Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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And they wait for help to come

He struggles to stand up. Reaches out for support. There is nothing but the sidewalk below him.

He stumbles. Extends one hand out in front, searching for the ground.

And he crumbles. Slowly. Quietly.

I hurry across the street towards where he lays, a silent body on the ground.

When I reach him, I kneel down beside him. I can smell the alcohol before I get close. “Are you hurt? How can I help?” I ask.

He opens one eye a crack, looks up at me. “I need an ambulance,” he mumbles.

I call 9-1-1 on my cell.

As I’m talking to the operator, a co-worker walks up. “Can I help.”

I motion to the phone. She stands in silent support.

The operator asks me all sorts of questions about the man’s condition.

“I don’t think he hurt himself in the fall,” I tell her.

“Yes. He’s conscious.”

“No. I don’t see blood.”

“I think he’s inebriated.”

“He asked for an ambulance.”

She promises help is on its way.

The man lays silently on the sidewalk. Eyes closed. Barely breathing.

I touch his arm.

“Can you hear me sir?” I ask. “The ambulance is on its way.”

He squints through one eye. Examines me. “I don’t want to go to the Emergency room.”

“Perhaps they won’t need to take you,” I reassure him. “But they need to look at you to make sure you’re okay.”

The absurdity of the statement strikes me as I kneel beside him.

He’s not okay.

He’s not been okay for a very long time.

.And I marvel at the human spirit. At its capacity to contain such pain, such sorrow, such sadness and still survive. That it can seek succor even in the darkest places. That it can attempt to drown out its suffering and still search for solid ground to break its fall.

And I marvel at our human capacity to see our fellow humans with so much loathing and disdain we will attempt anything to drown out their culture, their history, their family and spiritual connections.

I have seen many men like this man.

Warriors who have lost the battle.

Warriors who are so lost in the fight to forget the past, who they are, who they could be, they swim in a sea of intoxication, barely breathing, barely able to keep their heads above the water.

And they fall.

Like a flower caught in a spring frost. They fall before they ever have a chance to bloom.

The Aboriginal population comprises 3% of the total population of Calgary.

They represent 21% of the entire homeless population in our city.

Except for the choices we made over a century ago to drag them away from their native culture, to treat them like animals, children, pests, being homeless, being drunk, being lost is not a willing choice.

It is an outcome of more than a century of colonization. Of abuse. Of treatment fit for no one.

It is the result of years of collective abuse against an entire population who did not fit what our forefathers believed was the right way to be on the lands, in our cities, in our society. And we carried our forefathers’ beliefs forward into residential schools, reservations, and other inhuman treatment.

I knelt by a man crumpled on the street yesterday and waited for help to come.

And I wondered, how do we stop the bleeding we can not see? How do we change the course of time so that this warrior does not fall again and again in his attempts to wipe out a past his parents before him and their parents before them never imagined would be theirs or his?

As I waited a police car drove up. An officer got out, walked towards the tableau of me kneeling by the man on the ground, my co-worker standing behind me.

“It’s okay. I’ve got this,” the officer told me before speaking to the man on the ground.

“Are you Brian?”

The man on the ground looked groggily up at him. “Paul.”

“Okay Paul,” said the officer. “Let’s get you up.”

The officer turned to where I waited, still holding my phone. “It’s okay. He’s one of our regulars.”

“I called an ambulance,” I told him.

“You didn’t need to do that,” he replied.

“It’s what he asked me to do,”

The officer laughed. “I’ll call the DOAP team. They’ll come and get him and take him to Alpha House.”

And he tells Paul what’s happening and Paul nods his head and struggles to sit up.

The officer reaches out a hand. He is not gentle. But he is not rough. He is firm.

“Here. Take my hand.”

And the man reaches up and takes his hand.

My co-worker and I hesitate. “It’s okay,” says the officer again. “I’ve got this.”

And we turn and walk slowly away. When I look back, the man is sitting on the bench where I’d first seen him. Shoulders slumped, head nodding forward.

