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 Balance Between Wants and Needs

it seems the balance
between wants and needs
has much to do with happiness

needs are part of daily life
water and air
necessities
things without which
human beings would not survive

but then comes the gray zone
the in between

is love a want 
or a need?
is belonging something we must have 
or just a comfort for a lonely heart

Perhaps these are choices one must make
and the answers differ among us
but
on balance
when needs overwhelm wants
when survival is paramount to desire
when dreams are lost to getting by

there is little room left 

for happiness


tio stib


You might also enjoy: “The Speed of Love”; “Because Once, I Was Love By You

My Dementia Diary 57 – Healthy & Happy

 

I was once obsessed with lists. I would rise long before the sun to be at work by 5:30 a.m.. Fueled by a cup of hot chocolate, I’d dive into my “things to do,” twenty was not a daunting number, before the rest of the office arrived at 7”30. Focused and disciplined, I checked off my cumulative responsibilities one by one.

I admit to a supreme sense of satisfaction on those days when I managed to complete these tasks before the “good mornings!” of fellow workers turned the rest of the day into chaos.

Was I really so wrapped up in being dutifully responsible that I sacrificed having any sort of other life?

Seems so. I do remember moments during that time when I dreamed of sleeping in, fantasized about a day with nothing to do, no budgets to balance, no employees to guide, no monthly reports to issue. 

As the wise man said, “careful what you wish for.”

My career path has veered from architect to caregiver. There are no staff to manage, no urgent tasks to accomplish, no reason at all to get up at 5:30 in the morning.

Except when my wife needs help finding the bathroom

the multiple item “to do” list has disappeared. The day has been reduced to two priorities-

Healthy and happy.

that’s my daily work, keep my wife healthy and happy.

Has a delightfully simple  ring to it, don’t you think?

tio stib

You might also enjoy:My Dementia Diary 49 – Happiness, My Dementia Diary

 

Jumping Off

leaning out the open door
time roars by
it’s gone
no more
I wonder what my life might be
had I the courage to jump free

behind me in the train’s cocoon
dreams fly off to distant moons
faces glued to heartless screens
joyless stares and silent screams

and so we travel every day
secure and safe or so we say
the child no longer comes to play
the status quo will have its way

will I stay an untold story
remain in hopeless purgatory
pretending that I care no more
soul crying for its need to soar

then I jumped off into space
the unknown flying in my face
It’s not clear where I will land
no matter
I am free again

tio stib

2016, 2017, 2019

You might also enjoy: Life is Like a Broken Egg, Paddling a Submarine vs. Living an Authentic Life.

My Dementia Diary 49 – Happiness!

As my wife whistles joyfully nearby while she works on a coloring project, I wonder why I’m not similarly joyful.

Am I happy with my life? No. Am I unhappy? No. Then what am I?

Unlike my wife’s demented four year old mind, I’m many years past childhood. I can remember those happy days, but then life got complicated and so did happiness.

It seems my feelings about “happiness” have been evolving for years. Childish delight and wonder was run over by a need to accomplish things, win races, climb mountains. There was an ecstatic high when such goals were achieved. This was happiness. Of course, I often failed. Then came a life choice, is “happiness” about winning or simply doing my best? Sometimes “yes,,” sometimes “no,” depending on my mood and maturity in the moment.

Enter the paradox of people. My biggest joys have come in celebration with others. But my darkest times have also been caused by people. Another “happiness” question, do I need to get everything I want or is compromise enough? Compromise has become easier over the years. Age has mellowed my need to climb mountains.

Then I lost my sight. I realized that much of what had made me happy were things that I could see. That world disappeared and I became very depressed. It took some months, but I adapted to my much constrained life and found some satisfaction in being able to operate independently. However, I was a long, long way from “happiness” at that point.

Blindness seems to have prepared me for the next challenge, dealing with my wife’s dementia. My much smaller world fits well with her smaller life needs. Happiness for her is a walk to the water, babbling about all she sees and hears, knowing that I’m listening. Making breakfast together is a delight for her. Visiting with friends is the highpoint of her day. I’m able to make such things happen.

I take satisfaction from such service.

Am I happy? No. Unhappy? No. But, at this point in life, I am content.

Most of the time.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 10 – Where’s the Spatula?, My Dementia Diary

Why I Like Being Blind

No, in truth, I seldom like being blind. However, there are moments when I recognize that blindness has some benefits. Here are my top ten reasons to like being blind-

  1. When I get up in the morning, I can’t see how old I’m getting in the mirror.
  2. It’s nice being personally guided through airport security and other checkpoints, avoiding long lines of annoyed travelers.
  3. I don’t have to pretend I’m ignoring people I don’t like. I really can’t see them.
  4. I don’t need to shave every morning, or for that matter, worry about wearing matching socks. Yes, I admit age has something to do with this disregard for fashion.
  5. I can now unabashedly ask for help, paying no attention to my previous suffocating shyness. I need all the help I can get.
  6. I’m no longer asked to help people move. My history of breaking other people’s valuable objects has nothing to do with this.
  7. I now have an excuse for talking to myself. I’m talking to my computer.
  8. I now have a socially acceptable excuse for eating with my fingers. It’s the most effective way to get food into my mouth.
  9. I now have a more acceptable reason than being drunk for tripping over curbs. Yes, likely I’ve been drinking, but now I’m blind drunk. .
  10. 10. When late for appointments, it’s now much easier to say “Sorry, got lost.”

I’m always seeking more reasons to be happy with blindness, please add yours as a “Comment” below.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: Blind Man’s Bluff, Hanging with Happiness

Writing Well 2: 4,000,000 Books and Me

Recently I read a blog post that hit me like a bat on the back of the head. The author, Claude Forthomme, noted that a new book shows up on Amazon every 12 minutes and appropriately called this a self-publishing tsunami.

Claude’s post is now two years old and I expect the tsunami is now even larger. My guess is that Amazon currently has about 4,000,000 book listings.

In the middle of that flood of books are my two quite unnoticed self-published efforts.

That’s a lot of competition.

In another post, Claude shares that only 40 Amazon best selling authors actually make much money. 40 out of four million. I’m not sure what your math background is but even with my meager numbers skills, it seems obvious that the odds for financial success as a self-published writer are about the same as winning the lottery or me being asked to dinner with the President of the United States. It should be mentioned that I’m not his biggest fan.

My current book sales will not allow me to buy a first class ticket to fly to Paris, in fact, those sales barely allow me to buy an occasional beer to drown my writing career sorrows. Perhaps it’s time to throw out all the writing guru marketing crap that tells me that if I only work hard enough and smart enough and, of course, write something decent,, and then have a bit of good luck, I, too will be among the 40 best selling Amazon authors.

Not remotely likely, Grasshopper.

In Seth Godin’s insightful podcast, “Live at Carnegie Hall,” he poses the question of how young aspiring musicians can create successful lives amidst the flood of musical competition released by the same free and easy internet access that has changed the world for all of today’s creative artists. Seth suggests another path for life success. Instead of trying to compete with that tsunami of creative talent, build a tribe of 1000 followers for your unique artistic gift. He notes the careers of musicians who have small but dedicated followers. By focusing on uniquely serving a small group of people with similar passions, such artists have created simple and meaningful lives.

After listening to Seth, I considered my writing career and decided to change my focus to building a tribe of followers around my writing passion, young adult eco-fiction. Here I write for young minds still open and curious about the Natural world, a world that feeds my own soul. I’m building relationships within the eco-fiction community by reviewing other author’s books and being involved with discussion groups. I’m continuing my efforts to support the Save the Vaquita Porpoise! movement. And I keep asking myself the question, how can I best serve the needs of this community, my tribe while pursuing my own life path?

No, Ive not given up on building my writing platform, rather I’ve shifted it’s focus to serving my tribe. Sure, I’d like to sell more books, and I suspect this will happen over time. However, I’m not making plans to fly first class to Paris. I’d rather go fly fishing on the Rogue River.

Here are links to the above mentioned articles- (please make links noted below)

Claude Forthomme’s Blog-

https://claudenougat.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/to-self-publish-and-perish-buried-under-3-4-million-e-books/

https://claudenougat.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/only-40-self-published-authors-are-a-success-says-amazon/

Seth Godin’s Podcast “Live at Carnegie Hall”-

https://vimeo.com/155069902

Good writing!
Tio Stib Signature

My Dementia Diary 24 – A Season of Endings

“Too warm!” she told me, standing in the shower.

I realized she was no longer able to adjust the water temperature on her own, the control knob confused her. I turned the knob.

“Better,” she said.

It was another sign, another slip, another reminder of our downward journey together in a season of endings.

We’ve reached a point where what used to be easy, things that were once simple to do, are no longer so. Such changes are not obvious to her, but are painfully so for me. We are slowly sliding down to a place from which there is no return. Knowing this, I’m making every effort to enjoy the precious things we can still do together.

Recently, we took a train trip north to a small town in Oregon for a family reunion. We’ve done this before, and, as train travel is more flexible than buses and planes, it had been enjoyable. However, this time, she was more fearful, uneasy, not able to relax in a setting so different than our home world. This unease continued when we met up with family at a beautiful lakeside lodge. Ultimately, we had a good time, but I was aware of how much my wife’s ability to adapt to different environments had diminished in the past year. I was also aware of how difficult it seemed to be for other family members to interact with us. It occurred to me that it was quite likely the last family reunion we’d attend.

Philosophically, lives end, we all will pass on. Emotionally, this fact is difficult to accept. I suspect that most of the family awkwardness with interacting with us was their own fears about mortality. I wish there could have been more open conversation about this subject, but it didn’t happen. 

Youth does not want to think about the season of endings, but this is a luxury I cannot afford, so I focus on gratitude for the wonderful life we’ve been blessed with, taking each ending in its turn as an opportunity to be thankful for what we’ve had and what we still have.

“I’m taking a shower with shampoo!” she tells me with delight.

Yes, we are blessed.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 23 – Thank You! Very Good Day!, My Dementia Diary

My Dementia Diary 23 – Thank You! Very Good Day!

I am not, by any measure, a so called “morning person.” rather, as insomnia keeps me up until the wee hours and deep sleep is hard earned, I am defiantly resistant to being awakened before my anointed hour, which is never earlier than eight a.m.. Fishing trips are an exception, but that’s another story.

My wife’s waking behavior is completely in contrast to my own. Most often, she is up and buzzing around long before I’m even close to consciousness. Being hesitant to open my eyes, her active presence is usually announced by the sound of her voice.

“Thank you! Very good day!”

These words have become her mantra, used anywhere and anytime for anything that strikes her fancy.

A drawing she has just completed coloring, “Thank you! Very good day!”

Cutting rose buds for the dining table, “Thank you! Very good day!”

Hummingbirds gathering at the feeder, “Thank you! Very good day!”

Her morning cup of coffee, “Thank you! Very good day!”

Meeting people on our daily walk, “Thank you! Very good day!”

There is no end to how and where these words are used, which leads me to consider  that if our vocabulary was limited, if we only had a language of five words, my wife’s choices would do quite well.

“Thank you! Very good day!”

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 22-I’m Taking a Shower!, My Dementia Diary