Where nightmares end

It stormed last night. Thunder rumbled across the sky. Lightning bolts streaked through the night, searing the dark. The wind howled. The trees moaned and I lay in my bed, warm and dry, Ellie snoring on her mat at the foot of the bed and Marley curled up beside me.

I love storms. I love their fierce energy cascading from the sky, rippling across the earth. I love the wind and the rain and the trees bowing and the wind chime tinkling madly in the back yard. I love the sound of the rain pattering on the roof, the water splashing in puddles and dripping from the eaves.

And I love  listening to the storm from inside the safety and warmth of my home.

I am grateful for the roof over my head. I am grateful we live on higher ground, that our foundation is secure, our roof strong. I am grateful for the stove light that glimmers in the dark from the kitchen, the candles ready just in case, the flashlight strategically placed on my bedside table – just in case.

I am grateful I can take precautions, just in case.

I have the resources, the resilience and the necessary strength to take care of myself, just in case.

There was a time…

I was thinking of those times yesterday as I listened to a group of co-workers talk about ‘harm reduction’ — the art of maximizing safety even when someone is engaged in unsafe and risky behaviours.

It’s part of Housing First which forms the foundation of Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. The first step in any housing first model is to get someone into housing, and provide them the prerequisite supports to enhance well-being.

The premise is, you can’t look at options, you can’t see possibilities, you can’t feel safe, when your life is one unstable step after another.

It’s true. You can’t.

Having worked in a shelter for almost six years, no matter how good the service, no matter how well-intentioned the supports, when homelessness sits heavily on your shoulders, believing in the possibility of change, knowing there’s hope for more is a constant battle of reality versus resignation. Life is just too hard, too heavy, too confusing to conceive of your capacity to change.

I know. When I was mired in the darkness of an abusive relationship, when my home was gone, my belongings stored precariously, my family ties shredded, I couldn’t, didn’t, wouldn’t believe there was anything I could do to make it different. It took everything I had to pretend everyday that I was coping with the uncertainty and trauma of what was happening in my life. How could I create change? How could I believe I had the capacity to change my path when I believed I was the one who had destroyed my life in the first place? How could I do anything differently when to do something different meant I was lost? How could I find courage in the fear driving me deeper and deeper into the dark?

I told myself I couldn’t. I told myself there was nothing else I could do. I told myself, this is all there is. This is where I belong. This is what I deserve. This fear, confusion, abuse. This constant uncertainty. This continuous instability would never change. It couldn’t. Because I didn’t deserve anything else. I was 100% responsible for what was happening in my life — and I was powerless to change it.

Homelessness begets helplessness. Losing everything leads to losing yourself. It opens the door to nothing but, more of the same. In the downward spiral of feeling helpless to stop the storm rumbling through your life, sweeping away everything you once held onto or believed would keep you safe, you stand exposed to the harsh and bitter winds of hopelessness. And in that place, even when the shelter provides a roof over your head, even when you know there are three meals to count on every day. Even when you have a bed to sleep in, a chair to sit on, a locker to store your meagre belongings in, others to talk to in a community of people with your shared experience, you never feel safe. you never feel at home, because in being given everything you need to survive, you still do not have the one thing that will lead you home — a place to call your own. A place where you can lock the door, make yourself a cup of tea, butter a slice of toast and dream.

When I was homeless and life stormed all around me, darkness was my companion. In the dark, I could pretend I couldn’t see what was happening. In the dark, I didn’t dream of the storm ending, because dreams always lead to awakening to the nightmare that was my life and I didn’t believe I’d ever awaken from the horror of what was happening. In my disbelief I held onto the dark where fear kept me still and held me fast in the hopelessness of its embrace.

It stormed last night and I awoke to thunder rumbling across the sky. In its passing I am left with the gift of today, the beauty of this place where I am grateful for the roof above my head. This place, where I know that to end homelessness we must first find a place to call home. A place where the nightmare of homelessness ends and dreams begin again.

Celebrating 27 years of life.

IMG_4139I remember this day 27 years ago. It was a bright and sunny Thursday. We had been anticipating the birth of our first child and her due date had long since passed. Every second day I would walk the half hour to the hospital, have a natal stress test, meet a friend for lunch and then walk home. On those days when I wasn’t going for a stress test,  my dog Max and I would walk throughout the city, enjoying the late spring sunshine, stopping to chat with strangers or to visit with a dog we’d meet along our route. Inevitably someone we met would ask, “When are you due?” And I would reply, “Last week. The week before last. 3 weeks ago.

In the end, Alexis Marie slipped into the world 23 days past her original due date. As I lay on an operating table and the doctor cut into my abdomen, I heard her cries from within my womb and my heart melted. I could feel it. That instantaneous giving way of the boundaries that held all known feeling in place. A letting go of all restraint, an abandoning of life as I knew it as this tiny, precious, perfect being was lifted from the safety of my womb and exposed to the world.

I wanted to keep her close. To keep her tied to the umbilical safety of my being the vessel that embraced her every breath.

And I had to let her go. I had to allow the cord to be cut to give her wings room to grow.

They have been growing ever since.

Over the past 27 years I have watched in awe and wonder as this tiny being has expanded into becoming the amazing, beautiful woman she is today. From her first cry to her first smile to her first song, I have borne witness to the magic and miracle of her voice growing stronger. With every breath, every word, every movement, she has taught me about life and love and living fearlessly. Through the gift of her life I have learned to claim my own greatness and celebrate the many exquisite facets of our human condition.

IMG_4110My eldest daughter turns 27 today. Over these 27 years she has taught me the truth about Love. She has shown me the meaning of courage. She has given me eyes to see the miracle of life.

Alexis celebrates her 27th birthday today and as I breathe into this space where grace floods my heart and gratitude fills my every breath, I give thanks for the miracle of her life, the wonder of her Love and the gifts of being her mother.

Happy Birthday Alexis. You make my heart smile.

In every kind of circumstance.

Her text came in at 1am. I heard it’s distinctive ping as I was talking with her older sister. Her text had come in at midnight. A midnight call for help.

I called, we chatted and in the midst of our talk, her younger sister text from Amsterdam to say, ‘we’re here.’

She’s on her way home.

I text back, “My heart is happy. Falling into blissful sleep now,” after her sister and I ended our conversation.

And it’s true. My heart is happy. She is on her way home.

“You’d make a terrible foreign correspondent mother,” my eldest daughter proclaimed.

And she’s right. I would.

And I’m okay with that. Neither of them are foreign correspondents. Neither of them are delving into war torn lands searching for the stories that will awaken our hearts and minds to the need for peace.

But they are, delving in. My eldest daughter delves into matters of the heart and soul every day on her blog, The Wunder Year. Courageously, fearlessly she treds into those vulnerable places where man shies away from. With great heart she opens up her inner world to shine the light for others to see where they need not fear themselves.

It is her fearlessness and honesty that precipitated her midnight text. “Do you regret what you wrote?” I asked. “No,” she replied. “I needed to speak the truth to live without fear.”

In the truth, a door opens, a conversation begins that points towards the light, away from the deeper darkness of the secrets of the heart that kept her apart from someone she loves. In her truth, she is free.

I am proud of my daughters. Proud and oh so grateful for their fearless pursuit of life beyond their comfort zones.

And though I may sometimes worry, my worry is just the stuff of a mother’s heart that would protect her children from scrapes and bruises and falling down upon life’s road.

But that’s not my job. My job is to be here. To stand with open arms and heart, to be that place they can come when they feel the stings of life’s arrows piercing through the delicate fabric of their heart.

My job is to love them, no matter what, in all kinds of weather, in every kind of situation, in every circumstance.

And I do.

I am so blessed.

No more bread and chocolate

I am an emotional eater. When I am worried, unsure, confused, I eat. Doesn’t matter if I’m hungry, or not. Doesn’t really matter what I’m eating either. I just want to keep filling myself up to ease the gnawing that emanates from the pit of my being at unrest.

And this weekend was just one of those times.

My youngest daughter has been in Turkey for two weeks. When first she left the unrest seemed to have quieted down. “We’re not going to go to where the demonstrators are, mum,” she told me confidently. “And anyway, the first week we’ll be in Izmir by the sea. We’ll be fine.” She and a girlfriend had met a couple of friends while at university in the Netherlands who hailed from Turkey. One was flying in from Berlin where he now works and the other was in Izmir. “They’ll make sure we’re safe,” she said.

And for the first week and a half, all was well. I’d check the headlines, not hear any word of demonstrations in Turkey and my heart would be at ease.

And then last week, the headline story on CBC was about more demonstrations in Istanbul. “We’re in Istanbul now,” she text to C.C., her sister, step-sister and myself. “It’s beautiful.”

And it was. Her pictures showed sun and mosques and golden filigree screens and the 101 scarves she seems to have felt compelled to buy. She was having fun.

And then, on Saturday she mentioned  getting caught in tear gas on Friday night. What????  I missed the beginning of the circle of texts as I was in the garden puttering, enjoying the morning sunshine, revelling in the birds tweeting and the flowers coming into full bloom. Tear gas?

I text back. Tell me what happened.

I’m fine she said. Washed my eyes out when we made it back to the hotel. I’m fine.

She text a video of the event. It was creepy. They’re in a restaurant having dinner and a white billowy cloud drifts by the window. Suddenly, they’re running about, coughing, yelling. Clothes to mouths. Eyes wide and tearing. Shaky camera phone. And one man sits stoically in front of his meal and continues to eat while the others retreat as far back into the restaurant as they can.

We’re fine now, she texts back. Fine, once she’d gotten through the paroxysms of coughing and her eyes burning.

And then the texts went silent. My phone tells me my last text was undelivered. At 3am her response to my text before the last text comes in. And then it comes in again. I text back. “Did you just resend this one?”

“My text have been acting kind of weird,” she writes.

“They’re probably blocking wifi,” I respond.

Blocking wifi does not give a mother’s heart peace. Nor do stories of clearing out Geza Park with tear gas and water canons and rubber bullets.

They went out for a bit on Saturday but turned back when they smelled tear gas. On Sunday morning, we text and then that was it. I didn’t hear from her again.

Be still my beating heart.

Where is she?

Is she okay.

I stay up to watch the late news.

Go for the late late news just in case.

It doesn’t look good.

I’d sent her a news clipping the day before and she replied, Don’t watch the news. It only makes you worry.

I think of her words as I’m watching all the events in the Middle East. It is a cauldron of unrest spilling over into mayhem everywhere.

I am not reassured.

C.C. calls me from the road as he drives to Saskatoon. I tell him of my worry. He doesn’t tell me to stop worrying. I am grateful. I need this worry. The bread and cheese and chocolate I just ate hasn’t impacted it one iota but at least his words help. Worry is natural, he says, with where she’s at in the world. But she’s got a good head on her shoulders. She will keep herself out of trouble.

She was 40 minutes from Taksim Square when the tear gas found her the other night. She wasn’t looking for trouble, I remind him.

She’ll be fine and you will keep worrying because she’s your daughter. It’s okay. And he’s right. There is no easy way to ease a mother’s worry when her child is in a corner of the world thousand of miles away that is writhing in discord.

You have the number of her hotel, why don’t you call? C.C. asks.

I wait. Until almost midnight. Istanbul is 9 hours ahead. I think it’s only 8 but it’s actually 9 I discover when the lovely woman at the Pensionne tells me my daughter is sleeping. “She’s okay,” she says in her delightfully accented English. “No need to worry. We take good care of her.”

I thank her and hang up and gradually fall asleep. One more day and she’ll be home. May peace surround her.

I know my daughter may kill me for calling — and doubting — her safety. But seriously… I don’t want to eat any more bread and chocolate. This trip could cost me 20 lbs!


Friday Fascinations

As in Friday’s past, I am choosing to share things of wonder, things of humour, things that simply make me smile or go, Ah Ha! simply because I find them fascinating.

Fascination 1:

The lovely Fi Biederman over at Inspiration to Dream, shared a delightful story on her blog yesterday – she also shared a photo of her ‘dream home’ a la Hobbit style. Not my style but it sure is cute!

The story goes…

You Gotta Love Kids

An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said, “Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.”

The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, “What would you want to talk about?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said the atheist. “How about why there is no God, or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?” as he smiled smugly.

“Okay,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff – grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?”

To read the rest, click HERE — you’ll smile when you find the answer!

Fascination 2:

The amazing and talented artist, writer, wise woman, Joyce Wycoff at Imagine Joy Art asks a really profound question on her post, Reconnecting with SkyStone. Joyce, who always stirs my creative soul and awakens my muse writes in her post, “when poetry began to flow through the cracks in my life and painting said, “I don’t care if you do it badly, just do it.” — and then she did it. Read about what she did, and what she asked HERE.  Your heart will be joyful!

Fascination 3:

Rosemary at Hope Building, writes a measured and informed piece on what it takes to create “government as platforms” as opposed to government as control which is prevalent today.  Rosemary inspires me with her focus on sustainability, peace-building and change creation that evolves from the bottom up. You can read her article, “The Opportunities for ‘government as platforms” HERE.  Your peace of mind and action-oriented soul will be delighted in her insight into creating the change you want to see in the world.

Fascination Just Because…

And…. just to stir your soul and raise your spirits, here’s one of my favourite groups — why do I feel like I just discovered them when they’ve been around for quite awhile? — Is it like getting a red car and suddenly seeing only red cars?  One of life’s fascinating questions, I guess, but none-the-less, here is one of my favourites from Of Monsters and Men.

Where do old blogs go?

Because I’m feeling playful, and also because I just feel like sharing, yesterday’s blog post and your comments reminded me of a poem I’d originally written over at my Recover Your Joy blog.

Now before I post my poem, I have a question for everyone. I wrote on Recover Your Joy for 4 and a half years before I started writing here — and I’m curious. Where do old blogs go  when they become unwritten? How do you let an old blog die?

RYJ is built on the Blogger platform. When I started A Year… I moved over to WordPress as my website is constructed on this platform and it just made sense (somehow — I’m no techie but having my blog and website on the same platform pleased me). At first, I wrote on both blogs each day — and not the same post. RYJ has evolved to be broader than its original theme of ‘making a difference every day’, and so, I’ve let RYJ lay dormant.

But, what happens to all those thoughts and ideas and words? What happens to my creative output if I do nothing with it? Is it just filling up space, taking up room like wrecked cars in a junkyard, rusting away, growing rot, decomposing to become fodder for the grist of the muses wheels at another time, or… does it serve another purpose in the universe? Does it have an after-life, after I’ve stopped filling its space with the muses outpouring?

What would you do with an old blog? Do I euthanize it? Do I blow it up? Do I simply delete and forget? Or, do I leave it as it is, a memorial to my past thinking, a marker for future voyageurs who wander into its halls to decipher the mind and ramblings of a blogger from the past? Do I become a blogging archetype in its slipping into the mists of time?

As I ponder these oh so serious questions, I share with you my tribute to Twitter and FB and SM that I originally wrote on Recover Your Joy inspired by a poetry prompt shared by my friend, Glynn Young at Faith. Fiction. Friends.

And, a note to self — you haven’t posted on your poetry blog for awhile Louise. Maybe it’s time to get to it!

Namaste. May your day be filled with wonder, joy and Love. May you experience your most amazing day yet!

Tweeting Juliet

©2011 Louise Gallagher

Romeo, Romeo
come thee hither
I’ve got news that’ll drive you all a twitter
Desdemona, the tart, has run off with a Moor
Now she’s banned from entering her father’s door.

Oh Romeo, Romeo
come here my sweet
I’ve got something I just gotta tweet
’bout a mid-summer’s dream of love gone astray
and a donkey-headed man with a real foul bray.

Romeo, Romeo
Quick! Come here now
I’ve got some juicy gossip for your RSS feed crowd
Ophelia’s been told to get off to a nunnery
and Hamlet is spouting mad-minded comment’ry.

Romeo, Romeo
come and look
This story deserves a big Like in my Book
It’s a comedy of errors about two lost sons
and the search to reunite them by their father Egeon.

Oh Romeo, Romeo
What a mess
I must post the news in 140 characters or less
but all this twittering has put my mind in such a fog
These characters deserve a full post on my blog.

Social Media Confessions

Social Media Confessions:

Confession No. 1 — I don’t spend a lot of time going through my FB page and when I do, I am always conscious of the fact I can get sucked into spending a great deal of time browsing the messages — so I skip lots and keep one part of my consciousness separate so that I don’t get lost in browsing. Which means — I’m not particularly good at responding to people on FB.

Confession No. 2 — I have a twitter account that I sometimes remember to post things to other than my blog and Alexis’ blog. Which means — I’m not particularly good at responding to people on Twitter.

Confession No. 3 — I have a Pinterest, Linked In, Vimeo, YouTube and other SM accounts — but I’m not particularly active or focused on keeping up with the happenings.

There. Now I feel better.

I’ve been feeling a bit inadequate lately around Social Media. I mean, seriously, there are so many options, so many ways it can lift my profile, that I am exhausted just thinking about them.  And still, there are those who seem to be adept at keeping it all on track. Who seem to be able to update their status and tweet their location and link into their latest feats with ease. I know it’s all about focus and ‘putting your attention on it’ but man, where do I find the time to get attentive in the world of SM?

So…. here’s the BIG Confession No. 4 — I don’t care. I don’t care that I’m not a SM guru or that my latest status was automatically posted to FB by my WordPress account. I don’t care.

With or without SM, my life is mighty fine.

With or without SM, I have people I love whom I spend time with, friends who I connect with on a regular basis, and acquaintances who I keep up with as best I can.

I read the news when I feel like it, I watch tv news if I happen to be awake and the TV is on and… if I miss it, I’m ok.

There was a time when being up to the minute in the happenings of the world was a priority. When knowing the direction of the Dow Jones average and the dips of the TSE were all important. There was even a time when knowing where our Prime Minister was at, what he was doing, who he was talking to — and what he was saying — were top of mind. Heck, how would the world revolve if I wasn’t keeping track of what was happening in every corner of the planet?

The times they are a ‘changin’.

And I’m good with the change.

Sure, being conscious of wars in far off places, and tsunamis sweeping distant shores is important, but I no longer let them consume my consciousness. I can’t. My consciousness is far too consumed with being here, in the here and now, right now. My consciousness is far too aware of being present to be distracted by far off happenings that I cannot affect unless I am creating the change I want to be in the world, right here, right now.

There are seven billion ways to make a difference in the world and we the people are each and every one of them.

I’m not a Social Media guru. Heck, I’m not even a Social Media infant, I’m just a gal looking to make a difference by being the light she wants to create in the world.

I’m good with that!

And now, I feel better. I have confessed (those Catholic roots run deep) and told the truth. I don’t do SM well, and I don’t care. I do being me the best of everything I do — and about that I truly care because me being me and you being you is what makes the greatest difference in our world!  🙂