Look At The Bright Side

Sometimes it’s really hard for me to see the positive. Dealing with chronic physical pain quite often will taint the world that I see around me. It’s almost as if when this happens that I’ve put on a pair of clear glasses that have been completely smudged up. The biggest challenge that faces me everyday in the midst of this is to see the bright side of life.

On more days than not, I have wished others could understand how I really feel. From the outside, the only thing they might notice with me is the sadness in my eyes as it’s usually very difficult to place a smile on my face and laugh. All too often people will inquire if I’m ok when they see my somber state. While I know they mean well, it’s what happens during these inquiries that actually leads to an increased level of stress within me and in turn higher physical pain. Most will ask me if I’ve tried this doctor or that doctor, this alternative practice of healing or that alternative practice of healing, this medication or that medication, and some will even come up with their own explanation of what they think it is that I have. Over the past three years since its inception, I have become more of a hypochondriac at times when these people will play medical doctors and give me a diagnosis that they feel I should go look into more. Sadly, all of this does nothing more than further fog up the glasses that get in front of my eyesight.

Until one is faced with dealing in their life with daily, intense, chronic pain, their level of understanding will most likely be at a minimum. There are times I demonstrate to people what it’s like by pinching a part of their body so hard that they are wincing in pain and then I don’t let go. I’ll ask them next what they are thinking about as I’m doing it and 100 percent of the time it’s always the pain. I then finish by explaining what it’s like to function every day with a ton of that type of pain going on within me. Thankfully, this explanation will often help in that understanding.

Because of my own understanding now of what it’s like to endure chronic pain, I have grown to have a deep level of compassion for those who are going through their own levels of it. That in itself is one of the first things that I began to look at with positivity since this all began. I once was a very close-minded, and somewhat ignorant individual who made fun of people who were disabled, injured, handicapped, or for that matter, just different than me. I’m so far from being that person anymore and I’m grateful to God for having allowed me to experience what it is that I have for that reason alone.

Being grateful is just one part though of how I keep on trudging along in all of this. The other is trying to be as positive as possible and looking for the bright side of life, even when it seems too daunting. I pay attention now to flowers popping up out of the ground, to trees budding and blooming, to my partner’s cat purring on my lap or rolling around on the ground in delight, to sun rays descending down through thick clouds, to friends calling me or e-mailing me out of the clear blue just to say hi, to good samaritans who do random acts of kindness for me or others, to warm embraces by my partner, to rainbows that appear out of nowhere, and to so much more. It’s these little things that make the big differences in my life and help me to keep going forward, one day at a time.

While I don’t know how long I’m meant to endure this, nor do I really understand God’s long term plans for me at this time, I at least can continue to do my best to look for the positive. Even in the worst of storms I have found there is great beauty. I just have to look for it. There is good in everything and everybody. I see that a lot clearer now. But even better, I know at some point, God willing, I will be able to see the bright side of life free of all hinderances including from those smudge-filled glasses.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Change Is Inevitable!

So much of my life has been spent fighting change. I’ve found myself countless numbers of times over the years boxing myself in and throwing up walls trying to maintain a sense of safety. Many would say I was living in my own perfect world. Time and time again when someone or something came across my own utopia, I would work diligently to either incorporate it within my safe realm or I would quickly find ways to avoid dealing with it. That was until I started sitting with myself meditating and learning to live in the moment.

Life in itself is about change. From the moment of my birth to the last breath I take on this planet, my body has and will continue to undergo change. Even externally to me, such as in nature, change is prevalent. Fall, winter, spring, and summer, each of these seasons brings changes in weather, animals, plants, and trees. So why is it then I continue to fight change tooth and nail time and time again? Simply put, it often seems easier to know what is going to happen, to have all the details planned, and to know all the possible scenarios. But, in living my life that way, I reduce myself to a state of boredom and numbness. If at any point I am ever forced to change, I always seem to end up in state of frustration and anger. I know now that this stemmed from how I was raised as a child. Change was never welcomed in the home I was brought up in. Everything was always planned so far ahead right on down to the smallest details. The best example revolved around our annual two week vacation. Months before the first day of it ever arrived, a day by day itinerary was already developed of how far we were going to drive, where we were going to stop, what activities we were going to partake in once there, and what restaurants we were going to dine at each night. Things done on the spur of the moment were a rare thing indeed in my family. We stuck to a formula and our lives became a paradox to life itself as I don’t believe there is a formula to life. I’m learning now that change has always brought me, and will continue to bring me joy, but only if I allow those changes to happen. The joy may not be immediate, but it always does come when it’s meant to.

I once came across a story of only five pages with just a few sentences on each of the pages. These few sentences helped to provide me the foundation to accept change. They went a little something like this.

Page 1: “A person walks down the street and sees a hole and falls in it.”

Page 2: “A person walks down the same street and pretends not to see the hole and falls in it anyway.”

