Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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A wake-up call from Google.

Art Journal: theme DARE

Art Journal: theme DARE

The message was terrifying. A sad smiley face and the words written in soft blue across my computer screen. “Ooops. Google couldn’t find dareboldly.com. Did you mean darebody.com?”

No. I did not mean dare body. I meant dare boldly. I typed it into the browser bar again. Ahh, if fingers talk do you think Google can hear calling it an idiot beneath my typing?  Hope not!!!!

But then I wonder… maybe it can. I get the same message. Can’t find it.

What do you mean you can’t find it? I was just on it. Granted. It was all messed up. The formatting all HTMLy and linear with no graphics and little beauty. But it’s there you idiot. (note to self. Do not call anyone or anything an idiot, even in cyberland. It’s not good for your state of mind.)

Right. But where was I in my panic attack? Oh yah. Terrified to type the letters to my URL into my browser again just in case it was true. All was lost…

Dare I try it again?

My heart was pounding. My body tensing up as fast as a flash freeze  killing off all access to air as it wrapped its icy grip around the naked branches of a winter-bare tree

I opened a new browser. Entered the URL.

Whew!

The cyber-gremlins hadn’t stolen my blog. It was all there.

But for a moment, I had thought it was all gone. I had believed it was destroyed. Vanished. Evaporated. Disappeared into the abyss never to be seen again.

It only took an instant. It only took one message to momentarily pull me from my path, to tear away my peace of mind and sense of rightness with the world.

Yeah. All it took to set my heart racing, my temples pounding and my pulse tripping was a message from Google.

Pretty scary.

I am constantly astounded, and fascinated, by how fragile peace of mind can be sometimes. How the voices of doom can be so close. How the victim’s call can be so seductive.

In the few moments it took for my blog to right itself, for Google to quit sending me dire notes, for cyberspace to give it all back in the right format, I fell into that place where messages of, “I told you so.” “It was bound to happen. Nothing ever goes right for you.” leapt into the darkness of my thoughts spiralling into doom.

Ain’t gonna happen.

But man, it sure is a good wake-up call to remember, the darkness is as close as the edge of the light.

It sure is a fascinating look into how easy it is to get pulled from ease into disquiet. To see how trust and all its demands continues to require my attention, my commitment, my Be. Do. Have of living life in the rapture of now, trusting in the process, trusting in the universe around me, trusting in the Divine to be one with me, of me, within me, championing my well-being, celebrating each step I take, in darkness and in light.

And yes, I know it was just a momentary glitch in cyberspace. No big deal.

But… when the deal is related to this space, this place where I have invested so many words, feelings, thoughts, ideas. This place that has taught me to be vulnerable, open, transparent and dare I say it, trusting. Well, the lesson is always there. The opportunity to dive deeper, learn and explore more, always present.

Cyberspace caught my attention this morning. And in its wake-up call, I was reminded to keep the light on what I’m doing and, to stay unattached to the outcome.

I was also reminded to do the right thing — like maybe, it’s time to backup my database?

Now that would be a good idea!


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ED — I love her. Not you. Let her go.

I knew something wasn’t ontrack. She was calling at 8am.

“What’s wrong?” I ask as soon as I answer the phone.

“Why would you think something’s wrong?” she immediately rebutts.

Ah, that negative fortune-telling. That mother’s intuition. That mother’s worry.

“You’re right. That was uncalled for.” I switch gears. Find my positive frame of reference. Slow down my heartbeat. “What’s up, honey?” I ask my eldest daughter.

“I’m at the hospital,” she whispers.

I can hear the tears in the back of her voice. I can feel the fear leaping into my heart. And in my head, the thirteen year old is busy being right, “Harumph. I told you so. Something is wrong.” I don’t say the words out loud.

“Oh no. What happened?”

She pauses. “I just wanted to get our medical history. I’ve got really bad pains in my chest.”

Panic. Consternation. Fear. She’s only 27. But my brother had heart issues. So does my sister. “What!? You think you’re having a heart attack?”

She starts to cry. “I don’t know.”  She pauses. I remain silent. Waiting for her to speak. And then she blurts it out. “I’ve been acting out.”

I breathe deeply before gently asking, “In what way?”

I know but I need her to speak the words. To let the truth out. “In my eating.”

I can feel the ice gripping my heart. The spider cracks of fear spreading out. I can feel my veins pumping sorrow, sadness, regret. I wanted to believe she was all better. I wanted to believe it was all gone.

I breathe again.

“Tell me what’s happening.”

My daughter has an eating disorder. She’s been doing well and then, it came sneaking back in, insinuating itself in her mind while she was busy thinking she had it all under control.

Mental illnesses are like that. They don’t play fair. They don’t play nice. They have their own set of rules. They don’t have a ‘done by’ date, a best before expiry. They have their own agenda.

I want to take it away from her. I want to make it all better. Make it stop.

And I can’t.

I can only love her. Accept her where she’s at and stay true to what I believe. There is nothing in this world that she can do that would ever stop me loving her, that would ever stop me seeing her as the perfect miracle of life she is.

I want to tell her to look at herself through my eyes, to see the wonder and beauty I see. And I know I can’t.

This is not my path. Not my disorder. Not my role.

My role is to love her. In all kinds of weather. In every kind of condition.

That is easy.

What’s hard is knowing the pain she’s in. What’s hard is knowing I can’t take it away. I can’t stop it. I can’t change it.

And the Al-anon slogan slips into my mind. “You didn’t create it. You can’t change it. You can’t cure it.”

But I want to. I want to not only change and cure it, I want to carry the blame. I want to own it. I want to make it mine. Because maybe if I own it all, she won’t have to. Maybe if she knows it’s all my fault, she’ll be able to let it go. Maybe if ED knows I created him, he’ll let her go and attack me. I can take it. I can carry it.

And that’s the challenge. No matter how hard I want it to let go of her, no matter how I want to help her let go of it, sometimes, things don’t let go of us.

My daughter has an eating disorder. I know enough about them to know that they never really leave. That those who have been afflicted with their presence are never really free of their insidious desire to steal well-being away. That the only ‘cure’ is to live in the light. To be vigilant and stalwart in your desire to stay the path of living free of their calling.

And sometimes, whether an eating disorder, alcohol or drug addiction, or stopping smoking or committing to a workout regime or any of the other things we do to create well-being in our lives, sometimes, we lose ground. Sometimes, we fall back.

And when we do, there is only one thing we can do.

Begin again. Always begin again.

My daughter has an eating disorder. It’s reared it’s ugly head again. Stolen her peace of mind, and her confidence in her ability to live free of its insidious call to pull her under.

She is beginning again.

So am I.

Learning to accept, I did not create this. I cannot change it. I cannot cure it.

All I can do, is Love.

***********************************

Alexis wrote a powerful and moving piece on her blog on Sunday about ED and its presence in her life. The White Flag. 

 

 

 


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What I Believe

From my art journal

From my art journal

We are standing on the sidewalk saying our good-byes, our breath an icy cloud mingling between us, our bodies huddled into our winter clothing. We’ve been talking about a joint project we’d like to engage in and she reminds me that the group is Christian based. “Are you okay with that?” she asks.

“The faith of anyone is not my issue,” I say. “My greatest leap of faith is to jump without a label.”

“What does that mean?” she asks.

And I stumble over the words, trying to articulate the depth of my knowing of who I am and what it means to travel everyday with faith, and no label.

I am a rebel at heart. A soul revolutionary. A seeker. A voyager into spirit matters.

I believe in God, a being greater than all, a Higher Power. I believe in the Creator. In the goodness of the Universe. In the greatness of life, the magnificence of the human being.

I believe there is God in each of us and each of us is an expression of the Divine. Miracles of Life. Vessels of Love.

I believe Jesus walked the earth, that the apostles and saints were his disciples. That holy men and women continue to fill our world with goodness. That buried deep within each of us is the capacity for evil and that the only way to not give it breath is through Love.

I believe that Love is the greatest energy. It is limitless. Unending. Forever. Everywhere.

I believe Love flows all around and through and under and into and within each of us.

And I believe that for me, letting go of the label of who I am in the world gives me the grace to simply be, who I am in the world.

It has taken me a long time to reach this place where I can pray comfortably in my faith, and not claim affiliation, connection, oneness with any religion, creed, or doctrine.

I believe in angels. I believe in miracles. I believe in Love.

It is a personal journey for me. A place of deep meaning. Of revelation. Of exploration. It is a place where I know, deep within me, that the Universe is with me, supporting me, loving me, cheering me on and holding space for all my beauty to shine.

It is not someone else’s responsibility to allow me to shine, to flower, to blossom and grow. It is not someone else’s job. It is mine. And when I trust, in Life and Love and miracles and wonder, when I trust in the universe to turn up with me, I turn up in my magnificence, fearlessly in Love with all that I am.

I believe spirit is eternal. That life in our human form is part of soul’s journey home to spirit.

I believe we are all magnificent creations. The divine expression of amazing grace.

And in my belief, I believe everyone is entitled to pray at their own altar, kneel before the God or gods of their choosing, and honour life in their own special way.

I believe that when we stop hurting others in the name of God and stop killing in our quest for peace and judging for the sake of holding our ground, we will find ourselves in that place where our magnificence shines for all the world to see the wonder and awe of our human condition dancing in the light of love.

And until that time, I believe it is my right, and my duty, to stand in Love for what I know is true for me and to Love the truth of others so that we all have space to shimmer in the light of our shared human connection.

I believe we are all one and in our oneness, there is no difference between us other than the labels we carry to name our beliefs.


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What if… we all shine our lights, no matter what?

photo (44)

Art Journal Theme 4: Create

A friend came over to paint with me on Saturday. She doesn’t paint, in fact, if you ask her, she’ll tell you she doesn’t have a creative bone in her body. Which isn’t quite the truth.

I believe everyone has creative bones in their body. It’s just sometimes, we don’t exercise them or let them express themselves freely. Sometimes, we block the muse with our assertions we don’t have one, or can’t hear her, or don’t like her attitude. Sometimes, the daily noise in our lives gets so loud, she can’t find her way through the muck.

But she is always there, waiting, caring, knowing your heart’s calling to express yourself.

Sure, there are those who can draw straight, curved, crooked and every kind of wicked line and make just a line look beautiful. And there are those who can write a poem that makes hearts weep and catch an image on film that takes your breath away.

Creativity isn’t just in the medium that appear on canvas or the page or photographic paper.

Creativity is expressed in everything we do. How you set the dinner table, dress yourself, decorate your home are all acts of creativity. Heck, there’s even creativity in how people add up numbers or  can see the beauty in scientific data.

Creativity is everywhere, and when we let ourselves freely express our own unique creative urges, we set our world on fire.

Allowing myself to explore my creative core has given me the freedom to become authentically me, to express all of me, not just the parts I judge fit for human consumption.

Delving into my creativity has taught me an amazing truth. It’s allowed me to explore a question that has continually risen up through meditation and through living. And that question is:  What if I’m not broken?

What if the pieces of me are all there, fit together, some a little too tightly, some a little too loose, but the truth is, when I treat myself as broken, I see myself as a mess. As bits and pieces falling off. As incomplete. Unfinished. Unfixable.

What if I make the assumption…. I am not broken… And then live from that place?

What if I choose to believe in my completeness and embrace my wholeness without fearing the parts where my wiring is a bit crossed, or my thinking a bit crooked? What if I simply accept that those bits make up the whole — and the whole is beautifully, magnificently, authentically me.  All of it. Not just the parts I like, or want to accept, or am willing to put on display. All of it. All of me. Every itty bitty, chipped, and cracked and whole and complete bit. It’s all me and all the sum of the parts adds up to one amazing, expressive and creative soul?

And what if, in my willingness to accept ‘I am not broken’, letting myself go wild in my creative expression is the best way I can inspire others to see the beauty and wonder and magnificence of who they are?

What if, my creative expression is how my light pierces the darkness?

What if, each of us allowed ourselves to shine our lights, no matter how scared or broken we believe we are?

What if, it’s all about our willingness to shine and be magnificent, in all our broken down, cracked up, crooked and mis-wired ways?

All of us are creative, in our own ways. None of us are broken. It’s just our wiring has gotten crossed, our arteries blocked with lies appearing as truth, with denial appearing as right, and fear parading as fact.

Spending as much time in the studio as I have recently has given me the gift of self-expression — without fear. It’s unplugged my arteries, rewired my thinking as to who I am and what I am and what I do, and bring, to the world.

It’s set me free to express myself without judging the output, outcome, or awkwardness of my expression — in everything I do. From making dinner to walking the dog to painting on canvas..

A girlfriend came to paint with me on Saturday. In her assertions that she just can’t do it, or it’s not her thing, I saw me with my muse. She’s been calling me to rise up and start a creative revolution. She’s been calling out to me to get busy and live on purpose.

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

 

 


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Speaking the Truth is not always a cake walk

On the second weekend of the Choices journey, (Givers 1) we talk about the 6 points of power:

  1. Pay Attention
  2. Speak the Truth
  3. Be Responsible for YOUR Life (be accountable)
  4. Ask for what you want
  5. Keep YOUR Agreements
  6. Create Value in ALL things

Speaking the Truth can be challenging. For me, the fear of rejection, my fear that someone won’t like me, or will be angry with what I have to say kept me from speaking up and standing comfortably with my boundaries intact. Because my boundaries used to be so weak and permeable, I continually compromised on my truth and subsequently, lived someone else’s truth. In that process, I became more fearful, not less.

For me, speaking my truth is about lovingly standing my ground without fearing the other person’s reactions. I am not responsible for how people respond. I trust myself to be responsible for and with my words. I trust others to be responsible as well. My trust is not based on their actions, but on my ability to discern how their words and actions affect me. When I respond negatively to someone, it is not a reflection of them. It is something in me that is creating that response. My responsibility is to honour what it is in me by taking appropriate action. It is my responsibility to be true to my values, principles and beliefs.

When I speak my truth, I do not have the right to hurt nor harm someone else. My truth is not a stick with which I bludgeon others. My truth is not a knife with which to spear someone else’s heart in order to open them up to me.

My truth is a reflection of me. How I speak it is a reflection of who I am, my values, principles and beliefs.

When I am angry, my truth reflects my emotion, not my being. I have the right to my anger, I never have the right to be cruel.

Several years ago I managed an organization where the principle was extremely abusive. He believed that it was okay to berate staff, to scream and yell for what he wanted, to threaten dire consequences when he didn’t get it.

I didn’t believe the same things.

For six months, I worked hard to keep staff from feeling the brunt of this man’s abusive behaviour. One of the things I did was organize a two day retreat with the core team to facilitate healing and communication. At the retreat, the principle committed to stop yelling, cursing and belittling staff. I committed to staying on board — with a caveat — if the behaviour continued, I would resign.

One day, shortly after the retreat, the principle started shouting and swearing at the staff in a meeting. I stood up and said, I do not accept this behaviour and I left.

In that instance of speaking my truth I was responsible for my actions and words. My truth was, I do not accept abusive behaviour. I could not change the man. I could not determine whether or not others chose to remain under his abuse. I was not that powerful. My power was in my capacity to make the changes I needed to honour my truth.

Inside me there was a voice that wanted to scream at this individual and rant and rave and really tear a strip off of him in front of his staff. While the momentary relief of doing that might have made me feel good, the truth is — that behaviour would have compromised my values, principles and beliefs.

I value courteous behaviour. I value common decency. I value respect.

I stand true to myself when I step lightly through each moment with dignity, grace and respect. When the footprints I leave are filled with love and do not become potholes for others to fall into.

I believe I am responsible for every thought, word I speak, action I take.

I believe I am responsible for my own happiness. And I trust others to be responsible for theirs.

I believe the world is a place of infinite possibility and beauty.

I believe it is up to me to create it in my own life and to lovingly share my light so that the world around me is illuminated with love that will inspire others to step joyfully through their days — regardless of the weather.

When I stand comfortably in my truth, I am standing in love. In love, I do not hurt others. I do not retaliate unkindly. I lovingly state what is true for me, and do not give myself up to make their truth mine.

There are no boundaries to speaking truth as long as we remember, there is truth in everything, but not all things are true. In our truth is the only place we can stand to live free of fear that our truth is not enough.

We are enough.

In all our truth.

***************

Thank you RH for the inspiration for today’s blog.


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What will you carry?

Art Journal Theme 4: Gratitude

Art Journal Theme 4: Gratitude

The plumber arrived last night. Again. Finally. With the parts he’d ordered last week that finally arrived.

We have central heating again. Finally. After one week of no boiler. One week of layering up inside the house and limiting our movements to just the rooms where we had heaters running, we are warm and toasty in every room again.

I am grateful.

Not only for the plumbers arrival and the successful repair of our boiler, but also for the electricity that powered up the space heaters C.C. and I plugged in to keep the main level of our home warm.

I am grateful Old Man Winter took a hiatus from wrapping us up in frigid temps and gave us a break of near or above freezing for the past week.

I am grateful it wasn’t bitterly cold and we had to worry about freezing pipes.

I am grateful it was only a week.

Imagine if it was the entire winter. Or that we didn’t have electricity. Or a roof over our heads in the first place.

Imagine if we hadn’t been able to afford to plug in the heaters, or couldn’t cuddle up together and watch TV, or play Crib, or read a book in the relative comfort of space-heater heated rooms.

Imagine.

There are so many things in my life I take for granted. So many things I assume will just be there because they always are. Like electricity. Or a front door that locks. Or a fridge whose light comes on when I open the door. Or hot water running from the tap.

There are so many things I don’t think about. Don’t give any thought to. Don’t pause to say, ‘thank you’ to because they’re just there. They’re just part of my daily world of comfort.

 

I am grateful for my daily world of comfort.

I was reminded of the importance of gratitude yesterday as I walked from my office to the C-train to take the ride home. Ahead of me, standing on the sidewalk in front of a wellness centre, I saw a man I know from the homeless shelter where I used to work. I sometimes wondered when I saw him there if he ever even saw me. He was often confused, talking to himself, lost in a world of paranoia brought on by mental illness. When I saw him yesterday he was standing outside of a mental wellness centre smoking a cigarette.  

He saw me as I approached and smiled. Called out a cheery hello. How nice to see you! Haven’t seen you in a long while. 

I stopped to chat. He grabbed my gloved hands in one of his bare hands. His eyes were clear. His face clean shaven. He looked well. His clothes no longer torn and dishevelled. He looked like he was taking good care of himself.

You look wonderful, I told him. And it was true. He looked younger. Healthier. Happier.

He laughed. Yeah. I don’t look like such a bum anymore now do I? And he laughed again. A deep, satisfying roll of mirth that rose up from his belly. I’m living on my own now, he said, before going on to tell me about the meds he’s taking and how they’re really helping. About his apartment and how he’s got people helping him. He smiled and held my hands as we stood chatting on the street. It’s really nice to see you, he said. I’m doing so much better now.

I’m so glad, I replied. It’s nice to see you too.

I don’t miss that place [the shelter] he told me, but I sure am grateful it was there when I needed it. I might not made it if it weren’t for that place. Yup. I sure am grateful.

As we parted I carried his gratitude with me. I carried it as I boarded the crowded C-train and found a spot to stand. I carried it with me as I got on and off the train at each stop to let people get off behind me. I carried it with me as I got off at my stop and walked up the stairs towards the road and pressed the light for the walk signal so that I could cross safely. I carried it with me as I walked down the street towards the car where C.C. sat waiting to pick me up and take me home so that I didn’t have to wait for the bus or walk along the icy sidewalks.

I carried it with me as I walked through our front door and Ellie, the wonder pooch, greeted me with tail wagging and body squirming as she expressed her happiness at seeing me.

I carried it with me as I changed from workday clothes to comfy wear complete with cashmere shawl to keep me warm.

I carried it with me as I answered a text from a girlfriend inviting us for dinner on the weekend.

