Self-improvement

Self-improvemant

137. MANAGING FEAR

I used to be terrified of heights; sweaty palms, vertigo, the works, and that’s just when I stood up. Seriously though, I really was afraid of heights. In fact, as a young boy, I had a whole list of anxieties. Spiders (note the still above from “The Incredible Shrinking Man”) and bees, getting into fights, riding the school bus, where to sit during lunch, what would be said about me during parent/teacher conferences, deep water, seeing my report card, and most of all, my mother. Fear was always there. It dominated me for the most part but thank God it occasionally retreated to the background. I had frequent (albeit brief) periods of joy, peace, and amusement, especially when I was alone, but every type of fear, from despair to terror, was the main emotional state I expressed and felt for most of my youth. As I grew older I found I’d gained leverage over how events progressed in my own life, and I slowly began to feel as if I were moving past my unwanted emotional alignments. In reality they morphed into a more covert way of manifesting themselves, which is where my addictive traits eventually began to overwhelm me.

I must have had some sort of sense of avoidance on a subconscious level because I refused engage in many activities as a teenager that appeared to be both extremely fun and entertaining, but leaned towards a possible self-destructive path. Gateway drugs were obvious temptations, but things like cigarettes and casual sex were also part of the equation. By the time I was sixteen I’d already known people who had passed a point of no return. They had eventually stepped over a line where their behavior was causing damage that could not be reversed. I wasn’t necessarily terrified of what I saw, but there was enough fear to keep me in a state of caution when it came to how I was going to proceed in my own life.

There were two traps I eventually allowed myself to be lured into. I had no real cautions about either alcohol or, surprisingly, sugar. I’d never been around (or more likely hadn’t noticed) either one of these indulgences all that much. I’d been in the company of those who were drunk and others who overate, BUT most people I knew who drank weren’t drunks, and most who ate candy weren’t fat. This casual observation effectively cancelled any apprehensions I might have had if I’d witnessed the more destructive nature that abusing both of these could lead to. The largest flaw in my personality has always been all-in on anything hedonistic. I KNEW this ahead of time, which is why I avoided so many other paths. If I were to sample the example, apprehension would be lost. Practicing moderation has been one of my biggest struggles. There was a darkness inside me waiting for fertilization, I could feel it. Stepping over the line would be catastrophic to not only myself, but probably a great many others as well. I genuinely was split, good over here, bad over here; kindness on one side, malice on the other. When I recognized this I panicked and started doing anything I could to alter my state of mind. I chose what I thought was an easy path, to do so from the outside in instead of from the inside out and quite effectively shot myself in the foot.

I was horrible at managing my feelings and even worse at interpreting them. My logic was to avoid what either felt bad or might have bad consequences and embrace what either felt good or could be rewarding. The problem with such thinking was I avoided the correct course of action if there were the possibility of pain or price involved and embraced flawed conduct if pleasure or gratification was perceived. Fear, in my mind, was something to be avoided at all costs.

I’ve never told myself a bigger lie.

Believe it or not fear is my ally. It is NOT the enemy. Why? Because when I allow myself to feel it, to acknowledge its existence, I become aware of what must be overcome. I cannot improve as a person without recognizing what’s holding me back. There are, of course, situations which must be heeded with total apprehension, but it takes practice to separate authentic threats from those that are illusionary. The easiest way for me to recognize whether or not irrational behavior is in play is to determine the nature of support behind my reaction. Fear that owes its existence to blame is false, fear that arises as a result of a need to be responsible is authentic.

If, for example I’m blaming my lack of experience on pursuing a task, this is an unfounded fear, one based on an egotistical ideology, and it keeps me from expanding my résumé. On the other hand, if someone is holding a gun on me demanding my wallet, being frightened is perfectly acceptable. Most fear, in my experience, has extraordinarily little danger attached to outcome, in fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. Recognizing and walking through anything I’ve equated with apprehension has always been the best course of action, one that unveils potential and reaps success.

I suppose my best advice is to stop being afraid of feeling scared. Fear is a tool, a lever we can use to maneuver ourselves to a life of high achievement. There’s no doubt we are motivated when there’s something we want to gain or create, but if there’s something in the way we want to overcome as well, it becomes fun.

