Self Actualization

120. ALMOST DEAD – PART TWO

ALMOST DEAD – PART ONE is, of course, the first part in case you’ve missed it.

If you’re wondering why I’m including this topic on my blog, the answer’s simple. Most of us have experienced some sort of overwhelming, life challenging stumbling block. Many have had much worse than I’ve ever experienced, no doubt, BUT I feel it’s important to point out how we can (eventually) use these detours as inspirations rather than excuses. Some people move and reshape the world from wheelchairs, and there are those who, by their own hand, have trouble getting off the couch long enough to accomplish even the most basic of needs. It’s a mindset, one I still struggle with more often than not. Some areas of my life are well ordered, while others I label as totally chaotic. My ego, my attitude, is what holds me back from progressing in a productive, positive manner. Remembering I have indeed moved beyond my worst periods of uncertainty helps to reestablish determination and allows me to tackle areas in need of attention. This next statement is from another post of mine, and it sums up my historical dynamic.

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

And it does…

5. Viral Pneumonia –

I never knew one could “catch” pneumonia; figured it was just something that happened if the conditions were conspiring against you. Apparently I was wrong. Now, for some, viral pneumonia can be rather mild, not in this case however. I’d originally contracted symptoms almost a month before on a cruise and came to the conclusion I had a bad cold, really bad. I was hacking like crazy and it hurt like I needed to push razor blades out of my lungs. Looking back I’m shocked the airline that flew us back early didn’t reject our request before we even got on board. I spent a few hours facing away from everyone and trying as hard as possible to not cough into my hat. After returning home I still had a few days off before resuming  my job. During this time I saw my doctor and they concluded, inaccurately, it was just a cold. I even had a chest x-ray because of the added pain I was experiencing. They told me I’d pulled a muscle and to take it easy. I went back to my normal grind thinking life would get better and better, but my energy level was just gone. The more I worked, the more I depleted my resources because, unknown to me, my body was using every ounce it had to fight the infection in my lungs. Finally, one day, when I was working on a two inch copper drain line in the ceiling of an office building, I realized I’d had enough. I was coughing up blood and it felt as if someone had taken a home-run swing at my rib-cage with a telephone pole. My breath started getting shorter and shorter and by the time I made it home I could barely breathe. I don’t scare easily, the other incidents where I had one foot on a banana peel and the other in the grave were nothing compared to this. I really thought I was going to die. If I’d been alone it wouldn’t have done me any good to call 911 as I could barely get out a whisper of a single syllable at a time. I had to write down what was wrong. My wife got me in the car and we sped off to the hospital where a real diagnosis was finally made of my condition. I spent two or three days (I don’t really recall) under close observation and was sent home with a bunch of antibiotics. I went back to work soon thereafter but It was another month before I felt normal. Since then I’ve had two more bouts of pneumonia but neither of those were as bad as that first time. It’s totally disabling, and I wouldn’t wish it on Satan himself.

6. MRSA –

MRSA stands for “Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus” which obviously is (ewww…) a mouthful. I for one am glad it’s most commonly referred to by its acronym. It’s basically a strain of staph bacteria that’s become highly resistant to antibiotics. CA-MRSA (which specifies my exposure was outside a medical facility) is the strain I was lucky enough to make friends with. It started with a sore knee. There was no cut or break on my skin of any kind, which was weird. I didn’t think much of it at first, just figured I’d banged it on something a little too hard, but the swelling kept increasing with more and more pain accompanying it. Finally, after several days I reluctantly went to my physician. My wife went with me and was in the room for the initial exam. The doctor literally jumped back a little when he saw my leg and proceeded to very, very carefully touch it. The moment he did he said  “This is extremely hot, you need to go to the hospital, now!” He must have called ahead because they seemed to be expecting us and I was only in the emergency room for a few minutes. I spent at least three days bedridden, and to be honest, I really don’t remember much of the incident, but I DO remember a few things. I was on a constant flow of liquid antibiotics, I was also on morphine for the pain, and I recall a visit from the surgeon in charge of my case. He was standing at the foot of my bed looking at my knee which was swollen to the size of a football and said “We can’t risk draining it, it could spread like wildfire. We are going to monitor this extremely closely and if the infection moves into the joint itself (apparently it wasn’t yet, and I have no idea how they knew) your leg is coming off with in the hour.” I was in no position to argue, that’s for sure. Soon thereafter my condition improved and I went home. I did need follow up visits of course but all ended up fine, until…

