Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


19 Comments

My soul knows

It is a morning, new day, a new week. Opportunities await, shimmering in the light of possibility.

What will you choose?

To stay the course. To stick to the tried and true. To live into your adapted beliefs of what is, or isn’t, possible for you.

What will you choose?

I awoke to these thoughts this morning, my mind stirring out of a deep sleep where I was dreaming.

I was on a boat. Rowing across the water. The vastness of the sky above me, the vastness of the water all around me. I was afraid, but not. I knew if I kept rowing I’d get somewhere. And then, a wave rolled up under me and tossed my boat about and I capsized. Fearing I would drown, I fought the water until I grew so tired I couldn’t swim any longer. “You’ve never tried to breathe under water,” the sky whispered and I dove. and I could breathe under water. And then, I found myself on a distant shore. It was a beautiful island paradise. I was scared to wander through the trees in case the island was inhabited by nasty creatures. And the sky whispered, “You won’t know what’s there until you step away from where you are.”  I wandered into the trees and found myself surrounded by not only the beauty of the forest but also beautiful friendly animals who peeked out from the underbrush or simply walked along beside me — what was most cool was they could all talk and seemed to know what I was thinking because one of them said, “We didn’t want to reveal ourselves until we knew you wouldn’t hurt us.”

and then I awoke.

And I wonder…

What are the walls of my comfort zone made of? My fear of the unknown? My fear of stepping out beyond where I’ve been?

Where does that fear come from and, more importantly, how does it serve me today?

The answer is simple. It doesn’t.

In primordial times, fear of the unknown might have kept me safe from being eaten by sabre tooth tigers hiding in the woods, but, it might also have meant I starved to death.

My fear is learned. As a child, unsure of the world around me, I adapted my behaviours, and my inner beliefs about myself to protect me, to keep me safe, to make sense of the world around me.

The beginning

The beginning

As an adult, my adapted learnings limit my capacity to explore beyond what my mind knows into what my heart knows to be true and real and authentic in my life today.

I painted yesterday — worked on a painting that has been frustrating me and not pleasing me. I decided to paint over it — I was scared. My first thoughts were — what if I mess it up. what if I ruin it?

Well…. I didn’t particularly like it in the first place. How can I ruin it?

But I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where I want to take it.

Well… what if you let it take you? what if you just trust in the process and let what is being created become visible.

And so, I did.

but not without a lot of resistance. Not without a lot of hemming and hawing and avoiding and pushing back and telling myself I can’t do it. I have no talent. I may as well give up.

All adapted learning. All adapted behaviours.

Swimming beyond fear

Swimming beyond fear

And then, a dear friend asked me, (about a totally unrelated but completing related subject) “What are you resisting?”

Yeah. Well.  Me. Resist?

I’m resisting change. I am resisting letting go of my fears and trusting in the process.

Your soul knows what your mind cannot accept, my friend said.

And she was right.

My soul knows I am an artist at heart.

My head wants me to play it safe.

Have a wonderful day.

Namaste.


14 Comments

Two people standing heart to heart

He is sitting on a bench outside of the offices of an organization that works with people with mental health issues.  I am walking past to a meeting further down the avenue.

He sees me. Stares. Gives me a little smile.

I smile back.

He says, “Hi! How are you?”

I stop in front of him, give him my attention. “I’m great. How are you? I haven’t seen you in a long time.”

He pauses before replaying. As if trying to remember, or place me, or see if he actually knows me. He remembers.  “At least two years,” he says. “I can’t remember your name. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. I forget yours too. I’m Louise.”

“Oh right. I remember. I’m Jack.”  (not his real name)

“Nice to see you Jack. It has been awhile. How are you doing?”

He shrugs his shoulders, takes a puff on the cigarette he’s been holding in one hand. He’s tall and gangly. Mid-forties. He sits with his body entangled, one leg over the other, the foot bouncing in constant motion. His body doesn’t move as much as it vibrates in a constant hum of nervous energy flowing.

“You still work there?”

I know him from the shelter where I used to work. I tell him I’ve been gone for almost two years.

He laughs. “Me too. And I’ll never go back. I’m on a life bar. Stupid really. I couldn’t control myself. Someone got fed up with me. Now I’m gone.”

“That’s too bad,” I say.

“No it’s not,” he replies. “I’ve got my own place now. It’s hard. But I’m managing. I got support and I don’t want to go back. But it’s hard.”

“How is it hard?” I ask him.

His body stills for a moment and his eyes focus on me intently.

“I remember. You were always interested in what was really going on. You cared.”

I’m not sure what to say. I sit down beside him and ask again. “How is it hard?”

“The living day-to-day,” he says. “The remembering to do what I gotta do. I come here,” and he waves his cigarette at the building behind us, “because they get me. They help.”

“I’m glad they’re here for you.” I tell him.

“It’s been nice chatting with you,” he says.

He is dismissing me. “It’s been nice chatting with you too. Can I give you a hug?” I ask as I stand up.

He looks surprised. Nervous. Scared.

“Really?”

“Well, I’d like to but only if you want one,” I tell him.

He laughs. “People don’t hug me,” he says. “I scare them.”

I smile. “Would you like a hug?”

His leg that is crossed over the other bounces up and down and then stops. He unwinds his body and stands up. Leans over to put his arms around my shoulders. Lightly, like a willow tree folding over so its branches can kiss the earth. It is a quick hug. A squeeze. His arms are gone as quickly as they touch my shoulders.

“I liked that. Thanks. I gotta go now.” And he carefully butts out his cigarette, tucking the saved bit into the palm of his hand. He waves one hand and returns into the building behind us.

I continue on my way to my meeting, smiling as I walk.

A chance encounter. A brief moment of conversation. A smile. A hug. Two people standing heart to heart. A human connection.

I like that. I carry it with me throughout my day.

 


8 Comments

AlphaHouse: shining a light on the way home

the Chief Bullhead blanket

the Chief Bullhead blanket

I am blanketed in love. Wrapped up in friendship, companionship and care.

Last night, at the AlphaHouse Society AGM, I received a recognition gift for the support I’ve given them over the last year. It was a beautiful and thoughtful gesture, a caring and warm welcome into the friendship of the Society that supports individuals impacted by addictions and homelessness. 90% of AlphaHouse’s clients are first nations. 100% have addictions. And, as Joshua, a staff member who spoke at the beginning of the evening said, ‘every one of them is our teacher.’ And in that teaching, they see their clients as leaders. They lead their own journey, they shine a light on their own path and teach the staff and volunteers at Alpha House how to help, support, care and add their light so they can see their way better.

It is what I find so incredibly inspiring about Kathy Christiansen and her team at AlphaHouse. They do not enter into a relationship with one of their clients believing they know what the individual needs or what has to happen for that person to ‘get their act together’. They step into every relationship looking for opportunities for the other person to guide them. They manifest the 3 qualities of true  leadership  — courage, curiosity and humility — and meet as human beings on the common ground of compassion, love and hope. Their belief is that in normalizing addictions and street life, they awaken hearts to the possibility of what is beyond the narrow confines of addiction and street life. And in that possibility, lives change. Lives are saved.

The work AlphaHouse does is not easy. In fact, it’s very hard. To stand beside someone and walk with them compassionately and lovingly, removing obstacles as they arise, taking away roadblocks as they appear so that the individual can see for themselves through the brokenness of where they’re at takes patience, compassion and Love. It takes a commitment to being present without judgement. It takes a belief in the magnificence of the human spirit that does not waver in the darkness of someone’s addiction acting out and it takes patience.

Last night I received a beautiful limited edition Pendelton blanket designed by a member of the Tsuu T’ina nation. It was a thoughtful and fitting gift. It reflects the care and love Kathy and her team put into everything they do.

I am grateful. I am blessed.

The Chief Bullhead blanket

The Chief Bullhead blanket

After the AGM, when I went to meet my daughter for dinner, I couldn’t leave the blanket in my car. I was afraid someone would see it and break in and take it. I don’t recall a time I have ever felt that paranoid about having my car broken into. I did not want to lose this gift.

When I came home, I laid it out on my bed and when I crawled under the covers I felt myself wrapped in not only its loving embrace, but also the significance of what it represents.

As a Canadian, I am not proud of what we did in the past to First Nations peoples. I’m not proud of what we do today in many instances either. We continue to criticize, condemn and complain. We continue to discriminate. We continue to see through eyes that connect to the pain of the past and do not see the promise of what can be when we walk, side by side. When we see eachother as equals, allowing one another to lead, allowing one another to be each other’s teacher.

This beautiful blanket represents all of that for me and more. In its sacred design, in its rich and vibrant colours, in the story it tells of how Chief Bullhead sent out scouts to mark the Treaty 7 lands for the nation, I breathe into not only the deep traditions of the Tsuu T’ina, I breathe into the hope and love of what is possible when we let go of pain and breathe into promise.

I slept under the warmth of a blanket last night. I awaken.

I am grateful. I am blessed.


10 Comments

Thank you SAS — You make women’s lives better.

I got wrapped last night — not the rhyming, thrumming beat of a voice calling out in musical poetry (as C.C. asked when I got home :)) but wrapped in a beautiful hand-crafted quilt. The wrapping ceremony is part of the ritual of departure the women graduating from Servants Anonymous Society (SAS) participate in when they leave the formal programming to become alumni.

For me, the wrapping ceremony was a thank-you from the organization for sharing my words with the group gathered to celebrate another year of achievement, success, and hard-work at SAS.

As i stood in front of the room, the beautiful quilt drapped around my body, I felt wrapped up in warmth and safety and love and possibility. I felt embraced in the sisterhood of the women who step into SAS broken and frightened and unsure of what to do or how they’re going to do it who, weeks, months later leave empowered; with voice, with hope, with possibility shining in their eyes and plans and dreams unfolding before them. I am one with the sisters, one with the women, one with everyone who recognizes and supports the amazing and important work this agency does in our community.

The SAS mission is to provide long-term treatment programs, ongoing support, hope and wholeness to women aged 16 and over (with or without children) who are victims of, or at risk of, sexual exploitation.

Last year, 235 women and children passed through their doors. Looking at the social impact of their work, it’s a 1:9 return on investment. For every dollar spent, the  impact ripples into the community again and again. Beyond the dollars, SAS creates a living circle of lives saved, children’s dreams restored, and families connected as mother’s, sisters, daughters, aunts, cousins and friends leave the street life behind to claim the life they deserve. A life away from addictions, the sex trade, exploitation, self-harm, degradation and self-hatred. And in that moving away, so much is claimed, regained, restored and built. So much that at one time seemed impossible. Seemed so far away, so impossible, undeserved. From unworthy to worthy is just a thought, but it can take a long time to claim it, and for some, for those who do not have the support of SAS or other agencies working to steal people away from street life, the thought of “I am worthy” may never happen.

Street life does that to you. It steals your dignity, self-respect, hope, belief in humankind, belief in yourself. It robs you of your sense of being at home in the world, of having a place to belong where abuse, violence, drugs are not part of the daily norm.

Street life kills

and, Because of SAS, 235 women and children found a path away from that life into the life they deserve, the life that says — you matter. you count, you have value.

I to wrapped last night.

I am grateful. Grateful for the passionate and committed volunteers, staff, alumnae, former participants and women who contribute to and participate in SAS. Grateful that women have a place to run to when the road ahead grows so dark they do not know which way to turn, and can only go to this place where they know there is a possibility to turn their lives around.

The blanket

My SAS Quilt at home in my studio. I am grateful

Thank you Servants Anonymous Society. Thank you Gillian and Teresa and Marina and everyone else who made last night’s event such a memorable and heart-warming evening. thank you for the work you do, the heart you share and the love you give to everyone.

My quilt has the perfect home. It sits on the big leather chair in my studio, waiting to wrap me up as I meditate with my creative muse. It will embrace me in tender, loving warmth as I create and paint and write and simply rest in peace with where I am and how I am doing and what I am creating.

Thank you.

 


12 Comments

Our difference is not only in what we give; it’s in how we receive

Tomorrow evening I’ve been invited to the AGM of an agency in town. They’d like to recognize me for my volunteer efforts on their behalf over the past year. I was surprised when asked to attend. I didn’t really think I’d done all that much — in fact, I think there’s way more I could have done!

In my mind, I always think I need to do more — which is why I’m surprised — they actually think I’ve done lots. Which is of course, the critter stirring up trouble within me. He says “See you fooled them Louise. They actually think you did something.”

What’s with that critter?  Doesn’t he know when to take a break?

Truth is, I control the critter — or he’ll control me. He’s always lurking, sneaking in and disturbing my peace of mind. It’s up to me to look him in the eyes and say, “Enough! Back off jack. You have no role in my life today. I do enough. Give enough. Am enough. End of story.”

This year, as I have done for the past two, I am an Impact Speaker for the United Way’s annual fund-raising campaign. It is a volunteer position that I love and one that I truly enjoy fulfilling on. Yesterday, I spoke to a group of United Way Ambassadors — people internal to an organization who promote United Way within the company. There were about 30 volunteers gathered to learn more about how they can support UW within their organization, and how they can reach out to encourage others to give of their time, talents and treasures to support the amazing work the UW does in our city and surrounding areas.

“Before you reach out to anyone,” said one of the Company volunteers who had helped organize the training, “it’s a good idea to go to the website and make your pledge first. That way, you’ll not only know how it’s done, you’ll also be coming from a place of integrity.”

You gotta walk your talk before inviting others to take the journey.

And I wonder — where does the message, “You don’t do enough Louise,” come from?

It’s hard to ignore that when it comes to ending homelessness, there is so much more to do. So much more I can do!

Yet, why don’t I think what I’m doing is enough?

Bottomline — it has nothing to do with what I’m doing, and everything to do with what I’m thinking. I create, promote or allow 100% of everything that happens in my life. In this case, I’m indulging in stinkin’ thinkin’. I’m allowing the critter to hold the reins on my sense of well-being so he can play havoc with my equilibrium.

Let go you crotchety critter! Rise up peace of mind and take back the reins!

Before I can inspire others to live this one wild and precious life in the rapture of now, I need to walk my talk. I need to stay balanced in that place where the circle is continually evolving through the life-giving cycle of ‘giving is receiving’. In that place, I celebrate who I am, exactly the way I am by honouring what I do and create in the world from a place of Love, gratitude and humility. I mean seriously, if I’m looking to inspire others to share their time, talents and treasures, maybe I need to give myself a break and receive the appreciation of others without sneaking off into the shadow place within that says, “Fooled you! I haven’t done or given enough.”

Maybe what any of us needs to do to quiet the critter is to breathe into our heart so that we can hear our soul calling us to let our light shine without trying to dim it with false modesty. bravado, or any other tactic we use to push away receiving appreciation. Maybe we can all go look in the mirror and smile at ourselves and say, with our heart and eyes filled with Love, “You’re okay (insert your name here). You’re giving of your best, doing your all and making a difference. I give enough. I do enough. I am enough.”

Maybe, making a world of difference means letting our difference be seen in not only how we give, but in how we receive.

 


22 Comments

Staying the course to make dreams come true.

Studio

My creative corner.

I christened my studio space last night and while I didn’t crack a bottle of Champagne against a wall, I did open up the paints and start creating.

I am excited.

It is a dream come true. After hours of moving furniture, pulling up the rug and underlay, scraping the floor of glue and removing strips of wood that held the rug in place, I spent a couple of hours on Saturday sealing the concrete. Yesterday, I lugged all my painting equipment back from my girlfriend’s basement and set up my space.

I am ready. To create. To muse. To throw paint and ideas around on the canvas. I am ready to explore the inner realms of my creative core, searching and wondering and delighting in whatever I find.

Last night, as I worked on a painting that was not making me happy, I saw the parallels in my life.

It’s like working towards a goal. There’s the initial excitement of envisioning what will happen when… your goal is reached.

Studio 1

The drying tables — Gessoed canvases waiting for the muse to strike

There’s the planning and idea-generating. And then there’s the grunt work of setting up the structure, building the framework, creating the map. Sometimes, it’s easy to give up in those moments because — well, because it’s hard and the goal appears so far out on the horizon that reaching it can at times seem impossible.

You dig in. Focus on the task at hand and keep going.

Distractions arise. A shiny object appears on the trail and you think about changing course, redirecting your path.

You dig deeper (or maybe you take a different course, abandon your goal, give up).

For me, creating my studio space has been a long held goal that I kept compromising on, dismissing, altering.

At first, I thought it would be okay to use the space as is — deep, plush red rug on the floor and all. The other section a TV and seating area while the front half was my art-space.

That didn’t work out that well. I didn’t feel comfortable painting with rug beneath my feet — and I hadn’t properly put the table together that I was using and thus, it wasn’t very stable.

I abandoned my space.

For about two years. Occasionally I’d cover the dining room table in plastic, spread more plastic on the floor and paint there — but the set-up was onerous — having to move all my paints upstairs, having to move everything around to make it possible for me to create. And then, having to take it down every time because we needed the table to eat on, and quite frankly, the living room/dining room didn’t look that tidy dressed up as an art studio!

WIP -- need to tone down the green, work on bottom section.

WIP — need to tone down the green, work on bottom section.

And then, I started painting in my girlfriend’s basement and it didn’t matter where I splashed or dripped paint. The floor was concrete. TZ and LS and I painted and laughed and chatted and sipped wine and I loved painting with my two muses, but…

It wasn’t my space. I couldn’t come and go as I pleased, at any time of day or night. My girlfriend has two late-teenage year daughters who still live at home and I often felt like I was interfering in their life — even though I was welcomed. I just didn’t feel comfortable turning up at the door and walking through their living space to get to the studio downstairs.

The idea started to form in my head. If the rug in your basement is the big deterrent, why not take it out?

Ummm…. it’s a big job. I’ve never ripped out a rug before, especially on a concrete floor…

So?  How hard can it be?

And then, at a birthday party for a friend, I chatted with her ex-husband who lays flooring as his business. “It’s easy,” he said and then gave me simple instructions on how to do it.

IMG_4635

C.C. chops up the big old beast

The very next Saturday, C.C. chopped up the big old, heavier than you can imagine home theatre unit that was broken anyway, and I carried out the wood and debris. TV gone, it was a simple matter of moving all the furniture and clutter to the spare room and then, on the Sunday tackling the rug. It took me all day but I did it.

That was a month ago. It seemed there just wasn’t time to seal the floor. Until Saturday when C.C. and I went to the hardware store, bought a jug of clear sealant and I set to work.

And now it’s done. Finished. Complete.

And now, I have my dream come true. A studio space to create in, a special space to simply be present to the muse as she weaves her magic throughout my being, and my life.

All because I had a dream and stayed focused on the job at hand. All because I was committed to my Be. Do. Have. (Be committed to Do what it takes to Have what you want).

My girlfriends and I are planning an art show this fall.

Gotta get busy!

 

 


13 Comments

Taking care of myself.

It is an interesting observation. When I worked at the homeless shelter, after the first year, I seldom got sick. The first year — well that was a different story. I pretty well had a cold a month. But after that, not a one. It was as if my immune system figured out what it needed to do to protect me from viruses and a sea of people who were constantly sick, and strengthened itself.

Almost two years away from that place… and my immune system has gone to sleep in the comfort of not being subjected every day to viruses and coughs and colds.

Which is why, today’s blog is brief.

It’s all about taking care of yourself. It’s about giving yourself medicine first so you can take care of others.

Some bug has decided to take up residence in my stomach and as long as I stay still and quiet, it doesn’t act out. But… the minute I move around? Well, let’s just say it’s hyperactive!

A good lesson though. I thought about going into the office, thought about all the things I should be doing and my ‘the bug’ said, ‘I’m in control of you! I decide when you move!’

which means, I’m laying low today. I’ve brought my laptop to bed, opened the blinds so I can watch the birdies at the feeder in the backyard and will heed my bodies call for rest.

In the meantime, here’s a wonderful video that will inspire, challenge and get you going today! Live your greatness. Live your dreams. Live on the wild side! Live!

And don’t forget to Play!  Don’t forget to have fun!