Trust me.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

136. THE GREAT EXPERIMENT

One of my basement beliefs, one a good many may disagree with, is that our behaviors are more important than our objectives. I think how we decide to act is far more productive, and in the long run, satisfying to our spirit, than creating and moving toward a vision. Both are important, even necessary, but in my experience, character is shaped much more by how we choose to get somewhere. The way in which we travel and the things we do along the route is where we find and reveal our soul. Our resolve to do it repeatedly is prompted by reaching the summit of one’s vision, and in doing so, know we can take up a similar quest again. I suppose it could be equated thus, “If life is a road trip, then how important is the course and carriage as opposed to the destination?” Many philosophers have pointed out the secret to living is about the journey, and I agree. Goals are inherently necessary or movement through life becomes stagnant, pointless; but when we look back, reminisce as it were, do not our thoughts almost linger more about how we got there than it was about finally accomplishing our mission? I think the secret to living is to make our life’s vision all about the journey by creating interesting and creative intentions that force us along new and challenging paths. The circle (or perhaps spiral) becomes symbiotic between method and objective.

Here lies the real question, “What would happen to our lives if we concentrated on our conduct rather than focusing on an outcome?” I have other posts on this blog addressing the importance of asking quality questions, and in my opinion, this is one of the best. If outcome is all that matters, then it’s almost inevitable we will forgo our ethics to reach a conclusion. I’m not willing to compromise my principles, so I choose to, in every situation, practice my beliefs. For example, I will not abandon kindness in favor of cruelty just to win the race. I once heard a man say, “If life is a journey, then the faster you go, the quicker you reach the end.” If this is true, then the higher the speed, the lower the quality of our experiences.

I threw away a good portion of my life, fifteen years at least. I have no compunctions about it, but I do intend to do what I can to regain ground, and I must say, so far, so good. I made a decision years ago to treat the rest of my existence as an experiment. When I first sobered up, appreciation and gratitude for everything rose massively. Situations many would call boring or ordinary had me looking at the miracle of the moment most ignore. It forced me to slow down, and in turn it gave me an insight to a secret, one I talk at length about in another blog post, 118. Eyes of Wonder. The secret is this, the more we look forward, anticipate as it were, the more we force our perspective of time to slow down. Think of your own childhood. Did it not feel as if your birthdays were three years apart? That Christmas was never, ever going to arrive? When we were children, we spent all our thought processes, all our energy looking forward. It didn’t matter if we anticipated a pleasant conclusion or not. As adults we tend to look back, both in the framework of reminiscence and regret. It stands to reason, the more we concentrate on the past, the more we neglect what’s in front of us, and in doing so we speed up the arrival of our future. If I’m correct about this, then the reverse is true. The more we look forward, with either dread or eagerness, the more we force our awareness of time to decelerate. This realization was the first part of my intended “experiment.”

The second part was to concentrate on my morals. If I were to move forward with a plan, I needed parameters. The willingness to set and stick to behavioral boundaries is what separates us from the common animal. We have the ability to look in the mirror and say “I’m going to be a better person than I was yesterday, kinder, more tolerant, less indulgent, better informed, more productive, less selfish, more empathetic and less judgmental, and so on.” This list reflects my personal intentions, but you get the idea. Grizzly bears do not get up in the morning and say to themselves, “Today I’m going to be a better bear.” Doesn’t happen. We own the ability to circumvent our instincts, and that’s a divine gift, one many throw in the garbage.

Once I had both parts, I had the vehicle to move forward with my life’s “experiment.” I will choose to constantly look forward to tomorrow (without ignoring the moment, this is important) and do so while attempting to become a better person than I was yesterday. If you’ll notice, my plan is absent of a specific destination, but without manufacturing them, I’d have a difficult time collecting research, so I do set goals.

I’m not immune to distractions and I often find myself wandering off the road, this year (2020) especially. I get flat tires, run out of gas (physical neglect), I pull over to indulge in crappy roadside gift shops (materialism), and get bored (lose faith) BUT… I always eventually keep going. Here’s to better roads worthy of stopping to take pictures, enjoying the ride,  and meeting new people along the way.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

134. SILENT RESPONSE

I have a big mouth. Not so big as it used to be, not so fast to ignore an approach of kindness and appropriate response in favor of egotistical wit or perhaps, more precisely, sarcasm; but it’s still plenty big.

As a little boy I had almost zero filter. While this “skill” becomes more tolerated in those who are of advanced age, it does not carry the same acceptance when it’s voiced by youth. Saying what’s on your mind as a kid, without consideration for whom the audience may be, can result in fast-tracking a lot of enemies, and yes, I had a bunch. Having no siblings, my social skills were atrophied early on. I had a few close friends who tolerated my eccentricities, but they themselves were probably too busy with their own problems rather than point out or be bothered by mine. There were, however, plenty of critics of all ages, but their caustic opinions never swayed me to change. Negative feedback was offered in copious amounts, mostly followed by physical abuse. I got into frequent fist fights with classmates while various adults used me for a punching bag on occasion. This motivated me to become even more entrenched with my habits.

I carried this type of behavior well into adulthood, and because I DID become an adult (at least on the outside) my reactions towards life seemed to be more and more acceptable. As a result, I figured my approach may have been appropriate to begin with. Eventually I found out I was dead wrong. People had simply learned how to ignore what they had neither the time, energy, nor interest to oppose. It was many years before I realized how much I was being politely ignored. In any case my typical approach to communicating was so far off base it was outside the ballpark entirely. My roommate from many years ago had an insight that turned me around, and I’m grateful to this day for his honesty.

My presumption was this, if I’m approached by someone with an opinion, especially a passionate one, or even more so, if they are in a state of frustration and are looking for an audience for their difficulties, then they are obviously wanting some sort of judgement on the subjects being presented. Why else would they turn to me if not for my viewpoint? Alternative reasoning never occurred to me, my ego was too dominant, too hungry for attention and self-verification. I had no idea what they really wanted, but I knew what I wanted, attention, and this action was selfishness of the highest order. I’d take the dreams or nightmares of others and use them to prop up a belief I was being sought out for my “infinite wisdom”. I must admit, on occasion I STILL find myself falling into the well-worn ruts of my past, but I usually catch myself and do what I can to quickly correct my role.

What my roommate, my friend, explained to me was this, when people open their mouths (and hearts) they are wanting foremost to be heard; all they’re usually looking for someone to pay attention to them. If listening is a skill, then listening without thinking about what to say once they’re done is a master skill. High expertise is required to accomplish this, and I’m still terrible at it. The egotistical droning in my head all too often drowns out what the other person is saying. As a result I begin to ignore, or even worse, interrupt them in favor of expressing my opinions. As I said, I usually catch myself (not always) and at the very least ask them to repeat what they were saying while I make a concerted effort to focus on their narrative. One thing’s for sure, IF the other person wants my feedback, they’ll request it, otherwise my duty is to support or empathize with them silently. Acknowledgement of what’s being said need be nothing more than eye contact and facial expressions combined with genuinely paying attention. Whether or not a person is reacting to and absorbing someone else’s delivery is easily recognizable by the person who pitches it. I know when it happens to me. Whenever I’m attempting to communicate I can usually tell if I’m being ignored, even if the appearance of attentiveness is being presented. I’ll bet you can too.

I’m one of those dorks who occasionally hands out greeting cards to express myself. Sometimes it’s a thank you to a supervisor, other times it might be to convey empathy for another’s loss, and every once in a while, just to be a goof. In any event this is, of course, a form of silent communication as well. Not only that it’s a gesture rather than a declaration. Anyone who thinks silence doesn’t have the loudest voice, has never taken time to explore the possibilities.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

132. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS IN RECOVERY

12 Step Jewelry Alcoholics Anonymous 925 Sterling Silver Men's AA Unity Ring with Turquoise

“Stick around and the miracle will happen.”

Well, the miracle happened…

These words were spoken early on from those who encouraged me, and I still hear them frequently when attending meetings. At the time I had no idea what the “miracle” was. All I wanted was to just not hurt anymore. That alone would have been, and eventually was, a blessing in and of itself. It was astonishing the amount of misery I put myself through, throwing up several times a day, every day. Seeing blood pour out of my mouth (and everything else that came out of me) was a ritual I got used to. I’d shattered the vessels in my face so many times I looked as if I had a permanent sunburn. I hadn’t had a real night’s sleep in years, choosing to pass out, day, after day, after countless, pointlessly lived days. Such is the insanity of self-destructiveness.

As my recovery finally began to move diligently forward, the hurricane of pain slowed and eventually subsided to the point where I began to function somewhat normally; yet this was STILL not the miracle. My sleep improved, and my horrific nightmares dwindled; and this was still NOT the miracle. I began to laugh, enjoying the smallest of what most would consider mundane moments while looking forward with enthusiasm to whatever tomorrow had to offer; this too was not the miracle. On a leap of faith I switched jobs. I went from working over a decade and a half of mostly graveyard shifts to the beginning of a career that still supports me. I moved into an apartment on my own without a net under me. I began to pay my bills on time. My refrigerator always had food. I got a decent vehicle. I met the woman I Love. The list is long, and continues to grow, but all these things do not define the miracle spoken of in the Big Book.

Although I had read it several times, the passage had escaped me, droning on frivolously in my mind while I went through the motions of repetition. I must say, once I zeroed in on it, the revelation was both astonishing and, in my case, accurate. In the fourth edition of the Big Book, in the chapter “Into Action” at the bottom of page 84 and on to the top of page 85 it says this –

“You will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, you will recoil from it as you would from a hot flame. You will react sanely and normally. You will find this has happened automatically. You will see that your new attitude toward liquor has been given you without any thought or effort on your part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. You are not fighting it, neither are you avoiding temptation. You feel as though you had been placed in a position of neutrality. You feel safe and protected. You have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for you.”

There was a time where I thought of alcohol every minute. Every minute; and I’m not kidding. When we choose to carry chains, we are never unaware of their presence, so the best we can do is justify their existence. Alcohol was my calling card. It was my foundation for blame as well as my attempt to escape. I spent so much of my life pointing and running, and then the day went by where I just stopped. I didn’t think “today I will stop”. The monster withered when I ceased to feed it. It quit tapping me on my shoulder every time I had a Pavlovian trigger. I quit looking for liquor stores on my way home. On the other hand when I saw a billboard or commercial advertising booze, I thought nothing of it. There was neither a feeling of superiority over thinking I had beaten my demons, nor a fear I might slip. As said in the text above, I was placed in a position of neutrality. Do I see it these days as something I’ve beaten? Nope. Instead I have a knowing that my path of progress, or recovery to be more specific, will continue to nourish tomorrow and starve yesterday.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

129. SILVER LININGS IN THE PANDEMIC STORM CLOUDS

I’m in Colorado. Per capita we are a huge hot-spot in the United States for the pandemic now sweeping through the world. All too soon I’m sure we will be on isolation protocols, it’s part of an inevitable domino effect, and I for one will be prepared, at least mentally. This is NOT the time for fear, I’ve done plenty of that in my past and it has no appeal, use, or leverage in my life anymore. I have skills in place learned and practiced through my program of recovery that deal with such threats very efficiently; namely the “Serenity Prayer” which is really just a re-affirmation we can only control ourselves. The way we choose to act and react is the ONLY power we can exercise discipline over. Outside circumstances are not only beyond our control, they are are, for the most part, unpredictable as well. 

My suggestion to others is this, sit down and write out everything you’ve been putting off, be it tedious, fun, or necessary, and create a schedule to start working towards what you want to purge, create, or improve upon. Lack of purpose is extremely efficient fertilizer for all kinds of unwanted outcomes. Trust me, I speak from experience. Keep an emphasis on scheduling. Write out what you are going to do, what time to get up, what you want to accomplish first, by noon, and by the end of what would be considered a “normal” work day. Stay at home parents will no doubt have the easiest time adjusting to how the world is shifting, but the rest of us will be left with giant gaps in our daily habit. 

Who hasn’t thought about getting back to long neglected hobbies and pastimes? Many have dusty crafts, unread books, half finished drawings and paintings (me, me me!), and partially written manuscripts and poetry. There are those with cars waiting to be worked on in their garages, work shops with plenty of supplies, and gardens to start soon. Boredom is fueled by an inability to do what we think we’ll enjoy while at the same time convincing ourselves what needs attention requires too much effort. I call B.S. on this attitude. Excuses hold us back more than any other thing on Earth, and I’m not beyond manufacturing all kinds of seemingly creative ones myself. Do it all the time, which makes me something of a hypocrite. In any case, I’m much better at following through on my duties, hobbies, and dreams than I used to be, so at least my track record is constantly improving. 

I’ll gladly share my intentions and hopefully my example will inspire others to follow a similar path. 

Productive things to do in my life –

  • Exercise daily every morning in place of work. (while watching recorded shows)
  • Clean the grill. (we use it three to four times a week)
  • Clean and organize the garage. (THIS should take a while)
  • Clean and organize my storage room in the basement. (this should take even MORE of a while)
  • Separate what I need to donate. (WAY WAY too much, kind of a clothes whore)
  • Do classes from The Great Courses, both new ones I want to buy and those I already own. (math skills, language skills, writing skills, science, Shakespeare, etc.)
  • Complete online classes offered by my work. (there’s a bunch, and it will endure my willingness to be committed to my job as well as educate me on necessary work place skills)
  • Download my giant audio library of self-help, self-improvement programs to my iPod. (this is time consuming but it pays off.)
  • Organize and clean my work van and tools. (not bad now, can always be better)

Fun things to do in my life –

  • Write on my blog. (there’s never a lack of inspiration, and sometimes what guides me, surprises me as well)
  • Work on my art, both painting and pen and ink. (several projects I’ve been neglecting for far too long)
  • Watch my collected movies and series. (Battlestar Galactica, Sons of Anarchy, Northern Exposure and a plethora of others, twelve hundred titles in all, so no lack of entertainment here)
  • Complete my book and send it off for publication. (THIS is a big one. Not completing this equals massive regret, something I refuse to cultivate)
  • Listen to music. (Pandora – nothing calms me like Steely Dan, Firefall, Neil Diamond, and Gordon Lightfoot)
  • Sit down and read. (I own several thousand books so no lack here either)

I plan to keep getting up at four a.m. every day just as I do now. 

  1. 4:00 – 4:30 – Shower
  2. 4:30 – 5:00 – Eat Breakfast
  3. 5:00 – 6:00 – Exercise 
  4. 6:00 – 8:00 – Pick something on my “to do” list. Doesn’t have to get done, just progressed.
  5. 8:00 – 11:00 – Education choice
  6. 11:00 – 12:00 – Lunch
  7. 12:00 – 2:00 – Write
  8. 2:00 – 4:00 – Work on my art

The rest of the day will be the same as it is now which includes time with my wife, dinner, and confidently giving a bunch of wrong answers to the night’s episode of Jeopardy! Chores like laundry can happen whenever because I can do other things while the machine does the work. I’m usually in bed by nine p.m. 

One of the biggest reasons I MUST do this is if I don’t, old habits will attempt to resurface, and I have a host of those which almost destroyed me. One of the recent ones is weight loss. I’ve dropped about a hundred pounds since March of last year, and I’m prone to eating all the wrong crap when I let fear and stress dominate my mind, so keeping focused on a daily pattern will help deter me from self-destructive tendencies.

I have no intention of telling others what to do, all I want is to share how I’m going to handle what’s coming for all of us. 

I wish you all the best. 

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

128. LET’S BE WEIRD

I knew something was different about me very early on. The first time I realized this around the age of six. There I was, sitting in bed, joyously scribbling away in my Tom and Jerry coloring book and singing loudly to myself when it crossed my mind I was quite happy with no one else around. I truly remember this moment. I liked being in the company of others just fine, but I didn’t miss them when they weren’t there. I’m almost fifty-six now with no brothers or sisters, but back then there was no way of knowing if siblings were going to be in my life or not, so expectations of a bigger family remained open. Either way it didn’t matter, I craved neither solitude nor companionship, whatever the moment offered was quite comfortable. I also knew this attitude was different than most.

My teachers thought I was a bundle of nerves with a big mouth. I was; still am as an adult, but at least now I have increased self-awareness with my tendencies as well as an ability to redirect my energies, though sometimes it’s a little past my initial expressiveness. I was also rude, but never consciously so. My exasperated mother could not get me to say “excuse me” correctly when I walked in front of, or accidentally got in the way of others. Instead, I had it backwards for years and gleefully said “excuse you” instead, which really did come across as me being bratty. I never meant to be impolite, but I’m sure it seemed that way to those who were in my presence. Most of this stemmed from being selfish and overbearing, a side-effect of being an only child. There’s no doubt this type of behavior in today’s environment would insist on some sort of diagnosis that would require lots of drugs and possibly even therapy. Thank God I was born when I was.  If I were to unknowingly meet my younger self these days I’m sure I would roll my eyes and shake my head.

My personal habits in my youth were almost always directed towards fantasy or science fiction. Reality was fun, no doubt, but the possibility of imagination becoming reality held much more intrigue. I was a Star Trek, Wild Wild West, and Lost in Space kid. My library was soon filled with similar themes as I grew older and began to voraciously read. L. Frank Baum’s OZ books, A.A. Milne, The Chronicles of Narnia, and everything written by Edgar Rice Burroughs filled many hours of mental journeys. My artwork reflected my tendencies (and still does) when a brush, pen, or pencil was above a blank page. My room, my toys, were also in line as well. Everything one could think and create with, construction sets, art supplies, and, of course, books were my go-to playthings. Yes, I had cars, GI Joe, and sports stuff, but they were fall-back activities. I did play softball almost every day on the playground, so physical pastimes were abundant, but my mind was always elsewhere.

