The Up Side 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.

 

this child who once was woman

she laughs at dancing butterflies
smiles at babies passing by
clings to me when brought to cry
this child who once was woman

her zest is sparkling innocence
a love of life without a fence
a mind released from circumstance
this child who once was woman

a singing bird
a playful word
the mirth of anything absurd
she hugs
she screams
she loves
she beams
this child who once was woman

my heart beats glad, she is such joy
reminds me when I was a boy
of times preceding plots and ploys
this child who once was woman

the change, I was slow to see
as fog crept over memories
and here is all that she can be
this child who once was woman

now, I hold her close and dear
do my best to soften fears
not to shed a single tear
make the most while she is here
my wife who once was woman

tio stib

2017

Categories: life journey

Tags: love, marriage, relationships, Alzheimers, dementia, blind poet, blind writer, happiness, joy, fulfillment, blind blogger, aging, partners, life journey

Control Freaking

I live a funny fantasy
that I control how life will be
if only I pay constant mind
to details of my daily grind

I keep a list
of things to do
and push myself
to follow through
for if one thing
does not get done
I can’t pretend
I’m having fun

I do all this
to sideline stress
it seldom works
I must confess
and people?
they’re such a mess

for often, every day it seems
I find others don’t support my dreams
they ask that I give up my list
I fume
I pout,
I’m really pissed

so I sit and ponder here
do I give up this list so dear
what is it I really fear

if I stop controlling life
will this result in constant strife
if I slow to let love in
will pain clutch my heart again

the truth, of course
is sadly clear
this game that I hold so dear
simply masks
what I most fear
that love will hurt
if it gets near

tio stib, 2015, 2017

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Back to Love Basics 7, The Plus Side of Solitude Sucks

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in trying to find our soulmate that we forget about the pleasures of being alone. In case your suffering from the solitude sucks syndrome, may I suggest the benefits of not having someone else around to share life with.

Consider these advantages of being one and only one-

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

Tio Stib Signature

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The Love Game, For Guys Only

For ages, men have been trying to figure out how women’s minds work, with little success. Although I’ve had my share of failures dealing with the enigma of women, I’ve discovered an approach to intimate relationships that offers some hope. I’ve concluded that if we men simply look at female relationships as a game, there’s a way we can occasionally win.

It’s called “The Love Game,” and here’s how it works-

As soon as you get involved with a woman, she starts keeping score. She puts your name on an imaginary scoreboard in her head and puts 1000 bonus points beside your name. Why? I don’t know, perhaps she wants to give you a chance at winning a game you’ll most likely lose.

Now, the fun begins, as she starts scoring everything you do against those 1000 points. She keeps a running tally, adding points when you do something she likes, taking points away when you don’t.

Yes, it’s a game for her, “The Love Game,” and it’s high time you know what this game is about, because most of you guys are losing it.

First, what are the rules of the Love Game and who makes them up?

Rule Number One: women make the rules. Unfair you say? Absolutely, but don’t think you’re going to change that before the proverbial freeze in hell happens.

Rule Number Two: The rules have never been written down. At least, never have all the rules been written down. Some have, but these have often been replaced by rules that have not. Confusing? That’s the way women want it. Unfair? See Rule Number One.

Is it possible to win a game with no definite rules? Yes, certainly, sort of. Remember that women are keeping score and basically you just have to keep doing more things they like than things they dislike. Of course, you can do something she really, really dislikes which could put you in a negative points situation, but no need to dwell on that.

How do you know if she likes or dislikes what you’re doing? Admittedly, this can be a challenge. It can depend on whether or not you smile at the right time, or the wrong time, what you said to your mother-in-law when she showed up unexpectedly at your door, and more likely, the position of the moon relative to a remote Mayan pyramid. Difficult you may think, no, impossible, but, again, let’s not get hung up on imponderables, rather let’s consider relationship realities.

Let’s talk curves.

I’m heartened to know that my male readers immediately jumped into a fantasy world of female delights, but those are not the curves I want to explore, at least not now

I’m talking about the shape of the infamous “Bell Curve.”

For those of you who think “statistics” is simply using numbers to figure out who’s going to win Saturday’s football game. let me raise your I.Q. a fraction.

A “Bell Curve” is the statistical shape created when plotting the typical distribution of activity performance over time. Consider New Year’s resolutions. We start out with little interest in such things, then we get nagged by conscious or partners to change things, we put a sudden burst of energy into the weekly conditioning program, we start feeling better, we start to slide and miss gym time, until eventually in a few weeks, maybe even months, we’re back on the couch doing our sloth imitation.

If you plotted out time in the gym versus time from the beginning urge to the final sloth recline, you’d create a “Bell Curve,” with the top of the bell reached when we maxed out our regular exercise and the bottom of the bell when we stopped.

Okay, so much for the statistics side trip, what do “Bell Curves” have to do with “The Love Game?” Surprisingly, such curves paint an accurate Picture of most males loving actions over time in loving relationships.

Consider energy and money spent against time. Once the guy thinks he’s got a shot at getting what he wants, he jumps in hot and heavy, putting lots of energy and money into making sure things work out. This is called the courtship period, where guys do whatever it takes to get whatever they want. What could guys want so much to command such extreme behavior? You can answer that, or if you’re stumped, ask your six year old niece. She already knows that much about men. Needless to say, this urge has plagued men for eons, and women know it. Perhaps that’s why they give us those first 1000 points.

Suddenly,something amazing happens.. When, by some fluke of chance, women decide to give guys what they are lusting for, male behavior radically shifts. There is a leveling off of energy and money men spend on relationships. men discover that they can still get what they want even when they stop paying for it. They start watching football games on Saturday instead of washing the little lady’s car, and she doesn’t seem to care. Now, the last side of the bell curve falls into place as basic male laziness sets in and the attention men give to their love relationship rapidly falls. guys begin to slouch on the couch

The delusion begins. Men now assume they’ve got it made. They start thinking a few nice words on occasion and “She” will just keep pumping out the love. “Great meatloaf, Honey,” and she’ll keep making those fantastic chocolate chip cookies.

No, Vacuum Brain, this fairy tale will soon explode like a well shaken beer..

But wait,there’s hope, even for those whose diminutive brains have sunk below their belly buttons.

Strangely, women have come to expect this behavior. In fact, they’ve even learned to accept that men’s minds are obviously limited,. For unknown reasons, women have chosen to give the lesser gender latitude for their foolishness as long as male homo sapiens will at least do a few minimal things.

Men, please pay attention here! This is how you win “The Love Game.”

If you simply remember to do nice things on four special days, most women, not all, not always, will forgive minor transgressions and keep your “love Game” score positive.

What are these “Special Days?”

Birthdays. Anniversaries, especially weddings. Mom’s Day. And, of course, Valentine’s Day. Christmas is a given. Only a real loser forgets Christmas. If you’re one of those, I can’t help you. I suggest you consider getting a dog instead of a lover. Your odds for affection are much better with man’s best friend.

Really, it’s that simple guys. You jusµµt remember to do nice things on those four special days and you can usually win “The Love Game.” Now that’s a absurdly small investment of your time to produce a return that would have Wall Street bankers drooling. A mere matter of hours, on four days over an entire year, to get a loving woman who puts up with your laziness every other day and still does your laundry.

Yes, you can still screw things up. You can still do something so stupid that she furiously wipes your name off her “Love Game: mental scoreboard and you’re out on the couch, or worse. Such things as giving her a lawn mower for her birthday, going to the hockey playoff game with your buddy Hank on your wedding anniversary, or getting drunk and calling her boss a bigoted slob at the company Christmas party, etc..

Sadly, male stupidity has no limits. But, I’m hoping this lesson on how to win “The Love Game” will awaken some long dormant brain cells and spark loving actions to minimize the inevitable damage that will be done by your basic instincts.

If you fall short and your “Love Game” score drops through the floor, check out my next blog post, “The Ultimate Romantic Gift, or how to recover from your inevitable love disasters. “

Now, get out there and win one for all Menkind, my dog and I are rooting for you!

Tio Stib Signature

Note to the woman who might read this: Yes, I admit it’s arrogant and foolish to pretend I know anything about how women’s minds work, but perhaps this post will inspire some man to at least try playing “The Love Game” himself. Okay, I also admit it’s foolish to expect men to read more than three paragraphs on improving loving relationships. I’m working on a comic strip that sends the same message.

Parade of Friends

in the night of emptiness
I stare at what I can’t confess
sitting on a lonely street
a parade comes forth
with silent feet

from timeless fog
they reappear
without a smile
without a tear
the faces pass
some young
some old
marching by
their stories cold

no music plays
no raucous cheers
no flags unfurled
as they pass near
but though these ghosts
say naught a word
my soul screams out
their memories stirred

how can this be
my mind asks
one moment here
and then they’ve passed

once I called these people friends
believed that life would never end
but then the fruit fell off the tree
fate claimed its due in front of me

as I look back at many lost
I question what has been the cost
could I have given more my heart
slowed the death of time apart

and when I take my final breath
will any of my friends be left

tio stig 2015

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Sophie’s Last Stand

I saw the post just before the ancient Land Rover plowed through it. I’d been distracted, yelling at people to get out of the way, while jamming my foot on the brakes that were not there. I suppose that the fact the Rover was going backwards added to the confusion. Unable to find another usable gear that morning, I’d decided to drive the old wreck down to Sophie’s Stand in reverse. Yes, Sam had mentioned there were no brakes because the Rover never went fast enough to need them. If you wanted to stop, just take your foot off the gas and let the beast roll to a halt. However, this logic did not include the small downhill dip I encountered approaching the stand. In addition, Sam neglected to say that the steering gearbox was stripped, resulting in multiple spins of the wheel before the Rover began the slightest turn. Between driving backwards, stomping on non-existent brakes, madly turning a wheel that wasn’t connected to anything, and screaming my head off, I hadn’t noticed the onrushing post.

Crash!

Maddy, Sam’s affectionate name for the Rover, origin unknown, annihilated the helpless post and proceeded unabashed as calamity erupted behind me, or, perhaps more correctly said, in front of me, as I’d been traveling backwards. Vehicle and driver, admittedly a gracious label for my role in this disaster, stopped abruptly when confronted by a wall of unyielding cacti, slamming me against the steering wheel. A burst of steam blew out from under the hood and Maddy’s motor coughed twice and died.

Dazed, I felt my body gently shake. One eye opened and looked left to see a head of frizzy white hair and beard glowing in bright light.

“You alive boy?” said the talking head.

“of course not, you old fart,” I heard my mind say, quickly losing respect for Saint Peter. Then I heard another thought, “shut up fool, it could be that other guy welcoming you.”

“Boy?” said the old, browned face as kind arms shook me.

Damn, I thought, recognizing Sam, now aware that I had a lot of explaining to do.

Kaboom!

My head jerked round to source the noise. Behind me, a cloud of dust rose sleepily up to the blue sky. The scene below, however, was anything but peaceful. It appeared a tornado had torn through the hut. Mangled fruit and vegetables and broken souvenirs were strewn amidst a pile of flattened building materials. What had once been Sophie’s Stand was now a roadside garbage dump.

In the midst of this chaos, only one thing still stood vertically. The sign, “Sophie’s Stand,” was newly planted in the pile of debris. Looking at me sideways, Sophie’s painted face smiled between the two words. Then, with a death shudder, the sign surrendered to gravity and slowly fell atop what had once been a thriving business. A wisp of dust spiraled heavenward.

“Jeez!” I whimpered, wondering how I could have done all that by merely knocking down one post.

“So sorry,” I heard myself mutter.

“It’s nothing, boy,” said Sam.

Nothing! I thought. Nothing! I’d just destroyed what had been Aunt Sophie’s life for over forty years. I pushed my face back into the steering wheel and cried.

“No problem son,” said Sam, his arm comforting my shoulders, “here, try this.”

I turned my head to see Sophie’s big, brown eyes looking at me. Her bright smile and curly black hair lit up the label of the bottle Sam held. “Sophie’s Best,” it proclaimed, and from all I’d heard, it was the best home made hooch in these parts. Folks were known to drive for hours to by her magic brew for it was rumored to cure everything from infertility to constipation.

I grabbed the bottle and took a deep gulp. What the hell, I thought, it was the least I could do for an Aunt whom I hadn’t managed to visit for nearly ten years and then missed her funeral. Now, to top off my sins, I’d destroyed Sophie’s stand.

I took another drink, my insides warming, my head beginning to disconnect from the disturbing reality surrounding me. Not bad, I thought, taking another swig of “Sophie’s Best,” as I was led to a plastic chair in the shade of a large palm tree.

Self pity soon dissolved into a drunken stupor and I found myself staring at an empty bottle. Raising it skyward I saluted. “Damn fine hooch Auntie!” I exclaimed.

Sam pulled a bent plastic chair beside me and plopped heavily onto the seat. He raised another bottle of “Sophie’s Best,” saying, “to Sophie,” then proceeded to drain nearly half the contents, before passing the bottle back.

A crowd of people had magically appeared and were combing the wreckage for anything salvageable. I started to say something about looting, but Sam spoke first.

“perhaps this is for the best,” he said, “Sophie always wanted to give everything away.”

“Maybe so,” I quickly added, pouring down more of Sophie’s elixir to drown my guilt.

“Sophie liked you,” said Sam, as I returned the bottle. “You’re the only city folk ever came to visit her.”

“That’s nice,” I answered, trying to convince myself that seeing her once in ten years was a good thing.

“We had a good life, me and Sophie,” reflected Sam, as we watched hands picking through the carnage.

I remembered the visit, years ago, when I’d first met Sam and Sophie, drawn by some unknown urge to know family, not to mention the need to escape town and an irate girl friend who’d just thrown me out of her apartment.

I took another drink and recalled looking up as she’d hurled my stuffed walrus down on me, prompting the thought that our relationship had lost its sparkle and I needed to move on.

Several buses and many miles later, I was dropped on an empty road in front of Sophie’s stand. A young girl arranging fruit looked up at me.

“Sophie?” I’d asked.

She pointed up the hill and I started walking, suddenly aware of fresh air, filling my lungs. I marveled at the flights and sounds of bright colored birds. Turning down a dirt path, I entered a green tunnel of branches and leaves. In the distance was a small cottage.

as I turned down a well trod dirt path covered high overhead by a canopy of vibrant green

A cloud of butterflies descended on me, floating, fluttering, circling, then drifting away as I entered a clearing. Nearby, a dozen trees hung heavy with ripe fruit. Beyond, a garden stretched in neat rows, filled with plants of all sizes. Watching over all this were two empty rocking chairs under the deep, shaded, cottage porch.

I heard singing and looked into the garden. There she was, bandana tied around her mop of black hair, bent over her plants, filling her apron with the joys of harvest.

“Aunt Sophie!” I cried out hopefully.

The singing stopped and the stout woman in the calico dress stood up and turned around. A smile exploded across her face.

“Lordy?” she blurted, dumping her bounty into a basket and rushing to embrace me.

Sophie had introduced me to Sam, her man. I never knew if they were married in the eyes of anyone but themselves and it didn’t seem to matter. What I did know was that they were partners, friends, and playmates. I could still feel the buzz I got just being around them and their zeal for life.

I took another belt of “Sophie’s Best” and smiled, yes, I thought, that was a great time. I passed the bottle to the old man sitting silent beside me.

“What do you think Sam?”

I turned to see a cluster of men behind us. Sam handed the closest man the bottle and looked them over as the hooch was passed from mouth to mouth. I found myself slightly miffed as I was really beginning to enjoy “Sophie’s Best” and didn’t feel like sharing, but decided that being the cause of the mess in front of us, I’d best be quiet.

