Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover…

Things aren’t always what they seem like from the outside looking in. I made mention to this briefly in yesterday’s posting but felt it might be best to elaborate on this a little more. Because of my own experiences of what I’m going through with chronic pain, I’ve come come to understand that I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover anymore. And for a long time I did.

Growing up in a family that was judgmental often, it was easy for me to become that way too. As I grew older and became more active in many types of addictions that consumed my life, my judgments of what my eyes were seeing around me also grew. If I saw a person driving recklessly on the road, I swore profusely at them and called the driver many awful names. If I passed by someone begging on the streets with a cardboard sign and a cup, I would avoid them and think they just need to get a job. If I watched someone cutting in a line I was waiting in, I would get quite angry and vocal about it as I thought what makes them so special. If I observed a person parking in a handicap spot somewhere, I would think they were cheating the system if I saw them get out and not have any visible signs of disability. And so on and so forth.

My whole perception of this with people and life changed dramatically though three years ago when all of this pain started and my own little world of judgments that I had created began to cave in. I found myself doing much of the things that I had judged others doing for years. I drove recklessly out of anger from what I was feeling in my body. I wasn’t able to work and started asking others to help out with paying for things I was still partaking in. I cut in lines because it was too painful to stand for any length of time. I parked in handicapped spots on days when the pain was too unbearable to walk very far.

Life turned into an endless stream of me limping around, acting like a gloomy Gus, and making sure everyone knew I was hurting and disabled. As time has passed since then, I have grown stronger in my ability to conceal the pain. This world has a lot of misery in it, and I decided as time passed with the pain I was enduring, that I needed to do my best to not add any more to it. Unfortunately, that also brought about the same behaviors happening to me that I once did to others.

A few weeks ago when I was at the airport getting ready for a flight, I went to the counter to ask for an early boarding slip because of the difficulties I have in standing for any period. The man at the counter looked me up and down and I could feel he was judging me as I once judged others. He then asked me what my disability was and gave me a look like I was making it up when I told him. Several months back I went to a movie screening and while I was waiting in line, I asked for a chair to sit in for the same reason I asked to pre-board that plane early. A short time after siting down on the chair that was brought to me, a theater employee told me he was going to need the chair I was sitting on. I responded that I needed it because of my own inability to stand for long periods and he looked at me and said it didn’t look like I had any disability and walked away irritated. Sadly, both of those people judging me for what they saw was what I did for many, many years.

Because of what I’ve learned in all of this, my compassion has grown for all people today. These judgments I once spewed out of my mouth have grown less and less. And I’ve been able to see things with a completely different set of eyes. When I see a person now driving recklessly, or begging, or cutting in line, or parking in a handicapped spot when they don’t look handicapped, I remind myself that I don’t know their story and I don’t know them. Maybe that reckless driver is heading to the hospital to see someone close to them who is in dire straits. Maybe that person begging has just lost their job, has two young kids to feed on their own, and the money from unemployment isn’t enough. Maybe that person cutting in line has someone waiting for them out in the car that is abusive and they are afraid of being beaten down in some way if they don’t hurry up. Maybe that person parking in the handicapped spot is just like me, concealing their pain so as not to draw attention but secretly cringing with every step they take. Sure, I could look at each of these incidents on the negative side thinking they are cheating some system, and say what I used to, but I choose to look at them now with compassion instead. It has made me a lot less angry and irritable based person.

The bottom line in all of what I’m saying is pretty simple. As much as I was angry at God for a long time about all of this pain, I am realizing now that it’s been a gift because it’s helped me to see things so differently that once irritated me and brought out a lot of judgments. When I see something today that sets off those parts of my brain which once lead me to judging any book by its cover, I am able to create a completely different story. One that has compassion. One that has patience. And one that is filled with God’s love for all people and all things no matter what their cover may look like.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

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