Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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I begin again. Learning to fly.

They said climb too high, you will fall.
She fell, again and again, and learned how to fly.  Mixed media on water colour paper, 11″ x 14″   ©2017 Louise Gallagher

A friend who was to call with an update on a project we are working on together doesn’t call.

I try to reach her. No answer.

Silently, worry slips in before I have a chance to gently  whisper to my mind… Stop. Patience. All will be as all is meant to be. (my mantra to myself to quell unnecessary worry and spiraling thinking)

I catch myself falling into worry.

Stop. What is beneath the surface of this worry? I ask myself.

I listen carefully for my heart’s answer.

The truth awakens and rises up to my mind’s quest to understand.

It is part of a limiting belief that surfaces when I am not being present.

It is old. It is primordial. It is limiting.

In a course I took some time ago, I uncovered a limiting belief I held within me. It did not serve me well, but it existed nonetheless, in the nether-lands of my mind. That belief was —  I do not trust the Universe.

Actually, that belief is beyond limiting, it is self-defeating and imposes a world of distrust in everyone, everything and every happening in my world.

Sure, I realized, on the surface, I trust…

On the surface.

Below that? well… let’s just say there was this little critter who took great joy in  whispering to me in the dark, undermining my being present no matter the situation… Don’t trust! Don’t trust!  Dive for cover. They’re out to get you. Get out of sight. Don’t be vulnerable!”

It liked to say other things too. Like… right, they say they love you but what they really mean is, “I love you as long as you do things and act in ways I approve of.” “Don’t disappoint me.” “Who are you kidding? You don’t deserve love.” and on and on the critter slithered through my psyche.

“We only see beauty if we practice,” writes Christine Valters Paintner, Abbey of the Arts Abbess.

At the time of identifying this limiting belief, I committed to unearthing it, to showing it the light of day and setting it free.

It has been a journey.

One step forward, and another and another, a slip and then to begin again.

This morning, as I felt the worry slither in with its whispers of limiting beliefs longheld no longer needed, I see beauty in my worry. I see the beauty of my limiting belief and I see the beauty within it. For within it, beneath the surface of its limitations is the full and encompassing power of embracing it in Love and knowing, the universe trusts me and in my reflection I am the trust, I become the trust, I have nothing to fear, but fear itself.

Fear is at the base of my worry. Fear of disappointment. Fear of failure. Fear of looking stupid, ridiculous, of being conned, of being misguided, of trusting another for fear they will let me down.

No one can let me down when I trust in the Universe and gravity to hold me up.

I cannot fall down when I trust myself to let go and surrender into Love.

Letting go now.

I begin again.

Learning to fly.


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We are all players in homelessness

I was in Vancouver over the weekend visiting my daughter, her husband and my grandson. He’s 8 months old, his life a beautiful big slate of possibilities not yet explored or even imagined.

Three weeks ago, my daughter and her family, along with 43 other tenants who lived in the same apartment building in downtown Vancouver, were summarily evicted the day after a fire destroyed 10 units completely and caused extensive damage in the building.

My daughter and her husband had insurance. They have family they can stay with while searching for a new place. They have the means to afford to find and move into a new place, and they have the resilience that comes from a lifetime of relative privilege that has given them emotional reserves to fall back on to hold them up as they journey through these difficult days post fire.

So many others in the building don’t have those same opportunities. They are senior’s, single mom’s and dad’s faced with enormous damages and losses plus the challenge of having to find a place to live in Canada’s second most expensive renter’s market.

At the family emergency homeless shelter where I work, families arrive at our doors every day seeking shelter after a housing crisis has hit.

Like my daughter and her neighbours, they didn’t plan on the crisis and are doing whatever they can to weather the storm. In this case, bringing their family to an emergency shelter. What is essential to the families we serve is what is essential to my daughter and her neighbours – finding safe, temporary shelter while they seek new housing. Housing that is safe and sustainable. Housing where they can once again be at home in that place where their stories of new possibilities begin.

Everyday families come to the emergency shelter seeking shelter. Like my daughter and her family who are staying at his parents, or their neighbours who are staying with family, in motels or on friend’s couches, the shelter is not their home. It is the place they are staying as they navigate their path back home.

As my daughter and I wandered the streets of Vancouver, checking out shops for furniture and baby supplies for their new home, we talked about the unexpectedness of this event in their lives and its impact. They are moving to a new neighbourhood. Her son will no longer be swimming every week at the Y around the corner or sitting in the park with her across the street watching the puppies play or the birds in the trees.

“Will my son remember what happened?” my daughter wondered. “I just want to get him back into a routine. Get him settled in his own room.”

It has not been easy, but they are doing their best.

I am sure her thoughts are similar to those of the parents who come to the shelter. How much will their children remember? How will they be impacted? How do they get them settled quickly in a new home?

Faced with the crisis of being without a home, they are doing their best to ensure their families are safe. On their journey home, some people will need a little bit of extra help and support to make it happen.  But no matter what, every family needs a place to call home for their children where a better future is always possible.

It is easy in homelessness for those of us looking ‘in’ to think the crisis is all the fault of the adults involved. That it is their choices that caused the problem.

No one caused the fire that resulted in my daughter and her neighbours being evicted, and not having insurance is not the problem either. The same is true of the families who come to a family emergency shelter. No one human caused their homelessness. Lack of a social network, lack of social policies that protect the vulnerable from greed and the man-made attributes that contribute to a highly-overpriced housing market are all players. Our human condition’s need to accumulate wealth, to build bigger and more without thought for those who are not able to take advantage of the same opportunities are also contributors.

And the part that is so daunting, that makes it so hard to witness children experiencing homelessness day after day is the fact, it is the children who pay the ultimate price. They are the one’s who suffer the consequences.

Homelessness is not the problem, just as those experiencing it are not the problem.

We all are contributors and benefactors of its root causes. We all buy into and pay forward the creation of this state called homelessness through the things we do to create ‘better’ in our own worlds that have unintended consequences, and sometimes intended consequences, in another’s world. In our complicity, whether overt or covert through our silence, we are all impacting the futures of the children who are its innocent victims.

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If you would like to help the families who were impacted by the Thurlow Street Fire that resulted in my daughter and her family and neighbour’s evictions, you can support their GoFundMe campaign HERE.


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Sleep is worth the time!

Beaumont never worries about sleep

I don’t often give sleep its due.

I tend to ignore it or at least take it for granted.

A life-long early-riser, I struggle to sleep in, to keep sleep as a priority, regardless of how tired I am.

Sleep was on my mind this morning as I struggled to get out of bed and move into my day.

Fighting a cold puts me on the other side of tired. You know, that place where your bones feel weary and your head heavier than the rest of your body.

I don’t always give sleep its due.

Sleep was also on my mind as I was reading the over night shift reports this morning from the family emergency shelter where I work.

It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep in a homeless shelter.

There is constant movement, emergency lights in the hallways, unfamiliar surroundings, noises on the other side of your cubicle wall as children whimper and parents struggle to calm their anxious states of mind.

Sleep is not part of the homeless experience. At least, a good night’s sleep isn’t.

The challenge is, without sleep it’s hard to think clearly, to process and plan. to remain positive and hopeful.

When sleep is at a premium, sleep is always on our minds.

Like new parents, sleep is often absent when you need it the most.

Yesterday, my eldest daughter called all excited. She’d had a good night’s sleep! My grandson isn’t big on sleeping, yet. Since the fire that tore them from their home on October 4th, his sleep has been even more disjointed with the turning upside down of his world.

For my daughter, this has caused more angst at a time when there’s lots of it to go around.

Suddenly being evicted from their home. Staying with her husband’s family. Having to find a new place to live, dealing with movers and cleaners and insurance companies while also trying to advocate for the other tenants in the building who have not been well-treated and in many instances, are faced with the loss of everything as they didn’t have insurance. All of this has caused her sleepless nights.

A good night’s sleep is a gift.

I’ve been thinking about sleep recently. I’ve been teaching myself to give into it a little more and be a little less judgmental of myself in my need of its healing grace.

Sleep is restorative. Sleep is healing. Sleep is vital.

I hope you all had a good night’s sleep.

 

 


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Let patience be my constant companion

I haven’t got a lot of patience with myself this morning. I slept in. Fighting a cold. Feeling groggy.

And I smile.

Where is patience when I most need it?

With myself. Others. The world around me.

We are all humans taking this journey of our lifetimes, learning as we go along, how to be… human.

We are born to learn. To grow. To live.

Yet sometimes, in our haste to grow up, to get to where we’re going, to remember why we’re here, we forget to be patient with ourselves and the world around us. We forget that growth comes when we settle into our hearts and ease into the grace of our spirit’s natural way of being light of heart.

Let patience be my constant companion as I travel on my journey today, learning and growing and becoming who I am when I let go of believing I need to hurry up and be someone else!


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When judgement calls, don’t listen!

Have you ever noticed how some days it feels so much easier to let go of compassion and fall instead into judgement. So effortless and comfortable!

Yet, to stand in judgement is not comfortable. It leaves me feeling harsh, like I’m grating constantly against the fine grain of my conscience.

To let go of judgement, to allow compassion to be my guide, I must re-center. Re-align.

I must,

Breathe and soften my heart.
Breathe and soften my heart.
Breathe and soften my heart.

In that beautiful space where life-giving oxygen fills me up and I feel its breath stirring my heart, I find myself opening up to the beauty of moving with grace into compassion.

It can feel easier somedays to fall into judgement.

But it’s never the right thing to do.

Never the kind thing nor loving way to be in this world.

For today, let me not heed judgement’s hissing insistence it’s easy shores will bring me peace of mind.

Let the compassion of my heart call me home to that place where I am open and willing to doing the loving, right thing.


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Thanksgiving Dinner 2.0

We held our Thanksgiving dinner last night.

C.C. and I were visiting friends in Ontario for Thanksgiving weekend. We had forgotten about our annual dinner until his son text while we were away and said, “What about dinner?”

I am so grateful he did.

It was our first Thanksgiving dinner in our new home.

Most people who know me know that I have a tendency to add people to the dining room table as we go along. This year, because it wasn’t a long weekend and I had to work the next day,  I was committed to keeping the number manageable.

I really was.

And then…. 14 grew to 15 and then 16 and at the last minute a dear friend we thought was going to be away, called to ask, “Is dinner still on?”. He was the best man at our wedding and we both love him dearly. How could we say no?

I love gathering people around the table and watching their faces in the candlelight as they chat with their table neighbours and share stories and opinions on the things that make the world go round!. Last night, there was a lot of talk about legalization of marijuana with my brother-in-law astounding all of us when he said, as we were going around the table and sharing the things we were grateful for, “I’m grateful marijuana is legal. I’m thinking about trying it.”

We all laughed at that one. Especially as he is the last person you’d ever think would say that!

It was an evening of fun and laughter. An evening to share in what makes our lives so rich and fulfilling, the people around us, close to us, dear to us.

This morning, as I sit at the island, typing on my laptop, I am surrounded by reminders of the good times we shared last night. Dirty wine glasses by the sink, the charcuterie board at the far end not yet cleared of crackers and nuts, the bar at the other end still set up.

My glass-topped desk, which normally sits at the front window looking out, is still sitting cross-wise at the end of the second table we’d added to make a table long enough for 16. It is the end piece to the table that was added at the last minute to accomodate our 17th guest.

And the ‘disaster’ of our living/dining room makes me smile.

We built this space to be able to hold dinner parties like this without having to reorganize the whole house (which is what we inevitably had to do in our old home). And while I still wish we could fit in 24 people or more easily (I know. Crazy! but how else can I include all those I love?) I am so grateful for this wonderful space.

I am grateful for the friends and family who make the table such a beautiful, inviting place at which to gather. I am grateful for the food and the spirit they bring to the table. The laughter and heart they share.

I am grateful.

We gathered around the table last night. Family and friends. Laughing and sharing a meal, our thoughts, our hearts. We told stories on ourselves and stories on others. We talked about ‘the times’ and in the end, we all gave thanks for this wonderful country in which we live. Not just because marijuana is now legal across this vast land, but rather, because we are a country where no matter where you come from, or where you are going, everyone is free to sit at a table of their choice and express themselves freely.

 


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Early morning light and other awakenings

From where I sit

Sunrise comes later in the lengthening shadows of autumn days growing shorter and nights longer.

My body wants to stay in bed, to remain snugly curled up under the covers just a little bit longer.

My brain says, ‘get up. It may be dark but it’s morning. The day is awaiting.’

And so I arise.

I make my latte, take Beaumont out and settle at my desk as he settles on the floor beside me. Outside, the light from the walking bridge I can see from my window shimmers on the surface of the river flowing beneath it. the room behind me is reflected in the glass. The blanket of night that engulfs the world is broken by dark leaves on the trees that line the water’s edge. They stir gently in the early morning stillness, their dark silhouettes etched upon the surface of the shimmering water flowing in the night like a delicate filigree of lace. The headlights of a car moves through the darkness, crossing over the bridge that spans the river further to the south. The sky is dark.

I am wrapped in the warm cocoon of our home. A candle burns on my desk. A floor lamp casts a halo of light around me. Soft piano music plays. I am safe. I am warm. I am content.

At the family emergency homeless shelter where I work, morning has begun. Wake-up call is long past. Staff are turning on the hallway lights and families are stirring. Children grumble about the darkness of the morning, begging to sleep just a little bit longer. There are soft whispers, crying, a burst of laughter, the sound of a book falling to the floor from where it slipped off someone’s bed. Parents stretch and crawl out from beneath their covers, one rush to gather their things and reach the showers before someone else, the other rushes to get their children ready for the day. They prod and chide their children, telling them to ‘wake up. Hurry up. Get dressed. Get moving. And don’t forget to brush your teeth.

Morning has broken.

A new day has begun.

For many of the families who found safety at the shelter last night, the day will be a continuation of the last. Endless rounds of speaking to their case manager, connecting with other agencies and support workers, seeking housing, jobs, supports of every kind..

And waiting. Lots of waiting. for someone. Something. Nothing. Just waiting.

They’ll feel tired. Depressed. Like they want to give up. But they can’t. Their children are counting on them to find their way out of this mess called ‘homeless’ back to the place where they belong. Home.

At some point, possibly, a worker will ask them for a piece of paper they will realize they’ve forgotten, or lost, or simply misplaced in the turmoil of homelessness. And the process of filling in whatever form they were filling in will have to stop, and wait, for the right piece of paper to be found.

At some point, possibly, they’ll open a door that leads to another and then another only to find, that first door was the wrong one. They don’t quality or fit the criteria of that program. And they’ll return to their starting point and begin again. Waiting.

it is a daunting task this trying to end homelessness for your family, even with the support of case managers and other workers. It is daunting.

Not because it’s impossible. It’s not. There is help to be had. Supports to be gained. Homes to be found. People willing to guide you through the paperwork and tasks.

What’s daunting is waiting and the sheer overwhelming sense that pervades every pore of your body when your entire life has felt like one continuous struggle to not just get ahead, but to get your head even a tiny bit above the ‘poverty line’. To get enough food, education, health care, child care, money to support your family.

Dreams are lost in the darkness when the dreamer cannot fall asleep with the peace of mind necessary to calm troubled spirits and anxious thoughts. Dreaming doesn’t happen when the dreamer knows the roof above their head is insecure, there isn’t enough food  in the cupboard to stretch beyond the next morning or enough money under their pillow to meet the number of days remaining in the month.

Dreamers don’t sleep soundly in the midst of poverty grinding away at every fibre of their body stretched out in a bed they never knew how to make more comfortable for their family. Not because they didn’t want to, but rather, because they’ve never known the comfort of having enough to dream about what true comfort could feel like.

Morning has broken.

I am grateful for the quiet of my morning. The peacefulness that surrounds me. The slow quiet awakening of my day.

And I am grateful that on this morning, just like every morning of the year, there are those who are willing to walk with the children and parents who awaken in the early morning darkness of a shelter and help them turn on the lights so they can find their way home.

Namaste.