Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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What if we stepped closer? #MeToo #MYActions Matter

My office overlooks the C-Train platform at CityHall. Almost everyday, there is some sort of altercation on the platform. Highschool kids mixing it up. Someone trying to avoid the Transit police. A rider trying to be first on the train.

Yesterday it was two women yelling at each other right below my window. Their conversation was peppered with F this. F you. F that. They gesticulated and shouted as people moved further and further away, or as one mother did with her child, covered their ears.

From above, there wasn’t much I could do to change this playing out of our human condition, though I did want to storm down and suggest to one man that his yelling at the two women to SHUT the F Up was not helping. But the C-train arrived, people got off, people got on, and the two women disappeared.

And I wondered…

For those two women, both of whom appeared visibly homeless and street engaged, what if we heard the pain beneath their shouting at one another? What if we felt their sorrow?

Perhaps, instead of hearing the expletives and standing in judgement, turning our backs or covering our ears or yelling back at them, we chose to Step Closer and Listen Deeply?

What if underneath their words, what we heard was…

I’m in pain.

So am I.

I hurt.

Me too.

I don’t want to live like this.

Me neither.

How do I make it stop?

I don’t know. I can’t remember it being any other way.

Me neither.

I’m just going to keep yelling because nobody cares.

Me too.

I feel so lost.

Me too.

I feel so hopeless.

Me too.

I’m afraid.

Me too.

I feel so alone.

Me too.

I feel invisible.

Me too.

I feel hopeless.

Me too.

Nobody sees me.

Ain’t true. I see you.

Nobody hears me.

That ain’t true either. I hear you.

You are me.

I am you.

And what if in that moment of both women acknowledging they are each other, those of us around them called out, “You are me. I am you. We are here with you, not against you.”

And in that our calling out, they realized, WE Are Not Alone.

What if, in that moment they realized there are people willing to step into their pain and grief and sorrow and angst?  That they are not alone in a broken circle of life, because we are here, together, circling them with love, in the same broken circle of life.

We are here with them. Not against them.

And what if, with one breath, we chose to let go of our judgments and instead say together, Me Too.

And in that affirmation, what if we chose to live from that place of connection knowing that for each of us, acknowledging our shared human condition gives us the power to step closer together.

In that shared space of our humanity, what if we build a community where the things that hold us apart are nothing compared to what brings us together — Love. Peace. Harmony and Joy.

#MYactionsMatter


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50 Brave women. 50 stories. 50 photographs. #MyActionsMatter

Last night I was honoured to be part of Discovery House’s brilliant inaugral

The question each women was asked: What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

For me, as I wrote, HERE, my answer was immediate, visceral and surprising — Apologize to my daughters for deserting them.

I hadn’t expected that to flow from my fingertips when Monique Auffrey, the Executive Director of Discovery House, and one of the participants in the exhibit, asked me via email when she nominated me as one of the honouree’s at She’s So Brave.

On the surface, it could appear that apologizing doesn’t seem to be so brave.

For me, it was essential to my healing journey.

Because in apologizing, I claimed responsibility for my actions. I was their mother. I had committed to do my best — and I had hurt them.

I remember once when my eldest daughter was asked, “What did your mother’s apology mean to you?”

She replied that it wasn’t the fact I apologized once, it was that I was willing to acknowledge the pain I had caused them, and apologize however many times needed to let them know, I heard them, I saw them, I was willing to turn up and be present, however they needed me. She described the process by saying that the past was like a river of pain flowing between us. Every time my mother apologized, she said, the pain flowed free and was replaced by love until eventually, all that was left between us was, Love.

I am blessed. Love is always present.

When I was released from that relationship, I made a decision that to heal, I had to choose LOVE. Yes, there was anger, pain, sorrow, grief, hurt and a host of other confusing and painful emotions. But I wasn’t going to focus on them, particularly in the beginning, because I was too broken to dive into the anger. Too fragile to feel the pain. I had to focus on the Love and treating myself with tender, loving, care if I was to give myself the grace of healing.

No matter what other emotion(s) I was feeling, I told myself that LOVE was always present, and thus, I was always safe to simply be present the way I was, in Love.

Over time, as I began to accept that Love truly was the answer, I could dive into the anger, pain, sorrow, grief without fearing I would be swept under by their overwhelming force — I knew and trusted that Love would always hold me.

It wasn’t that I ignored the anger or pain, it’s just I had to allow myself the gift of healing first, so that I could be strong enough to step into them, to face them, fearlessly and Lovingly.

Often, I employed a process I used with my daughters when they were young and fighting with each other. Back then, I’d give them a dozen eggs and tell them to go throw them at the fire pit in the back yard.

To let my anger, hurt and pain out, I’d take a dozen eggs, head off into the forest, write all my hurt and anger and pain on the eggs and then smash them against trees, under railway bridges, against the rocks at the water’s edge. It didn’t hurt the environment, the eggs were biodegradable. And it released the anger, hurt and pain in a safe and loving way.

And always, whenever I got to the last egg. I’d hold it in the palm of my upturned hand, stand quietly, breathe deeply and then gently turn my hand over and allow the egg to fall of its own volition to the ground. In that moment of release, I’d breathe deeply and remind myself, I am free.

Letting go of the past is a choice. It’s a decision to not be tethered to the pain, sorrow, grief — and to choose instead to be free to explore today in Love.

Letting go is not the same as giving up, or giving in. It’s about freedom and having the courage to do the things you need to do to fall in love with Me, Myself and I, in this moment right now, knowing that no matter what the past held, or the future brings, you are safe in the arms of Love. In this moment, right now.

For me, that meant owning what I’d done and apologizing from a loving heart to the ones I’d hurt.

Last night I stood with my beloved C.C. and friends who came to support me as I breathed into the beauty and freedom of my life today.

It was a beautiful evening of celebration of all that makes women so brave. And a wonderful tribute to all that we do and inspire, when we stand tall, speak our truth and shine brightly in the brilliance of our own light and courage.

I am truly blessed, grateful and, Loved.

Thank you Monique, Maria, Leanna, Alan and all the photographers, as well as the team at Discovery House — You are amazing.

And thank you to the other brave women who chose to stand up and be seen so that in their shining brightly, others can find their way through the darkness into the light.

_______________________________________

To watch the CBC news report on the event, click HERE.

 


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Why does he choose to hit her? #MyActionsMatters

It is a question almost always asked of a woman living in the perils of an abusive relationship. “Why does she stay?”

The question not often asked is, “Why does he choose to hit her?”

The first question suggests, in some way, that she has options, that she is in control of the situation.

For the woman, the question of ‘why does she stay’ is a reflection of our belief that she knows how to get out of the situation she’s in. That she feels in control and powerful enough to make a different choice. Yet, abuse, by its very nature, is designed to undermine, to tear away an individual’s sense of self-efficacy, to destroy their belief in their power to change what is happening in their life and the options they have to do so.

In not asking the question, “Why does he choose to hit her?” we are placing the responsibility for the abuse solely on the woman. We are suggesting the relationship and all that is happening in it are of her doing. He is just being who he is. He is just doing what he does.

In not asking the second question we make abuse a woman’s issue. Solely.

It’s not.

Yes, she knows abuse hurts. She knows it destroys self-esteem, drives you crazy with its crazy nonsense, its brutal reality, its ugly existence.

She knows abuse is wrong. So does he.

She knows he could kill her. So does he.

The responsibility for abuse is 100% the responsibility of the person choosing to use violence as a tool to get what they want, to control another through using their physical size and other measures such as control of money to exert power over another.

Why does she stay?

She stays because after years of living in the confusing, terrifying, reality-shifting, crazy-making world he creates with his abuse, she’s learned to take it, to not stand up to it but instead, to lie down to it. She’s learned to believe him when he says, she cannot leave, she’ll be nothing without him. She’ll have nothing without him. He’ll kill her if she leaves.

She’s believed everything else he’s told her. Why wouldn’t she believe he’d kill her if she left him?

Why does she stay?

She stays because of the children. Because she has no money and no control or access to their finances. She stays because he tells her to. Because she believes all the lies he’s told her about why it’s her fault, how she’s the bad one, she’s the crazy one, the one who doesn’t deserve anything other than what she’s getting.

She does not stay because he hits her or because she likes his abuse.

She stays because she believes no one can stop him. He’s told her that often enough. It must be true.

She stays because she not only feels worthless, undeserving, like he is all she deserves, she believes it. He’s told her so many times that she is worthless, a piece of garbage, stupid, ugly, and every other horrible word he can think that will make her believe it’s true. She does. Believe it.

The real questions, the ones we don’t ask, the ones we shy away from, the ones we don’t yell out and insist he answer?

Why does he do it?

Why does he lie and manipulate and scream and yell and hit and do everything he can to convince her she is unworthy of anything other than what he gives her?

Why does he choose to hit her?

 

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This is a repost from August 17, 2015. I am honouring the 16 Days of Activism by making my voice and my actions matter in the vision to End Gender Based Violence. #MyVoiceMatters #MyActionsMatter @WomenCanada #EndViolence #GBV


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#MyActionsMatter

Nov 25 – Dec 10 #MyActionsMatter

For four years nine months I endured a relationship of escalating terror. Looking back, I can’t remember what it is that kept me so stuck in his abuse. Looking back I wonder sometimes, what was I smoking? It must have been powerful stuff. And then, I remember the fear. Fear soaked into my pores. It damned the blood pounding into my heart. It permeated every crevice of my mind, consuming my thinking with terrifying reminders of why I could not leave him.

When it was really bad, and the abuser raged or sat in silent condemnation of yet another of my transgressions, I would slink into a closet, close the door and sit in the dark, my eyes shut to any crack of light trying to enter the dismal confines of my mind. Repetitively I would pet my Golden Retriever’s silky fur, clinging for dear life to this one being who laid her head upon my scrunched up knees and loved me unconditionally. Sometimes, when he held onto the pooch and would not let her come to me, I would crawl into the closet and dig my nails into my wrists, scraping the skin back, trying desperately to feel something, anything, other than the pain of being me. I wanted so desperately to peel my skin away, layer by layer to reveal the veins and vessels that carried the blood of life within this person who felt so dead to me. I wanted to see who lived within me. I wanted to expose the bones that were supposed to hold me up yet seemed to be crashing down from within me. I wanted to die.

It is hard to describe how he implanted such terror into my life. It was a moment by moment seeping away of my essence. When I met him, I was a partner in a communications firm. I had my home, my daughters, my life. He kept telling me that everything I had was nothing compared to what he would give me. I would say, “But I’m happy with my life today.” And he would laugh and ask me how could that be and he would remind me of what a mess my life was. I couldn’t figure that one out. My life wasn’t perfect. But it wasn’t a mess either. Yet, he persisted and rather than laugh back at him, I retreated into silence. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps all that I had accomplished meant nothing compared to all that he had done and wanted to give me.

And then the stalking and the phone taps and the threats of bomb’s under my car and the stories of evil men threatening to kidnap my daughters and drug them and put them into the sex trade began. And I fell into despair. The unreal began to feel too real and I could not risk challenging the truth.

By the end of that ride, I did not exist. I had completely submerged my identity and scrunched it up into a tiny pocket tucked high up into the corner of my mind as I became the vessel of his deceit. We were in hiding as he tried to evade the police. He was searching for a way out of the country. I was searching for a way out. Of life. Of being there with him, And so I existed, telling myself that at least I had gotten him away from the one’s I love. They didn’t deserve him and his abuse. But I did.

For four months my daughters, family and friends didn’t  know where I was. And I was too afraid to call and tell them I was okay. He told me I couldn’t, so I didn’t. It would have been a lie anyway.

I was not okay. I wanted to die. Every moment of every day. Waking or sleeping. I wanted to die. I watched buses and semi-trailers looking for an opportunity to fall into their path or crash into the solid substance of their massive sides as they sped through my life. I counted pills. I fondled razor blades. I imagined death in every form and prayed for it to come and end the darkness that was my world.

And through it all, I stayed silent. I acted the role he needed me to play to convince those who needed convincing that we were who he said we were. Even though I knew it was all a lie. I had become his lie. I was his shill. His creation. The only truth I held onto was my love for my daughters. To take my own life would be to make a lie of my love for them. And I couldn’t do it.

And then, at 9:14 am, May 21, 2003, the police walked in and arrested him and I received the miracle of my life and thus began my journey back.

It has been an amazing journey since that beautiful day in May. A journey filled with sorrow, tears, laughter, joy. A journey like no other. A journey of Love.

I am blessed. Once upon a time I was an abused woman. Today, I am a victor. My daughters and I have reconnected. We are free.

I cannot stop an abuser being who they are, but I can stop abuse in my life. I can make a difference in the world around me by standing against, speaking up and calling out abuse because, #MyActionsMatter.

_______________________

This is a repost from Nov 2, 2012.

Do Not Harm. (My Daily Intention)

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Abuse Hurts. Stop it. (Family Violence Prevention Month)

This is the last Friday of November. Black Friday to some. Blue Friday to others. It is also, the last Friday of Family Violence Prevention Month.

Family violence kills. Spirit. Hope. Dignity. Trust. Lives.

Awhile ago, I attended a fundraiser at a pub in an inner city neighbourhood, just east of the downtown core, along the river’s edge.

What was significant for me about this event wasn’t just the cause or the people, it was the place.

It was held at a venue where, once upon a time, I tried to end the relationship that was killing me.

It was fall, 2002. Life was spiralling out of control and I was falling. I had no money, no job, no home. My daughters were living with their father and I was falling further and further into the darkness.

‘The man’ was clinging to me in a desperate attempt to have life look as if it was normal. I don’t remember where he was living, but I was staying between the home of one of my dearest friends and at the time, house-sitting another friend’s house in the same townhome complex in which she lived.

I wasn’t sure what would happen next. ‘The man’ kept promising to make it all right. He kept promising that he would fix it, get my money and home back, get all my belongings out of storage, get me stable once again.

I didn’t really believe him but I couldn’t quit listening to his promises. I was so tired. So lost. So helpless.

And then, he made a scene. We had gone to a local pub (the same one as the fundraiser) for a drink and he acted out, accusing me of flirting with another man in the bar. Yelling at me for destroying his life. Calling me names.

I grabbed my coat and walked out.

I walked and walked in the cold, dark night.

The pub was only a couple blocks from the river, about a twenty-minute walk from where I was house-sitting.

I walked down to the river and along the path that skirts its shoreline. I don’t remember if there was a moon, or if the stars shone. I remember snow on the ground. Frosty air.

I felt so hopeless.

I wanted him to follow me. I wanted him to leave me alone. I wanted him to disappear. I wanted to vanish.

At one point, I took a path down to the water’s edge and sat on a rock watching the water flow past. I imagined what would happen if I could simply fall into the water. I imagined what it would be like if I could disappear. I knew his presence was choking me. I knew being with him was driving me crazy, that there was no truth in anything he said. And I knew I was lost and had to do something to find myself again.

Somewhere in that relationship he had given me a heart-shaped ring set with tiny diamonds. I had worn that ring ever since he’d given it to me in the belief that as long as I wore it he would not disappear from my life and my daughters’ would be safe from the evil men he told me were threatening their lives.

Sitting beside the river that night, I knew I had to let go.

I took the ring off and hurled it into the river.

I broke the ties. I rebelled against the bonds that tied me so fast to his deceit and abuse.

I walked back to the house where I was staying. I let myself in and went to bed.

It was over.

And then, the doorbell rang.

I didn’t want to answer it. I told myself not to.

But he started yelling. Pounding upon the wooden barrier that stood firm between us.

I capitulated. I told myself I didn’t want to wake the neighbours. I didn’t want him to cause a scene.

I told myself I would let him in just so I could tell him it was over. I didn’t care about the money, the home, the stuff. I wanted free.

It would be six long, terrifying months before I got free again.

I remember that night. It was the night I gave up on me completely. It was the night he threw back at me everything I had ever told him about my life for which I held shame or sadness or regret. In the reminding me of all my misgivings, he affirmed my deepest fear. I was not worthy.

I lost my spirit that night. I lost my direction completely in the darkness of knowing, I was not worthy.

It is the reality of these relationships that take such a toll. To be abused we must believe abuse is all we’re worth. We must believe they are right, we are wrong. We must give up on ourselves, and give into the ‘who’ they tell us we are, what they tell us we’re worth. And we are worth nothing but their abuse.

To be abused we must believe in the one who abuses us.

And it is in that belief we die.

Abuse hurts. Stop it.


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How conscious are you? (My daily intention)

When you’re feeling angry, do you think about what you are sharing in your anger? Do you consciously choose how you share it?

So much of what we do as humans is unconscious. Studies by former professor of medicine at Stanford University, Dr Bruce Lipton and his team, suggest that the unconscious mind is running us on its automatic pilot mode, 95% of the time!*

Their studies also show that most of humanity runs on 1% of conscious thought…

So, sleep-walking through life on automatic is a real thing. I think.

Which brings me back to My Daily Intention.

When I consciously choose what I want to create in my day, I have a better chance of staying aware and connected to my desire to create better in my world.

And then…

Life happens…

And I forget all about being conscious and intentional and fall into rote responses to my environment and what’s happening around me.  In that place, the unconscious decisions I hold about me, and me in the world around me, take precedence over what I know to be true in my life today — I’m okay. I’m safe. I’m loveable and deserving of joy.

To be conscious, I must choose consciousness.

To be kind, I must choose kindness.

Today, my choice is all about being kind and loving so I share only the joy I experience in being alive!

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*Source:  Your unconscious mind is running your life.  (When I read the title I thought it read — Your unconscious mind is ruining your life — Freudian slip or true?  🙂 )