Thursday, June 28, 2007

Oops! Did I say that out loud?

Do you talk to yourself … not out loud, but inside your head? I’ve done it all my life. Sometimes it worries me. But mostly, I figure everybody does it.

It’s different than regular thinking. I’m holding mini-conversations with myself, as I hash out problems, practice what I want to say to someone, chastise myself or even lavish a little self-praise.

Often, I talk to myself as I’m driving. As my body takes one trip, my mind is on another, with random thoughts bobbing about like Styrofoam pellets in a stiff wind.

But my self-chats keep me company, keep me awake and don’t distract me nearly as much as talking on a cell phone would.

Sometimes, I talk to myself about what I’m seeing from my mobile, metal cocoon.

For instance:
“My goodness, that’s a tire sticking up halfway out of the bog. Wonder how it got there? Hmmm. I could make believe I’m the artist Christo and stick hundreds of mannequin arms and legs into the mud out there. Would anybody notice and, if they did, what would they think?”

Or: (Screeech.) “You idiot! Whaddya mean, doing 80 in a 55 mph zone!”

Or: (A sister discussion.) “Geez, I believe in being safe. But putting along at 8 mph when the speed-limit sign said 35?”

Or: “ ‘PARADDL.’ Now that’s a cool personalized license plate! I actually know what it means (I’m the daughter of a musician — paradiddle is a drum roll). But that other personalized plate over there doesn’t make any sense at all. I want to stomp over and ask the driver what in *&^%$#@ it means.’” I haven’t done that yet, but someday …

Some of my best self-talks are about mental snapshots I take as I drive along.

For instance, I spied an older man walking slowly along Cambria’s Main Street, heading for Highway 1. He didn’t look happy about what he was doing.

All of a sudden, there was a curb alongside his feet.

The man surreptitiously looked around to see if anybody was watching, but didn’t spot me. He grinned, then hopped up on the curb. Using his arms for balance as a tightrope-walker would, he almost skipped along the raised concrete edging.

I told myself it was like watching Archie Bunker morph instantly into Peter Pan.

Another time, as we drove north on Highway 1 near Año Nuevo, we saw a Norman Rockwell-style image of agriculture in progress.

A man was walking slowly along some freshly harrowed rows. At regular intervals, he’d reach into the big knapsack at his side and grab a handful of what appeared to be large seeds — perhaps for the area’s legendary pumpkins.

In a graceful movement choreographed by years of experience, he sowed the seeds, which flew from his fingers in an even, fan-shaped spray.

“It’s just like a modern dance,” I said in my head, and then repeated it for husband Richard.

He had noticed the man, too.

“Reminds me of Daddy Anderson,” he said of his former father-in-law.

Daddy Anderson spent his entire life tending the soil of his Northern Utah farm. Often, as he’d check his fields, he’d absentmindedly reach down for a pinch of dirt. He’d roll it around between his thumb and a couple of fingers, then put a bit of it on his tongue.

He was so in tune with his land, he could taste if something was wrong with the soil.

That’s a real farmer. He was worlds away from cowboy-hatted, lizard-skin-booted agribusiness CEOs who talk the talk, but couldn’t walk their way out of a corral without falling face-first into the manure.

And wouldn’t that be a mental image to talk to yourself about?

It’s like the old story about the little boy who asked the man, “Hey mister, are you a real cowboy?”

“Why yes, I am,” the rancher drawled. “See my cowboy hat, and my cowboy shirt? I’ve got a real Western belt and gen-u-ine Levi’s jeans.”

“But mister,” the boy said, “you’re not wearing cowboy boots!”

The man paused and said, “Now, son, I wouldn’t want to be mistaken for a California truck driver.”

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