Happiness

Happiness

139. SEEING 2020 – 20/20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind. 

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

123. HOW DO YOU FEEL?

These days I wear my heart on my sleeve but it took a few decades to get there. Hiding my emotions from others or altering them to get a desired response is a useful and necessary skill, one I’m quite practiced at, however, I now realize attempting to ignore my passions or repress my reactions from myself is one of the most unhealthy choices I can pursue. For years my reflection stirred nothing but apathy. As a young man I never looked past my own eyes in the mirror, the thought never occurred. Curiosity for what I was past flesh and blood held almost no interest, and so I went about my days in a constant loop of mostly hedonistic pastimes.

I did read, draw, and write on rare occasions, but as time wore on my withdrawal from everything I used to love from a cerebral perspective eventually shrank into distant memory. My existence became extremely superficial. Television and movies ate up a large chunk of mindless time-wasting. Alcohol, of course, sped up the slowing down of my humanity. Projects and pursuits I used to get excited over lay in corners, boxes, and shelves, covered in dust, and fading from memory. All this served to dull my senses and separate me from anything resembling abstract thought. I had nothing to look forward to nor did I have any interest in creating anything anticipatory.

My vocabulary simplified to match my emotional range. Everything was fine or okay. I really had no ups and downs unless you count going from being relieved I didn’t die one day, to wanting to the next. Describing my life was detached from actually feeling it. I walked around for years totally numb, unable to connect inner interpretation to outer situations. My spirit was buried, unable to function. All I was was existence without substance, a shadow of reality.

Getting back to a place of authentic expression took a lot of work. When I first cut the rubber band binding my inner monologue, it burst forth with unexpected energy. This led to bipolar behavior for quite some time. My highs were extremely high, and my lows matched them. Like a ball bouncing from a great height, my passions finally found a somewhat normal rhythm and settled into manageable patterns. There are still deep end experiences these days, but they’re rare and pass quickly. I think the initial danger, when I finally embraced a dynamic lifestyle, was the temptation to align too much with becoming either intensely negative or overly optimistic. Either one of these roads could easily have been one step too far and I would have passed a point of no return. A bitter, hostile attitude towards life had a genuine appeal since it feeds the ego and mine was already well developed, but magnifying this aspect of my personality would have been suicidal. On the other hand, looking at life through “rose colored glasses” also presented alluring temptations. I could go about my business with no concerns about the future whatsoever; however, “blind faith” can be a dangerous journey, one that keeps my eyes looking skyward instead of forward. Luckily, I found a comfortable alternative to either of these two routes. Surprisingly, it’s NOT a middle road, but rather a different one.

I’ve often referred to myself as a “pro-optimist” which isn’t even a real word, but it really does describe how I move through my days. I’m usually highly optimistic as long as I’m actively investing in my ambitions. This path normally allows me to check and balance my emotional state. When I’m involved, blame is absent and responsibility is active. Yes, there’s no doubt most life’s “game” is comprised of random events, but when I have a hand in my own future it (usually) allows me to manipulate key elements, most importantly, my own attitude. As an example, I can be happy everything turned out well, OR I can be pleased I now know what not to do should similar situations arise. Granted, the aforementioned outcome is preferable, but either way my perceptions coupled with direct actions make for a recipe that cannot disappoint. If I look at things in this manner, there is no such thing as failure, and my emotional state has no choice but to align with satisfaction either way. Please note I cannot take this same approach if I am totally separated from an event, which is way I insist on participating in my own life.

Becoming desensitized to life went hand in hand with my subconscious choice to live in a strictly reactive fashion. Once I chose an active life, I had no alternative but to become emotionally adept. I wonder if the same is true for others who were just as lost as me? The title of this entry is not asking how the reader feels, it’s asking “how does one learn to feel?” I know how I did, and it’s one of the skills that keeps me enthusiastic about living.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

119. EYES OF WONDER

Most of my favorite memories were first time events, and I’ll bet the same is true for the majority of adults. These peak moments are anchor points to what we believe is the very best life has to offer, and for most, the older we get, the less we seem to experience these milestones. What was once exciting and anticipatory all too quickly becomes monotonous and ordinary. Childhood is crammed with examples of excitement, while grown-up life is more repetitious. I have nothing against a good solid routine because when it’s disciplined, it can bring great rewards. We pay bills, we go to work, we have food, we have chores and duties, and through these choices we generate comforts and other necessities that keep chaos and uncertainty tamed. On the other hand without spontaneity, or at the very least, something planned to look forward to, it becomes easy to let our eyes glaze over at the thought of another redundant day.

I’ve discussed before on other entries about how time passes differently the older we get, seeming to speed up as we age. As children, having essentially a blank slate ready and waiting to fill with experience and memories, we have no choice but to look forward to everything; it doesn’t matter if what’s expected is good or bad, all we do at this level is visualize the future which carries with it the illusion of slowing down our perception of time. Let’s face it, kids in second grade don’t sit around and discuss life in a retrospective manner. As we grow older and accumulate perspectives and narrative, the more we naturally look back, and this is usually helpful. When faced with one of life’s puzzles we reach back into the archives and extract information that hopefully will aid in properly reacting to or solving what needs attention. It’s an unconscious act for most, and we probably wouldn’t survive without this ability. On the other hand many DO reach back consciously and relive memories in the form of regret. If regret is the main choice of reaction when revisiting the past, we tend to do its equal when looking forward, which is worry. Both of these choices are useless and cancerous. I believe practicing this habit is the fuel that speeds up time because we’ve stopped practicing hope for what lies ahead and acceptance for our yesterdays. The more we want something, the longer it takes to arrive, the less we want something, the faster it’s upon us. Reminiscing and planning on the other hand, the polar opposites of regret and worry, can be a healthy and enjoyable pastime as long as the present remains the main focus of living. This is an abbreviated observation I’ve written about in years back, but revisiting this concept will help illustrate the upcoming point I intend to make.

I don’t know about you, but I miss the having the ability to conjure butterflies in anticipation of upcoming festivities. It was a good feeling, one that often surpassed the actual event. This is because my fantasy of what was to happen had limitless possibilities; I had no preconceptions to taint my optimism, These daydreams not only stimulated my imagination, they fueled visions of what I wanted even further into my future. There were also occasions where I was totally surprised at what I saw as an impulsive adventure. When my parents took me to the Denver zoo when I was nine, and they had kept their plans secret, well, that day is one of the standout moments in my childhood. The first time I stepped foot into a carnival I was probably seven or so, and THIS was like visiting another planet. The colors, smells, the barkers tempting passerby’s with their crap games and even crappier prizes, and the rides at night, spinning and twisting, dressed in neon, and sound-tracked with joyful screams from the riders was overwhelmingly intoxicating. Now when I’ve gone to those places I find myself disappointed, not just because I see past the superficialities of the environment, but because I’m aware I can never re-create the first-time impression from my youth. In actuality this attitude is a LIE, one I all too frequently convince myself of; almost without even being aware of it.

I don’t have children, but I imagine one of the most rewarding joys of parenthood is being there to witness incidents similar to our history as they encounter them for the first time. We cannot help but share in their enthusiasms because joy and bliss are not only extremely contagious, but highly sought after. I’m sure these experiences create an even more powerful bond between family members which is why we seek to manifest such events on a regular basis. I believe the same is possible for those without kids as long as they pursue an identical dynamic with relatives and friends. Admittedly the frequency may be significantly diminished, but for most opportunities are there nonetheless. If this seems like the only way to recapture life for the first time, it’s not. We needn’t be vicarious in going about it, and it’s not that hard to do.

There’s a way to re-boot the adolescent point-of-view, and that is by getting in touch with our “inner-child.” The attitudes of immaturity and irresponsibility are NOT what is meant to be expressed by aligning with this doctrine. There are many who DO think this is the way, and the results can be extraordinarily catastrophic. There are two books, somewhat dated now but still relevant nonetheless, called “The Peter Pan Syndrome” and “The Cinderella Complex” that delve into the idea and disastrous consequences of never wanting to grow up and take responsibility for our own lives. I have indeed read them myself, but admittedly it’s been some years ago. Most will be insulted by the first few pages and never have the courage and humility to actually self-evaluate. Such is the power and danger of letting the ego run our lives. What I’m eluding to here is embracing the idea of seeing the world as we first did, through eyes of wonder. The only thing that prevents us from doing so is our insistence in holding on to a single concept, and that concept is prejudice.

Prejudice is NOT a negative word, it simply means to “pre-judge” something. We all do it, and for the most part there’s nothing wrong with educated use. We know from experience what foods we can and cannot, or at the very least, should not eat, we know what impending weather may cause us to grab an umbrella for later in the day, we anticipate how someone may react if we unavoidably or accidentally upset them, and we express elevated politeness when approaching strangers. All these examples require a pre-judgement of some sort. We want to feel comfortable and assured in most situations. For most the practice goes unnoticed and therefore is usually subconscious. If we force ourselves to become aware of pre-judgments it becomes an easy (choose-able) exercise to pretend there’s no judgement of the situation whatsoever. Don’t believe me? I’m telling you it’s not all that difficult. When we find ourselves able to enter this state of mind we will have reconnected with our true “inner child.” In other words we can manipulate ourselves into having primordial experiences. Again, the key is to remove ALL judgement from what we encounter.

Here are some suggestive exercises –

  • Go to the mall, park, grocery store, anywhere there are a variety of people and just look. Don’t think. If you are struggling with stereotypes then at least focus on finding the most beautiful thing you can about everyone. I’m well aware this too is a judgement, BUT, it’s one we automatically maintain when in the mindset of innocence, which is where we want to be anyway. There’s no such thing as fat, thin, old, young, male, female, clean, messy, rich, poor, and on and on, JUST people.
  • The next time you’re driving, and someone is being what you might usually be label as rude, obnoxious, or thoughtless, entertain the idea this person might be trying to get to their parent, spouse, or child who is dying in the hospital. If this happened to me I guarantee I’d break a few traffic laws trying to get there as fast as possible and I’d bet you would too. I also know this is a judgement, however, if we swap a knee-jerk negative response for an empathetic one, we re-wire our minds to see and experience the world on a whole new level.
  • For most of us the music we grew up with has powerful connections to recreating feelings, events, and memories. A lot are pleasant, but some are downright annoying. The next time a song comes on you REALLY can’t stand, just listen. Pretend you’ve never heard it before. Focus on every part of it, the structure, words, rhythm, and message. Keep in mind the songs you hate are ALWAYS someone’s favorite. I pick music because it’s everywhere, in every culture, and it’s a fast artistic expression of how someone else views their life and world.

There is one more way to reconnect with a puerile sense of awe, even if we are determined to hold onto a judgmental attitude, and that is to actively “take chances.” Doing this on a regular basis will eventually override a lifetime of subjective programming. Taking chances is not as forbeboding as it sounds, and there’s plenty of existing evidence in everyone’s lives that can be used as leverage to push us out of our comfort zones. All anyone needs to do is look at their own track record. This next question may be one of the most important observations ever –

“How many times in your past is regret attached to actually having taken a chance?”

Even those chances we took that initially turned out as failures often became the foundations for unexpected rewards. Now ask the opposite, “How many times in your past is there regret attached to having avoided taking a chance?” Personally I have no regrets, I refuse to live in this frame of mind, however, there used to be a time where I overwhelmed with disappointment whenever I focused on my history, so I have common ground with the consequences of holding onto such a damaging perspective. I have another post that addresses this attitude with greater detail. 81. WORDS OF POWER – WHY NOT?. If you’re having trouble with coming up with ideas of just what exactly to take a chance on, simply sit down and write a list of your fears. You’ll have generated plenty of opportunities to put this experiment to the test in a matter of minutes.

The inner child awaits inside everyone. It craves a life without judgement. It is who we TRULY are, a being of Love, gratitude, and unending curiosity.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

114. PLEASURE AND HAPPINESS

Pleasure and happiness are commonly interpreted as interchangeable. They aren’t. Like the collaborative relationships of nature, north and south, man and woman, day and night, and so on, they share a singular purpose but have significantly different energies. Embracing or aligning with just one end of the spectrum will eventually result in oblivion for both. This observation can be made in a personal context as well. Our duality of existence is thought and action, or perhaps more easily relatable to most as spirit and body. Both of our “worlds” need the proper nourishment to survive, feeding one and starving the other will result in dangerous imbalances, yet this type of lifestyle is exactly what we are taught.

Looking around there are endless examples suggesting we seek one thing, pleasure, and ALL pleasure is designed to please either the body or the ego. The list is ridiculously long and reminders are everywhere. Ads for food, cars, clothing, money, drugs, image, and on and on are plastered ad nauseum in commercials, movies, television, magazines, billboards, and honestly anywhere our eyes might wander. The hope is, of course, to appeal to our need for pleasure. It may even be safe to say most of it is designed to reinforce our desire to not lose pleasure. In any case the energy that drives our lust for pleasure is… fear. Fear that we don’t have what might make our lives better, fear of not being able to sustain our lifestyle, and fear of being left behind while the rest of the human race steps up their game. Pleasure isn’t evil, never was. It’s our imbalance of pursuit that’s the cause misery. Any life lived from the outside-in eventually leads to pain and suffering. When we identify who we are by external methods we quite literally let go of our control of self-image. Our foundation becomes based on “stuff” rather than ideas. principles, ethics, beliefs, and dreams. The oft misquoted Bible verse from 1 Timothy 6:10 sums up the idea rather nicely, even if one isn’t Christian – “For the love of money (or, all things material in nature) is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

We are creatures of thought FIRST, because without thought, we cannot act. It doesn’t matter if the thoughts are “good” or “bad”, conscious or subconscious; intent always precedes achievement. Yes, outside influences can trigger decision making, but actions are still powered by choice, which means it’s something we can learn to manipulate. Therefore, if one seeks a stable existence, then one must do so from the inside out. Not only that, once we realize how it works, we are obligated to become more and more aware of what we are thinking so what we really want aligns with what we want to manifest. If most of our thoughts (subconscious or not) are negative to begin with, then life has no choice to react outside of us in a destructive manner. It’s not that difficult to observe, negative people lead destructive lives, positive people lead constructive lives.

