Gratitude

106. THE SEVENTH SENSE

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Knock knock stuff

Let’s see, there’s touch, smell, taste, hearing, sight and of course the sixth sense or the ability to see dead people.

So what’s the seventh sense?

Humor, duh.

Give me comedy over drama any day. Not to say I’m not laser focused when it comes to being responsible, I most certainly am. Here’s the thing, I’ve found the biggest secret of humor it that’s it’s not at odds with seriousness. If nothing else it has the ability to enhance it. Too much spice, however, and the meal is ruined. Just enough and it brings out the best intended flavor. One must know when to add, and when to stop. Presentation is everything.

Over the years I’ve written a smattering of jokes, mostly to entertain myself more than anything. Here are a few examples –

  • Did you know that urinating is my number one favorite way to lose weight? You know what number two is?
  • Being a plumber I used to have nightmares about my job until I realized they were all just pipe dreams.
  • Years ago I had my steering wheel converted into a loom. That way if I got pulled over for weaving I had a REALLY good excuse.
  • It’s a good thing I’m surrounded by idiots ’cause the opposite would really suck.
  • And one of my favorites – Your faith in my abilities is undermining my self-worth. I’ve only met one person who actually got that joke. Still one of my favorites.

There was a time where I thought it would be a good idea to pursue the comedy stand-up field. Had me pages of stuff written down. Glad I didn’t, but I still laugh at the thought of a few of my ideas like doing karaoke as “Sling Blade” singing “On the road Again”. Wouldn’t actually sing it though, just talk it out. Room full of drunks and you’ve got an easy audience. I mentioned this to someone some time back and they suggested I change the song to “Walking on Sunshine”. Yea, that might be a lot funnier. Also thought about doing Chris Farley imitating Bob Ross doing some P.O.S. painting as an SNL skit. Too bad he died, that would have been his crowning achievement. Easy to imagine too. Huge afro, beard glued on crooked, super tight shirt, slinging paint everywhere, ripping holes in the canvas with sharp pallet knives, and complaining about making mistakes every time he touched a brush. All this while he paints the van down by the river. And remember how Bob showed squirrels and other wildlife he shared his home with? Chris would be like “I’m gonna show you a little animal now, it’s my neighbor’s ROTTWEILER!! (shows picture of snarling dog with a huge spiked collar) S.O.B. keeps me up day and night! I’m going insane!!! Then he finishes the skit by pulling off a contact paper pattern hoping to show a nice rounded frame of white on the canvas around the picture, but instead pulls off the entire painting to reveal a blank canvas full of holes. Proceed to tackle the easel and, well, the end. Too funny.

My personal sense of humor is extremely warped. Not rude or cruel. just strange. One of my favorite activities is to sit down with old “Herman” collection books and read one caption as it applies to a completely different picture. The result is highly entertaining to me. Here’s three examples I quickly made up, hope it doesn’t piss anyone off. Remember, the captions go to other comics, I just swapped them to make a nonsense joke. Sometimes  wonder if I really am certifiable.

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My parents, the everlasting weirdos they are, taught me this type of humor. Stuff like, take any book or movie title and then add “between the sheets” after. Endless entertainment for an eight year old with no siblings who had only two channels of TV available to him as a kid. And spoonerisms? Ugh, I’m hard-wired for that now. My Father happened to say the other day, “there’s a mist falling” which, of course flips to “there’s a fist mauling.” Yep, fists do that sometimes. All kinds of weird ones out there. Day at the store becomes stay at the door, field positions reverses to say peeled physicians (whatever the heck THAT means) and sugar beet…. booger sheet. I know, yuck. Still funny. One of my first ones occurred when I was about six years old. I blurted out on a comment made by my mother upon seeing a little “fuzzy duck”. Immediately my parents whipped around intending to yell at me, but I have a feeling they were doing their best to keep from laughing while asking “What did you say??” Hell, I had no idea. Really.

I feel when humor is nurtured it enhances all areas of our lives, not the least of which is our health. If nothing else it can manifest into the first link of a lifeline where hope is needed most. It seems cliché to say “we’ll look back on this someday and laugh.” I disagree; all too often, all too true. That being said I do indeed feel there is such a thing as toxic humor. I refuse to laugh at the misfortune of others. It’s not that I hold back; don’t need to. Pain on ANY level, be it physical or emotional, holds no entertainment value for me whatsoever. Humor used to hide pain is obviously unhealthy as well. There are way too many examples of those who’ve tragically died practicing this lifestyle. Humor has to be who we are, not who we want the world to see us as, in other words it cannot be a mask. One of my favorite comedians, if you can even call him one, is David Letterman.  Why?  Because he comes across as if he could care less if there’s an audience. Apparently the only person he’s trying to make laugh is himself. Though he can be a little caustic from time to time, it’s nonetheless an admirable quality. one I wish more people practiced.

Lastly I’d like to say I feel the ability to laugh at oneself is a valuable skill, one that removes self-judgement. When Wayne Dyer talks about Abraham Maslow and speaks of self-actualization, one of the qualities mentioned most is indeed this. It’s all about acceptance, because acceptance eliminates the need for punishment. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to improve, of course I do, it’s just that I can be satisfied with where I am as nothing more than part of the journey, one that seems to make me laugh more often than not.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

By the way…

The link under the picture of the “WTF” post-it leads to a site stuffed with funny note pads and other humorous items. Check them out.

105. TWENTY-THREE YEARS IN RECOVERY

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Well, here we are, another birthday. It’s amazing how so little endearment to my actual birthday I have these days. Noting the passage of time since I was born means nothing to me, especially when one doesn’t believe in age to begin with.  I even removed the date from my Facebook page. I guess we mark the days forward in life from the moment we truly start to live. Existence without positive purpose is unthinkable, and I weep for those who trudge from sunset to sunset satisfied with nothing more than status quo.

I remember my third year anniversary; seemed like it was an eternity since I’d had my last drink. I broke down sobbing, wondering why I was even still alive. For a daily/maintenance drunk who used to pound two-fifths of vodka a day, a thousand plus days dry was  nothing short of miraculous. Now, two decades past that, twenty more years, seven thousand plus days later, I’m surprised to find it feels a whole lot closer; and for that I’m grateful. I still have nighttime dreams, nightmares really, where I’ve broken my vows and ethics and wake up in a cold sweat because it’s just too damn real, but the frequency of these wake-up calls are waning, so this part of my recovery is NOT as close as it was, and that does bother me a little. I never want to get jaded to the idea of my ability to stay ahead of the monster.

I live a life I love to come home to. I have a job I enjoy going to. The people in my life, most notably my wife, who is also my best friend by the way, add joy and Love to my foundation. There was a time where nothing mattered. Oblivion was my only real pursuit. The present moment meant as little to me as tomorrow did. Things have changed and I plan to die someday with a full calendar of events ahead of me.  There’s so much to look forward to. I’m not angry at the time in life I’ve thrown away, for it’s a history I continue to see in the rear-view mirror, a constant reminder of what never to repeat. One would think twenty-three years down the road is quite a ways from my last drink, a long journey one can make a trophy of. It’s not. Why?  because even though I’ve done so much since then, as far as I’m concerned, I’m just getting started.

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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

 

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

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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

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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- 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