“Well,” sighed Sam, “this was Sophie’s place to serve the world and now she’s gone. Seems it’s the stand’s time to go too.”

There were anxious looks between the men, throats cleared and feet shuffled in the dust.

After a long, awkward silence Sam realized the real issue at hand. He looked up and smiled at the men.

“Youall afraid I’m gonna stop making “Sophie’s Best,” he laughed. “Well, I reckon I’ll keep that going until I join Sophie at the pearly gates.”

Then he spoke sharply, “but no way I’m gonna rebuild that damn stand by myself!”

Hands shot up and voices called out.

“No way Sambo!”

“We’ve got it brother!

“No worry man!”

“Vamosa hombres!”

I watched in amazement as a transformation occurred. The sad faced group of apologetic men and mob of pilferers became a focused army of workers sorting re-useable materials from the fallen hut. Squashed produce was tossed back in the bushes to rot into organic oneness. A flatbed truck arrived and before noon what had been Sophie’s Stand was loaded up. Gears grinding, the truck lurched forward.

Finishing our third bottle of Sophie’s Best, Sam and I Threw our chairs on the truck, and followed the community parade.

In an earlier moment, Sam had decided to relocate the new stand atop a nearby hill. Here the caravan stopped and waited as Sam surveyed the setting. He slowly turned around and smiled.

“Nice view,” said Sam, “It’ll do!.” Then he crossed himself and emptied his bottle of “Sophie’s Best” on the ground, holy water anointing the sacred place.

The crowd cheered. The work began.

Sam and I reclaimed our chairs and placed them in the shade of a towering coolibah tree. Sam produced another bottle of Sophie’s Best which we drank watching the flurry of activity on the stage in front of us.

While it can be justly said that most of the world’s problems have been caused by misguided men, I had to admit that when guys get their act together, they can do a helluva lot of work in short order.

Every one seemed to know what they had to do, and while the men put things back together, women showed up with baskets of food and even the children helped where they could. There was laughter and singing, and people seemed genuinely happy. By late afternoon, what had been piles of reclaimed materials had become the newly arisen Sophie’s Stand. Women and girls were soon stocking fresh produce.

Ladders were leaned against the front of the hut and men replaced the sign under the edge of the tin roof. Sam spoke to a young man who climbed a ladder with a brush and can of paint. Carefully, the artist added a word to the sign above Sophie’s smiling face.

“Sophie’s Last Stand” the sign announced. Sam grinned and the people clapped in approval.

At that moment, I saw a lone figure coming up the road. Getting closer, the form became a young boy dragging something. Shortly, he appeared in front of Sam and set his load on Sam’s knee.

It was a signpost. Atop the pole was a board with one word painted on it.

“Almost.”

Next to the lone word was a number.

“2.”

I remembered the story. Sophie had told it to me as we sat on those rocking chairs the day we’d met. Seems she and Sam had been enjoying the wonder of life one evening rocking on their porch and she’d said,

“Honey, this is about as close to Heaven as I’m gonna get.”

“Amen, momma,” replied Sam.

“”I’m almost there, baby,” Sophie concluded.

The next day Sam had shown up at the stand with a new sign and planted it facing the road.

“Almost 2)

Now, Sam put a hand on the boy’s shoulder and smiled. Then he and the boy dragged the sign next to the new stand and two men began digging. Soon, the sign was proudly resurrected.

Sam spoke to the artist who started to paint over the number “2.”

Wait!” I heard myself yell.

It was time for me to make a stand of my own.

Beside Sam and the sign, I raised his arm with mine in triumph.

“Almost” had a new resident.

There was applause and cheers and a few hats flew into the air, then people went back to their daily lives. Cars began pulling up. People entered Sophie’s Last Stand seeking fresh fruit and vegetables, some local hooch, and a friendly smile.

If you ever feel like you’re in Heaven, look around. Perhaps you’re almost there.

 

tio stib, 2015

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