Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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I wrote a blog and deleted it.

I had a whole other blog written this morning.

and I’ve deleted it.

Personal accountability won’t let me post it.

My sense of fairness, my desire to do the right thing, won’t let me send it out into the world.

In Bruce Weinstein’s excellent book, Ethical Intelligence, he lists the 5 principles of EI as:

  • Do no harm
  • Make things better
  • Respect others
  • Be fair
  • Be loving

As I move through my day, as I continue to work with the amazing people I work with who are committed to ending homelessness and to supporting people in their journey home, I begin with the realization that to do no harm means to allow space for all points of view, for all behaviours, without judging, condemning, criticizing and complaining.

I have let anger, confusion, disappointment, sadness discourage me.

The situation isn’t important — what’s important is — how will I respond? How will I behave?

We all have situations that create angst and cause concern.

My friend Ian at Leading Essentially, posted a catchy phrase from one of the coaches at a course he’s taking. She says, ““I would be happy if you would just change.”

I would be happy if the individual in question would just change their behaviour so that it doesn’t cause so much angst amongst people I admire who are working hard to end homelessness and are not doing what they do to create worse, they are doing it to create better.

But… the other person changing isn’t my issue.

What am I willing to do to change my perspective, to be fair, to be loving — all those are my responsibilities and concerns.

I cannot change another — and I can’t force them to see it my way either.

All I can do is create space for someone to be where they are, as they are, and in the process, accept that we are all where we are at, exactly as we are — and we’re all doing our best, where ever we’re at.

Sure, I may think they can do better — just ask me!

I may believe they’re ‘doing it wrong’.

But in fact, my thoughts about what they are doing are not the issue causing me angst.

My thoughts around how I am responding are.

Which is why I deleted my original post.

That post wasn’t about doing no harm.

It wasn’t about creating better or respecting others — I was respecting the people I work with, but not really all that respectful of the individual in question.

And it definitely wasn’t fair or loving.

So… I deleted it and am learning from it.

In essence, because of the dynamics of the situation, I am in a position of power.

To wield my power as a bludgeon, or a knife, is to do harm.

To exercise my voice as a tool to override theirs does not create better — it simply silences someone who is struggling, like all of us, to make sense of something in their world that is causing them pain, anxiety and fear.

to learn from my actions is my responsibility. To grow from my mistakes holds me accountable.

I wrote a blog this morning that did not create better in the world.

In writing it, I found my way clear to where I could see what I truly needed to do was to be more compassionate, caring, kind and fair.

In deleting it, I let courage draw me out of anger so that I could drive away my confusion and find myself once again, in Love.

May your day be filled with moments of grace that fill you up with limitless opportunities to be compassionate, caring, kind and fair. May you surrender all fear and fall in Love.

Namaste.

 

 

 

 


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What if, forgiveness is the path to love?

We do not know what we say or do that will impact another. We cannot control how what we do will create change, or resonate, or simply fall short in another beings life.

What I do know is that everything I do creates a ripple. It moves the energy around me and pushes it out into the world in invisible waves of…

And that’s the thing. It is the energy invested in those waves that creates the more I want to see in the world.

When I am angry and lash out, the energy around me is filled with the anger I’ve released into the world. The longer I hold onto my angry state, the more angry energy I invest into my ripple effect.

The longer I invest in anger, the deeper my ripple effect becomes entrenched in anger.

It is a no win situation. A dangerous course that will keep me entrenched in living life on the dark side, far from the light of love and joy and peace and harmony.

When I was released from that relationship that was killing me, I was afraid to ‘get angry’. Deep within me I believed that if I became angry, I would never become ‘unangry’. That was my experience in life. My father was an angry man. His anger could erupt like Vesuvius spilling over its rim, burning everything in its path.

And then, he’d stop. For my father, the anger was done. Over. But it never felt like it to me. Hyper-vigilant, I waited for the next eruption because, the ripple of his anger remained. It’s energy was always present and the longer I experienced his sudden explosions, the less I trusted the states where his anger was not present.

In that relationship that almost killed me (and in the end set me free), the memories of my father’s anger were triggered with every instance the man in question erupted in anger. The pattern was so similar to my father’s I eventually lost all discernment. I became convinced, somewhere deep within me, that his anger was my father’s anger and I was once again a powerless child.

Consciously, I was not aware of the deep-seated patterns of my fear of anger. I thought my angst was because of my fear of losing the man who promised to love me and who then continued to lie his way into my heart. In my confusion, and vulnerability to the deep-seated nature of my pattern of freezing and staying still in the face of anger, I became lost in the tsunami of fear that eventually overwhelmed me. Caught in the constant turmoil of my fear that the past truly was the present, I could not see my path out of the darkness. I began to believe there was no light.

I am so blessed.

When he was arrested and I was set free on that morning in May 2003, I was given the miracle of my life.

I knew I had to heal. I knew I had to set myself free of the past so that I could help my daughters heal from the trauma of that relationship, from the horror of almost losing their mother. I knew, deep within me, that if I did not heal myself, if I did not forgive myself and love myself, the sorrow and guilt and sadness of those dark days would be forever present between us.

At the time, there were a lot of voices telling me what to do. Get angry. Write a list of all the awful things he did so that you don’t forget how horrible he was/is. Don’t let down your guard.

I have to forgive myself first, I told them.

But it wasn’t your fault. You did nothing wrong.

What if it isn’t about fault and ‘wrong’. What if forgiveness is the gift I give myself so that the past no longer has a hold on me? What if, forgiveness is the path to love?

To heal, to be present for my daughters, to be real, I had to forgive myself so that I could love myself. All of me. And that included the part where I was a mother who deserted her children.

I could tell you it was a long journey to forgiveness. But in fact, it wasn’t. It was a choice. A daily decision to say, “I forgive me”. And, in that decision, in that simple statement was the choice to not write the litany of my sins, his sins and all the sins of everyone in the world who ever hurt me…

“I forgive me” became my mantra. My touchstone. My strength.

The more I said it, the more I believed. And the more I believed, the greater my truth became, I forgive me.

In forgiveness, the path to Love is always present.

Through forgiveness, the door to my heart is always open.

I am so blessed.

Once upon a time, I almost died for love. Today, the truth is, I live for Love, in Love, with Love always at the core of my being true to who I am, in every way I am in the world today.

In Love, I know my ripple radiates out in constant waves of all that I want to create more of in my life and my world. Because, the deeper my knowing of Love, the stronger its flow becomes in my life and in the flow of Love, the further my ripple stretches out to where I am living on purpose — touching hearts and opening minds to set spirits free.

Namaste.

 


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And that’s the truth.

If I had to rate where I was in my energy yesterday, out of a scale of 1 – 10, I was probably operating mostly between 4 – 6.

It wasn’t about changing my ‘rating’, (which I must mention is an arbitrary scale that exists only in my head) it was about bringing my 100% to where I was at.

And then I smile because I was going to write, bringing my 100% to bear where ever I was at, but I always get confused on bear and bare and didn’t want to embarrass myself by misusing a word.

Not using it as part of the sentence is me not bringing my 100% to my game. Acknowledging my fear is part of my 100%. And, whether I’m at a 2, a 6 or a 10, I must bring all of me to where ever I’m at and be me with all the 100% of me that is turning up in that moment.

Last night, when I got home, I grumbled and complained, and told C.C. all about my day. This bugged me. That bugged  me. I mean really, can’t they see if they just do it my way it would be perfect?

I even said, “I don’t often get like this but in this moment, this is where I’m at.”

And he smiled and gave me a hug and listened to me without judgement or  trying to fix me or offer me advice on how to change what I was thinking.

In his quiet acceptance of where I was, I felt heard and seen.

And it passed.

My disgruntled nature gave way to my ebullient self and I feel once again in balance. I began my day with meditation. I began my day with the conscious intention of living in the now, letting go of holding on and surrendering to fall in Love.

Now, in the process, I also see what it is that was grating against the grain of my essential nature. I know what is at the root of my disgruntledness.

And I am not powerless. Seeing what is there, it is up to me to — yup — turn up, pay attention, speak my truth and stay unattached to the outcome.

So often it is the ‘speaking my truth’ part that stymies me.

Not wanting to create waves, fearing the response of others, telling myself I am ‘wrong’ to feel the way I do or I’m being foolish can hold me back from bringing my 100% to my game.

To live as my authentic, essential self, to be present in the moment, to be the center of my ‘I’, I must fearlessly allow myself the grace of knowing my fear is present and moving into it anyway.

The opposite of fear is not fearless. It is courage. And in my fear, courage is present too. When I am driven by fear, it is courage that draws me out.

It takes courage to accept I am not at a 10 — and be okay with where I’m at. It takes courage to acknowledge I am seeing the world through cloudy glasses. And it takes courage to be willing to change them.

There is a situation that has been bothering me for some time. I have told myself it doesn’t matter. It’s not important. But I can see where I am doing what I’ve always done. Letting myself off the hook of turning up and being present to speak my truth. I have been giving into my fear of rejection and telling myself that ‘letting it go’ is the only way to find peace.

Peace is not built on the resentment that builds when I devalue my truth by letting something go that does not sit well with me — especially if my letting it go is based on my fear, and not my courage to be the change I want to create in the world.

Peace is built on allowing space for all truth to shine, including mine.

And to do that, I must surrender my fear and fall in Love. In love, courage speaks loudly. Courage creates space for me to see into the heart of where I was letting go of my need, my right and my responsibility to bring my 100% to bear or bare, where ever I am at.

And that’s the truth, no matter how I spell it.

 


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Why can’t I have my cake and eat it too?

You know those weeks that seem long, even before you get to the halfway mark?

For some reason, this is one of those weeks.

Could be because I have a lot on my plate, several ‘crisis’ situations I’m dealing with at work as well as a few days away next week that are pushing me faster towards that place where I want to ‘get it all done’ before I even get to it.

Or, it could simply be I’m out of esteem, off kilter, not breathing deeply enough.

And then I remember.

Oops. I didn’t begin my morning with meditation yesterday nor Monday.

No wonder I’m feeling the pressure of time and circumstances.

Time to breathe deeply and begin again.

Always begin again.

I know what keeps me in balance, at peace, calm.

And sometimes, I forget, I sleep in or choose to not get up early enough to give myself the time.  I tell myself I don’t need to do it today and suddenly, I’m feeling out of sync, mis-stepping my way through my day hurrying to catch up to where I want to get to without consciously thinking of the way I’m stepping. My attention focused on getting somewhere, anywhere, I forget, it’s not the destination that makes the journey, it’s each step that creates the path. It’s my mindfulness that embues each moment with grace.

Begin again. Always begin again.

And the key to beginning again… Accept I didn’t do, or did something I didn’t want to do, and stop judging myself for not doing whatever I did or didn’t do.

I think sometimes that is the hardest part of beginning again. To stop judging myself. To stop chastising my inaction, or mis-action, and lovingly accept my human imperfections with grace.

It’s seductive. The judging myself. The beating myself up and flailing myself with the whip of self-denigration.

Because in its seductive call to keep hoisting myself on my own petard, I get to play the victim. I get to be the one I most regret being. It allows me to stay stuck in that place where I tell myself, I can’t change, I never do anything right, I don’t deserve ‘the good’, I’m a loser, Why bother? And that’s where the seduction comes in. Beating myself up for my mistakes allows me to wallow in the victim’s place of telling myselfI am incapable of change.

I am eminently capable of change.

It’s just sometimes, I don’t like it. Or, I want to convince myself it’s too much work, takes too much energy, or requires too much attention — and who wants to always be responsible anyway? Who wants to continually have to turn up for themselves and stand true to their higher good and not play down to their lesser desires?

I mean really, why can’t I have my cake and eat it too?

It is my responsibility to “turn up, pay attention, speak my truth and stay unattached to the outcome.”

Sounds simple, yet often, the challenge begins with the turning up.

Why do I need to turn up? Why can’t I just give into being the brat? Being difficult? Being angry, confrontational, petulant, the problem? Why can’t I just be the bitch and to hell with everyone else?

Because, to live the life I dream of, the life I deserve, and to live passionately in the rapture of now, I need to let go of the things I know don’t work for me today.

I have to stop giving into my lesser desires and surrender to my higher good calling me to let go of limiting beliefs and behaviours so that I can shine for all I’m worth. And when I shine for all I’m worth, I create a world of wonder and awe all around me. In that place, I know contentment, calmness, serenity, peace of mind. In that place, I am aligned, authentic and real.

I awoke early this morning and told myself it was ‘a long week’. I didn’t feel excited to face my day, I felt tired.

It was just a thought. It’s all in my head. It’s all in my attitude. It’s my choice how I begin my day. Am I willing to begin it with grace and ease, or do I want to drag my heels into the morning?

What do I want more of in my life? (and in my journey through each moment?)

Passion. Serenity. Peace of mind. Beauty. Wonder. Awe.

What am I willing to do to create the more I desire?

Do the things I know feed my passion, my desire to live up to my higher good, my capacity to be the light I am that illuminates each step of my path through the darkness.

Which means… I must stop doing the things I know bring me down. Like skipping my morning meditation and beating myself up for my human condition and telling myself things that don’t love and support me.

See! Wasn’t that easy?

Namaste.

 


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In the distance between our hearts

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky. — Rainer Maria Rilke

My dear friend Royce shared Rilke’s quote on my blog the other day in his comment.

When I see ‘the other’ as whole against the sky, I do not focus on the clouds. I do not see only the darkness, or the light. I see all of them, in their entirety and love the distance between us that gives me space to see their all as beautiful, complete, wondrous and magnificent.

C.C., my beloved and I are very different people. It’s not just that he is man. I am woman. He is tall. I am short. He is older. I am younger. He grew up in his family of origin. I grew up in mine. He had 12 siblings. I had 3. I am the youngest. He is the 3rd oldest. He lived on a farm. I’ve always lived in cities. He grew up in Canada. I didn’t.

It isn’t just the surface differences however that contextualize our relationship and make up the distance between us. It is deeper. More profound.

It is in those deep and profound differences, that the power of love prospers.

It is in those deep and profound differences that angst, confusion, and all that jazz grows too!

Learning to love the distance, and the differences, is the greatest gift of relationship. Learning to see into the distances between us, and see the heart of who we are, separate and together, gives me grace and fills our relationship with awe and joy and the knowing, there is no distance between our hearts that cannot be bridged by love.

My friend Maureen, who writes and shares wonderful stories of art-making and artists over at Writing Without Paper, also shared a quote that resonated deep within my being.

“I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes – it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better’, that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry’, and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry’. If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others but in the end, the real forgiveness is in one’s own self.” Maya Angelou

When my daughters were small I taught them that who we are and what we do are not the same. Who we are is inviolate. We are miraculous beings. We are magnificent. Or, as I told the girls when they were young, you are fundamentally good, right to your core. Your behaviour? Well, that can be another matter.

We can change our behaviour. We can’t change the ‘who’ of who we are. We don’t need to.

When I know better, I do better, is a truism I believe in… with a caveat. When I have done something I am ashamed of, or that embarrasses me, if I don’t forgive myself for what I’ve done and commit to doing better, I will carry it with me and, as Ms Angelou states, it will be between my face and the mirror, it will haunt me. And in that place of shame, no matter how much I want to do better, or know better what to do, I will continue to repeat my mistakes because I am holding onto them and the shame of who I tell myself I am.

The same is true in relationship. When I do something that hurts my beloved, and do not acknowledge the hurt, it sits between us, disrupting our peace, our connection, our ability to see, and love, the distance between us against the whole of the sky.

Because when I do something that I know hurt him, or undermined our connection, I am always interacting with him with that something between our faces. I am always defending against my actions instead of expanding into my humanity and humility.

Now, for those who like to offer advice or want to know what is bothering me… that isn’t the point of this conversation. It is that both those quotes have got my mind thinking about relationship and wholeness and what am I doing to bring my best to the table of our relationship. Conversely, where do I come to the feast a pauper, holding onto feelings of not good enough, not worthy enough, not loveable enough to be at the table as an equal and worthy partner?

How I come to the table of our relationship is important. What I bring is equally as important. Do I bring my willingness to be vulnerable? Intimate? Open? Honest?

Or, do I bring all of me with reservations?

Do I fear the distance between us or, do I see in it the endless possibilities for us to share the path and love the all of who we are against the whole sky? Do I see our relationship as that place where no matter our differences, Love is the bridge we travel to span the distance between our hearts?

Food for thought.

Namaste.

 

 


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I can’t embrace forgiveness and love when holding onto fear.

I went to visit my mother last night in the care centre where she’s been for the past few weeks. She has been extremely depressed, not eating and losing too much weight. At 91, her weight was ten pounds less than her age when she arrived at the centre. “I have no appetite and I’m always tired,” she said.

“When you choose not to eat, you will be tired,” I replied.

“But how can I eat?” she asked. “I’m tired all the time.”

For my mother, the inciting incident was a woman at the assisted living facility where she lives who bullied her during a card game. Unable to let it go, her thinking kept spiralling around and around the events, her story became fixated on all that was wrong with what the other woman did and how it hurt her.

I’ve forgiven her, my mother said. But I’m not going to speak to her anymore.

Will that get you more peace or less peace? I asked.

My mother wants peace in her life. It is all she’s really wanted for a long time. Peace.

I have not always been the vessel of peace for my mother. I have struggled to let go of resentment. Of anger. Of feeling abandoned long ago by this woman who gave me birth.

I have struggled to be forgiving and loving and caring.

I can learn a lot from my struggle with my mother. I can grow a lot from seeing where in holding onto what I cannot change, I have held myself back from being all that I want to be in this world — kind, caring, loving, a light of joy, a circle of Love.

See, I’ve carried the same thinking as my mother. I forgive her, but I’m not going to trust her with my heart.

Hello? Who am I kidding?

One of the many things I learned through the experience of almost dying in my search for love in all the wrong places is that I cannot embrace forgiveness and love when I am holding onto fear.

I learned this — but where my mother is concerned, I did not practice it. I have held onto fear. I have kept my distance fearing she will do or say or respond in ways that will make the past, once again, the present. In my mind, I believe that to my mother I am not good enough. I am not who she wants me to be. And in holding onto the belief that I am not the daughter my mother wanted, I keep myself separate and away from being who I am when I let go of fear and stand in Love.

In fear, I forgive… with restrictions. I give… with expectations. I love… with limits.

As I sat with my mother last night and listened to her, really, really listened, my heart broke wide open. My mother has seldom known happiness, not the deep, deep joy of feeling at peace, at one with the world around you. Not because she didn’t want it. She did. Desperately at times. But life for my mother has not given her what she wanted. A lifetime battle with depression. Grief. Fear and worry have robbed her of the peace she so desperately wanted and continues to want today.

As I listened I thought about how challenging life is when depression and fear and worry drown our peace of mind and steal our joy.

I thought about how sad it is to not know our own magnificence. To not feel our own light shining brightly.

My mother has a kind and loving heart. It is the core of who she is.

And like me, she struggles at times to allow kindness to be her first response.

Like me, she has not always known she is worthy.

Like me, she has felt pain and hurt and sorrow and grief.

Like me, she has searched for understanding and yearned to be seen and understood.

Like me, she has struggled to make sense of the past. Struggled to let go of what was never meant to be held onto.

Like me, she is perfectly human in all her human imperfections.

Perhaps, it wasn’t the journey into the darkness of an abusive relationship that was my greatest teacher. What if, it is my lifelong relationship with  my mother? What if, in seeing and hearing my mother last night, in looking into the mirror of believing I can be present and loving, with conditions, I learn one of life’s great truths? 

I cannot embrace forgiveness and love when I am holding onto fear.

Our lives are filled with teachers. People who mirror for us our greatest fears, our biggest obstacles. With my mother, I have held onto the belief that to be safe, I must stand outside and not come in from the cold.

What if I am always safe when I stand in my light and shine fiercely beyond the limits of my fears?

What if I choose to live from the heart of my truth? I am always safe when I stand in forgiveness and embrace Love.

Shine on!


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If you wanna Walk Right – choose Love.

Winter’s returned for a quick blast of chill. The lawn, which was quickly beginning to show its roots, is once again blanketed in the white fluffy stuff.

Where ever I go, the conversation inevitably returns to ‘the weather’. Grumbles. Complaints. Groans of dismay. I mean seriously, yesterday was the first day of spring and this is what the weather gave us?

This too shall melt.

This too shall pass.

Time will flow onward. Seasons will shift. The earth will continue to travel its orbit around the sun and the moon and planets will continue to hold their space in the universe.

These are the things I count on. These are the things I know.

It is perhaps why I hold fast to my belief in Love and its power to heal all, shift all, move all.

There are so many things in this world I can’t count on or at least predict with any degree of certainty.

Weather will always happen. But I don’t know what it will be with any guarantee one day to the next — at least, not living here in Alberta at the foot of the Rockies where our favourite saying is, “Don’t like the weather? Wait 5 minutes.”

We can’t count on people living forever. Because we don’t.

We can’t count on buildings standing forever. Because they don’t.

We can’t really count on mountains standing forever either because if you look at the totality of our planet’s formation, plates have shifted, glaciers have advanced and melted, seas have receded and rivers have carved new paths.

What hasn’t changed, what cannot change is the power of Love to create, to evolve, to be present.

And then, I laugh at myself as I write that because if I look way, way back, back to the time of the Neanderthals, do I really know if Love was all around?

And that’s the thing. I have to, no make that, want to believe it was. It is my belief and I want to believe in something I know I can count on. In that awareness, I get to choose what I believe.

And I believe, Love is the answer.

Art Journal Theme 4: Gratitude

Art Journal Theme 4: Gratitude

Yesterday, while working with a group of individuals with lived experience of homelessness, one of the participants spoke of their battle with addictions. Their battle with cancer. Their battle to claim their heritage, their birthright, their voice, their humanity.

They shared how as an Aboriginal, it was their responsibility to come to the sweat lodge, to pray, to heal. “If we are to change the 28% of the homeless population who are First Nations and make it zero, we must all come to the sweat lodge. We must all pray. We must all heal.”

I was thinking of them this morning as I looked out the window and saw all the snow that fell overnight.

They are sleeping rough. It’s easier to stay clean and sober. Easier to avoid the negative distractions that a shelter, along with the care provided, also offers. When so many desperate people come together, desperate things can happen. “I may not be living right,” they said. “But I am walking right.”

Walking right.

In walking right, there are some things they shared the things they’d learned, the things that can always be counted on.

The change of heart that comes through forgiveness.

The gift of peace that comes with gratitude.

The healing of shame that comes through self-love.

“I didn’t like who I was when I was homeless,” one of the participants, also First Nations, said yesterday. “And because I didn’t like who I was, I kept trying to drown who I was.”

Today, clean and sober, studying at the University, they have a purpose, a drive, a desire to give back, to make a difference, to teach what they have learned so others can find their own way to healing. They are walking right.

The world has not treated these individuals kindly. They were not given an EASY button to press to make it all better.

They have struggled and hurt and fallen back. They have gotten up and been beaten down, again and again.

And still, they move forward. They push through. They struggle onward. And they shine.

Because no matter what, I believe the human spirit desires to be free of what hurts us, to be released from what holds us back, to be clear of the past.

I believe that Love motivates only goodness. Love creates only better. And they are living testaments of the power of Love to create change, to heal.

As I listened to the conversation yesterday I felt the peace and joy of knowing that what I count on was visible in that room. It was there within every breath. Every word. Every action. Because in their desire to walk right, Love can always be count on to show them the path to walking right.

Love.

It is the only answer I count on to walk right.