Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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The Writing Space

Many years ago, while I was immersed in a relationship that was killing me, I didn’t write. It was one of the many signs I ignored on that road to hell that was telling me, “You are not safe here! Run for your life!”

Ignoring the signs of my ill-being was easier if I didn’t write. Not acknowledging how sick I was becoming was vital to keeping his anger and abuse at bay.

I didn’t want to face his anger. I also didn’t want to face myself on the page.

Writing for me is about truth. The truth is those days was that I was lost, abused, terrified. I didn’t believe I had value. I didn’t believe I deserved to live.

There was no grace in that place. There was no grace to write.

One of the graces of writing is its capacity to awaken me to the story beneath the story.

On the weekend, I created a writing corner just for me. It’s beside a window that overlooks the river’s edge. I can sit and watch the water flow, hear its voice, feel its essence, be one with nature.

There is something very symbolic about my writing space, something I hadn’t connected until I started writing about writing (and not writing) this morning.

On the morning of May 21, 2003 when I was released from the hell of that relationship, we were staying at a small bed and breakfast beside a river. It wasn’t as wide or fast moving or as deep as The Bow. It gurgled through the property, laughing in the sun as it raced to the sea.

Every morning I would stand by the river’s edge and imagine I could unhook gravity’s hold on my body so that by its own volition, it would fall into the water and be washed out to sea. In its disappearance, all memory of my having been here on earth would be erased from my daughters’ minds and they would be able to continue on with their lives, free of any memory of the mother who had loved them so, and then disappeared.

See, I couldn’t take my own life. That would have made a lie of the one truth I held onto — I love my daughters. Everything else in my life had become a lie. I could not violate that one truth.

But if I could unhook gravity…

I sit by the river this morning, writing.

I no longer want to unhook gravity’s hold.

I no longer live ‘the lie’.

I am blessed.

 

 


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Happy Days are here again!

Happy Days! Our wedding April 25, 2015

I didn’t realize it was ‘The Day.”  At least, not when I first awoke. Or even in the days preceding, marking time’s relentless movement as ‘The Day’ approached.

I didn’t realize what day it was as I made coffee. Sat and watched the river flow or let Beaumont, the Sheepadoodle, out for his morning rituals.

I didn’t even realize it was the day as I read the news of flooding in British Columbia. At least, not until I saw mention of the town of Langley.

And then I remembered.

This was the day fifteen years ago when two police officers rolled up in a blue and white police car and arrested the man who had promised to love me ’til death do us part, and was actively engaged in making the death part happen.

Langley was near the town where we were ‘hiding out’ as he evaded police and tried to make me vanish.

That’s when I remembered.

And I smiled.

And breathed. Deeply.

This is ‘The Day’ when I was given the miracle of getting my life back.

This is ‘The Day’ when I began to breathe freely again.

Breathing freely was an automatic response to having the yoke of fear and sadness and sorrow and grief lifted from my life by the removal of one person.

Breathing freely was the gift of knowing I no longer needed to be the ‘walking dead’.

I was alive.

What a gift.

Fifteen years ago today I was given the miracle of my life.

Fifteen years ago today, I stopped waiting for death and got busy living again.

I am grateful.

I am joyful.

I am blessed.

Life is good.

Life is an adventure.

Life is a joyful journey of happiness, peace, beauty and Love.

Life is a gift.

Namaste.


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Super Heroes are all around us!

Super heroes come in many forms.

When I joined Inn from the Cold a year ago, I wanted to bookmark my career with work that I knew resonated deeply in my heart. That way, I felt my career would make sense. That I would make sense.

I knew the Executive Director, Abe Brown, and felt excited to work with him as I admire his ethics, his passion for the work we do, and his desire to create safe, courageous work places where people feel honoured to turn up, give their best and SHINE!

I didn’t really know anyone else at The Inn, but felt welcomed from my first day.

My role as Director, Communications & Stakeholder Relations was a new one at the Inn. The Director Resource Development handled MarComm and RD and had built a solid team of exceptional people who worked hard, got the job done and created value in the team.

Like all new positions, there were ups and downs and inns and outs. People left. New people joined the team.

This morning, as I watched one of the videos the team created for Claire’s Campaign, the Inn’s annual fundraiser, I noticed that the video had subtitles so that even if you didn’t turn on the sound, you knew what was being said.

