. Forcing false feelings, it seems, is not a goal or an answer. As a matter of fact it began to breed a deep shame for not letting my true self emerge. I fed the ego and starved the spirit.

As life has progressed I’ve found the answer to knowing how to live lies in what I enjoy looking back on, here is where my soul has revealed itself. I feel my greatest possessions, the ones that have contentment, love, self-respect, peace of mind, and honesty attached to them are nothing more than events. What I place value on is memories. Even when I was a boy this dynamic was quite common, so obviously this approach is not necessarily reserved for those with experience and age. Wonderful memories are not only priceless, the best ones inspire new moments of similar content. The beauty of my past can be recycled into inspiration for the moment. The question then becomes, “What can I do that will become a good memory for tomorrow?”

Some of my common thread actions and observations  have been-

  • Focus on how I can serve others.
  • Focus on now.
  • Seemingly small things to me can often be huge things for others.
  • Giving produces the most rewards; as long as nothing is expected in return.
  • Listen instead of talk. (I still need a LOT of work on this one….)
  • Sometimes the best advice is silence.
  • Don’t hold back on kindness.
  • When I do what others want, I can experience their joy.
  • Actions have infinite value over things.

When I find myself doing these correctly (most of the time I don’t, just like so many others) it becomes a dual reward. The instant is wonderful because I’m absorbing it in real-time and I can recall and enjoy it when I want because a detailed and focused record is being manufactured and filed.

These days, when I want to give a gift, I try my best to attach a memory with it. Let’s face it, unless it’s something you’ve really been striving for, simply receiving an object isn’t really all that exciting. They say actions speak louder than words, I say actions speak louder than things. As a matter of fact I would venture to say that actions have the loudest and most reverberating voice of all. I LOVE looking back to those pivotal events in my life; a trip, a kiss, an act of kindness, the first time I really saw her, a good laugh, and a last encounter all spring to mind rather quickly. There’s a powerful anchor of trust, Love, and loyalty attached to the proper actions. If you want these things in life, try giving away your best actions and see what happens.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

93. 21 YEARS IN RECOVERY

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Well, here I am at my 21st A.A. birthday. I remember looking forward to my other 21st birthday because it meant I wouldn’t have to rely on others as much to make decisions. I had gotten drunk only once before when I was seventeen. My friend and I scraped together a little money and bribed some guy to buy us a fifth of green label Jack. We stayed home and got sloshed while playing cards using only a strobe light to see by. It was fun for about an hour and then we both got sick. I had a hangover for two days and vowed to never drink again; and I didn’t for what seemed like a long time.

Then, some years later, after I’d turned twenty-one, I moved in with a guy who had booze everywhere and I thought “why not?” I began drinking about once a month and it felt OK. I got past the occasional hangover rather quickly and I began looking forward to the next embracement of self-induced oblivion. Within two years it was happening pretty much every weekend.  Then came the day I was screwed. I found out that “hair of the dog” actually worked when I’d drank too much the night before. From then I was a maintenance alcoholic. Too much and I couldn’t function because I’d pass out. Too little and I’d get the shakes or worse, delirium tremens. I had no idea just how close to death I’d been until looking back. That was a long road.

If you’re suffering now I have this advice for you. There is no shame in asking for help. Many wait out there with solutions and Love. Trust me. Those I know who have made it back from what seemed like hopelessness are truly the best people I know these days. It’s a heck of a price to pay, walking through hell to find oneself,  but it’s worth it.

Who knows, you may end up liking and eventually Loving that person in the mirror. I did.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

91. MY DEPRESSION

depression

I’m not in a position to give professional advice to those in the grip of depression. I’m not a doctor nor am I a counselor. That being said, what I can do is share the details of my journey beyond desolation. Perhaps shedding some light on where I was compared to where I am will help, perhaps not. In any case I certainly know what it feels like to be immobilized and lost.

