Of Crosswords and Caffeine

It is almost 11PM on a school night, which simply means one of two things. One – I have to work tomorrow. Two – I have been up since 5:30-ish this morning…so…what’s that…carry the one…something like 18 hours? Yeah. I went to bed at a decent time last night, 10:45. That is generally early from when I normally go to bed (compared to…you know, tonight, for example). The rub was..I was up every 2 hours until my alarm went off. 12:45, yup. 2:45, uh-huh. 4:45? Yeah, you guessed it. Not sure why. Just kind of happened that way. So, I guess all of that is to say…if I ramble in this post, well, I mean, that’s kind of my jam. Have you actually read this blog?

I have been reminded of the Lao Tzu quote lately. If you have watched any kung-fu movie, good or bad, you will likely recognize it. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Which…I have to say…based on how the last 5 months have played out, makes sense. I mean, makes sense in a crazy way I didn’t see coming. I have learned so much about myself these last few months. And even more in the last several weeks. I mean…some of the stuff I knew, but had forgotten (or had not let myself believe the truth of it). And some of it was definitely in the ‘A-HA! Holy crap that makes so much sense!’

To say is has been an interesting journey lately is the grandmother of all understatements.

As I was googling to see who actually said the quote, I had another interesting, “huh, that’s kinda neat” moment that seems to happen multiple times daily, these days. There is apparently an additional line to the Lao Tzu quote which states “When the student is truly ready, the teacher disappears.” Which…just opens up so many different avenues. Now, I don’t know if I’m just ready or if I’m truly ready, but have to say I definitely feel like I’ve been put back on a path I haven’t been on in quite some time. And it feels good.

Man, this sucks. I had a really good bit that I came up with in the shower this morning for this post. But, damn, that was like forever ago. I can’t quite remember it. I know it had something to do with me quoting something and then saying it was either this person or that person who said it, but I wasn’t going to google it, because that would be too easy. And going on about how my generation grew up before google, welcome to the ‘Get off my lawn club’.

It was probably the whole student-master quote, which, spoiler alert, looks like I did wind up googling. So…damn. I guess that blows that whole point. Still, though, get off my lawn.

Point? Is there a point?

Maybe. I picked up a book of crossword puzzles the other day. Now, I’m quite certain I’m going to piss some people off with where I go next on this. I will admit, that I’m probably a heathen when it comes to crossword puzzles. Firstly, I consider myself of average to slightly more than average intelligence. Because of that, somewhere along the way, I got it in my head that I had to do crossword puzzles in pen (but really it was probably because when I did them in pencil as a kid and messed up, the newsprint tore too easily, but let’s stick with the smart guy thing for now). So, yeah. Pen. No biggie. I’m sure many people do them in pen. It IS mightier, after all. The other thing I do, especially in one of the books like this with a bunch of puzzles in it, is I vow never to look at the answer key. Period. It just isn’t done. If you get the puzzle right, in general, you know. So..cool. No biggie.

Here’s where we may diverge. I work on a puzzle until I get stuck and then just move on to the next one. Sometimes I’ll come back to an earlier puzzle. Most times I don’t. I just go to the next one, and complete as much as I can before getting stuck again. And then go on to the next one. I did this Sunday morning and went through 9 puzzles before fully finishing the 10th.

I know there are people that that will mess with. And I get it. But…it’s just my way. I tried to figure out what that meant. You see, part of what I’ve been doing the past few weeks is some serious journalling and self-exploration on this beardy-beastie weirdly cool dude named Andrew Todd. So, I see lessons everywhere. And I thought, what is it that causes me to just stop and go to the next one? Did I always do that? Should I just look at the key to get the one I’m stuck on and move one?

The conclusion I came up with is that I like solving puzzles. I like figuring things out. Using the Down clues to confirm the Across clues, and vice-versa. Going through and first filling in the clues I know without a doubt. Cycling back through and filling in the ones that make sense. And so on, until I hit that point where I have no earthly clue what the heck the answer is. And I go to the next puzzle, because I have learned something about myself. When it comes to crossword puzzles, I have more fun doing the puzzle than I do finishing a particular puzzle. So I just keep going through, not worrying if the puzzle gets finished or not. I mean, sometimes it does. I’m sure someone who makes a living looking into people will come up with some deep metaphor for why I do this. And what this means. And how it translates to other areas of my life. In truth, I could too, but I’m getting a little sleepy.

I did have another shower-epiphany this morning. I have lived a large portion of my life trying to be right. Correcting people, trying to educate. My parents nicknamed me ‘Technical Todd’ when I was little because I did a lot of the ‘well…actually…’ when people would say stuff. Or I would take something they said and give them WAY more information than they really wanted (thank my Gramps for getting me a National Geographic subscription starting at 8 yrs old). And in retrospect, sometimes I’m sure that came off as obnoxious. (Sometimes? No, dude. I know, it was straight up annoying as balls. I am not sure how you all put up with me, other than I must’ve been cute before I had this smashing beard, too). I went to a personal growth workshop when I was in high school, Lifestreams. One of those where you are supposed to unlock what’s been keeping you stuck and all that. There were a lot of tears. And frustration, mostly because I thought I knew myself and didn’t need this thing to tell me who I was, and the facilitator kind of called me on it–the whole Technical Todd thing. And he said ‘would you rather be right, or happy?’ I mean, I knew the answer was happy, and because I needed to be right, I said that. “Happy!” There is a sniff of irony there, to be sure. As I approach my half-century mark, I realize that sometimes, most of the time in fact, being happy really is the way to go. I don’t need to be right all the time. This seems like a common sense kind of thing, sure, but I have to tell you that it’s taken me several decades to hit this point. Oh, don’t worry. I’m no Zen master, by any means. I don’t think I have ‘arrived’–I know this is something that is a daily practice. Mindfulness. It’s a thing. A daily walk. Thankfully, I have no longer misplaced my shoes.

It’s a good thing. Like “4 Across, 7 letters, the result of daily introspection.” Huh. Insight. Yeah. Sounds about right.

I’m staring at the blinking cursor, fully aware of what my day looks like tomorrow, and all I can do is smile. I’m smiling because it feels good to wake up each day and see me smiling back at me in the mirror. For no other reason than that dude looking back at me, is kind of a cool dude. I’ve missed hanging out with him. Missed hearing his thoughts on the microcosm of the universe that is contained within each of us. Missed the crazy stories he used to write, or tell, or dream up when he was sitting in the meeting room of a print shop on a Saturday afternoon with reams of scrap paper and pens…drawing space ships and having epic battles. That kid was pretty neat. It’s good to see him again. These little nuggets of self-discovery are far from over. I don’t know how many of them are going to make it to the blog. Because, let’s be honest, there’s some shit floating around in my head that I know you’re not ready for (I’m barely ready for them, sometimes, for reals). They will, at the very least, make their way as a daily journal entry. Just like this one. The ruler marks the dividing line. Everything above the ruler represents what I had written in that journal intermittently between July 2019 and September 14th, 2020. Everything below the ruler is what I’ve written in the journal since Feb 9th, 2021. And I should mention that journal is now full and I’m on to another one.

So, yeah, working through some thoughts and feelings on a daily basis. It’s been good. The other benefit is that it has loosened up the writing muscle, so I’ve been making progress on a couple of short stories that will see the light of day next month. I’ll be posting the pre-order links on the book of face here soon. You wanna help a dude out, go ahead and pick them up when you see the link. It’ll be helping a dream come true.

Well, here we are, over an hour later. I know, I know. Well…no, actually I don’t know. I’m not really sure about any of it at this point, and that’s OK. I had fun writing it. I had several moments where I smiled. Hopefully you did, too. And if you didn’t, I can’t really do anything about that. I had fun. I’m happy. And now I’m off to bed.

Have an awesomesauce evening (or day, or whatever), my friends.

-AT

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