Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Accepting our own power

Acrylic on Canvas 24 x 36 Louise Gallagher

Acrylic on Canvas
24 x 36
Louise Gallagher

“If you tell me I just have to accept it, I’ll scream,” my friend said as she finished telling the story of a ‘wrong’ she’d experienced. “I feel like hitting someone, not accepting their bad behaviour.”

“What does acceptance mean to you?” I asked.

“It means I can’t do anything about it. I just have to accept it and move on.” (Okay. She wasn’t quite that calm but that is the gist of what she said.)

Too often, we equate acceptance with being helpless.

My friend was not helpless in this instance, and once she talked it through, she came up with several things she could do to ease her burdened heart and circle-thinking mind.

Acceptance wasn’t found in the victim’s role of throwing up her hands and telling herself ‘there’s nothing I can do. Accept it and move on.’

Acceptance was found in the acknowledging the impact the other person’s behaviour had on her, and then, identifying where she had the power to not let their behaviour cause her to act without integrity, to contravene her own values.

Acceptance was in recognizing that what the other person did was not a statement of my friend’s worth, but of the other person’s position. No matter what motivated the other, what they did caused harm to my friend. And that is not okay.

It’s also not okay to retaliate in kind. As the wise and gentle Val at Find Your Middle Ground wrote in her post, Outer and Inner Lives, on her blog yesterday,

Our outer lives and living are a reflection of our inner lives.
When we are at peace within we are at peace without.

My friend is not a violent person. She’d never hit another, even in that instance when she claimed she wanted to. It is not her nature. Violence is not a value she upholds.

Yet, in her frustration and belief that acceptance means ‘accepting the other’s bad behaviour’, she felt powerless, helpless, confused. And in her confusion, she wanted to lash out at those who hurt her.

It is human nature to want to right wrongs, correct mistakes, fix problems.

We all make mistakes and sometimes, we don’t want to face our role in what has happened in our lives because we want someone else to be held accountable for what they did to cause the problems in our lives.

I will never be powerful enough to make the man who abused me be accountable for what he did.

I will never be powerful enough to change the past.

I am powerful enough to be accountable for the harm and pain it caused my daughters and those around me and to create better today.

I am powerful enough to let go of holding onto the need to avenge his wrong-doing and live freely in the beauty of today without letting revenge and bitterness steal my joy.

I am powerful enough to accept I am not helpless. I am powerful beyond my wildest imaginings.

When I let go of holding on to my fear of letting go of all the things I tell myself hurt me, I cannot change, or cannot let go of, I am free to live my life on the wild side of my dreams.

When I accept that the change I want to create in the world begins with me, I fall with grace into Love.

 

 

 

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In the awesome of being you.

living in the awesome copyOn the Saturday night of Choices, there is a family dance. It’s a no-alcohol, not-mandatory – just ‘come if you feel like it and dance with abandon’ kind of affair.

People turn up. Often, up to 200 – 250 people dancing and laughing and being free and chatting along the edges of the room. People don’t worry about having a partner to dance with.

They just dance.

At times, people will form a large circle and one or two people will leap into the middle and give it their all.

Last Saturday was no different. When I entered the room there was a large circle formed in the centre. I leaped in to say hello to a friend who was dancing and kept spinning and twirling about.

It was fun.

I moved back to the edge of the circle and two young boys, about 8 or 9, leapt into the centre and began to break dance, throwing their bodies onto the floor, spinning on their heads, twisting and gyrating. They were amazing.

One of the boys left the circle, the other raced over to me and waved me into the centre with him.

I didn’t hesitate.

We danced and spun. I kept my feet on the ground while he wormed and gyrated around me. We were laughing and spinning and having fun and when it was time, we moved back to the edge of the circle, someone else entered centre stage and the music and dancing rolled on.

After the song was over he raced over to me, gave me a high-five and said, “That was awesome!”

I smiled big and replied, “Yes! It was. And you’re awesome!”

He looked me full in the face, nodded his head, gave a great big grin and said, “Yes. I am!”

And then he raced off to catch the beat of the next song.

Now, I could say that the whole story was about me, a 61-year-old woman, having the wherewithal to dance with abandon with an 8 year-old, and while I love that thought, what it’s really about is his conviction of his ‘awesomeness’.

When do we lose it?

When do we forget we are awesome. That being the centre of attention is okay. That we can share centre stage and the world will continue to turn and open up to allow more in as we flow in and out and all over?

When do we let go of knowing, ‘we are awesome’.

 


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Governing in hard times

The news is dire. Predictions grim.

Oil prices are in a slump. The economy is struggling and everyday people are feeling the pinch. Job lay-offs. Hiring freezes. Postponed projects.

It all has an impact.

Yesterday, I felt hopeful.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of sitting in the Alberta Legislature as Finance Minister Joe Ceci tabled his new government’s first budget.

And yes, this budget contains an ‘unprecedented for Alberta’ deficit. And yes, it is based on the hope that oil will recover some of its losses in the next year. And yes, the boost in economic activity is predicated on job creation through capital projects.

The forestry industry should be happy. Looking at the reams of paper this budget consumed, their sales must be up.

Regardless of how thick the stack of paper underpinning the budget, this government believes we can weather this storm. We can pull through, together.

Regardless of how I voted, this is my government, elected because Albertans voted them into the majority of seats in our Legislative Assembly.

Regardless of the party in power, this is still my Alberta too.

Whether I like the budget, or not, whether I voted NDP, or not, this is the framework within which we must operate. This is the government in power.

In listening to the political pundits, in reading the reviews and criticisms, the biggest ‘losers’ as one Calgary Herald report calls it, are smokers and drinkers. This budget means it will cost 5% more for every package of cigarettes and bottle of alcohol we buy.

I can live with that. I can adjust. I don’t smoke — I do drink wine. I have a choice. Cut back or pay up. If I give into my cynical, sarcastic frame of mind, I figure I can drown my sorrows by growing the government coffers. It’s a win/win.

Joking aside, being in the House yesterday was exciting. Fascinating. Entertaining. Illuminating.

The history. The beauty of the Legislative Building. The pageantry. The tradition.

As one new Member of the Legislative Assembly said to me as we chatted in the Rotunda after the budget was tabled, “Sometimes, it’s hard to believe I’m here. I pinch myself every time I walk in.” For them, governing is a sacred trust. A privilege. A humbling experience.

Sitting across from the governing party from where I sat in the Gallery, I too felt humbled. I was impressed with their passion, enthusiasm, and, I must admit, the youth of the those sitting in the seats of power. Sure, we can laugh about the fact some were in a classroom teaching the day before they won their seat in the Legislative Assembly. Or were a barrista or driving a taxi, or in a University classroom as a student, not a professor.

But that isn’t the point.

The point is, they cared enough to run for office. And now, they are our government. They want to do a good job. They want to give their best in the service of all Albertans.

Their job is to take the information and knowledge being shared with them both from the public and their advisors in the public service and put it to work for the benefit of their constituents, all of them. Not just those who voted NDP.

It was a fascinating day yesterday. I sat in question period before the Budget presentation and listened to both sides jockey back and forth as the Opposition members queried the whys and what-for’s and what’s happening next of the majority party members. I listened to the members hammer on their tabletops (a long tradition of the Assembly), call out across the floor and rib each other over what was said, not said, heard but not understood, heard and not agreed with and I felt humbled.

This is our government.

If we want it to work for all Albertans, we need to let go of leaping first to criticize, condemn and complain and step instead into our own power to contribute our best to make a difference for all Albertans.

This government, like all governments, may not do everything right, but from what I experienced yesterday, they are listening to all Albertans, and from what they heard, crafted a plan to move forward while creating change and opportunity and a path towards the future they believe will be for the betterment of all.

Regardless of whether I like the path, it is the path. My job is to figure out how I walk it so that together, we truly can make progress that makes a difference in all our lives.

 

 


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Where is freedom?

Freedom isn’t free
You gotta pay the price
You gotta sacrifice
For your liberty.
                                         Up With People

Our hearts cry out for freedom.

We yearn to claim the right to make our decisions, carve our own path, create our own destiny.

And then we stumble and fall. We tell ourselves its best to not ‘rock the boat’. It’s best to ‘go with the flow’ and give into the ‘system’. In our desire to conform, to fit in, we let go of our will to be the change we want to be in our lives and fall into the trap of becoming who we think others will like best.

We say we’re not — giving in, conforming, silencing ourselves, constraining our dreams. We say we’re breaking the rules so we can be free. We are cutting off from the norm to do it our way, but we forget to check if our way is actually creating the ‘more’ we say we want. Too often, it’s simply creating the ‘other’ than what we dreamt would be the freedom we seek. We’re breaking rules for the sake of breaking rules versus testing the limits of our comfort zone and carving the path that fills our heart’s desire to be free and live with passion.

I don’t like breaking rules.

Some of my desire to not break rules and fit in stems back to an incident in Grade 1 when I broke the ‘no talking rule’ (a few too many times) in class and the teacher made me go and stand in the corner. But she didn’t make me stand in the corner in our classroom. She made me stand in the corner of the front lobby of our school. (I think I talked a lot when I was supposed to be quiet.)

I was shamed.

I remember standing in the corner and my brother and sister walking past, seeing me and poking fun at me. I’m sure when we got home they told my mother and that would not have been pretty.

My mother did not like us to break the rules.

Decades later the shame of that incident can still occasionally trip me up. When I feel I have something to add to a conversation, I hesitate. When I want to speak my truth, I second guess myself.

I don’t like breaking rules and the rule I made in my head long ago is that speaking up gets me in trouble. It’s best to hold my counsel unless I’m really, really sure I won’t get in trouble or be laughed at, ridiculed and mocked for what I have to say.

Except. The truth of who I am is I like to participate. I like to share my thoughts, to test them against other’s thinking to see where the cracks and the light is in my thinking. I like to be part of the conversation.

The dichotomy of not wanting to speak up for fear of looking stupid and my desire to let my voice be part of the conversation can create some awkward, unpredictable and tension-riddled times in my life.

At times, it has kept me silent in the face of discord. It has held me still in the arms of abuse.

It has trapped me into believing if I speak louder, I will be heard. If I break the rules, I will be free.

Freedom doesn’t come from breaking rules for the sake of stating I am free to do what I want. It comes when I live my life in harmony with the world around me, honouring the path of all around me, honouring our collective need to treat eachother with dignity and respect, celebrating the magnificence inherent in all our beings.

Freedom isn’t found in being the loudest voice.

It’s found in being the voice of truth spoken without fear of being judged or devalued because of our words.

It’s found in honouring the collective rules of our societal mores that protect our equality, liberty and rights.

Freedom is found when we honour one another in Love.


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Change is possible.

The biggest obstacle to change is that we think we already know the answer.  Joe Davis

Choices Seminars is about change. It’s about changing the things in your life that aren’t working. It’s about healing the wounds that continue to seep and drain your passion and commitment to living your best life yet.

It’s about learning to let go of past sorrows and celebrate small and big moments freely. It’s about dreaming and building a path to live your dreams outside the comfort of the narrow, small box of doing what you’ve done before because that’s the way you’ve always been or done it.

It’s about being who you are when the chatter in your head doesn’t create static that blocks you from seeing how beautiful, loving, caring and magnificent you and the world around you truly is.

And it’s about learning simple tools that can help you stay on track, no matter the weather, no matter the obstacles on your path.

And still we balk. We hesitate. We resist.

We say, “I know. I know…”  I shouldn’t spend too much, drink too much, eat too much, talk too much, laugh too much, stay alone so much, give so much. I shouldn’t stay silent. I shouldn’t yell. I shouldn’t cry. I shouldn’t believe others when they tell me I am too noisy, quiet, loud, shy, and every other opinion they share that makes me want to change everything about me just so I can fit in. Feel like I belong. Feel like I am seen.

We ‘should’ all over ourselves with the things we say we know we should not do, while fearing there’s nothing else we can do, it’s just the way we are, it’s all that we deserve, what’s the point? why bother?

We all fear change. Fear is a human response to our inability to predict what is going to happen next. It is a natural response to the things we don’t understand in our lives and the world around us.

To offset our fear, we make decisions about ourselves and everyone and everything around us because we believe these are the decisions that will keep us safe. These are the beliefs that will help us make sense of what is happening.

And while the decisions we make may stop the pain in the moment, they don’t translate that well from the there and then when we made them to the here and now in which we are living. They only give us the illusion of feeling ‘safe’ because we know them, we are comfortable and familiar with our decisions. And, as long as we hold onto them, as long as we don’t challenge ourselves to let them go, we know where we stand, even on shifting sands and rocky bottoms.

Because, who would we be, where would we be, without our beliefs in how the world works and where we fit in it?

Choices gives us the opportunity to explore the questions of ‘what do I want more of in my life’ and to find our answers in a safe and courageous space.

It gives us the framework to ask ourselves… What if I’m wrong about what people see in me? What if what I believe isn’t true anymore? What if my pain is caused because I believe people can be…. mean, cold, cruel, unkind, thoughtless, stupid, rigid? What if my fear of moving forward is based on the belief… people always leave, are out to get me, don’t care, don’t see me, don’t hear me, don’t want to know me?

What if I truly do deserve to be happy, loved, content, peaceful, joyful, part of a ‘family’, belong, fit in, safe.

What if I truly do deserve a life of wonder and awe?

Having just spent five days in the Choices seminar room, I am immersed in the wonder and awe of our human condition. Of our capacity to carry pain, and our ability to let it go. To feel hurt and to heal. To break our hearts wide open and love freely.

I am in awe.

We are an amazing human race and the biggest obstacle to our accepting the beauty and magnificence of our human condition and the world around us is, Us.

Change is possible, once we get out of the way of believing the answer is, we can’t.


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Blessed to be Canadian.

What excites me most about this election?

My daughters and their friends got engaged. They were not alone. One report I read spoke about the youth vote. How the 20 and 30 somethings carried the day. It was their vote, the reporter said, that swept the red wave across the land.

Thank you Mr. Harper.

You gave them a reason to care. To get informed. To become active in Canada’s political scene. You gave them a symbol of power that lead them to the polls in waves of red shirts armed with their desire to topple the juggernaut of your command of our land.

It was our own Arab Spring á la Canada. There were no guns fired. No troops called out. No blood spilled. No body count, except for the casualties of the political kind where those who once held the sacred ground of office must now give way to their successors. In peace.

Always in peace. We are Canadian and we value peace.

In his acceptance speech last night, Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau said, “Conservatives are not our enemies. They are our neighbours. Leadership is about bringing people of all different perspectives together.”

On our front lawn the ‘Battle of Canada’ was fought with both sides holding ground on either side of our front walkway. On the left, a sign supporting our Liberal hopeful stood proud. On the right, a sign for the man who has become our Member of Parliament representing the Conservatives, stood up to the winds of change, ever hopeful in its ability to hold its ground.

It was the same in the Provincial election last spring. C.C.’s conservatives on the right. My gritty red nature showing on the left. We both agreed that if one of us could wave the flag of their party, so too could the other. It wasn’t about our differing sides of the political spectrum. It was and is about our freedom and desire to express our support, to be engaged, to have a voice in who and how our country is run.

We tease each other about our signs, as do our guests when they come to visit. And we’re okay with it. We know that beneath the colours of the party’s we support is the truth of what each party is about — we love Canada and want the best for our country. We just happen to believe another person/party can do it better.

Regardless,  we are not enemies. We are one in our desire for Canada to stand, proud, strong and free.

This morning, though the Conservative candidate, Ron Liepert, won the seat, only the sign for Liberal hopeful, Kerry Cundal, remains.

I don’t know what happened to the sign. It was there last night when I drove home. Perhaps it blew away in the winds that howled throughout the night. Perhaps, an anonymous Liberal supporter carried it away. We’ll never know.

And it doesn’t matter.

What matter is, when once people told me being a Liberal in Calgary is a loser’s game, I am, like so many in Canada this morning, hopeful.

“My message to you tonight my fellow citizens is simple,” said Trudeau in his acceptance speech. “Have faith in yourselves and in your country. Know that we can make anything happen if we set our minds to it and work hard.”

There is a different political party in command of Canada this morning. But it doesn’t change who we are. It doesn’t change what we, as Canadians, stand for, believe in, value.

We have faith.

Faith in our belief in the rights of every citizen. Faith that we are strong, not in spite of our differences, but because of them.

Turning Tory blue to Liberal red doesn’t change the fundamental values we share; that every Canadian has the right to speak freely, to worship in the pew of their choosing, to wear the symbols of their faith freely and proudly and without fear. To create lives that are filled with dignity, integrity, respect.

It doesn’t change that all Canadians, regardless of their land of birth, want our children to have the futures we dream of, that they aspire to. That each of us can live without fear of one another, without fear of our government, without fear of our policy-makers, judicial system and armed forces.

I do not fear a violent uprising this morning. I do not fear tanks rolling through our streets. I do not fear for my daughters lives or the life of my husband’s son, or all our sons and daughters storming off to war to fight for the right to be free on our common ground of Canada.

This morning, as with every morning as a Canadian, I woke up free. I woke up with all my rights, all my belief in a fair and just society in tact.

That is the privilege of being Canadian. No matter the political party at our helm, we are free.

I am blessed to be Canadian and this morning, I am also very proud.

 


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Always, there is Love.

blessing

It is easy sometimes to not see everything in our life as a manifestation of life being a blessing.

It is easy to see our troubles as life being filled with trouble. Our sorrow’s as life being sorrowful.

When we focus on the clouds, we forget that. behind every grey cloud, the sun still shines, the sky is still blue.

I counted my blessings this weekend. I walked with Beaumont at the park. The skies were clear, the temperature warm and I felt the blessings of life surround me and fill me up with every breath.

I walked alone with the pup and with many blessings in my life too. C.C. A  girlfriend I haven’t seen in a long while, People and their dogs Beaumont and I have met on our walks.

I spent time with friends on the weekend too. On Saturday I met a girlfriend for lunch and she told me about the life blossoming within her body.

“The greatest gift in my life has been my daughters,” I told her. “I can’t think of anything in my life that has changed me and deepened my understanding of life and its precious gifts and the power and wonder of our humanity, more than becoming a mother.”

Becoming a mother gave me the gift of seeing life as a blessing.

In becoming a mother, I chose to awaken. To dig deep within me to find the core of who I am in the world so that my daughters could grow freely knowing who they are in the world is precious, unique. A gift.

And I am thankful.

Sometimes, the journey has been filled with grey clouds rumbling above as I cowered beneath my fears. Sometimes gentle rains have fallen and sometimes torrential downpours have pummelled my body as I closed my eyes in fear of the darkness all around me.

And always, the sun shone behind the clouds. The blue sky beckoned above me with its infinite possibilities. And all I needed to do to see it was to lift my head and open my eyes.

I lifted my head and opened my eyes to the blue sky above this weekend. I held my face towards the sun and felt its warmth beating upon my skin. And I felt joy. And awe and wonder flow all around me and within me. And in their presence, I felt Love invade my body and fill me up. Completely.

Like the sun shining behind grey clouds, like the blue sky beckoning above, I knew. Always there is Love.

It is love that keeps use safe. Love that holds us in its embrace even when we fall into troubled waters and feel like we are drowning beneath our sorrows. There in the turbulent waters, there in the tears streaming down our face, there in the sorrows bending our backs, there is Love.

In love, life is a blessing. Always.

And when I live from a place where all of life is a blessing, when I embrace even those things I see as trials and tribulations as blessings, life is full of wonder and awe. It may not always be easy, but it is always life in all its magnificence. In all its glory. In all its Love.