Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Me Too

 

Currently on Facebook, there are countless women posting the phrase —  Me Too. #MeToo

The explanation for the appearance of these two words is:  “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

I’m not sure where the campaign originated from, but the power of those two words haunts me as I encounter woman after woman posting the phrase and offering up explanations.

It’s the explanations that haunt me most. Not because of their content, (though they are heart-wrenching and sad to read) but rather, because it speaks to a deeper ennui that we suffer through. The powerlessness that comes from feeling we must offer up an explanation rather than stand in the power of our words. In this case, those two words, Me Too.

When we provide an explanation or the story behind the assaults, the sexual harassment, the discrimination, we buy into the notion that we have to defend against our right to not be harassed or assaulted or discriminated against.

We do not need to defend our right. We need to claim it. Stand in it. Be it.

Abusers abuse because they can.

I spent almost five years in a relationship that was killing me. He was doing what he was doing because that’s what he does.

I stayed, not because he was doing what he was doing, but rather, because in listening to his lies, in buying into his insistence he owned me, I lost my voice, my persona, my belief that I could live my life differently.

When I was freed from that relationship, people asked me, ‘but how could you not have known? Why didn’t you stop him?”

At first, their questions felt like a judgment. Like they were looking at me as somehow to blame for what he did.

What he did is what he did.

What I did was stay after the first time I caught him in a lie. After the first time he yelled. After the first time, the second time, the third until time stopped and I stood still in my fear.

To defend against my fear of being judged, I wanted to tell them ‘because I didn’t’. End of story. Period.

Instead, I offered up explanations… Because I didn’t believe I had the right. The power. The ability to stand up.

I lost all sense of direction. All sense of who I was. I lost my senses.

And in that place, the only thing that made sense was what he told me about me, did to me, wanted from me.

What he wanted. I gave. I did. I said.

In that place, right and wrong took a back seat to survival. Even in those moments when I didn’t want to live, I couldn’t give up on living.

It was in my DNA.

And that brings me back to the haunting nature of women explaining the times they were assaulted, discriminated against, demeaned because of their sex.

It doesn’t matter if it was once, or a thousand plus a thousand times. It doesn’t matter if it was one word, a thousand words or a covert sexual gesture or an overt sexual act.

Every time is wrong.

Every time hurts.

Every time breaks down the delicate fabric of our psyches leaving us in a place of ‘less than’ where the more we want in our lives becomes one simple plea. “Make it stop.”

When I was in that relationship, I kept praying for someone to ‘Please make it stop.’ I kept looking for someone to see me, to actually see how lost and terrified and alone and frightened and beaten down I was.

But they couldn’t.

Not because they didn’t care.

It was because I wasn’t telling.

It didn’t have to tell the details of what he was doing.

I needed to tell the truth. I was being abused.

In my silence, I lost myself and almost lost my daughters.

I am grateful. My daughters and I have grown beyond survival to the amazing beauty of our lives today. It doesn’t change the fact there’s evil in this world. It doesn’t change the abusers.

It does change us.

We are free and in that freedom I can state without fear, shame or sadness, Me Too.

And in my Me Too, there is no need for explanation.

It is the truth.

Me Too.

And in my Me Too is my I will not be silenced.

Not because abusers don’t exist in this world. They do.

My ‘I will not be silenced’ is because I claim  my right to have a voice. To speak my truth. To live out loud.

 

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One community. One voice. One vision for our city.

In the Diary Of Anais Nin Volume 5 1947-1955: Vol. 5 (1947-1955) Nin wrote, “It is a sign of great inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar.”

Yet, everyday, we resist change, different, new.

Way, way back in the late 70s, I worked for a technology company that built and sold word processors. The goal was to put a system on the desk of every secretary. Even the scientists, the visionaries, the trailblazers missed the mark on that one.  ‘No manager, or lawyer, or doctor, or engineer is going to want a computer on their desk,’ the pundits said. ‘Only secretary’s need them.’

Fast forward 40 years and the ubiquitous laptop appears everywhere, in everyone’s hands, in coffee shops, in accounting rooms and word processing pools, on planes and boats and trains, in libraries and executive offices. The laptop belongs to everyone. It doesn’t care about gender. It’s egalitarian.

When I look back on the changes to views of women, there are so many changes. Hard fought for. Hard won. The right to hold title to land, the vote, the fall of men only clubs and bars and, the word processor.

