Grateful Heart Monday

Well, it’s Monday, and time for another entry in the gratitude department. Today’s Grateful Heart Monday is dedicated to accomplishing the putting together of an outdoor Christmas display that’s bigger than any other year I’ve done ever, a feat I honestly didn’t initially think I could do or would even find any desire to do in the first place.

In past years I have done my best to put together some pretty decent Christmas displays outside for others to enjoy. I’ve often seen many cars slowly drive by to appreciate my finished product. But, this year the motivation to do it just wasn’t there. With the very recent loss of my young cat Smokey, the other tragic losses of my friends Brian, Keith, and Aaron, and my increased levels of physical pain, this had suddenly become the first year I wasn’t excited for the Christmas season whatsoever.

Yet, I’ve learned on my journey to recovery from addiction that sometimes you just have to put one foot in front of the other, act as if, and set your mind towards doing something, even when you don’t feel like doing it. In this case, this was the precise course of action I took to accomplish the very thing I didn’t really find myself driven to do this year.

So, on a Wednesday morning, about 10 days ago now, I set my alarm for 8am, woke up in pain as usual, put on my headphones, and walked outside into my garage where I slowly began opening up all the Christmas storage bins to start putting together the outdoor Christmas display.

I began on the roof of the house and continued with the garage next, lining both from front to back with multi-colored lights. I also hung our big lighted wreath in the front pinnacle of the house and positioned a motion projector on the pinnacle of the back garage as well. Next, I moved on to the first part of the fence that surrounds our entire front yard, adorning it with multi-colored lights as well. When I ran out of both energy and time, I had achieved the very thing I hadn’t thought possible that morning, that being the ability to even start doing a holiday display this year. And now that I had started, I felt a drive to keep going.

The next day began in the very same way, yet with a little more skip to my step so to speak. I continued working on the fence until I had it entirely strung with ornamental “X’s” of multi-colored lights. I then proceeded to wire it all together until I ran out of steam and time again, yet by then I felt that Christmas spirit slowly arising within me. The day after, I began to work on the approach to our front door and the garden edging around it, lining the approach and door with white lights and the garden edging with multi-colored lights. After completing this and wiring it all together, the thing I hadn’t thought possible just two days prior actually became possible, as I was now feeling the Christmas spirit.

On Saturday morning, I awoke with more excitement than the previous three mornings, and progressed into the next stage, which was putting out the 30+ lighted yard figurines, lighting the two ornamental trees in our front yard, and lining up the front projector and spotlight. Doing this phase of the outdoor holiday project always takes the most time, because honestly, I’m OCD and I rearrange everything countless times until it looks please to my OCD-based eyes! LOL! Anyway, 14 hours later, yes 14 hours, I had it all where I felt it needed to be and all lit up. The fact that I had lasted that long doing that amount of work was a feat and a record in itself for me.

And finally, for a few final hours on Sunday afternoon, five days after I had begun the project, I added some finishing touches with a few more lights strands down the front sides of both the house and the garage and added one more lighted figurine that had been purchased that morning to the display.

In the end, it took me approximately 40 hours of hard work to complete my outdoor Christmas display and I must say I’m far more excited for this holiday season now that it’s done and truly grateful that I didn’t let my self-pity, grief, and negativity prevent me from doing something that I had typically enjoyed doing in previous years.

So, yes, I have plenty of gratitude for overcoming my ego that most definitely didn’t want me to do the holiday decorating this year. But thanks be to God for helping me to push on through to complete a task that just over two weeks ago, I never thought would even happen, which is exactly why I felt it called for being today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Daily Reflection

“If you don’t love yourself, nobody will. Not only that, you won’t be good at loving anyone else. Loving starts with the self.” (Wayne Dyer)

I had a big realization recently and honestly, it’s been right in front of me the whole time, I just wasn’t ready to accept it. The realization came while I was a passenger in my partner’s vehicle the other day when I started nitpicking him having a ton of hair coming out of his earlobes. After asking him why he hadn’t taken care of it, I found myself getting heated. I mean of all things to get heated about, this definitely shouldn’t be one of them, right? Nevertheless, my actions started an argument, which led to him driving to the grocery store shortly thereafter, and me taking a hot shower where I silently hoped the water would somehow cleanse me of all the guilt and shame I felt inside over the things I said to my partner. It was at that very moment it finally hit me.

I don’t unconditionally love myself.

