Self Actualization

101. WHAT’S YOUR CALLING CARD?

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Everyone has a sales pitch. They may not think so, but the truth is we are always attempting to sell how we want to be accepted by whomever our audience happens to be at the time; and the theme or vibe we put into our song and dance is determined by the perceived importance of those we meet, as well as what we think we can gain from their alliance. This means that we too are going to be entertained by the same routine from the other side. It may not come out as obvious in some, that’s for sure, but a calling card is always presented. It can be in the way we move, the clothing we wear, the timber of our voice, eye contact, or even the way we smell. The biggest one is, of course, what we say. In the end we are looking to trigger certain Pavlovian responses in others that will determine how we want an interaction to take place.

 The most seductive calling cards are, in my opinion, based on the (mostly subconscious) search for reinforcement of being victimized. What I mean is that many look to find support for continuing a life of pain and self-abuse. If you’re thinking this doesn’t make any sense, I don’t blame you, it didn’t to me either. Their card says, in a nutshell, “Here’s why my life sucks.” All too often when a traumatic event happens, we look to alleviate our intensely negative emotions in the fastest way possible. “Nope, can’t handle this; not right now!” This relates to both the memory (mental) and the physical repercussions (if they exist). Nine times out of ten, this pans out to an inferior or mindless knee jerk reaction – the quickest coping mechanism that pops into our minds, rather than a knowledgeable reaction rooted in awareness. Always resorting to this habitual escapism can mean any hope of true recovery is going to vanish. A fast diversion may cause the illusion of elimination, but the problem with this tactic is it doesn’t last. The negative emotions inevitably come roaring quickly back into our conscious minds, and the escapist cycle must be duplicated if feelings of apathy and oblivion are to be maintained. Pushing these negative emotions back into our subconscious minds, out-of-the-way, and falling off the emotional scale into the numbness is where we find our escape. The catch is every time a “cheap” cycle is repeated, its effectiveness diminishes slightly until nothing but the habit exists without any of the reward. It can become a deep hole from which few find a way out. The memory of false bliss lingers long after the effectiveness of temporary solutions have stopped functioning, which is why so many keep chasing it; they think there’s a way to repeat the original formula and catch that initial sensation of relief.  Ultimately, you begin to realize that numbness no longer feels like relief.

I know people who complain about abusive relationships they were in thirty plus years ago. This is a choice the victim perpetuates, the question is, why? I myself have a history of seeing my own blood at the hands of those who were supposed to show me compassion and Love. Some would let this be their calling card, and for me it was… for years… BECAUSE it was also a wonderful excuse for self-abuse; one I was naïvely unaware of. When I handed this definition – this label – of who I was to acquaintances and strangers, I got back exactly what I wanted: justification for keeping myself in this loop. No wonder so many turn to drugs and alcohol. I get it, I really do. Letting go of the initial reason for pain (which usually manifests in the form of forgiveness) EQUALS letting go of the habits and reactions attached to it. For a long time, this wasn’t an option, and it nearly destroyed me. Issues that are strictly physical are similar to those that induce or include mental anguish, but in my opinion are not nearly as common. I could be wrong here, of course.

I witness so many “calling cards”: some are sincere, some comical, some necessary, and some revolting. The “Alpha male” card always makes me vomit (and laugh) a little. “How can I impress you while beating you at something right off the bat?” Yuck. The “Righteous belief system” one is fairly common, and frankly it’s usually designed to start an argument. But sometimes it’s nothing more than a search for common ground, and that’s kind of nice. There are obviously a plethora of examples. Mine (I hope…) goes a little like this, “Smile, shake hands, introduce myself, and ask how I can be of service?” It basically says nothing more than “How may I serve you?” Yes, as time goes on in any relationship my library of continued and amended introductions takes many paths, but I do my best to consciously make them optimistic and, above all, kind.