Thoughts of doom and suicide dominated my life for a long time, years in fact. I had love, no spark, no peace, and no purpose. Surviving was my only motivation, and even that began to deteriorate. Chasing pleasure quickly became a substitute for manufacturing happiness. This mental prison I’d built started in the mid eighties and finally began to erode in the mid nineties. Going over a decade without hope, self-respect, or direction sounds like an impossible journey, one destined to end in disaster, yet here I am.

They say the further you fall, the higher you rise. Considering just how high I’ve risen in the past twenty years, my low must have been exceptionally deep, especially since even now I continue progressing with great strides. So, what exactly was the moment I started to ascend? When did my life finally stop spiraling towards oblivion?  There were three major shifts in my life that allowed the floodgates of redemption to swing wide open.

SHIFT NUMBER ONE……

The first began with letting go of a belief I had drilled into my skull since I was a small boy. It’s one many are programmed with, and have wrongly reinforced through our peers and mentors. This belief was that somewhere buried inside me I had the tools and desire to fix who I was all by myself. Most people call this elusive, superhuman skill ……willpower.

What garbage.

In my playbook, if I want to become a better person, then I must step past my ego. This maneuver is called “Letting go”. Letting go involves zero willpower. It DID require me to take an action once previously thought of as demeaning and painful. I had to open my arms and mind to criticism. Keep in mind there are two very specific types of criticism, one is a form of abuse, and the other is pure Love, and there’s a big difference.  Most will criticize with the intent of cloning themselves; that is they want you to be more like them. Those who do it with Love in their hearts will only be interested in you becoming a better person. Trust me; you’ll know the difference with this definition in mind.

Some equate letting go with giving up; nothing could be further from the truth. Here is the equation. Giving up is the equivalent of steering your boat to the most remote point of the ocean, lowering your sails, and dumping all your provisions overboard. Not a good scenario. Letting go, on the other hand, is akin to deciding you’re lost on the water, pulling into a port, and asking someone else who is obviously skilled and wise to pilot you and your ship to somewhere you’ve never even heard of. This requires a massive step out of one’s own feeling of self-control.

If I’m to embrace my full potential I must allow those to lead me who are already somewhere I want to be. Keep in mind the boat is still mine, I’m ultimately in charge, but for the moment I’ve decided to allow forces that align with faith to guide me. I’m relaxed and am open to outside direction. If this is the case, then what I was attempting before was fighting against the tides. I was closed to suggestion and focused on using only my own energy to guide me. Here lies the difference between being problem aligned rather than solution oriented. It never feels good going forward, it’s a vulnerable and uncertain maneuver, but this choice always reaps massive rewards. So, this action illustrates the first step I took towards serenity.

SHIFT NUMBER TWO……

This second step is a bit more personal so you may not have any common ground with what I’m going to share. In any case, this exercise defiantly helped me, and to this day it still continues to do so. In a nutshell I was told by a professional in the field of mental health that depression is basically rooted in unexpressed anger.

Unexpressed anger?

Yes, unexpressed anger. This does not, however, mean un-generated anger. It means I’d felt hostility, bitterness, angst, and rage but they were never fully expressed in a mentally healthy manner. My mind had reactions to events I’d kept muted or even completely bottled up. In my experience (and all too often in my observations of others, especially men) ALL emotions we hold back on eventually find their way to the surface both unexpectedly and mutated.  The road to mental health is paved with the stones of proper expression and use of emotion. Depression, in my case, was created from the inability to let out and deal with those events I found undesirable.

One may ask, why anger? Couldn’t other emotions poorly expressed and downright withheld be the cause of depression? Yes, but consider this; if Love is not revealed when it’s deeply and desperately felt, would this not eventually cause anger towards oneself? How about sadness, celebration, shame, or satisfaction? The truth is, at least for me, holding back on any emotion no matter the source, will eventually cause the feeling to go from regret to anger.

It helps me tremendously to ask “what am I mad about?” rather than “what’s depressing me?”  In other entries of this blog I write about the quality of our questions equaling the quality of our answers and thus in doing so improve the quality of life. This question is a terrific example.

