Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


Dream big. Live large. Be inspired.

dream big copyPassion.

There was a time when I thought passion was reserved for lovers. That only people involved in an intimate relationship knew what passion was.

I love it when I’m proved wrong!

Passion is what I strive to step into every day — even on days like today when the skies are grey and the sun is hiding!

Passion is the force behind my dreams. It’s the energy behind getting the most out of my life, every moment of every day. It’s my life source.

Passion keeps me committed to awakening every morning with a song in my heart. It lightens my spirit and drives me to courageously step forward throughout the day asking myself in everything I do, “Does this create more of what I want in my life, or less?”

Passion fires me up.

Some time ago, while creating a dreamchart of my “Ultimate Life”, I asked myself, what can I do in this moment to inject passion into my dreams.

The answer was easy. Remind myself of my purpose — to touch hearts and open minds to set spirits free. In a nutshell, to live an inspiring life right now. That means, to quit looking at tomorrow as the time I’ll be perfect, or have everything I want or need. It means, to stop thinking about doing it tomorrow — but rather — getting to it today!

When I’m passionate about me, I’m passionate about my life and everyone and everything in it. I live, breathe, exude my passion.

When I’m on fire, my world lights up and I take off and soar through every moment, confident, positive, convinced in my right to claim this place, right where I’m at, as my rightful, deserving place under the sun.

When I’m passionate about me, I step into the moment of being all I’m meant to be and let go of wishful thinking, yearning and pining for a better tomorrow. When I’m passionate about me, I live in this moment being completely, absolutely accepting of who I am because I know, I’m one powerful woman living the life of her dreams, right now.

Do you know your passions? Are you passionate about you?

Some questions you can ask yourself to understand your passions are:

1. What do I love to do for other people?
2. What is it people tell me about me that makes me feel proud, happy, that makes my heart sing?
3. What do I do that makes time stop? Makes me lose all sense of time?
4. What do I love doing most in the world?
5. Am I happiest helping people or creating things that help people?
6. Do I have special gifts or talents that I love to share? What are they?
7. If I can’t think of any special gift or talent I possess — if I did have one, what would it be?

Sit quietly, ask yourself these questions and write down your answers. Don’t judge what you write, just write down what comes to you. Let the answers flow. Don’t worry about punctuation. Grammar. Spelling. Just write it down. Don’t let your inner critic stifle your creativity. Flow.

Once you’ve completed the questions, look for the pattern in your answers. Look to find what speaks to your heart.

For me, I love to help people find their purpose, their passion, their inner beauty.
I love it when people tell me I inspire them.
Time stops for me when I’m writing, and painting.
Anything creative makes time stand still as I immerse myself in the joy of what I’m doing. I love writing, painting, creating.
For me, I’m happiest creating things that help people, bring joy to them. I love creating words that sing to people’s hearts, that ease their pain, and ignite their thinking.
I love to share my writing. My words. My spirit.

See, it’s easy. Go for it. Let your thoughts flow. Let your imagination soar. Get creating.

Everyone has passion. Everyone has a purpose. Everyone has dreams. Living the life of your dreams is the gift you give yourself when you free your mind of the untruths that would keep you from being inspired by the beauty and wonder of you!

Dream big. Live large and be inspired to create the life of your dreams.


You gotta have a dream for a dream to come true.

When I was in my early teens I read everything I could get my hands on by Ayn Rand. She was my idol. My heroine. My voice I could not find. I wanted to be Dagny Taggart, the heroine of her novel, Atlas Shrugged. I wanted to be tall, angular, blonde. I wanted Dagny’s piercing blue eyes. Her strong voice. Her passionate pursuit of her dreams and goals. Dagny was a no-nonsense, focused, driven, altruistic, independent business woman who believed the state had no business running her business. I wanted to be Dagny.

Lofty dreams for a short, dark-haired, brown-eyed and rounded girl. Challenging.

In the journey from teenhood to adulthood, I gave up trying to change my look. Wasn’t going to happen. Once I reached the limits of my 5’3″ height, I accepted my fate of being ‘vertically challenged’ and settled into letting go of trying to scale the highest peaks. I was never going to make it to the top, I told myself, and held myself back from even trying. As to being tall, blue-eyed and blonde, well, that too was relegated to childhood fiction. Wasn’t going to happen. I hadn’t much enjoyed math-induced angular explorations anyway and finding angles on my not so angular body was an even more difficult proposition.

In Richard Wagamese’s novel, “Dream Wheels“, Joe Willie Wolfchild, a rodeo cowboy, loses his dream to an encounter with a bull. He doesn’t know who he is without his dream and falls into a stormy silence back on the ranch his parents and their parents before them had settled into when their dreams had been stomped dead in the harsh reality of the rodeo ring. For his parents, their Native traditions sustained them. For Joe Willie, his anger fueled him. It corroded him from the inside out like the rust on the truck he’s restoring that his parents once used to take them from rodeo to rodeo when they too shared in the dream of being Champion Bull Riders. He doesn’t know what to do with his anger, but a bear walks into his vision and gives him permission to growl through his pain so that he can get through grieving the past into living the life of his dreams renewed.

Towards the denouement of the novel, Joe Willie tells Claire, a battered woman who has come to the ranch looking for her son, “In rodeo you always have to qualify for the big round. To prove your worth. She [the bear] meant that life isn’t rodeo. That I qualify. That I’m a part of things regardless. Guess I forgot that. Or never learned it in the first place.”

No matter our position on the rungs of success, how lost we are on the road of diminished possibilities, or where we land in the rodeo ring, we are a part of it. A part of the life around us. The life of our families, our communities, our world. Our past has brought us here. Our future lies untold. Our present is the moment in which we shine. In which we can choose to step into life, or away from living.

And it is our dreams that carry us through, the darkness and the light. It is our dreams that shine, even when our eyes are closed.

We can choose to step towards making our dreams come true or we can growl our way through each agonizing moment into the darkness of giving up on believing in ourselves, in our dreams, in our possibilities.

Sometimes, our dreams are built on fantasy, like me wanting to look like Dagny Taggart. Regardless of our height, our size, our wealth, or a thousand other equations, the thing is, we gotta have a dream to make a dream come true.

We don’t have to qualify to have a dream, we simply have to believe we do, and  hold it in our hearts and paint it, live it, dream it. And should we choose to let it go, there is always space to dream again, unless we disqualify ourselves from riding bulls and following rainbows where ever they may lead… and that’s when the pain sets in.

The question is: What’s your dream? Are you treating yourself as a qualifier, claiming your rightful place at centre stage of your life unfolding around you? Or, are you letting your dreams fall by the wayside, using anger as a reason to avoid, to let go, to hang up on yourself?

Do you measure the world as unfair, unjust, so that you can walk away from your dreams? Or, do you measure yourself as a winner, the architect of your life, the person who can make it happen because you are worthy of your dreams come true?

We don’t have to qualify to live our dreams, but we do have to keep on dreaming and fearlessly taking the ride that will create reality out of our dreams.


What’s the worst that could happen?

I have been exploring. Creating. Playing.

Some time ago, I bought alcohol inks — a woman in a course I was taking had used the inks in one of the mandala’s she had created during the course and I was curious. I loved the vibrancy of the colours and the watercolour effect they evoked. The first time I tried using them, I didn’t like how they worked. They soaked into canvas without spreading and I didn’t want to work on the special surface they needed.

I put them aside.

A few weeks ago, I was experimenting and decided to give the inks another go. I was working on cards for my Choices trainees and needed something that would give me the kind of look and colours I needed for flowers.

I fell in love.

It wasn’t that the inks had changed. It was that I had changed the surface I was working on. Rather than applying the inks to straight water colour paper or a canvas, I had painted an undercoat with acrylic paint and then applied a thick coat of gloss medium.

On a whim, I decided to try the inks just to see what would happen — my motto being…. what’s the worst that could happen?

Suddenly, a happy surprise ensued. The coat of medium created a non-porous surface against which the inks can flow and bond. Rather than getting stuck on the surface and creating a blog of muddy, dead colour, they edged up against each other and glided across the surface — and, because they are alcohol based, they dried quickly so their colours remain vibrant the their flow isn’t too unpredictable.

Art mirrors life. We go searching for the new, don’t like what we find, put it away, throw it out, or because we don’t understand it, or are afraid of it, don’t dare pick it up before moving  on. Then, one day, we encounter something that reminds us of ‘that old thing’ we didn’t like before, and we decide to give it another try. Or, that old thing appears on our path again and we are forced to give it another go.

And suddenly, a happy surprise ensues.

Or not.

The thing is, neither is a mistake. Not using it or doing it, or using it and doing it. They are both the right path taken at different times.

What counts is the willingness to be open to experimenting, to be conscious of the possible.

I didn’t like how the inks worked when first I tried them — it wasn’t the inks — it was me using a surface they weren’t designed to be used upon.

In being open to experimenting, I accidentally discovered a surface they do work on — even though non of the literature about using the inks suggest doing it my way, that’s okay. It works for me.

Some things work for everyone. Some things work for some. This worked for me.

It is something I often forget. I think I need to do it ‘the right way’, the right way being the way I’ve been taught, or how I’ve read or heard it should be.

But it doesn’t always work for me. Sometimes, I have to be willing to go out on a limb and simply risk. In the risk, I discover my truth. My path. My experience.

And sometimes, I really like what happens.

Sometimes, I don’t and get to choose all over again.

I’ve been experimenting with happy surprises.

I’m kinda’ likin’ the exploration! 🙂




Wow! What a miracle!

keys logoIt is 6:58am. I am sitting at my desk, still in my pjs, putting the finishing touches to my blog, getting it ready to publish.

The phone rings. I check caller ID. My youngest daughter’s name appears on the tiny LED screen. Why is she calling me so early?

“Aren’t you coming to the Keys to Recovery Breakfast?” she asks before I even say hello. Befor I even have a chance to ask, “What’s wrong?” (Why else would she call before 7am?)

I almost drop the phone. On no! I have completely forgotten to watch the time. I am due to be speaking at the Keys breakfast at 7:30.

“I’ll be there in 20!” I yell into the phone. I don’t press Publish. I don’t shut my computer down.

I am stripping off my pajamas as I race into the bedroom where Marley the Great Cat is still sleeping on C.C.’s chest. C.C. opens one eye as I fling drawers open, the closet doors and start rifling through its contents looking for something to wear.

“I need your help, please,” I say, pulling on a pair of pants. And I explain what’s happening. I don’t want to have to find a parking spot downtown during rush hour. Is he willing to drive me?

He doesn’t hesitate. He doesn’t miss a beat. “Of course,” he replies.

It’s a bit of a miracle! Twenty-two minutes after the phone rang, I am walking into the Petroleum Club ready to take on the day.

GRACE- It could have gone two ways. My lateness could have left me feeling anxious, stupid, angry. Or, it could have left me feeling calm, prepared, open.

It was my choice how I chose to respond to the circumstances.

I chose Grace.

I chose to breathe into the anxiety that was mounting as 7:30 approached and C.C. was navigating rush hour traffic.

I chose to remind myself my speech was prepared as I greeted the wonderful Karen Crowther, Executive Director of Keys to Recovery and told her the funny story of my morning’s lapse in time keeping.

I chose to accept myself, exactly where I was at.

It wasn’t about my forgetfulness earlier in the morning. It was all about my being there on time, ready to give my best to inspire the 40 or so guests invited to this special Keys breakfast. That was why Karen had asked me to speak. To inspire the special guests in attendance to get engaged,  interested and involved in supporting the important work Keys does in our community.

To have allowed myself to let anxiety, self-recriminations, or anger interfere with my purpose would have been to make it all about me. It would have been to expect perfection from my human condition, and given that I’d already messed up my timing, that was obviously not on the agenda!

I am grateful. My youngest daughter sits on the board of Keys and, like everyone there, was highly invested in making the event a success. She had the wisdom, and the grace, to give me a call.

C.C., recognizing my flight of panic, stepped in to also ensure I was able to turn up, without anxiety eroding my confidence.

I am blessed. I have a network of people around me, supporting me, cheering me on and shining their light so that I can shine mine.

It isn’t that way for those living in homelessness. Their light is darkened by the realities of living with no fixed address. It is dimmed by the weight of struggling each day just to stay alive. It is shadowed by the addictions, mental health crises and other factors that continually inhibit their ability to take a step away from that place where all they have to carry through the day is the label that they never imagined would be their’s – ‘homeless’.

That’s why Keys to Recovery, and all the other agencies who work together to end homelessness in someone’s life every single day, are so important to our community. It takes a community working together to build a way out of homelessness.

It takes people working together to create a community where no matter their circumstances, those who have fallen on the road of life, have a way to get back home.

And that’s why it’s so important we stand together with Karen Crowther and her amazing team and all the other incredible people who give so much to ensuring those who have not, have someone to stand beside them as they make the journey from the darkness of homelessness into the light of having a home where they belong.

It took a community of caring people to get me to my destination on time yesterday.

It takes a community to end homelessness.

Thank you Karen and all your team. In just one year, 129 people housed. 129 people moving out of homelessness, beyond their addictions into lives that they can once again be proud of.

And thank you Deb for sharing your story, for inspiring all of us to remember that ending homelessness isn’t just about ‘the numbers’. It’s all about the people. It’s all about ensuring that no matter where someone falls, they know there are people walking with them as they find their way back home to that place where they can wake up every morning, look into the mirror with clear eyes and say, Wow! What a miracle!




Self-acceptance trumps self-improvement

Robert Holden, in his book, Happiness Now, writes, “No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.”  He went on to write,

Without self-acceptance, peace is impossible,
with self-acceptance, peace is yours.
Without self-acceptance, love has to wait,
with self-acceptance, peace is welcome.
Without self-acceptance, there is no happiness,
with self-acceptance, you know happiness.
Without self-acceptance, truth hurts,
with self-acceptance, truth heals.
Without self-acceptance, you can accept no one fully into your life,
with self-acceptance, you can.
Without self-acceptance, you are always hiding,
with self-acceptance you spirit is gliding.
Without self-acceptance, nothing is enough,
with self-acceptance, you are enough.
Without self-acceptance, you are not free to grow,
with self-acceptance, your potential is free to flow.
Without self-acceptance, there is no chance,
with self-acceptance, there is always a chance.

To live free I must let go of holding onto shame and set myself free to Love.

I can do all sorts of work to make myself kinder, happier, even more physically strong. But, if I don’t accept myself the way I am, if I carry any morsels of self-hatred, regret and shame, I will still be caught in the trap of believing the past is the present and I am my shame.

Yesterday, I had to give two TV interviews on the issue of the ‘homeless spikes’ that have been sprouting up in cities around the world. I am comfortable in front of a TV camera. I have given hundreds of interviews over the past years of working in the homeless sector, and am confident in what I have to say and how I come across.

Yesterday, in spite of my familiarity with the subject matter, and my passion for inspiring others to shift their perspective of homelessness to a more caring and collective understanding of our human condition, I didn’t want to do the interviews. I didn’t want to be on purpose.

Over the past few months, I have allowed some pounds to creep back onto my body. I think they may have snuck in while I was sleeping because I don’t remember inviting them but regardless of how they managed to take hold, I don’t like them. And rather than do anything about it, I’m doing my best ostrich imitation and avoiding the issue all together!

It isn’t that I’m saying mean things to myself, it is that I am avoiding everything about those extra pounds. While that includes listening to the self-chatter about what a loser I am to let those extra pounds creep in, it also means I am avoiding thinking about what I can do to reclaim my homeostasis. I am refusing to step into my power to take action — of any kind. And in my lack of taking action to create the more I want in my life, I am forcing myself to stay just below the level of true consciousness in the land of ‘if I pretend it’s not happening, it’s not happening.”

Ahhh, if only I could believe in make-believe I’d be able to make myself all perfect and shiny all the time!

I don’t need make believe to let go of shame. Regret. The Past.

All I need is a willingness to accept myself today, just the way I am, and know….  I am enough.






Family Ties

My father was an only child.

My mother one of ten.

Once, as a child, I met some of my father’s extended family. A step-sister and her children. I think possibly another step-sister too.

I’ve met many of my mother’s siblings, and some of their children too, but seldom, have I been able to entertain them at my house. They mostly live in France, though some still live in India where my mother was born.

Last night was special.

My Auntie Maud’s son, along with his wife and their youngest son are visiting their eldest who has recently moved to Toronto from Bangalore, India. They journeyed west for a couple of days just to visit my mother. Which meant, we got to meet too!

Last night, they came for dinner with my sister and her husband with whom they are staying. We laughed and chatted and shared conversation and sat around the dinner table as families do.

As I sat and listened and watched and took part, I thought about the strands of family ties that bind us around the world. From Bangalore to Paris, to the south of France to Canada and all around the globe. My mother was the only one of her siblings to move to Canada. Most of the others left in the 1950s shortly after India declared its independence. The city they lived in, Pondicherry, had been under French control for centuries. Suddenly, no longer a French protectorate, those with French passports were given an option. Stay and declare your allegiance to India, or leave.

My mother had already sailed away at the end of the second world war. Her siblings made the same difficult decision to leave their parents behind and most of them, never having lived, or even visited France, chose to adopt Viet Nam as their home. It was a difficult and short-lived decision. Colonial rule was on its way out and the French government handed over their power to the Americans. My mother’s family moved, en masse, to France where the majority continue to live today.

My Auntie Maud and her husband, along with my Auntie Marie-Therese, never left India. It is the land they love. It is their home.

photo (80)Roots have always fascinated me. With neither of my parents born in Canada, and having spent most of my childhood and into my twenties living outside the country, I have often wondered about my roots, about what makes me Canadian.

Last night, as I looked around the table, I realized that it was there, all around me.

I don’t need to wave a flag, or tattoo a picture of our national animal on my shoulder.

My roots are not found between the blue cover of my passport or whether or not I can sing our national anthem in both official languages.

They are found right there, sitting around the table, sharing stories, sharing each other’s lives.

My family is my roots. My mother, my sisters, my nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins and my two daughters who are at the heart of what enriches my life and fills my soul with meaning, connection, depth. It doesn’t matter that many members have passed on, or that I haven’t met all my cousins and distant relatives, or where in the world we are. It is that we are connected through the invisible ties of family that bind us together all over the globe. And as I continue to add to the web of family ties, the strength of each strand grows more brilliant through the connections we make in tying strands from others lives into ours. C.C. and his son and daughter and his large extended family are all woven into the tapestry of my family, creating brilliant hues where ever we connect.

I am blessed.

I don’t need roots to know where I stand. I simply need to look around the table and know, this is where I belong.





It’s not all about me!

my best is good enough copyOn Saturday as part of my role as a facilitator in the G2 portion of Choices, I was asked to take on a new role in training the coaches on the Purpose Process. It was my first time giving this section of the training and I was nervous.

My l’il ole critter was having a field day. “What if you blow it?” “What if you mess up?” “What if you…. blah. blah. blah.”

Now, five years ago, maybe even not that long ago, I would have given into the critter’s voice and made myself sick with worry about this new responsibility and how well I would or would not do.

I would have made it all about me.

Time can be a powerful ally. Over time, I have learned to disconnect from the critter’s nattering. It is not all about me. In that knowing, I have embraced the idea of beginners mind as the pathway to doing my best. In beginner’s mind, I do not have to have all the answers. I simply need to be open to the experience so that my best in that moment can shine.

I’d had ample time to prepare and practice that portion of the training, I was ready. I’d also had lots of opportunity to let go of fear, self-judgement, self-criticism and anything else that would stand in my way of giving my best because I know, in beginner’s mind I never have to be perfect. I simply need to be completely present.

My ego (aka Nasty Critter) would like me to believe there is no room for mistakes. There is no forgiveness. There is no grace.

My ego would like me to feel the angst of having to be perfect as the only path to accomplishing my goals.

My ego, and my heart, want the same things — they do not want me to fail.

The difference is, my ego believes I will, my heart knows I can’t.

My heart knows that doing my best is all that I can do. In that place where my heart is at ease, I am embraced with knowing that my best is good enough — and if I’m not accepting that truth, I’m making it ‘all about me.’

Letting my ego step in and take over would have set me up for failure.

Stepping back from ego to focus on my mission of inspiring each coach to know that their best was good enough and that they each had the capacity to step out of ‘it’s all about me‘ thinking. My purpose wasn’t to ‘look good’ in front of them. My vision was to awaken within each of them the knowledge that they had the power, the information and the tools to create a safe and courageous space for their trainees  to find the words to their purpose.

I gave my best to inspire their best. In that space of grace, where my best is good enough, ego chatter fades into the joy of being present, without worrying about ‘how am I doing?’, ‘what are they thinking about how I am doing?’ ‘do they like me and how I’m doing or are they sitting there judging me and finding fault with everything I’m saying and doing?’

Instead of focussing on me, I got to focus on the information I was imparting and how best to get it across.

Instead of making it all about me, I got to move into that space where I could listen and watch for signs from the coaches that signalled they got it, or something needed more clarification.

Instead of fearing the outcome, I took my gaze off of continually questioning ‘how am I doing?’ and focused instead on creating a safe and courageous space for learning to happen so that fear could fade away for all of us.

And, added bonus, I had my co-facilitator who has given the training many times, right beside me to catch me if I fell.

It was a great lesson in letting go of fear and my need to ‘be perfect’ to fall into that space where living my purpose was I all I needed to create better in my world.

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