Gratitude

99. TWENTY-TWO YEARS SOBER

22 years

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

 

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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

94. A FRIEND HAS DIED

Spock

I wasn’t expecting to be so angry about this. I’m overwhelmingly upset, but honestly, I’m more pissed than anything. What the hell, you know? We weren’t that close but there was common ground and respect. We’d gone to the movies together, worked together, and laughed together. We’d even exchanged a few gifts. He was a good man; not a jerk nor anything unkind or abrasive. He was quick to laugh and in fact I don’t remember him ever being in a bad mood.

What sucks is I hadn’t spoken to him for a while. When he left our company we drifted apart but on occasion we’d still talk. He was a terrific handyman, and I know what I’m saying being in construction myself. He had gotten hired with us just so he could get his Masters license. His real skill wasn’t as a plumber though, it was foremost with wood and secondly with tile. Some of his artistic talents were channeled into making Celtic shields. They were magnificent pieces and they sold quickly for high prices. I had the pleasure of seeing his mountain home some years back and it was filled with beauty from his hand. I was quite envious of his talent and I had planned on hiring him to do some work at our house at some point in the future. It didn’t seem all too long ago when I called and recommend him to a potential customer. I remember going off topic and discussing just how horrifically bad the first Hobbit film was compared to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. That was the last time we spoke.  He was the same age as me.

I found out about his death through another close friend who called him up to see how he was doing. He had left a message and his widow called back saying he died last February. I’d love to say I can empathize with her, but I find I’m being selfish and preoccupied. My heart breaks for her, that’s for sure, but my thoughts keep drifting to examining my mortality; my own unrealized dreams. If I were to die tomorrow, what will I have left on my plate? What potential will have vanished? What potential did my friend leave unmanifested? I don’t know, but I’m positive the world would be a better place with him still in it.

The picture of Spock was one of his gifts to me; a rather thoughtful (and rare) one. When the action figures were released in the early seventies, coinciding with the premiere of the animated version of Star Trek, I had made it all too plain to my parents that I wanted Spock.  They got me Scotty instead saying Spock was sold out. I was grateful, but as an eight year old kid I was nonetheless deeply disappointed. We were both fans of Star Trek and this story came up one day as we talked about the show. He must have REALLY understood my feelings on the incident because when I showed up to my job the next day I got a call from him to look under a bucket in the corner. Behold, there was Spock! He sits in a place of honor in my home now, a fitting reminder of my friend.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

88. YOU ARE LOVED

Water

Do not despair, do not give up, do not shut yourself away. Ask for help, ask for Love, ask for life.

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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