A year and a half later it happened again, to my other knee. Same thing, no break in the skin or visible cut. Luckily my hospital stay this time was shorter and the case was somewhat less severe. I have both legs these days but my knees still hurt occasionally, although that’s probably more my age and job than anything… I hope.

7. Back Surgery with Complications –

On January 16, 2015 I had back surgery. Less than twenty-four hours before I wrote a post on this blog – 76. So close to giving up recalling the weeks leading up to where I found myself. The days to follow were a totally different story. I was eagerly looking forward to some sort of relief from my sleepless nights and 24/7 suffering, little did I know the worst was NOT behind me (yes, pun intended.) The operation went fine although it took almost twice as long as was originally intended, four and a half hours as opposed to an estimation of two and a half. I was told there was more “complications” than anticipated once they had a better look at my condition. No matter, it was done and I figured I could go home and at least sleep. This fantasy was short lived. Now, my memory of a five month period from the start of my injury to when I returned to work is almost a blank slate. I can recall certain incidents, but the timeline is a complete wash. My guess is my mind went into some sort of “wipe” mode, something I never thought could happen. These days I have to rely on my wife’s recollection of events to fill in almost every detail. I’d originally thought my second setback during this time happened right after regaining consciousness from my anesthesia, apparently not. I’d been home for only about twenty-four hours and was resting on our bed when I realized I had almost no energy, I wasn’t actually paralyzed, but I then again I couldn’t move in the slightest. My wife wasn’t home and the phone wasn’t anywhere near me, so I laid there, fading away. At some point, perhaps an hour after the episode began, she came home and I managed to explain my condition. Took me over half an hour to make it to the car, by far the hardest physical struggle of my life. Once I finally made it back to the emergency room I was diagnosed with  pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in my lungs) accompanied by pneumonia. The doctors told my wife if she hadn’t come home when she did I would have died. I recall the head physician telling me I went down to about 3%. He said it was extremely close but I was going to make it. I was another week on the hospital, nine days total. It’s amazing just how much mobility and even muscle strength can be lost by staying in bed for a week, and my heart breaks for those who go through such ordeals, often for much, much longer periods than me. The next few months saw a HUGE weight gain along with periods of boredom and depression. I went back to work in May of that year and while it was excruciating, it was also invigorating. Took a long time to feel normal again, but I did and here I am over four years later, ticking away just fine.

I’m convinced my recovery from alcoholism has given me added diligence to help me to step past everything that’s happened since I sobered up. It would be nice if my life ahead would be guaranteed clear sailing; BUT you know what’s even nicer? It’s knowing I can confront my almost inevitable upcoming setbacks with an attitude valor because I have LOTS of practice.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

118. TWENTY-FOUR YEARS SOBER

Well, here I am, one year away from the quarter-century mark in my recovery. I must admit it doesn’t seem like it, but truthfully that’s a pretty good thing. Sometimes it feels like only a few months since I last drank. I still occasionally have dreams I’ve broken my sobriety, and while they are extraordinarily realistic as well as deeply frightening, I am nonetheless grateful for their continued presence. It keeps me reminded what I don’t want and sometimes that’s more valuable than knowing what I do want. I never think about alcohol in my daily life even though I’m besieged with ads, billboards, and commercials, not to mention a liquor store every two blocks whenever I get behind the wheel. None of these things sway my interest in the slightest. I was lucky in that I never really enjoyed the flavor of alcohol, I just chased the effects of it, so there’s no Pavlovian response to my five senses, thank God.

What breaks my heart the most is seeing others who are where I was and knowing I can’t really do anything to help them, although knowing this doesn’t stop me from (gently) trying. I understand how hopelessness feels, I empathize with what it’s like to want to live AND die at the same time. I wish I could hand over the experiences and knowledge I’ve accumulated to those who need it most, but in the end the best I can do is let others know I was once where they are now and try my best to be an example of someone who managed to find a way out. Looking back on the past two dozen years I’ve done a lot to get where I am now. At the beginning of my recovery I thought it would be an uphill battle, one with overwhelming challenges and unforeseen obstacles. Nothing of the future I had envisioned has come to pass. What I’d feared or wished for never happened. Disaster never struck and fortunes surpassed even my most hopeful of fantasies. Most of it’s been fun, surprising, and completely rewarding. Yes, there have been times of challenge, but my fortitude has easily outweighed every so-called setback. Nothing on my path has been a burden. It’s almost as if I exchanged ten years of my life in payment for what I consider to be a Utopian existence.

Every A.A. birthday I’ve had since I started this blog I’ve written a post to express my gratitude and to share my journey with others. The chances that this particular entry matches closely some of the other ones I have written wouldn’t surprise me. On occasion I go back to read and share other entries, but not the ones published on my birthdays, and I have a very specific reason for doing this. I want what I feel at this moment to be written down without self-bias. I don’t want to taint my connection with spirit. If it so happens to match what I said last year, well, does it really matter?

As a closing thought I will say this, my intuition, my insight, my inner voice tells me that something very, very big is on the horizon in my life, something good, something miraculous. We’ll see what I have to say next year.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

116. WHO AM I?

For years, decades actually, this simple statement, finding out who I REALLY was, was never on my radar. I shuffled through the days with no eagerness, no purpose, and no intent on manufacturing a life of abundance. Status quo was fine. As long as tomorrow wasn’t much worse than today, why would I try reaching towards dreams that seemed more like fantasy than possibility? Looking into the mirror I never saw anyone of value; twice nothing is still nothing; this world with me or without me would be the same. Trying and failing was a much more painful prospect (I thought) than never starting, so motivations were completely absent. Nonjudgmental self-evaluation was something I never knew existed, let alone how to practice, though I DID constantly criticize myself, and this path almost led me to an untimely death. Why? Because in my mind all perceived error deserves punishment, or so I thought. I saw all my “mistakes” as permanent character flaws rather than temporary learning opportunities.

One thing’s for sure, I’ve ALWAYS felt like a triangular peg living in a round world; maybe more accurately a star shaped peg. In any case my attitudes and beliefs have never quite seemed to match anyone else’s, especially when I was young. I’m sure this feeling is true for a great many people, but my point is when you (think) you’re a drop of water in a dessert, it’s difficult to find kindred spirits. As a result I began to question if my thought process was totally out of alignment with the rest of mankind’s. Wondering if my sanity was intact was a disturbing notion, one I avoided contemplating. It’s no wonder alcohol and its ability to numb my emotions had an eventual massive appeal.

With these two outlooks on life, basically (choosing to become) an “apathetic alien”, I subconsciously attacked myself from more than one angle. The more I convinced myself I didn’t belong in this world, the more I died a little every day. I’m glad I didn’t.

So, WHO AM I?

I’m now a person who doesn’t care about the question “Who was I?” I remind myself of the past by keeping an occasional eye on my rear-view mirror because it’s good (and in my case, healthy) to know what I don’t want. These days I do indeed look to the horizon (something I NEVER did in my youth) and fantasize about all my plans and dreams, but this still isn’t my primarily focus. I’m hyper-aware I’m neither what was, or what might be. I am what the moment presents, part intent on my part, part what the universe hands me. I refuse to believe I’m the sum total of my (unwanted) history because I try my best to avoid letting previous negative patterns influence the present. Just because I responded a certain way before is no excuse to repeat my behavior under similar circumstances. I’m sorry to say this doesn’t always happen, but I’m much better at this exercise than I used to be. Recognizing a Pavlovian response is eighty-percent of the battle anyway.

Perhaps it would help to define who I am, who I choose to be now by generating a list.

  • I am open-minded.
  • I am Loving.
  • I am receptive to criticism.
  • I am a morning person.
  • I am creative.
  • I am enthusiastic.
  • I am always looking for a good laugh.
  • I am idealistic.
  • I am decisive.
  • I am constantly improving.
  • I am driven.
  • I am a good communicator.
  • I am spontaneous.
  • I am (also) well prepared.
  • I am well connected to my emotions.
  • I am a hard worker.
  • I am in recovery.
  • I am kind.
  • I am artistic.
  • I am concerned more for others than myself.
  • I am organized (at work…)
  • I am blessed.

A rundown of qualities is all fine and well, but coming up with a list of my inadequacies is probably much more important to REALLY answering “Who am I?” It’s important to note I do NOT currently consider these as defects like I used to. I see them now as nothing more than areas needing the most attention.

  • I am a procrastinator.
  • I am a poor listener.
  • I am out of shape.
  • I am impatient.
  • I am an interrupter.
  • I am forgetful.
  • I am disorganized (at home…)
  • I am not using my time wisely.
  • I am putting off my dreams.
  • I am not practicing my art like I know I should.
  • I am not even close to my potential.
  • I am annoyed by reminders of what I should do.
  • I am not as healthy as I could be.
  • I am judgmental.
  • I am wired for addiction.
  • I am stubborn.
  • I am loud.
  • I am undisciplined.
  • I am undereducated.

It’s difficult to self-diagnose, and I’m sure even my closest friends could write a longer list of my needed “upgrades” than I could. The good news is I AM on a path of constant improvement. It’s not as fast as I’d like it to be and I do often find myself taking two steps back for every three forward, but these side trips do not discourage me in the end.

So, “Who am I?”

I’m a work in progress, I’m a person who won’t ever go into “glide mode”. I am opposite of everything I don’t want to be, and honestly, that’s a damn good place.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

111. HOW I STARTED IN A.A. – PART FOUR

When I turned twenty-nine my self-worth was non-existent. I really had forgotten, even for an instant, what happiness was. I occasionally had moments of pleasure and amusement, but these fleeting experiences were poor substitutes for what I wanted most. I attempted to manifest what I lacked by serving the hedonistic urges of my body, but I really had no idea how to feed my spirit. The soul needs only one nutrient to live, and I was starving it to death.

I loathed mirrors. All I ever saw looking back was someone not worthy of living. Rosacea covered my face. Massive amounts of straining from vomiting every day further enhanced the look of my existing splintered redness, especially in my eyes. Sometimes my heart would race wildly, so much so I thought a heart attack was imminent. I felt as if my absence from this Earth would improve the lives of everyone I knew, and the sad truth was, I was probably right. To be honest it was only after a year of recovery I could finally face my reflection and say out loud “I am a man!” Thirty-one years into my life before this would resonate as a warm truth instead of an outright lie.

For six months into of my last year of drinking I had sporadic contact with what would eventually become my home group in Alcoholics Anonymous. The man on the other end of the phone (when I’d called in January) was also a part of this circle. That night I was working at an Office Depot doing a monthly scrub, wax, and polish. I walked in, stuck my left hand that wouldn’t stop shaking in my pocket, put on a smile, and kept my distance until everyone left and locked me in. Once I was sure I was alone I immediately collapsed on the floor. No kidding. It was then I said a prayer, though at the time I had no idea it WAS a prayer. Before I made my call to destiny I said out loud in total desperation “I don’t care if I die broke and naked tomorrow as long as I die sober.” This was my bottom. It was also the beginning of my rise (it did NOT feel that way however) because I had, at that moment, resolved to pay any price the universe asked of me. I had painted myself into a corner where my only option was to start screaming for help.

As I said in part three my worst days were yet to come, and since I felt my health had no chance of a return to anything resembling normalcy, I went full-bore towards what I honestly hoped would be a quick death. The pain of D.T.s, my blackouts, and so on escalated. Still, there remained a steadfast flame inside, one that sprang to life the night I said my fateful prayer, it was the candle of willingness. Willpower it seems (also known as ego) had little to do with what I wanted to accomplish and everything to do with my self-destruction. Einstein said it best, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” 

These days I realize being open-minded equates with the ability to admit I’m wrong, and I’d indeed become open-minded, even if the door was cracked ever so slightly, although I’ll admit it seems like it came about by accident, albeit a stupendously fortunate one. Before I quit for good, and during the time I was wavering between sobriety and oblivion, I found myself once more on the phone with the same gentleman whose voice greeted me on the A.A. hotline a few months prior. I was working overnight in yet another location. The previous week had been one of the worst.

“You know Jeff, I just don’t know if anyone can really help me.”

“I actually agree with you, Daniel. I don’t think there’s a single person on Earth who can help you.”

That pushed me back on my heels. I was pitching the victim, and Jeff hit a home run with it, though it wasn’t until many weeks later I recognized the true dynamics of this particular conversation. After a few moments of stunned silence on my part I managed to get out another question.

“So,” I said in a shaky voice, “I’m never going to quit?”

“I never said that, don’t worry, you’ll quit eventually, trust me.”

Well, THAT knocked me down for the count. I felt my lips and face go numb at the truth of it. This moment was the turning point for me. I was both deeply frightened and massively inspired. Here was my “why not?” moment. Soon after this I took my last drink, and on August 28th, nineteen ninety-five I had my first thirty days of recovery in over ten years.

One thing’s rock solid, I had nothing to lose by going full tilt into the program. Two belief systems I owned ahead of time saved my life. First, I’ve never had a problem with accepting a higher power exists. I’ll admit my definition of a “higher power” is somewhat different from most who hold the same conviction, but in the long run it doesn’t matter anyway. No need to explain myself further on this point, at least for now. Second, I had a knowing I was going to express anger toward those people and ideas I was soon to surround myself with, and honestly, that helped with both expectations and tolerability.

I went to meetings the first year about three times a week. Many were in clubs and other fairly public venues like church basements or rented spaces, but it was my once a week home group on Thursday nights (which was in an actual home, my sponsor’s) where the REAL healing took place. I allowed myself to become deconstructed and reassembled here. This is where my spirit became greater than my body. This is where I FINALLY shed the layers of armor, masks, and secrets I’d buried myself under all my life, not just the past ten years. For the first time ever I felt…

human.

Happiness, purpose, prosperity, Love, a career, a real home, and many other facets of my life came rushing in. What I never realized was these things were there all the time, waiting for me to do nothing but step beyond my walls.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

100. POSTS FIFTY THROUGH ONE-HUNDRED SUMMARY

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

Thank all of you for reading my entries.

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

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

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

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

54. Another Observation –  Just a random thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

71. What do Women Want? –At the risk of sounding esoteric, I do indeed know a little here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

85. Truth – Yes, it is.

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

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

88. You Are Loved –Yes you are, even  if you don’t know it.

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

90. The Lonely King – Another piece of artwork.

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

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

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

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

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

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

97. Being Right –  A life free from a huge cause of emotional pain is a wonderful thing.

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

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

 

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

97. BEING RIGHT

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

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

First –

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

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

Second –

The worst case scenario is more time and money.

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

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

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

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

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

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

96. IN SEARCH OF PERFECTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

95. THE GIFT OF GIVING

frogs

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

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

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

Some of my common thread actions and observations  have been-

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

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

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

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

92. MY MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT

Secret

Okay……. before you read this entry you HAVE to watch the commercial I’m going to reference, don’t worry, it’s only 33 seconds long.

In the late seventies and early eighties TV was a repetitious monster. With only three networks, (PBS doesn’t count here) programming was ridiculously limited and choice of entertainment was quite literally never much of a choice. It had been that way for years, decades at the time, and so too were the inescapable commercials sandwiched between shows. Many were relentlessly ran ad nauseam. By the time some were finally pulled from circulation the child actors had most likely become college graduates.

One of the tricks then, and still today, was to (hopefully) insert contagious catch phrases into our daily lives. Once repeated they’ll anchor themselves back to the item being pitched. It doesn’t matter if the connection is negative or positive because the manufacturer figures we still have their product (instead of someone else’s) in our heads.

One such ad was for “Calgon” which is, for those who don’t know, a powdered additive not normally found in regular laundry detergents. The still above is shows a white customer in a cleaners run by people from an Asian decent. No one thought it was wrong or out-of-place then, but it sticks out now with a somewhat slimy racial feel, at least in my opinion. At any rate the ad ran for close to six or seven years from the seventies to the eighties. Everyone made fun of it and for good reason.

I know I did one too many times…..

Sometime around nineteen eighty-five I was working nights as the lead of the janitorial crew at a local Target store here in the Denver-metro area. The duties were physically demanding and often tedious. When the larger areas were clean and perfect, management had a tendency to (justifiably) look for smaller flaws in harder to clean areas. So did we; and not just out of a sense of duty, but pride as well. Thus it came to be one night when the doors were locked and the customers had left, and while the evening closing crews were facing the shelving and putting things away, that I was approached with a nice complement from one of the store’s employees.

I happened to be on my hands and knees digging some gunk out of  one of the corners up front. My back was turned when I heard a voice behind me.

“You know, your floors always look so clean and shiny. How do you do it?”

Instantly the “Calgon” commercial jumped to mind and in a moment of complete un-inspiration, I opened my big mouth.

As I was standing up and turning around to face my admirer I uttered those words tattooed in my brain.

“It’s an ancient Chinese secret!”

As luck would have it turned out he was an Asian gentleman. Not only that he was REALLY pissed. My mind went instantly to another racial stereotype while I envisioned my ass getting kicked Bruce Lee Style.

As I stood there, feeling the blood draining from my face and my I.Q, dropping sharply, I stammered trying to redeem myself with zero effect. I’m sure he knew where my reference had originated, but that made little difference. After staring a hole through my skull, he eventually just turned and walked away.

Have you ever locked your keys in the car and realized what you were doing as you were swinging the door shut? You want to stop the momentum, but it isn’t going to happen and you become witness to your own stupidity.

Noooooo!

SLAM!

crap………

Such was my experience in this event. I spent the good part of the following week sick to my stomach. After that I was a lot more careful to curb my knee jerk reactions. Those who know me these days might say I’m still over spontaneous with my mouth, and yes, I do taste my foot more often than I’d like, but there was a time where no aforethought existed at all. I eventually found a way to soften those moments of potential rudeness.

I try to ask myself “What’s the kindest thing I can respond with here?”

I try……

My cringe-worthy moments are rare these days but I will say this; most of them are bred from an effort to expel humor, not really as an attempt to impress my audience, but instead to amuse myself. In the end, my ego gleefully puts my neck in the noose while I commit social suicide.

Thank God I can laugh at my past now. I’ve learned to forgive those events I used to hold on to that others have let fade from memory, but I really do think the man I insulted over thirty years ago never forgot that night.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

91. MY DEPRESSION

depression

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

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

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

SHIFT NUMBER ONE……

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

What garbage.

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

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

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

SHIFT NUMBER TWO……

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

Unexpressed anger?

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

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

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

SHIFT NUMBER THREE……

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

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

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

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

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With Love and Compassion,  Daniel Andrew Lockwood