Weather Systems of the Mind

I pause and know

they come
demons of darkness
black clouds
in this season of storms

valkyries

naked

my soul is lashed
bashed by fear
drowned in disappointment
chilled by frigid failure
stunned by thunderous disapproval
stumbling in the cacophony of screaming doubt

lost

I pray to survive
this weather system of the mind

tio stib

2019

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Breaking Trail

in winter stillness
ancient aspens watch
a chickadee flitting past
feathered music
bouncing
over infinite blue

alone
atop the buried meadow
a man paused
turned
looked back at the trampled snow
the trail of footsteps
each print a shadowed testament
to sweat falling from his brow

all he could see was white
reflected memories in a sea of snow
light’s harsh truth
stinging weary eyes

a deep sigh
a gasp of icy air
a hesitation in the heartbeat of being

a smile

he chooses life

again

tio stib

2016, 2018, 2019

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My Dementia Diary 82 – Islands of Loneliness

In the 2000 film “Cast Away,” Tom Hanks stars as the survivor of a plane crash who finds himself alone on a deserted island. in the Pacific Ocean. After weeks of working to physically survive, he then faces the deeper  challenges of human existence, loneliness, hope, and faith.

To deal with his isolation, he begins a relationship with a volleyball, which he names Wilson and thereafter discusses everything going on in his mind with this unspeaking acquaintance. His hope is bolstered by a picture of the girlfriend he dreams of marrying. His faith in his ability to adapt and solve life’s problems wanes in time and, giving up, he tries to kill himself. Fate steps in, he fails, then recommits to finding a way off the island.

Yes, he escapes, but the ending isn’t what you’d call “Hollywood Happy.”

How do my wife and I compare to Hanks and his cast away life?

Certainly, we are cast aways too, a couple living with a disease that nobody around us wants to talk about.

Dementia. It’s difficult, it’s depressing, it’s death.

Even though we’re surrounded by a sea of other souls, none of them want to stop chasing their own dreams to visit our little island. True, I was one of them once.

So, like Hanks, we, mostly me, adapt. For now, I’m better off than Tom, who only had a volleyball to talk to. My wife can still smile, hug, and babble back at me. Also, the diet on our island, with occasional burritos and ice cream bars, is much better than Hanks menu of crunchy roasted crabs. 

However, like millions of other caregivers and their dementia stricken loved ones, we won’t be escaping our island of loneliness to return to the wonders of a world left behind.

No “Hollywood Happy” endings here. But I’m keeping the faith that there will be moments of beauty, grace, and love.

That’s the best I can do.

tio stib

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Do It Anyway – Mother Teresa

I offer the following words from Mother Teresa as a source of inspiration in difficult moments-

for children in Calcutta:

              People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

            If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

            If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

           If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

            What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

            If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

            The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

         Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

         In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

-this version is credited to Mother Teresa. It is thought to have been based on The Paradoxical Commandments by Dr. Kent Keith.

 

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My Dementia Diary 48 – Both Sides, Now

It has been raining in our town, a string of wet, dark, gloomy days that make it easy to stay inside, sit in the easy chair beside my wife as she colors happily, relax, and listen to life happening  around me.

Lost in this oblivion, I heard my mind say, “pay attention-

a familiar song was playing on the radio. It was Joni Mitchell singing “Both Sides, Now.”

Both Sides, Now

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way
But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow

It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud,
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way
But now old friends they’re acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day.

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

Joni Mitchell, 1968

These words pulled me into a cosmic pinball game, emotions flashing, as my heart bounced up, down, and around through forgotten memories. Yes, I’d heard this song before, but not the way, years later,  I heard it now. 

I was left with two thoughts-

Joni Mitchell is a heckuva songwriter and musician.

I really don’t know love or life at all.

Both Sides, Now

tio stib

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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

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.

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The Upside of Down, Making Light of Loneliness

Lately, I’ve noticed many lonely souls hanging out in sad solitude. The single seaters at Starbucks poking at their computers or pretending to read the newspaper, the odd person eating alone at restaurants, the commuter train filled with folks entranced by their mini-video screens with nary a glance at fellow travelers. It’s easy to spot the single folks, especially if you are, like me, one of them. Which makes writing this post so easy.

Let me put a different spin on loneliness and offer its advantages:

1. Living alone means making the bed is optional rather than submit to the control freak compulsions of a significant other.

2. Bing alone means that making pancakes for breakfast on Friday at 9 p.m. requires no excuses.

3. Lonely people don’t have to share the last cookie not to mention feel the least bit guilty eating it.

4. Being alone means you can squeeze the toothpaste tube any darn way you want.

5. Alone means you can watch any television channel you want or those dvd’s you’ve been too embarrassed to share, and drink all the beer or eat all the ice cream you feel like in the comfort of your underwear,  without any snarky feedback except perhaps from the pleading eyes of your dog. Okay, if you’ve got a dog you can’t possibly be lonely and don’t need to read the rest of this list.

6. Being alone means you need not explain to anyone just why you feel like blowing up balloons and then stoping on them after a trying day at work.

7. Alone means you can change the color of lipstick you wear every day without your room mate asking “Is something the matter?”

8. Single means that when you order a medium pizza you suddenly have enough “food” to last two entire days.

9. Being alone makes grocery shopping so much easier. “Did she say Toasty Crunchies” or was it “Chocolate Crispies?”

10. There is a singular bliss in solitude knowing that you can fart however and whenever you want.

11. Sleeping alone means you don’t have to pretend you are sleeping when he/she comes home late wanting to talk. Another plus on the subject of sleep is that alone means you don’t have to worry about snoring, unless, like me, you snore so loud you wake yourself up.

12. Being alone means you already have the one audience who will always listen to you. Yourself.

13. Perhaps the greatest gift of being alone is that now you are absolutely, totally available to whatever opportunity comes along. This means that when that elder gentleman in the tuxedo and top hat walks up to lonely you sitting by yourself in the coffee shop and says, “Excuse me, I can see that you are lonely and my anonymous employer has authorized me to hand you this round the world travel ticket including a check for $500,000 to cover expenses. The only stipulation is you must leave this week and you must travel alone.”

Of course, you can have only one answer-

“Me?”

And lastly, being “alone” makes you part of one of the world’s biggest ironies-

Consider this, you are sitting in solitude, feeling down, hoping that your life will change. At this very moment, all around the planet, there are millions of fellow loners just like you, with similar thoughts. Conclusion: you are actually surrounded by a sea of fellow solos. None of you are even close to alone.

I’m waiting for someone to stand up in Starbucks and shout, “Hey! Is anybody else lonely here?”

I’m listening…

from Tio Stib’s archives, the empty times before he met his wonderful wife. No, it wasn’t at Starbucks.