The officer stands beside him, feet firmly planted, hands on either side of his waist, holding onto his belt with its many weapons.

And they wait for help to come.

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

If you are in Calgary and see someone who is in distress please call the DOAP Team. they are a compassionate response to people with substance abuse issues on the streets. (403) 998 7388

DOAP — Downtown Outreach Addiction Partnership:  The program has been designed to link Calgary Police Service officers and Emergency Medical Services medics who come into contact with individuals with substance abuse issues in the downtown area with the appropriate social service agency

Alpha House — Alpha House is a non-profit charitable agency that provides safe and caring environments for individuals whose lives are affected by alcohol and other drug dependencies.

 

 

 

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Learning to walk on my own.

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.  ∼ Ralph Waldo Emerson ∼

I walked at Nose Hill Park on Friday morning. Ellie, the wonder pooch, was with me every step of the way. Her spirit shimmered in the long grasses whispering in the breeze, her furry, waggy body bounced along the trail, nose pressed to the ground sniffing out gophers not yet risen from their winter sleeps and any other rodent foolish enough to stick their head up out of the ground.

I have not visited Nose Hill since long before Ellie’s passing last June. In the final months of her life, her body didn’t like long walks, especially when hills were involved, but, earlier in the week when a girlfriend invited me to join her for a walk, I suggested Nose Hill.

It was time.

Time to reclaim my joy of walking, with or without the pooch. So I did.

Yesterday, I walked alone. As I clambered up and down the trail that traverses through the woods along the river not far from where we live, I thought about the last time I’d scrambled along that particular trail.

Ellie was with me. It was summer, the year before she died. The trail from the ridge down to the river bottom is very steep and slick. Ellie liked to run ahead, racing up and down inviting me to hurry up. Didn’t I know? The water was not far away and it was never too cold, too hot, too anything to keep her from racing into its inviting depths.

Not always trusting her where water, sandy river banks and people were concerned, I kept calling her to hold back, stay with me. Ellie was hyper friendly and a big lover of racing into the river, running back to shore and finding the first stretch of sand she could to roll in. If people happened to be around, bonus! She could then complete her personal mental health/happiness exercise by running over to greet them after her roll was complete!

People did not always take kindly to Ellie’s enthusiastic, let me shake my wet, sand covered body all over you.

I had intended to take the main trail down into the bottom of the river valley and walk around the reservoir. It was a glorious day. Sunshine, warm temps, a gentle spring breeze and the water sparkling in the sun. The parking lot was full when I arrived but someone was just loading up their car to leave so I waited and grabbed a spot.

The trail was busy and I could feel Ellie’s spirit urging me to let go the well-travelled path and head off along the escarpment to wilder trails.

I heeded her call and even though the main trail was packed with people out enjoying the beauty of the day, aside from a father and his two children hiking together, I met no one else on my traipse through the woods along the river. Given the mud clumped on my hiking shoes and along the bottom of my pants, I understand. The paved trail that circumnavigates the 15 kilometers of the Weaselhead/Reservoir can be much more appealing, not to mention clean, in spring’s thaw.

For me, navigating slick, slippery mud filled trails, stepping over deadfall, pushing aside errant branches blocking the trail didn’t matter. All that mattered was being outside, cherishing each breath, each moment and the pure delight of living right now.

It is not quite a year since Ellie passed away. For almost 14 years she was my constant companion on every walk I took. I can’t recall ever hiking in the Weaselhead without her.

Yesterday, I made a heart of heart rocks in the sand for Ellie and sat in the sun on a stretch of gravel beach by the river. I breathed in and out and savoured the warm air slowly entering and exiting my body. I closed my eyes and felt myself sinking deeply into the peace and serenity of knowing, with or without the wonder pooch running beside me, there is no excuse good enough not to get outside and savour life. And if the trail happens to be busy, it doesn’t matter. Get off the trail and find your own path through the woods. Don’t be afraid of a little mud. It’ll all wash off in the rain, or the river if you dare!

This is life. Messy. Wild. Free. Full of itself and calling out for more. Sometimes we have companions on the trail. Sometimes we walk alone. But no matter how or where we go, life is an adventure calling us to live it up for all we’re worth.  And we’re worth a lot!


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Every moment holds possibility

Art Journal Entry March 27, 2015

Art Journal Entry
March 27, 2015

Every moment holds possibility
Every thought a dream
Breathe into the possibility
of every moment
and live your dreams.

©


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If I had but one prayer

The mind is like a crazy monkey, which leaps about and never stays in one place.
It is completely restless and constantly paranoid about its surroundings.
From “Trapping the Monkey” in The Teacup and the Skullcup:
Chogyam Trungpa on Zen and Tantra.

I come home from a busy day at work. The house is quiet. C.C. has not yet come home and I want to savour the moment do nothing more than relax for a bit and release the tensions of my day.

I lie on the bed watching the birds twitter about the backyard. I feel thankful. Grateful. At peace.

Ahhh, blessed repose. Blessed silence.

And then, that ‘ole critter, my monkey mind, leaps into the calm.

“Don’t be so lazy. Get busy.” Its voice whispers with a sibilant hiss oozing like steam seeping from a lumbering volcano scorching everything in its path. “You’ve got a lot to do before April 25th both for the wedding and work. Get busy.”

The more rational part of me leaps in to defend my indolence. “Back off Jack. She needs some downtime. She just got home.”

But still the monkey mind persists. “There’s too much to do. Quit lying there like a great big lump. Who cares if you’re tired. You don’t matter. Anyway, nobody likes a lazy person.” Don’t you just hate how the critter can take either side of the argument? When I’m busy getting things done, he likes to convince me to stop. And now, when I’m stopped for rest, he wants to convince me to get going.

Silly critter and its power to disturb peace of mind and tranquility.

Buddha said,“Patience is the greatest prayer.”

Yesterday morning, as I was getting ready for my day which included giving a noon-hour workshop on “Teamwork”, working on the Foundation’s Annual Report, a meeting with a reporter and work on the business plan, C.C. excitedly called me into the kitchen to look out the window. “Look! I count at least six robins at the feeder.

What? Come see the robins? I’ve got things to do. I have to get ready.

I took a breath.

What a lovely opportunity to get out of my own way. To spend a few quiet moments in community with my beloved and nature. To be present in the moment and whisper a prayer of gratitude for all that is present in my life.

I stood beside him and watched the robins and silently gave a prayer of thanks.

“Thank you my beloved for reminding me to take this moment to treasure us and this day. Thank you robins for your presence. Your lithesome spirit. Your twittering verse. Thank you for heralding Spring into the garden.”

Gratitude.

If I had but one prayer, let it be, “Thank you.”

To fall into prayer I must surrender my ego’s need to justify my existence — my state of doing nothing, as well as my state of doing ‘busy’. To surrender, I must release my need to feel that everything I do matters. My eldest daughter once wrote, “I am nothing. And everything… I do not matter. And yet, I am matter, so I must.”

I must surrender my need to matter enough that my matter becomes all that matters to me. When I matter enough to cherish the goodness in my being me in this present moment with all that it brings, all that it has to offer, then I will have fallen into that place where all that matters is — this moment in which I breathe in gratitude and exhale thankfulness.

Let me move through my day in gratitude, the gateway to patience with all that I am, and all that I need, to be present.

If I had but one prayer, let it be, Thank you.

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

This post was inspired by Val Boyko who posted a beautiful quote from Adyashanti yesterday on her blog, Find Your Middle Ground.


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Dementia dialogues 3 – a post from JM Goyder

Julie Goyder’s husband has Parkinson Disease. She shares their journey on her blog, JMGoyder.

Following Julie and her husband, Anthony’s, journey is a voyage into marriage, relationship, compassion, kindness, loss and above all love.

Recently, Julie took a part-time job at the home where Anthony lives. One of the things she does is take patients with dementia for walks through the grounds surrounding the care facility.

In the beginning, Julie chattered away, asking questions her patients couldn’t answer.

Until, she decided to share ‘the silence’ instead of words.

I wanted to share Julie’s beautiful post about the silence, the third in a mini-series she’s written about what she’s learned working in the dementia house.

I found it profoundly beautiful and inspiring.  Please… keep reading. You will be moved.

Dementia dialogues 3

by Julie Goyder

Okay so this post concludes the little mini-series about what I have learned over the last several weeks of working in the dementia house.

Silence is golden!

To begin with, I would take various of the ten women for wheelchair walks around the gardens and through the facility, bombarding them with my chatter and questions, pointing to flowers or pictures on the walls, or just telling anecdotes or jokes that I hoped would elicit conversations.

In hindsight, that was idiotic in many ways….    to read the rest of Julie’s blog, please click HERE.


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Speaker phone ladies and other rude awakenings

Art Journal - March 21, 2015 Louise Gallagher

Art Journal – March 21, 2015
Collage

She races towards the C-train, one hand reaching out to stop the doors from closing, the other cradling her cell phone just below her chin. Just in time, she slips between the closing doors… and keeps talking. Out loud. On speaker. On her phone.

I mean really? It’s bad enough she has to talk on the phone in a just past rush hour, not as crowded but still full train-car. But to keep doing it on speaker phone?

I listen in. I know. I know. But, what else was I supposed to do? She’s standing just a few feet from where I’m sitting and is making no attempt to lower her voice.

She talks about interest rates and annuities, payouts and coupons. The woman on the other end talks about prime and term and all sorts of things finance related. At first, I think possibly she’s organizing a life insurance policy. Which, given she’s talking out loud, on speakerphone, in public on an almost full train-car, doesn’t seem like a bad idea. I hope she gets it in place before the train ride ends. Who knows if she’ll survive the trip?

I look around the car. By the looks on people’s faces, no one else seems to think it’s a good idea. Why does she?

Finally, she hangs up. And checks her phone. There was another call while she was on the last one.

She starts to dial.

And that’s when the train pulls into my stop.

I  must write about this incident tomorrow morning, I tell myself and think about all the witty, sarcastic things I can write. I’ll include other things people do in public that drive me crazy and call it, ‘The 5 things to do in public to make sure everyone knows you exist’. And then, I move into my day and forget about speaker phone lady. Until this morning in meditation when unbidden she enters my thoughts, cell phone in hand, talking loudly, oblivious to how she’s crowding my mind just when I’m trying to empty it.

I laugh at myself. Now that’s enlightenment! Here I am seeking the stillness when speaker phone lady enters with her relentless reminder that there’s no avoiding my judgements.

‘Cause there’s the rub.

I want to hold this woman in disdain. I want to chastise her for being so thoughtless, inconsiderate and downright rude. And in my judgements, I am no different. Except, maybe, I do know better. I’m just avoiding what I know to be true. We are all connected. There is no us and them.

She was just doing what she knew. Maybe it was thoughtless, inconsiderate. But what am I doing to create better in the world?

It is the dichotomy of modern day living. To create the world I want to live in, I must let go of criticising, condemning and complaining about others and step lovingly into that space where no matter how someone else is in the world, I seek first to understand. Understanding is the path to finding common ground.

I cannot change the world holding myself as ‘other’. We are not ‘other’. We are all one. How you are is how I am. We are all connected.

Criticizing, condemning, complaining does nothing other than to create a space between us in which I hold our differences as a barrier to our common ground.

I breathe and give thanks. I am grateful for this speaker phone lady who reminds me that in my crowded mind, judgement reigns. To allow for stillness, I must fill the spaces between us not with disdain, but with love for our shared humanity.

If I want our connection to be heard above the din of a speaker phone on a crowded train, I must clear my thinking of my judgements and move with grace into that space where I heed the call of acceptance. There was no ‘us and them’ on that train. No rude speaker phone lady and all the rest of us sitting in judgement. There was only us. Each and all of us, making our way to where ever we’re going, the best way we know how.

It’s up to me to ensure the path I take to get to where I want to be creates more of what I  want to have in the world; harmony, peace, kindness, joy, love.

Namaste.

.

 

 


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Family: what we cherish most

In the silence there is only possibility. In possibility there is hope. In hope there is possibility.

These thoughts drifted in and through my mind this morning as I sat in meditation, letting my body sink into the silence. The silence, and its companion stillness, feed my soul’s yearning for me to know peacefulness, harmony, oneness.

Some mornings, the silence evades me. “Time is passing,” my critter whispers. “You don’t have time for meditation.”

“But if she has time for writing, why doesn’t she have time for meditation?” my voice of reason counters.

The critter laughs. Throws back his head and bays at the invisible moon it cannot see hanging somewhere in the darkness outside my office window.  “Don’t be ridiculous. There’s only so much time and writing is more important than her taking time to get still so she can drift off into la la land.”

I sit between the two, feeling stranded, lost, almost hopeless. I want to heed my voice of reason. She knows what’s best for me. But the critter has a point. There is only so much time before I have to get ready to go to work.

Which voice will I heed?

This morning, I heeded my voice of reason. I took ten minutes for meditation before starting to write. Which, given that this post is now about my experience of trying to avoid what I know is good for me, shows how much the silence informs my writing.

I wasn’t going to write any of this when first I sat down at my desk earlier this morning. The beginning of this post was going to be, “I had only 15 more cards to paint when a text from my stepson arrived on my phone, ‘You’re in. Ticket at the door under 36?'”

36? performs at Festival Hall

36? performs at Festival Hall

36? is the name of my stepson’s band. Dubbed Calgary’s ‘band to watch’ for 2015 by several media outlets, 36? was playing a concert last night as part of CBC Radio 1’s Sunday music program, The Key of A. The performers had been provided two tickets each. He’d given one to his dad and the other to his girlfriend. We’d tried to purchase tickets but online sales said they were sold out.

Fact is, they weren’t. When TC, my stepson arrived at the theatre, he scored me one.

I had only 15 more cards to paint. It was 8:22. The show started at 8. I was in painting clothes and immersed in my process. I had 70 cards to paint and was almost done. I needed to get them done. I like crossing things off my list of “Things to get done to be ready for the wedding.” It would be 9 by the time I got there…

To stay home or to go?

Both critter and the voice of reason agreed on this one, GO!

55 Thank you cards done. 15 more to go.

55 Thank you cards done. 15 more to go.

For the critter, the win came from not letting me finish something I’d set out to do several hours earlier. The cards are to accompany the ‘party favours’ we’ve ordered for the wedding. I could have left them blank but they look so sweet and springlike with the flowers all painted up. I was actually smiling as I painted them!

And then, I thought about the conversation we’d had earlier in the day when my dear friend Kerry Parsons came over to talk with us about the wedding ceremony and our vows. Yours is a story of hope, she said. Of possibility. Of love always winning.

She’s right. Even after broken hearts and shattered dreams. Even after I do’s cast out into fate with the intention of  falling into love forever, only to fall apart long before forever came, we are courageous enough to turn up for each other and say, I do. I do believe in Love. I do believe in marriage. I do believe in giving love a chance because in the end, what matters most, is love. And our love is all about our families. It’s all about C.C. and I, not just as two people joining together into a single matrimonial unit but as two families coming together as one.

The voice of reason was right. I can paint anytime. I can’t be with C.C. and listen to his son, our son, perform at Festival Hall anytime. I can’t sit beside him every night of the week and hold his hand and watch his face beaming with pride as he watches his son leap and dance and sing and play his guitar and pound on his keyboard as he throws his whole being into his performance.

I can’t do that anytime. I must take the time to do it when I can.

And I can only do that when I choose to put aside what I’m doing and focus on being with the one I love, so that together we can celebrate what we cherish most; our family.