SHIFT NUMBER THREE……

Nothing transforms my emotional state like movement, just plain old moving around can initiate massive changes in my outlook and attitudes. The good news, nothing has to be all that focused on what I feel needs “fixing”.  Examples may include doing the laundry, going for a walk, cooking, and especially……cleaning. I have a feeling that last one, cleaning, has psychological benefits that can have other, subconscious healing effects. It should be clarified I’m not going to the point of becoming a germophobe. Simple elimination of junk and clutter in the course of reorganizing my environment has always reverberated to other tasks and neglected responsibilities. If this is true, then surely the opposite is just as obvious.  When I’ve been depressed, and have decided to do nothing but sit, sleep, and remain as motionless as possible, it waters the seeds of my hopelessness. To be very clear here I’m NOT talking about meditation, that’s a completely different (spiritual) dynamic designed to center and focus myself. I guess the more I concentrate on anything outside of me, removing my focus from my perceived “problems,” the further I get away from the fear-based voice of my ego, which seems to be the very root of every problem I’ve ever faced.

Honestly this last suggestion has been extremely easy for me to observe in the lives of others. Those who are depressed usually seem to do very little physically. Likewise I’ve never met a depressed person who was one to get out of bed and exercise first thing in the morning. I’m sure this is a generalization, and like I said at the beginning, I’m no doctor. All I want to do here is share what has worked so far in my life. Take it as you will. I truly hope no one ever visits those places I’ve been, but if you have I’m here to tell you I found a way out.

I would like to acknowledge the help of a Facebook friend who helped me iron out and make a few suggestions that help clarify what I’m attempting to share here in this entry. She is a professional in the field of mental health and my gratitude is eternal, thank you Alma!

May the breadcrumbs of my life nourish those who are lost.

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With Love and Compassion,  Daniel Andrew Lockwood

87. A DYING WISH

generics

When I turned nineteen in 1983 I moved into my first apartment. It instantly became clear that this was not going to be the freedom filled adventure of youthful fantasy. My take-home income was around four hundred dollars a month and my bills added up to about three hundred and twenty of that. I didn’t own transportation so there was no financial burden in this category. I didn’t even have a phone. I did however have a quiet, clean place to call home only two blocks from both work and the nearest grocery store. I had my art, my books, and a (color) television to help pass the time. Food turned out to be a luxury. When it came to eating my belly was filled from the generic aisle. In the eighties there was a “fad” in nationwide supermarkets of extreme no-frills, basic products. They were generally at least half the cost of the lowest comparable item and the quality barely matched the price. Here was my salvation from starvation. Most of my consumption was in the form of macaroni and cheese dinners at 10 for a dollar, ten pound bags of potatoes, and butter and sour cream. My high carb, high fat diet provided enough energy to keep me from looking for a third source of income.

Because I worked nights, and held down two jobs, my social life consisted primarily of talking to whomever I happened to be in the vicinity of. I’d never been a party going person nor did I pursue any other kind of pastime that would have drained my wallet. I’d been in a couple relationships already but wasn’t jumping at a chance to renew the experience; besides I couldn’t have afforded a girlfriend even if I wanted one. As it turned out, I didn’t need money at all. On one of my rare days off I came home from the store to find a woman moving into my apartment complex. I was surprised to learn she was on her own, apparently a couple of friends had let her down. So, me being me, I jumped in and began helping. Turned out she has secured the unit directly below mine. Within a couple of hours we had all her possessions through the door. Once it was set up her place was almost as sparse as mine. I found out she was manager of a General Nutrition Center in a local mall and was in the middle of some life changes. There was a ten-year age difference between us but that didn’t stop us from becoming fast friends.

I discovered rather quickly she was in (recent) recovery from alcoholism, but that meant little to me. She seemed normal enough and as time strode on our friendship branched into prolonged visits and activities which she paid for and I gladly accepted. Going to the movies or a restaurant was a rare event in those days and I jumped at the chance to do anything other than sleep and work. Eventually, and probably inevitably, our friendship turned more intimate.

I remember during one of our conversations she mentioned she hated to hear men say they loved her. I was understandably confused at her statement and asked why. She said it was because it always turned out to be a lie. One day I was watching her put on makeup and get ready for work. I must have been staring at her a little weird because she suddenly blurted out, “Don’t look at me that way!” I was a deer in the headlights. “What way?” I asked feeling really nervous. “You’re looking at me like you love me.” I couldn’t and wouldn’t say it. It had been purposely set up this way; at least it felt like it at the time. Soon after the entire fling fell apart. She ended up going out with another man behind my back and I began to build a wall of self-pity. The foundation of this eventual prison was built on a single desire; the one that almost killed me.

“I wish I couldn’t feel Love.”

Everything I did for years was tethered to avoiding the action and emotion of Love. Slowly, painfully, this pursuit drove all the passion, all the color, and all the variety out of my life. I became a generic person, a “human” who “worked” and “ate.” My value to the rest of humanity was soon bottom shelf. Living only for the sake of living will eventually cause one to run out of reasons to continue, and in time that’s exactly what happened to me. Survival was my singular quest and even that began to erode with a lifestyle of escalating self-abuse. My primary goal was quite honestly, oblivion. I shunned any responsibility other than those involving support of my my basic needs; earning enough money to buy alcohol and stay off the streets.

For twelve long years I lost touch with my spirit until quite by accident I invited Love back into my life. It re-manifested by uttering a single, heartfelt word.

“Help.”

When I finally reached out with a willingness to leave everything behind, including my possessions, my belief systems, and even my acquaintances, I found an abundance of outstretched arms willing to guide and support me. The trip has been stormy and frightening, but never have I lost my footing. When I couldn’t see ahead I was carefully led. Every action that pulled me further from certain doom was carried out with patience, compassion, and understanding. My surrender of the past and embracement of a mostly unknown future has remained dedicated and focused. As a result, twenty years later, I now have what many may see as an enviable life. I’m at peace, I have a beautiful, loving, responsible, and sober wife who’s also my best friend. There’s no need for anything yet I have access to resources for manifesting whatever I want. Best of all I’m back in touch with myself.

You see, when I decided Love wasn’t worth pursuing, I unintentionally lost what positive feelings I had for myself. A connection to spirit vanished. The decision to eliminate this action, this emotion, led to the eventual elimination of ALL motivation and feeling. No matter where Love may lead me now, I choose to embrace it because it is the nourishment of a life well lived, and I encourage all to feast.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

86. WAYNE DYER

Dyer first audio

I love thrift stores. I rarely hesitate when the chance to discover and rummage through a newly found one pops up. There was a time when my work had me earning a living in a wide range of destinations from Seattle to Des Moines to Omaha and Kansas city including a plethora of towns and destinations in between. Each place meant new opportunities to explore; new treasures to find, especially in the way of books. It also meant a LOT of driving, sometimes hundreds of miles a day. When I grew tired of the content on the radio (and my own thoughts in the lonely silence waned) I eventually turned to audiobooks. Second hand shops certainly had no shortage of these. Before I went into recovery my choices were of the fictional nature, but as my life turned around so did my taste in what was not only entertaining, but educational.

My sponsor encouraged me to investigate new teachers and subjects beyond what A.A. offers. Naturally I began to seek facts and philosophies that would align with a life of continued self-improvement. I had regular print books in my library he had recommended, but nothing as of yet sought on my own. It was at this time I came across Dr. Wayne Dyer’s “The Secrets to Manifesting Your Destiny” at a local Goodwill. Well, the title had me intrigued and I knew, very superficially, who Dyer was so he wasn’t a complete unknown. After reading the back I thought I’d give it a try. This was about one year into my recovery, perhaps around the summer of nineteen ninety-six.

After playing and enjoying it once, I put it away thinking this was going to be the last and only time I would listen to it. I was wrong. About a year later I was bored, and again, it caught my eye. Upon giving it a second audience I was surprised to hear a lot I’d missed the first time. Dyer, as well as all great teachers, can be like this; either that or I’m simply a poor listener. At any rate, the pump had been officially primed for new teachings from the same source. More of his seminars were forthcoming from where I’d originally found the first one, thrift stores. Rather quickly I had attained a large library of his works along with such orators as Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, and titles including “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.  Other subjects accumulated as well, addressing such diverse topics as language skills, memory skills, math skills, business and leadership skills, and time management skills. Some were dull and quickly forgotten but Dyer remained my favorite.