Page 3: “A person walks down the same street with the same hole and tells themselves they won’t fall in it this time but they do so anyway.”

Page 4: “A person walks down the same street with the same hole and walks around it.”

Page 5: “A person walks down a completely different street with no holes.”

I have walked down the same streets falling into the same holes so many times in my life avoiding even the slightest changes which might have led me to walk around those holes or even down different streets that were hole-less. But, in losing both my parents to untimely deaths, and living my life in so many addictions that never provided me any long lasting peace, happiness, joy, or love, I began to look at life differently. Not wanting to follow in either of my parents paths nor desiring to live in any more addictions, I am trying today to head down a completely new street, one where change is welcomed in all parts of my life as God sees fit.

So how does one walk down these new streets and experience those changes that lead to a better life? Essentially in my case, it meant walking through fear and going down those paths I resisted most. Have you ever tried to not get the last word in during a heated discussion? Have you ever tried to not offer your opinion on a subject you know a lot about? Have you ever tried to not seek reassurance from others for a crisis you are in? Have you ever tried to not prove you are right even when you know someone is wrong? Have you ever tried to look at the positive in everything even when things seem glaringly negative? These are only just a few of many ways one can take the road less traveled to experience one of those new streets.  Change doesn’t have to start with the big fears either. Try this one for simplicity. The next time you walk into your favorite restaurant, order something new, something you’ve never tried before, not there, not anywhere, just something that you have never tasted yet in your life.  Your risk? You either have a great meal and a new favorite to choose from or you spent a few dollars to learn you will never order that again. Either way you now have greater wisdom, and joy can be felt in that alone.

I’ve spent much of my life resisting change and missing out on greater wisdom and joy because of having one foot trapped in the door to the past with life seeming so much better and one foot trapped in another door to the future where I was afraid of how things were going to become.  Ultimately, because of this, I failed to see each day, in each and every moment, the beauty that change could bring me with each breath I took. By opening myself to even the smallest of changes as I have in the past year, I now find me heading down these new streets more than not, seeing things I never saw, smiling more, and finding my happiness and my relationship with God growing within me exponentially.

I encourage everyone today to take a moment to pause, breathe, and spend time with yourself doing something completely different from the patterns, routines, and boxes you may have gotten yourselves into. I think you might be pleasantly surprised to how much the simplest change will bring you inspiration, and in time, happiness and joy. So far, it has for me, and it can for you as well.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Way To Go Jason Collins!

It’s takes a lot to come out of the closet and admit openly one’s sexuality for anyone. But for an active NBA center to do just that must take an extra amount of huge courage and faith. Washington Wizards basketball star Jason Collins did just this the other day by admitting to the press that he was gay and in the process, became the first openly gay active athlete to ever do so.

I find that pretty amazing. I’m sure there are plenty of other professional athletes who are gay but are afraid to have others find out so they remain in the closet living double lives. I know all about that.

For all of my college years and about 6 months of post-collegiate years I did my best to conceal my attractions to men. I joined a fraternity because I thought that was the masculine thing to do. I was always dating at least one woman even if it was just for show. I rarely went past first base with any of them. I drank and got drunk quite often because it dulled down my sexual attractions. I stayed away from people who were already out of the closet and openly gay for fear of what others might think if I was around them. And at times, I even made fun of those people. It was a terrible way to be living but it kept me away for a period of time from what Jason Collins is now having to deal with like I am.

For as much as there is a lot more pro-gay support today, there still is quite a lot of backlash. Look at Mike Wallace from the Miami Dolphins who said he was repulsed by the idea a man was with another man when there were so many beautiful women around. And then there was ESPN announcer Chris Broussard who used Christianity and the Bible to bash Jason and declare what just about every evangelical church is doing today towards gays and lesbians….stating it’s immoral and a sin in God’s eyes.

For some like myself, I hid in the shadows for years. I didn’t want to have to deal with the negativity that might have come from others. I came out back in the summer of 1995 when things weren’t accepted as much as they are now. I lost a best friend because of his Christian views. I lost several other friends because of their religious upbringings. I had at times people calling me a “fag” or a “homo”. Even worse, I endured the fear constantly of being beat up. It’s a little different today for openly gay individuals but even still, too many religious people, especially in the United States, are still holding out that God says being gay is wrong. I’ve already come to the acceptance in my life that God brought me here as a gay man and that it’s my purpose to still show love to all these negative and racially biased people.

So for all the Mike Wallace’s and Chris Broussard’s, I send peace, forgiveness, and love and pray that God will enlighten you and help you accept God creates all people in different ways including being gay and that it’s not a sin . And for all the Jason Collin’s who are still hiding in the shadows, take a step in his direction and realize the more that all of us step out of fear, the more acceptance will come into this world for all of us.

God loves everyone and being gay isn’t a sin. The only thing to fear with coming out is fear itself and God can help anyone facing that to overcome it.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson