My daughter Alexis wrote a beautiful tribute to Ellie.
My daughter Alexis wrote a beautiful tribute to Ellie.
I cried last night.
It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t all gentle flowing, doleful eyes a la Audrey Hepburn, I’m so beautiful when tears run down my cheeks, kinda crying.
These were gut wrenching, oh look my face is all screwed up and mascara is running down my cheeks in ugly black rivulets, kind of tears. These were seriously from the bottom of my toes, ripped out of my heart kind of olfactory run wild kind of waterworks.
He’s not particularly good with crying women. Like many a man. He wants to fix it. Make it stop. Make it work again kind of a guy. What do you do with an irrational, highly emotional, crying from the gut kind of a situation?
Fortunately, he chose to stay present. To stay put in the face of the deluge and simply let it pass.
It was not all pretty. But we got through it.
Which is why I’ve realized I need to make some adjustments to my time here.
I need to give myself some self-compassion, some self-care.
I need to take a break from outward expression to inward exploration, inner healing.
Eleven years ago, when I first began the journey away from abuse, I went online to find answers to what had happened to me. One of the very first places I happened upon was a site/forum for women and men who had had experiences with psychopaths. Suddenly, in reading the stories and comments people posted I discovered, OMG! It wasn’t all me. I wasn’t crazy. I had been in a crazy making situation, but I wasn’t crazy.
After a couple of weeks of exploring the site and its sister site, The Narcissistic Personality Disorder Forum, I decided to write a post, to make myself visible online. The first question I was asked was to tell them who I was.
I remember laughing when I read the question, “Who are you?”
Who am I? I didn’t know. I was so broken, so scared, so lost, I honestly couldn’t answer the question without breaking down into tears. Then I read the question more carefully. They weren’t asking me to tell them who I was actually, what they wanted was for me to tell them my screen name. They wanted my online identity, alias, moniker, pseudonym.
Something that was my unique identifier in the group — but also something that would keep me safe from being easily identified should the psychopath try to find me.
At the time, Ellie was lying by my feet. It was her favourite place to be and my favourite place to have her. I looked down at her and saw this amazing creature who had stood by me, no matter what. and, as she had done in real life, she became my alter-ego online.
To this day, I am still known as Ellie to many of those courageous women and men I met in that forum.
To this day, Ellie remains my inner guide and my protector.
Yesterday, I with a very dear friend who is also my spiritual/healing guide to talk about Ellie’s loss and what I need to do to keep myself safe and well on this journey. She calls it ‘The Green Zone’, that place where self-compassion and self-care override my natural desire/escape mechanism of throwing myself into work and taking care of other people/fix the world kinda response to trauma.
“What can you do for Louise that is self-soothing?” my dear friend asked.
I need to take a break from writing outwardly every day, I said without hesitation. I need to move into my own journey without thinking first about how I present it to the world.
Which means, I’m taking a break from being here everyday so that I can take care of me, myself and I with loving compassion.
The wounds from the past have long since turned to wisdom, but, the trauma is still there. I think it is something I have come to know as truth — we can heal the wounds, we can grow resilience and strength and patch up the cracks. and we can move through the pain and horror. We can heal.
The trauma of the past, however, can still be triggered in moments of deep pain and sorrow and loss.
To ensure the present doesn’t connect to the trauma, self-care is vital. It is essential.
And sometimes, to give ourselves the gift of healing, we must move away from centre-stage into the wings so that our arms can rest as we lovingly move through the broken places.
“I feel so broken, yet I know I’m not broken,” I told my friend yesterday.
Can you live in that tension knowing the truth is that you are not broken? she asked.
Yes. I replied.
And that’s what I have decided to do.
To live in that tension. Explore the edges of the broken to find the gold that fills the cracks.
Or, as Peter Mayer sings in his beautiful poem, The Japanese Bowl
I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
That were made long ago
I have some cracks in me
They have been filled with gold
So now every old scar shows
from every time I broke
And anyone’s eyes can see
I’m not what I used to be
But in a collector’s mind
All of these jagged lines
Make me more beautiful
And worth a higher price
I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
I was made long ago
I have some cracks you can see
See how they shine of gold.
You will be seeing less of me in the weeks ahead. I will occasionally post, but not regularly, and not often.
I will be taking care of me.
Thank you my friends for your love and support. Thank you for being here with me. I love and appreciate you all.
I want to write of all the amazing, wonderful things Ellie has done, but I can’t.
I want to tell you all about her funny, silly antics.
And all I can think of is how I am here today because Ellie saved my life during those long final months of that relationship from hell. It was because of Ellie that I couldn’t let go. I was so scared what he would do to her I simply could not take my own life without knowing that hers would be saved. And I couldn’t figure it out. So we would walk for hours, just Ellie and me, and I would sit on the riverbank and cry and she would sit beside me and lean into me and put her head in my lap and listen to my pain and never once stop loving me and holding me present.
And now, she’s done it again because I couldn’t make the decision of what to do when she had seizures on Monday. She’d had two by the time I got home from the office. C.C. was feeling helpless and then, she had a third one, so we took her into the emergency clinic.
After they’d examined her and told us there wasn’t much they could do, “It’s most likely a brain tumor,” the vet said. I knew we couldn’t subject her to tests and surgery and treatment. She was scared, absolutely terrified, of vet offices, which was why I’d started using Vets to Go. They came to the house and that allowed Ellie to do her usual, “OMG! I’m so happy happy happy to see you greeting” without fearing the unknown, smelly, strange weirdness of a vet’s office. On Monday night, we were going to bring her home after her exam. I already had Vets to Go scheduled for Thursday and were just waiting for the doctor to come back with some medication should she have another seizure.
And then, just before we were leaving, she had a fourth seizure.
My youngest daughter was there. C.C., ne and one of my daughters’ friends who had come with us on the day we had picked up Ellie from the ranch south of the City where she was born and we knew we had to let her go. The seizures were so violent and she was in distress.
Her real name was Ella Fitzgerald, named after the jazz singer who inspired so much of my daughter Alexis’ singing. We called her Ellie for short, Buddha Bellie as a pup. She was so round and squiggly and loving and cuddly.
She was also a scaredy cat.
She didn’t like thunderstorms, loud noises, postmen or any man in a uniform for that matter. She never ever pushed a door open, that would be too scary, even if there was food on the other side of the door, she just couldn’t do it. Instead, she would stand on the other side and whine, her snout just peeking through the crack in the door, waiting for someone to take mercy on her plight and let her in. And the dreaded monster, Dr. Va-coooom. Oh no! When he was trolling the house Ellie was nowhere to be found. Under beds. In closets. Out the door. Anywhere that Dr. Va-cooom couldn’t attack her and chew her up.
She had a penchant for chasing squirrels and would patrol the backyard for hours keeping it free from those pesky marauders who simply would not stop chattering at her, giving her a piece of their mind. In her later years she did less patrolling and more one-eyed, lying on the deck watching them scoot back and forth observing. It was only when they came down from the tree and tiptoed across the yard towards her, cheekily nattering about the nuts they’d found or where they were going to hide them in the garden that Ellie would leap up, as fast as her arthritic bones would let her, and chase them away. And then, she’d do a saunter around the yard, checking out the corners before returning to the deck to lie in the sun again.
But mostly, she was just a big, loveable, friendly, “OMG! I’m so happy, happy, happy! to see” you kind of dog. She greeted everyone as if they were her long lost friend she hadn’t seen for years and years and here they were at her front door, just to say hello. At the park, all it took for one of Ellie’s wiggly, squiggly, OMG! I’m so happy, happy, happy, to see you greetings was for a passerby to simply smile and Ellie would be across the path, squirming and groaning as if they were the only reason she was there. Actually, she mostly thought the only reason they were there was to see her.
And don’t get her near water. Of any kind. Lakes, ponds, raging rivers or even just a mud puddle. They were fair game for Ellie. One whiff of a body of moisture and suddenly, she was deaf, defiant and determined to test the waters. Her favourite was to bury herself in a mud puddle with just her head sticking out. She would smile and wriggle her body and stretch her paws out and sigh. Ahhh, Bliss. She didn’t care about the mud and dirt. She didn’t care if she shook it off and it flew everywhere when she got out. Who wouldn’t love a mud covered, dripping wet wonder pooch whose face wrinkled up in smiles and simply had to rub herself soaking body against you just so you knew how grateful she was for being alive?
It was Ellie’s greatest gift. To let you know how grateful she was for being alive and to remind you that life is precious. Be grateful. Be thankful and, if you happen to see a mud puddle there’s only one thing to do, get in and roll and get dirty. That’s life and isn’t it amazing?
Thank you Ellie for the years of joy, laughter, runs in the park, sojourns by the river and always your unconditional love. And thank you for saving my life. You are my angel.
And thank you everyone for your beautiful, loving words and thoughts and energy and kindnesses.
Perhaps it’s happened. I have reached the nadir of my blogging journey. The ideas have faded. The thoughts vanished. The words evaporated. Maybe I am in a writer’s block? That place where words clump together and an inspiring thought cannot be found?
There’s only one thing to do. ‘Cause, if I’m in the pit, there’s only one way out and that’s UP!
These thoughts lazily drifted through my mind this morning as my fingers touched the keyboard and my eyes looked at the tiny cursor blinking on my screen.
Fill me in, it seemed to be calling. And my mind responded, “With what?”
It doesn’t happen often — that I sit down at my computer in the morning and find myself bereft of a theme, of an idea, or a thought to wrap words around and let the muse have her way with their formation.
Usually, the theme rises out of something that transpired over the previous day, or a fragment of a dream catches my awakening attention, or a lyric of a song sticks with me begging me to noodle away at wondering what it means, or, while reading something sticks and my yellow highlight pen gets even busier as I circle and frame and really, really draw my attention to a particular idea.
And then, as I write that, I remember so many ideas that captured my attention over the weekend.
I’m not sure if it was a song lyric, a piece of a news article or just my mind’s habitual wondering but at one point, I started writing in my journal about the times I’ve left places, people, situations, and how, in the moment of leaving I was really more afraid than feeling brave. I couldn’t see into the future. I knew the present wasn’t working and I knew change was necessary. But… to get to change I had to go through the pain of leaving ‘the now’. And I was scared. Yet, if I could know then what I know now, I might not have given so much energy to clinging to the now of what was, because no matter how hard it was to leave, my life today is a reflection of going through that change. And I love my life today…
“I remember when I left…”
I was also inspired by Ian Munroe over at Leading Essentially who wrote about teams and leadership. Ian just graduated from the Hudson Institute where he took his Coaching Certification and wrote an inspiring recap of what made the course and experience so brilliant.
“What makes a leader?”
Of course, Leigh at Not Just Sassy on the Inside always inspires my thinking and gets the muse fired up, especially with her two-part series on Managing Manna. I love reading Leigh’s posts because she always inspires thinking that begins with “I wonder?”…
“I wonder if I am balanced in my energy? What if I focus my attention on ‘the ask’ of the outpouring of my energy? What if, I get really, really conscious of the ebb and flow of my creative expressions to the point where what I am opening up to in the universe is a reflection of my capacity to receive?”
Val Boyko at Find Your Middle Ground inspired my thinking over the weekend too. She wrote about finding inner piece by moving away from struggle and resistance through what Tara Brach in her article at one of my favourite websites, Spirituality and Practice calls, The Sacred Pause. Val’s words gave rise to the question…
“In this moment right now, what am I feeling?”
There were others. A song on the radio. In particular, Bastille’s Pompeii with the refrain,
“But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?”
“How often do I just close my eyes and pretend everything stays the same?”
A road-sign warning of construction ahead that had traffic slowed to a crawl, yet, at the point where all the orange pylon’s directed two traffic lanes into one, there is not a construction vehicle, a worker, nothing to suggest that construction is taking place. Really?
“Why does a five minute slow down in traffic feel like FOREVER? Seriously? Have you ever been caught at a red light forrrr eveeer?” I didn’t think so.
So many ideas floating around in my mind. So many opportunities to explore and adventure into.
Why did I begin fearing what might not appear when I know if I simply trust in the process and let go of fear, all will be well?
Why is it that even when I know that grace is always present, I still cling to the belief she’s abandoned me?
Which reminds me of my daughter, Alexis, who has started writing again at her blog How I Survived Myself (YEAH!) In her new post titled, Be Love, she writes about reassuring a man on the elevator that he wasn’t stupid, as he claimed, just because he took the down elevator when he needed to go up. “How often do we say things about ourselves that rob us of our happiness, destroy our intimacy and connection with others, and steal the possibility of self-acceptance?”, Alexis writes. Which begs the question…
“How do I love me?”
And now that I’ve put all this wonderment together, I have lots of ideas to carry me up out of the pit of believing there’s nothing left to explore.
Isn’t life amazing?
I love it!
And… for your entertainment!
I am halfway down the stairs as the doors close.
I don’t bother to run. It’s rush hour. There will be another train in a few minutes.
The doors close and I expect the train to move out. But it stays in place. Its engines humming.
I look at the driver through the windows at the front of the train. She smiles at me as we do every morning if I am standing on the platform when the train arrives.
I realize the driver is holding the train for me. I run down the stairs, smile at her through the glass window and mouth ‘Thank you!’ She opens the front set of doors, just for me.
An act of small significance that I carry with me throughout my day.
Later that day, I have to go to the United Way offices to videotape my speech. I am a United Way Impact Speaker and throughout the Campaign season, I talk to groups about giving and supporting the United Way and its agencies. This year, they’ve asked the Impact Speakers to videotape their talks so they can use them for training, and those instances where there’s no speaker available for a meeting.
I use the C-train incident as an example of how small things can make a difference. It’s the best way I can think of to share the impact of how that small act has rippled out into my day – share it with others.
We all have the capacity to share small acts of significance throughout our day.
Holding a door for someone. Smiling at a stranger. Buying a coffee for the next person in line at the drive-through. Picking up a piece of garbage on the sidewalk and throwing it out. Offering to do a chore at home, even when it’s not yours to do because your child or partner is swamped at school or work. Leaving a love note in your child’s lunch for them to find as a surprise, or under your partner’s pillow for them to sleep on all night. Calling someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time just to say hello. Telling a police officer or a teller at the bank, or the cashier at the grocery store how much you appreciate their service…
These are small things that make a difference.
And there are others.
…Not swearing at that driver or honking your horn because they cut you off and instead, letting them in with grace and a whispered, “Bless you. Forgive me.” (I always add the ‘Forgive me’ part because, even if just for a moment, my mind tends to first leap to criticize, condemn and complain about them, even when I don’t want it to!)
…Not spreading the latest gossip you heard about a co-worker’s abysmal performance at a task and instead choosing to offer them support, ask how they’re doing, finding out about what’s going on for them. And when others leap into the fray of condemnation, inviting them to move to compassion, understanding, support.
…Not jumping to conclusions and telling everyone who will listen about the stupid decisions management made because you find out you didn’t get the project you were looking for, or the raise, or the job, or office or anything else that in your opinion is wrong, stupid, ill-formed… — and instead, choosing to support the organization rather than tear it down.
…Not joining ‘The League of Let’s Complain’ and instead, inviting the League to shift their perceptions, step back and see the situation through different glasses, or simply not join in the conversation.
We all have the capacity to make small significances that will ripple throughout our day creating waves of harmony all around us.
Sitting in condemnation of others simply puts us in that precarious place of judgment where, one wrong move could teeter us off our pedestal into the seas of ‘It could have been me. Wait! It is me’.
When we send anger, disgust, complaints and criticisms out into our world, we are creating ripples that reflect the negative spaces we’ve created.
Yes. There is much in this world that is not going right, that dismays me, that causes my heart to ache.
Sitting in condemnation. Arguing the limitations of nothing’s going to change, changes nothing.
Speaking up for possibility. Holding space for miracles. Seeing grace in every moment changes how I see the world, and in its ripple, creates the possibility for others to see the world differently too. And when we all see the world through eyes of possibility, when we all see each other through eyes of compassion, when we all hold space for miracles to happen, miracles happen.
For today, choose to not criticize, condemn and complain.
For today, ask yourself, “What’s my ripple?” and consciously choose to send out ripples of possibility that create a sea of change all around.
Let the change in your perspective begin with you. Be a ripple of Hope. Compassion and Possibility.
Today is my eldest daughter’s 28th birthday.
Imagine. Twenty-eight years ago today the world did not know of the incredible, the amazing, the supercalifragilicious Alexis.
Twenty-eight years later, she is a shining light of love and compassion in the world.
I remember the day she was born. It was sunny and bright. I was 19 days past my due date.
My doctor had been on holidays and I was not about to put myself in the care of anyone else. I also think Alexis knew it was the last time in her life she would have absolute, total control of anything and wasn’t about to let that go!
We didn’t know her gender but I didn’t want to carry her unnamed through those developmental, and vital months, so we named her Balthazar while in the womb. Balthazar was one of the 3 Kings and it seemed apropos to me for such an amazing gift of life.
I was in awe of carrying this precious life within me. To mold my body to its growing form, always leaving room for life to continue to expand, develop, grow.
As I moved. So too did she.
As I ate, so too did she.
As I breathed, so too did she.
It was a sacred journey; to bring life into form; to carry life within me; to be united in science and mystery. It is a bond that has never been broken for I am her mother; even in our darkest moments together, the love that connects us, has never, can never, be broken. For she is Love in human form. She is a gift of Love. She is of my body and though I shall never own her, she will always own part of me. She will always have my heart.
It is a celebration today. The 28th year of the wonder and awe that is my daughter Alexis.
I am blessed.
I am grateful.
I am her mother.
"Only mystery allows us to live, only mystery" ~ Federico García Lorca.
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Artful words to inspire fearless living, everyday. Words & Art by Louise Gallagher
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,'—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.