I carried it with me as I drove to the art supply store to pick up a new canvas to work on this weekend.

I carried it with me throughout the evening as I prepared dinner, filled the dishwasher, washed my face, got ready for bed and climbed under the covers.

And I carry it with me this morning as I sit typing at my desk, the room warmed by central heating flowing through the pipes that carry water from the boiler to every room in our home.

The plumber arrived yesterday and fixed our boiler.

I am grateful.

May I carry gratitude within me throughout the day. In gratitude, I am thankful. In gratitude, I am at peace.

What will you carry?

 

 

 


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As The City Grows Taller

Taken from the Roof of the Calgary Drop-In, Dec 2011

Taken from the Roof of the Calgary Drop-In,
Dec 2011

Warm and snug in my car, I look out at the snowy landscape and wait for a red light to change to green. On the other side of the street, construction crews and equipment busily transform a once empty lot into a sparkling new high-rise apartment condo. A billboard promises to deliver an exceptional quality of life to investors smart enough to arrive at that prestigious address.

In the crosswalk, a man shambles slowly across the street from the other side of the road. I cannot see his face. He is huddled into the protective shield of a blue and brown blanket clenched tightly in one dirt caked hand beneath his neck. He walks in front of my car towards the sidewalk, each faltering step leading him out of the line of traffic towards the safety of the curb. As he reaches the curb, he stumbles against the concrete lip separating him from the safety of the sidewalk.

The light turns green. The man stares down at the ground measuring his next step.

In the curbside lane to my right, a well dressed man in a sleek, dark blue car grows impatient. He honks his horn and motions expressively at the blanket enshrouded figure to get out of his way. The man pays no attention. Slowly, methodically, he lifts one foot up and onto the sidewalk and then the other. The crosswalk cleared, the dark blue car roars away as I too move on, the image of the blanket enshrouded figure growing smaller and smaller in my rearview mirror as snow drifts down and covers up all sign of our passing through the intersection of each other’s lives.

Such is life in Calgary. Contradictions. Juxtapositions. And homelessness.

Where once a boarding house offered affordable shelter to single men and women, a skyrise soars into the air with its promise of the good life to come. A man who possesses everything grows momentarily impatient with someone who has nothing and leaves him in the dust of his passing by. Forgotten. Dismissed. A nobody left in the past.

This is Calgary growing taller in another boom. Good times. Affluence. Rising buildings. Rising prices. And homelessness.

In “Homeless: A Prevention-Oriented Approach.” (John Hopkins University Press, 1992), Rene I. Jahiel, MD, PhD. writes: “In general, the events that make people homeless are initiated and controlled by other people whom our society allows to engage in the various enterprises that contribute to the homelessness of others. The primary purpose of these enterprises is not to make people homeless but, rather, to achieve socially condoned aims such as making a living, becoming rich, obtaining a more desirable home, increasing the efficiency of the workplace, promoting the growth of cultural institutions, giving cities a competitive advantage, or helping local or federal governments to balance their budgets or limit their debts. Homelessness occurs as a side effect.”

Calgary. Soaring skylines. Growing up. Changing lives. And homelessness.

We talk of ending homelessness and in the same breath widen the gap between the haves and the have nots with our conviction that growth and prosperity are intrinsic values of our society; at all costs. We plan for the future where everyone will have a place to call home and at the same time create more homelessness through our insistence that bigger is better. Bigger cities. Bigger homes. Bigger incomes. Bigger lives.

We tear down buildings that once housed low income Calgarians without consideration for where they will move on to and call it, progress. We displace renters with condo conversions and call it, free enterprise. We displace and disenfranchise those who struggle at the fringes of our society to fit in because they can’t keep up with rent increases and higher costs of living and call it, the future.

I waited for a red light to turn green and witnessed the city growing taller as a homeless man, huddled into his blanket, grew smaller in my rearview mirror.

*****************************************

I originally wrote this piece in 2007 where it appeared in the no longer active, Drop In Calgary blog HERE. I have edited it slightly and am fascinated by how seven years later, the cycle has once again kicked in — with the boom in our economy making it harder and harder for those on the margins to find a way home.