As time went along I began to adopt his suggestions of encouragement. I was intrigued by his presentation of the “self-actuated person” as first put forth by Abraham Maslow. Dyer felt this state of being could be achieved by anyone, as opposed to Maslow’s argument that it was confined to a limited number of gifted people. Years later I was approached by someone with whom I’d had a little contact but nothing close. They handed a complement saying I was the most self-actuated person they ever met. I do my best to remain “independent of the good opinion of others” but this was a special treat and I was moved by their gift. I’ve had “peak spiritual experiences” and actively defend the absent, playing the “devil’s advocate” quite often. At the end of this article I’ll place some links to other earlier stories on this blog that fall in line with how Dyer has influenced and touched my life.

When Dyer released “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life” his book tour come through Denver Colorado. As a birthday gift my wife got us tickets to the event and I was quite excited. I wrote him and to my surprise he wrote back saying he was looking forward to meeting me. I couldn’t stop smiling through the entire talk. He signed the books we had brought and I had my first chance to talk to him directly. As the next few years rolled on I took any chance to see him I could, seven in all. Three at “Mile Hi Church” here in town, once at the Budweiser Event Center, once at a two-day Hay House seminar for publishing called “Writing for your Soul” held at the Brown Palace in 2013, and lastly at the 2014 “I Can Do It!” retreat at the Denver convention center. At his last Mile Hi appearance before the writer’s seminar I gave him a portrait of Deepak Chopra I had done as a gift. At the writer’s seminar he told me he had sent it to Chopra. I had done an earlier portrait of his daughter Skye and in return he sent me her CD and a copy of his movie. Here is a link (from this blog) to a photo of my picture of Dr. Chopra.

https://danielandrewlockwood.com/2013/09/21/another-example-of-my-artwork/

I suppose my favorite title of his is “There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem.” The point in the audio book at which he speaks of the little boy being befriended by his teacher tears me up every time. If you’ve heard it I’m sure you empathize. While I don’t have every book he put out, both in print and audio, it’s dang close. I even own a textbook he co-wrote before “Erroneous Zones.”  I haven’t read THAT one; yet.

While I will miss him, just like the rest of us, I know he finished his work and has moved on to a greater purpose.

Here are the older links from this blog that mention his influence on my life.

This address kindness over being right.

https://danielandrewlockwood.com/2013/07/07/the-strength-of-compassion/

This talks about becoming independent of the good opinion of others.

https://danielandrewlockwood.com/2013/12/10/coming-full-circle/

Here I share Dyer’s influence on how I now see others.

https://danielandrewlockwood.com/2013/12/24/a-change-of-perspective/

Exercising one of Dyer’s lessons.

https://danielandrewlockwood.com/2014/01/25/in-search-of-beauty/

About leaving the past in the past.

https://danielandrewlockwood.com/2014/03/07/44-change-your-life-lose-your-luggage/

How we become what we think.

https://danielandrewlockwood.com/2014/06/06/63-fire-and-water/

Repeating an experiment I heard Dr. Dyer perform. You should like this one.

https://danielandrewlockwood.com/2014/08/21/69-spiritual-or-religious/

Just like the rest of us I feel an urge to share following Dyer’s passing. I hope this entry does not come across as self-serving in any way.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

85. TRUTH

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

84. TWENTY YEARS IN RECOVERY – JULY 28, 2015

20th

I, like many people, used to let my mind wander obsessively on two types of thoughts, worry and regret. I could conjure future fantasies and find any excuse for not moving forward at the moment. Likewise I had similar skills that would keep me immobilized when looking back on my life. “What if?” and “It’s too bad.” were the same chapters I kept rereading. The reality I didn’t know at the time was that both these places are unreal; paranoid fantasies used over and over to fuel and excuse self-destructive behavior. Keep in mind worry and regret are NOT equal to reminiscing and planning. The latter two are healthy and honestly, necessary.

These days I concentrate mostly on what’s in front of me, and there’s a lot. I have a tendency to work on the moment; living and breathing with expectations of the future fueled by forgiveness of the past. So far, I’ve found no better way to live. A life without the fear of tomorrow or the pain of yesterday is the greatest gift of my recovery.

Does it feel like twenty years? Not really, and for that I’m grateful. This disease is always there, it never really goes away. Probably the best that can be done is to keep it behind me which in turn forces me to stay ahead of it, always moving, always learning, always helping.

I will say this, the BEST people I know are those who have gone headfirst and thoroughly through the program. They have nothing in common past A.A. They all have different beliefs and priorities and they are all utterly reliable and honest. There are those who feel 12 step programs are not the best route for those struggling with addiction. I have a little to say about this. The program itself says two things, and always has, that it’s a choice to be made by the individual when all other avenues have been exhausted and that it’s simply not for everyone.

Keep this in mind……..EVERYONE QUITS, AND MAN I MEAN EVERYONE.  How you choose to get away from the demons of your life is a choice; just please, don’t choose death.

The cross and coin in the picture were given to me by my wife in honor of this day. The A.A. coin commemorating my twenty year mark is solid silver. My Love; she is thoughtful and supportive.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

83. A MINOR MIRACLE

ticket

May, 1999…….

I hadn’t talked to Joe in some time. He was my sponsor and my friend, but our relationship was more than those words two can describe. His patience and teachings had saved my life. There was a bond to the common ground of alcohol addiction and an understanding of other things that linked us as well. Physical separation and a lack of communication did not weaken our connection. I’d been in recovery for almost four years and we hadn’t spoken for some time when he called. I knew a few sentences into our conversation that something was wrong.

“Joe! It’s good to hear from you!”

“Daniel. How are things in your world?

“I’m doing well. I have a wonderful girlfriend and my job is going very well.”

There was a silence, not too long but definitely noticeable, before he replied. “I’m glad to hear it.”

His tone alerted me as well. “What’s wrong, Joe?”

He sighed. “I’m going to lose my apartment. I was wondering if I could borrow some money. I’ll pay you back next month.”

“I have some saved, what do you need?”

“Five-hundred dollars.”

“I’ll be home tomorrow, when can you come by?”

“How’s one o’clock sound?”

“I’ll have your money then. See you tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Daniel.”

I was still living single for the most part and made almost daily trips to the grocery store. There was obviously a need to stop by the bank as well, so out the door I went. After picking out my usual lot of crap-food, I paid for my load and got another ten bucks out of my account to buy a scratch ticket. I did, and still do play frequently, so this was not a spur of the moment departure from my usual behavior. The result is the scan of the ticket above. (Sorry about the resolution, it’s a copy, of a copy, of a copy so it sucks, but it IS the ticket I won five-hundred dollars on.) Figuring no one would believe this story I quickly made use of the store’s copying machine to obtain proof of the serendipitous moment.

Five hundred dollars, no more, no less. You’d have a hard time convincing me this was random. Joe showed up right on time the following day.

“Nice to see you, please come in.”

“You’ve got a nice place here.” Joe hadn’t been to my apartment since I’d moved in. It was too bad he had to see it under these circumstances.

“Here’s your money.”

“I’m so sorry for this, it just kills me to ask for help. I’ll repay you next month, I promise.”

I’d told Joe on numerous occasions that I owed him my life, and if there were anything I could do to attempt to repay the debt I would be not only obliged, but honored.

“There’s no need to compensate me, the universe already did.” With that I showed him the scan of my scratch ticket I’d bought the day before. “All I’m out is ten bucks.”

Even after showing him the ticket he still was insistent on compensation. I finally convinced him otherwise. He was moved by the gesture and after we talked a little more he went on his way.

I have seen enough of these “coincidences” in life to be firmly convinced that they are of divine intent. My faith that whatever is needed will manifest at the perfect moment finds new footing as each day passes.  Such has been the case for every circumstance of my life so far. It isn’t as if some things were perfect and some weren’t; all my choices, all the so-called unplanned events, and even the most seemingly insignificant occurrences have conspired to give me what I choose to call a perfect life. One thing’s for sure, I would have never recognized any of it before I quit drinking, now close to twenty years ago. As a direct result of my recovery I embrace each moment as part of something wonderful waiting to unfold. There’s no doubt that what’s directly in front of me might be unwanted, but no matter what all of it is part of a better tomorrow.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

82. GRATITUDE MEANS…….

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I’ve almost died on several occasions, if you read the introduction to this blog I mention some of them. The latest event was earlier this year from a double dose of pneumonia and blood clots in my lungs following back surgery. While the operation alleviated the constant overwhelming pain on the left side of my body, the episode left me unable to walk without a cane; and even then only a little ways. Twelve days in the hospital all total left me weak and atrophied. I was off work almost five months, the longest period since I was sixteen. The doctors did not want me to lift more than ten pounds and I couldn’t even drive or attend a physical rehab program until I was healed to the point of allowing some stress on my spine.

In the middle of this I asked and paid my friends brother to drive me to the store to get roses for my wife on Valentine’s Day. I’d never missed one yet, and this wasn’t going to be the first. My job was kind to me so that was really never an issue, but I did constantly wonder what my future held. I finally went to work on May 1 of this year, and even though I was thrilled to get back to a life of labor, it was a difficult week.

You might be hard pressed to believe this, but I’m grateful for the entire experience, and here’s why.

The beauty in the fabric of my life comes from all those events that 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.

I do not measure success by material means; I measure it against my former self to see if I have become a better person; stronger, kinder, more patient, more determined, more enthusiastic, less judgemental, etc. If life is a journey, (one chosen on purpose by myself to be somewhat challenging) then sometimes the road inevitably leads to parts unexpected and unknown. This is consistently rewarding, however I must admit the moment can seem occasionally gloomy. No matter the situation, gratitude is generated in my life by constant forward movement, although all too often progress is made by taking two steps back and then three ahead. If the mountain range I’m currently climbing leaves my spirit beaten and bloody, so be it. The healing process will strengthen me for newer and even more demanding events.

Evidence of this approach to living is apparent in the lives of the poor and oppressed as opposed to those in positions of wealth and power. Gratitude comes easy and with sincerity when those who have so little gain even the most basic of needs and comforts. In my opinion this attitude can be diminished when abundance becomes unlimited, especially if one is born to it. A connection to the needs of others often disappears too, so instead of projecting a nurturing and empathetic attitude, one of judgement comes into play instead. This is not always the case of course. My hat comes off to the select few who can connect to each end of the human spectrum. They are the ones capable of moving the planet to a better place by both the leverage they wield and a pursued connection to those in need. By their actions they can lift, inspire, and give strength those who struggle, while showing others like themselves how to influence and help even more.

For me, as this type of symbiotic relationship is internalized, I find I’m able to manifest personal salvation. The “parts” of me that are overflowing with proficiency are capable of assisting those parts of me that are lacking in proper function. Here is an example of how I do this. My right knee has bothered me recently causing a painful limp and disturbing my sleep. I’m well aware that the body has amazing recuperative powers, so tapping into these forces is a simple matter of asking it to do so. I will literally strike up a silent conversation and say “Hey, brain…… you’ve got a job to do. Work on my knee and fix it.” I did this several times a day and it’s better now. This not the only time I’ve done it and I continue the practice because, quite frankly, it’s never failed me. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well, don’t knock it until you try it. When I take what I’m grateful for (my attitude and outlook on life) and focus it on where I need it most it does two things. My life improves and my gratitude increases as a result. It becomes a self feeding, doubly rewarding experience.

The struggles that come my way often become the platform for an even better tomorrow; and I know this even when I’m in the middle of the worst of times. When I wrote this entry- https://danielandrewlockwood.com/2015/01/26/76-so-close-to-giving-up/ I really was out of my mind with pain, and if you read it you’ll still see this philosophy being embraced and seeded. Honestly, gratitude is the best doctor I know. So far it has healed everything in my life.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood