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Dug out my journal and found a few Haiku I’d written awhile ago:

Tick tock clicks the clock
Illusion marches onward
Be only in now

Wide, flat branches sway
Cherry blossoms vibrant pink
Eyes squint in the glare

Sheep, fox, bear, reindeer
My dog is all animals
Sleeping, she cares not

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There are times, often at 1 a.m. when I should be sleeping but can’t, when my brain spins and I drift along on my stream of consciousness. Maybe I’m seeing with clarity, maybe I’m not. Maybe I’m just delirious. This past Tuesday I was stuck on a thread about my spastic social skills.

Whatever happened to me while I was growing the neurons used for social skills, I’d like to know because I have such trouble with situations that other people find completely benign, if they even think about them at all.

I’m no Hemmingway, but I can string a pretty good sentence together, even on the fly. I have a couple of girlfriends that are going through some powerful life changes, and we mostly communicate via chat. Sometimes during the conversation I refer back to the transcript and I’ve gotta say, I impress myself. Typing and thinking very quickly I see myself using cohesive, emotionally sensitive, empathetic, clear thoughts studded with age-appropriate vocabulary and decent grammar. Now where is this skill when I’m in a verbal conversation? Half the time I can’t remember words and phrases I want to use, ultimately substituting whatever I can claw out of my feeble mental dictionary. I lose myself in my own stories, and I glaze over during other people’s stories (leading me to think I shouldn’t be telling mine, since I’m probably spreading more glaze than an Easter ham). I’ve started trying to speak less, both as a life practice and because my Mean Voice tells me that nobody cares anyway. When I do speak, I usually sound like a sixth grader with a swearing problem, so I get startled when I hear myself sounding like a grown-up.

I’m even worse in physical situations. Forget dancing… I can’t even figure out how to go through a door properly. Do I hold the door open for people from the outside, or go through and pass the door to the person behind me? What if the person is more than a few steps back, do I hold it or just go in? Whatever I choose is usually wrong and I end up in someone’s way. I can’t even manage a level of adult sophistication when I’m playing with kids. I once playfully flipped my young nephew upside-down. I was distracted by a spilled glass of wine and then, focused on the glass I’d knocked over, forgot I was holding him by his feet until he cried and his mom rescued him. I frequently relive that one in my mind. Ugh. Seriously, I’m a walking Seinfeld episode.

I need to get more sleep.

So I talk to myself. Often. Out loud. I rarely worry about what strangers around me think, and my friends don’t mind – or at least seem to tolerate – my nuttiness.

I find talking to myself calms me down when things get chaotic, and it helps me bring some organization to the situation even if it’s just in my head (perception is reality, you know). Doing it out loud definitely works better than doing it silently; I have no idea why nor do I care. I just go with it.

According to this website, talking to yourself is a sign of self-awareness but you have to be careful what you’re saying to yourself. I wrote about that a bit in this post. Don’t listen to the mean voices in your head – tell them to just shut the hell up, then go sit quietly and listen for the voice of your Self.

I’m not talking about that kind of self-talk. I just talk to myself in general, about everything and nothing. About getting the work on my desk organized, or the way I wish a conversation will go, or what I’m going to make for dinner.

Here’s a tip: if you wear your Bluetooth earpiece, you just look like you’re on the phone, so it’s even easier to not look insane.

Because I am such a visual person, my SLOW campaign (mentioned here with another link back to original 2009 posting) keys on having little signs posted all over in places that are obnoxiously in my line of sight. For example, I stick them on my computer monitors, my dashboard in the car, my medicine cabinet, and above the spot where I dump my purse every evening. I move them around to other annoying places as soon as I realize I’ve stopped looking at them.

The current signage was, literally, a slow sign such that you’d see in a construction zone on the highway: a yellow diamond with black type saying SLOW. These are getting pretty beat up, and I barely see them anymore so I’ve updated them:

I’ve added verbiage to this version as an extra reminder of when I should be doing something slowly. I don’t list every opportunity (the list would have gone on forever), but this is enough to jar me into mindfulness. These are now printed about 2″ x 3″ and I’ll be posting them right away.

LIVE SLOW in 2011!

For a long time I’ve been searching for a way to keep a physical reminder of my practice in front of me.

For my SLOW campaign, which will be moving into 2011, I printed out little signs and hung them all over. They work as long as I occasionally move them so they stay annoyingly in my line of sight, and I will not only continue using them, but I’ll be freshening them up with a new design.

The slow signs don’t represent my entire practice, however. I wanted something that was with me all the time, like a mantra I could see. I’m a very visual person. I tried jewelry: bracelets, necklaces. But I get sick of wearing the same bracelets. No, time for something else, something a bit more – ummm, permanent?

Ah, a tattoo! I got one on my ankle years ago, so I  knew what to expect. Now, the difficult questions of: what, where and when? I’ve been pondering doing this for a very long time and had an idea bouncing around in my head. I received a lovely silver pendant from my hubby a few years back: it’s a small square with the word “shanti” embossed on it.

Shanti translates to “peace” in english, and has always been my default spiritual mantra. For me, the word “peace” sums up a slew of concepts including non-attachment, balance, non-duality, contentment, lovingkindness, joy, and more. There is a quote that I really love:

“Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

Because you will never escape noise, trouble, and hard work. Or pain, stress, and jerks either. You have to be able to deal with those things without being dragged through the emotional mud.

But, I digress….

This summer my friend Karen told me she was thinking of getting a tattoo so I took it as a sign and we decided to go together. She researched the place while I finalized my artwork.  I knew I wanted it on my wrist, a place that is in front of me all the time. It took time to get all our details in order, which landed us in the middle of the holiday season as well as a freak blizzard. It was even snowing today; when I asked Karen if we were going she wrote back, “YES!” And off we went.

The top symbol is “Om”, which has too many meanings (or, perhaps, non-meanings?) to go into in this post. The bottom symbol is “Shanti”. The tattoo as a whole basically translates to “universal peace”.

I’m pretty pumped up, I think it came out great. One of the tattoo guys said I was putting it on upside-down, but what would be the point if I couldn’t read it? It’s there for me, not for everyone else! I often wear a stack of bracelets on that wrist anyway which will obscure it. But that’s okay.

I just like knowing it’s there.

Our home under 34" of snow

Maybe it’s the holidays or maybe it’s the 34″ of snow that fell last Sunday, but I’ve felt very grateful for my material possessions lately – especially my home. We don’t have a spacious house, somewhat over 1300 square feet on a 100′ square lot, but it is at least 50 years old with many charming oddities built in. Our home is perfect for our family of three (plus two adopted furballs). Quite cozy, we have the downstairs painted in warm shades of cocoa, cream, and butter, with wood furniture and lots of art (much of it made by us). There are many filled-to-the-brim bookshelves, and lots of family photos. One of the dearest compliments I’ve ever received was  “This is a creative home with really good energy.” A fine compliment indeed for a family of artists, musicians, and a future architect.

“A house is made of walls and beams, a home is built with love and dreams.” ~Anonymous

Today I found Meagan’s post about her home, and it really struck a chord. I believe I understand exactly how she feels, especially about the ethereal aspects of loving her home. Walking into my home makes me feel like I’m entering a warm, cozy nest that has been built with great care from decades of love, kindness, generosity and compassion. We have a space that is infused with positive energy and spirit, laughter and joy.

Thank you, little cottage that is our home, for keeping us warm and dry and content to spend our days within you.

“Home is the place where it feels right to walk around without shoes.” ~Anonymous

I haven’t been blogging much, but I’ve been Tweeting and Facebooking (is that a word?) often. I usually check all my accounts around 5:15 am, just before I leave for work. As I sat down with Twitter on the morning of November first, it struck me  – I didn’t plan it, honest! – to write what I was thankful for every morning until Thanksgiving. Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook have seen these, and I thank you for your comments. We had some nice discussions. My Twitter feed also shows on my blog homepage, but  sometimes I tweet often, so you may have missed what I was doing. Anyway, I figured I’d compile all the Tweets into one blog post for easy reference. Here ya go….

This year, Gayle is thankful for:

  1. All my loved ones are healthy
  2. My rights as an US citizen (it was Election Day)
  3. My little warm house
  4. Opportunities to improve myself
  5. The little furry ball of sweetness that greets me in the morning with a gift, and loves me unconditionally
  6. The sound of children’s (ok, teen!) voices in my home
  7. Sweats, thick newspapers, and friends who invite me out
  8. My husband who lets me follow my path, which isn’t always the same one he’s on
  9. Early morning TV weathermen, especially the goofy ones. I need goofy weather this early in the morning.
  10. Warm breakfasts and latte in a bottle
  11. Friends – online and in person
  12. My job. As frustrating as it can be, I have it, I’m good at it so it comes easy, and my coworkers are nice.
  13. I live close enough to major cities so I can enjoy them , but don’t have to live in them
  14. Modern medicine and pharmaceuticals that help people live life to the fullest
  15. Indoor plumbing, hot water, and electricity that I don’t have to think about
  16. Wonderful family and friends who love me
  17. A healthy body that works the way it’s designed to. Eyes that see, legs that walk, brain that thinks, heart that loves.
  18. All material things I have been blessed to have: food, clothing, shelter, car…
  19. That I live in a country with easy access to fresh food and clean water. And chocolate Rice Krispies.
  20. Meeting with groups of like-minded, and sometimes not like-minded, people where I can feel unity as well as learn
  21. So many generous people who are willing to donate to organizations that help others
  22. Warm Sun, silvery Moon, generous blue-green Earth
  23. The ability to read, and that the opportunities to educate myself through reading is boundless
  24. Laughter, things that make me laugh, and the joy of making someone laugh
  25. Time, and not just on holidays. Precious moments with family and friends, enjoy every second. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I’m not ashamed of myself; I am who I am. I’m awkward in social situations and talk too loudly. I laugh heartily. I think farts are funny, and sometimes I laugh so hard I can’t breathe. Sometimes in my effort to be true to myself I hurt people, or make them angry, or turn them off to me. I don’t like hurting people, but if me being me makes you uncomfortable that is out of my control. When I decide to change something about myself, it’s not to fit into your definition of “better”, it’s to fit into mine.

You never know what you’ll run into when you’re browsing the blogosphere. Sometimes a post will jump out at you and force you to re-evaluate the way you think about something.

Melissa at Sugar Filled Emotions wrote about what her daughter has or will eventually inherit from her. And it made me stop and think because while I see certain physical, emotional, and personality traits in my son, I’ve never thought of them as an inheritance. I suppose I fall prey to the societal definition of an inheritance having to do with material things. I really do like the concept of looking at an inheritance from a different angle. I suggest you read Melissa’s post, you can follow this link.

Since he was very small, people have commented that my son is a pretty even blend of both mine and my husband’s physical characteristics. He has my nonexistent chin and full lips, and his father’s blue eyes and straight nose. People still comment to this day about his beautiful, long eyelashes. He didn’t get those from either of his parents, so perhaps he’s a little piece of someone else’s legacy, too.

While my husband and I can equally claim our son’s sense of humor, compassion, and artistic talents, he gets all his musical ability from his Dad and I’m very grateful that particular gene made it to his chromosomes. Some of the not-so-great tendencies he’s gotten from me include stubbornness, shyness, and the ability to scream louder than a jet engine. As I work on these things in myself, I try to show him what I’ve learned in the hopes that he’ll internalize the lessons at an earlier age than me.

In fact, teaching our kids how to handle life’s ups and downs is the most important thing we can leave with them. I hope that as he grows to adulthood, my son creates a strong support network of friends and mentors, an inquisitiveness that will lead him down interesting paths, moral and ethical fortitude, and a desire to selflessly serve whenever need be. That would be a fine legacy.

So many things gone bad have come to light in the past couple of years. Things where money and profit was valued over morals, ethics, safety, and even human life. Predatory lending, banking and wall street deregulation, CEO and executive salaries and bonuses, and now the oil spill in the Gulf. When will people learn that money isn’t everything?

In a related note… as heartbreaking as it is to see the damage done to the wildlife and economy in the Gulf area, there has been no news coverage of the poor 11 people who died in the blast. That’s something that is nagging at me.