A blind writer’s path to happiness – Which Mountain to Climb?

Happiness. What does that word mean to me? I’ve been thinking on this question of late. So far, I’ve decided that what happiness is for me is mostly what writing is not. Smiles, fun, good times shared with good people, feeling excited and grateful about life, looking forward to a new day, new adventures.

No, for me, writing, a solitary mentally taxing activity, is not much of any of these things.

Which tempts the obvious question, why do I choose to write if it doesn’t make me happy?

Because some things are simply work worth doing. Some things, like weeding a garden on a hot summer day, may not be pleasant or “happy” in the moment, but the results of the effort bring satisfaction later, sometimes days and weeks later, when the harvest finally comes in. Of course, you must like gardens to appreciate the value of weeding. I confess to liking stories and storytelling, which propels me to write in hopes of creating a good story someday.

Others have labelled such late returns as “delayed gratification.” I’m not sure it’s something to be proud of, but over the course of my life, I’ve become something of an expert in this area. As self-satisfying as this distinction has been at times, I’m now wondering why the hell I put off being “happy” so many times in hopes that my disciplined, focused, often martyr like work would later produce gratifying results. Such efforts included relationships that would have been more wisely abandoned in a matter of days instead of years.

This brings me to another “h” word that has shaped my life-

Hope.

yes, along with being a disciple of the “delayed gratification” mantra, I’ve also ben prone to the “hope for better” syndrome. the irrational belief that if I worked harder, longer, better at whatever, the clouds would part, the sun would shine, and life would be beyond wonderful.

Someone once told me, “there is no hope.” Please, let’s not get into a pedantic diatribe about this four letter word, perhaps we can agree that “Hope” means whatever you or I or anyone else wants it to mean. I think the afore mentioned person’s take on “hope” was that one just can’t sit on a rock “hoping” that it will start raining gold, life reality is that “hope” can inspire us but “Work” is what makes dreams happen. As usual, this is a rather simplistic statement, at least in my experience.

I’d “hoped” to be an Olympic volleyball player and I “worked” for years to achieve this goal. However, there was a fundamental flaw in my hoped for vision. I did not have the physical attributes required to be a world class volleyball player. For those not familiar with the sport, one of volleyball’s defining features is an eight foot net which divides the two opposing teams. In order to be successful at this sport, you must be able to jump high above this eight foot obstacle. As I barely stand over five and one half feet tall, I was at a distinct disadvantage compared to players towering over six feet. Sure, there are short guys who can nearly jump over tall buildings but I was not one of them. Hence, This life choice was not well grounded in reality.

Did this limit my happiness playing volleyball? Ultimately, yes, because I wanted to win as that seemed to be the measure of success and my lack of height often prevented me from winning. Still, and this is a further reflection on my tendency to hang on too long to things that aren’t working, I played for many years “hoping” to somehow defy reality and reach my goal. A wiser man described such acts of futility as insanity.

Which, finally, brings me to the ultimate subject of this post, which mountain to climb?

I’ve come to believe that if I can face a life challenge each day and create happiness in the process of working to achieve that goal, it’s a mountain worth climbing. Blindness has made such choices much simpler as I’ve had to accept that many things I used to do are not practical anymore. I don’t climb real mountains, sail oceans, or play any sort of sports involving balls which i cannot see. This void was depressing for awhile but eventually I followed my wife’s lead and began to simply enjoy the delights of our daily walks, the pleasure of biting into a tuna fish sandwich on toasted wheat bread, the enjoyment of conversation with neighbors. Then, there’s still writing and storytelling, work I do that is not often fun but eventually rewarding.

All said and done, this blind writer is finding his life path sprinkled more and more with bursts of happiness because I’m making smarter choices on which mountains to climb, and, most important, I’m simply enjoying climbing.

tio stib

Jul, 2017

You might also enjoy “Perfection,” “Fishing

Blind Man on a Bench

a surprise lover
the cool breeze kisses my cheek
my body delights
in sunshine’s warm embrace

wavelets lap softly on the sand
the scent of seashore drifts into my nose
a fly buzzes by

birds surround me
chirping behind
squawking above
honking across the water
laughter approaches

raucous conversation
“good morning!”
“Good morning to you”
the footsteps fade
a blast of male perfume persists

I bite an apple
crisp
juicy
sour
my lips pucker

smile

immersed in a beautiful day
mind swimming in memories

a blind man on a bench

tio stib

You might also enjoy: High on Gratitude, Hope

The Blindside Parables 22 – Life is Like a Broken Egg

Yesterday I dropped an egg. Actually, I didn’t drop it. Being blind, I surmised it rolled unseen off the counter. I heard a noise near the floor. In a microsecond, my brain flashed through the possible sources of such a noise. At the same instant, my brain reached another conclusion. The toes on my right foot were also sending signals to my sensory center. Something gooey was down there. 

A broken egg! 

As I groped about, cleaning the shattered shell and its slimy contents from between my toes, I pondered the symbolic relevance of this event.

Yes, I am easily drawn into metaphysical absurdities.

Perhaps, I wondered, my life is like a broken egg. Here I am, marching along unseen by most of the world and then, crash! I splat into eternity, possibly making a mess for someone else to clean up as I exit. 

That's one possibility. 

My mind drifted off in other directions. I remembered a structures class where we dropped eggs in specially designed containers from a third story balcony. The object, of course, was to preserve the integrity of the egg. The challenge was to do this with as little material as possible. It’s no problem to put an egg in a big box of bubble wrap and drop it unfazed onto the floor below. The trick is to drop the egg, mostly naked, with the same result.

 Similarly in life, I thought, there’d been times I’d insulated myself with such 
things as work and selfish interest so that the rest of the world couldn’t touch me, and I couldn’t touch the people who cared about me because I was too closed off from them. 
There have been naked opposite times when I was raw and open, times when I felt that life had run me over and left me for roadkill. Going bankrupt and watching friends die come to mind.

My lesson from these experiences: Sometimes it’s good to overprotect. Sometimes it’s good to hurt. The pain reminds me of happier times.

All this you may say, from simply having an egg hit the floor? Yes, and there’s more.

What if I’m like an egg? A hard, durable shell on the outside and a soft sticky mess inside. My outside, that part of me I show the world, is a lot like the shell of an egg. It’s quite resistant to general pressures, quite strong when grasped firmly. But, the shell has its weak points. It doesn’t do well with pressure applied to a single point.

Oh yes, I have my buttons. I hate cleaning up other people’s messes, such as wiping up their broken eggs. I have no tolerance for fools, which is why politics disgusts me. The egg shell is also brittle. It doesn’t do well when landing on sharp objects. I explode when subject to sharp noises, and am even more violent when subject to the sound of barking chihuahuas. 

Really, all this from a broken egg. 

My last thoughts on this surprisingly deep self-dialog.

How do you crack an egg? I use two hands. Even so, I often make a mess of this simple action, sometimes striking a nearby surface so hard that the shell cracks open and leaves a trail of egg goo from there to the frying pan. (This is a clue to what I usually do with eggs, hinting at my limited cooking repertoire). Sometimes, when my mind is somewhere else such as now, I fail to hit the egg hard enough, it doesn’t crack, waking me from my reverie to initiate another strike on the shell. This usually results in the previously mentioned egg goo trail. 

What does this say about my life? I tend to be overly cautious and conservative. Do I lack faith in my creative abilities to expand my egg cuisine? Maybe I’m just lazy.

One of my life goals is to learn how to crack an egg with one hand. I think this may take quite a few eggs. I’ve heard that gin fizzes are a good use for egg whites and an easy way to forget about life's deeper concerns. 

Time to get out the blender.


Moral: If you think too much making breakfast, you may find the yolk is on you.


tio stib

You might also enjoy: Where the Sidewalk ends; The Blindside Parables 17 - Superman



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 emotions of dreams with respect to my life at the moment. I believe larger forces speak to me in that unconscious world, forces that can guide me to awareness of deeper truths. This pushes me to wonder, why was I paddling a submarine?

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.

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

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, a blind writer’s path to happiness,” is my journey, my choice, to be all of me, fully 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”.

tio Stib

2013, 2017, 2018

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.

Here’s the link: http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/15/opinion/brown-authentic-self/index.html?hpt=op_bn2

 

Shape Shifting

the mirror of life stares back at me
a history of those times once free
the many men I’d tried to be
the many worlds I’d longed to see
so many new realities
I lived in hopes of finding me

some were good and some were bad
there were happy times and sad
joyful moments and some quite mad
questing for the dreams I had

some lasted days, some only hours
some grew from seeds to lovely flowers
but then the moment finally came
when each went up in spirit’s flame

was I born a vagabond
to never settle down for long
to never truly quite belong
heart pulled on by distant song

lovers, friends, and passersby
I’ve known them all
said my goodbyes
but now, as I face the end
I wonder if I’ll fly again

the caterpillar exists to eat
the pupa then goes off to sleep
and in its sacred, silky place
transforms into a different face

and so I build my new cocoon
as life within me starts to swoon
in hopes that with the coming moon
I will stretch my wings once more
and fly away to distant shores

so begins my every day
shape shifting in the cosmic play

tio stib
2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022

You might also enjoy: Paddling a Submarine vs. Living an Authentic Life, A Friend Passes

Come Out, Come Play

cold, naked, hard,
it shrieks
piercing down the empty streets
the wind beats on every door
you can hide from death no more

the restless souls stir in their beds
haunted by an ancient dread
the walls cannot keep out the fear
the truth that fate is always near

far beyond where wrong knows right
the sun peeks past the edge of night
and streaking ‘cross the stage of day
light calls to life

come out
come play

tio stib
2015, 2021

You might also enjoy: The Crossing, Sometimes They Smile

Good Humans Being

there is a dream
that I hold dear
of times when men
have grown past fear

when lies and hate
have blown away
when hope and love
guide each new day

yes
this may be fantasy
something that can never be
but I need this dream
to feed my soul
to guide me places
I need go

I dream of one day seeing
a world filled with
good humans being

tio stib
2017, 2020

You might also enjoy: “Desert of Dreams,” “First Snow

Commitment

Commitment, like love, is a verb.” Commitment does not exist without action.

I offer the following thoughts on “Commitment,” as much to re-inspire myself as to inspire you-

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”

-W.H. Murray, Scottish Himalyan Expedition, 1951

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe?

GO FOR IT!

tio stib
2015, 2018

You might also enjoy: Breaking Trail, If

Life Is Like A Broken Egg

Yesterday I dropped an egg. Actually, I didn’t drop it, I surmise it rolled unseen off the counter. I heard a noise near the floor. In a microsecond, my brain flashed through the possible causes of such a noise. At about the same time, my brain reached another conclusion. The toes on my right foot were also sending signals to my sensory center. Something gooey was down there.

A broken egg!

As I groped around cleaning the shattered shell from the floor and then its contents from my foot, I pondered the symbolic relevance of this event in my life.

Yes, I tend to get lost in my own world at times.

Perhaps, I wondered, my life is like a broken egg. Here I am, marching along unseen by most of the world and then, crash! I splat into eternity, possibly making a mess for someone else to clean up as I exit.

That’s one possibility.

My mind drifted off in other directions. I remembered a structures class where we dropped eggs in specially designed containers from a third story balcony. The object, of course, was to preserve the integrity of the egg. The challenge was to do this with as little material as possible. It’s no problem to put an egg in a big box of bubble wrap and drop it unfazed onto the floor below. The trick is to drop the egg, mostly naked, with the same result. Similarly in life, I thought, there’d been times I’d insulated myself with such things as work and selfish interest so that the rest of the world couldn’t touch me, and I couldn’t touch the people who cared about me because I was too closed off from them.

There have been naked opposite times when I was raw and open, times when I felt that life had run me over and left me for roadkill. Going bankrupt and watching friends die come to mind.

My lesson from these experiences: Sometimes it’s good to overprotect. Sometimes it’s good to hurt. The pain reminds me of happier times.

All this you may say, from simply having an egg hit the floor? Yes, and there’s more.

What if I’m like an egg? A hard, durable shell on the outside and a soft sticky mess inside. My outside, that part of me I show the world, is a lot like the shell of an egg. It’s quite resistant to general pressures, quite strong when grasped firmly. But, the shell has its weak points. It doesn’t do well with pressure applied to a single point. Yes, I have my buttons. I hate cleaning up other people’s messes, such as wiping up their broken eggs. I have no tolerance for fools, which is why politics disgusts me. The egg shell is also brittle. It doesn’t do well when landing on sharp objects. I explode when subject to sharp noises, and am even more violent when subject to the sound of barking chihuahuas.

All this from a broken egg.

My last thoughts on this surprisingly deep self-dialog. How do you crack an egg? I use two hands. Even so, I often make a mess of this simple action, sometimes striking a nearby surface so hard that the shell cracks open and leaves a trail of egg goo from there to the frying pan. (This is a clue to what I usually do with eggs, hinting at my limited cooking repertoire). Sometimes, when my mind is somewhere else such as now, I fail to hit the egg hard enough,it doesn’t crack, waking me from my reverie to initiate another strike on the shell. This usually results in the previously mentioned egg goo trail.

What does this say about my life? I tend to be overly cautious and conservative. Do I lack faith in my creative abilities to expand my egg cuisine? Maybe I’m just lazy.

One of my goals for the New Year is to learn how to crack an egg with one hand. I think this may take quite a few eggs. I’ve heard that gin fizzes are a good use for egg whites and an easy way to forget about life’s deeper concerns.

Like how my life is like a broken egg.

tio stib
2014, 2016, 2018, 2020

First published in January, 2014, but since I haven’t mastered the one handed egg crack yet, I decided to publish this again to remind myself of goals I’ve yet to attain.

You might also enjoy : Truth, It’s Coming

If, by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling, 1895

Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

When I’m down and feeling sorry for myself, “If” is one of the poems I return to for inspiration. Here are YouTube links to great readings of this poem, the first  by Holly Musgrove, the second by Sir Michael Caine-

“If” read by Holly Musgrove 

“If” read by Sir Michael Caine

Life is a gift and a responsibility. Let’s make the most of it!

Tio Stib
2019, 2020