As I grew older I shifted away from my nature. What once was a powerful connection to my spirit faded a little every day as I became more and more hedonistic. This is where I deliberately began to withdraw from my fantasies. I went from being inspired by inward motives, to choosing to be influenced by outward ones. The walls effectively went up, and my wings of imagination came crashing down. Here is where I effectively became “normal.” All too soon I had a vast library of excuses for abandoning my hopes and dreams, in essence I joined the “tribe” and began goose-steeping to the tedious drone the majority of the population mindlessly embraces.

What IS normal one might ask? Well, in my observation the behaviors most people share define what’s totally acceptable, not only because they (usually) remain unchallenged, but also because they serve an agenda that justifies excuses for avoiding taking action. This is a cancerous lifestyle because most of our oblivious thought processes are great examples of misery loving company; we cyclically feed on each others bad habits. Please don’t think I’m past this, I’m not. All too often I catch myself joining in the mob mentality, my ego steps in, and I start playing the game with practiced ease.

Normal is therefore –

  • Accusing circumstance for how you act and feel.
  • Being late most of the time; or at the very least being highly rushed.
  • Trying to be different or stand apart from the outside in.
  • Worrying about reputation.
  • Complaining.
  • Thinking it’s inevitable certain “things” must happen the older we get, weight gain is, ahem… a big example.
  • Money equals happiness.
  • Wondering why everyone is so much luckier than you.
  • Hating Mondays, traffic, getting out of bed, supervisors, and your ex. Basically HATING too much.
  • A sense of lack.
  • Constantly comparing ourselves to others.
  • Wanting all the rewards in life without actually working for them.
  • Being overly offended, which, by the way, is nothing more than a covert way of  judging others.
  • Holding grudges.
  • Consistently defending oneself.
  • Pointing out flaws in everything: which is a cowardly act of misdirection designed to keep others from treating you the way you treat them.

Are ALL these observations normal? No need to ask me for reassurance, just look around for yourself and notice the type of body language most present themselves with, listen to the tone and delivery of how people typically speak as well as the attitudes that drive the agendas of average people. Do their motives fit many if not all the examples given above? Sadly, yes. Most people have fallen under the influence of thinking life can be fixed from the outside in, therefore what’s wrong is “out there”. We’re convinced we can change how we act and feel by manipulating the world around us rather than simply changing how we react. “Normal” is a comfort zone because the behavior is acceptable. The more we step out of the comfort zone, OR the more we embrace imagination, possibility, and personal power, the more we’re labeled as weird, because in doing so we don’t fit the tribe mentality.

Let’s look at a reversed list and perhaps this will enlighten as to just how rare, or of course abnormal it sounds.

Weird is therefore –

  • Owning how you act and feel.
  • Never being late, always relaxed.
  • Doing what it takes to be different from the inside out.
  • Not caring about what others think.
  • Bring grateful.
  • Knowing that you can defy the idea of how people age, and prove it through examples.
  • Happiness equals money. (LOVE this one)
  • Feeling blessed no matter how bad things get.
  • Loving Mondays, getting up the moment the alarm goes off to enjoy the day, empathizing with your boss, and wishing the best for your ex. Basically LOVING  everything.
  • A sense of abundance.
  • Comparing who and what you are, with where you were.
  • Willing to put forth any effort to achieve what you want.
  • Not letting hardly anything bother you, which will cultivate empathy.
  • Easily forgiving.
  • Embracing accountability.
  • Looking for the beauty in everything, which prompts others to do the same in kind.

To me it seems that imagination and compassion complement each other, just as ignorance and animosity are obviously close relatives. If nothing else the first list describes someone who is thoroughly boring and predictable, while the second list supports the type of person who is interesting and spontaneous. It’s ALSO important to point out the first list embraces a posture of inaction and blame, while the second one typifies a lifestyle of action and responsibility.

When I abandoned old beliefs and habits and embraced new ones, I reignited long lost passions I’d convinced myself were forever lost. This was actually a side-effect to my recovery, and I did not expect it. I never thought I’d find fortitude just because I wanted to become different, or of course… WEIRD.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

127. GODSHOTS PODCAST WITH LYDIA CORNELL

Lydia Cornell

For those who might recognize the name, Lydia Cornell is a star of the highly successful sitcom from the eighties, “Too close for Comfort”.  Her name under the picture is a also a link to her IMDB page. In addition to an acting career, she also runs a blog, PoliticallyHot and a web page called GodShots. Her resume’ includes a wide range of projects, talents, and passions from writing to mentoring and even stand-up comedy. Please visit her links to learn more.

Our paths crossed by coincidence some time back on another web site known as Quora. We have common ground in recovery, and it’s here we began communicating our enthusiasm for helping others. This, I hope, will be the first of many conversations designed and directed towards offering answers where so many silent questions lie painfully embedded in the souls of those who suffer.   

Listen this and previous podcasts by Lydia here.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

125. SEARCHING FOR INSPIRATION

The older I get the more I know what the highest personal achievements in life are, and surprisingly, in the end, we don’t seem to want anything material at all. We may think we do, especially in our youth, but what’s truly sought after are the feelings that come from what we’re convinced will trigger whatever state of euphoria we seek to manifest. Many (including myself) buy into false repackaged, cliched, and resold icons associated with happiness which usually revolve around power, money, and fame. When people find they cannot gain footing on this type of path, drugs inevitably become the number one go-to in pursuit of mood-altering experiences, and I can understand why; it’s easy, extremely available, and it works…sort of. I myself was a slave to the idea of alcohol induced tranquility just like millions of others. If you don’t believe this to be true, take a ten-minute drive through the nearest business district and count just how many places you pass by who sell liquor. Damn near every street corner is testimony to the immense popularity of booze. Illicit drugs are a bit more covert, but I’d wager almost no one on Earth is unaffected in their own family by their ubiquity and use. All too often this path becomes extraordinarily self-destructive; physically, yes, but more importantly, emotionally. When we force our state of mind to change from the outside in, we ignore spirit and embrace pure hedonism. We also forget how to express ourselves naturally, how to explore our passions and allow our sorrows. I know from experience when the spirit dies from lack of nourishment, so does the body.

Complete contentment, peace, ecstasy, excitement, harmony, and bliss are good examples of the type of heightened emotions everyone wishes they had instant access to. Unfortunately, we’re all too familiar with the opposites such as discouragement, conflict, depression, boredom, apathy, and misery, and believe it or not it’s here the secret of inspiration can actually be found. Stick with this article and by the end you’ll be, well… inspired. Trust me.

We are creatures of negativity for two very distinct reasons, but this isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing. We have built into our limbic system the “fight or flight” response which is on the constant lookout for the safest path. There are those who confront this instinct by intentionally risking limb and lifestyle, either for excitement or to challenge tendencies, but it’s always there in one form or another. And this skill is extremely useful, no doubt about it. Our ancient ancestors knew enough to be afraid of danger and avoid unjustifiable risks. The second reason is a little weird. We approach most tasks and challenges with a mindset that says “how can I fix this?” OR “how can I improve this?” As a result we automatically look for lack, and when we do, we force our minds to notice and all too often manufacture flaws, even if they don’t exist to begin with. One thing’s for sure, very seldom do we walk through life carefree and totally accepting of the world around us. Those souls who do are almost nonexistent. This is why we identify with negative points of view so easily, it’s a covert  and highly practiced habit to begin with.

The least desirable emotional states I listed above are actually easier to understand and diagnose than their counterparts because of the way we’re wired. They aren’t simple, no illusions here, just more relatable, more common as it were. I’ve stated this many times on this blog, I’m no doctor nor am I a professional on any subject I bring up, all I try do is share how I’ve moved past those barriers in life so many of us seem to share. Most states of negativity I’ve found a way past, although I don’t practice what I preach as much as I should. My ego occasionally gets inflated, I look for excuses, and play the victim from time to time, there’s no doubt about it, BUT I do know how to get beyond these temporary setbacks

There’s a one-word response for neutralizing negativity. Those I’ve named above, discouragement, conflict, depression, boredom, apathy, and misery have a redundant thread.

  • Discouragement = giving up on taking action
  • Conflict = absence of seeking cooperative action
  • Depression = unwilling to take action
  • Boredom = no action at all
  • Apathy = not caring about taking action
  • Misery = not taking the correct action

Obviously the key word is… action. Action designed to avoid destructive tenancies is, by default, creative in nature, and all things creative hold the seeds of inspiration. If this is true, then it stands to reason creativity breeds inspiration. You see, most believe inspiration comes before creativity. Not true. If you want to be inspired all you need to do is choose to be consistently active in your own life. The activities don’t have to be all rainbows and unicorns, and most likely they’ll be annoying rather than comforting, though this isn’t always the case. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what the nature of your activities are as long as they’re intended to be part of a bigger (positive) picture. Think of life as setting up dominos, once they’re in place all that’s needed is a push on the first one. Yes, the preparations can be tedious and time consuming, but the payoff is easy to visualize. The satisfaction of seeing them make a predetermined pattern, to act in a perfectly synchronized, harmonious manner is pure gratification. The same logic can be applied to those goals and dreams we so often abandon because the road leading to our visions seems overwhelming and hopeless. Little steps and movements all too often lead to huge accomplishments, in fact I would say this is the only way one finds themselves seeing their dreams come true.

When I look back at the things I’m grateful for, the accomplishments I’ve followed through on, they all consisted of constant, small, sometimes almost imperceptible movements. Most were drudgerous, but in the end it has always been more than worth it. The price is not that high upon appreciating the worth of the finished product. Seeing one’s goals make the finish line IS inspirational, and THAT inspiration is what is needed to start all over again on a new, perhaps even more impressive task.

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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

122. SOBRIETY VS. RECOVERY

 

I’ve met people have who have twenty-plus years of sobriety… and not a day of recovery. I don’t want to come across as some sanctimonious finger-pointer, that’s not my intent. It’s just when listening to those who have a long history of nothing but abstinence, as opposed to one of growth and improvement; well, it shows. It shows in the amount of bitterness, regret, hostility, judgement, and most importantly, blame they project. Thankfully I realized quickly just who I wanted to align with. Yes, there were those I felt drawn to who displayed a caustic exterior, BUT they did so with a twinkle in their eye, and it was also presented as a challenge to those worthy of commitment to a program. True desperation equals the willingness to do anything, which in turn allows others to hold a mirror to my faults while my defenses are lowered. I wasn’t looking to purge the result of my problems, (drinking) I was determined to eliminate the cause of my problems. I was so sick of being sick, and I was willing to do anything to eradicate my ever-deepening spiral of self-destructiveness. I wanted more than anything to be around those whose lives had obviously improved, not the ones who were able to rid themselves of the object of addiction and nothing else. 

The definitions we assign the words we choose for our inner dialogue is massively influential, both positively and negatively, and of course both consciously and subconsciously. I’m a huge stickler for this, so much so that I still look up words quite frequently. The fifth commandment contains a good example of misinterpretation. It says rather simply, “Honor thy Mother and Father.” Most people translate this as “Love Mom and Dad.” This is NOT what it means. One of the definitions of “honor” is “to do better than” which makes sense from a spiritual perspective. We are duty bound to be better than our parents, and our children better than us. I Love my parents but I’m more obligated to become greater than they are, at least from a Christian perspective. This small example led to my insistence in using the proper language. I’m not nearly as good at it as I’d like to be and it shows most in my writing. I try, but, my skills in this arena are mediocre at best. I do pay for an editor for that which I plan to publish, but on this blog you’re going to get my best effort without professional critique. Writing does help me to refine my ever-lengthening list of words and this in turn helps with my speaking skills. 

I’m a firm believer we cannot manufacture happiness from the outside in. I’ve said this many times both on this blog and in person. That which brings us peace and contentment must resonate from our center. If our priority in life is to nurture core attributes, this will eventually magnify outer abundance. If our primary focus is to gain outer abundance this, will lead to atrophied inner qualities. Sobriety is essential to a healthy life, but if this is all one wants, one will eventually end up empty. It’s an action designed to work from the outside in. Abstinence is better than indulgence, that’s for sure, especially for those around the person who’s a train wreck to begin with. Recovery, on the other hand, is designed to promote growth, not just stop disease. Sobriety, in my experience, prunes the branches, and it helps. Recovery eventually heals the entire tree.

Make no mistake, sobriety comes first. It’s the most important step of all. If we equate addiction with another action, say vandalism, then alcohol (or any hedonistic practice) would be the sledgehammer and our motives would be the need or desire to vandalize. Sobriety is, therefore, the absence of the sledgehammer, which is a wonderful thing, especially for that which is being destroyed. What remains, is of course, the impulse to demolish. In this scenario I’m sure it’s easy to see how the need to drop the “weapon” comes first. If, however, this is ALL that’s done, another “weapon” will present itself to accommodate the motive to destroy. This is why it’s essential to address the reasons behind the “need to swing.”  It ALSO explains why those who drop their bludgeon must never pick it up again because doing so will trigger all the reasons to use it.  

Sobriety was and is my first step, it being the same action over and over, but recovery isn’t. It’s the evidence I’m improving and it’s a track record I intend on extending until I die. So, how long have I been sober? Twenty-four hours. How long have I been in recovery? Over twenty-four years. 

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood