Episode 30 T.H. Gillis

T.H. Gillis
24th, 2021
Keyhole - Digital Marketing Agency - Joe Dudeck
Joe Dudeck
President + Founder
Categories: Interviews, Podcast
24th, 2021
Keyhole - Digital Marketing Agency - Joe Dudeck
Joe Dudeck
President + Founder
Categories: Interviews, Podcast
t.h. gillis - published poet
"People really respond to vulnerability and transparency. And that's what my writing is about. If I can be that vulnerable and that transparent amongst both family, friends, and then into a third category of strangers, even, and the response has been so positive — then you know what, let's give it a whirl. Let's keep going."
T.H. Gillis, Two-Time Published Poet

Timothy (T.H.) Gillis is a managing partner at KPMG accounting firm in Washington D.C. and a two-time self-published poet. Despite a successful professional career in accounting and tax law, Tim sought an outlet for self-discovery, mindfulness, and contemplation, eventually trying his hand at poetry as a way to process life and preserve experiences.

In this episode, Tim discusses his latest book, Eyesight: What I Saw, and shares how poetry has become central to his personal and professional well-being — encouraging listeners to step into a space of vulnerability and transparency and attempt the discipline for themselves.

Listen to our conversation for a meaningful reminder to seize big and small moments, inhale your surroundings, and find joy in everything. For more inspiring stories, visit our full library of interviews.

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Joe: Hi there. I’m Joe Dudeck, president and founder of Keyhole Marketing.

Shannon: And I’m Shannon Jirik. I work for Keyhole as the assistant brand manager.

Joe: And this is Metaphorically Speaking, a podcast that explores the mysterious side of marketing.

Shannon: Welcome to Metaphorically Speaking. We are excited to be joining you for another episode. We had just an incredible conversation with Timothy Gillis, otherwise known as T H Gillis, who just has an incredible story. We love talking with people who kind of have just a pivotal change in their lives or something that really just defines them as a person. And with Timothy, he has a really unique story. He is a full-time accountant, you know, and has been in the accounting world and in the law practice for much of his adult life. So accountant by day and poet by night, if you will.

So not necessarily a common type of person, you know, you wouldn’t necessarily expect somebody who was an accountant to just kind of be an artist. You know, he doesn’t have the term artist as his full-time career, if you will, but he’s just inspired by the world around him and his decided to write about it.

Joe: Yeah. I love a little always exploring with business owners, entrepreneurs, artists, you know, what was that pop plot twist that happened in their lives that led them not necessarily away from what they’re doing, but by maybe added another path along their journey. And that’s the case here of just, he continues in his craft as far as an accountant at KPMG, but he has this other side that he’s been tapping into the last couple of years on this creative space and letting that come out through poetry, which is a unique art form. I think it’s like, yes, I just am rambling through some sort of prose. He’s, he’s putting this into a form that can be difficult to create and sometimes a task to, to comprehend, but I think he’s done it really well.

And, and most, most certainly in his most recent book, Eye Sight: What I Saw, which he published, I guess, technically this year, but he sat off to the printer late last year, which was really a collection of observations he saw in 2020, which was what a year. And that was just his way of really processing all the kind of chaos of the year.

Shannon: Yeah. And I love how he’s so open to just talking about the vulnerability that comes behind poetry and not just poetry, but sharing your art, you know, and you listen to him speak. And he has definitely that two sides of his brain that juxtaposition, you know, analytical and logical, but you can hear just the movement and the meaning behind his words and the inspiration that he finds when he just pauses and observes the world around him. And, you know, he mentioned kind of jumping into that vulnerability. It’s scary to share your artwork. You know, Joe, you’re a photographer it’s shared is sometimes share those images and, you know, wonder what people will think about them or for any artists out there to share their music or something. And Tim just says, I encourage people to just find that vulnerability. And even if it’s just for yourself.

Joe: Yeah, yeah. That is the scary part of you can always create these things, put it in your journal, keep it on your camera, skip it on your laptop, whatever it may be, but it’s difficult to put it out there for somebody else. And you don’t, you’re not always sure who that somebody else is and you’re most often we’re creating it for yourself. So I think that can be the challenge of like, how will this be received by people who I didn’t really intend to see it when I first wrote it or created it. And so that was a huge risk. I thought he took. And he and I had had a conversation years ago when he released his first book and, you know, he was on that edge of, do I share this? Do I put some, do I do something with this? And I’m glad he followed that, that nudge a little bit and produced that book in 2017 and then this new one in 2020.

Shannon: Yeah. And we’re just grateful that we can be a part of that too. You know, Tim was able to kind of share that with everybody. So if you’re interested in his most recent book, you can visit T H Gillis that us and click the order now button on the homepage and it’ll take you right to that spot where you can order it. It’s a beautiful book, you know, just a really great reflection on the year of 2020 that we all experienced and kind of the hardships and pain and journey that the world took last year. So just a really meaningful book for everyone there, something everyone can get out of it.

Joe: Yeah. And I think like, even if you’re not a huge fan of poetry, maybe there’s a friend or family member you could consider purchasing this for it’s only $25 and all proceeds. Every penny of it goes to the brain and behavior research foundation, which Tim on packs in the podcasts, like why that organization stood out to him and ultimately what they do is just provide grants for mental health research. And it’s just a beautiful organization, what they’re, what they’re doing. And it’s super gracious of him to donate all of the proceeds from the sales of this, to that organization. So again, if you’re on the fence about poetry, there’s certainly, it’s a win-win I think for you to get this and fund that kind of research.

Shannon: Absolutely. Well, thank you Tim, for joining this conversation and just being vulnerable with us, and we hope that you guys enjoy the episode.

Joe: I always like to get these interviews started with just a little bit of a, a better understanding of, you know, who you are, who you are as a person, where’d you grow up and that sort of thing. And I know, you know, you work in DC right now and you live outside the district. What, and you’re a partner at KPMG and one of the big four accounting farmers, but you also started from some humble beginnings. Talk a little bit about your childhood, if you would, Tim, just to kind of help set the stage. Yeah.

T.H. Gillis: I grew up in south Georgia. My parents had married when they were 19 and 16 and, and they were farmers. They didn’t have much at all and didn’t have much education. Mom graduated from 11th grade and I think dad made it through something a lot less than that. Maybe eighth grade. And the way they’ve told it is that mom helps dad learn to read about the time I was born when he was about 35 years old. Oh, wow. Yeah. So they moved from, you know, small town. It wasn’t even town from very rural to, to a small town called Macon, Georgia.

And they did that sometime in the 1960 timeframe or so. And, and so I grew up in a, in a small town, south of Atlanta, about a hundred miles south of Atlanta.

Joe: Hmm. You’ve got a few siblings. Where do you fit in the birth order?

T.H.: Yeah, I am I’m third and really, we had two families. My, my older brother and sister are 10 and 12 years older than me and my younger sister is three years younger than me. So there were four of us and we had a, we had a very, very delightful and loving growing up household.

Joe: Hmm. Yeah. Do you have some like fond memories that come to your mind when you think about your childhood?

T.H.: Oh, plenty. Even right now, we’re having this Acadia invasion here for brood X on the east coast right now. And although I don’t think we had brew decks down in, down in south Georgia. I do remember when I was very young, you know, harvesting Cicada, exoskeletons from threes. I thought it was really cool then. And I still think it’s it’s unique now.

Joe: Yeah, for sure. What kind of growing up in a small town, what was the height of your aspirations and what did you, what did you hope to achieve with your life? Did you have big dreams or, or did they sort of, were they a little bit closer to home and not quite as aspirational?

T.H.: I think for the longest time I thought I would come back and, and, and run dad’s gas station to tell you the truth. And sometime in college, I realized that that might not be the future and decided to move into an area where I knew I could, I could get a job. And that was in the field of accounting and yeah, I played a lot of team sports. And so the reason I went to my undergrad school was because of sports opportunity, but coming out of undergrad and then working in accounting at some point, I decided it was time to go back to law school. And I did that in 1988.

Joe: Yep. Kind of give us a quick, before we get into the book conversation, what we’re going to really kind of talk about mostly today. Just paint a little picture of your, I mean your full-time job. I know you’re, you’re a KPMG now, but just kind of give a sense of like, what was your career path? Cause I think it provides a pretty good contextual backdrop of, you know, really kind of how adventurous it was to jump from the day job to sort of what we’re going to talk about today with these two poetry books.

T.H.: Sure. Well, I left law practice in 1998 and joined KPMG. I was a tax lawyer in my law practice and that naturally flows over to the big four accounting firms. And so in 1998, several of them approached a number of partners in my law firm. Many of them went to another competitor and I decided to throw it open a little broader.

I remember calling my dad and saying, “Dad, what do you think about me leaving law practice and and going back to what was then the big six accounting firms?” And he said, son, I don’t understand anything you do, but I would go wherever you can help the most people for good. And it just seemed like that was a really excellent wisdom.

So I came over in 1998 and then went through a series — I was in Atlanta first and then gradually I moved to Washington in 2001. And then through a series of incidents became a leader of a practice in 2004 that went really well. And once something goes really well things sort of build upon each other. Eventually I ended up traveling globally for seven years. And now I’m back as the managing partner in the Washington DC Metro area for KPMG.

Joe: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s just, again, just helps paint a good picture of just what one assumes the life of an accountant would be. And then you’ve got this other side of your brain that you’re tapping into really the last several years. And I think that it’s a pretty good juxtaposition. W when you think about it, as you’re kind of transitioned into your, into the books that you’ve written, do you have some favorite works or favorite authors that you find yourself turning to regularly and you know, what are, what are some of the things that, that those books are, those are those authors sort of give you, what do you receive from them that, that comes gives you kind of calls you back a lot?

T.H.: Yeah. You know, I’ve, I’ve long been drawn to writers like C.S. Lewis read all of the Chronicles of Narnia to my kids and at least the older ones. And then a few of them to the younger ones sort of ran out of gas at some point, but the, you know, so I’ve always been drawn to him, but I would say it was in 1996 or 97. I remember Robin Williams was hosting the Oscars and he introduced someone for the lifetime achievement award. And it was a remarkable because in the, in the speech, there was a reference to Robert Frost.

Although it wasn’t referenced to Robert Frost, it was just simply a quote from Robert Frost. And that quote really sees me. I, I had never really appreciated poetry as a kid. Certainly hadn’t had to memorize some, present some in English classes in high school and, and maybe first or second year of college, but, but, you know, I’d never really had grabbed me. And these two lines from Robert Frost really did grab me and, and those two lines were, but yield who will to their separation. My object in living is to unite my avocation and my vocation as my two eyes make one insight.

And when I heard that on the Oscars that night, I thought, wow, that is really powerful. It’s, it’s, it’s the integration of sort of all parts of your life, your work life, your home life, everything to make, to make your life feel like it does when you see out of two eyes, but you see one vision. And really, it was a really beautiful moment for me. And so if I, if I go back in time, that was probably about 11 or 12 years before I started journaling and blogging on a private blog. But I would say it was probably very, very instrumental to me and very, very meaningful moment for me.

The other one I would say is, is there’s a recording artist who died young and he was a poet more than he was a recording artist. I think he may not think it that way, but, but I was just Stephen today relistening to some of those old tunes. And I thought, wow, that poetry really got deeply inside of me and, and really changed my view from what I had as a high schooler, which was, oh boy, we have to go through this again. But it really, it really changed me into realizing that poetry is a really remarkable medium.

Joe: Yeah. And you were, how old, when you saw that Oscars show?

T.H.: I would have been 30, 33 or 34 35.

Joe: That’s interesting. Well, what’s, what’s kind of an earlier memory or maybe the earliest memory you have of something you wrote. And obviously we have stuff for school, but maybe something outside of a required assignment, but was there something that you wrote that, and did you find that to be a experience? Did you feel affirmed in that moment, in that memory or, you know, did that not sit as well as you would’ve hoped? How’d that how’d that land?

T.H.: I’m smiling because it was actually my transition from law practice back to the accounting firm world. I, I took some time off, went by myself to a cabin in, in the north Georgia mountains. And I journaled over a weekend about that transition about whether I wanted to make that move or not. And it was really very helpful. I, somewhere I still have those notes, I’m not sure which journal they are in anymore, but, but I think that was a very meaningful moment as well. So it was really directional and thinking about how I think better when I write it, when I write it down.

Joe: What’s your process, you know, we’ve, we’ve talked a little bit about your, your place in the accounting world. And as we kind of dive a little deeper into these books that you wrote, what’s, what’s been your writing process. How did, is there a, a ritual or something that you sort of switch from from that side of your brain, more the analytical side to the creative side. Do you just write when I hit you in the moment of the day, how do you, how do you enter into that writing?

T.H.: I’m really seized by a moment and, you know, just occurred to me today that I think there are 1,440 minutes in a day and 60 seconds in each minute, but there are also moments which are really powerfully communicative. And when I see one of those moments, I’m at the point now where I kind of know it, and I know I’m going to write something about that, one of them in, and we’ll get to the book, I guess, but one of them in the new book is about go with me to the beach and watch the children at the age of three play by the sea.

And that was a really powerful, meaningful moment to me. It was, it was shocking to me how a three-year-old the way they jump at the, at the ocean edge, you know, on the shore. They really don’t. They really don’t, they’re not confined by gravity the way I am. And then gravity to me played out differently. It played out from, it’s not just gravity, the law of gravity, but also the gravity of life, you know, the gravitas, so to speak. They’re not, they don’t care about that. And they’re just having fun. And, and so that’s, that has a way that that type of moment sort of grabs my attention.

And then I try to just turn it over in my head a little while. And sometimes it takes, sometimes it can come right away and sometimes, sometimes I’ll just noodle on something for a month or two, and then I’ll come something,

Joe: Yeah, you’ll scribble that moment down to be processed at the right time. We had a moment about that recently with our son playing in the backyard with the two girls who live right behind us. And I mean, they’re just screaming and laughing and having a great time and around, you know, six to 10 year old range. And I just was thinking, you know, how beautiful that time was and how much, how can we as adults return to that? Is it possible? Is it not the same sort of process? You know, we’re not even coming to like a complete conclusion, but really just, just reveling in that excitement that they have for life. And it just, it’s un-contained, unreserved, and just thinking, how can I, how can I return to that at this stage?

T.H.: Well, you know, one of the things that’s beautiful about writing and about keeping a journal, but keeping a blog is that you began to learn where you are, where am I emotionally, if you keep up, if you keep that journal long enough, you will know exactly where you are emotionally. And, and there have been times when I’ve realized, wow, I’m really dark or, and, and what, and the beauty of that is that instead of staying in it, then what, what journaling does is say, I really need to look for joy. And that was one of the outgrowths of the first book that you helped me.

I mean, you were very instrumental in that first book and, and, and helping me encouraging me to do it. But one of the week we let off that book. I led it off with a poem called where to find joy. And that poem came about simply because journaling had led me to understand that I was, I was not in a joyful place. And then I started trying to figure out, well, where do you find it when you’re not joyful? Where do you find it? And then what I found is you find it everywhere and, and you, you just have to be observant in a still spot observant and just let yourself like those children that you’ve described playing, just let yourself enjoy the miraculous nature of the world we’re in.

Joe: Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. And it can really be in everyday experiences. I had, I had one recently walking out of Costco, which is not usually a pleasurable experience, but walked by this older couple who were walking in and there was something about them that I’ve still think fondly of them. And I never talked to them. They probably have no idea who that I even noticed them, but that was just a, for some reason, it sits really well in my memory of, of just the positive experience about this couple walking in. And that was a brief lapse of time. And I have no idea what their story was. They could have been fighting all day long. I have no idea what their, what their situation was, but it was just a beautiful experience just walking past them,

T.H.: You know, in the, in this, in the book Eye Sight, I’ve got a poem. That’s about that very thing. I watched a couple, an older couple exit, the train, the southbound train from New York to Washington. And they had been it, you know, they were older couple and they had been through a lot. You could tell because the woman had experienced a stroke and it was obvious. And she was holding on and the man was guiding her. And even that moment in time was so powerfully expressive to me that one of the poems in the, in the new book, full flower talks about the full flower of love.

And it’s not found in my view, in the young, at heart, but in, in people like the, this couple exiting the train and it was, it was really a beautiful moment for me.



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Joe: How did you get to a place where you felt comfortable or, or I dunno, inspired enough to create books from your writings? You know, that’s, that’s a big step for a lot of people who are just at a place where they’re, and they’ve been journaling for a long time, exercising their thoughts, putting them into some sort of form. But to now put that in a place where you’re ready to share that with somebody else, it’s already hard enough when it’s somebody, you know, but then to put it in a place where strangers can enter there. And, and do you know, how did you jump from journal entry to this needs to be shared with others outside of that space?

T.H.: It’s been a very slow dance for me, honestly, it’s I started my blog in 2008 and I didn’t share it with anyone except family and friends. And frankly, I think only about three people actually ever read it. And, and then as you know, you and I were, were having a drink one day and, and we, we, you turn to me and said, you know, you really ought to think about publishing these. And I turned back to you and said, no, no, no, it’s just for me. And it’s not that it’s not that good. And, and you said, well, I’ll tell you what, just turn it over to me and I’ll take care of it. And so the, the hard part for me was releasing my grip right then, and letting you do it.

And yet I decided, you know, I don’t know where this goes from here, but let’s go with it and see, and what’s been amazing since then has been, it’s really become, it’s really become a part of who I am in my everyday work. Now it’s like, Rob is like Robert Frost is, you know, as my two eyes make one insight, poetry is now at the center of my personal life and it’s become even central in my professional life. In the last week alone, I’ve had three people, three clients actually send me notes, asking if they could have a discussion with me about the process of poetry and who would have thought that would have ever happened.

And so it was, it was really, you know, your encouragement to begin with and then the encouragement of so many others and then recorded a few videos. I would call them little five minutes snippets of, you know, explaining a poem. And we put those out on, on YouTube and they’re now on my website. And then I did a reading for about twenty-five people and all along the way, all, all I’ve heard is encouragement. And I think, I think part of the reason for that is, is people really respond to vulnerability and transparency.

And that’s what my writing is about. It’s at least the first book was clearly transparency and vulnerability. The second book, more about observation about what I saw, but I think that first book really gave me it was if, if I can be that vulnerable and that transparent amongst both family, friends, and then into a third category of strangers, even then, then, and the re and the response has been so positive, then, you know what, let’s give it a whirl. Let’s keep going.

Joe: It was a tumultuous 2020 in a lot of ways, of course, with the pandemic and political season, racial tensions. I mean, it was just had a whirlwind of events. When you talk about your observations in Eye Sight, do you, would you characterize that book as your observations of the external world, or maybe observations of the, in your internal processing processes of, of those events here are your emotions, you know, how was it, or was it a mix of both external and internal?

T.H.: I think the first book was probably more about my internal and I think the second book was more about external, what I saw, finding events, finding moments, finding a tree in a Woodland trust and thinking about it. And, and, and yet I would say that you can’t, in some sense, you can’t separate your internal feelings from that, but, but I would say the first one to me is, is the first book was much more introspective. And the second one had that sort of extroversion component to it.

Joe: Yeah. When, when you put a book, I don’t know, are you writing as you’re writing some of these pieces, are you writing with people in mind or are they purely for yourself? I mean, kind of, you know, I always think about that with, obviously from a marketing standpoint, we’re always thinking about the audience who’s going to need to see this. What are their motivational points as a, as a author of these types of books? Is it a void of an audience or are you, are you picking somebody to write these things to?

T.H.: You know, I think, I think for me it’s more to preserve a moment. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s like photography for me. So when I go back and, and read some of the poems and I cite autumn tender, and many others are there’s one called brown bird, there’s one called little Wren. That’s only 15 words long, but I can remember exactly where I was and why I wrote that one. And, and so for me, it’s, it’s as powerful to me as, as a photograph. And I have to tell you that’s really, that’s really unique for me because I’m usually a very visual person.

So people will come in with, you know, in my, in my business, they’ll come in with a spreadsheet or they’ll come in with a, with a, you know, a PowerPoint document with loads of words on it. And I just want them to simplify it into a picture, but for some reason, poetry does that for me too. And so it’s a, it’s a, I haven’t quite figured that piece out yet, but it’s fun to think through that.

Joe: Yeah. I can relate to that as well. I can remember just odd details about photographs that I’ve taken. You know, you could ask, Lindsay will ask me all the time. My wife will ask me, you know, what do you, you know, when this happened or what? I have no recollection of those like common facts of life. But yeah, as far as like, where I stood in those, what the direction of the sun was and the weather, the conditions, when I took a photograph, like that always sticks with me.

T.H.: I totally understand that. And I’m laughing as you go about that one.

Joe: I was going to ask you, like, what are your, one of your favorites, but that’s kind of like, if somebody asks, what’s your favorite photo you took it’s, you’re just never gonna, it’s like, what’s your favorite child, but timeless was one you had written and then also had it may produce into a musical track, which I’m pulling that one out. Cause I really think people should spend time listening to that track. And of course read the original piece as well. But can you talk a little bit about the genesis of that particular book?

T.H.: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, well first let me just say this. I think you started to ask me, which is my favorite and you’re right. It’s like a child. You can’t have one. And, and I don’t have one every time. I know they might hear this. So I have a favorite child. The timeless was a really interesting one for me, because for years I’ve had a photograph that was taken at Kiawah island. It was to celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday. And we have family photographs of, we had a photographer come in and take some expanded family photographs, and then some one-off son.

And one of them sits on the credenza just between the kitchen and sort of a living room area of the, of the house here. And I kept looking at it one day and you know, an empty-nester now and the kids are gone and I just kept dwelling on that photograph until, until timeless. The poem came out and it’s about how one day you’ll come to see that this photograph has a timeless quality. And it’s, it’s interesting how that turned into a song, because I didn’t ask, I did commission, a group of Berkeley students, Berkeley college of music students during the pandemic, you know, they were out of school and, you know, it was an awkward time for everybody that was in school.

I did commission them to do one song from the new book and I didn’t tell them which one to pick and independently they picked, they picked timeless. And I have to tell you, I, I love the song and I love it more. The more I hear it. So the first time I, I heard it, I was thinking, okay, great. And now I listened to it and I can’t stop singing along with it. And it does have, even the song now has a timeless quality for me as well. So the photograph is even more meaningful because of both the words that we put to it in the, and the music that the students put to it.

Joe: Yeah. That’s a great way to describe it. There’s, there’s something about it that I’m always drawn back to it. And I, of course I have my own connection to the song. It brings back connections to photographs I’ve taken in the past. And, and, and that kind of has it doesn’t have a Simon and Garfunkel sound too, but it has that kind of feel to it where you just feel like you’re, I don’t know, it just pulls you into a memory. They talk about photographs and some of their songs, but I don’t know, it has that, that kind of a draw for me.

T.H.: You know the song’s only three minutes and 14 seconds long, and the first 30 seconds are a group of the students that are really just humming. And, and so it’s not a very long song, but if you go back to the, some of those great Beatles songs, they were very short Blackbird. For example, I’ve been singing a lot lately and Blackbird is only about two minutes long, and yet it’s a, it’s a hauntingly beautiful song and it brings you right back to a particular moment. So I’m really glad they did that. And thanks for asking about it. It’s a great, it really has. It really has reinforced that poem for me as, as a, you know, another, another one of those, like I’m smiling, it’s a really meaningful moment.


Joe: It’s beautiful, too, that they were able to preserve that memory. You know, I think that sometimes can be the risk of creating something like that. Or you’re asking somebody to create a piece that it could have gone a lot of directions, right? You weren’t really artistically orchestrating what they obviously, you didn’t even tell them what song to pick, but also you didn’t give them a certain sound Regenera and I dunno, they just felt like they they’d landed it really well. And I felt like at the end of the day, it preserved and really revered that memory and protected that I think they did a great job with that.

T.H.: You know, the funniest part is that they had to re they had to re arrange some of the lines so that it would work in a song. And I liked the way they rearranged it even better.

Joe: Just a couple more questions. What do you ultimately hope readers glean from both of your books and maybe it’s different for each one, but what do you hope that people get when they receive those? And we can take them for themselves.

T.H.: I just want poetry to be an accessible form of art for people. And I think it’s inaccessible for a lot of people. And in the end, it’s really been helpful for me with, with mental health, with strength, resilience. And that’s really hard for me to describe for you other than say, it was sort of a learned habit. It was a form of mindfulness, it, a form of meditation. It was a form of prayer and it really readjusted sort of what I think about all of those topics, mindfulness, meditation, prayer. They have become my prayers. That is my book of Psalms, so to speak. And I think, I think it’s true that I don’t know that anyone can do it, but I know that I know that anyone can enjoy the moment that I describe.

In other words, I know that if you can just let yourself breathe and think about the beauty in your life that I know it will transform you for better. And the other thing you’ll see in the book a lot is I’m constantly drawn by how magical this world that we live in really is. And the truth is as adults, we, we sort of lose that sense of magic and you have it as a kid. And, and, and maybe that’s why, you know, the new Testament talks about the faith of a little child. It is. So it’s so freeing to go back and let yourself enjoy the wonder of what’s all around us and how we, how we’re just a part of something really, really, really unbelievable.

And I, I hope that people would take from it that, that that’s something that all of us can experience some probably more than others. But I do think that there are moments that are really, really special. And if we can hang onto those and realize how great they are, it can really transform our lives.

Joe: Yeah. Yeah. You said something to me. It might’ve been around the time of the creation of Evensong: Poems for Pilgrims book. You just mentioned something about sort of the other side of life and it’s at that time, I mean, there’s a such a significant age gap between you and me. I’m just joking, but it was, it was the awareness of, of a time is coming where you are, you are on the other side of, you know, you’re, you’ve lived at a place where you’re about halfway through, or you, you might’ve already lived more than you probably will on the other side of life. And it just stuck with me and it stuck with me since we moved out here to Colorado with that visual of mountains and going up the mountain and being at the peak and sort of, you know, as you’re, you’re headed down a different path, you know, at another stage of life.

But I think that connects with what you just said. You’d be able to sort of like, just realize that time is fleeting and moments pass, and there is a different way you navigate through life when you’re walking up the mountain, just with this sense of bravado is every minute is just yours and you can do it at whatever you want with it. And there’s much more of a preservation I’ve, I’ve noticed of each moment each experience, because, you know, you just realize like, there’s, there’s less and less of those as time goes on.

T.H.: It’s amazing how brief life actually is. And I love seeing into what could exist on even the other side of the other side, if you know what I mean by that. Right. And so I don’t think we’ll get a perfect picture of that here, but yeah, I’m on the, I’m on this, I’m certainly on the second half of my life. And, and so then you start, you start just thinking, okay, so how can I really thoroughly inhale, breathe in and experience, you know, as many moments as I can without letting myself get too stressed or carry too much burden or, or worry. Really to be free.

And so when you asked about, you know, by the way, I do write mainly for myself, but in this, in this book Eye Sight, it was a 2020 New Year’s resolution. And I didn’t realize where it would go fully, but I knew what I wanted to do is I wanted to free myself from self judgment and self criticism. And, and at the end of the forward of that book, I, I invite people to join me because what I realized is that when you, when you do reach that freedom, you do feel maybe for the first time that you’re truly free and yes, I’m going to screw up. Everything I do, isn’t going to be perfect or even optimal, but that’s okay.

Joe: For sure, for sure. Both books can be purchased right now via Amazon and all proceeds go to benefit the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, which I believe gives grants to help fund research and studies for mental health. Why, why did that organization stand out to you? How did that, how did you get connected?

T.H.: It’s a great story. So I was looking for, I was looking for a mental way to get involved with mental health more directly. There’s a lot of reasons for that personally, that I would like to move into that area. And, and so, and even, even for myself, frankly, because sometimes I do go into this like introspective hole and I have to come out of it. Right. And so poetry has been great for me, mindfulness meditation, and like, but I know that so many people do struggle with mental health and I’m in a much more powerful way than, than I do. And, and so, and so I was looking for something and I called a few charities.

Some of which deal one-on-one with, you know, try to help families who, who have particular needs that involve mental health. But I was particularly drawn to research for some reason. I just don’t know that we know enough about the brain at this point and our emotions and how our physiology works. And so in our neurology works, frankly. And so I literally sent off a few emails to board members of a few charities and BBRF brain behavior research foundation, which is also a bbrf.org.

They were one of the board members got back to me right away. And we had a wonderful discussion shortly thereafter. I talked to the president, they informed me that they have a show on PBS called healthy minds. So I watched a few episodes of healthy minds and I was really sold on what they’re doing. So what they do is they fund early stage research. This is research before it, you know, once it gets to the national institutes of mental health, a lot of that research is fairly far down the down the road. And, and so, you know, they’re documenting, what’s necessary to get a, a new cure or a new treatment out the door, but I was really interested in sort of early stage research and that’s exactly what brain and behavior research foundation funds.

And so it’s been, it’s been, it’s been a great last year of getting to know them. And I have to tell you at all, at all turns, I’ve been very impressed by, by what they’re doing. And I love the fact that a scientific council decides where the, all the, all the grants go and, and some of their early stage research is very meaningful.

Joe: Yeah. That’s beautiful. I mean, even if you’re on the fence about liking poetry now, to just to know that you’re able to support that foundation through a purchase of the book has to make everybody feel good, especially this time where mental health is certainly on the rise.

T.H.: Since I’m still working that I didn’t want there to be any confusion with people about, about what’s he doing? Is he, is he like trying to make money off of this? The truth is I publish these books personally. I pay for everything. You know, we do the printing, we do a terrific high quality job using you and, and your friends at Co-motion Studio to do the books. I’m not gonna make any money on it, but I just didn’t even want there to be any perception that it costs a lot to print these, these, these books I promised to people they’ll look good on their coffee table or their bookshelf, because they’re really so beautifully put together, but no, I just didn’t want there to be an a perception issue.

And so by making this a charitable fundraiser, it’s just, it’s just turned it into, frankly, a lot of, of a lot of fun for me and something with purpose.

Joe: Just one last question. What would you say to other artists, maybe even accountants, other turned artists who are maybe on the verge of, you know, sharing their art with the world, but haven’t quite gotten to that place where they feel comfortable with what would be some words of encouragement you might offer them?

T.H.: I’ve really been struck lately by how many poets are just quietly do their thing in the background. And then, and then one day it gets published. And in other words, they’re not striking out to be, you know, a world recognized poet. And, and I think there are a lot of lay poets like me, and I would encourage anyone to try it. It’s there are no rules. You can make it whatever you want to be. And the beauty of it for me has been, I can say some things in poetry that I just can’t say any other way. And, and so that, that freedom to express myself in a new way is, is so affirming.

And so brings me such joy that I would encourage anyone to just give it a try. I mean, I was just reading, I watched a movie recently in Walt Whitman, you know, a Walt Whitman like persona was in there. So I started reading up on Walt Whitman again and, and realized, you know, like a lot of us he’s, he’s, I’m going to use a British term here. He’s completely bonkers, but that’s okay. I mean, it can just, you, you can just, he wrote on his own, he had one book, he kept adding a poem all the time. And so the book that he published in 1855 was the same book that got published at the end of his life in 18, whatever. It was like 30, 40 years later.

And it just kept expanding it and re-editing it. He didn’t have any, and so you can make it, whatever, whatever you like to be. I’ve, I’ve got a call next week with, with someone in Malaysia who reached out and said, they’ve been, they’ve been looking through the website, they haven’t even received the book yet. And they’ve been looking through the website and they said, can we just talk about, you know, your process? And I’d like to learn more about that. And I want to make, he like me wants to make poetry accessible to people. And so hopefully I would just encourage people just to give it a try. And I hope that what they find in my poetry is something that’s accessible and meaningful.

Joe: Yeah. And I know that having done photography for years and putting it out there and selling some pieces and sharing some images over the years, I think the first step to put it out there was, was hard a little bit, because you’re never really sure you get some positive feedback from some people who are able to recall, you know, your mom loves it. Maybe we should expand this a little bit to make sure it’s really as good as what that tight circle says. But, but I think what I’ve learned over those years too, has just been to continue to produce it for myself, capture images that, that catch my eye. And if it’s low on Instagram likes that’s okay. Because I still found a moment and there was some satisfaction in, you know, these rotten tree rings on this from this tree that nobody else would’ve cared about.

But for me, it stopped me in my tracks. And I think like that’s been, there’s been times where I’ve slipped into that slug of accolades and praise from, from people via different mediums. And I think for me, it’s always been helpful to just come back to that and go, just keep producing for myself and not be so concerned about the feedback.

T.H.: Yeah, I totally agree. And yeah, I think that that has been, if you look, if you can free yourself from self judgment self criticism, you can also free yourself from, from the criticism of others. It’s amazing to me how our harshest critics are my harshest critic, at least as myself and so working on this has really made me realize that, you know what, every, poem’s not going to resonate with everyone else, but guess what? It’s meaningful for me. And that I it’s so interesting to see when people email me or text me back and they say, wow, I really got a lot out of this poem, that poem, whatever it is. And by the way, it’s always something different, right? Every single one resonates with people differently than others. And so it’s just terrific to do that. So I might close if you don’t mind with that. Cause you’ve made me think about, this is my advice to, to anyone listening about what I might encourage them to do as the first poem in eyesight is actually called open up.

Joe: Perfect. Why don’t we just close on that? So I’ll just thank you right now for, for joining the podcast and for sharing your thoughts. And we’ll just close it off with you reading that if you would.

T.H.: Open Up. Somewhere inside, there is an artist latent, waiting to be revived in the heart and the soul, afraid to observe much less depict what lies within, the complication of that is the beauty of the missed opportunity to behold an unwritten story, a tale of courage and glory that deserves to be told.

Shannon: You’ve been listening to the Metaphorically Speaking podcast. At Keyhole Marketing, we tell big stories for small businesses. If you’re in the Colorado Springs area and ready to tell your business story, we’d love to come alongside you and help you with your content, branding, SEO, social media, or photography needs. For an instant glimpse at your current marketing strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, take our free marketing assessment, or send us an email at hi@keyholemarketing.us and let us know how we can help tell your story.

Metaphorically Speaking Ep23: Pete Heiniger, Discovery Church Colorado
Pete Heiniger is an executive pastor at Discovery Church Colorado in Colorado Springs. With an open-door, “come-as-you-are” philosophy, Discovery Church is committed...
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