Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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There’s always time to awaken and Begin Again.

Have you ever noticed how in times of stress, unease, uncertainty, the things that bring you calm, centeredness, peace are often the first things you let go of?

At least, that’s true for me.

My beloved and I have been living in temporary housing since early December. In November, we bought a new home, decided to renovate and put our old home on the market. It sold quickly leaving us ‘homeless’ as of December 15th,

From the time of signing the sales agreement to closing on our old home, I had 11 days to organize a mover, find new accommodation that would allow our furry family members to live with us, and pack up what we believed we’d need for about six weeks displacement while all our furniture, dishes and belongings went into storage.

Six weeks later than anticipated, on March 12, we will move into our newly renovated home.

This past three months have been interesting.

Feeling displaced is unsettling. While the condo we have rented during this time is lovely, it’s not home. I am missing my ‘things’, missing the ease of being ‘at home’.

You would think that during such an unsettling time I would sink deeper into my practices that bring me balance, ease, contentment.

Nope.

I have completely let go of my meditation practice, my morning rituals, my evensong ceremonies.

Which is what makes me smile, shake my head in bemusement, fling my hands above my head and exclaim, “Aren’t I fascinating!”

There’s not much else I can do because no matter the circumstances, there’s one thing I won’t let go of,  my belief in not beating myself up for slipping.  To do that would just pile on more unease to an already unsettled mind.

This morning, I chose to step back from resistance of doing the things I know that are healing and live-giving for me so that I could slip into the life-giving waters of the things that support me.

This morning, I chose to Begin Again.

I chose to reconnect to the things and practices that create peace of mind, no matter the times.

I chose to walk in the quiet of breaking dawn, letting Beaumont the Sheepadoodle sniff to his heart’s content. Instead of rummaging through my mental list of things I needed to do for work, the renovation, the upcoming move, I chose instead to spend time breathing in the beauty of early morning, marvelling at the night covered sky turning pink and the quiet of the world around me.

I chose to spend 15 minutes in meditation, quieting my mind even when it wanted to worry over something I need to deal with at work, an issue I want our contractor to fix and thoughts of what to make for dinner tonight…

I chose to savour my mug of hot water, lemon and honey, letting it seep into my body with its nourishing and nurturing essences.

I chose to not rush, but to slowly move through my morning, appreciating each moment and its many gifts.

And I chose to let go of recriminations for having fallen into unease and breathe instead into gratitude for all the blessings in my life and for this opportunity to Begin Again.

I awoke this morning and realized I had let go of my practice and stepped away from consciously doing the things that bring me ease and grace.

This morning I awoke and chose to Begin Again.


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Today I choose to allow GRACE

This morning, a friend sent me a tweet about the impact of random acts of kindness at work. It makes sense. Sharing acts of kindness makes the giver and the receiver happier. They’re contagious and they make for more fulfilling and happier workplaces.

Another tweet I saw on the same person’s feed posed an interesting question about our choices:

I love how he presents the things we did not choose, and the things we can.

Me, I want to always choose in favour of being kind, generous, honest…

Yet, sometimes, my choices are not aligned with my ‘higher good’.

Like when a driver cuts me off and I think something not so nice about him or her. I’d prefer to simply let them in with a gracious wave and a smile.

Or when someone slips into the lane beside me that I know, and I know they know, is merging because there are big, big flashing lights up ahead telling us so. I don’t really want to let them in when I reach the front of the lane at the same time they do. I often wrestle with my ‘higher good’ and my baser instincts. It can be a struggle for me to make room for grace.

Fact is, grace doesn’t always win.

Today, I choose to let grace win.

With grace as my guide, my baser instincts will have no room to take hold and pull me into defiance. There will be no room for me to choose to act down to my need to ‘have one over’ on my fellow human beings!

Today, I choose to allow grace to have her way with me.


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Oh my aching back!

My body, especially my back, has been sending me messages since long before Christmas.

I’ve been ignoring them. Well, not completely. I have been stretching and doing strengthening exercises, but mostly. Okay. Yeah. I’ve been ignoring the messages.

Until this weekend.

Then my body gave me no option.

My back ceased up. I could barely move and whatever movement I could make made me cry out in pain.

I ended up in emergency — mostly because there was some concern I was having a heart attack — given my age,  the fact the pain was radiating down my arms and legs, oh and I was crying.

I don’t cry. Especially when I’m in pain.

Don’t want the other guy to see me weaken!

Okay. Not an effective strategy and not all that useful for coping with severe Sciatica. Note to self:  It’s okay to cry when in pain.

Right. Got it.

In the meantime, my weekend was very quiet. My back is slowly mending and I am moving without grimacing.

And, bonus!  I read a trashy novel in between Netflix binging and lots and lots of sleep.

Watch out world!  Here I come.

Oh wait. C.C. has warned me to not get all enthusiastic about picking up the pace just because my back is only marginally sore.

Right.

Heed my body.

Heed my beloved.  He takes better care of me than I do!

For right now, I’m off to the Chiropractor and breathing deeply as I remember to treat myself with compassion and care, heeding the signals my body sends me.

 

Day is looking sunny and bright!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Racism in My Canada? Yes. It’s true.

I speak three languages. No longer fluently. But I still can understand French and German and speak it to be understood if the subject is relatively simple and about daily matters.

I once took a course in speaking Mandarin. Another in Japanese. And one in Spanish.

What I’ve never done is considered taking a course in learning how to speak  Cree. Or Blackfoot. Or any of the other 60 distinct Indigenous languages of Canada.

And that’s what I find so disappointing — and at the same time possible — for myself. I can change that fact. I can choose to learn another language — and this time, I can choose to learn a language that will not only give me another way to understand my neighbours, but will give me an opportunity to play my part in Reconciliation.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned working the homeless-serving sector for the past 12 years, it’s that there is a lot of Reconciliation needed if we are to make a dent in the racism Canada’s Indigenous Peoples face everyday at the hands, and words, and actions, of non-Indigenous Canadians.

We are a country with a Big Problem.

And it’s not ‘Those Indians’, as someone called Indigenous Peoples at a dinner party awhile back, who’ve got the problem (though their lives are tragically impacted by it every day in every way and have been for generations).

It’s OUR problem. It’s Our Racism. Our intolerance. Our desire to pretend we don’t have a National crisis where infant mortality is higher for some than others. Where certain peoples are incarcerated at higher rates than the rest and life expectancy shortened by at least 10 years.

The problem is, we don’t want to face the fact, it’s OUR problem. We like to say,  “Look at us! We’re not as bad as the US and the way they treat African Americans. No. We’re better than that.”

No. We’re Not.

Better than that.

Just a quick glance at the chart to the left from a recent article in MacLean’s Magazine, “Canada’s Race Problem? It’s even worse than America’s.” shows just how serious the issue is in Canada.

The challenge?  As the article goes on to explain, “our Fergusons are hidden deep in the bush, accessible only by chartered float plane: 49 per cent of First Nations members live on remote reserves.”

I am having trouble reconciling that view of Canada with My Canada. The land of tolerance, equality, inclusivity.

But then, every day at work in a family homeless shelter, I struggle to align My Canada with the lives of the families I see coming to the shelter. They are 60% Indigenous. 25% new Canadians/immigrants.

They come with their hopes and dreams of building better lives for their children. They come fleeing the violence they’ve experienced on Reserves, Reserves we, the settlers, created and forced them to live on. They come fleeing hopelessness, desperate to create opportunity for their children so that they do not have to carry the burdens of poverty, racism, discrimination.

And what do they find in the city?

The very things they fled.

What’s their Canada look like?

It sure isn’t the same as mine.

So rather than expect someone else for whom trust has been broken again and again to step towards me, I think it’s time I took a step towards Reconciliation.

And one way to do that is to learn a language that will help me understand better what their Canada looks like.

Because one thing I know for sure… their Canada does not treat them the same way My Canada treats me. And that’s something I want to help change.

 

 

 


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How to listen with an open mind and heart.

Think about the last time you had a disagreement or were in conflict with someone. Did you engage in a discussion with an open mind or heart, or, was your mind made up, and nothing was going to change it?

If you’re like me, in moments of disagreement or conflict, you probably didn’t stop to think about the state of your mind or heart. You probably just wanted to defend against the other’s words, or defend your position because ‘you were right, they were wrong.’

When I stop defending against, or attacking another’s position, disagreements are no longer all about winning, they’re about finding shared solutions that create opportunities for greater connection with another. And when that connection is with a beloved, it leads to deeper intimacy.

Stop. Breathe. Get Present.

That doesn’t mean the discussion, or argument, will begin on calm and tranquil waters. Sometimes, I get going in a ‘discussion’ and find myself in turbulent waters, stirring the pot and making waves.

When I Stop. Breathe. Get Present. it gives me amoment to ask myself, “What do I want in this moment right now?” Do I want this argument to be my hill to die on, or do I want to use this moment to create clarity, opportunity for closeness, understanding, connection? What am I willing to give up to create that?

To create it I must be willing to give up my position and need to ‘be right’. Often, that moment to Stop. Breathe. Get Present. happens mid-argument when realization hits that the argument isn’t about the broken dish or the lost keys or the fact someone didn’t call when they said they would or didn’t complete a task as promised. In that moment when I realize we’re not fighting about ‘the issue’, we’re arguing about our positions, I know that one of us must Stop. Breathe. Get Present.

It doesn’t matter which one of us, but one of us must do it. Why not me?

It isn’t always easy. The stopping, breathing, getting present. Sometimes, I’d rather just be right.

But being right doesn’t create connection or intimacy. It just adds distance, resentment and hurt to my relationships.

I want all my relationships to be fulfilling. For me and the other. Whether an interaction with a sales clerk whom I deem has made a mistake, or my beloved, I want my part of the conversation to come from a place of respect, compassion and empathy.

I don’t always achieve it, but when I do, I feel better. Stronger. More grounded and content with my path in the world and my way of being on it.

And to do that, I must listen with an open mind and heart so that it is not ‘my way or the highway’ but rather, our way together for mutual benefit where regardless of the discussion, I am not acting from a place where ‘disagreement equals rejection’, but from a place where I know, I don’t need to be right to be happy. I just need to listen with an open heart and mind, stay true to my values and create opportunity for both of us to find value in our relationship because I am honouring all my relations.


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Seek Clarity First.

“Where are you right now?”

I realize how off track I was as soon as I hear C.C., my beloved, ask the question. We have invited friends for an impromptu dinner. They’ve been to the condo we’ve rented while renovating our new house before, but it can be tricky to find.

When my girlfriend called to ask, “So how do we find your place again?” I’d immediately leapt to giving directions without first clarifying, “Where are you right now?”

Definitely off track.

In life, no matter where we’re going, to get clear on our path, we need to know where we are starting from.

My directions only confused her until C.C. took over and made it simple. He asked the question and then confirmed, “You’re on the right track. Just keep driving along that road and you’ll see our place on the left, just past the community hall.”

Within minutes they were at our door and we spent a delightful evening sharing food, wine, laughter and watching the Ice Dance Competition at the Olympics.

And I wonder, how often do I do that? Forget to ask the questions before leaping into fix-it mode or jumping to conclusions.

Note to self. When someone’s lost or seeking direction, or when I’m searching for my way, seek clarity first. Understand the situation. Get clear on where I’m at or the direction they’re coming from. Don’t be too quick to jump to the rescue or leap to a conclusion. Or, as stated in Steven Covey’s Fifth Habit in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.”

Words to live by.


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In the realness of being an imperfectly perfect mother – life is possible.

Almost thirty-two years ago, when I first became a mother, I remember wanting to be perfect. To do it right. To not make any mistakes. To be in control. To define every moment. Control every outcome.

And then reality set in.

I was the guide to another human being. They had their own voice. Own ‘being’. Own desires and ideas, thoughts and needs and while I could guide, I could not control them or ultimately, prescribe or design their path through life.

I had to give up my desire to be ‘the perfect mother’ for being real.

It was a wonderful awakening, albeit hard at times to live within the realization that being ‘real’ also meant making mistakes. Lots of them.

I have been blessed with forgiveness, acceptance and gratitude. I have been blessed with two amazing daughters who love me, beauty and the beast. Flaws and facets. Wounds and wisdom.

Watching my eldest daughter step into the role of motherhood this past week has been a gift beyond measure.

To witness her gentleness, her patience, her Love has given my heart reason to soar, to beat wildly, to murmur in quiet assent.

And, it has reminded me that in all things, no matter how dark the night or dreary the day, Love casts a light that makes even the dimmest moments shine. Love illuminates fear and uncertainty, making the road ahead less daunting, more easy to navigate.

When my daughters were born I wanted to give them the world. A world where their mother was always perfect, always wise, always there.

To have continued to want to give them all of that would have set them up for a life of disappointment. Because no matter how hard I tried to be perfect, being myself is fraught with  moments of uncertainty, confusion, even fear. Being myself means not always knowing the answers. Not always being sure of the path.

And being myself means always standing in Love, in spite of and because of my imperfections. It means loving the imperfectness of me so that they would be free to be themselves.

Eleven days ago my eldest daughter became a mother. As I watch her grow more confident in the role, I am blessed to see her letting go of ‘perfection’ so that she stands only in the realness of Love.

In that place, all things are possible. In that place my grandson will have everything he needs to grow up to become himself.

There is no perfect road to becoming a parent. There is only the road we take. And when we take it in Love, trusting in its capacity to light up even the darkest night, the only thing not possible is, perfection.