1) Once my son and I took fire twirling lessons. I still have my practice balls to twirl, but never made it to the actual fire.

2) Last year was my first summer not working in my 19 year teaching career: I traveled to Maine and found meditation on a riding lawn mower, went on a cruise to Mexico and decided the best time on the boat is when everyone else is on shore, and spent time with family and realized how valuable time really is.

3) I shattered my shoulder riding a quad runner on the sand dunes of Cabo San Lucas. I’m lucky I shattered my shoulder rather than broke my neck.

4) Next month will be my first trip to Hawaii…and it’s free.

5) I received the Human Rights Award from CTA for the SF bay area.

6) Several evenings per week, I send a list to my best friend of the 5 things I am thankful for from that day. We’ve been doing this for a year. It started with watching Happiness 101 with Tal Ben-Shahar from Harvard. You can check out a trailer for the PBS video here.

7) I love my students! They make me laugh almost every day.

 

What should have been a two to two and a half hour drive across California was turned into a four to five hour hour drive thanks to all of the three day weekend traffic, so we got out the paper map and went off the grid. Rather than frustration and bumper views, we were able to be more mindful with open roads and farmland views. Time was passed with thoughtful conversation, guesses of what kind of crop we were passing and the awe-inspiring sight of about 100 white egrets in a rice field. On the drive home, we passed through hills covered in windmills and decided to stop to hear the sound of the giant blades. I was overwhelmed by the peacefulness in the moment, just the two of us, the whop whop whop of the windmills, and a drove of sheep hustling home for dinner. The moment was made even more awe-inspiring by the shadows and colors created by the sunset.

At high school graduation, I was one of the students who gave a speech, mine was titled “Stop and Smell the Roses.” It was given in the hopes of reminding my peers on the verge of adulthood to hold onto that youthful ability of enjoying the the present, using an old cliche’ to speak to my peers about enjoying their lives to come. Ironically, my life has quickly passed me by, at times being so busy that I only slept and worked. Perhaps my message to my classmates was more intended for myself. Over the last year, I have finally grown enough to value myself and my life, not letting work, which I do love, dominate every moment. I value myself and my life enough now to get completely absorbed in each moment, whether at work, at home, alone or with loved ones. Now, I really do stop and smell the roses or stop and hear the windmills, consciously stopping, being, and appreciating life!

I started this journey of finding my heart about a year ago and started this blog about 8 months ago. I’ve discovered more about myself, discovered the value of time, and discovered love. It has been a very fruitful year. Life really is good! Time has been on my mind often this week. As a school teacher, the beginning of the school year can be quite an adjustment with time. Most years there never seems to be enough time. However this year, now that I value my time, taking time for myself and those I love, it seems I have an abundance of time. It’s a bit surreal, honestly. Now that I am taking more time for myself, I am finding that I am actually getting more done. I used to think the more time I put into work, the more I would get done, but my personal life suffered as I had very little time left to spare. Now I am thoroughly enjoying more time for myself, putting in less time for work, yet getting more done at work, more done at home and still have wonderful excess of time. I find myself doing chores and errands with ease and appreciation rather than frantic multi-tasking. All tasks at work are done with attention to detail and success. It’s almost hard to believe I spent so many years on the go, feeling productive but nothing else. Now I feel productive, successful, happy, peaceful and content.

(See February post on Time Affluence)

When I started middle school I was extremely shy. I rarely spoke in class and worried the teacher would call on me for an answer, not because I didn’t know the answer but because I didn’t want to speak, didn’t want to be judged by my peers. When I became an 8th grader, a friend of mine asked me to run for student body with her. She wanted to be the vice president and wanted me to be the secretary. It seemed like it would be fun, especially making posters to get votes. Plus, only one other person was running and I was sure I could beat her. There was only one problem that I discovered after I had made the commitment. That particular year, the advisor decided that all people running for officers should give speeches, not just the people who were running for president. And, these speeches would be given to the whole school. A speech? Me? To the entire student body? I really just wanted to quit at that point. As a matter of fact, I tried to tell my friend I couldn’t do it, but she somehow coerced me to give it a try. The day of the speeches was the most stressful day of my life, at least up to that point in my life. My stomach swirled, my head pounded, my arms and legs were jittery. Somehow, I did get up there and give that speech, the blur of it a distant memory now. I think the momentum of the assembly just sort of pushed me through. It may have been the shortest speech of the day. Seriously, what can one say about being a good secretary? I will take good notes. I will write neatly. I will be responsible. I think I said something funny, but couldn’t have told you even then what it was. Amazingly, having four hundred people laugh at my joke and then clap for me afterwards was quite exciting and exhausting and not as traumatic as my shy self expected. I did win the opportunity to be the student body secretary. I doubt it was because of my shaky speech, though. More so, I think it was because of my campaign slogan: Don’t be batty, vote for Patti.

This experience was pivotal for the emergence of a more confident, extroverted self. Giving that speech and winning made me feel I had gained the approval of my peers rather than their judgment. It inspired me to work towards stretching beyond my shyness. Becoming the student body secretary also instigated a desire to serve. That year I learned I could make a difference at my school. Our ideas were valued by the staff and we were allowed to create new programs that left a positive impact. Since then, I became a leader at my high school, winning the School Service Award at graduation. Now, I am still involved in many programs to make a difference with kids. That speech in middle school is where I learned to believe Margaret Mead’s claim to “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

I’ve spent the past year working on redisovering myself, finding my heart. What I’ve learned recently is that I need to work on actually sharing my heart more. When I was young, I created a defense mechanism of only sharing my true feelings with people I truly trusted, and even then I still would withhold much of myself, too caught up in being who I thought I was supposed to be, wanting to be liked, to be loved. Over the course of my life, I have made a few VERY close friends who I trusted to see most of the real me. Yet still, I protected my inner core and sheltered it with a pretty strong wall.

I’m learning now that I can’t truly be loved for me unless I take that wall down and share who I truly am. How can I expect to feel real love from family and friends if they don’t really know me? Thus, the revelation that I’ve got to share my heart.

I’ve also got a bad habit of expecting those who love me to know if something is wrong. If they ask if I am okay and I say I’m fine, they should know to ask again, to dig deeper. That’s my expectation. Sometimes they do, and then I wait until they ask a third or a fourth time to consider revealing my truth. I guess I just wanted to make sure they really, sincerely wanted to know. Sometimes it seems people just go through the motion of asking how you are just to be cordial, but they actually don’t want to know. “How are you doing?” “Good, you?” “Great!” and life goes on, nothing deeper. What if someone asked “How are you doing?” and you said “horrible” or “I’m a little grumpy today”? Do they really want to know that? I just assumed they wouldn’t want to know, so my answer was always “good” or “great” regardless of what was going on in my life. I too often assume that people don’t want to know and even if they did, they might change their mind after I told them or worse be disinterested, indifferent. This seemed to serve me well while growing up as I was hiding who I was, but now it just prevents me from receiving the love I desire. By not sharing my heart, it prevents me from finding my heart.

It’s kind of like basketball. If you never take a shot, you’ll never make a basket. If you take a few shots, you might make a few baskets. But if you’re willing take a lot of shots, to risk the failure of the missed baskets, you are much more likely to make a lot more baskets. I’m at that place in my life where I am ready to risk the failure, the pain of loss, in order to take the shot at being loved for who I really am!

I spent the weekend with my two and six year old nephews. We did an awful lof of playing, tossing them onto the bed, chasing bad guys, building tents out of sheets, and taking on the playground. Nothing fills my heart more with love and joy than getting to step into their world, a world full of imagination and play, a world free to laugh and smile, whisper and scream, a world where the more wild and goofy you act, the more they love you.

I remember that world when I was young, before I created a filter to protect me from being judged. I remember building tent cities with my siblings, so many of us that we needed a city, not just one tent. We had that entire living room covered with blankets and sheets draped over stools, creating room after room for our enjoyment. We had a bank, a school, a store, bedrooms for naps, everything our young hearts thought we would need in a grown up world…and we would play for hours on end until mom got home and told us to clean up that mess, that mess that was our world for the day.

It’s interesting how creating a “tent” in a bedroom can create such an escape. My nephews and I seemed to travel thousands of miles and thousands of years away from that bedroom when we crawled into that tent; I know my siblings and I felt like pioneers colonizing the great frontier in our tent city (okay, we may have watched too much Little House on the Prairie back then). We were free to be and act however we wanted when we allowed our imaginations and our hearts’ desires to lead us.

I let my imagination and my heart be free this weekend with my nephews, most of the time. When we tackled the playground, I found myself back in the grown up world, watching over them, making sure they were safe. It’s an important role, but as I watched them run, jump, slide and swing, I found myself wishing I could do the same. My nephew called out to me to watch how high he could swing. I worried he could get hurt, and then remembered when I tried to swing so high, wind blowing my hair forward and back, using my whole body to push and pull for that extra height. I watched my nephew pushing and pulling, hair in his face and blown back, grinning ear to ear with dimples larger than life. Once it seemed he could reach no higher, he eased off, let the swing takeover, and enjoyed his victory. At that moment, I knew I needed to get on that swingset. I needed to swing, too. Brief adult worries flashed through my head: What if I’m too heavy? What if the swing breaks? What if I get hurt? (At my age, I can’t afford to get hurt; the healing process takes too long.)  I tossed those worries away and carefully, slowly sat on that swing right next to my nephew. It didn’t break. One worry down. I started to swing, enough to feel the wind pushing my hair back and forth. It still didn’t break. My nephew started his climb to the sky again, challenging his aunt to go with him. The swing still didn’t break…but I just couldn’t quite free myself from the worry of getting hurt in order to participate in the swinging competition. I did what all good aunts do, I gave the win to my nephew and praised him for his astronomical success, all the while enjoying the swaying of the swing, the wind in my hair, the  pride on my nephew’s face, and the chance to swing free in this adult society.

I’m thinking about family this morning. Must be the Easter season. There’s something so very special about spending time with family during holidays. I think it is the hugs with loved ones, the catching up conversations, and most of all the opportunity to see life through the eyes of the young, to jump into their world for even a short time to chase bad guys and play tag. Now, life isn’t always perfect during holidays with my family. Sometimes holidays bring out the worst in us because of frustrations, different opinions, old habits and the fact that we know, good or bad, family will always be there for us. What makes holidays so special, even with family issues,  is that we get through it together and still, somehow still, always come back to the love of family.  Here’s to chasing bad guys inside and out during the holidays and beyond!

Experiencing joy seems to be about truly being present in the moment, to absorb every sound, sight, touch, smell, taste. I just had the most joyful and glorious weekend with phenomenal friends, talking, laughing, giving, caring, understanding. I savored each moment like it was the best meal ever, slowing down, tasting each delectable biteful. Slowing down even more between bites to appreciate those who I was fortunate to sit down with at the table. Slowing down still more to take a deep breath of  the aroma of  happpiness. Slowing down yet a bit more to absorb the sound of life’s music playing in my ears. Slowing down just enough to etch the faces of the ones I love into my memory so I can carry that joyfullness, that natural high, with me throughout the week.

I used to hang onto forgiveness as if it were the only power I had, power over those who had hurt me, the ability to “stand up for myself” within myself. I learned, however, late in life, that forgiveness is not power over the perpetrator, but power to free yourself, to move forward, to rise above! Without forgiveness, it is difficult to free your heart from the darkness deep inside. Without forgiveness, it is difficult to fully take care of yourself. Without forgiveness, it is difficult to live life with an open heart. When I discovered that forgiveness was for myself, not the other person, I was able to turn on a light that washed away the darkness of anger and resentment and opened my eyes to the radiance of caring and kindness. The more I forgive those who hurt me, the more I am able to feel joy and happiness. Hurt is still hurt; it happens. The difference is that I don’t carry those hurts with me for as long, releasing that burden, so I can be open and ready for what the universe has in store for me.

One thing that always opens my heart is to be creative. Yesterday I got to make a poster for my best friend’s birthday party. It’s an old west poker theme, so I got online, looked at old west fonts, picked a few favorites and combined them into lettering I drew freehand on the poster. After coloring it, I knew it needed something more, so I burned a hole in it to look like a bullet had passed through and then stained the whole poster with tea bags to make it look old. It was so much fun that I’m going to make a few more today. I always feel so fulfilled when I am creative, even moreso when I get to use that creativity for someone I love! There are so many ways to be creative, yet sometimes I don’t slow down enough to explore this world. My heart needs this creative side. I need to make it a priority, not just for those I love, but for myself, for my soul.

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