The word processing system was meant to make a woman’s life easier — the majority of secretary’s were women, and making them work faster, more efficiently, and less repetitively was the goal of getting the systems into the marketplace.

How wrong can we get on where change is leading us?

Which brings me to the point of this post.

When laptops began to take over the desktops of the corporate world, there were many, many executives and professionals of every age who swore they would never use one. Like a lion holding court over its den, there was a certain pride in not having one on your desk, in not knowing how to type.

Now? Knowing how to type is invaluable.  For everyone.

Which leaves me wondering. As voice recognition continues to become ever more effective and decipherable (I love how dictating texts can create such delightful mis-meaning!), will typing become the thing that ‘the older generation’ did? Will it too become a thing of the past like the dusty Underwood typewriter I have finally chosen to let go of as I clear and cull our house?

If instead of thinking about all that I am letting go of, I chose instead to embrace this move with the anticipation of all I am creating room for in our lives, would it be easier to be less hostile and insecure in the changes. In that place, would I be able to joyfully accept the inevitability of change and welcome in its possibilities?

A meandering stream of consciousness this morning as we prepare to put this house on the market and I prepare to greet my day.

The sky is slowly lightening. The world continues to turn as Calgary faces the outcome of another civic election. Not many faces have changed on the mayoral and councillor list. Yet, so much changed throughout the campaign.

I hope as the Mayor and Council get back to the business of running this city, they see the outcome of the election, not as a statement of their need to hold onto what they’ve got, but rather, as an invitation to let go of the bitterness and hostility that bubbled up all over the campaign trail.

In that space of letting go, I hope they find the courage to give into acceptance and forgiveness, courage and possibility. I hope they can feel secure enough to embrace change as together, with all of community, we work to create a great city for everyone. One community. One voice. One vision for our city.

 

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What’s in your cup?

It is easy to blame the other, someone else, anyone else for our moods, our actions, words.

Yet, as this lovely story from Thich Nhat Hanh so clearly shows, whose moods, actions, words are they?

What were we holding inside when it all spilled them out?

Zen Flash

 I found this analogy interesting:

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere.

Why did you spill the coffee?

“Well because someone bumped into me, of course!”

*Wrong answer.*

You spilled the coffee because there was _coffee_ in your cup.

Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled _tea_.

*Whatever is inside the cup, is what will spill out.*

Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which WILL happen), whatever is inside you will come out. _It’s easy to fake it, until you get rattled._

*So we have to ask ourselves… _”what’s in my cup?”_*

When life gets tough, what spills over?

Joy, gratefulness, peace and humility?

Or anger, bitterness, harsh words and reactions?

You choose!

Today let’s work towards filling our cups with gratitude, forgiveness, joy, words…

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My Daily Intention: Hold Space for Joy

 

As I continue to cull and clear, declutter and pack, in preparation for putting this house on the market, the task can at times feel daunting, overwhelming, never-ending.

Questions arise.

How can two people need/acquire/keep/want so much stuff?

Where does all the stuff come from?

Where does it all go?

Is there not a more simple, grace-filled way to live?

So many questions with countless answers.

Today, I shall live inside each question so that the question becomes the path to where grace leads me into a more simple and elegant way to live.

Today, I shall let the process of decluttering and packing guide me by holding space in my heart for gratitude (for all we have, for all we create, for all we contribute, for all we receive) and joy (for the love, abundance and gifts in our lives) fill my heart.

Namaste.


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A tale of the city.

I am driving down a side road towards the main avenue near our home when I see a man, arms flailing as he stumbles along the sidewalk. He windmills for a moment at the edge where the sidewalk ends and the road begins.

He falls.

I can’t see his fall. There is a parked car blocking my view.

I drive past. See him lying on the pavement.

I pull over. Get out of my car and walk quickly back to where he is lying, face up, on the curbside. He is staring up at the sky. Eyes closed. Arms splayed out at his sides, palms open.

Me:  Are you okay? How can I help you?

He opens his eyes. Looks at me. His eyes are bleary.

Man: I don’t know. I fell.

Me:  Yes. I saw you. Can you move? Do I need to call an ambulance?

Man:  No. No. No ambulance.

Me:  How can I help?

Man:  I was just going for a coffee.

He wants to sit up. I lean over to help him and he moans.

Man: That doesn’t feel good.

He lays back down.

Me:  What’s your name? Mine is Louise.

Man:   Wayne.

He starts to cry.

Me:  Do you live near here Wayne?

Wayne:  Yes. In that building. And he waves one arm towards the apartment building to his right.

His speech is slurred. His words come out in a mumbled stream. I think he has been drinking. A lot.

Wayne:  I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.

Me:  There’s nothing to be sorry about, Wayne. But I do need to call 911. I don’t know how else I can help you.

He nods his head. Up and down. I call.

As I wait for EMS to arrive more cars stop. A couple of men walk over to where I am sitting on the curb, Wayne sprawled out on the road beside me.

They ask what they can do to help. I tell them we are waiting for EMS.

They stay and keep us company. Wayne continues to apologize. He is crying. He tells us he sometimes has seizure.

Me:  Did you have a seizure just now?

Wayne:  Yes.

Me:  Do you have epilepsy Wayne?

Wayne:  No.

I pause and think about my next question. EMS will need to know.

Me:  Does alcohol cause seizures for you Wayne.

He nods his head slowly, once. He keeps crying.

Me:  It’s okay Wayne. Just breathe. Deep slow breaths. EMS will need to know about your seizure and the alcohol. It’s important.

Wayne:  Okay.

He nods his head again. Up and down. His tears keep flowing.

Me:  Are you in pain Wayne?

Wayne:  I don’t know.

Me:  Are you cold?

Wayne:  No.

One of the bystanders offers to get him a blanket.

EMS arrives.

They determine nothing is broken and help Wayne get up and walk him towards their ambulance. “We’ll take over from here,” they say.

I thank the two men who stopped to help.

“Thank you for stopping,” one says. “Not many would.”

“You did,” I reply with a smile and start walking towards my car.

Another man who had stopped his truck across the street and stood with his wife on the sidelines while we waited for EMS approaches me.

“Excuse me,” he says.

I stop and turn back towards him. “Yes?”

“Did you used to work at the Drop-In Centre?” (an adult emergency homeless shelter in the downtown core where I was the Director of Communications for 6 years)

“Yes,” I reply slowly.

“I thought so. I remember you. It’s nice to know there are kind-hearted people in the community,” he adds before wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving. He and his wife return to their truck and drive away.

I walk to my car, get in and drive to the store where I was going when I saw Wayne fall.

I will be late. It is Thanksgiving Day. Our guests will have arrived for dinner and everyone will be wondering where I am.

There were many kind-hearted people out that evening. Two women who came from the condo building on the other side of the street. I asked them to go to the main avenue to wave down the ambulance.

The two men who stood watching over us as I sat on the curb and chatted with Wayne.

And the other’s who stood waiting and watching until EMS arrived.

No one had to wait but in the tale of this city, people care enough to stop and help a stranger helping another human being lying on the side of the road.

I am grateful.


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Giving Thanks is at the heart of Knox United Church

Knox United Church has played a pivotal role in creating a caring and inclusive community in downtown Calgary since it first opened its doors over 130 years ago. One of four founding churches to establish the network of faith community memebers that began Inn from the Cold 20 years ago, Knox continues to play a pivotal role in helping the Inn fulfill on its vision to build a community where no child or family is homeless.

Last night, Knox extended its warm hospitality to the children and families staying at the Inn’s emergency shelter. Over 20 volunteers gathered to create a place where gratitude, friendship, joy and gratitude shone in the faces and hearts of everyone gathered together share a meal, give thanks and build community. It rang out in the laughter, the conversation, the clink of cutlery on pretty china plates and wafted through the air filled with the delicious aroma of turkey and roasted vegetables and of course, pumpkin pie.

There was not a belly that felt empty, nor a heart that wasn’t full of gratitude by the end of the evening. Children darted in and around the tables set with pretty white china as parents and neighbours who’d come in to volunteer chatted and laughed together.

There was no, this is my space, you’re a visitor here. There was only the warm, loving welcome of the volunteers who gathered to prepare and serve the meal and put on all the activities to engage adults and children in a wonderful evening of fun and laughter. And, throughout the evening, gratitude and joy and a sense of belonging and community embraced the children and families, helping to lift the heaviness of homelessness to replace it with hope, possibility, Love.

In the end, there was one people, one humanity, one human condition gathered together to share a meal.

I spent the evening last night enveloped in the warm and welcoming embrace of friendship, welcoming hearts and caring hands. I spent the evening in that place where everyone knew they were at home surrounded that the thing we all yearn for the most — loving kindness and belonging.

I am blessed. I am grateful. I am awed by the spirit and humanity of everyone who came out last night to create such a beautiful place for everyone to connect and feel welcome.