Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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It’s a girl! Birthday wishes to my youngest daughter.

liseanneWhen she was little we nicknamed her Ghee! because that was the sound she made when she was excited about something. The exclamation mark was important. Even as an infant it was obvious that her mode of travel through life would be to always put an exclamation mark after everything she did.

Yesterday, my youngest daughter turned 29. I couldn’t write my blog about her yesterday as I had forgotten to ask permission. She’s particular that way. Determined. Confident. Assured.

On Sunday night, six of us went for dinner to celebrate her big day and I sat and watched her and felt awe wash over me just as it had that day, 29 years ago, when she burst into the world with her delightful laughter and way of being and said, “I am here!”

It was cold on January 30th, 1988. Her father and I were just finishing off touches to her bedroom when my water broke, two weeks before my due date. There was a nurses’ strike happening, the temperature was sub-Arctic and I hadn’t quite finished doing all the things I wanted to get done before her arrival as Alexis’ little sister. I wanted to wait. At least until after the nurses’ strike. My doctor informed me waiting was not an option. Liseanne agreed. She arrived just after 3pm in the afternoon of the 30th. Two weeks early. 6lbs 1 oz. A perfect miracle of life.

And that is how she has rolled for 29 years.

Taking the world by storm. Ready or not. Here I come.

It is one of her many gifts. She doesn’t wait for the world to catch up. She leads the parade.

Inspiring. Thoughtful. Thought-provoking. Liseanne likes to challenge ideas, shake-up the status quo, see things through different perspectives.

And she likes to invite everyone into her creative way of seeing the world.

Once, when she was about eight, she really, really wanted a dog. When she asked me if we could get one, I told her I didn’t think so. I was a single-working parent of two young daughters. I didn’t want to have to care for an animal. A few days later, she asked me if we could get an elephant. Of course not, I laughed. An elephant’s too big. What about a giraffe? Same thing, I told her — plus the fact our roof wasn’t high enough to accommodate an animal that tall. She pretended to think about it some more and then asked if we could get a tiger. Tiger’s don’t do well in the city, I replied. Oh, she said. Do dogs? Of course, I casually responded. And they’re not too big or too tall for our house are they? No. They’re not. Good, she said. Then a dog is perfect.

It wasn’t until two weeks later when we were on our way to the SPCA to check out dogs that I realized I’d been outsmarted by my 8 year old daughter.

And when we came home with Bella, an 80lb shaggy black bear of a dog, I realized I’d been out-smarted again. I’d insisted that if we got a dog, it would be a small one.

Liseanne was right though. We needed that big shaggy girl in our lives. And so did their dad, she would later convince me.  Travelling back and forth between houses with the girls, Bella had become his best friend. She’ll only be a block away, mom, she told me when she asked if Bella could go live with their father. You’ve got us. He needs someone in the house with him. And so Bella, the dog she’d lobbied for so convincingly took up residence in their father’s house a block away.

Because it was the right thing to do and doing the right thing is at the heart of who Liseanne is. She cares about people, animals, everything. And beyond caring, she turns up. She takes action.

During the floods, she volunteered around the city helping to sweep out flooded basements, carry out sodden belongings of strangers. It didn’t matter. She was needed. She was there.

Liseanne is a successful young business woman now. She holds a responsible job. She sits on the board of a not for profit. She gives of her time, her talents and her treasures.

It’s who she is. It’s how she is in this world. Loving. Laughing. Living life her way.

And I am so blessed. She has gifted my life with grace and love. And when I really needed it, she gave me the forgiveness I so desperately needed and kept on loving me just the way I am.

Yesterday was my youngest daughter’s birthday. My life and the world are a better place because she’s in it.

 

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A Homeless Shelter is a Place to Belong

seeking_human_kindness-homeless-hub-york-uniWe all need a place to belong.

In the homeless-serving sector, a shelter is where many people find a place to belong, and for some, it is the first place they’ve ever felt like they fit in.

It’s what makes a homeless shelter work. At a shelter, people find a place to belong that does not judge because they have nothing, or are broken, or lost. A shelter accepts you as you are.

You don’t need to prove your worth. At a shelter, you’re worth can’t be found in the things you possess.

At a shelter, you don’t have to pretend you’re not broken. You wouldn’t be at the shelter if something in your life wasn’t broken.

At a shelter, you don’t have to fake you know exactly where you are going. Nobody planned on being there and, up until ending at a shelter’s doors, everyone has done everything they could think of to avoid ending up at the one place they never imagined they would be.

Beyond food and shelter, a homeless shelter represents a place of belonging for those who feel outside the norm. It represents community. Safe haven. A place of last resort. A place where you know having nothing doesn’t matter. Everyone else is in the same boat.

And, it is a place for human kindness. a place where conversation happens. Friendships blossom. Lives change.

“Hey, I got a lead on a new place but I’m looking for a roommate.”

“I’m trying to find a way back to [and they name a country, province, town, or an area somewhere in the city], but I need a ride.”

“Know anyone who’s hiring?”

“I hear ABC has a couple of spots for the next month.”

“Got an extra smoke?”

“I’m workin’ on getting outta here. I just gotta find a place to rent that I can afford.”

As individuals move into and through and hopefully, out of a shelter, one of the biggest struggles isn’t always to find a place to live. It’s to find a place to belong, out there, like they felt, in here.

One man, Karl*, spent four years struggling to move beyond the shelter doors. He was a natural leader. Once, he encouraged others on his floor to contribute their bottle money to buy a young 10 year old a gift because she’d donated her birthday money and created a blanket drive for the shelter. Addiction kept him trapped until gradually, he gave up on staying drunk and reconnected with his former life, eventually moving out of the shelter. But he was lonely.

“In here, I know who I am,” he explained one night, six months after he’d moved out and turned up at the doors, drunk and hollering for access. “Out there, I’m a nobody. A peon. Just a face in the crowd.”

We are all just ‘faces in the crowd’ but when the crowd are the people we know, people we work with, play with, volunteer with… When our crowd shares a common bond, sense of purpose, we feel more connected. More safe. Welcome. Part of something that stretches us beyond the daily routine of: Get up. Get dressed. Go to work. Come home. Watch TV. Have a brew. Go to bed. Repeat daily.

Being a face in a crowd where we feel a sense of belonging gives our daily life purpose, direction. We are moving with the flow. Not standing like an island being buffeted by the waters raging around us.

And in that place, where we see ourselves reflected in the faces of those around us, we don’t feel different. Lost. Alone.

We feel like we belong. And in that belonging is the possibility of something different. Maybe. One day.

But until that day, at least here, we have a place where we know we fit in. A place where we belong.

 

 


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The path to nowhere goes somewhere

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Awhile ago, I spoke with a woman whose mother had recently passed away. “We are all part of the ocean of life,” she said in response to my question about her well-being. “Though my mother is gone, we’re still connected. The essential part of ourselves will always be connected, if not on this physical plane, then some other place.”

And I felt the ocean of humanity wash over me.

We are all connected.

We are all spirit. We are all human. We are all miraculous beings of life and light. Energy in its purest form.

In that deep realization is the possibility and the knowing that there is nothing to fear in this world. Not failure. Not success. Not falling. Not flying. Not life. Not death.

As FDR famously said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

In this life, it is fear that keeps us from loving one another, accepting one another, knowing one another, as we are, without wanting the other to be different. To be more the same like me, like you, like the way we want them, not the way they are.

It is fear of being rejected, displaced, embarrassed, and so much more that keeps us walking the paths we’ve always walked, fearing to change will bring upon some unknown catastrophe, or perhaps to change would be to admit, we didn’t fit the shoes we were walking in.

In my twenties I wrote a poem that still fits today.

I don’t always know
that what I do is
right
or even that it’s
best.
I can only wear the clothes
I know
that
fit me.

Yet, sometimes I’ll try
a dress too large
or a shoe too small.

And when I do
I take them off
and try
another size.

Sometimes, we walk a path only to discover it is not going where we thought, or perhaps it’s going nowhere. Yet, we stay the course because we can’t see another path, and tell ourselves, we can’t turn back.

I wonder what would happen if instead of looking for another path, we created our own?

Namaste.


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Creativity can’t stop itself.

get-your-creative-on-copy

Photo courtesy of Florian Klauer
https://unsplash.com/@florianklauer


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Let’s Talk #BellLetsTalk

bell-lets-talkI am crazy about my mental health.

Crazy about being healthy of mind, strong of body, and spirit.

I am crazy about keeping my mind focused, sharp, capable of thinking great things, capable of guiding me through each day without pulling me off track into the darkness of darkness, the sadness of sadness that blankets every thought, every word, every thing when depression hits.

I am crazy in love with being free of thoughts that would drag me down into the swamp of believing the only way out of life is death. Death is part of life, but it is not the all of life. and that’s what depression would have me believe.

I am not depressed.

I do not suffer from depression.

Anymore.

I had a big encounter with it. Once.  I was in a relationship that was almost killing me. I wanted to die. I thought about ways to die. Dreamt I could make it happen. Tried a couple of times.

I’m grateful I failed.

I was lucky. I lived through it.

Because of the stigma though, I never reached out for help. Never told anyone. Never called the Distress Centre. Never talked to a professional.

I was too scared. Too ashamed. Too fearful of what people would say if I told them how dark it felt living inside my mind. Too ashamed of how crazy-making my life was in the terror of a relationship that was so bad for me, I thought the only way out was to die.

Today in Canada, 11 people will end their lives through suicide. Approximately another 210 will attempt it. Source

We need to talk about it. It’s crazy not to.

We need to talk about our mental health and mental illness. About the darkness, and the light. We need to talk about the challenges, the pitfalls, the hurdles to staying sound of mind when  darkness falls and we can’t see the cracks where the light is trying to get in.

Because mental illness affects every Canadian, either directly or indirectly.

20% of Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime.

8% will experience major depression at some point in their lifetime.  Source

I am one of the 8%.

I survived.  I’m not crazy. I’m alive, and today I thrive.

Others won’t survive their mental illness. Others will believe they’re crazy to feel the way they do, and take matters into their own hands.

We need to talk about it so they know they are not alone. They are not crazy.

We need to talk about it before it takes their will to live, before it drags them so far into the darkness, there is no possibility of the light getting through the cracks.

 

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day.

You can make a difference by clicking  HERE and on Facebook, HERE.

 


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Take Action | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 41

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Meeting yourself on the path to reaching your goals, taking up the call to TAKE ACTION to create the change you want to see in your life, is how goals are achieved. Step by step.

This year, I have a goal of getting fit enough so that I can run the half marathon in the summer of 2018 before my 65th birthday in December. I love running. Ran half marathons a lot and also ran the marathon. And then, life took a different direction and I forgot about the importance of being in shape and having a running goal.

I am starting out small. Getting physio therapy on a persistent issue with my left knee, losing weight by eating healthily, walking every day (albeit baby steps until my knee is in shape), doing strengthening and stretching exercises everyday and breathing deeply into my resolve to stay the course.

Each small step will bring me closer to my goal. Each advancement will keep me moving on the road towards my destination. Each hurdle surmounted will bring me closer to a place where I am ready to begin jogging again.

It’s about pace. About not biting off the whole goal in one big indigestible swallow, getting discouraged, spitting it out and quitting.

Small steps bring you to the Big Guys without dragging you back to the beginning again and again and again.

With small steps, each step matters. Each step makes a difference that builds upon the last until you find yourself so far down the road, there’s no going back, the finish line is in sight.

To reach a Big Guy goal, divide your path into small, measurable steps and take each one, day by day by day. Start out small and build upon your momentum. Feel each win, celebrate it and build it up with more and more and more.

See you at the finish line!


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And so we marched.

On Saturday, we marched.

Beaumont at the march. “Where are all the pussycats?”

Over 5,000 women, men, children (and dogs too).

We marched.

We marched for human rights, indigenous rights, minority rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ2S rights. We marched for the right to march. The right to speak up, have a voice, give voice to what we believe in, what we want in our world, what we do not want more of in our world.

Discrimination. Misogyny. Brutality. Divisiveness. Unethical and unfair treatment of those who are vulnerable, living on the margins, struggling to find their way.

We marched so we could say, “We will be quiet no more. We will not give into fear, discrimination, misogyny, brutality, divisiveness, unethical behaviour and unfair treatment.”

We marched to tell the world we are ONE. One planet. One humanity. One human race. We are all together on this giant ball spinning through the universe, orbiting one sun, the light and heat and warmth of which we all share.

We marched to tell each other we care. We are connected. We are in this world, this life, together.

We marched to tell each other we must treat one another as equals, as human beings, as party to the same world upon which we walk, breathing the same air, needing the same oxygen, food, water, space.

We marched because we know that fear is not the answer. Action is. Giving voice is. Speaking out is.

We marched because we know…

Love is what matters and Love trumps hate. Just as love trumps fear and misogyny and divisiveness and exclusionary practices, and lies and bullying and all host of human ills.

And in our voices joined together all around the globe we said…

Human rights matter.

Women’s rights matter.

Immigrants’ rights matter.

LGBTQ2S rights matter.

All rights matter to us. We the people.

We marched because we chose to take action.

It was one action we could take that mattered to each of us who came out to support the millions of people walking with us on that day, at that time, all around the world. Because to each of us, each of us matters. Whether you were marching with us or were not, we all matter.

We are one humanity. And when we treat one another with dignity and respect, when we are inclusive and accepting of our differences, when we let go of the things that keep us fighting as ‘us versus them’, when we show each other kindness and love, the earth becomes a better place for every living thing on this planet .