Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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How to listen with an open mind and heart.

Think about the last time you had a disagreement or were in conflict with someone. Did you engage in a discussion with an open mind or heart, or, was your mind made up, and nothing was going to change it?

If you’re like me, in moments of disagreement or conflict, you probably didn’t stop to think about the state of your mind or heart. You probably just wanted to defend against the other’s words, or defend your position because ‘you were right, they were wrong.’

When I stop defending against, or attacking another’s position, disagreements are no longer all about winning, they’re about finding shared solutions that create opportunities for greater connection with another. And when that connection is with a beloved, it leads to deeper intimacy.

Stop. Breathe. Get Present.

That doesn’t mean the discussion, or argument, will begin on calm and tranquil waters. Sometimes, I get going in a ‘discussion’ and find myself in turbulent waters, stirring the pot and making waves.

When I Stop. Breathe. Get Present. it gives me amoment to ask myself, “What do I want in this moment right now?” Do I want this argument to be my hill to die on, or do I want to use this moment to create clarity, opportunity for closeness, understanding, connection? What am I willing to give up to create that?

To create it I must be willing to give up my position and need to ‘be right’. Often, that moment to Stop. Breathe. Get Present. happens mid-argument when realization hits that the argument isn’t about the broken dish or the lost keys or the fact someone didn’t call when they said they would or didn’t complete a task as promised. In that moment when I realize we’re not fighting about ‘the issue’, we’re arguing about our positions, I know that one of us must Stop. Breathe. Get Present.

It doesn’t matter which one of us, but one of us must do it. Why not me?

It isn’t always easy. The stopping, breathing, getting present. Sometimes, I’d rather just be right.

But being right doesn’t create connection or intimacy. It just adds distance, resentment and hurt to my relationships.

I want all my relationships to be fulfilling. For me and the other. Whether an interaction with a sales clerk whom I deem has made a mistake, or my beloved, I want my part of the conversation to come from a place of respect, compassion and empathy.

I don’t always achieve it, but when I do, I feel better. Stronger. More grounded and content with my path in the world and my way of being on it.

And to do that, I must listen with an open mind and heart so that it is not ‘my way or the highway’ but rather, our way together for mutual benefit where regardless of the discussion, I am not acting from a place where ‘disagreement equals rejection’, but from a place where I know, I don’t need to be right to be happy. I just need to listen with an open heart and mind, stay true to my values and create opportunity for both of us to find value in our relationship because I am honouring all my relations.

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Seek Clarity First.

“Where are you right now?”

I realize how off track I was as soon as I hear C.C., my beloved, ask the question. We have invited friends for an impromptu dinner. They’ve been to the condo we’ve rented while renovating our new house before, but it can be tricky to find.

When my girlfriend called to ask, “So how do we find your place again?” I’d immediately leapt to giving directions without first clarifying, “Where are you right now?”

Definitely off track.

In life, no matter where we’re going, to get clear on our path, we need to know where we are starting from.

My directions only confused her until C.C. took over and made it simple. He asked the question and then confirmed, “You’re on the right track. Just keep driving along that road and you’ll see our place on the left, just past the community hall.”

Within minutes they were at our door and we spent a delightful evening sharing food, wine, laughter and watching the Ice Dance Competition at the Olympics.

And I wonder, how often do I do that? Forget to ask the questions before leaping into fix-it mode or jumping to conclusions.

Note to self. When someone’s lost or seeking direction, or when I’m searching for my way, seek clarity first. Understand the situation. Get clear on where I’m at or the direction they’re coming from. Don’t be too quick to jump to the rescue or leap to a conclusion. Or, as stated in Steven Covey’s Fifth Habit in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.”

Words to live by.


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In the realness of being an imperfectly perfect mother – life is possible.

Almost thirty-two years ago, when I first became a mother, I remember wanting to be perfect. To do it right. To not make any mistakes. To be in control. To define every moment. Control every outcome.

And then reality set in.

I was the guide to another human being. They had their own voice. Own ‘being’. Own desires and ideas, thoughts and needs and while I could guide, I could not control them or ultimately, prescribe or design their path through life.

I had to give up my desire to be ‘the perfect mother’ for being real.

It was a wonderful awakening, albeit hard at times to live within the realization that being ‘real’ also meant making mistakes. Lots of them.

I have been blessed with forgiveness, acceptance and gratitude. I have been blessed with two amazing daughters who love me, beauty and the beast. Flaws and facets. Wounds and wisdom.

Watching my eldest daughter step into the role of motherhood this past week has been a gift beyond measure.

To witness her gentleness, her patience, her Love has given my heart reason to soar, to beat wildly, to murmur in quiet assent.

And, it has reminded me that in all things, no matter how dark the night or dreary the day, Love casts a light that makes even the dimmest moments shine. Love illuminates fear and uncertainty, making the road ahead less daunting, more easy to navigate.

When my daughters were born I wanted to give them the world. A world where their mother was always perfect, always wise, always there.

To have continued to want to give them all of that would have set them up for a life of disappointment. Because no matter how hard I tried to be perfect, being myself is fraught with  moments of uncertainty, confusion, even fear. Being myself means not always knowing the answers. Not always being sure of the path.

And being myself means always standing in Love, in spite of and because of my imperfections. It means loving the imperfectness of me so that they would be free to be themselves.

Eleven days ago my eldest daughter became a mother. As I watch her grow more confident in the role, I am blessed to see her letting go of ‘perfection’ so that she stands only in the realness of Love.

In that place, all things are possible. In that place my grandson will have everything he needs to grow up to become himself.

There is no perfect road to becoming a parent. There is only the road we take. And when we take it in Love, trusting in its capacity to light up even the darkest night, the only thing not possible is, perfection.

 

 


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Starry, Starry Dreams (a story)

Once upon a time there was a little boy who believed he could touch the stars. If only…

Every night he would climb out his bedroom window and crawl up onto the roof of his house. While the world slept below him, he would lie on his back and gaze up into the night time sky, memorizing the positions of all the stars, dreaming of one day flying to the moon, of soaring amongst the celestial beauty above.

One night, his mother came to his room and found him missing from his bed. Not realizing he was on the roof, she became frantic. She woke up his father, crying fearfully. They called the police. They called their neighbours. A search party was organized.

Meanwhile, the little boy lay on the roof, lost in wonder of the stars above. He didn’t hear their frantic calls. Didn’t know that they were searching for him. He knew only that he was safe amongst the wonder of the nighttime sky, dreaming of one day building a space ship and flying beyond his wildest imaginings of life here on earth.

As he always did after an hour of star-gazing, the little boy climbed quietly back down from the roof into his room to go back to bed. But this night, he found his mother sitting on his bed, clutching his teddy bear. Tears streamed down her face. Her body shook with sobs.

The little boy saw his mother and did not understand why she was crying. He ran to her, touched her arm and asked, “Mummy, what’s wrong?”

The mother, stunned to hear her son’s voice, opened her eyes and saw him standing before her. Relief washed over her. He was safe. She grabbed him and pulled him to her breast, holding him tightly. She called out to her husband who was downstairs talking to the police who were in charge of the search party. “He’s here. He’s here.”

Everyone raced up the stairs. The little boy heard the pounding of their footsteps, felt the tremor of the floor as they raced into the room.

His father burst through the door, strode over to him and angrily demanded, “Where were you? Don’t you know you frightened your mother almost to death?”

The little boy was confused. What were the police doing there? Why were they all standing in front of him, arms crossed against their chests?

In a tiny voice he replied, “I was on the roof.” He hesitated and then whispered tentatively. “Counting stars.”

His father was angry. “You’re a bad boy,” he yelled. “How dare you cause such terror in our hearts. You will never go on the roof again.”

The little boy stood his ground. “I’m going to be an astronaut. I’m going to fly amongst the stars.”

The father shouted back. “Quit your foolish dreaming. You can’t eat stardust. You will be a coal miner, just like me. Just like my father before me.”

And so, a dream was lost. The father put bars on the boy’s window. The boy put his dream of one day being an astronaut away.

Years passed. The little boy became a man. He worked in the coalmine. Just like his father. He had a wife. A little cottage and a family of his own. A son and a daughter.

Like his father, he was stern. Distant. Uncompromisable. Like his father, he loved his wife and children but never told them. When asked if he had dreams, he would reply, “Dreaming doesn’t put food on the table. Dreams are as impossible as flying amongst the stars. It will never happen.”

They were happy, in a strict kind of way. There was food on the table, clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads. No one spoke of love. No one spoke of the stars above.

One night, the father walked past his son’s room on his way to bed. Out of the corner of his eye, through the open door, he saw the tiny figure of his son slipping out the bedroom window. Fearful that his son might be hurt, he raced across the room, and grabbed his son just as he was about to slip over the sill and onto the roof.

“What are you doing?” he bellowed as he pulled his son back into the safety of the room.

The little boy, not used to being held in his father’s arms, burrowed into his chest, snuggled his head against his shoulder and whispered, “Counting stars.”

The father stood still. He felt his son’s heart beating against his chest. Felt the softness of his arms around his neck. With his son in his arms, he looked out the bedroom window to the darkness of night. Stars glittered in the sky above. The world slept below.

“Counting stars.” he whispered. And then he repeated it. “Counting stars.”

The little boy nodded his head. “I do it every night,” he said proudly. “One day I’m going to be an astronaut. I’m going to build a spaceship and fly to the moon!”

“No you’re not,” the father began and stopped. As he reached out to close the window, he caught a glimpse of himself holding his son in the reflection of the glass. His eyes misted up at the sight of the tiny figure held in his massive arms.

His son, squirmed in his arms and leaned his body towards the window. “Look dad!” he exclaimed. “A comet.”

The father turned his head and looked up into the stars above as a streak of light flared across the inky black sky. He closed his eyes and took a breath. When he opened them, he looked down into his son’s eyes and saw the starry wonder of his dream reflected back at him.

His heart softened. He smiled. And pushed the window open. “I don’t want you to get hurt son. It’s okay to go on the roof at night as long as you promise to take me with you.”

The boy’s blue eyes opened wide. “Really?” he asked in a tiny whisper. “You’ll go with me?”

Holding his son safely in his arms, the father stepped through the window onto the roof. “When I was a little boy, I used to climb out my bedroom window so I could count stars,” he said. He looked up into the night sky. “I forgot how many stars there are,” he whispered his son clutched tightly in his arms. “Can you tell me how many you’ve counted?”

The boy pointed up and started to count. “Two thousand and twenty-three. Two thousand and twenty-four. Two….” and his father’s voice joined in. “thousand and twenty-five…”

Together, father and son lay on their backs on the roof gazing up at the starry night blanket spread out before them.

And the stars shone brighter than they had ever shone before.

_________________________

I wrote this story many years ago before I even know I was dreaming of Thurlow James’ arrival.


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My actions matter.

I almost jay-walked this morning.

Almost.

I was standing at the corner. The walk sign red. A one way street. No on-coming traffic. I had breakfast and coffees in my hands. Why not?

And then I remembered.

My actions matter. So do my choices.

Even when no one’s watching.

And now, I’m a YiaYa to a six-day old grandson, my actions, words, everything feels like it matters even more.

As I said to my daughter and son-in-love the other day, one of the blessings, gifts and curses of becoming parents is… everything you do and say matters. And your child is always watching. Always soaking it up. Processing and making it part of their world.

You are their world.

Especially in these first formative days and months and years.

And in that world. You are what matters most. Who you are. How you are. The choices you make – even when no one’s watching.

I almost jay-walked this morning.

I chose not to.

I want everything about me to matter in a way that makes the world a better place. Not just for my grandson, but for all of us.

Namaste.

 


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Newborn Life. Infinite Love.


There is resistance in this place.

Resistance because I fear the surrender.

To surrender is to give in completely. It is to fall into that thing called Love fearlessly.

I write ‘that’ and realize, no, it is not ‘that’. It is ‘this’.

This thing called Love.

This thing where fear has no voice. No place. No need to be present.

I surrender.

I fall.

And find myself in the infinity of Love.

Totally. Completely. Fearlessly.

On February 8, at 8:27am all 5lb 1 ounces of Thurlow James Alexander came into this world via emergency c-section.

One month early.

We knew he would be early for the past 2 months. A liver disease that can present itself during pregnancy had precipitated the doctors telling my daughter and son-in-love that their son would be born sometime around Feb 19.

Thurlow liked the idea of Feb 8.

It is a wise choice my grandson has made. He has chosen two parents who in the brief five days since his arrival have surrounded him and embraced him and swaddled him in infinite Love.

According to Angel Guide Doreen Virtue, the Number 8 represents complete and unending abundance without any lack. It represents infinity and everything good in the universe which is infinite; infinite supply, infinite energy, infinite time, infinite Love.

He is infinite Love. Precious. Divine. Magical. Miraculous.

I am infinitely in Love with this tiny precious being. He is my grandson and I feel my entire being falling helplessly into infinite Love.

And it is good. Infinitely good.

Infinitely Divine.

I am in Love.