My OpEd in the Calgary Herald Today

This week, I submitted a piece to the OpEd page in the Calgary Herald, and it’s in the paper today.

I’m pasting in the copy below.

It’s all about aging bravely – yet here’s the thing. When the editor said he was sending over a photographer, I demurred. “Hey! I’m almost 69. I don’t do photos.”

“Ha! Where’s that bravery now?” he queried back.

“In the face of a camera lens, bravery runs to the hills,” I joked (kind of).

Alas, there are a few grains of truth in that comment. Vanity clings like a barnacle to a whale. No matter how much I ‘grow up’ – or grow older it’s a constant freeloader gnawing away at my self-esteem!

Anyway, Darren the photographer, was charming. He showed me the photo he was going to use to make sure I was happy with it — and for those who wonder what on earth am I working on, they’re paper mache bowls for the Christmas dinner table. (the OpEd editor thought they were giant eggs! 🙂 )

OPINION: For baby boomers still working, you have nothing to fear but your own insecurities

Author of the article:

Louise Gallagher

Publishing date:

Nov 25, 2022  •  1 hour ago  •  3 minute read

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Louise Gallagher, at her home studio, realized the only thing holding her back as a baby boomer in a return to the working world was her own biases and insecurities.
Louise Gallagher, at her home studio, realized the only thing holding her back as a baby boomer in a return to the working world was her own biases and insecurities. PHOTO BY DARREN MAKOWICHUK /Postmedia

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1965, have played a significant role in shaping Canadian society. Aged 55 to 74 now, boomers continue to impact society through the Great Retirement. Record numbers of boomers are leaving the workforce, causing employment shortages in Canada.

In 2019, a few months shy of my 66th birthday and after almost 20 years in leadership positions in Calgary’s homeless-serving sector, I was ready to embrace the Great Retirement.

The first six months of what I called “my reinvention” were great. Lots of time visiting with my toddler grandson in Vancouver, volunteering, time in my art studio creating and sharing my love of creative expression in art shows and art-journaling classes. 

Life was good. And then, my husband was diagnosed with COPD, my 97-year-old mother took her last breath just before COVID-19 hit and the world shut down.

Lockdowns kept me busy in my art studio and kitchen, while video calls kept me connected. By the end of the second autumn of COVID’s rampage, however, I realized something was missing. I felt aimless and lost, constantly pondering my purpose.

Was it time to go back to work? 

I made a plan: Dust off my resume. Contact colleagues in the not-for-profit sector about contract work. Get the word out I was in the market.

The plan had one drawback. The idea of re-entering the workforce after a two-year hiatus at the “ripe old” age of almost 68, caused me to break out in a sweat. I was afraid.

Afraid of what, I wondered? Rejection? Being laughed out of a boardroom for suggesting I still had value?

Fortunately, a former co-worker, now CEO of Prospect Human Services, an employment services not-for-profit, called one day and asked if I knew anyone interested in a contract role in my areas of expertise. I quickly recommended myself. Within a month, I was working from home three days a week, learning a new sector, team and organization.

Problem was, though I was energized and excited about the work, my unconscious biases around aging were tripping me up. 

We live in a world where ageism is prevalent; it’s seen in the absence of older people in the media we consume, from models in fashion magazines to movie leads. We idolize youth.

Our internal age biases are more subtle. We use terms like “having a senior moment” when we misplace our keys, even though we’ve habitually lost our keys. We make jokes about older people and talk about aging as a nasty business not for sissies. 

Re-entering the workforce in my late 60s, I discovered I held biases and fears about being older, not because my workplace didn’t welcome me, it did. My unease was because I was uncomfortable in my aging skin.

Even though there was no evidence I’d lost my ability to contribute to the execution of an organization’s strategic plan, when I first re-entered the workforce, I worried that anything I did that revealed my lack of sector knowledge would be chalked up to my age, not the fact I was on a steep learning curve.

The average age of the organization is 41. Scanning 120-150 faces on all-staff video calls, I didn’t see a lot of faces fitting the baby boomer profile. I worried about fitting in.

Competency issues followed. I worried I’d never remember, let alone learn, all the data and information I needed to do my job, including, making a difference — to anyone.

On the job I’ve learned, I had nothing to fear but my insecurities, and their value is insignificant compared to the knowledge and experience I’ve accrued over 40 years of building my career. Those 40 years have provided me with a lifetime of wisdom to draw on that informs and enriches all my interactions; whether at the boardroom table offering cogent ideas on what works and doesn’t work to build the organization’s public reputation or in the staff cafeteria cleaning up after myself.

I turn 69 in a couple of weeks. Before I returned to the workforce, I’d never have said the number out loud.

Now, it no longer scares me — because returning to the workforce has taught me it’s time to grow up and stop treating age as a dirty little secret. It’s time to accept age is an asset that increases in value with every breath we take.

Louise Gallagher is a Calgary writer, artist, story-teller, the director of communications for Prospect Human Services and a volunteer board member of THIRD ACTion Film Fest.

Maybe this time, we’ll get lucky.

I am often a creature of habit. I awaken at close to the same time every day. Spend an hour in bed reading the news, doing my puzzles, writing my gratitude list, listening to the quiet, meditating and contemplating my day.

I get up. Take Beaumont the Sheepadoodle for a quick morning meander to do his business, Come back in the house. Turn on my morning music which is always the same playlist of Alternative Classical music. Make coffee.Sit down at my desk. Open my laptop. Begin to type.

Usually, I have no idea what words will appear or what thoughts will arise.

I let the words and my morning flow like the river outside my window.

These days, the sun stays sleeping until much later than me, rising up well after 8am.

I spend my mornings in the comfort of darkness.

Lights from cars carrying workers towards the city car flicker as they cross the bridge, their stream intermittent, like an erratic jazz beat pulsing in time to the unseen rhythm of the musician’s mind.

This morning, an errant thought flits through my mind as I fill the kettle for my coffee.

Earlier, I’d read about the ongoing onslaught of Russian missiles against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

Vast swathes of the country lie in darkness, no heat, no light, no water.

I woke up this morning. Darkness covered the sky holding on to the last vestiges of night before the sun turned dark to light.

I wandered from the bedroom, turned up the heat, turned on the kitchen lights and filled my kettle with water.

Darkness still holds the night, I still have power, heat, light, water.

I am grateful for my comforts.

I cannot turn the lights back on in Ukraine. I do not have the power to stop missiles flying and battles raging.

I can only say a prayer of gratitude for what I have and prayers for peace to come for those whose lives have been so terribly disrupted by one man’s desire for dominance over an entire nation, he brought war to their lands and cities, homes, and lives.

There is no sense in war. Only death and destruction. When the guns are silenced, the victors and the vanquished will never return to what was. Too much has been destroyed.

When the missiles stop firing, the destruction will be swept away and factories, buildings and homes will be rebuilt.

How do you rebuild safety for children who are cowering in basement cellars while bombs fall day and night?

How do you heal the wounds no one can see?

We might ask as Pete Seeger did in 1955 when he released, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, “Where have all the young men gone?“.?

They have gone to a war they did not ask for, did not want. In the end, for those who do return to rebuild what was lost, we must never stop asking, “When will we ever learn?”

Maybe this time, the answer won’t be, Blowin’ in the Wind. Maybe this Time, Lady Peace. Lady Lucky. We’ll get lucky.

Soften Your Heart

When we harden our hearts we close off access to Love. When we soften our hearts and let it break open, Love flows freely.

But, softening our heart, letting it break open can be scary.

Memories of past pain play continuously in our minds. Fear of rejection holds us locked inside the walls we’ve built around our hearts. Fear of being hurt, used, misunderstood, all play a factor in how willing we are to leave our hearts and selves vulnerable to life’s slings and arrows.

It is a constant dance between choosing the way of love or choosing to live defended against its ways.

Brene Brown asks, “Why be vulnerable when armor feels safer?”

Because, we can’t show up authentically in life without taking down our armor. We can’t be real without risking being vulnerable.

Namaste

Hold Onto Love

We are all on this human journey together We have all experienced loss, anger, hurt, pain. We have all hurt someone. We have all been hurt by someone. To hold onto love and not let go of kindness in the face of our differences and similarities requires courage.

Those thoughts floated through my head as I was sitting in the quiet after returning from having driven my eldest daughter to the airport this morning.

Last night, sitting around the dinner table, the conversation turned to today’s political climate and global conditions. There were many views at the table, all of them had as much right to be there as the other.

The challenge, I said at one point as the conversation veered into the right and wrong of differing views, is that because of the polarizing nature of our political leaders today, which has been exacerbated by media feeds and algorithms, we have become camps of us versus them.

In essence, those who are not ‘with’ us are de facto ‘against’ us. We defend against instead of listening with tolerance and curiosity. We create camps of believers designating those outside the tents that proliferate our campground, as others. And in that other dom, we lose sight of our human condition.

In that state, differences become things to fear.

To hold onto love means to allow all differences to be present, without judging, denigrating, or demeaning them.

It means allowing the diversity of our human condition to shine bright, in all its many lights without trying to dim someone else’s in order for ours to be the brightest light.

Not an easy thing to achieve, but if we are to survive as a species, we need to hold onto Love, not war, kindness, not anger.

About the Image

This is the March She Dares Boldly message from my 2023 desk Calendar.

Capturing Life’s Magical Imperfections

Life is full of magical imperfections.

I’ve always seen life through the lens of, ‘no matter how cloudy the skies, the sun still shines behind their sodden blanket.’

It’s been both a strength and a weakness, but, when I peel away the judgements that cause me to see my weaknesses as a roadblock to joy, I find that there is always a gift, always value, beauty and magical imperfections in EVERYTHING.

Always.

It just means that sometimes, life is asking me to dig deeper to find them.

Now, I also acknowledge that my rosy outlook is also a result of the inherently privileged environment in which I live my day-to-day life.

I have always had food on the table, clothes on my back, access to hot and cold running water, secure housing (ok, there was a brief period while I was in that abusive relationship where that wasn’t true) access to education, employment, health care and a host of other life necessities and niceties.

Being positive is easier when fear of nowhere to sleep, how to pay the bills, or worries about how to feed your children don’t cloud your thinking.

Which is part of the impetus for my She Dares Boldly Series. To inspire finding life’s magical imperfections in all things — big/small, consequential/inconsequential/ exciting/mundane.

I also admit, some days it’s harder to do that than others.

Which is when I need to take time for myself. I need to go back into the studio, write it out in my journal, share my sorrows, woes, and sadness with a friend, meditate, sit in silence and listen to my heartbeat, walk in nature or simply, be still.

Self-care is good care of your life and everyone in it.

Allowing and accepting the magical imperfections in how we take care of ourselves is part of the journey of aging and becoming ourselves.

Namaste

________________________

The She Dares Boldly 2023 Calendar is available now! Order your copy HERE.

It’s amazing what is forgotten through lack of doing

OK. So maybe ‘amazing’ isn’t the right word, but it truly does fascinate me how lack of doing something, in this case building a video, can make building a video more difficult when I come back todoing it!

Take the video I’ve created for my She Dares Boldly 2023 Calendar. It took me DAYS! And over the course of those days (which were more precisely my weekend and evenings as my days were busy) I made countless mistakes, rebuilds, retakes, re everythings to complete the video. And, because I don’t have the finished product yet, I had to compile the pages manually – which took a bit of figuring out too!

Yet, here’s the thing. I learned lots. Enjoyed the process (even though it was chocker-block full of missteps) and have the joy of experiencing a great sense of achievement now that I’ve got it done.

There is another aspect to this calendar that is new to me! For the past 4 iterations, I’ve sold them via my Etsy store or e-transfer.

I’m still planning on doing that this year but, I wanted to let people use their paypal accounts too. Getting that properly set up on my blog took a lot of effort, and a lengthy chat with a WordPress expert – they were very patient.

In the end, it’s on my site. Etsy’s the next shop stop.

That’s all to say — the She Dares Boldly 2023 Calendar is available. Thank you to those who kept messaging me to ask if I was creating one. You inspired me. And, in the process I had the gift of learning, growing, accepting and becoming. What a lovely gift.

Non. Je ne regrette riens.

I am unlearning a lifetime of habitually believing that to regret is to sentence myself to a lifetime of always looking back, never moving on.

Dan Pink’s The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward is the impetus for my unlearning.

Now, I could be cheeky and try to turn the tables on his teaching by saying, “I regret reading this book! It’s making me change my mind about something I thought was one of those unalterable life truths.

Fact is, I don’t regret it at all, which in this case, is a good thing because I can’t unread what’s already read.

Regret makes us human. Regret makes us better, writes Pink.

I’d also add, it makes our journey richer – as long as we enlist our regrets to improve our future.

Like, when you say something to your best friend that is insensitive or snarky. Regret rides in fast (at least for most of us it does) compelling us to apologize and make amends.

Pink calls those ‘regrets of action’. The premise being, I have a chance to recalibrate the present by owning and making amends for what I’ve done to harm/hurt another.

The more challenging regrets, he expostulates, are ones of inaction. The roads not taken. The deeds not done.

Those are harder to course correct, and in more instances than not, according to Pink, seldom are.

Those are the ones we carry with us to the grave.

Which gives credence to the oft-quoted Mark Twain aphorism (which apparently he never said)

She Dares to Let Go of the Past

Mixed media journal page. 9 x10″

Letting go of the past is the decision to release ourselves from anger and regret while holding ourselves accountable for our own healing, journey, life..

Sadness for a loss, sorrow for the hurt we’ve caused others or felt ourselves, grief, they may remain, albeit more quietly than when fuelled by anger and regret, but they do not consume our thoughts nor govern how we move through each day.

It isn’t that we forget what happened. In fact, looking back, mining the past for lessons, gifts and value is, I believe, important and integral to our human journey. Unburdened by regret means, we choose to ease the sting out of the memories so that we can be free to look forward in anticipation of the infinite mysteries of tomorrow confident in our clear-minded, light-of-heart approach to the future.

______________________

About The Artwork

Yesterday, I stepped into my studio thinking I’d begin working on some ideas I have for Christmas dinner nametags (I know. I know. I’m compulsive and like to get an early start. 🙂 )

The muse wasn’t interested in Christmas decorations. She was much more concerned about me taking care of my emotional well-being.

Which is what art-journalling is about for me. – Release. Balance. Breath. Space. Contemplation. Allowing. Accepting. Becoming.

I am in awe of the muse’s ability to create space for me to flow and release. Flow and release.

And in that release, allow whatever is within to appear. A signpost on my path.

Do I regret those almost five years I spent in an abusive relationship? I regret how painful my journey of transformation was to those I love. I regret the harm it caused everyone around me. In that regret comes my duty and accountability. To ease their pain, to create space for healing, I had to do the work to heal and reclaim my life.

No. I do not regret that journey. I know my decision to take it was from a place of great confusion, grief and pain. On that journeu, there are so many lessons that fuelled my personal journey into becoming. Me.

Ultimately, I lived through it. And that is a tremendous gift.

And, as I have just started reading Dan Pink’s The Power of Regret, I am still pondering, musing, and imbibing his words and ideas – so, I’ll probably be creating and writing more on this theme I’m sure! 🙂

Pink begins his book with the story of Edith Piaf and how this song became her anthem three years before her death. We played this song at our French/Indian-born mother’s Memorial Service March 3, 2020.