Kindness seems to be the rarest card of all. People think it’s the weakest one in the deck when in reality it carries the most strength and power. It does not, however, wield strength and power for the individual who offers it, but strength and power to the environment surrounding them. Look at someone like Mother Teresa or Gandhi, their goals, their focus centered on helping others rather than themselves. In the end, the energy came back and elevated them without any egotistical agenda whatsoever. Humility is so rare.

So, what is your calling card? It might surprise you. It might nauseate you. It might piss you off. In any case, it’s now going to be hard to pass off without recognizing it, and THAT is the power to change it.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

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100. POSTS FIFTY THROUGH ONE-HUNDRED SUMMARY

Well, I finally made it to one-hundred posts. The past two years have slowed me down a bit since my back surgery, but I’m feeling much more normal and motivated these days. That being said, I expect future entries will be a little more forthcoming. My book is almost finished and I should be able to see it in hardback fairly soon, so that’s more than enough motivation to keep writing here as well. Been working on it for a decade now and it’s almost reality; kind of exciting. In the meantime here is a rundown to my blog from fifty up. I’ll get to categorizing each entry into the appropriate slot at the top of the blog fairly soon.

Thank all of you for reading my entries.

50. Fifty Post Summary – Just what you think it is.

51. Ghost Story – A paranormal experience worth sharing. All about my A.A. sponsor.

52. Building Confidence –  The recipe for inviting confidence into one’s life.

53. I Was Ashamed…….9/11 – How I reacted to 9/11. I hope I’m the only one.

54. Another Observation  Just a random thought.

55. The Disease of Addiction – This is the most important post here so far in my opinion. Anyone who is addicted or knows someone who is will walk away with a better understanding after reading this. Please read the comments under the entry.

56. Radio Show #1 – BlogTalkRadio –  My only radio interview, so far…

57. A Question –What the world needs more of; what I need to generate more of…

58. Surefire Self-Destruction – How to ruin your life.

59. Inspirational Music – Personal page, just music that inspires me when I need it. I’ll add to the list from time to time.

60. The Greatest Gifts – Those things in life that I’ve found true value in.

61. Poetry for the Soul – My favorite poem I’ve written.

62. An Open Mind – Think you have an open mind? This definition might upset you.

63. Fire and Water – Clearing those paths in life that seem impassable.

64. Genie – Third example of my art – Self explanatory.

65. The Top 10 Reasons Life is Worth Living …. or Why Life Doesn’t Suck – So you think life sucks? Sorry, but times have never been better in the history of mankind.

66. Seeking Dreams – Finding the path is easier than you think.

67. A.A, Birthday……19 Years, July 28, 1995- Seems like yesterday.

68. Finding Love – It starts inside and nowhere else.

69. Spiritual of Religious? – A great definition of whom I’m attracted to and why.

70. Leadership – How generating and positioning out solutions is fundamental to being a leader.

71. What do Women Want? –

At the risk of sounding esoteric, I do indeed know a little here.

72. What do Men Want? – Oh, yea. I know what men want, and most women get it wrong.

73. A Letter to Myself – Advice to my younger self.

74. Welcome to Hell – Do you believe in Heaven or Hell? I do, but it’s not what you think.

75. A Mad-Lib for Addicts – This is both fun and disturbing.

76. So Close to Giving Up ……. – Written a day before my back surgery.

77. The Writing’s on the Wall – My interpretation of some of the sayings one hears at 12 step meetings.

78. A New Blog for a Better World – Introducing my new, second blog.

79. False Words – Some words I just don’t believe in.

80. Eliminating Evil – Want to rid the world of evil?  Here’s how you do it.

81. Words of Power – Why not? A powerful tool for manifesting.

82. Gratitude Means……. –Why I believe in, and practice, gratitude.

83. A Minor Miracle – A cool story about a friend who needed help.

84. Twenty Years in Recovery – July 28th, 2015 –Twenty years, hard to believe.

85. Truth –Yes, it is.

86. Wayne Dyer – I wrote this the day after finding out Wayne Dyer had passed. It’s how I got to know him and how he influenced me.

