Nelson Mandela, Grace and Good

Nelson Mandela, One of the great men of history, certainly the most influential man of my lifetime, passed away last week. Though I only knew him through newscasts and articles, I have always felt close to this endearing man. He felt like a grandfather to me, one whose wisdom I yearned for, whose courage and convictions inspired me.

Perhaps what struck me most about Nelson Mandela was his capacity for forgiveness. After nearly thirty years in prison, times when he was often abused and certainly discouraged, He returned to his lifelong quest for democracy in South Africa even stronger in his resolve to forgive past transgressions and forge a new government based on equality.

Such was the immensity of this man’s grace that he forgave all his former captors, past abusers, everyone who had wronged him.

He forgave them, opened his heart and invited all people to join in harmony to build a new South African democracy. And through his singular vision and commitment to grace and good, his mission was realized.

I remember those years, the early 1990’s, when South Africa was a seething mass of animosity ready to explode at any moment. I watched the newscasts of riots and violence. I thought a bloody civil war was inevitable. But Nelson Mandela did not, and ultimately his calm and reasoned approach led to South African democracy.

His leadership prevailed. Good and grace triumphed.

I shall do my best to remember Nelson Mandela and his inspiring example of the powers of love and forgiveness.

A link to  a poem read by Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in the movie Invictus,

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Look Mom, No Eyes!

It’s time to give thanks for the new things blindness lets me do. Here’s my gratitude list-

Now I don’t have to think twice about entering pie eating contests, closing my eyes and plunging my face into a mound of banana cream is a total delight.

On another food related note, I no longer worry about crying when I cut onions as keeping my eyes closed during this process is a piece of pie.

When riding with Mohammed, my favorite taxi driver, I no longer fear for my life as I slide across the Taxi’s back seat while he speeds around a corner, responding to my pleas for more caution with his favorite saying, “Not to worry, sahib. We are in the hands of Allah.”

People don’t snicker as much when I drool. This may or may not be true as my hearing is also failing.

I now can really say it was an accident when I walk into the women’s restroom.

I don’t feel at all badly when I purposefully trip over someone’s obnoxious little yipping dog.

I am no longer bored sitting all day in a small boat waiting for a fish to latch onto whatever I’m dragging behind as blindness has made me a master waiter.

The thought of speaking in front of a large live audience is no longer paralyzing. O.K., it’s not like anybody is asking me to do that, but I’ll be fearless when it happens.

I no longer pretend that people’s baby pictures are cute. Wrinkled hairless babies are ugly.

I am no longer concerned with seeing God in my life. It would be nice to have a
short conversation though.

Nobuddy bugz me abut spellin enymore. Thank Got!

I have no excuses for not living William Perky’s famous quote-
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

Yes, I’ve lots to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, especially the immense love my wife, family, and friends have given me during these difficult times of adjusting to a new blind reality.

My life has many blessings and I wish the same for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!
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Gee, I Haven’t Been Suicidal for Months

It’s another in a long string of beautiful days. What’s more remarkable than the weather is my attitude Like the skies above me, I feel cloudless and sunny, much different than my state of mind ten months ago. That’s when I lost my sight.

I woke up one morning, a day like any other, and we went walking. As we went down the street, I noticed the world seemed to be blurry. I dismissed this as a temporary aberration, but when I backed the car into a wall because I didn’t see it, I knew there was a problem. My right eye was experiencing what had happened to my left eye some years before. I was losing my remaining vision, and there was nothing I could do about it. Doctors confirmed my diagnosis. I was going blind.

At first, I was in disbelief. This wasn’t really happening. I would go to bed at night, welcoming the darkness as it minimized the impact of my diminished sight. I would open my eyes each morning, expecting that my vision would be restored. When it became obvious this would never happened, I began sliding into depression.

I was suddenly aware that most of my daily activities were sight dependent and now, without sight, my ability to engage in these activities by myself disappeared. What had been a full and vibrant life was now a dark hole into which I fell deeper and deeper each day. I was in shock, which slowly deepened into depression. When I convinced my doubtful mind to get up in the morning or, more often later in the day, I would stumble around the bathroom,, fumbling for the shower, staring into a mirror I couldn’t see, and  groping around for clothes to wear. Eventually, I found my way to the studio and shut myself away from the world. With the lights off, I listened to music while my thoughts ran wild in the darkness.

At first, I thought about all the things I couldn’t do anymore, then all the dreams I’d had which now seemed impossible. I wasn’t angry at God or some unseen force for the dramatic change in my circumstances. It was more a matter of fact dialogue with myself, considering my new reality and culminating in one thought.

What the fuck?”

I couldn’t come up with a happy answer. Compared to the bliss of my previous years experiences, when my wife and I filled our life together with travels and delightful adventures, the possibilities now seemed non-existent. I became increasingly isolated, a condition accentuated by the fact I was then living in a foreign country where no one around me spoke English. I sank farther and farther into the quicksand of despair, and began thinking about suicide.

Believing my life would never be wonderful again, killing myself became the only thing I could think about. Fortunately, being blind limits one’s options for suicide as did my local circumstances.

I thought about jumping off a bridge. Two problems, there wasn’t a bridge high enough nearby to do more than break my leg and, even if a suitable structure existed, how did I get there? Walking wasn’t an option, as I could barely get around the house without hurting myself. Which brings up another point. I’m a pain wimp. The thought of doing something to myself that was going to hurt wasn’t happening. Then there was the mess factor. It didn’t seem right to end my existence in such a way as to leave a mess for others to clean up. This eliminated ideas such as blowing my head off or standing in front of a train.

What’s left? How about poison? Blindness kept me from surfing the internet for the poison de jour, Since I couldn’t read labels, fumbling down to the local store and picking up a bottle of something poisonous didn’t seem too logical either. Sure I could ask for help, but that didn’t feel right.

“Excuse me. sir, I’d like to kill myself and wonder if you have something poisonous off the shelf that would do the job.”

Sure, I could’ve done that, except I’d have to translate my request into Spanish. With my luck, I’d probably say something like:

“Pardon me, I’m having a problem with tapeworms, Do you have something that would kill them?”

Which would be interpreted as:

”Your dog has worms. Sorry, you need to see a veterinarian.”

No, killing myself was not going to be easy. Perhaps narcotics? No problem, I’d just make an appointment with a doctor and ask for sleeping pills. Sounds simple. But again, being in a foreign country derailed this plan. I didn’t know any doctors and it’s not like I could ask my wife to take me to the doctor so I could kill myself.  This is where my thoughts of suicide always ended up. My wife, whose love for me has been endless and unconditional. Her heart is the purest I’ve ever known. The thought of hurting her was more painful than the blind emptiness that I was struggling with.

Slowly, I began to drag my mind from darkness and open to new possibilities. I rediscovered ice cream and found simple pleasure in our daily walk to the small store where we humored our frozen fantasies. I began to pay attention to my other senses, noticing increased awareness of scents and hearing a new variety of sounds in my surroundings. I realized that since I could no longer read my To Do Lists, I now had nothing “To Do.”

Eventually, we returned to the States and I began receiving help with my disability, slowly discovering I could be functional again. No, I can’t pretend my life is wonderful again but, I now have hope I can make my new life meaningful in new ways. My loving wife, family and friends, are sources of constant encouragement. Once again, each new day is a blessing. And it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about suicide.

I end this post with a plea to anyone who may find themselves in the grips of depression, please reach out for help.Sadly, I’ve had friends who didn’t do this and ended their lives. While I respect personal choices, I know from experience, that depression narrows our ability to see our personal realities clearly. Again, please ask for help. Call friends, family, hotlines or write me at There is someone out there who cares and will listen to your story.

I believe every life is precious, especially yours.


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Paddling a Submarine vs. Living An Authentic Life

Paddling a Submarine vs. Living an Authentic Life 

Last night I dreamed I was paddling a canoe up a lake in the middle of the night. It was calm, I felt peaceful, yet there was one concern. The canoe was underwater. I was trying to paddle a submarine.

I’ve spent years listening to my dreams, paying attention to patterns, weighing the femotions of dreams vs. my life at the moment. I believe deeper forces speak to me in that unconscious world, forces that can guide me to deeper truths. And so, I am wondering about last night’s dream, trying to paddle a submarine.

Now I know there are many ways to interpret dreams, but ultimately, I tend to accept that my dreams are about me. Over the years, I’ve noticed that when I’m honest about how I feel in my dreams, they have given me clues to parts of me I needed to pay attention to.

Trying to paddle a submarine. I feel this dream was about my need to live an authentic life. Paddling the canoe was me moving forward in life. My goal was to get to the end of the lake, to a state of inner peace, but I was struggling because I was keeping my emotions below the surface. If I would allow my feelings to express themselves above the water, I would have less resistance to life and my journey would be immensely easier.

I need to live an authentic life.

I need to be genuine, original, true and trustworthy, and not be in fear of what the world may think of me for my many moments of fear and smallness.

Brene’ Brown recently gave a TED talk, “Listening to Shame,” in which she explores the challenges of authenticity. Brown believes authenticity is a process, a series of choices we make in our lives, choices made each day, in each moment, to be real…or not. (See

Authenticity means to be honest, to be vulnerable, to take risks. Authenticity is built one day, one choice, at a time. It is a process of continually stepping out of my comfort zone and engaging the world from a place of worthiness vs. shame.

Authenticity is a daily journey into the wilderness of being fully alive.

What’s the greater risk I ask myself? Living life based on what other people think, or being vibrantly alive based on how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?

This blog, Travels with Tio, is my journey, my choice, to be all of me alive. It is one way I will raise myself from paddling a submarine, to paddling a canoe, to perhaps even flying.

What does authenticity mean to you? How does it affect your life?

Please share your feelings on being the authentic “you”.

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