Happiness is generated from within. It’s produced from an attitude of appreciation, tolerance, empathy, and all the qualities that make up what we label as Love. It’s Love that fuels the power of this elusive emotion. While pleasure is based solely in the physical world, happiness is mental in origin. The journey from our inner existence to our outer one is easier than one might think. Don’t take my word for it, look for examples in other people, especially those who have come back from dark places and you will see the truth of it. If you’ve ever wondered why some are “blessed” with abundance coupled with ACTUAL happiness, it’s because they have learned to live life from spirit first. They are the ones with ethics, they are the ones who never mock or scorn others, they are the ones we are most envious of.

Finally we come to the dual purpose of these seemingly opposing forces. Where pleasure and happiness balance each other out, peace originates, and peace is the most elusive of all pursuits. It carries the most value because this is where we become free from the burdens of worry and regret. This is where we stop judging and start accepting, especially who WE OURSELVES are. This slim border between our two energies is where we as humans are meant to live and thrive. So few have, and they are the ones we worship.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

102. STAYING YOUNG

carnival at night

As long as I live I’ll anxiously await those cheesy Halloween haunted houses that pop up in the weeks preceding what’s arguably the weirdest holiday of the year. They tap into the goofy nature of who I once was and reconnect me with an important part of my psyche I never want to abandon.  As I make my yearly pilgrimage through these dark macabre labyrinths I always seem to find myself laughing. The creativeness and to me, silliness, feed my desire to stay connected to a sense of wonder. It’s an alluring ride of shock and suspense without any real threat of danger. Another, similar experience I clearly remember was my first time visiting a carnival. I was probably six or seven and still wide-eyed almost everywhere I went, but this was different. It was like stepping onto another planet. Barkers in strange costumes were selling their corner to any passerby who would listen. Smells of foods I’d never before tried or heard of wafted through the air, and the lights and sounds of the whirling rides and alluring booths lit the night and gave it an eerie but uplifting soundtrack. Some of it was scary, but most was jaw dropping. It was if I’d stepped into a custom-made dream. Amusement parks still have their appeal, but alas, my constitution disagrees most violently with anything that spins these days. I wish it didn’t.

Childhood, in my opinion, is where the least amount of discrimination and the most amount of acceptance is found. I believe this observation is the first key to youthfulness. As we grow older we must not only remain open to new and exciting experiences, we also have an obligation to deliberately put ourselves in the position of attracting and manufacturing such events. Any situation of unpredictability mixed with anticipation is the secret ingredient for a powerful life affirming experience. Witness the abundance of death-defying activities from the fairly benign, like roller-coasters, to downright dangerous even for those who are experts, free climbing. Once a certain age has passed creating awe becomes paramount when reconnecting to a youthful perspective. It comes naturally when we are young because our mind still has a lot of blank space. There’s relatively little in our past to equate to current events, so we simply experience our lives. The problem is the more we age, the more we compare and life becomes smoother and easier. It’s supposed to, but in the process we leave behind our ability to face the world in a non-judgmental or open-minded manner. I recognized this a long time ago so I started looking for new roads to explore. Planning and taking action on setting up surprises is a huge part of my life, and strangely I receive almost as much joy in the arrangement and expectation as I do once my intentions come to fruition. It’s a double win; which brings me to the second key.

Envisioning and perusing new events will usually result in adventurous or exciting circumstances, but there’s a more important reason to practice this habit. When we were kids almost ALL our thought processes were in the mode of anticipation. We constantly looked forward, which is why it felt as if our birthdays were three years apart. And the days before Christmas, are you kidding? THAT took forever. The opposite was true if we didn’t want something to happen, time would seem to speed up and all too soon we would find ourselves standing before an angry parent over a bad report card or facing down the class bully after school. In any case I believe looking forward STILL slows down time no matter what, it’s just that looking forward to good things slows it down to a greater degree. Life marches on and history accumulates as we grow older prompting a tendency to want to reminisce more and more, but here lurks a hidden danger. Our brain is hard-wired to want to forget bad things and remember good things, which is why so many look back to what they think are “the good old days.” This is an illusion, one that breeds the conviction our past is where all the best moments are. It’s easy and common to get lost in this train of thought. The more we immerse ourselves in yesterday, the more we fail to look ahead, or even acknowledge our present situations. This is why the older we get, the more time seems to speed up and in the process it ages us terribly. Occasionally reminiscing is not all that horrible, but continually doing so  can eventually lead to regret. Once the veil of what we wanted to forget is inevitably lifted because of how much time is spent looking back, it can trap us there. We dwell on what we cannot change and (subconsciously) punish ourselves for not doing things differently. This can become a dark path few return from.

Those who embrace anticipation and create excitement perpetuate youthfulness. There’s a common behavior practiced daily that separates them from everyone else. It’s laughter. Humor, especially the ability to laugh at oneself, is the secret ingredient to living enthusiastically. Laughter (in the context of kindness ONLY) is hardcore evidence of an enjoyable and often spontaneous lifestyle. It’s obvious when we look to those who don’t seem to age. They are masters of not only seeing the bright side of life, they elevate it to the next level by doing what it takes to express themselves beyond simply smiling.  Often they have a gift for unintentionally raising the attitudes and dispositions of those in close proximity. On the other hand, those who seem to age faster than they should spend most of their time looking back and reacting to life rather than acting on it instead. Their laughter, when it does happen, is almost always at the expense of someone else’s pain or misfortune and it’s akin to inviting cancer into one’s life, not a good idea.

I am not my past, nor do I want to live there no matter how wonderful I try to convince myself it was. Old news. It’s no doubt important to know what needs avoided or re-created, but I can accomplish this quite efficiently using a rear-view mirror. No need to turn around, no need to spotlight events from yesterday in order to justify the moment. All excuses for lousy, self-destructive behavior (which leads to a fast-lived, quick to die life) thrive in the gardens of history. When we stop watering and tending to them, excuses disappear, as they should.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

 

93. 21 YEARS IN RECOVERY

21-year-aa-birthday-sobriety-coin-204-p

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

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

75. A MAD-LIB FOR ADDICTS

cookie monster

 

Before I get a ton of hate mail from those who say addiction isn’t funny, I agree, it’s not. It does eventually become extremely important to be able look back on our past and learn how to not beat ourselves up over events we cannot change. Some of the funniest stories I’ve heard are in A.A. meetings. Obviously I’m sworn to secrecy, but it’s nice to know that it’s possible we can eventually laugh at those times that challenged us the most.  Nothing I have done that hurt others holds any kind of humor, that’s for sure, but there are plenty of things I have done to myself to supply more than enough amusement. Looking at these episodes of poor judgement and incomprehensible decision-making is, in my opinion, an excellent way to help strip the ego. The trick here is to look in the mirror and practice forgiveness rather than remorse. Doing the latter only fuels the need to be seen as a victim. Sharing these moments will not only help you find common ground with those willing to help, it will rid you of the “cringe” factor the memories may dredge up. Shame is one of the most draining and damaging of emotions. Getting beyond the need to express this concerning your past is one of the healthiest things you can do. Remember, self-actualized people are quick to laugh at themselves and are self-accepting.

If you are currently in a place where the pain is overwhelming, my prayers are with you. If real recovery is in your future please believe that what lies ahead isn’t ALL drama and business, there will be times of joy and discovery. A huge part of recovery is learning how to re-connect to feelings that have been forgotten, misplaced, misdirected, and abandoned. Management of expression is absolutely central to mental health.

I cannot use a fill-in-the-blank format for this entry, WordPress does not have this option. Please use a separate piece of paper and simply match the numbers. The choices I have provided for the blanks make things a bit more specific than your typical mad-lib. Trust me, it’ll come out much funnier this way. Try to fill out your form without scrolling all the way down. You may also highlight the top section, then print separately. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Confessions of an Addict-

  1. verb, past tense ______________
  2. object _______________
  3. public event _______________
  4. body part _______________
  5. body part _______________
  6. famous person _______________
  7. sport _______________
  8. a food _______________
  9. a profession _______________
  10. a possession, can be plural _______________
  11. low number _______________
  12. notorious man _______________
  13. notorious woman _______________
  14. number _______________
  15. weird characters/people _______________
  16. object, plural _______________
  17. a phrase meant to insult _______________
  18. adverbial phrase (how did you jump? i.e. …..like a madman, without hesitation, for no good reason, etc.) _______________
  19. a dangerous action (i.e. – running into traffic, etc.) _______________
  20. article of clothing _______________
  21. something yucky _______________
  22. verb, past tense _______________
  23. object _______________

 

( ) = an optional word, choose one or the other.

  1. I once got so drunk I ______1._______ (a) an _____2._______ during _____3.______.
  2. I failed the roadside DUI test because I could not touch my ______4. ______ to my ______5.______.
  3. When I get wasted my friends say I act like ______6.______ trying to play ______7.______.
  4. I once came out of a blackout surrounded by empty ______8.______ boxes and dressed up like a ______9.______.
  5. Once, I was so desperate for money I gathered (all) my ______10._______ and sold (it) them at a pawn shop for ______11.______ dollars.
  6. My mug shot looked like ______12.______ had a kid with ______13.______ who obviously hadn’t bathed for ______14.______ weeks.
  7. My nightmares used to include ______15.______ throwing ______16.______ at me while shouting ______17.______.
  8. Someone once posted an online video that showed of me completely sloshed, running ______18.______ while ______19.______ just so I could win a bet.
  9. I once went to work so hung over I was wearing my ______20.______ inside out and my breath smelled like______21.______ .
  10. There was a time where I would have ______22.______(on) a ______23.______ if it meant I could be free of my demons.

So, have fun with this. It should serve as a reminder to some (and a promise to others) that living on the other side of addiction is ALWAYS going to be better than dying inside it.

I look forward to hearing some of your responses to this. Feel free to post what you came up with and let others share in your laughter!

Please follow my blog. Comment and share as you wish.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

74. WELCOME TO HELL

temptation-of-christ-1872.jpg!Blog

This entry is purely my opinion. Feel free to complain if you like……most are quite practiced at it so it should come easily to those who insist on spending their lives looking for ways to be offended. I seek neither to change anyone’s belief nor do I claim knowledge of an esoteric nature. If you want an argument, this is the wrong forum. Sharing, however, is always encouraged.

Occasionally I am asked if I believe in heaven or hell. As far as I’m concerned this question is an opening line to some sort of judgmental attack by the person who presents it. Be that as it may, I do indeed believe in these places; but to me they are not the physical planes so colorfully depicted in literature and art that the world is familiar with. The clichéd examples of everlasting peace and eternal damnation seem to be missing a critical observation; they both exist because without them there would be no balance, no creation, no expansion, and no purpose. The elimination of one would mean oblivion for the other. North cannot exist without south. The “magnet” that is our life and world is a constant co-existence of forces that seem to repel when in reality they are the perfect example of mutual attraction. Try to cut one end off and there is still its absolute “opposite” attached. We cannot live in one and disregard the other. Perhaps the balance point is where we must reside. Perhaps our purpose is to harmonize the space where they meet. This spot truly is the razor’s edge.

Let’s go the Christian route and use the Bible as a reference point to see if there is any evidence to support what I am describing. My favorite quote is a red letter one.

Luke 17:21

21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

One cannot get clearer than this. Jesus himself says the way to God lies within. If the kingdom of God is heaven and the path to our relationship with “him” is inside of us, then where is hell, its so-called counterpart? I would venture to say that the world outside of us is the kingdom of the devil. Don’t believe me? Well there’s more biblical evidence pointing to this observation. There are a few lines where the devil tempts Christ.

Mathew 4:8-10

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

The devil takes Jesus to the highest point that can be found and offers the world and all it contains if he bows to him. The question is why could he offer this? One cannot give what one does not first own; therefore the material world must be his kingdom. It’s all the “stuff” and their anchors surrounding us, money, food, power, drink, sex, drugs, possessions, and so on are the “temptations” or “apples” so many (including me) are drawn to. The first commandment says we are to have “No Gods before me,” which is frequently interpreted as shunning or turning away from false gods.  Okay, so what is a false God then? Again, it’s all the enticements of the material world. Don’t get me wrong, stuff is nice, fun, and useful, but stuff is not supposed to be the ultimate goal in life. Things are not evil, they never will be. It’s our pursuit and our importance of them that makes it so.

More evidence of this needed mindset is presented here.

Luke 18:18-22

18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.

20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.

21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.

22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

Christ didn’t want this man to have nothing, he wanted him to turn away from what he was putting first in life; material possessions. The man had disregarded the first commandment.

I do indeed have a LOT of stuff. Books, music, clothes, tools, furniture, dishes, etc., etc., fill my home with convenience and comfort. Some is defiantly required so I may live a life of my chosen responsibilities, but to be honest, most is unnecessary. I truly say this to you now; if my house were to burn down tomorrow and my wife and cat were alive and well, I’d be “okay” with that. I’d be upset and angry at first, don’t get me wrong, but in the end I would know what really matters would have survived.

So, let’s talk a little more about how I understand the existence of heaven and hell. Heaven is the kingdom of God or the realm of all that is spiritual including the emotions of love, trust, compassion, faith, and forgiveness.  Hell is the kingdom of Lucifer and contains all that is not spiritual and certain attitudes like judgment, fear, regret, worry, and shame.

As far as I am concerned both of these places are a state of mind that links us to either self- destruction or divine alignment.

There is a huge story at the beginning of the Bible called…………..Genesis. It tells how we came to be, live in the house of God, and exist in his image. We were in constant contact with God, and God with us. The next question is what is OUR true image? If we are to believe the Bible, we are indeed made in God’s image, however, I know for a fact that I am not my body, not my reflection, not my genetic ancestry.  I cannot look into the mirror and say out loud, “All I am is flesh and blood and nothing else.” It’s a lie; one that’s easily recognized.  So if I’m not my body and I was made in God’s image, what the heck IS God’s image? I have no idea; energy, spirit, thought, or perhaps some unknown etheric force? I do know what it isn’t; and that’s a damn good start.

So here we go down, down, down, the rabbit hole. Get ready.

Hebrews 9:27

27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

We already DID die once. We died a spiritual death. How did this happen? We embraced the material world i.e. “the Apple.” We turned away from spirit and towards the material. What defines the material world the most you say? Opposites; up, down, left, right, rich, poor, beauty, ugliness, man, woman, black, white, and so on. This IS the world of judgment. Here we are, spiritually dead living in the world of judgment. OK……….getting weirder now……..

John 3:3

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

According to this passage we must be “born again” to enter the house of God? Yes, because we are spiritually “dead” now. We are living in Hell; and dead as can be. In order to be re-born we must leave this place.

The next question begs to be asked. Why did we do it? Why did we choose a path of such potential disharmony? I believe the evidence exists where the two worlds collide. What attracts both the material and spiritual? What is the connection point? Ask yourself this question, “What do all the religions of the world have in common? What is the thread that runs through every belief?” It’s quite simply, art. Artistic expression is in all forms of acknowledgement towards God. This single action is both material and spiritual in design. It’s what bridges the gap and promotes movement allowing a symbiotic relationship between the two. Look at the music, buildings, pictures, poetry, costume, and ceremony that exist in religion today; all of it is deeply immersed in beauty.

People are always looking for the differences in our beliefs, trying to sift out the truth from a perspective that is flawed to begin with. We must look for the similarities if the purest truth is to be illuminated.

When we are in touch with God are we not of the frame of mind of an artist? The examples are quite varied but all have the same effect; cooking the perfect meal, intimacy with the one we REALLY love, reading a wonderful book, working on our dream car, gardening, singing, writing, painting, listening to music, on and on and on. When we create, we align back to that place where we began; keeping one foot here and one in the spirit world. There is ONE more piece of evidence that will support this observation. A sense of time is lost. We lose awareness to the passage of the hours. When we align with God we share his perspective for cosmic movement as this last quote will attest to.

Peter 3:8

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Go forth and create, for are not those who destroy detached from spirit? Does it not seem that they do so only for what matters in the material world? The more we are intent on destruction, the more we waste what precious time we’re given, and the more we create the more we anchor ourselves in eternity.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

71. WHAT DO WOMEN WANT?

 ellie and carl

Don’t worry……..what men want will be the subject of my next entry.

I bet I know what you’re thinking; the men’s entry is going to be a LOT shorter than this one. We’ll see. In any event, what I’m going to share should be somewhat entertaining. I just turned fifty and there’s no doubt some of this knowledge would have been of use when I was much younger. I’m not trying to come off as some great guru that knows about the ultimate secrets keeping men and women from understanding each other better. Lord knows I need a lot more information before that tag could be used, but what I do know is for the most part fairly accurate and rather useful.

So, men, listen up. You think you know what a woman wants in a man; money, power, and looks, right? Wrong. Here’s where we stumble massively. We’re used to seeing “normal” looking guys with gorgeous ladies and think “What the heck? What is it that attracts these beauty queens to those whom we judge ordinary? Well, they know and practice those traits that are truly magnetic, either instinctively or consciously.  Look to all the male sex symbols of Hollywood, the stratospheric examples of today and those that live on through pop culture and legend. Look for the common behaviors and it becomes easy to see why they are the men who have never, and will never fade away. Here are the five biggest patterns.

OBSERVATION # 1.  What attracts a woman?

  1. There’s no cologne like confidence. This is the single most powerful source of attraction on the planet and I’m not just talking men and women, I mean men with everyone and women with everyone. Men, however screw it up the most and feel cockiness is a synonym for this elusive elixir. Far from it. Cockiness is the best repellent one can project. Here’s the difference in a nutshell. Confidence wants to prove itself through action, cockiness wants to convince others through dialogue. Women (and everyone else) are attracted to doers, not to those who brag.
  2. Nothing grabs attention like a powerful command of language. You think Sean Connery, Johnny Depp, Yul Brenner, Cary Grant, and George Clooney are at the top strictly because of their looks? Hardly. Yes, they’re handsome, but let’s face it, that’s what Hollywood is mostly full of anyway; beautiful people. What makes the standouts standout? Listen to them talk and you’ll hear a distinctive pattern of intelligence and ease. They do not stumble through vocal expression, they rejoice in it taking careful steps to speak with the proper speed, tonality, and emotion. Two of the best are Liam Neeson and Anthony Hopkins, perhaps not the most attractive of men, but ask any woman who has watched them and you might be surprised at what they think.
  3. Posture. I still see men my age walking like they are in middle school two years past puberty. Slouching, mouth hanging open, dragging their feet, and spitting every 18.4 feet. Yuck. Yup, these guys are not the stuff of female fantasy. Have some self-worth to how you move and people will project an image of someone who believes in himself. Walk with purpose but not with arrogance. Think “James Bond” and you’ll have it made.
  4. Kindness/Selflessness. This does not portray weakness and anyone who would argue otherwise is probably quite lonely and unhappy. Putting others first is truly rare and therefore extremely noticeable when it takes place. Those who work toward the interests of everyone else eventually command the most respect and admiration. This cannot be faked and those that try come across as shallow and dishonest. How can a woman not be attracted to a man who has her best interests at heart?
  5. Hygiene. It’s been said one cannot judge a book by its cover; I disagree with this. How we treat ourselves sends a powerful message to those we come in contact with; and cleanliness is the best first message we can offer to those we wish to attract. Whether you like it or not it’s difficult to sell to self-respect and reliability when it’s wrapped in neglect. Nothing fancy needed here.  Clean fingernails, combed hair, brushed teeth, fresh clothing, etc. Keep in mind that hygiene extends to our environment as well. Being clean and somewhat organized can be quite seductive.

So, nothing above has to do with looks, money, or power. Looks, money, and power only become desirable when they are preceded by the proper attitudes and habits. They are the enhancements of structure; and those structures built with the greatest of care automatically attract quality upgrades.

OBSERVATION #2. The power of surprise.

For the men that don’t get this one, here is where the seed of anything romantic lies. All women love surprises, but not all surprises are appropriate. No unannounced parties where she hasn’t gotten ready to look her best are allowed. Driving to the jewelry store to pick up something already purchased when she thinks you are going to lunch is allowed. Surprises must be kind, soft, helpful, and loving in nature. Packages in the mail with her name on them, cleaning the house when she is away, a handwritten letter, flowers delivered to her work; these are the gestures that prove to the one you love that she is on your mind.  Even when she might suspect the event, she still wants the surprise, and here’s why. When she says “You don’t need to get anything for my birthday” she is placing more value on your ability to understand and anticipate what she desires over her urge to simply request it. Here’s the kicker. When a man says “I don’t want to do anything for my birthday” the woman interprets is as “Ah! I must surprise him!” This is why we seem to have so many truly unwanted events, actions, and gifts. Don’t feel bad guys, they come from the heart.

OBSERVATION #3. The number one thing women want us to give them.

Ah, the age old question, what do women want from men? (This is different from the first observation; what do women want in a man, what do women want from a man?) It is jewelry, security, or sex? Perhaps it’s the ability to open jars, fix the car, or reach something on the top shelf? How superficial can you get? They want the same thing we want from someone we are going to spend the majority of our time with.  Number one, at the top of the list in bold easy to read letters – they want us to be their best friend. And they should be. Anything less is undesirable for both sides. Think about this for a minute. Our best friends we grew up with (I’m most likely talking other guys here) we are probably still friends with, right? Yet did we not have disagreements and sometimes even knockdown drag-out fights with these same people? Of course, but in the end we remained friends. It’s a powerful force, one difficult to break or walk away from. Friendship, real friendship, is the purest form of love because in the end it’s unconditional. Bumps in the road do not keep us from moving forward. Casual acquaintances move on after a time, and that’s fine, but best friends see beyond hardship and disagreements. When we see elderly couples walking in the park, holding hands and smiling, isn’t there a sense that there’s something more than love between them? To me they almost seem like  the same person. This is what women want.

There it is, I wish I knew more but for the moment it will do. Don’t worry, the men’s section is next. It promises to be a lot funnier and I’m sure it will surprise a lot of you.

Please follow my blog. Comment and share as you wish. 

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood