Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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A woman of a certain age.

From where I sit…

There is no end to paradise.

There is no end to the beauty and mystery of Mexico.

After a day of travel, we arrived last night in Huatulco. Jordan, son of the Villas FaSol Manager, Gerrado, met us at the airport, his smile and hugs welcoming, to transport us to the resort.

Tucked into the shoreline in the Bahia Conejos just south of Hautulco, Villas FaSol is the perfect, ‘home away from home’. White washed domed roofs á la Mediterranean stand tall, etched against cloudless blue skies in a lush tropical garden. Below, the surf ebbs and flows into the bay, splashing up against rock strewn shoreline and a tiny, perfectly groomed, sandy beach.

The air has already heated up to day time highs, its full force softened by a gentle breeze that rustles through the palm trees and caressing my skin as it passes by reminding me of a story I wrote long ago for my daughters. it was called The WindStory Tree. In that story, the wind circled the globe collecting stories which it brought to a tall tree, a proud tree, a tree of many branches that stood in the middle of the prairies where a boy and girl lived within its sheltering branches listening to the stories of the wind.

The breeze here is like that. Carrying stories, tempting my mind to stop thinking so I can hear the beat of my heart calling me to dance, to laugh, to sing out loud and dive beneath the waters in the Bahia Conejos in search of octopus and lobster like the young men I can see from the deck where I sit in the shade watching the waters ebb in and out, in and out.

This is definitely paradise continued. No end in sight.

Our two daughters are back home safely in Canada. I feel the lack of their presence, the missing of my YaYa time in the early hours of the day.

And I smile as my heart remembers. In paradise there is no lack. No need to miss someone. In paradise there is only a joyful heart full of gratitude for the time spent together, building memories, building stories to tell the next time we see each other, or as they say in Mexico, hasta que nos encontremos de nuevo mi corazón está lleno de recuerdos tuyos”. ” (Until we meet again my heart is full of memories of you”)  Okay. I don’t really know if they say that in Spanish but it sounds pretty and I like it because it’s true. My heart is full of beautiful memories of time spent with those I love.

C.C. and I have no plans today. No expectations. Aside from grabbing a taxi into the town centre to walk around old Huatulco, lunch on a patio, we shall rest and relax savouring time together under the Mexican sun as I explore this new era into which I officially am subscribed as of yesterday when my years on earth added up to becoming a ‘senior’.

I don’t know what my 65’s and beyond will bring though C.C. and I chatted this morning over a beautiful breakfast on the deck about ‘the future’. I do know that whatever time brings me, I am blessed with family and friends, good health and work that continues to inspire me.

But, as I asked him this morning, I wonder what awaits if I choose to explore a different path?

Bedmates — looks and smells beautifully

It is the gift of this age I am embracing. There are no limits to what I can do when I let go of thinking of myself as a ‘woman of a certain age’ and step instead into the full power of being a woman of this amazing age where I am the dreamer and the dream-maker, the story-teller and the story-maker, the creator and the creative, the writer of my own journey.

Lived in Love, there is no other journey to take, no other place to be than where I am right now, not asking Mary Oliver’s question, “What will you do with this one wild and precious life” but living it wildly to my heart’s content.

Namaste.

 

 

 


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Filled with gratitude and love — life is grand

Photo by Alexis M

C.C. and I are sitting at Cabo Airport this morning waiting for our flight to Mexico City and then Huatulco where we will spend the next 8 days enjoying more sun, sand and surf.

It was a parting of sweet sorrow this morning. After 9 days treasuring every moment together, Alexis, Liseanne, their partners and my grandson left to return north to Canada while C.C. and I travel further south in Mexico.

It was a beautiful week.

Photo by Alexis M

From seeing whales from the upper deck of the house, to stingray flapping the water, turkey vultures circling the waves as we rode horses down the beach and baby turtles waddling through the sand towards the sea, it was a time of special moments spent with those we love, our family. Though, as Alexis said last night as we sat around savouring Churros and vanilla ice cream and Chocolate molten cake from Guaycara Restaurant, it would have been perfect if C.C.’s son and daughter had been there too.

There are so many moments that filled my heart to overflowing.

Cabo Airport domestic terminal

On our first Sunday, we arose early to walk the beach and then head to town in search of a good cup of Java which we found at Taller 17, a delightful bakery/coffee shop in the town centre. At 2pm, Alexis and Liseanne told me they had organized a professional photographer to come and take family photos that afternoon. When Marianna arrived we went back to the town and had photos at Hotel California, one of the town’s more ‘infamous’ locales. We wandered the streets feeling like paparazzi as Marianna followed our footsteps snapping photos everywhere we went. And then, the penultimate photo opportunity, a private releasing of sea turtles on the beach, just down from our house.

There is something so exquisitely beautiful and poignant about these tiny endangered species and their journey into adulthood. The mother’s have travelled north up the shore to avoid the more populated areas to the south of the peninsula. In an effort to protect the eggs and to foster greater success in the tiny babies surviving the treacherous walk to the sea once hatched, volunteers have created a turtle sanctuary on the beach directly in front of the house we rented. For a small fee, every evening, you can help release the babies and hopefully, watch it and protect it on its journey to the water.

One in 100 babies survive to adulthood. Not great odds for a species of which there are only 2500 alive on the planet today.

It was a transcendent moment to watch our 10 month old grandson laughing and chortling as we stood together on the other side of the line the turtle guide drew to show us where to stand before releasing the turtles. As the tide rolled in, on the signal of our guide, we adults each placed the coconut shell we’d been given with a baby inside onto the sand and gently as possible, without touching its body (skin oils inhibit its ability to survive) and coaxed the turtle out of the shell. We cheered each turtle as our grandson clapped and cheered, supported by his dad. 

Thurlow is just on the brink of walking. Like the baby turtles, his journey to adulthood is just beginning. As I watched my daughter and son-in-love coax and protect his steps this week, I was reminded always of the turtles’ and their journey to the sea and the many dangers they must face in order to survive. Thurlow’s journey is not nearly as treacherous nor dubious. He is always safe and surrounded by his parent’s loving care.

I am grateful.

We fly south to Huatulco today.

My heart is full and though I shall miss them all, we have already arranged to visit for New Year’s in Vancouver.

I am so blessed.


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Oh No! Don’t let the rain come down.

It rained last night. No. That’s not quite accurate. It poured. A torrential downpour that soaked the parched earth and, not so happily, inside our house.

At midnight, the thunder rolled across the sky making sleep impossible. Nature created a light show that danced across the dark in streaks of yellow and gold, illuminating the night

At 2am, the wind had shifted and suddenly, Alexis and James’ bed was drenched. A reconnoiter of the house showed numerous leaks in the roof that drip drip dripped onto the couch in the family area, the kitchen and the hallway upstairs. The wind lashed against the glass doors of our bedroom drenching the floor in several places.

James, Alexis and I scurried around finding buckets, pans, bowls and a mop. Somehow, the other three slept on.

Clean up, or at least stop the flow, completed, we went back to  bed. But our senses were on alert.

Outside, the wind continued to howl, the rain to pour and the surf to crash.

By 5am, it was all over.

“It’s the equivalent of a snow day in Connecticut,” Aaron, the house manager said when he came to survey the damage. “Everything in town is pretty well shut down as people clean up the mess.”

Aaron manages six homes. He’s been up since dawn navigating puddle ridden dirt roads like the one at the end of which our house sits. “It’s passable,” he said. “But you gotta go slow.”

We had waited to call him until after a walk on the beach. Not much could be done at that point. We’d mopped up the floors and dumped the buckets and pans. Why worry about a call that could be made anytime when the sky was breaking black to grey and blue and white with streaks of sun shimmering through and the surf was crashing into the sand in frothy white waves that rolled and broiled and fell onto itself in its rush to reach the sand?

Lele, Tim and I walked the beach while Alexis and James and Thurlow napped. C.C.  hadn’t yet woken up. He can sleep through everything. I am often envious.

The morning awakens after the storm. A whale spouts as it swims past. The not so wild, left to run free horses walk slowly past the house, taking the trail down to the beach. A white heron walks slowly through the grass before taking flight.

Above, the sky is lightening as the clouds roll away and the sun begins to dry up the puddles. In our yard, a pile of coconuts lie at the base of a palm tree, torn down by the wind during the night. There are leaves everywhere but the puddles that filled the drive have already started to dry up, soaking into the sandy soil.

It’s a house day today. the girls are hoping to catch some rays and work on their tans.

The men are hoping to lie by the pool and relax.

For now, Lele and Tim have ventured into town, curious to see how rough the dirt road leading from the house to the main street really is. It’s not great in good conditions. It will be fascinating to see how it is now! They’re also off in search of latte’s and breakfast treats, though Aaron has warned us most stores are closed today.

Alexis is taking a shower, James is having a nap. C.C. plays with Thurlow and I am contemplating the day and the night’s adventures.

It was a rough one, but we all survived and in its wake, I am reminded once again how, no matter the weather, life is beautiful when shared with family.

Namaste.

 

 

 

 


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Building memories to last a lifetime

Photo by James M

We have developed a pattern here at the house on the beach in Todos Santos.

Early morning is YaYa time with my grandson. My son-in-love waits to hear me making coffee in the kitchen before bringing Thurlow up so that he and my daughter can grab another hour of sleep.  I don’t tell him how I anticipate this treasured time alone with Thurlow. It is Thurlow and my secret

Alone, Thurlow and I climb up to the third floor deck and watch the waves crash into the shore and then come back down and sit on the floor as he explores the world around him. We laugh and sing and clap hands and he bobs and weaves his tiny body dancing to the rhythm of his tiny world. I wonder if he can hear my heart dancing.

I feed him breakfast and eventually, the rest of the house rises and the day begins as I let go of my treasured time.

This morning, my daughters and I were going riding. It is the second ride for my youngest daughter and me since arriving on Saturday. Alexis’ first.

We rode through palm groves and then along the beach, our bodies relaxing into the steady gait of our horses as a wind blew in from the ocean and the surf crashed into the sand, washing our horse’s footprints away. It is hot and muggy. My heart is light, dancing with the pure delight of spending time with my two favourite women, my daughters, doing something I have always loved. Riding.

Above us, in the ever darkening sky, turkey vultures glided on the wind and beautiful white egrets watched our passing from their perches in the trees lining the edge of the river where it meets the sea. We pass by and they spread their wings swooping down to the water and then soaring back up into the sky. They are beautiful to watch.

And then, we left the beach and climbed up into the hills past flowering cacti, sampled sweet, sweet chilli peppers from a wild cactus bush and stopped at the high point to see if we could spot any whales. Two days ago, when we rode by this point we watched a whale slide by from above, the only sign of his passing the spray of his spout and the grey of his body sliding through the brilliant blue water. Today the water is gunmetal grey and moody. My favourite kind of sea.

We rode back down the rocky trail on the far side of the mountain, through palm groves redolent with the smells of fresh rain and bougainvillea flowers cascading to the ground. We crossed a river, our horses easily stepping through silent water up the far bank and back to the corral and through it all my heart kept dancing.

It was a day to laugh and chat and share and be. Together.

Back at the house, we showered and changed and left the men in charge of my grandson and drove into town for lunch. I almost had to stop driving at one point as the pounding of my heart drowned out my daughters’ voices and tears welled up into my eyes. I love you both so much, I told them, and they laughed and did that daughter thing of rolling their eyes and laughing before telling me how they love me too, and can we please go for lunch now? And we did after stopping at the bakery for fresh bread for the house and then a delightful ladies’ shop where I bought a new scarf (Like you really need another scarf mom they both teased) and a handbag that Alexis hopes she gets for her birthday and then we went for lunch at the rooftop sky lounge at Guaycura where the view of the red rooftops of Todos Santos tucked within lush green palms and flowering leading down to the sweeping sea made us gasp at the sheer beauty of the view.

Photo by Alexis M

We ordered Nachos and wine and laughed and chatted and teased as the sky above grew darker and darker until the rain began to fall in earnest and we scurried for cover by the bar, laughing with the pure pleasure of being together as the rain danced on the fabric of the roof cover, falling onto our table through the cracks between each panel. We didn’t care if we got wet. This was a day for pure delight, of hearts beating together and love flowering like the verdant forests all around.

 

 


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Sun. Surf and Family Fun. I’ve got it all!

And we’re off! Tomorrow that is.

By tomorrow afternoon, C.C., our two eldest daughters and their partners along with my grandson will be arriving in Mexico. We’ll spend 9 days together in a beautiful house we’ve rented on the beach in Todos Santos on the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula.  And then, on the 9th, the others will fly home and C.C. and I will fly to Huatulco for a week at Villas Fa Sol.

I am beyond excited.

The trip was inspired by my daughters who suggested we go away together to celebrate my birthday. I liked the idea of being away for this momentous (I think its momentous to turn 65 but I haven’t quite figured out all that it means! But ‘they’ tell me it’s important so I’m going with that) occasion. We considered all the options and, given the time of year, a warm vacation seemed most appropriate, especially as we are travelling with a 10 month old.

Before tomorrow there is still today. And I’ve got lots to do yet before shutting down my computer at work, turning out the lights and putting up the “On Vacation” sign on my door. (I don’t really have an “On Vacation” sign for my door but I do like the idea of it!)

So… back to turning 65 years young.

It is just a number, yet, this number puts me into a ‘new’ age bracket. I’m now officially a senior where ever I go. And when I say it I get the feeling I should be feeling different. Acting otherwise. thinking some other way.

Truth is… I truly don’t know what I’m supposed to be feeling about turning 65. I’ve never been here before and other than the random thought of “OMG! I’m turning 65. What on earth does that mean?” I haven’t spent a lot of time contemplating this changing of the guard in the numbers representing my age.

There are a few things I’ve noticed…

I’ve got more aches and pains than I used to.

The arthritis in my feet flares up more frequently, making walking painful and yes, the finger I closed in the garage door when the motor went and I tried to close it manually a few years back does give me grief. It’s nubby and deformed and I’m often conscious of how it looks, especially because I talk so much with my hands.

And I can’t run a marathon anymore (lol. I can’t run very far at all but I still love to walk with Beau and spend time in nature) and I’ve definitely put on weight and there is more gray than black in my hair and more character lines on my face than I personally think I  need, but Mother Nature didn’t ask me how many lines I wanted and I think the number was predetermined when I was born based on the genetics I carried into this world anyway!

But really… what does turning 65 mean other than I get discounts every where and apparently, a bus pass is really cheap!

65 is just a number, an age, a day in time.

It’s not something I can avoid — though I did read somewhere about a guy who feels he can’t get dates on dating sites because of his age. He’s petitioned the courts to legally roll 20 years off his age because he believes he is more like a 45 year old in every way than his current 65!

Oh if it were so simple.

Fact is, I like my age. I’ve lived every moment of it. Worked my entire life to be this age and don’t really feel it is a detriment (fortunately I’m not on dating sites) :). Actually, in many ways I feel my age is my strength.

There was a time, when I was younger when I worried a great deal about what others thought of me. And, because I wanted their approval, I would say and do things that were not congruent with my values, beliefs or desires. I wanted to ‘fit in’ and would do a lot to make it happen.

Now, I’m comfortable with who I am, how I am and what I do in the world. I know I can make mistakes, hurt people through thoughtless words and actions, but the difference today is I don’t spend time defending my bad behaviour. I choose to own it. Apologize where necessary and move on. I no longer feel the need to stew in perceived injustices. Injustices happen. The world, and all its beautiful people is not perfect. But I can be perfectly happy with my place in the world, and I am.

Because something I’ve learned in getting to this beautiful number of 65 is… happiness is an inside-out job. I gotta be happy with me to be happy in my world.

Today, no matter my age, I choose to be happy with me in all my beauty and imperfections because that’s what makes my world a happier place. It’s only taken me 65 years to get here and I’m so very glad I am here.

Namaste.

 

 


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Walk in Gratitude

I don’t know if it’s the late November blahs, excitement of leaving for Mexico for two weeks on Saturday and too much to get done before I go, or just my frame of mind before the advent of December, but yesterday I said to a friend, “Oh oh. I’m feeling ‘the bitchy’ rumbling. I need to breathe a few moments before I walk into any room because if I let ‘the bitchy’ take hold, there’s no telling how I might express myself.”

Fact is, when ‘the bitchy’ arises, it’s easy to let ‘stupid’ become the stinkin‘ expression of my angst-riddled thinkin‘ .

My friend laughed and told me how his go to place is depression. In that dark place, if left to its own ministrations, his tendency to dip down into sadness will turn to depression which he  expresses through dark clouds and stormy exclamations that can wreak havoc in the world around him. “I usually go off and hide when I feel the sadness coming on. I don’t trust myself to be around other people. Who knows what might set me off?” he said.

Most of us have them. Those ‘moods’ that descend seemingly out of nowhere to alter our outlook in the moment passing by with their cloudy, stormy dispositions. Those moods that, if left to their own devices, steal our peace of mind and inner balance with their insistence that angst-filled living is the only way to get satisfaction.

Like Mick Jagger and heartburn, “I can’t get no satisfaction” from my angst. I just get more angst.

I know they are there, those hazy mood altering shadows that penetrate my well-being when I’m paying the least attention. It’s not really all that important why, or what triggers them. Often, the trigger is as inexplicable as the mood. What is important is that I acknowledge its presence, greet it with love and set it free.

Like that poem broken-hearted lovers espouse, If you love something set it free, if it comes back it’s yours, if it doesn’t, it never was, ill humour is never mine to hold onto. (It’s also not mine to set free into the world!)

Which is why, when I identify fissures of discord arising within me, breathing becomes my default go-to.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Slowly. Quietly.

Breathe in. Breathe out. And as I breathe, ask for divine guidance, for sacred intervention to descend and open me up to expansion.

In expansion mode, ‘the bitchy’ has no room to grow. But when I’m contracted (which is what happens when I give into inner angst)… watch out. She ‘The bitchy’ likes to get in there and flex her muscles. She likes to mess things up.

And I slip into a state of being grateful and accepting of all that is in my life. As a dear friend once shared with me, gratitude and acceptance are states of being, not tools. “Rejoice in whatever is occurring rather than attempt to deny or deflect it” he said.. “Misery arises when I attempt to comprehend or “fit in” to my stories of what “should be”. There are no tools as there is nothing to fix.”

The bitchy visited. I do not need to comprehend or fit into her stories. I need to breathe and ‘open up to expansion’.

Yesterday, I thought I needed to corral ‘the bitchy’ into submission. Subdue her with mental gymnastics. I changed my mind.

I welcomed her in love. Greeted her with familiarity and let her flow without needing to express her angst with inappropriate behaviours.

In gratitude for her reminder that I am grateful for all things in my world, I breathed.

In. Out. In. Out.

Though brief, she reminded me to center once again in gratitude. She doesn’t need fixing. I don’t need changing. In the moment of acknowledging her presence, all I needed was to breathe and adjust my disposition to expand into love, not contract into fear, to let grace flow. In acknowledging her shadow I let her flow through gratitude into the light of love all around.

Outside my window, the world sleeps beneath a week old blanket of snow. The river flows by. Inside, my beloved sleeps in our bed. Beaumont lies curled up on the chaise beside me. I hold them in my mind’s eye and surround them with love.

I turn my sights to the world around me and let go of expectations of perfection as I open myself up to expansion of my gratitude of all I have and pour love into my day.

Whatever is happening out there, all is well in my world within me. May all be well in yours.

Namaste.


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How Do You Grieve When Abuse Masquerades As Love?

When love ends, we grieve. We grieve the passing of what could have been, should have been, might have been, if only.

We search for ways to give meaning to our pain, to explain the sometimes inexplicable causes leading to loves demise. Sometimes, we talk it out. We make arrangements on how to separate, how to divide love’s spoils, how to survive love’s loss. We draw up agreements, outline custody and visitation arrangements. We divvy up assets and liabilities, arrange for payment. We divorce and move on with our lives, sometimes poorer but always richer in experience.

When we have loved an abuser, love cannot die. Love never existed.

With an abuser, there was no mutual agreement to love honestly, truthfully, respectfully. There was only the abuser’s mask hiding his or her intent to deceive. There was only the lie posing as truth. Blinded by love, we could not see the difference.

In the lie we thought was love vanishing out the door, we hang our hopes on one more chance to say, ‘good-bye’. On one more time to see their face, hear their voice, be in the presence of the love we believed to be true.

In our grief we plead for one last time. We pray, he will return. We pray, he or she, the one we loved, will come back if only to give us a chance to secure the elusive closure our empty arms yearn for. We want to say good-bye on our terms. We want to have the last word, to make them hear us, see us, feel our pain, witness our anguish. We want to know they understand the harm their passing through our lives has caused. We want them to ‘see’ how much we love in the hopes that the one we loved, the one we believed to be true, will return. We want one more chance. One more good-bye.

And so we plead with time to give us this one last chance so that we can come to terms with their good-bye. So that we can steal the time to learn to grieve on our terms.

And that is the lie we tell time. Give us a chance and we will make them hear us, just this once, so we can grieve freely.

It never happens. It can’t.

Loving a lie is not possible.

With our empty arms and broken dreams, we must give into grief and mourn for the one who was lost. The woman who was abused. The one who was lost. The one who fell. The one who was betrayed. We must mourn for the one we must love the most. Ourselves.

Once upon a time I loved a man who was untrue. He never really existed, though I searched for him between the lines he spoke, seeking truth in all his lies. Between the pages of my journal where I wrote of love ever lasting and promises of happily-ever after. I searched in every nook and cranny of my mind, desperately trying to make real the unreal. To make sense of the nonsense that was his passing through my life. I searched and held onto the hope that the pain, the turmoil, the sorrow was all a lie and he would turn up and be true.

It never happened. It couldn’t.

He was the lie.

Instead of grieving ‘love gone wrong’ I had to learn to grieve the dream that could never be, the love that never was. I had to learn to grieve for the woman who lost herself in the arms of an abuser. To grieve for the pain she endured, the pain she caused. I grieved and cried and wished and hoped and prayed upon every star that the pain would cease, the tears would dry up and my heart would be healed. I prayed for the past to be erased. The lies to be vanished. The horror to be undone.

Nothing can undo the past. There is nothing that can be changed in yesterday.

Grieving a love that never was is part of the illusion of loving an abuser. We look for meaning in our memories and come up empty.

On the other side of grieving a lie is love.

Grieving for the woman who lost herself in the arms of an abuser, set me free to fall into the arms of love.

In grieving for all that was lost, all that was forgotten on the stormy waters of his lies, I embraced all that was possible when I set myself free to sail upon the sea of love that surrounds me, sustains me, lifts me up.

Love has no limits. Love knows no bounds. Love is my answer.

Stand in love. Grow in love. Be love.

In mourning for the one who lost herself in the arms of a man who was untrue, I found myself. I found myself and fell in love with all that I can be when I set myself free to live this one wild and precious life free to be all I am when I let go of grief and fall… in love.

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Awhile ago, I met a woman who pulled a piece of paper out of her wallet and showed me what it was.  It was the above piece which I wrote in 2008 and posted on my original blog, Recover Your Joy, 5 years after the abuser who was in my life was arrested. “Thank you for this,” she said. “You really helped me understand.”

As we near the end of Family Violence Prevention Month, I am sharing it in honour of those who struggle to escape, to those trying to make sense of abuse masquerading as love, to those who never found release, and those taking their first steps in freedom from abuse.

Abuse hurts. Stop it.