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

The Blind Side Parables 26 – Why Geese Fly in a V-formation:

“Gramp, why do geese fly in a V?”

The pair were sitting together on a shoreline bench when they’d heard the loud honking behind them. Now, a flock of geese, in a telltale V formation, flew over their heads.

“That’s a very good question, Max,” the old man responded.

There was a pause as the older man and his grandson watched a sky filled with honking, flapping V’s sweep by.

“First, geese are cooperative creatures. By flying in a “V” form, they greatly reduce their collective air resistance and so increase their flight range.

Man and boy continued to stare upward as more and more formations of geese rushed past.

Gramps continued, “The goose at the head of the V is not necessarily the leader of the flock. Geese take turns leading. As one bird tires, it drops to the back of the formation and another takes its place. Flying in a V-form increases visibility as each bird can see what’s happening in front of them. Now that’s teamwork.”

The boy considered this information, then asked, “But why do they honk so much?”

Gramps smiled, “When flying, geese honk to provide recognition to each other helping them maintain speed and stay in formation.

There was silence as the last of the migrating geese faded into the clouds.

The boy sighed, “All those geese getting along, flying in formation, getting where they need to go, nothing like the traffic jams Dad complains about driving to and from work. Why don’t people cooperate like the geese do?”

The old man put an arm over the boy’s shoulder and hugged him, “another very good question.”


Moral: In Nature, the truth is plain to see.


tio stib

You might also enjoy: Do It Anyway; The Blindside Parables 22 - Life is Like a Broken Egg



A Season for Adventuring

ghosting through the morning mist
as day slips from gray to gold
my stomach growls
the road replies
with a small cafe
cradling coffee
I watch him devouring a mountain
of syrup dripping hotcakes
he turns
we smile
 nod
fellow travelers
men of the frontier
last night
rocketing into starry oblivion
riding Cat Stevens’ peace train
saluting the shadows
of cacti sentinels marching in the moonlight
roadtripping
on the loose
free again
all those blue highways
all those maps
all those little country stores
all those stops  to buy a soda
asking directions
where the heck is Boggan’s Oasis?
all those steps into the unknown
into the magic of surprise moments
wild horses splashing through a sea of purple sage
golden eagles spiraling from heaven in their mating dance
“Jeez! That’s a helluva rattlesnake.”
sweating
cresting  the final ridge
running
diving
plunging into
sparkling turquoise water
erupting into rainbows and sunshine 
screaming with frigid delight
lost in steaming holy water
alone on a desert ocean
swaddled in eternity
sky slowly slipping
from gold
to pink
to gone
so many Shangri-Las
I will not travel these roads again
but they will haunt my heart when
 once again
Fall calls the vagabond
to a season for adventuring

tio stib

You might also enjoy: A Wilderness Pill; Breaking Trail


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 Blind Side Parables 21 – 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

 

Morning People

You’ve seen them or
if your eyes won’t open yet
you’ve heard them
buzzing into your life at 8 a.m.
babbling about how great it is to be working
anxious to charge into a new day

morning people

I groan
who started the myth that 3 hours sleep 
can propel you through a new day

it certainly wasn’t me

Lifting an aching head from my desk
I rub my eyes in disbelief when 
a morning person
complete with bright smile and jogging shoes
asks if I’d like to take a quick walk during break

I groan
head collapsing back onto desk

thank god, it’s Friday
I’ll have the weekend to recover

from morning peoplitis


tio stib

You might also enjoy: Life is Like a Broken Egg; Control Freaking

Old Men Walking Dogs

I meet a lot of old men walking dogs
sometimes we stop and talk a bit
how’s it going? 
what’s your dog’s name
Charlie
Galahad
Spook
one guy is a poet who offers his daily verse
I listen, smile, and pet Rocky

continuing on, I wonder
should I get a dog?
do I need a dog?
my daughter thinks so
she’s always urging me 
you need a pet
something to fill the hole in your life
the emptiness from losing your wife

yes, I concur
there is a hole
certainly an emptiness
but there is also a deep, rich
feeling of gratitude
that I was blessed to have had
even for a short time
the bliss of perfect love

I do like dogs
have had a few over the course of years
but these beautiful creatures require, yes need
a certain kind of responsible care
and you can’t just lay them off on your kids
like grandchildren
when you tire and can’t keep up your end of the deal

so I do my morning walks alone
greet the other old men passing by
pet their dogs
and walk on

but I’m never alone

love is always with me now


tio stib

You might also enjoy: Walking With My Lover’s Ghost; Life in reverse by George Carlin


Oh Treasured Sleep

after hours of insomniac hell
I slipped off to sleeping bliss
until a screaming blasphemy
jerked me back to consciousness

with no rational thought
no lingering guilt
I slammed the insolent alarm

off!

I’d paid my dues
with lack of sleep
and conscience free
I snuggled deep

ah-h-h
I so love my sweet cocoon

wake me with the next full moon


tio stib

You might also enjoy: Passwords: The Comfort of Complacency