You see, if I did, I know something silly like my partner’s ear hair wouldn’t bother me one bit. Because the truth is that when one unconditionally loves themselves, they tend to see everyone and everything in a much more positive and accepting light. But if they don’t love themselves unconditionally, they tend to see the world as somewhat skewed, which in turn leads to quick judgments and negative criticism of others. Essentially, one’s lack of self-love usually leads to unloving behaviors towards others, like the nitpicking I’ve regularly done to my partner.

While I do unconditionally love a few parts of myself, especially my 12 Step recovery life, there are three parts of me that I very much struggle to unconditionally love and accept. The first is with my health issues. The second is with my sexuality. And the last is with my lack of employment.

Because I don’t unconditionally love and accept those parts of me, I know it’s leading to me slowly pushing those who unconditionally love me away little by little through my occasional unloving words and actions, such as the nitpicking of my partner. While it’s true that deep down I do profoundly love him and the few others I’ve drawn close to in life, I know that if I want to love ALL parts of them, I must learn to do that with me first. Because if I don’t, I know I’m going to risk losing having any type of beautiful connection to both them and me…

Dear God, I really struggle unconditionally loving myself. I know because of that it’s often led to me saying and doing unconditionally loving acts towards myself and others. I’m ready to fully embrace myself just as I am. Please guide and direct me to fully love all parts of myself, warts and all as they say. Amen.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to Grateful Heart Monday, a time to reflect upon a slice of gratitude from my life, which for today is for a friend named Robb D., who truly has been an inspiration to me on many levels.

I originally had the pleasure of meeting Robb back in 2014 when both he and I first began serving on the hospital and institution committee for our local area of Alcoholics Anonymous. For a period of time, Robb and I shared a weekly commitment together at Rescue Crisis, the very same place I continue to volunteer even today.

From the onset, I noticed Robb and I couldn’t be any more different, yet I still admired his unique differences. He truly beats to his own drum and is one of those people who prides himself in that uniqueness, which might be the very reason why he and I have become pretty decent friends over the years, because the two of us, while opposite in personalities, stand out on our own against the grain more than not.

The most interesting thing I find about Robb is his love for being in nature. Every time I see that show “Naked and Afraid” advertised on television, I think of him because he’s definitely someone who could be dropped off in the middle of nowhere, with absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, including no clothes, and he would survive with flying colors. You see, Robb is a master at hunting and fishing and has incredible survivalist skills. I really admire this trait in him because honestly, I need an electrical outlet when I go camping for my hairdryer! In all seriousness though, Robb is someone you’d want to be around if there ever was an end of the world situation. I half joke with him all the time about where I’d go if there ever was a zombie apocalypse.

Beyond Robb’s incredible outdoor skillset, he’s also someone who goes above and beyond the call of recovery duty day in and day out. He’s one of those people who will either call or text out of the clear blue, just to check in on you and make sure you’re ok, and then persist in reaching out until you respond letting him know all is well. He has such a good heart and cares far beyond a superficial level, although he may never outright come out and say that.

On a similar level of humility, Robb is also someone who never prays for himself. Instead, he prays for everyone else who’s in need and trusts that God will provide for the rest, including himself.

Speaking of God, he’s definitely gifted Robb in the area of cooking and preparing food. Beyond the amazingly huge vegetable garden that Robb grows in his backyard each year, he prepares his own meat that he hunts, makes his own spices and juices, and has the best hot peppers I’ve ever had, including a hot pepper spice mix that I now love using on so many things I eat at home.

And probably the biggest trait I admire in Robb is how he carries a level of physical pain that’s even higher than mine, but never lets it stop him from living his life. He regularly goes to the gym to workout, spends hours in a tree stand hunting, is constantly splitting wood, always hiking in nature for mushrooms, and on and on, never once complaining about his pain.

Lastly, and maybe admired just as equally as his ability to carry a high threshold for pain, I want to mention that Robb is also one of those guys you can call for a favor and he’ll do his best to be there for you. Whether it’s needing a ride somewhere, or the use of his truck to haul something, or simply needing a friend to talk to, or for getting coverage to lead a 12 Step recovery meeting, I have never known Robb to not do his best to be there for someone in need of help. Because this is just who Robb is.

Truly humble in spirit, a devout follower of God, someone who’s dedicated more to giving than taking, to loving more than hating, consistently looking on the bright side of things, I am proud to call Robb a close friend, a brother in my organization he’s now a part of (MKP), and a fellow sober companion.

Ultimately though, when it comes down to it, words of gratitude may not offer Robb the justice I feel he deserves, as the level of positive changes he’s made both within himself and in the world around him are beyond my own literary abilities.

The bottom line is that  I couldn’t be any prouder of the guy and can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am truly grateful for him in countless ways and for just being a part of my life, because his presence truly makes me a better person.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson