Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Get off the path well-travelled

They are already on the platform waiting for the C-train when I arrive.

He is maybe 6, 7 years old. Ninja backpack on his back. School is waiting. He’s excited to get there.

She is grandmotherly. Red coat. Black boots. Gloves. Matching purse. Her hair carefully coiffed, the metallic blonde of the dye fading at the roots.

He pulls his blue wool toque down around his ears, the rim just covering his eyebrows.

She pulls it back. Straightens it high against his brow.

He pulls it back down.

She gently slaps his hands away. Tells him it looks ridiculous like that and tugs it back into place. The place where she wants it to be.

His smile fades.

She turns to look for the train.

He pulls his toque back down to cover his eyebrows.

She turns back to look at him. Notices what he’s done. Tells him to stop being a nuisance. Tugs firmly and pulls his hat back into place. She smiles at him and says, “There. That’s better. Now leave it alone.”

His shoulders rise up and collapse downward in one fluid movement. He sighs. His hands swing by his side. He doesn’t touch his toque.

It is just a moment in time. A tiny vignette of a grandmother taking her grandson to school. Doing what she believes is her best. The right thing. The best thing she can do to prepare him for his day, and possibly teach him a lesson for life.

I wonder what message he got?

It wasn’t that her looks at him weren’t loving. They were.

It wasn’t that she didn’t have his best interests at heart. She did. I’m sure she loves her grandson to pieces. I’m sure she feels he was being a nuisance. That he needs to obey her, do what she says because that’s the only way he’s going to make it safely to school. If she let him wear his hat the way he wants, might he risk jumping the tracks? Might it lead to his mis-behaving in class, not following the rules, not doing what his teacher says?

You’ve got to obey your elders, I hear her saying in my head. Don’t be a nuisance.

And underneath the obvious concern for his well-being, what other messages were at play?

Don’t do it your way. Don’t colour outside the lines. Don’t think for yourself. You don’t count. You don’t matter. You don’t have the right to … speak up, do it differently, be individual. You don’t have a say. You don’t have a voice.

And for her what fears was she acting out? Did she need to keep control of every little detail so she could feel comforted by what she knows? Did she fear letting him have his way on this small thing would lead to his taking his own path on bigger things? Did she fear the path less travelled?

I don’t know what was going on in their minds or lives, but for me, the play enacted by this duo spoke deeply to my heart. It spoke deeply to that place within me where I want each and every one of us to honour the individual, to celebrate the different, to praise the uniqueness of our being who we are without fearing who we are is not enough.

It spoke deeply to that place within me where I feel powerless to awaken others to the importance of every small act we take with a child. That place where I want to go back and erase all the little things I did when my daughters were small that maybe didn’t celebrate the miracle of their lives because I was too busy to stop and see the gifts of their uniqueness, or too accustomed to taking the path I knew than to see there was a path less travelled that would awaken brilliance in our everyday lives.

It was a small moment with big ripples. A moment where I saw that for us to stop abuse, for us to end violence, for us to free children from living lives of desperation, we need to awaken to living fiercely in Love with this moment right now. We need to step into our power to do every small thing with love and compassion at the heart of every breath we take so that we no longer choose the path well-travelled and step fearlessly onto the path of Love.

 

 


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When there is no icon to speak of… watch your words.

My friend Julie who hails from Australia and writes at jmdoyer: wings and things, wrote a blog yesterday about the LIKE button and other iconic images.

What is the appropriate response, she asks, when someone writes of something that is heartbreaking?

Sometimes, words fail me. Sometimes, all I want to do is give someone a hug to let them know, I hear you, I see you, I am with you in spirit.

And the LIKE just doesn’t cut it.

Her suggestion is that perhaps there needs to be an alternative button, the ‘♥’ button for those instances where words fail you.

Challenge is, if you’re like me, the only icon you know how to create is the 🙂 – and when someone is sharing their ♥, or breathing through sadness, 🙂 doesn’t cut it either. (I just discovered the ♥ in my symbols folder. 🙂 )

I wonder what would happen if for a day, I could not speak any words and was only allowed to use smiley faced and other icons to communicate? Perhaps my day would be like one of those childhood books where between words, images appear to encourage the child to identify what word is appropriate. Would people still identify with me if in telling a story, I showed my emotions through pictures? Would they get my gist if I used icons to depict what was happening in my world?

Some studies show that 7% of communication is verbal. The rest is all implied through body language, inflection, tone, gestures, use of language  —  culture plays a role too, as does gender. In some cultures, a side to side shake of the head implies agreement. In others, it means the opposite. Some people use their hands wildly. Others are restrained. 

I am a hand talker. When I was little, I loved how my French-derivative mother’s hands moved so elegantly and eloquently when she spoke. I wanted to emulate her and remember consciously teaching myself to move my hands like hers. It became so ingrained that a teacher once asked me to describe a spiral staircase without using my hands. Hands placed firmly on the desk, I began to describe the staircase and my right foot started to move in concert with my words — and I didn’t even notice it until someone pointed it out.

My hands are my friends. They talk for me, they express my emotions, feelings and thoughts through writing, painting, creating. They speak for me. They reach out, they touch, they feel, they see. They connect me to my world through all my senses.

One of the exercises I like to use when teaching creative writing is to fill a bag with small objects and invite students to close their eyes and take one object out of the bag. With closed eyes, I ask them to describe the object. Feel it. Hear it. Smell it. See it through your hands and all your senses, I tell them.

I then invite them to open their eyes, look at the object and write about it — but not the object — write about the experience of choosing the object. Write about the story the object speaks to you. Sense it before you write it.

It is always interesting to me how people respond. Watching body language when informed of the exercise is a lesson in fear, confusion, discomfort, awkwardness.

Afterwards, it’s a journey through our senses. From giddy disbelief, the room inevitably turns to calm silence, to a deep sense of connection once students have a chance to breathe into the experience. Posture shifts. Relaxes. Eases. Movement stills. Voices quieten. Eyes soften. In those sacred moments it is possible to feel what people are experiencing without words interfering with their expression.

Perhaps as Julie suggests, we need something more than a LIKE button to express how we feel about something someone is expressing that is sad or anxious, or bewildered, or despairing.

Then again, maybe it’s not an Icon we need. Maybe what we need is to take the time to write the words that truly express how we feel. Maybe, like the bag of unidentified objects, we need to stop, breathe, listen and express our hearts.

When body language is stripped away because we’re in cyberspace, or on the phone, or on the page, maybe we need to put all our attention into the words we use to express our feelings. Maybe we need to use our words wisely rather than looking for a little button to push that says, I see you. I feel your pain. I am with you.

Ha! then again, maybe all we need is an icon like thiscrying eye  to say all that needs to be said.


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In vulnerability there is no room for perfection

My fingernails are covered in gold paint this morning. That’s what happens when I forget to put latex gloves on when I create, especially if I am creating with spray paint, which I was last night.

And that’s okay. Because in the process of creating I found that sweet spot where my mind eases into peacefulness and my heart flutters into rest and I feel the oneness of being present in the moment of creation.

It is the power of creation. The absolute bliss of being aligned with the evolutionary spirit expanding into being present, right now, in this moment without expectation of anything other than to allow what is appearing to find its presence.

I’ve been making Christmas cards.

Okay, well actually, that should read, I’ve been experimenting with making Christmas cards because I haven’t yet perfected my art to the point where I’d be willing to sell these cards.

But I can give them away.

And what could be better than that? To share with someone something I’ve created?

My cohorts and fellow artists, TZ and LS of the Basement Bombshells Art Collective are participating with me in the Benefit Concert for Christmas at the Madison on Dec 8. We’ve agreed that 20% of the proceeds from sale of our artworks will go to support the programs for formerly homeless veterans who are living at The Madison. This year, we’ll once again be buying gifts for the residents as well as preparing Christmas dinner. 

And this year, TZ and I decided to make cards and sell them at the show as well.

Except, I’m not comfortable selling these cards. But I can give them away. Maybe, with every painting sold, I can give away a pack of 5 cards?Or maybe, I give a card with every donation so that even if people are not inspired to buy a painting, they will feel moved to donate?

And then I have to stop and pause and consider what is this really about? It’s not about selling my artwork. I do that already. And it’s not about donating to the cause? So… where does my discomfort with selling these cards come from? Is it from that place of truth or that place of insecurity, that place that seeks perfection to hide my fear of being vulnerable?

See, I don’t think of myself as ‘an artist’. It’s kinda scary to go there. And if I hold onto that place of seeking perfection, I don’t have to worry about being judged…

To call myself an artist would suggest I have talent. And even greater than talent, that I have dreams… And that concerns me because…

Well because I still have that voice in my head that heard the laughter and criticism of my loved ones when I was little and thought it was true– or at least, was too scared to push it away for fear it was true. As a child and an almost teen, I would spend hours drawing and painting and creating only to be told, that’s silly. Or, you have no talent. Or, that’s pretty ugly. Or, you don’t really think you can draw now do you? People don’t make a living doing that. Become a pharmacist. That’s a good occupation for a woman….

Living the life of my dreams is scary — because my dreams include doing things that long ago I was told were not suitable, appropriate, fitting for a woman… for me.

It always amazes me when I start out with a subject matter I think is pretty straight forward only to discover beneath the surface is that place of vulnerability, of realness, of truth that needs exploring and even more than exploring, blowing up, expunging, eradicating.

I am an artist. I find myself in the creative act of painting, drawing, designing, writing, creating. Anything.

Whether or not my work is ‘fit for sale’ is not the issue. I love to create. To work with my hands and body engaged in the act of creating something. Anything.

I am also an explorer. I love to begin with nothing on my mind other than an idea and willingness to explore what can happen when I… do this, add that, go there, step here, stretch there.

When I mash my artists soul with my explorer’s spirit together, when I let them have free rein and reign over the creative process, I am happiest.

Just like writing this blog every morning. I seldom start out with a plan. I generally begin with the willingness to allow. To let appear. To let happen.

It is always an exploration into ‘what if…’ for me.

And in the process, I discover truths, and lies, that need exploring.

I’ve been creating Christmas cards. I’ll be selling them at the Christmas at the Madison benefit concert on December 8 to raise funds to support a cause I’m passionate about — creating and supporting veterans who were once lost on the street and have found their way home to the Madison.

.


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The truth is never the lies that poison us.

It was a moment filled with awe-inspiring grace. A moment that shimmered in Love and joy and gratitude. A moment that took my breath away and gave me back the missing pieces of my heart. Those pieces I didn’t know had not yet returned home and fallen into place.

The moment happened on Saturday. A film crew had been at the house since the previous morning interviewing me for a documentary that will be aired on The Discovery Channel next spring. They had flown my eldest daughter Alexis in for the weekend to interview and on Saturday morning the crew was doing, ‘B-roll’. Getting footage of Alexis and me together, talking, sharing moments, drinking tea, looking at photos,  that they could use for fill in the documentary. There were no microphones. Just a camera rolling and the director giving us instructions on where to sit, how to interact, move our hands, etc. It wasn’t about what we were saying. It was all about how we were behaving.

At one point, the director asked Alexis to tell me something she’s always wanted to tell me but was afraid to reveal. Alexis paused. Thought for a moment and said, “Oh. There isn’t anything. It’s what I love about my relationship with my mother. We tell each other everything. We don’t keep secrets.”

Time stopped. My heartbeat stilled. Silence, in all its luminous radiance descended.

For a moment, we sat. No words. No sound. No breath.

And then, we continued on.

But I felt it. I felt Love’s embrace. I felt gratitude encompass me, fill me up and hold me steady.

I am grateful.

Long ago, I deserted my daughters. At the time, I was desperate, lost, frightened, abused. At the time, I couldn’t think of anything else I could do for my daughters that would keep them safe, keep them whole. I was the reason their lives were in disarray. I was the cause of their pain. Removing myself from their lives was the only thing I could think of that would give them peace.

I was wrong. Very, very wrong. But at the time, I couldn’t see beyond the pain and horror of my life with a man who had lied so completely I believed I didn’t deserve anything other than his abuse.

At the time, I didn’t believe I deserved my daughters’ love. I believed I was unworthy.

Ten years later and I know the truth. Ten years later I know that abuse hurts. Abuse poisons our bodies, minds and spirits. Abuse would have us believe there is no light, no joy, no love. There is only abuse.

It’s not true. The things we believe that keep us from breathing freely. They’re not true – those words we hear in our heads that would tell us we are unworthy, useless, ugly, forgotten, without grace, without love, without beauty or joy or purpose in life.

Those words are not true.

What is true can be found in the beat of our hearts calling us to dance, to laugh, to sing, to speak up, to rise up, to give up believing the lies we tell ourselves that would keep us living small, afraid and beaten down.

What is true is that no one can tell us who we are, or what we’re worth, unless we let them.

Once upon a time I let a man poison me with his lies. I didn’t mean to let it happen. But it did.

I cannot change the past.

I can change how the past holds me back, or keeps me stuck in regret, fear, sadness, sorrow and all the feelings of being less than that would keep me from living life on the other side of regret. What I can change is how I am in the world today.

I am blessed. I am grateful. I am… enough.

On Saturday, my daughter said something I didn’t even know I wanted to hear. When she uttered the words, my heart filled up with joy and gratitude and grace and Love. When she said those words that sang so true, I knew deep within my soul what I have been learning since that moment when the man who lied was arrested and I set out on my journey of healing to find my truth.

On Saturday, my daughter’s words reminded me once again that it is not the falls and bumps and lurches of life that hurt us most. It’s the holding ourselves back from moving over, beyond, free of their turmoil.

On Saturday, I listened to my daughters words, opened my heart to their beauty and wonder and felt myself embraced by grace.

Once upon a time, the truth is, I was abused. Today, my truth is,

I am an alive and radiant woman touching hearts and opening minds to set spirits free.

I am thankful.

I am blessed.

I am in Love.

 


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There is no better time than now.

What are you waiting for?

A better answer — the right one? The perfect moment. The answer?

The question came out of meditation, rising into my consciousness as my body stirred into wakefulness.

What am I waiting for?

I like questions. I like how they can lead my thinking into areas, thoughts, spaces I’ve never before imagined. I like how they open me up to new ways of doing, being, seeing the world and everyone in it. I like how they keep me stepping through the limits of my ‘knowing’ into those places where I never imagined I could ever step.

I also like how questions can keep me stuck, keep me from powering through my resistance because of their constant presence.

Asking questions I know the answer to, or asking questions that I know there are no answers to is one of my self-defeating games. As Thelma Box, the found of Choices once said to me during a process at Super Choices (a follow-on program to the foundational Choices week) that really opened me up to possibility, “I experience you as a woman who will never find an answer good enough for her.”

It’s true. 

I like asking questions. It’s how I learn and understand and grow.

It can also be how I stay stuck. Sometimes, I like to keep asking questions so I don’t have to change. If I’m constantly asking questions, there’s no need to hear the answer now is there?

And that’s the epitome of a self-defeating game. To ask a question, and not heed, listen to or acknowledge the presence of what I know to be true. To ask a question and not stop and breathe into the answer to see if now is the time, now is good enough, now is the moment for me to take action.

See, here’s the deal. Sometimes, my asking questions isn’t because I’m interested in the answer. Nope. Sometimes, it’s because I’m more interested in staying stuck, continuing the dance, fixated on going in circles – all while looking like I’m actively engaged in finding the ‘truth’. Taking the spotlight off of me and putting it on someone else, something else, somewhere else outside of my locus of control is a good way to appear interested in what’s going on around me, without ever having to take responsibility for what is going on around me.

Take the question ‘Why?

It came up this weekend when a film crew was here to interview me for a documentary for a program on Investigation Discover, “Who the bleep…?” It is the story of how I fell into the arms of Prince Charming only to awaken to the Prince of Darkness dancing before my eyes — and, how I survived.

“Why do you think he did it?” the director asked me at one point during filming.

Because he could, I replied. Because it’s what he does. What he’s always known to do to get what he wants. Because it gets him what he wants. Because every time he did something that pushed one of my boundaries and I didn’t hold firm or push back, it gave him permission to push a little harder, a little deeper into my psyche. And, the further he went, the deeper I fell.

To heal, I had to quit asking ‘why did he do it?’. The why of what he did doesn’t really matter to my life today. What matters is, what am I going to do with my life? How am I going to live?

It is so easy to get caught up in wondering why? about someone else. It’s so easy to base my life on how I feel, think, see, or perceive what someone else is doing in my life — and the impact their actions are having on my life. It’s easy, but it’s not particularly healthy, or life-giving.

To truly live my life I have to let go of wondering why someone else is doing what they do, and focus on the things I do and get accountable. 

If I say I want to be happier, and I’m miserable, I have to quit asking ‘why am I so unhappy’ and start asking, ‘what can I do to create happiness in my life in this moment?’ — and then DO IT!

Because, while there might be a better question out there, the only answer worth living is right here, right now in this moment. It’s right here when I commit to creating the ‘more’ I want in my life because knowing what I want more of in my life is the first step to living my life on my terms, alive and in love, celebrating each step I take that brings me to life in the rapture of now.

What am I waiting for? 

Nothing.

Now is my time. Now is the time, the only time I have to turn up and live. Because, there is no better time than now to live it up and shine bright!

 


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Seeds of possibility. Awaken and Shine.

shutterstock_118318609All life contains the seeds of possibility. It’s just, when we’re busy staring into the past, looking back at what went wrong, or what we can’t fix, or what we can’t do, or what others have done to us that we don’t like, our eyes are closed to the light of possibility breaking through the darkness. We see only our fears.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the nights lengthen and the warmth of the sun weakens with every passing moment as the shadows stretch across the snow drawing heaven to earth on the far horizon. In the dark winter nights we huddle around the hearth waiting for the coming of light, waiting for the dawn to break across the horizon and set us free from the darkness all around.

Advent approaches and with it we are invited to step into the sacred, to delve into the mystery and wonder of a child’s birth over 2,000 years ago. A birth that continues to resonate throughout mankind with its power to remind us that we are each and everyone of us, holy, sacred and divine.

15th Century mystic, Meister Eckhart wrote, “What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God fourteen hundred years ago and I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and in my culture? We are all meant to be Mothers of God.”

As I meditated this morning, thoughts of the sacredness of my human condition wrapped themselves around my thinking, challenging me to step out of my meditative state into wonderment and awe. What if, I truly am the divine reflection of amazing grace? What if, we are each and every one of us the embodiment of divine grace enfleshed in the sacred call to be of service to one another through the very act of our being Mothers of God? What if we truly are the expression of the African word  Ubuntu? –  I am what I am because of who we all are. I am because of you.

And what if it is my fear of letting go of who I am to become all that I am because of you that holds me back from becoming all that I am? What if I don’t trust you to be there in all your glory, worthiness, Love? What if I don’t trust you to be your own unique expression of the Divine on earth? What if I don’t trust in the divine nature of Love and its infinite capacity to support me, to stand with me, to be with me in every breath, through every moment?

What if my fear of stepping into the glory and sacredness of my human condition is all I need to overcome to embrace my holy nature, to embody my divine grace, to express my sacred soul and birth my own unique expression of Love?

What if I let go of my fear of being sacred, divine, holy and breathe into the darkness to find the light of Love shimmering on the far horizon, drawing me closer to heaven on earth?

What if, I am, we are, each and every one of us, the Divine expression of amazing grace calling us to awaken from the darkness and shine?

 

 

 

 

arebecause you are?


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Giving myself medicine first

There is a process during Choices training where we focus on the importance of taking care of ourselves first in order to be able to take care of others.

I’m practising giving myself medicine first today.

For the past two days at the office there has been little heat coming out of the vents. Even with a space heater by my feet, (which I can’t put on full because it blows the fuses)  my body has been chilled and I am feeling the worse for the constant chill that has crept into my bones. I came home early yesterday, climbed under a kazillion blankets (okay — maybe just 3). C.C. made me tea, I slept and read and still, I have not regained my equilibrium. My body aches, my nose is running and I am under the weather.

Time to take care of me.

And, because my mind is foggyish, instead of writing a post, I’m sharing what I found to be an inspiring and hopeful video about well-being and medical outcomes . I’ll be back up and at ’em tomorrow.

May your day be filled with honouring your worth. May your thoughts be filled with joy and may each moment unfold in the beauty and wonder of all you are shining out for all the world to see.