87. A Dying Wish – How a poor decision almost killed me.

88. You Are Loved – Yes, you are! Even if you don’t realize it.

89. The Power of Honesty –One of the funniest stories I know.

90. The Lonely King – Another piece of artwork.

91. My Depression – How I got past my own bout of depression and how I keep it from coming back.

92. My Most Embarrassing Moment – Hysterical and cringe-worthy all at the same time. Lesson kind of learned.

93. 21 Years in Recovery –  I’m finally legal now?

94. A Friend Has Died – You know, I didn’t think I’ll ever stop being mad about this.

95. The Gift of Giving – The secret of abundance.

96. In Search of Perfection –It’s not what you may think.

97. Being Right – 

A life free from a huge cause of emotional pain is a wonderful thing.

98. What’s  your House Built On? – Three rock solid foundation principles.

99. Twenty-Two Years Sober – Seems a little like yesterday, and that’s a good thing.

 

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

99. TWENTY-TWO YEARS SOBER

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Here I am at the twenty-two year mark and honestly sometimes it feels like last week. In reality this is a wonderful phenomenon. Indeed I still occasionally have dreams I’ve broken my recovery, ones so real I have to get up and shake them off, yet I’m grateful at the same time for these episodes that remind me the horror I was going through more than two decades ago. The closeness of my addiction cunningly leverages fear, which was once my enemy into what is now my most valuable ally. I’m eternally grateful I’m still horrified of alcohol; complacency is nowhere in my future, I won’t allow it.

For those who are in a deep hole, one filled with paranoia and crushing shame, I know a way out. I will say my way isn’t the only way, that’s for sure. The advantage I see to walking a similar path as mine is that no one who gave me what I needed had an agenda of material profit, it was strictly one of spirit. There was a time where everything I had was in shambles. my credit, my future, my health, my outlook, my belongings, and even my faith. I was crawling the path of inevitability towards what I was convinced was a world better off without me. Apparently the universe has other plans because I’m still here.

The future, once a dreadful prospect, the past, once a regrettable ball and chain, and the present, once a reason for oblivion, are now fully recognized, accepted and forgiven by yours truly. I now live free of shame, regret, and unproductive fear.

I talk a lot on this blog about how I’ve gotten past my demons. Please feel free to browse the topics and entries. If you want to talk or ask a question one can do so on any entry or by clicking at the top of the screen on the “Contact Me” page. I do my best to share rather than preach which means I’ll do my best to empathize rather than judge. My apologies if anything comes across as otherwise.

The journey of my gratitude and subsequent recovery began with doing nothing more than asking for, and accepting without conditions, help.

Please let me help. I ask for nothing in return.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

98. WHAT’S YOUR HOUSE BUILT ON?

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

97. BEING RIGHT

It might sound like I’m kidding, and it may come across as a little pretentious, but I believe there are two very important keys to a healthy relationship. First – separate bathrooms. This may seem a little silly, but I assure you it helps keep the peace. Even when I was single and had a roommate, we insisted on living in an apartment with separate facilities. As far as I see it, what we do in here is totally non-social (for most, that is) and therefore private in nature. I have no problem sharing with someone, I’m quite capable of doing so, but there’s also no need whatsoever to force our paths to cross in this area of life. My wife has the master bath in our home and I occupy the one in our basement. Besides, my schedule varies on occasion which usually means I’m getting up earlier than she does. Having a shower, and somewhere to make “other” noises away from the bedroom allows her to sleep while I ready myself for the day.

The second, and by far more relevant key to maintaining a healthy relationship in my life has been practicing this philosophy – “When a fight is about to start, the other person is always right”. Sound tough to swallow? Aw, that’s too bad. Keep in mind every kind of relationship can benefit following this mindset, from work to casual friendships. Here’s why this is key. It’s ALWAYS less painful to admit you’re wrong rather than fight about whether or not you’re right. And man, I mean always. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stand up for what you believe and push for what you feel must happen in order for the best scenario to take place, but stepping over the line that says “fight!” usually leads to regret and anguish not to mention other, more serious long-term problems. Disagreements are plentiful and let’s face it, unavoidable, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I have never seen the benefit of letting them deteriorate into an emotional mess. Doesn’t matter in the long run if I’m right anyway. Think I’m wrong? There’s two very important reasons I’m not, and here’s why.

First –

The fastest way to prove someone wrong is to let them do it their way.

Let that little observation sink in for a bit. The only time I’ll step in and insist on stopping (or at least delaying) what’s about to happen is if I’m 100% sure someone is going to get hurt. If danger is imminent, then I’ll intercede. Other than that they can proceed with whatever agenda suits them. If their way turns out to be incorrect one of two things will happen, either they will concede to another way and allow a little humility to seep in or they’ll stand their ground even if they know they are wrong, which is a good sign you’re with the wrong person to begin with.

Second –

The worst case scenario is more time and money.

Even when I’m absolutely positive I’m correct, the worst thing that will happen (other than imminent danger, which I’ve already talked about) is that we’ll end up taking a longer road which may also cost more, and honestly, this possibility isn’t all that horrible. Usually very little happens which actually sets up a disaster. Not only that, of all the times I’d bet my life I was right, about half the time I ended up eating crow and conceding in the face of reason, so practicing an attitude of open-mindedness ends up teaching me a little humility, and who couldn’t use more of that?

I do not avoid confrontation; I embrace it in many cases because it gives me the chance to prove I’m the better, more level-headed person. I was once running a job where the supervisor came up to me doing his best impression of an emotional windmill. He was red-faced, mad, and quite animated. I kept my calm and stepped a little too close while I said something like this, “Do not talk to me this way, I will not respond. I will respond to respect and kindness, which honestly, I’ve shown you all along. Please keep in mind that I want to get the job done too, probably more than you do.” After that he was indeed kind and respectful and we had no further conflicts. He did, however, continue bullying everyone else who was willing to take his brand of crap.

I did not step over the “fight” line as much as I was being invited; though I must admit there’s almost always temptation in these types of situations. I’m an emotionally healthy man, able to release the proper feelings in the proper doses so there’s no build up of unreleased expression, which I think leads to all kinds of health problems for many. Instead of instinctively responding with some sort of regrettable defensive anger, the satisfaction of logical and productive re-direction always leaves an intense satisfaction. Besides, I’ve said it before “He who walks away from confrontations with the lowest blood pressure, wins the game.”

I wish I could say I’m level-headed all the time, but that simply isn’t the case. Occasionally I’ll lose my cool in instances where no one but me is involved. This leads to situations where someone (usually my wife) will come running in and ask me what that crash was and why all the yelling is going on. Hey, at least I save my outbursts for more private opportunities of expression. I’ve said it before and I really do believe this. The pain most men carry is rooted in the inability (or at least unwillingness) to properly express themselves when emotions are generated. This means when we feel something, we have a tendency to hold it back; it’s been generated but not released. Problem with this is that all manufactured feelings will eventually surface, but they will be unexpected, mutated, and amplified. All too often this is the case when alcohol or other drugs are involved.

All this being said, I never want to be incorrect about anything, who does? As I stated before I’ll always do my best to present my viewpoints and opinions as calmly and logically as possible, but there’s a huge difference between standing your ground and stepping over the line. Dropping the perceived need to be right does two things, it opens the mind to a possible better way that might not have been conceived otherwise and it eliminates potentially lighting emotional powder keg. Don’t get me wrong, I ALWAYS want the best right thing to happen, it’s just that I no longer feel I must be connected to the final outcome. I have no need to be an author of the solution. Besides, being silently peaceful is much more preferable to being vocally upset no matter who’s right or who’s wrong.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

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

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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

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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