Beau’s Guide To Happiness In Life

As many who follow me here know, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle writes a blog, Sundays with Beaumont — okay, paws his way through writing a blog every Sunday.

I know. I know. He can’t really type but as his human conduit to expressing his wisdom and wit (some might call it sarcasm), I do the typing and divining for him.

Yesterday, he shared his list of 10 Things hoomans can do that will really make life better for everyone (not just your four-legged companions!

And while some have already read it, I thought it worth sharing here as well — ’cause not only does his list inspire me to create better and do not harm, it reminds me to savour the people and moments that bring my life so much joy.

I hope it does the same for you too.

1.  Get moving!

Get outside. Get into nature. Go for a walk. Garden. Run. Play in the snow. The river. The mud. And don’t forget to take me with you. I like being outdoors. There’s so much out there to explore and it’s just good dawginess to share it!

2.  Stop and smell the roses.

Breathe. Smell the air. Heck, smell my fur, even when it’s wet. Bury your face in the sweet, juicy aromas of life. Sure, it can be messy and prickly. But it’s always beautiful and fruitful and full of sweet smells and reminders of how wonderful it is to be alive. Remember, you gotta BREATHE it all in.

3.  Show, act, feel, be Love.

Pet me. Rub my belly. Fuss over me. I’m a dawg. That’s what I need and it’s what you need too! Love all over me and know, no matter what, love really is the answer. Try it with the people in your life too. It really works. Why do you think I do it with you?

4.  Fill the whole canvas of your life.

Sit. Sprawl. Laze about. Let yourself sink into nothing but the pure joy of doing nothing. Block doorways. Lay in the middle of the room. Take up all the space you need to get comfortable. It’s your life. Your space. Fill it and do it often. Life looks better when you’re stretched out filling the whole canvas of your life.

5.  Chase your dreams (and butterflies too).

Chase butterflies. Dragonflies, even bumblebees. You don’t have to catch them. The joy is in the running about, chasing after nature, and feeling the wind against your skin, or fur if you’re me.

6.  Let your sillies out.

Dance in the rain. Run barefoot in the grass. Don’t be shy. Don’t tell yourself you’re too old or too proper or too whatever. You’re never ‘too anything’ (grey-haired, no-haired, young, tall, short…) to act silly and free. Kick your shoes off and feel the earth — I’ve never understood why people, and horses for that matter, wear shoes. They’re so distracting.

7.  Set yourself free of your secret hurts and pains.

Talk to yourself – which is like… talking to me. Tell yourself all your sorrows, your secrets, your fears, your dreams. It’s okay. No one else can hear you except me and I will always listen and never judge and never tell another soul. Your secrets are mine to keep. Though if you tell them to me I might just chew on them and sit them out… know what I mean? 🙂

8.  Let your happy shine, where ever you go!

Greet everyone you meet, even strangers and that barista with the tattoos and piercings and dog collar around their neck, with a big happy smile. And btw, I don’t understand why people wear dog collars. They’re for dogs, people, because we’re special. But I digress. Greet people like you’re really, really happy to see them. Try some wiggles and squirms, lick them even! Or, as you humans like to do, give them a peck on the cheek, but really, really mean it! Be happy to see them. Let your happy shine, where ever you go! Heaven knows, the world needs more wriggles and squirms and happy greetings. And by the way, so do you.

9.  Savour every morsel of life (and whatever else is on your plate)

Always, always, clean your plate. Yup. I know. Your parents told you this. Difference is, what you don’t eat, you can give to me, I’m not picky and will eat anything you don’t, and then some! (and that’s how you clean your plate while also savouring every morsel of life) Oh. And no artichokes puhleease. I don’t like the prickles. Which brings me to my final point;

10.  Follow your heart (and let me be your guide).

Only consume, buy, eat, do, speak, think, create, the things that create more joy, laughter, love and caring in your life. Be picky! Don’t settle for something just because it’s there. Make your own choices. Make your own path. Make your own waves. Remember, I chose you and you’re the bestest friend a dawg could ever have, which is saying a lot for someone who is not a dawg (that would be you). And you truly are great, especially when you remember to follow your heart. Oh, and let me be your guide.

“And don’t forget to count your blessings every day!” writes Beau, “And make sure you put me at the top of your list! ‘Cause we dawgs are true blessings in your life!”

If it hurts, it isn’t Love.

I wonder sometimes, if he hadn’t been arrested, if I hadn’t survived those harrowing years of his abuse, where would my daughters be today? Would their lives, already turned upside down by that relationship, ever have righted themselves? Would my disappearance have left them exposed to creating their own history of abusive relationships and other crises too scary to imagine?

It was May 2003. They were 16 and 17 and I had been missing for 3 months. For the almost five years leading up to my disappearance, they had watched me slowly disappear before their eyes. And then, in February I disappeared completely.

He was trying to flee the country, or so he said. I had no choice but to go with him, he told me.

I didn’t argue. I knew my life was over. Leaving with him was the only way I believed I could save my daughters. And so, I did what he said. It was what I had grown accustomed to doing. I did not question. I did not fight back. Fighting back was too scary.

That’s how abuse works.

A simple question. A piece of toast too dark. A coffee not hot enough and suddenly, you are the villain, the perpetrator and the reasons why his world is crumbling and you are cowering.

For the abuser in this story, his world had fallen apart because of his lies and manipulations. But I couldn’t see nor think about that. To think that the story he’d told me, the one about my daughters being at risk of abduction and forced into the sex trade by evil men, to think it was a lie was unthinkable. Only a monster would lie about something like that. And he wasn’t a monster. He loved me. He didn’t lie. He promised. And when he showed me the three bullets he’d received and told me about the photos the evil men had sent him of a young girl, who looked a lot like my eldest daughter, doing unthinkable things, I had to believe him. Who would make up a lie like that? Why?

He would. Because he could. Because it served his purpose. Because it was his way. To do whatever he had to to keep me in his web of lies and deceit.

If he’d hit me on our first date or second or third or even fourth date, I’d never have stayed.

But abusers set their traps with care. They prime and preen their victims, waiting until they’re sure you’re under their spell. And then the Prince of Darkness rears up and pounces. Of course, in his wake, Prince Charming rides in on waves of contrition, smoothing over your confusion and pain with his apologies and gifts. And the cycle begins again.

It’s called, ‘intermittent reinforcement.’  With the abuser who was in my life, he sowed seeds of terror first before letting out his anger. The consequences were always the same, confused, frightened, I’d threaten to leave and he would remind me of the ‘evil men’ lurking.

Terrified, and believing him when he said it was all my fault, I froze. I stayed silent. I stayed.

When we first met, I embraced his lies as if they were the truth because he was so charming and convincing, and I wasn’t looking for lies. I was expecting love.

By the end, I knew he was the lie, but I didn’t have anything left within me to fight back. I was his shill, his object. Me, the woman I’d known, the mother who loved her daughters deeply, had a career she loved, a vibrant circle of friends and loving family, no longer existed.

In her stead stood the woman who believed if she could just unhook gravity’s hold on her body, she could fall into the ocean and be washed away. And in that one final act, all memory of her presence would vanish from her daughters’ minds. Erased. Without me, they could go on with their lives forgetting they ever had a mother who had loved them deeply and disappeared.

And then, one day he was arrested and I was given the gift of getting my life back. It was a long journey home, to myself, to my daughters, to my family and friends. It was a long journey. And it was worth every step.

Today, I am a grandmother to two beautiful children. Seven years ago when I married a kind and caring man, my daughters walked me down the aisle. Together.  Just as I walked my eldest daughter down the aisle a year later.

And while sometimes I might wonder what might have happened if the police hadn’t walked in that day and arrested him, I do not have to worry about where they are, or what happened to them.

They have taken this journey back into life with me, blessing me with their unfaltering love and support.

Too many women are not so fortunate. Too many women stay trapped in relationships that are killing them because they believe there is no way out. Nowhere to go.

There is always a way out. Always somewhere to go. To get there, you must reach out for help. You must take that first step into naming his hitting you, his calling you names and locking you outside in sub-zero temperatures with no coat or shoes to protect you, what it is. Not Love. Not anger. Not his having a bad day. Not ‘he didn’t mean it’. It’s ABUSE.

And the fact is, you can heal from abuse with every step you take away from the abuser.

If you are in a relationship that feels like it is killing you, there are resources and people who will walk with you as you take those steps back into life without abuse. Please reach out.

__________________________

This LINK provides a list of resources for every province and territory.

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I don’t often write about those days of darkness and terror. Today, in honour of the women and girls who face sexual and physical abuse every day, to support efforts to end family violence, I do.

I believe when we tell our stories of coming through darkness into the light, we shine a light for others to see, there is hope.

That story, the one about me who was so lost and frightened and ashamed of what had become of her she wanted to end her own life, it is no longer my story.

My story today is rich and full of life and love, laughter and joy, creativity and the freedom to be me and to love me, all of me, including the woman who was once so lost, she believed she had to desert her children to save them.

I came home. You can too.

Namaste.

Be Like The Rain – a poem

I do not question the muse. Even when she arrives, as she did in the early morning hours, with words and ideas and images to play with.

No. I rise up and heed her calling, if only to clear my mind so I can fall asleep again.

I wrote the framework of this poem at 2:30 this morning and worked on it again when I arose (for real this time) at 6am.

I do not like to label my words, or put them in a box called… feminist, or militant, or any other constructs we use to name the ways of women and their allies that fall beyond the allowable places women have been allowed to inhabit. Those names are seeds that have been planted and cultivated throughout time by the pervasive nature of this patriarchal world we inhabit.

I prefer to write them out and give them space to be present. An expression of something deep within me seeking light, form, voice, substance. Something created to give me pause, to wonder, ponder, devour and hold up to the light to see through all that has appeared, all that is happening into the essence of all that I have divined, all that I have experienced, all that I have left unsaid that is calling to be said, now.

Recently, while on a Zoom call with a group of men and women, I felt compelled to draw attention to something that was being said between some of the men that caused me discomfort. Their conversation was rife with sexual innuendo. It felt totally inappropriate.

In the process of thinking about speaking up, I felt my heartbeat quicken, my throat constrict, my body tighten with fear.

“Why am I afraid to speak up when what is happening is not reflective of the best of our humanity?” I wondered.

I didn’t want to say anything, I wanted to pretend as I have done too often in the past, that ‘boys would be boys’ and what they were doing was harmless.

But it wasn’t harmless. Along with making others feel uncomfortable, it perpetuated the patriarchal concepts of allowing ‘boys to be boys’ because, “It’s a man’s world baby. You better get used to it.”

And so, still quivering inside, I took a deep breath and spoke up.

This poem rose up out of hundreds of such conversations and encounters I’ve endured, and too many women I know have also endured, without speaking up or drawing a line to say, No More.

Background photo source

PS. In speaking up, others spoke up too — and that felt empowering. One of the men immediately apologized and others wrote to thank me for drawing attention to something they too believe needs to change.

I am grateful. In speaking up, I am reminded, every voice matters and when we give voice to what needs to change, we create space for change to happen.

Namaste

If Only She Had Wings (a story)

Far away, at the edge of the land where it meets the sea, there lived a young woman who believed she could fly.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the townspeople said when she stood at the edge of the cliff to test her belief. “Birds fly. Humans stay walking on the ground.”

The young woman did not believe that was the only way to be human. Every night before going to bed, she did push-ups and lifted weights to strengthen her wings.

And every night before falling asleep she whispered to the dream fairies, “Let my dreams be filled with flight.”

And every night the dream fairies flitted into her sleep, scattering visions of flying and soaring into her dreams.

And in the morning, she would awaken, repeat her exercises and go out to the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean far below to test the strength of her wings.

One day, as the young woman stood at the edge of the cliff lifting her arms up and down like the seagulls high above, a little girl approached and asked, “Why are you standing here flapping your arms?”

The young woman, surprised that a child would even have to ask such a question, replied without stopping what she was doing. “Practising flying.”

The child watched for a few moments longer before saying, “Well that’s silly. Why don’t you just leap?”

The young woman stopped lifting her arms up and down. She gazed down at the little girl where she stood looking up at her. Sky blue eyes met sky blue eyes. Flaxen hair floated around her face just as hers floated in the morning breeze.

The child smiled up at her and the young woman felt all her fears of falling come crashing into her like the waves crashing against the cliffs below.

“What if I fall?” she asked the little girl.

“What if you don’t?” the little girl replied as she threw her arms wide and cast her body off the edge of the cliff.

The young woman watched, wide-eyed and breathless, as the child’s body floated gracefully on the air, catching the breeze and letting it carry her down to the surface of the waves before lifting her up and up and up to the top of the cliff.

In awe, the young woman watched the child land effortlessly back on the cliff beside her.

“See! It’s easy,” said the child.

And the young woman took a deep, deep breath and spread her arms wide.

And stopped.

“I don’t think I can,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes and rolled down her face.

And the child shrugged her shoulder and smiled and said, “That’s okay. One day, you will stop practicing and cast your doubts to the wind and follow me!”

And with that, the child leapt from the cliff and soared with the seagulls flying high.

Watching and wishing she could, the young woman slowly lowered her arms and turned away from the cliff. Shoulders hunched, feet dragging along the dusty trail, she began the long walk back to the village.

“It is not the townspeople who doubt,” she said to herself. “It’s me.”

And she stopped and repeated it to herself. “It’s not the townspeople who doubt. It’s me.”

And she kept repeating it and repeating it until realization dawned. “I’ve been hiding behind practising flying because I doubt I can actually do it!”

Full of the awareness of the power of her doubts to tie her to the ground, she stopped walking away from the edge, turned quickly around and began running towards the cliff. Arms spread wide, she screamed and laughed and yelled loud and fierce as she cast her body over the edge.

And as her feet left the ground, her wings unfurled and she began to fly.

And that’s where you’ll find her today. Far from the edge of fear, wings unfurled, soaring amidst her dreams and dancing in the lightness of being free from doubt.

She dares to nourish her dreams with flights of fancy

Dream big…. or go home.

I remember a boss saying that many years ago. A lot. He was an entrepreneur, building a tech company on what he called a ‘wing and a prayer’. The prayer being that what he saw as a future need, or pent-up-demand, as he called it, would be real.

It wasn’t. But that’s a whole other story.

What this story is about, scratch that, what my story is about, is learning to not only believe, but trust in my dreams. To feed them reality and flights of fancy in just the right measures to give them wings to fly!

Yesterday, I met for tea and a chat with the beautiful, soulful Kerry Parsons of The Academy of Emerging Women. Not to mention a visit with Toby, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle’s brother. (and no. I did not take Beau. Two of them romping together in a confined space is one Sheepadoodle too many!)

Covid has interrupted some of my most meaningful relationships. Kerry and I haven’t visited in a while, yet, as always, in her lit presence, my heart felt like it was coming home and I came away feeling inspired, full of ideas, and radiating with dreams.

The piece above was partially completed when I left for our tea. When I got home, I knew exactly where it was leading me. I sat down at my studio table and dove in, adding colour and marks, working on the woman’s face until finally, I felt complete.

When I began this piece I had an idea for a quote, “In a world of conformity, she dares to stand out.”

By the time I finished with the art, I realized that, while I really like that quote, it is not what this #SheDares woman is saying to me.

I worked on the quote some more, settling on “She dares to heed her dreams’ urgings to spread her wings and fly.

Better.

And then I dreamt on it.

This morning, I sat down at my desk believing in the quote and its meaning that had become clear to me while I slept.

“She dares to nourish her dreams with flights of fancy.”

The Message

Dreams yearn for space, air, and the breath of possibility constantly flowing through and in and amongst their delicate, sacred promise of what can be, if only…

Dreams are not static things grounding you in their weighty matters. They don’t fit in a box or work best when tied to order and predictability.

Dreams don’t grow in the ground. They take to the skies. They seek sea-infused air bathing them in sun-speckled imagination wafting through their feathery tendrils filling them with light and joy and unlimited hope.

Dreams yearn for flights of fancy. That’s how they find the courage to unfurl and expand into beautiful wings of possibility dancing on rainbow streams coming to life in all the colours of your dreams come true.

About What You Said — a Sundays with Beaumont post

Beaumont: I think this is my good side. What do you think?

Me: I don’t think you have a bad side, Beau.

Beau: Nice response Louise. But that’s not what you said the other day.

Me: Oh. What did I say the other day?

Beau: You said, I’m getting old.

Me: I think it was about maturing Beau. I think what I said was you’re becoming a much more mature dog.

Beau: You said, I’m almost 7 and in human years that makes me 49 and that’s getting old.

Beau hopes you come join him on his BLOG today — he’s got a lot to say about ageing and being present in the now…

CLICK HERE

In The Language of Trees

I am scrolling through news of the tragic aftermath of the atmospheric river that deluged much of BC, destroying lives, livelihoods, homes, and infrastructure.

I am sitting at my desk looking out at the autumn-naked branches of the trees that line the river.

And I think about the pain thy must feel at the loss of their brothers and sisters this past summer as wildfires swept through BC’s interior.

And I wonder if they are hurting now in the sadness of knowing many of their sisters and brothers were swept in the storm’s wake — and how, if they could only have stood their ground against the fires, some of what happened might not have been.

I am breathing into the trees this morning. Breathing and listening, deeply, to their pain and what they have to say.

In The Language Of Trees
by Louise Gallagher

The language of trees
lays buried
deep within their roots
digging into the earth
stretching their arms
in search
of whispers of life
within the cracks and crevices
of time lying still
beneath Mother Nature’s soiled covers.

The language of trees
is felt
rising up through crenellated bark
and rugged trunks
standing tall
against the wind 
hurling obscenities
at their unwillingness
to give up ground
to its demands.

The language of trees
is heard deep
within the sibilant whispers
of its leaves
telling stories
to the birds and bees
and scampering squirrels
who clamber along its branches
in search of place to hide
through winter’s storms.


The language of trees
is written
everywhere.

We must listen
before it’s too late
to hear
their roots calling us
to help them 
stay grounded.


The Unconscious Leader

When we lived in Metz, France, every day my father would drive the winding road leading down the hill from National Defence Headquarters into the city.

Fog was not uncommon.

One day, while carefully navigating the winding road in a pea soup fog, he missed a curve, drove off the road narrowly slipping between two plane trees until coming to rest in a farmer’s field.

Stuck. Yes. Damaged. No.

Until a woman rear-ended him. In the middle of the farmer’s field.

She’d been following his taillights. She trusted they would lead her into the city. Instead, they lead her into the back end of his car in the middle of a farmer’s field.

Fortunately, because of the dense fog, she too had been travelling very slowly. The damage was negligible. Though my father was a tad annoyed!

Once, while skiing through dense fog on the Zugspitze in Germany, the fog was so thick it was almost mandatory to stop after every curve to ensure you weren’t about to go over a cliff. As I took a sweeping curve in the trail, I stopped to check where I was at and a woman skied into me, knocking us both over. She’d been following my bright orange ski suit as her beacon down the mountainside.

We don’t generally get such dense fog here on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, but occasionally, fog will roll in off the river valley and obscure the view.

Whenever it does, as it did earlier this week, I am reminded of that story my father loved to tell about the woman who crashed into him in the middle of a farmer’s field.

He was upset she hit his car.

She was upset he went off the road and stopped in the middle of a farmer’s field. She was trusting him to lead her to safety.

Just like the case of the woman who was following me down the mountain. I didn’t know she was following me. She didn’t know I was about to stop. Though she was grateful I did when she saw the cliff we both might have sailed over!

Sometimes on our life journies, we can be so focused on where we’re going, we forget to notice if there is anyone else on our path, or if someone else is trusting our ability to lead to get them to safety.

Sometimes, we can be following someone else’s path so intently, we forget to watch out for our own safety, relying on their discretion to keep us safe.

In both cases, it is the belief we are alone on our journey, and not responsible for anyone else’s safety, that gets us in trouble.

Like my father, intensely focused on navigating my own way down the mountain, I wasn’t thinking about anyone else. And, while that is an almost natural response to pea soup situations, had I thought to call out, just in case there was anyone else in the same predicament or had my father immediately put on his emergency flashers, perhaps the outcome might have been different.

‘Cause here’s the thing. We can be unconscious leaders.

But the way is so much safer for everyone when we travel consciously acknowledging we are not on this road of life alone.

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A man, toddler and dog who were rescued by a volunteer in a boat after being stranded by high water due to flooding walk on high ground in Abbotsford, B.C., on Nov. 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck – Source

I have been glued to the news about the horrific events unfolding in British Columbia. For those people caught between two landslides, for the people who spent days and nights in their cars or stuck in Hope, waiting for a way back to the lower mainland, for those who lost their farms and livelihoods, their homes and possessions, their everything, my heart is heavy.

I can not lead them out of the devastation they face. I can contribute to their recovery.

We all can.

If you have any amount you can contribute, please consider helping the efforts to lead people back to safety, so they can begin the arduous journey of rebuilding their lives, comforted by the knowledge, they are not alone.

This CTV story and this Daily Hive article list several organizations and agencies doing on-the-ground work that need our support.

Thank you.

______________________

A severed portion of BC’s Coquihalla Hwy5 at Juliet is seen in a BC Transportation photo on Nov 17, 2021

On the weekend I booked my flight for Vancouver and was already scheduled to be there December 8. It is stunning to realize that I cannot drive there right now — all roads are washed out. The first time since 1885 when the railroad was completed — the west coast has no eastern access via road or rail.

She Dares to Capture the Beauty in all Life’s Imperfections

I have been an infrequent visitor to my studio lately. Life and all its happenings, projects to complete that don’t require paint but do require creative presence, new 3 days a week work for a not-for-profit (I’m loving it!), visiting my grandchildren as often as I can (and my daughter and son-in-love too!) plus just day-to-day living with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and my beloved, have consumed me.

And then there’s the vegging-out piece. You know. The “I’m too tired to dive into creative expression. I think I’ll spend time amidst others’ expressions!” Which means flipping open my laptop and losing myself in some Netflix/Prime fodder.

I tell myself, “It’s okay. You deserve the break.”

But here’s the real deal.

It’s not a ‘break’ when it is stealing my sense of balance, wholeness, centredness.

It is not a break when it pulls me away from what I love doing – exploring my creative expression.

So, I’ve made a deal with myself.

I give myself space to ‘veg-out’ if I first let out what is calling to be expressed. Because I know this very deeply within me — there is always something calling to be expressed, even when I pretend I can’t hear it or feel it!

And, because I’m pretending I don’t know it’s there, I allow myself to become lost in movie fodder.

So here’s my deal — it’s okay to ‘veg-out’ if I first let-out some artsy fodder in my studio!

Now… you may want to say, “Give yourself a break Louise. Everyone needs time-out.”

And it’s true. We do.

But I know me.

I am a ‘compulsively-excessive’ personality. I get into things and can’t/won’t/don’t stop. Which means… if I start a series on Netflix, I don’t stop until I’m done – even if it’s a crap series. Just ask my beloved – He suggested a series to me on the weekend and I said, “I don’t dare start a new series. I’ll get trapped in it and I don’t want to get lost. Again” I just finished watching 4 seasons of a terrible series — but I wouldn’t stop watching it!

So… rather than taunting myself with the idea I can only watch 1 episode, I simply do not begin!

Problem solved. 🙂 For now.

In the meantime, I am feeling so much more alive and enlivened after working in my studio all weekend on bookmarks that I include with every purchase of my “She Dares Boldly” desktop calendar, and then, diving into more images and quotes for the #SheDaresBoldly series.

I am cultivating my capacity to ‘let go and let become’ to allow that which is seeking to be expressed, appear.

I am cultivating my trust in the process of allowing the ‘I wonder if I do this…’ and then doing whatever that wonderment is just to see what will happen. Like using pastels through a stencil over inks — cool!

And, I am cultivating the habit of turning up for myself, everyday at my studio table in a state of excitement, curiosity, fearlessness and gratitude.

Excitement ignited by the mysteries I’m about to explore.

Curious about what will happen when I simply let go and be present.

Fearless in my willingness to listen deeply to my intuition (and the muse) and not judge nor doubt (or try to manipulate) their voice.

And Gratitude for this magical, mysterious, mystical world in which I have the privilege to play and be and create and learn and grow and experience and capture such richness, aliveness and beauty.

Namaste