The Bird of Time is on the wing

It’s official.

I’m tired. ¬†ūüôā

Yesterday, AG, my communications team-mate mentioned that he wasn’t sure if it was all the prep work on the Summit next Tuesday, but he sure wasn’t sleeping very well.

I laughed.

Neither am I, I replied.

My mind, full of details not to be forgotten, ideas germinating and sparking new thoughts on how best to present the Updated Plan to End Homelessness to ignite collective impact, doesn’t want to turn off.

Which means, like AG, short bursts of sleep interrupted by wakefulness streaming with ideas.

This morning, as I lay in bed considering the thought of getting up, my critter snuck in and whispered, “You’re too tired to get up. Sleep awhile more. Day has not yet broken.”

But it had. Light slipped through the open spaces between the slats of the blinds, I could see the outline of shapes in our bedroom. There was light out there and it was calling me to rise and shine.

It was time to get up. In fact, it was past my normal time of getting up.

And the critter hissed, “You’re too tired. Don’t do it.”

Swat!

“Ouch!” he exclaimed at the suddenness of my gesture to stomp him out. “You hit me!”

“And I’ll hit you again,” I told him, my voice steeled with determination. “I am getting up. I am not going to let the thought of how tired I am keep me from leaping into my day and setting the world on fire!”

So there.

Take that you pesky critter!

And he lay silently in a sobbing mass, soaking in a pool of self-pity.

Yup. Definitely tired.

But not down.

There is still much to be done and I am later than normal in getting to it!

Gotta run!

The day has begun and there’s adventure afoot.

Sure, I am tired but AG and I have agreed next Wednesday is a day for total, complete rest. Neither he nor I will cross the threshold of the office.

Until then, mission not so impossible is waiting to be turned into the possibility of every Calgarian standing up and stating, unequivocally, “Count me in. I want to do my part to end homelessness in Calgary. I will….”

And then they will state the thing or things they are willing to do to be part of getting it done.

From supporting the idea of affordable housing in their community, to writing letters to the government to ensure funding for essential social programs is not cut to volunteering or donating, every Calgarian has a role to play.

Our job is to ignite their passion to create a Calgary that is great for everyone.

And just thinking about it revs me up and excites me to get to into my day!

Gotta go.

There’s lots to do and¬†to quote my father whose copy of The¬†Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,¬†I treasure, “The bird of time is on the wing and the bird has but a little way to flutter.”

Namaste.

Moving past our buts to possibilities — ending homelessness

We are five days away from the Great Big Summit and there is still lots to do.

And it’s getting done.

Yesterday, after one final read through the Plan by a team-member, we pressed send and shipped it off to the designer to tighten up the layout.

I went through my list.

Agenda. Done. Except for tightening up the wording on the last item.

Speakers. Confirmed.

Speaker notes. Sent.

Key Messages. Drafted.

Q&A. Drafted.

Keynote Speaker. Organized.

At a Glance. In review, ready for print tomorrow.

Posters. Order today.

Attendee packages. Final copy ready for printing.

Website. Design approved. Ready for final copy today and tomorrow.

Video. Final shoots today. Edit over weekend.

And the list goes on.

In one month, we have managed to pull together the pieces of what we hope to be an inspiring event on Tuesday. An event that will galvanize community around the vision of ending homelessness, and spark collective impact in getting the job done.

Together we are stronger.

Last night, just before leaving the office, I stepped into the CEOs office to check on the¬†change I’d made on the agenda. “I don’t think I’ve quite got the wording right,” I told her.

She looked at what I’d written and replied, “Hmmm. Let me think on it tonight. Maybe something will come to me.”

“Thanks. I just can’t quite hit on how to phrase¬†this one,” I replied.

And she laughed and said, “Good thing is, you don’t have¬†to do it alone.”

I let my need to find the perfect turn of phrase go.

I’m part of a team.

That’s the beauty of collaboration. Cooperation. Community.

Ending homelessness is a shared vision. It improves the lives of everyone. Not just those living beneath its burdens, but all of us in community.

The other day I received an email from a property manager asking how to deal with ‘vagrants’ hanging around a strip mall they’ve just taken over managing.

In my email response, I did not use the word vagrant and chose instead to educate with words that described homelessness as a societal condition affecting human beings. I also gave her the telephone number of the police district office and suggested she speak with the Community Resource Officer.

I could do that because I know I am not alone.

Ending homelessness is a collective responsibility.

It takes all of us.

Here in Calgary, our police service has taken a proactive approach to working with communities to help¬†mitigate the impact of those who struggle with homelessness in their community and those living with the experience of homelessness in their communities. They don’t take an us versus them perspective. They work inclusively with agencies, communities, businesses, faith groups and individuals to find mutually supportive¬†solutions.

Sure, as I write that someone is bound to say, “Yes but…”

And then rhyme off an incident they witnessed where maybe, compassion and inclusivity were not the key operational terms of reference.

Maybe.

But the fact is, just as I am not alone, and the CHF is not alone in ending homelessness, and the person experiencing it is not alone in ending homelessness, neither is the police service. They too rely on each of us, on businesses, individual citizens, communities, everyone to do their part.

And part of what we ¬†all need¬†to do is recognize our role as¬†a collective. There is power in our¬†shared vision of ensuring homelessness does not continue to destroy lives and undermine community. As long as we get our¬†‘buts’ out of its¬†possibilities, we can do it.

There are many possibilities in ending homelessness.

The question isn’t ‘Can we?’ The questions is “What can I do?”

The possibilities are limitless when we share in the power of our collective impact and move beyond the reasons why we can’t.

We’re launching the update to the Plan to End Homelessness on Tuesday.

It’s not CHF’s Plan. It’s not my Plan or her¬†Plan or his. It’s ours.

You can play a role. Come to the Great Big Summit on Tuesday and find out what you can do to make a difference.

Everyone is invited. There’s no cost to attend. But there is one if you don’t. And that is the one that costs the most. Your voice will not be part of the agenda. Your difference will not be felt. And we will not have the same collective impact without you.

 

The Happy Trails gang give back joy and laughter.

Photo from The Promotion Committee Blog of the Calgary Stampede by Madeline Babinec
Photo from The Promotion Committee Blog of the Calgary Stampede by Madeline Babinec

In 1912 when vaudeville performer and trick-roper Guy Weadick arrived in Calgary to stage an outdoor rodeo competition that was also designed to preserve the values and romance of the ‘old-west’, I doubt he had any idea how big and amazing the event would become.

Today, billed as The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede (or The Stampede as it’s called by most Calgarians) attracts over a million visitors every year and along with some healthy purses for the winners of the various events, it provides volunteer opportunities for over 5,000 people a year.

When my brother-in-law, JT, retired several years ago, he was looking for something to fill his time and his desire to give back to community. He signed up to become a volunteer with the Stampede.

Today, he and his fellow posse in The Happy Trails Gang, visit locations all over the city, and environs, celebrating the spirit of the west while providing onlookers an opportunity to clap their hands, sing-a-long and maybe even do a two-step or more. From September to May, they turn up with their¬†“Happy Trails” show every last Tuesday of the month at various seniors’ lodges around the city.

Last night, JT and his gang rode into¬†the lodge where my mother lives to turn up the music and get down to some good ‘ole country twang.

My sister Jackie and I trailed along, as did my beloved, C.C., and while I had a great time listening and clapping along, what struck me most was the pure joy and passion of JT and the other members of the gang.

They take their Stampede spirit seriously and share it generously.

The Stampede Queen and Princesses were also there, as was Indian Princess, Maya Many Grey Horses in her stunningly beautiful beaded traditional dress and moccasins. The young women, whose role it is to act as ambassadors for the Stampede, and for Maya, the Indian Village, circulated amongst the crowd, sitting to chat with the seniors, to dance and to sing along. They even lead a couple of line dances and took the mic to sing a couple of tunes together!

Harry the Horse, the 30-year-old mascot for the Stampede also turned up and flirted with the women, got up to some of his playful antics and lead the crowd in boisterous Yah Hoo!s that bowled him over with their fervour, garnering a big cheer from everyone in the room.

When we stopped to grab a bite to eat afterwards, both C.C. and I reflected on how joyful an evening it was and how everyone felt wrapped up in the warmth and energy of the Happy Trails Gang.

Which brings me back to the spirit of giving. There were over 15 members of the Happy Trails Gang there last night along with at least 4 people accompanying the Stampede Royalty and Indian Princess and Harry the Horse. All of them volunteers.

Giving back makes a difference.

To the receiver and the giver.

At the end of the evening, JT introduced us to the man on the committee he calls, ‘my mentor’.

“We’re best buds,” his mentor exclaimed as he bent¬†down to kiss my mother’s cheek and give her a gentle hug.

As we left, one of the residents of the lodge called out a joyful, “Good night” to anyone within hearing distance as she pushed her walker towards the elevator. I’ve never heard that happen after any other event at the lodge.

And that’s the spirit of Stampede.

It allows people to connect, on a deep, whole-hearted level to values we all hold true, but values that sometimes get forgotten or stepped on in the busy-ness of every day living.

Community. Loyalty. Sharing and having fun.

I spent a couple of hours last night surrounded by people committed to giving back to community. Their willingness to share smiles, laughter, good spirits and joy was contagious.

I’m richer today because of their giving back.

Thanks JT and everyone with the Happy Trails Gang! You make a difference.

From grumbles and gripes to gifts and gratitude

When I unpacked the new toothpaste tube from its box I grumbled. I’d bought the wrong one! I actually had to unscrew the top not flip it open.

Really? That’s going to take me seconds more! And it requires two hands. And I’ll have to put the lid back on too!

Harrumph.

And then I laughed at myself.

Such a first world problem.

Everyday I encounter big and small problems that cause me to grumble and gripe in silent sufferance of their presence in my first world existence.

I forgot to stop at the grocery store on my way home to pick up milk for my coffee in the morning. The hot water is taking too long to get¬†through the tap. ¬†I forgot to take out¬†the laundry from the dryer. The driver in front of me didn’t signal he was turning left and now I have to wait until he clears the intersection. What if I don’t get through this light? That pedestrian walked on the flashing orange. Doesn’t she know she’s not supposed to? She’s making me wait.

And I could go on.

And on.

In every life, we have grumbles and gripes that ruffle up the waters of our sailing smoothly through each day.

It’s not that we’re looking for trouble. It’s just we don’t have time for these irksome little issues that pop up and slow us down or distract us from getting on with what we’re doing because, don’t you know? We don’t have time for this!

And seriously. Can’t the rest of the world see that what we’re doing is more important than someone else¬†getting where they¬†want to go. That their¬†having what they¬†want to have comes after me getting what I want? That their doing what they need to do is not as important as my ‘to do list’?

Life is a journey of interdependence and cooperation. It takes all of us to keep the peace. All of us to create it too.

And it begins with the little things in our world.

It is not that serious an offense to buy ‘the wrong’ kind of toothpaste. But that fissure of irritation that rippled through my mind when I discovered what I’d done, that did create discord in my being.

Until I moved to gratitude.

I am grateful I have choice when I go out to buy my toothpaste. I am grateful I have a job I love that provides me the money with which to buy it.

And I am grateful for the reminder that I can take my good fortune for granted.

I am grateful there are traffic lights to govern traffic flow, and that people adhere to them making it safe for everyone to drive on the roads.

I am grateful that person got to cross the intersection without getting hit. That they trusted me enough to know they didn’t have to fear my running them over. Sure, they’re ‘not supposed to’ cross on the flashing orange. It’s not a big wait to let them get safely to the other side. And truthfully… Don’t I sometimes rush across the intersection on the flashing light when I’m walking too? Don’t I rationalize when it’s okay for me to do it?

I am grateful for the opportunity to see where my actions are not congruent with my thinking.

I am grateful I have the choice to do better, to change my actions, to see the parallels in what I do and what others are doing too. It reminds me, we are all on this human journey together.

If I’m going to carry anything to help me get through my day in grace, let it be tolerance, compassion and gratitude.

Let me let go of gripes and grumbles and turn instead to gifts and gratitude.

What a gift to be able to have choices, to have hot and cold running water, a fridge to keep my milk cold, and a store to go to when I run out. What a gift to be able to drive to the store so I don’t have to carry heavy groceries too far.

Let me see the gifts in every moment of my life and give thanks for all its possibilities.

Let me let go of gripes and fill my heart with gratitude.

Namaste.

 

Life is a work in progress

Art Journal Feb 21, 2015
Art Journal
Feb 21, 2015

Val Boyko writes beautiful and enriching words on living life in the balance of all things at her blog, Find your Middle Ground. Last week she shared a delightful acronym for the word STOP in her post, STOP and Find Balance.

STOP in Val’s words is a good reminder to,

S = Stop for a moment…

T = Take a full deep breath…

O = Observe… What am I aware of right now? … What is alive in me? Can I be with it whatever is coming up right now.

P = Proceed… What do I choose to do now that I have stepped back and been an observer of myself. The options are many…

I don’t work Fridays. By design my work-week is four days. As I’ve got so much to do right now, however, taking Friday’s off is not my choice.

Which means, I need to STOP more often to find myself amidst all the lovely things on my plate because, no matter how lovely the things, I can get lost in the busy-ness of it all.

C.C. plays hockey Friday afternoons and afterwards was watching the NHL game with team mates. When I got home I had the house to myself and in the quiet of it all found myself immersed in the joy of creation in my studio.

Saturday, I had intended to work on the final proof of¬†the report we need to have printed this week, but I didn’t have the final version back yet, so let my plans go. I spent a bit of time cleaning up some work I needed to do and then, once finished, slipped back down to the studio to keep playing.

Yesterday, still no final proof and a great opportunity to keep creating.

But, rather than paint, I worked on the brooch bouquet I’m creating for our wedding. If you’ve never seen a brooch bouquet, check out Pinterest ideas. They’re stunningly beautiful and as in the case of my bouquet, have meaning. Some of the brooches I’m using were contributed by family and friends. There’s an elephant my sister gave me years ago, one from my father’s sister, another from the wonderful Kerry Parsons who will be officiating at our wedding.

I’d started working on the bouquet after Christmas and was stalled in that space of chaos in the middle of creation — the not finished project hasn’t had enough space to breathe and my head wants to tell me to give up. It is quite time-consuming as each brooch needs to have two wire stems affixed and spun together to create¬†enough¬†stability to hold their place in the bouquet.

Brooch Bouquet --  A work in Progress
Brooch Bouquet —
A work in Progress

The process is meditative. As I worked, I felt myself settling into the rhythm of creation, and even though I was watching “Romancing the Stone” ūüôā¬†on Netflix, I found myself slowing down, I felt my breathing deepen, my heartbeat quiet.

I listened deeply to my heart yesterday. As I wired and spun and worked to create a thing of beauty to carry on our wedding day, I rejoiced in the wonder and awe of walking in love. As I carefully constructed the bouquet, I cherished the memories of each piece of jewelry and savoured the essence of the person who gave it to me and the gift of carrying them in my heart, and hands, today and every day.

It still needs some work to find its balance, some added space fillers to find its symmetry. But I’m happy. It is, like all things creative, a work in progress.

 

 

I changed my glasses. I can see clearly now it was me, standing in the darkness

I changed my glasses last night. I hadn’t realized they were foggy until Mary Davis, the facilitator from Choices Seminars, mentioned¬†in an email, “all these things you have on your plate are really lovely items.”

I had written to apologize for having to back out of my commitment to coach at Choices next week. I hadn’t wanted to, back out. I absolutely love coaching at Choices and am privileged to be able to do it as often as I do. I won’t be there in April because of the wedding, and was telling myself I would be letting the whole team down if I didn’t turn up as I’d committed to this time.

I kept telling myself, “I can do this. All of it.”

And then, lying awake in the dark, trying to rosy up my¬†glasses so I could peer into¬†the darkness of my thinking that I was sinking beneath the juggling of all the things I had to do, I realized, it’s not true.

I don’t have to do it all. Sometimes I can’t. ¬†Sometimes, I have to trust it will be okay.

So I wrote and let Mary know I couldn’t be there.

And still, I worried. What would she think of me? Maybe her disappointment in me would lead her to reject me. Maybe everyone would be mad at me and never want to work with me again.

Ahhh, that critter is such a sneaky fellow. He knows I have trust issues, heck he feeds them all the time! So imagine his glee when he realized I was tripping over myself, lost in a sea of angst? HA! Gotcha! he shouted as he catapulted into a new assault of my senseless worrying about what other people think of me. True to form, when faced with even¬†a glint of what he perceives to be my failure to heed his advice, he morphs into a new and slimy perspective designed to keep me playing small in the eye of¬†his¬†hurricane-force howling telling me¬†I am a failure. I don’t belong.

Gosh, I sure can get caught up in my own darkness, and drama, when I take my sights off the truth. I’m okay. In fact,¬†I’m wonderfully, lovingly humanly okay.

I really did think it was my job to cram it all in, juggle it all and keep the world spinning.

Mary’s gentle and loving response to my email stopped my thinking in its tracks.

I was seeing the totality of all I had to do and losing sight of the loveliness of all I had to do.

I was trapped in the dark side of my thinking it was all up to me and not seeing the loveliness and joy of all I am excited about doing.

I have a lot of lovely things on my plate. Some of them include organizing a media training day for executives in the homeless serving sector in March and working with an amazing team on the launch of a Homeless Charter of Rights in April.

My beloved and I are also planning our wedding for April 25th and over the past few months, I have had an amazing time creating for it.

And, this project of launching Calgary’s Updated Plan to End Homelessness at the Summit on March 3rd. It is exciting, inspiring, uplifting. We are in the throes of paradigm shifts and igniting collective impact. It’s amazing!

And there I was¬†bogged down in the minutia of the ‘I’ve got to do it all’ and losing¬†sight of how I can trust others to be doing their best too to change the world.

My glasses were foggy. I changed them.

I can see clearly now.

It was me, myself and I getting in the way of my seeing the truth — Next week at Choices, there will be a whole team of loving, caring, committed individuals doing the wonderful work of Changing the world one heart at a time.

My difference will be felt here, at the nexus of working towards a goal I believe is important to the quality of life of every Calgarian¬†— ending homelessness.

I am truly blessed to have so many lovely things on my plate. Things that excite me and charge me up, that remind me every day — I can be the change I want to see in the world.

We all can.

 

The Poetry of a river

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Art Journal Entry February 17, 2015 ©2015 Louise Gallagher

The poetry of a river
is heard
in the depths
of its joy
flowing freely
into the sea
of life.

The poetry of life
is found
in the river
of joy
flowing endlessly
into the heart
of Love.

I can’t remember where or when I read or heard the line,¬†the poetry of a river,¬† but I remember thinking, I must remember that, it’s beautiful.

Last night, when I entered the studio to spend some contemplative time, the line appeared and the word/art flowed.

I am grateful for the quiet. For the time to simply be present in front of a blank canvas or journal page.

In the presence of its invitation to let creativity flow, my mind empties and I become full of wonder and awe at how easy it is to find my balance when I let go of holding onto the thought, ‘I must find my¬†balance’.

I am neither out of or in balance. I simply am where ever I am, living whatever label I give myself for where I am.

In letting go of needing to find my balance, I find my path through the questions that are percolating on the edge of my consciousness.

I am in a phase of extreme busy at work right now.

I am planning a large event for 400 people for March 3rd, which entails not only planning for the event, but also editing, publishing, printing a large report along with a website and video. It is work I love but the timeframe to get it all done is very tight given that the date for the event was set at the end of January.

It’s meant some busy days, and as is apparent by the time at which I’m writing, sleepless nights.

Spending time in the studio is essential for me to keep balanced and present. Spending time in the studio is something ‘the critter’ would like me to avoid.

“Just veg out Louise,” he hisses into my left ear when I change out of my work-a-day clothes into my paint splattered comfies. “Go on. Sit in front of the TV and turn your mind off. You don’t need to create.”

Of course, there’s the voice of ‘uber conscientiousness’ trying to cut in too. “Louise. You have not yet read that report on Collective Impact. What is your problem?”

Ever notice how critters and other nefarious voices have a definite style and place? Mine sits on my left shoulder, jumping up and down in its attempts to get me to pay attention, flinging its arms and flapping its tail as it whispers un-sweet ditherings into my ear.

He likes to ensure he’s hard to ignore!

Fortunately, I know what’s good for me even in the face of his insistence he knows better.

Fact is, when immersed in busy, I need to give myself the gift of time to create in order to let go of the pressure building on my list of ‘to do’s’ if I am to avoid the panic that sets in when thinking about all I have yet to get done.

What’s your path to balance? Where do you go to give yourself space to be present?

Nature is a natural anti-depressant

IMG_6220I read a fascinating article at Tales from the Conspiratum about research coming out of McMaster University on the effects of anti-depressants on our brain’s ability to cope with stress.

It doesn’t make depression¬†better. In fact, it¬†could be making¬†it worse,¬†suggests Wade Hemsworth, author of the article from the McMaster University Daily news, “The Science behind commonly used anti-depressants seems to be backwards”.¬†

It’s an interesting read that suggests for people suffering from the most common forms of depression, SSRIs might actually be an obstacle on their path to recovery.

Nature, writes Tales from the Conspiratum, is still the best anti-depressant.

It is one of the challenges of depression. That which is healthy, healing and natural for recovery is also that which takes energy. And energy is not high on the list of things to expend when depression is clouding every thought, breath and feeling.

Had I gone to a doctor and been diagnosed when in the depths of a relationship that was killing me, I might have been prescribed anti-depressants.

I had no energy. My thinking was dark. I had constant suicidal thoughts. I had little to no belief in getting out of the relationship alive. Every joint, muscle, cell of my body hurt. I would awake in the morning and wonder if I didn’t have some incurable disease because it hurt so much to move out of the bed. I hoped I did. That would put an end to my misery.

And then, he was arrested and I was given the miracle of getting my life back.

Overnight, my bones stopped aching, my joints stopped hurting. When I walked, my hands were no longer clenched tight into fists. My gait was no longer stiff.

Yes, suicidal thinking still clouded my mind, but not every moment.

Without the poison of his abuse feeding me lies about my worth and my right to live, I could see clearly that without him, I had only one task, to heal so that my daughters could heal too.

It became my sole purpose in life. To do whatever it took to ensure my daughters knew, what happened to me had nothing to do with my lack of love for them. I knew as teenagers they could easily translate my disappearance into ‘I am not loveable’ and I could not let that happen. They had to know they are loveable exactly the way they are.

At the time, I remember believing what happened had everything to do with a lack of love for myself. In retrospect, miles from those dark days and nights of wishing to die and feeling like I already had, I can see that it was never about love, always about abuse.

What happened to me had everything to do with being in an abusive relationship.

Once the abuser was gone, I was free to fall in love all over again with me, myself and I. The depression that had clogged every fibre of my being began to lift as I began to see clearly, without him I had peace of mind.

I was blessed. I was in a time and space, surrounded by the loving support of my sister and her husband, to heal without fear. Everyday I would walk in the woods with Ellie the wonder pooch and breathe in freedom, exhale sadness. I would look up into the trees and see the limitless possibilities of the sky above and know, in freedom from abuse I could do anything.

I didn’t take an anti-depressant. I took nature’s natural gifts and breathed deeply into all she had to offer to help me heal. I was surrounded by beautiful seascapes, mountains soaring to the sky in rain-forested glory. Wrapped in nature’s embrace, beneath the sky and wind, beside the ocean, amidst the trees and wind-swept vistas of Vancouver’s north shore, I found¬†the one thing I savoured and needed most, freedom.

Being in an abusive relationship is depressing. Staying in one is nullifying.

For a long time I couldn’t see that there was only¬†one thing in the world that could change the sadness and fear that permeated my being throughout that relationship, and that was to walk away.

And then I did.

I had a lot of help and I am grateful. Walking away from abuse into living life beyond the edges of my fear¬†has been a great gift. I don’t look back to remind myself of what he did. I look back to remind myself that that was then, this is now. And now is the gift of time to live with peace of mind, a joyful heart and restful soul.

And now is the time to walk in nature and give thanks for all her beauty shimmering in the air I breathe.

 

 

Life is the journey of discovery you’ve always dreamed of

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Art Journal Entry, February 16, ©2015 Louise Gallagher

She awoke and heard her heart calling, and her dreams took flight.

It was a thought that floated through my mind as I carefully crimped and folded paper for a giant flower I am making for our wedding.

“When I am sleeping, my dreams are trapped in the night, captive in my mind. Only when I awaken and open my eyes to the light of day can they take flight.”

I kept folding and crimping paper.

The thought persisted.

FullSizeRender (24)I finished the flower I was working on and pulled out my art journal. Time to give expression to my thoughts.

What I love most about art journalling is, there is no right or wrong way, there is no ‘I need to clean it up, balance it, lighten it if I want to sell it’, or hang it on a wall, thinking.

There is only the blank page calling.

The unknown waiting to be explored.

Art journalling gives me space and room to explore, colour, texture, technique, tones, mediums. I can layer, paste, paint over, embellish.

It allows me to create for the sake of creating without any attachment to the outcome — it is pure and total freedom.

Sometimes, what I create pleases me immensely. Sometimes, the end product is not quite what I wanted.

It is a lesson in acceptance of what is.

I want to keep changing, adding, painting over, ‘making it better’.

I want to make it all pretty and nice and easy on the eye, no matter how much time it takes!

Sometimes, living with the discord grating against my senses is as important as finding the harmony in every heart beat. Sometimes, it is in the dissonance of where I’m sitting I discover the essence of my being alive.

In the dissonance, I feel my breath catch, my fear of discord rise up and push me towards the edge of running away, of taking off, not in a flight of fancy, but a run of terror I might be caught, I might be seen as something other than perfect!¬† It is in those moments I discover how important it is to stand in the broken, to be present in what is within and around me and accept, I’m okay just the way I am.

Just as with writing I have to allow myself to ‘write bad’ to get to the good, in painting, I must give myself space to create for the sake of creating without measuring what I’ve created against some hidden yardstick telling me it’s not good enough.

It’s not about the outcome. Like life, it’s¬†about the journey of discovery.

For today, take your thoughts off of what you’ll get out of your day and focus instead on what you’ll discover. Open your eyes wide to every moment unfolding and feel your dreams unfurling their wings in the freedom of being present to the awe and beauty of the world breathing all around you.

Go ahead. Do it. Who knows what wonders you’ll discover?

Namaste.

 

Anything is possible if you are willing to do the hard.

He was in his late forties, early fifties when I met him. Almost black eyes. A crooked smile that moved all the way up to his eyes to push the skin into deep, well-worn lines. He liked to laugh. A quiet laugh that shook his body. He spoke slowly. Measured his words as carefully as the sugar was measured out at the homeless shelter where we met. Sugar is gold in a homeless shelter. He used his sugar wisely.

I’d seen him around the shelter for quite some time. Quite often inebriated. He was always friendly. Laughing. Loquacious.

On the day we officially met, he was sober. Had been for three months he told me proudly. “That’s how I got into this course,” he said. “They wouldn’t let me take it if I was drunk.”

‘This course’ was a three-week job readiness training course the shelter ran to support clients moving on with their lives. I was a guest lecturer, there to give a ¬†half-day workshop on self-esteem.

“What is self-esteem?” I asked the 12 participants.

Someone replied quickly. “Something that’s hard¬†to get.”

“What do you think makes it hard to get?” I asked.

At the end of the long table around which we sat the man with the measured words, considered the question. “I don’t think I ever had any self-esteem,” he said. “Residential school beat out any I might have had when I was a little boy and then, I never got sober enough, until now, to even think I might need some.”

It is the same answer for many First Nations. The attempted purposeful destruction of their culture tore apart their familial, social and spiritual roots. Rootless, they have drifted for years searching for what is missing, what was destroyed, what was stolen from their pasts, what was hidden from their futures.

“I don’t understand it,” he said. “I’m sober. My friends here know I want this. I told ’em¬†it’s important to me. But they keep wanting me to drink with them. To get stoned. Why?”

“Why do you think?” I asked.

He shook his head. Side to side. His body slumped deeper into his chair. “It’s hard. Being sober. My friends. They make fun of me. Tell me I’ve changed. That maybe now I think I’m too good for them.” ¬†He paused. Scrunched up his face. Smiled. “I don’t think I’m too good for them. But I can’t be around drunks. They’re not good for me.”

And we went on to talk about the challenges of sobriety in a community where ‘getting sober’ is both the dream and the nightmare of everyone involved.

“Is it possible that your getting sober, a guy who’s been drunk for 30 years, is a sign that they could do it too? Do you think they’re afraid?”

He laughed. “Of my getting sober? Nah. But they sure as hell are scared of getting sober themselves.”

He wanted to be a role model, he said. To be an example for the youth on the reserve where he could never go back to if he’d not gotten sober. “I’ve got two sons. They’re adults now. Haven’t seen them in years but I want them to see me as a man they can look up to.”

He never got the chance. Three months later a massive heart attack hit, and he took his last breath.

But the memory of our encounter has remained with me. This morning, while reading Ian Munro’s post at Leading Essentially, “When Did “Busy!” Become the Correct answer to How Things are?”, I was reminded of that¬†encounter from several years ago.

Ian suggests we have to¬†Watch how we measure ourselves. Be cognizant of where we are putting our energies, how we are measuring our time. He mentions in a response to a¬†comment from one of his readers¬†that he is coming off his addiction to ‘busy’. He is happier now. More fulfilled in his work, yet, people at his workplace keep asking if he shouldn’t be doing¬†something more urgent.

For Colin, the man at the shelter who had put a lifetime of energy into being drunk and now was committed to sobriety, his courage in taking those steps away from the past, were a reminder to everyone around him that it was possible. In the possibility that Colin represented, their fear wanted only to drag him back so they would not have to face the truth.

Anything is possible if we are willing to do the hard.

The hard work of getting sober, of getting ‘unbusy’, of taking time to stop and smell the roses, to savour the possible in this moment, right now, no matter how frightened we are that if we don’t fill this moment right now with ‘meaningful work’ we will be wasting our lives away.

Colin only had a few months to savour his new life, to lean into his new possibilities. I like to think that in those months he found his meaning not in the past, but in his courage in¬†letting it go. And I like to think he knows that in his life and his willingness to ‘do the hard’, he keeps inspiring me to step beyond my fear of letting go of the well-worn path to soar bravely into possibility.