Now, this may not seem like a lot to some people but my team is incredibly busy. Subtitling the videos was not a priority, but, they took the time to do it so that the video is even more impactful.

And that’s when it hit me about super heroes.

They are all around us. Walking amongst us. Being with us even when we don’t notice them. They just keep doing their super hero things as we continue to live our lives, day to day.

So yes, this is a callout to all super heroes out there, but in particular, to the team I am so incredibly honoured to be part of. Hilary, Kara, Chris, Elizabeth, Meg, Eunice, you ROCK!

I know I don’t generally write blogs like this one but I felt strongly this morning the need to call out these super heroes in public.

See, their plates are really full. We are looking to add two people to the team just to handle the volume and to create more impact in community. To go that extra mile to ensure we reach our audience, tell our story in ways that touch more hearts and open more minds, even when there are other deadlines looming and projects to complete, is in my book not only a herculean feat, it shows commitment, passion and above all a dedication to the mission that speaks volumes about what is at the heart of those with whom I work.

And it goes beyond my team. Everyone at the Inn is a super hero. Every day they respond compassionately and authentically to the needs and wants of those who come to our family emergency shelter for support and those whom we support in housing and community. Everyday they make a difference in the world of a child, a mother, father, grandmother and their co-workers. Everyday they make the world a better place.

So yup. I’m kinda waxing eloquent about this team. But man, I am so incredibly proud and humbled to walk amongst such superheroes everyday!

HAve a great long weekend everyone. May we all find the superhero within us and let her or him SHINE!

 


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Rocking horses like high horses make no progress

Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress. Alfred A. Montapert

When I was a little girl I had one of those heavy plastic rocking horses that was attached by coils to a metal base that kept the horse grounded. I could sit on my horse, bounce up and down, sideways and front and back. I loved that horse. The motion. The joy of sitting and bouncing and riding.

My rocking horse never made any progress in the physical sense of getting from Point A to B, but I sure could make it ride across plains and continents, oceans and skies. Every time I rode I experienced some new and exciting adventure. I was Annie Oakley, the Lone Ranger and Tonto all dressed up in one. I moved around the world, saving children and dogs and civilisations from sure destruction.

I was powerful.

My rocking horse was my escape from the world in which I lived. The world around me which I didn’t understand, or didn’t make sense, or simply was too complicated to grasp.

As I grew, I had to let go of my rocking horse. Without it, I had to find some other way to escape the world around me — escape being the operative word. I never wanted to get off my horse, so I created a mighty steed within my mind who could transport me away from the world in which I lived into a world that made sense to me. A world that ideally suited me. A world in which I had control. I had power. A world where I was all powerful because, well, I was writing the script. I controlled every scene, every word, every action. I determined who was there, what they did and said and what happened. Cool!

I loved my imaginary worlds when I was a child. They were fun! Problem is, as an adult, escaping into scripted scenes within my head is not an effective way to live my best life yet. Scripted scenes where I control the people, places, actions, scenes and words are not a reflection of the world around me. They are a reflection of what I want to have happen, what I believe could happen — if everyone and everything in my world did what I thought was best, or right, or simply acceptable to me!

And that just ain’t the way the world rocks. Often, the world in my mind becomes a wild ride upon my high horse of self-deception. Armed with my quiver of judgement filled with arrows of complaint, criticism, and condemnation I take aim at gentle hearts and opening minds and pierce balloons of possibility with my conviction that I know what is best for the world around me.

I must admit, I have clung to many a high horse in my adulthood and run roughshod through many a delicate blossom of life unfolding. I have sat upon my mighty stead trampling other people’s feelings and perceptions with the heavy footed destruction of King Kong stomping through New York.

And always, when the ride was over, I have fallen off my high horse in a fit of embarrassed consternation that so much destruction could be created in such a short, wild ride, by me.

High horses, like rocking horses do not get me anywhere other than where I don’t want to be — Eating sawdust in the not so OK Corral of my mind, grovelling in the mud of guilt and disappointment.

The good news is… dismounting from my high horse comes easier now. I am progressing.

I have learned how to keep my quiver of judgements empty. My arrows of criticism, complaints and condemnation sheathed.

Filled with the joy of fearlessly embracing who I am when I let go of clinging to the neck of my high horse, I am free to dance in the lightness of my being human. That fragile condition where peace of heart reigns as long as I let go of my need to control the world around me.

It ain’t always easy. Somedays I want to grab an arrow and shoot right to the heart of what I judge to be someone else’s problem.

That’s when I must remember to breathe. Deeply. And ask, what’s really happening here? What is this world of wonder and beauty asking me to see and know?

In that place of breathing deeply, I open up to all that is possible when I let go of judgement and step fearlessly into Love.


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In the scars that bind us, beauty shines. Love grows.

I couldn’t sleep last night. I’d fallen asleep but a hissing noise pulled me out of slumber. I woke my husband with the question, “What’s that noise?” only to discover, the steam shower had sprung a leak. He went downstairs, turned off the water, came back to bed and promptly fell back to sleep.

I was not so easily lured back into dreamland.

I got up. I read. I surfed the Net. I watched the river flow past.

In my meanderings, I remembered the videos from the inaugural Circles of Hope conference held last November had been posted on Youtube.

Alexis and I have been talking about writing a book about our healing journey together. I wasn’t sure where to begin but seeing as I couldn’t sleep, why not go back to our presentation and start there?

Working on that presentation together was not easy. Alexis and I had to risk delving into the broken places. We had to be willing to hear one another’s pain, and not try to own it, or fix it, or pretend it was all okay. For me, as her mother, there were times when I wanted to call it quits so that I wouldn’t have to hear her words, see her pain, know her anger.

We kept pushing through it. We kept trusting that the tears, the anger, the fear and sorrow were nothing compared to the joy and love we shared.

This is not an easy story to share. I’ve shared it many times. By myself. But working on it with Alexis I realized that while it happened to me, it also happened to my daughters. They too were on that road to hell. They too felt the fear, the horror, the loss.

The story of our journey into hell began with a man who drove up in a red Ferrari. He promised us happily-ever-after and then, like a magician making whatever is before your eyes disappear, he swept away the world as we knew it and turned our lives inside out and upside down.

For my daughters, that journey came at a seminal time in their lives. They were about to embark on their teen years. He promised them a life of ease and fun and laughter. He never warned them about the pain.

On February 26, 2003, 4 and a half years after he drove into our lives, I disappeared from their lives. It would not be until three months later that they learned what happened to me, or that I was even alive.

Healing from the darkness of those days has not been a straight line of that was before, this is after. It has been a journey into pain, sorrow, anger, fear, hurt. Amidst the laughter and joy, there has been blame and shame and sadness and regret; the full gamut of human emotions. And yet, no matter what appeared before us, there was always the thing that flowed between us like a river and carried us through those years to today. Love.

Healing from that relationship has taught me many things. It’s taught me to never give up on myself. To never let go of Love. It’s taught me to speak truth even when I want to hide from it. To be real and present, even when I want to close my eyes to the pain I see in the eyes of those I love. And it has taught me the value of being vulnerable and the healing grace of forgiveness.

I am blessed.

Once upon a time, I did something to my daughters I never imagined I could. I deserted them. Through forgiveness and grace, we have woven the circle of love that is our family back together. In the scars that bind us, beauty shines. Love grows.


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On being a mother. A song of Love, forever and always.

I had no plan to become a mother. No preconceived idea that this would be the penultimate experience of my life. Mostly, I was terrified of the thought that being a mother meant passing along my foibles, faults and follies to an innocent child.

Why would I want to do that?

In fact, if asked whether or not we wanted children, my then husband and I would reply an unequivocal, “No.”

And then it happened. The thing doctors had told me probably was impossible, wasn’t. I became pregnant.

In my newly formed precariously pregnant state my doctor told me I needed to go to bed. For three months.

My friends laughed at me. Is your doctor crazy? No way can you go to bed for three months. You’ll be miserable.

It was the first of many life lessons my unborn child taught me.

No one decides how I go through each experience of my life, except me.

I had no choice about three months of bed rest. I did have a choice about how I experience it.

I could choose to be miserable.

Or…

I chose to fall in love. To lie in bed and savour every moment of new life growing within me and to cherish life around me.

In a journal entry from that time I wrote:

I think about you often. I wonder, what will you be like? What will you do in this world?

You’re very quiet inside me. Your movements are graceful and serene. I imagine your tiny arms and legs, your body suspended, floating in my waters. Yet, sometimes, I can feel you soar. I can hear your body as it ripples across mine, quietly evolving, experiencing the joy of life, protected within my womb.

I can feel you. I am with you. You are with me, where ever I go, whatever I do. We are one in this journey. As you grow and develop, my body grows and develops. As you move, I move. As I move, so too do you.

I mold myself around you to protect you yet must leave you room to grow. For grow you will and I shall have to let you go.

Yet, this journey we share now will bond us for all time. For I am your mother. Mother to you, child of my body. And though I shall never own you, you will always own a part of me.

That was 1985.

My first daughter was born on June 19th, 1986.

I have been a mother for almost 32 years. (And a grandmother for 3 months.)

I would not change a thing. I would not erase a moment, turn a different phrase or take a different step, no matter how painful some of them were.

In this journey of my life, I have done things I want to remember forever, I have done things that, no matter how hard I’ve tried, I cannot forget — and ultimately do not want to because, regardless of what I have done, I have been and will always be, my daughters’ mother.

Being a mother is at the heart of my being present in this life.

Being a mother has taught me what it means to truly, madly, deeply love another, unconditionally, without any expectation of their loving me in return. Loving another is not about getting love back. It’s about creating an enduring circle of love and choosing always to stay in its flow, in darkness and in light.

Being a mother has taught me to trust in the power of my own body to create life and to be life-giving.

It has shown me how deeply I can love, how completely I can surrender, and how absolutely powerless I am over another human being. It has taught me humility.

On June 19th, 1986 I became a mother.

Being a mother has been, and continues to be, a journey into the heart of what matters most to me; to know myself, in all my many facets, and to love myself in every way I am present in this world so that I can be present for those I love, in love, always.

Thank you Alexis and Liseanne for giving me the gift of being your mother. You have taught me that love is always the answer because in your lives I have found my heart’s song. It is a song of Love, forever and always.


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And still, she loves. An ode to my mother.

When I think of my mother, I feel tears well up behind my eyelids. My heart aches.

In August my mother will turn 96.

My mother has always been a beautiful woman. At 95 she still likes to dress up pretty, making sure her jewellry is just so. Recently she bought a big sparkly ring. I commented on its size and how it dwarfed my mothers fingers. My sister told me that mom bought it because it hides the ravages of arthritis on her fingers.

Arthritis has not been kind to my mother.

Her bones are fragile. Brittle. Her joints swollen and distended.

And still, my mother is kind. Gentle.

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” was one of my mother’s favourite adages.

She also told us to ‘broom the floor’ but that was her native French getting in the way of her English. We used to tease her about it all the time. I wish she could still broom the floor today. I wish she could walk and move with the grace of bones that do not hurt as she moves through the room.

My mother turns 96 in August. She doesn’t walk much anymore. A bad fall. Broken hip. Bones too brittle to hold the pin in place. A wheelchair is her mode of transport these days.

Yet still, her independent streak shines through. She doesn’t like being pushed. She always wants to use her feet to navigate her path.

Kindness has always been important to my mother.

It’s something we share, even though there have been times in my life when I have not been kind to my mother. Okay, maybe a big portion like all my teen years and even into my twenties.

I didn’t understand her and mostly didn’t take the time to get to know her.

I thought our differences kept us apart. Made us different. I was too busy. Too self-involved to step away from my position to find a common ground where we could see the things that bind us include our differences and our similarities.

My mother loves to cook. At least she did when she had a kitchen. Even now, when she goes to my sister’s house, she will help out in the kitchen. It’s something her three daughters share with her. A love of being in the kitchen.

My mother loved to sing. I remember her voice when I was a child. Sweet. Soothing. Comforting. I think I may have even confused her with an angel when I was a little girl.

It is something she’s passed on to me and to my eldest daughter. I love to sing though my daughters will suggest I tone it down, or maybe consider doing it alone. Alexis, my eldest daughter, got my mother’s voice. Alexis reminds me of an angel when she sings too.

My mother was very proud of the work she did. Especially her volunteering. A lifelong member of the Catholic Women’s League, she did things for others, quietly, unassumingly. She never wanted thanks. She just wanted to make a difference, in her quiet way, in someone else’s life.

It’s something she’s taught me. It’s not about doing ‘the big things’. It’s about doing all things with grace, love, care.

My mother turns 96 this August.

Her hands are ravaged by arthritis. Her body riddled with pain, the arthritis searing her joints with its incessant clawing away at the bone.

And still, my mother is kind, gentle, caring.

And still, she loves.

And still, she loves.

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Happy Mother’s Day to all the women out there. May kindness light your path. My love fill your heart.