Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Let me live beyond the crazy-wild side

The muse and I have an agreement.

She whispers. I listen.

And in my listening, I respond from somewhere deep within me.

I cannot see this place of response.

I cannot define its presence.

It is a knowing. An intuiting. A divining.

Sometimes, her whispers in this place, are soft and gentle, like a summer breeze caressing my skin.

Other times, her whispers are like summer’s late kiss, reminding me to treasure each leaf turning golden before autumn’s fall.

And other times, she is like the wind blowing fiercely in on a summer storm. She wakes me up with her thunderous roar, pushing me over the edge of the known into that place where I leap up to dance in the rain and run through puddles, throwing myself with abandon into the storm.

It was stormy here last night.

This morning, the muse awoke me.

Let Me Live on the Wild Side
By Louise Gallagher ©2018

Let me live on the wild side of this crazy heart
beat beating
ferociously
not keeping time
spending every moment up
to the end of time.

Let me dance ferociously with the wildflowers blowing
free freeing
crazy-wild
to the heartbeat
of my used up life
gone wild in time.

Let me dive fearlessly into the crazy-wild
abandon abandoning
joyfully
not holding back
any precious moment
of life lived free of time.


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Do it your way.

No. 19 – The #ShePersisted Series: Mixed Media on watercolour paper. 11″ x 14″ (unframed) — Art and words ©2017 Louise Gallagher

It’s not difficult to play it safe. To take the same old path, to stay the course of how it’s always been done.

It’s not difficult. But it can be numbing, tiring, maybe even heart-breaking.

Just for today, imagine there is no path. That every step you take you are creating as you go. That even though you ‘know the answer’, there are answers you don’t know.

Be curious.

Ask yourself, “Am I doing it this way because it’s the way I’ve always done it? I wonder what would happen if I changed it up?”

And when the critter, that negative little voice in your head who thinks he’s keeping you safe by holding you to the tried and true, pipes up with, “Why change it if it’s working?”, lovingly embrace his fears and tell him you aren’t changing what’s working, you’re exploring a new way to see what else works.

Changing things up isn’t about ‘throwing out the baby with the bath water’.

It’s about checking the temperature of the water to see if it’s gotten too cold because the baby’s been in it too long.

Start small.

Pick one thing you do every day that doesn’t need to change (technically), but has the possibility of change.

Like how you drive to work. Choose a different route.

Or, if you always match your handbag to your shoes, or never mix silver and gold jewellry, change it up. Do it. Wear mis-matched socks or earrings. Wear brown shoes with black pants. And if you’ve never cared about mis-matching, go for matching.

Do something unusual, not to create the discomfort of change, but instead, to explore your responses to change. Be curious about what it is that makes you feel uncomfortable in the change.

Be curious about yourself.

Always.

Give yourself permission to ‘do it my way’ and see what happens when you let go of your mindset that says, ‘why change it if it’s working?’

Be curious about what happens inside you when you step outside your comfort zone. Explore those feelings. Be an observer of yourself doing things differently.

_________________________________________________________________

I am changing things up this morning.

For the past year, since starting to paint The #ShePersisted Series in late February 2017, I have told myself that when I get to 52 paintings in the Series, I will write a corresponding descriptor of what the piece means.

I’ve completed 47 paintings in the series but won’t have my studio completed until the fall.

So… rather than do it the way I planned, I’m going to start writing the descriptors for the one’s I’ve already painted – in random order. This is No. 19 of the Series.

It also means, 52 paintings may, or may not appear.

I’m curious to see how I’ll respond to the freedom of not having to reach the number 52. Maybe I’ll stop here. Maybe I’ll go higher!

I wonder what will happen when I start writing out the descriptors in no specific order….

Stay tuned.

I’m doin’ it my way.

___________

To read more about the #ShePersisted Series and to view the completed paintings, click HERE.


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Can you hear the wisdom of your heart?

It can be easy sometimes to get caught up in believing someone is doing something purposefully to bother you.

To skip over the possibility they are doing whatever they are doing with good intention, not ill. Or that they are simply unaware of the impact of their actions on you and others.

When we are feeling stressed, overlooked or under-appreciated, we humans tend to see ill-intentions all around.

Giving grace, holding space for others to have good intentions or to be unaware is vital to our capacity to live life in peace and harmony.

If you are reading this today and feeling out of sorts or like the world just isn’t going the way it should, ask yourself:

Am I seeing dark clouds everywhere?

Am I looking for fault in what everyone else is doing, creating a story in my head where I am The Victim and they are wrong?

Be honest. Be humble. Be sincere with yourself.

And if there is any iota of a sense of connection with the questions above, ask yourself…

Is it true? Is the story I’m telling myself in my head about the other person their truth or mine in this moment?

Because, when we ask ourselves if our stories about others are true, inevitably the answer is, “I don’t know.”

We never know the stories of another. We never know what is true for them, unless we ask.

So, if you hear yourself telling yourself that someone is plotting to ruin your day, ask them for their truth. And listen to their answer with a soft heart.

We hold many things as true but when we soften our hearts, we discover light doesn’t bounce around with sharp edges like prism’s of sunlight refracting off  a crystal hanging in the window.

In a softened heart, light imbues everything with a warm and loving glow. It soaks in. Warm. Inviting. Welcoming. Healing.

We humans are not all that different. We are all struggling to make sense of this journey of life.

We have all felt heartbreak. Disappointment. Pain.

We have all at some point been confused by the actions of others. Blamed them for our misfortune. Held them accountable for our mis-steps.

We have all felt like ‘nobody understands’ or cares.

And we have all known what it feels like to be misunderstood. Blamed for things we never did. Shunned for things others thought we should do.

It is part of our shared human journey, this place where we jump first to conclusions about another. We tell stories about others and harden our hearts to keep us from standing lovingly in the truth of our own feelings, emotions, accountability, thoughts, creations, mistakes…

As you travel through your day, ask yourself often, “Is the story I’m telling myself about what they’re doing a reflection of them, or a reflection of the story I tell myself about my right to feel…. angry, hurt, confused…. [fill in the blank].

Soften your heart and listen deeply to what it has to say. You may be surprised to discover what your heart truly knows.

Namaste.

 


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Children and homelessness: When hugs are not just hugs

The world is misty this morning when I awaken.

An hour later, the mist rises and the world around me becomes visible.

Yet for that moment in time, it appeared to be gone. Vanished.

Like life. We travel along and suddenly encounter an unknown, a situation that doesn’t make sense, a darkness we’ve never known before.

We struggle to make sense of it. To grasp it’s meaning. To get through it.

We feel like there is no up or down. That everything is turned inside out.

That what we knew no longer is true. That who we are no longer fits.

And then, one morning we awaken and the world is right side up again.

We see the sun. Smell the flowers. Hear the sounds. And we are at peace again. Relaxed. Content with our place in this world.

Experiencing homelessness is like being in the mist. There is no sense of relief in site. No up or down. Just the great abyss of loss and despair that envelops you in its massive all-encompassing fog of hopelessness.

The fog of homelessness does not rise as quickly and effortlessly as the mist this morning.

It has staying power. Tenacity.

For children, that fog can change their entire lives. It can close off pathways to resiliency and well-being, leaving them stranded on islands of cognitive disabilities, poor impulse control, susceptible to drugs, abuse and more. It can circumvent clear-sightedness with its constant blocking of the view outside. The view beyond a family emergency shelter’s doors. The view beyond this place called homeless.

At the family emergency shelter where I work, children walk through our doors everyday. Confused. Angry. Lost, they follow their parents to this place they don’t understand, unsure of how to respond to the loss of the world as they knew it in this new world they do not know.

It is challenging. Hard. Confusing.

Supporting children through a familial experience of homelessness is vital. They need to be taught tools that build their resiliency. Tools that help them positively cope with their feelings. Tools that help them interact in a communal setting in ways that create less stress, less turmoil.

Last week, as I stood in the dining room helping staff manage dinner, a young boy came up to me and without a word gave me a big hug.

I was surprised, a little uncomfortable but in the moment thought, “How sweet.”

Later, in talking to one of our fmily support workers she was telling me of the challenges this young boy faces with understanding appropriate and inappropriate touching.

He doesn’t understand personal boundaries, she told me. Part of what we are attempting to do is to teach him what it means to have personal space and how to respect our own, and others. We need to help him understand boundaries so that he doesn’t randomly go up and hug strangers and find himself in unsafe situations.

It was like a fog lifted.

I understood.

When that young boy had hugged me, my surprise was based on my discomfort that a child I do not know would just walk up and hug me. I wasn’t sure how to respond. I wasn’t sure what the hug was all about but because I have a worldview that sees children through the lens of, “They do the sweetest things and hugs are sooo cute,” I saw his hug as ‘sweet’.

Framed in the context that he does not know or understand the use of personal boundaries or the need to ask permission to hug first, I can see that my lens was fogged up with my misunderstanding. Because of my frame, I saw him as expressing how grateful he was for the dinner he just had, or for having a place like the shelter to come to, or just that he was friendly.

In actuality, his hug was an expression of his lack of understanding of boundaries, and a deep need for attention and affection, which he will strive to get wherever he can, even from strangers.

And therein lies the challenge. To support this young boy in his early childhood development, teaching him healthy boundaries, and how to be safe in this world, is more affirming than accepting inappropriate hugs.

In the fog of my lack of understanding of the situation, I didn’t know how to respond in ways that would best support him in his development.

Out of the fog I understand the importance of stepping back from my worldview to see into the heart of what so many of the children we see at the shelter experience — a world of chaos, crisis, stress and turmoil.

A world they do not understand and will do anything possible to make sense of if only so that the fog will lift and they will feel less frightened, alone, scared.

And while it may feel like the best thing we can do is to give them all a hug, it’s not.

The best thing we can do is to build a safe container around them in which they can learn to build resiliency, healthy boundaries and powerful ways to be in this world. That way, no matter where they live, when the fog of homelessness lifts, they have the tools they need to live rich and fulfilling lives. A world in which they connect on deep and appropriate levels with the people around them. A world in which hugs are not an expression of your attachment issues but rather, an expression of your capacity to connect in healthy ways to the world around you.

 

 

 

 


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The Fall. Ouch!

I fell a couple of weeks ago. I was in the kitchen at work and slipped on a piece of cucumber I hadn’t noticed lying on the floor.

It was a textbook, slapstick-style movie fall. Both feet went flying up from beneath me and I landed hard, my body sprawled out like a starfish on the beach. The resounding crash of my landing brought my co-workers running to the kitchen door.

Naturally, I tried to pretend it was nothing. That I wasn’t hurt.

Needless to say, my body was not happy — with my attitude nor the fall.

I’ve been going for treatment, ice, heat, creams, taking it easy. Not lifting things. You know, playing the princess prima donna. But in truth, I really messed up my left side so if I want to heal, I need to heed the doctor’s advice. Take it easy.

And I was. Until Saturday that is.

I was at an event where dancing is the order of business.

I love to dance. Love it.

My challenge is, when the music starts, I lose all sense and sensibility. I forget how my body feels and let the music take me where ever it wants to go.

On  Saturday, it took me.

And now my body is saying, it took you too far.

Okay. Okay. Being 100% accountable for my actions means I can’t lay the blame on my body. I let it happen. And whining isn’t going to change any of that, nor is blaming it on the music!

Whining is not the point of writing this out anyway. It’s about finding the value in all things, looking for the gift in the mud, seeing the beauty in the darkness.

And that’s where I’m struggling. To find lightness of being when my body feels like it was hit by a truck. To remember, this too shall pass and I shall once again not feel like an old lady with arthritic bones.

Oh wait. I am edging closer to being an old lady than a lithe young thing. And I do have arthritis!

Maybe the point of this is to find the grace that resides within, no matter my body’s age, and to let the joy of being who I am supersede the way I feel right now.

To acknowledge dancing like no one is watching doesn’t mean dancing by letting it all hang out. It means, learning to heed my body’s signals of when it’s appropriate to let go of every joint, muscle, and inhibition when I dance. And when it’s not.

It means letting the music have its way with my senses, not my sensibilities.

Perhaps the point is, I love to dance, but just as I no longer jog, maybe it’s time to curb the free stylin’ and become a little more in tune with not just the music, but my body too.

Because believe me, falling has jaundiced my outlook and my back being out of sorts has cramped my style! And it’s definitely given me pause for reflection, to stop and think about the things I’m doing that do not create ‘the more’ of what I want in my life.

Fact is, I’ve never really treated my body like a temple. I’ve never considered its needs before my desire to go places, get things done, feel free of constraints.

Perhaps, it’s time to grow up and tune into the music within so that the music around me doesn’t carry me away from all sense and sensibility!

Namaste.

 

 

 


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Finding connectedness in our broken and whole hearts

It is so easy to forget to be thoughtful and kind when someone shares an opinion that rubs up against our hearts, stirring discord and animosity in our minds.

It is so easy to forget, their voice matters, even when we don’t want to hear what they have to say. Possibly, just as much as they don’t want to hear us.

Yet, when we practice listening from our heart, with our whole being engaged in offering up our attention, without  seeking to criticize or get our opinions heard, we create space for all voices to see into the uncommon ground beyond the obvious, to find sacred ground upon which to stand, together, united in our humanity.

It is not easy, this place of holding democracy in our hearts and letting go of side-taking and name-calling, blaming and shaming. Yet, in its presence, we hold the capacity to both love and disagree, critique and find common ground, to weep for inequities and the bigger evils that trap us all in victimhood, and find connectedness in our brokenness and our wholeness.

In our connectedness we learn to savour the beauty of our humanity and through our heart of hearts, see one another as what we truly are; human beings on a shared journey of life on earth.

In this sacred space, there is no ‘other’. There is only ‘us’. One humanity. One planet. One shared experience of life.

 


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Dinner at the Inn.

Photo by Jaco Pretorius on Unsplash

The first sitting is for families with infants.

There are three of them. Three mothers. Five children. One child is celebrating his 2nd birthday.

I wonder about celebrating a birthday in a homeless shelter. About the memories built. The one’s lost.

I wonder how the mother keeps up such a brave and loving face. How she manages to smile and love-on her two infant sons so beautifully in such crisis.

I do not ask.

It is not my place to do so.

I am there to help shelter staff manage the chaos that is dinner-time at the shelter.

We are understaffed. Over-capacity. Summer holidays. Sick time. Maternity leaves. And an unprecedented number of families seeking shelter.

In a building designed to accommodate 27 families, we have not been under 30 families throughout July. One night we had 40 families in shelter. That’s unprecedented.

At the same time, we are giving the 3rd floor shelter space a Big Refresh, painting it to be a more calming and supportive environment. Less institutional. More welcoming.

It’s a week long exercise to paint each of three shelter areas. The second floor was completed two weeks ago. We’ve moved onto the third. Which means the families staying on one side of the third floor are being sheltered every night at our external emergency space in the basement of Knox church throughout this week. Next week, the families on the other side will pack up and move to Knox.

It is not ideal. But we need to ensure the shelter space is renewed and clean and intentionally designed to promote healing through its environmental look and feel.

It was scheduled now because July is generally a quieter month. We didn’t know it would get this busy.

Yesterday morning, at a leadership meeting, one of the team leads talked about the chaos of dinner-time. Of trying to feed over 100 people in an hour to ensure families get nutritional meals as well as are able to get to where they need to be on time.

We’re constantly short-staffed, a team lead said.

How can I help? I asked.

Come to dinner!

Who could refuse such an invitation?

Which is why I ended up helping supervise mealtime with the team.

I was mostly just an extra body trying to keep children from racing out of the dining room without their parent(s).

Mostly, I stood in awe and watched shelter staff manage children and parents and plates of food and glasses of milk and water, wipe up spill-overs, catch plates before they hit the floor and answer the questions of the volunteers who came in to serve the meal and make lunches for the next day.

In the face of crying children, laughing children, children who would not sit and eat and children who wanted to hang off the gate installed at the entrance to the doorway to keep children from wandering out and walking out onto the busy avenue, as has happened twice in the last month, the staff are engaged. Caring. Compassionate. Kind. They share fist pumps and pick up children and carry them around as they make them laugh and help mothers navigate strollers and tote bags and coax unruly youngsters who don’t want to eat, or don’t like salad, or would rather have juice than milk.

It is, in many ways, a typical family dinner scene with young children.

Parents trying to get a child to eat more than one bite. To drink their milk. To not bounce up and down in their booster seat. To not fight with a sibling.

It’s dinner at family tables the world over.

And then, it’s not.

Because this is an emergency family shelter. A place of crisis. Of high anxiety and feelings of loss, uncertainty, fear, confusion. Of young minds developing, seeing and experiencing in a place young minds struggle to comprehend.

It is a communal space. Meals are in shifts. Twelve tables. Five chairs at each table. Families with young infants first. Knox families second so they can get on the bus at six. Second floor next. And then the remaining families on the 3rd floor in two more shifts. Each family called down via radio as tables become free.

There is no time to linger. To talk about the day’s happenings. To share stories that last more than a few moments.

This dinner time is exactly one hour and fifteen minutes long, broken up into fifteen minute segments.

Because once the families leave, the volunteers clean up, do the dishes, finish off sandwich making and get everything spruced up for the next day.

They too need to get home to families and dinner tables.

The kitchen staff need to get the prep work done for the next day and the shelter staff need to ensure families are where they’re supposed to be before the night shift turns up.

I helped in the dining room last night.

I left feeling tired. Humbled. Grateful.

Grateful the shelter is there to help families in crisis. Grateful for the amazing staff who care so deeply. Grateful to be part of such an amazing team.

Namaste.

___________________________________

Photo by Jaco Pretorius on Unsplash