Are you a control freak?

I am… a control freak.  Okay, maybe not a freak, but I do like control. A lot. Who doesn’t? Control, or at least the illusion of control, makes me feel safe (or so my critter mind believes).

Yet, in its very aura of safety, I am most unsafe. For in the illusion of control, I give myself up to the notion that I can predict and direct the outcome of anything/everything.

Ha! I can’t control nor direct the outcome of the world around me. Heck, I can’t really direct the outcome of my efforts to create. All I can engage in is the creative process — and when I let what appears, appear, I give up the need to control what happens as I become part of its happening.

Take for example a gift I gave my beloved several years ago. We were living in different cities and for Valentine’s Day, I gifted him 14 Days of a Love Poem a Day.

It was a gift which meant… he got to receive it and respond to it in whatever way best fit him.

But that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted him to respond the way I wanted him to respond, not the way that was comfortable/natural for him. My expectations of an outcome lead to a pretty major disagreement. Fortunately, we moved through that disagreement and I moved past my expectations. The 14 days of a poem a day lead to an entire year of a love poem a day, and in that process my understanding of love and its capacity to change my world and the world around me shifted.  I fell in love with the joy of writing a love poem a day and let go of the expectations of what the process would achieve. And that shifted everything between my beloved and me.

When I shift, everything shifts. 

As I let go of my expected/desired outcomes, the pressure of ‘what I was doing to create’ a feeling/emotion/environment/response from him flew out the window. We both became immersed in the journey of understanding one another and letting go of expectations of the other. In letting go of the need to control the outcome, love deepened, our experience of one another expanded, and harmony abounded.

Which leads me to the conclusion, control is not all it’s cracked up to be.

When I am busy trying to control people, things, experiences, I am busy avoiding the experience of people, things, experiences.  And in my avoidance, fear deepens, not lessens because — Avoidance strengthens fear. 

In my fear, I struggle to wrestle the future, the moment, and the past into something I can predict, manage and control.

In my fear, I struggle to wrestle people, things and experiences into people, things and experiences i can control and manage.

In my open-hearted embrace of surrendering behaviours that limit my acceptance of people, things and experiences, the past is filled with love, the present with joy and the future with the anticipation of the miracles that can happen when I release my hold on wanting to see or predict the future.

In opening up to being out of control in the here and now, I fall with grace into Love, living joyfully in the rapture of now where the future is yet to come.


When we fear what we do not know…

Recently, in Calgary, we’ve had an ongoing debate around a Supervised Consumption Site, both a fixed address and proposed mobile facility. As part of the debate, the phrase most used to describe its necessity is ‘harm reduction’.

To those not accustomed to working in the areas of addictions or homelessness, harm reduction can be a scary thought. Partially because unless you do work in this field, you don’t really understand it (even those who work in it sometimes struggle with it), and secondly, because it immediately suggests there is harm to someone, we just don’t know who and being naturally egotistical humans, we fear what we do not understand and assume it is us at risk of the harm.

Harm reduction is about lessening opportunities for self-harm by creating safe practices and spaces for those engaged in drug use. Someone with an addiction is going to use. That’s what addictions do. They steal ‘common sense’ and override our entire beings with this burning desire to have the thing we desire, even when we know it’s not good for us. We don’t really think about the dying part. We think about the relieving ‘the itch’ by using the thing that gives us relief.

But, we say, they choose to be addicts, why can’t they take care of themselves? Or as one person commented on a news article online, Why can’t we just let them all die?

I don’t know about you but people dying on my watch, when I have the capacity to make a difference, even if it’s only by accepting a Supervised Consumption site in my area is better than being complicit in someone dying of a drug overdose anywhere.

On average, 2 people die of opioid poisoning in Alberta every day with Calgary experiencing the highest number of overdoses in the province.

This is a complex issue. Lives are being lost. And we are afraid. The challenge is, I’m not sure we know what it is we fear.

Do we fear encountering someone on a high on the street?

Do we fear someone dying in front of us?

Do we fear we won’t know what to do if we encounter someone overdosing?

Do we fear the unknown?

All of these are real fears.

Are they real enough for us to take action by learning more, by carrying a Naloxone kit for example, or by volunteering at an organization that works with people with addictions or who are experiencing homelessness?

Or, do we just complain, criticize and condemn those who are doing their best, even when we don’t understand what they’re doing or why, to keep fellow human beings alive.

There is a narrative in our society about addictions that is not healthy.

Addiction is a choice.

People should just stop.

If they’re going to use,  it’s not my job to save them.

There’s nothing I can do.

Actually, there’s lots each of us can do. We can become advocates for kindness, compassion, acceptance of our fellow human beings, in all their many facets, in all the expressions of our shared human condition.

Ultimately, by creating a kinder more forgiving and tolerant world, we create opportunities for everyone to live free of labels, free to experience what it means to be human in a world that does not judge or find others lacking simply because they’re different than us. A world that sees our differences as vital parts of the fascinating and beautiful mosaic that is our human condition.

In such a world, anything and everything is possible.


Please note:  This post is not to create a debate on supervised consumption sites or addictions or the opioid crisis. My words are my effort to understand better what it means for me, and what I can do, create, change.

If my words stir something in you, please do share your thoughts. Your thoughts will help me understand more, create common ground, increase the field upon which we share understanding.

Please be respectful. Kind. I reserve the right to delete comments that denigrate or belittle human beings.

Powerful Changes: Becoming my creative expression

Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper
Louise Gallagher
5 x 7″

The card is named, “Powerful Changes”.

I feel my body’s visceral response to the words. ‘Change? What change?’ my critter mind wails. “Enough already with the changes! Haven’t I done enough? ”

I want to know the changes, as if in the knowing, I can vet them, or at least measure them against my barometer of what is acceptable change. And what is not.

“When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.
As we open our creative channel to the Creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.”

I am like the river flowing to the sea, my course defined by two parallel shores guiding me, channeling me.

My creative essence is not be channeled.

When I open my creative channel to the Creator, I drift quietly away from the need to be safely channeled by the shores of my being who I think I am in this world and the life I lead. Open to my creative channel, I release my expectations that my course is predictable, known, somehow able to be directed and determined by me.

In the absence of needing to direct or be held in by the bounds of what I deem the shores and boundaries of my life, I am free to explore where ever my creativity leads me.

I am free to be my creative essence. Open to powerful changes whether they enter gently or roar in like an arctic wind.

I want to control change. To harness it to my directions.

I cannot harness the wind. I cannot change the weather.

I surrender my need to control and give into my creative essence and its deep desire to be known simply as it is.

In that knowing, I am not bound by the shores of who I am. In that powerful change of how I see myself and my creativity, I am free to become all I am when I let go of being my creative expression and become the expression of my creative essence running wild and free.



Free-fall writing from today’s The Artist’s Way Card by Julia Cameron —  Powerful Changes

Without thinking about it, as I wrote, my word for 2019 became clearer. “Surrender”  That is a powerful change from my thinking that I needed to consciously focus on my word for the year.

The river moves slowly in the cold of winter

The river moves slowly in the cold of winter. It slides, its surface an undulating steel grey mass of water gliding as one graceful body moving ever onward towards a distant ocean.

The ocean feels further away in the winter. Like a forgotten spring damned up behind blocks of ice freezing all memory of silken sands and seagulls diving into the waves. There is no memory of warmer days in winter’s icy grip. Only the slow silent moving of the days as the river glides slowly past.

The river is flowing slowly. Trapped between its ice lined shores growing wider and thicker with each passing day, silently it moves up into the confines of a narrow channel of ice that has gathered beneath the bridge, between the shore and the bridge abutment. It pushes feebly against the ice, thoughts of far-away freedom growing further and further away. It lays there now in the cold of winter. It lays in a silent ice-encased body, waiting for spring’s arrival.

The river moves slowly in the cold of winter like pain coursing through our bodies in moments of despair, grief, fear, anger.

In their midst, we feel like time has stopped moving. Like everything has slowed down as we sit in a darkened tunnel of pain pushing back tumultuous emotions we cannot name, nor speak, nor label for fear, they will become our forever reality and spring will not return one day.

And then, time passes. And spring returns. And with its return the ice slowly melts and the river flows freely to the sea once again.

I have known moments of excruciating pain in my life. Moments where I believed now was forever and feared it was true. Moments where all I could hear was the roaring in my head, the roaring that sounded like I was buried deep in a bed of ice, too frozen, too frightened, too fearful to move.

And then spring came and with it, the ice melted and I remembered to breathe into its promise of sunshine and brighter days ahead.

The river moves slowly in the cold of winter. It is beautiful as it glides past my window, glistening beneath in its molten sheet of grey edged in white.

There is beauty in the cold of winter. Untold stories of skaters whizzing across frozen ponds and skiers swooping down snow-laden mountainsides, their cheeks rosy and their spirits light.

There is beauty in the cold of winter. It begins within my heart melting in gratitude for this day, no matter how cold or frosty the air I breathe.


I am working with The Artist’s Way creativity cards.

Each day, I pull a card and must free-fall write whatever appears from the inspiration of the card.

Today’s card was:  The Air We Breathe — Creativity is oxygen for our souls.


Every voice has value.

Awhile ago, I had coffee with a dear friend, He is one of my oldest friends here in this city. I needed his guidance on something and he gladly offered up his time.

As we sat and talked and laughed and shared our hopes and dreams and challenges I was struck by how much we have both been ‘made different’ through this friendship.

My friend is pragmatic. He can always serve up a pretty bleak perspective on life and the economy, on government’s and social movements that states, ‘we are all going to hell in a handbasket’. In his pragmatic approach I have learned to listen deeply to the underlying message. To not take words at face value but to ask questions, dive in to gain understanding. I have learned to make space for someone else’s point of view. There is always something to be learned, gained, understood. Through this friendship, I have learned to let go of criticism, and the need to change the other to my point of view and open up to learning and growing on the common ground of respect for one another.

I am less pragmatic, taking a more Pollyanna approach to life and living. I want him to see the goodness in all mankind, the possibility of ‘better’, the imperative of kindness and letting people be their experiences while ensuring no one dies on our streets. His response has generally been, “Then let them experience cleaning up, getting a job, getting on with life. It’s not a free-ride.”

When I worked at a single’s homeless shelter, I struggled to convince him to see the world of homelessness through my eyes. And he resisted my insistence he was wrong to view the world his way. Go figure. Over time, I quit insisting he see it my way  – by admitting the errors of his way –  and moved into a place where his way had equal voice. And in that shift, everything shifted. We were both made different. We both let go of our intransigent views and opened up to the possibilities of another way — another way that lead to the building of common ground for the mutual benefit of all. Where once the line was drawn and we could not cross the barriers of our convictions, the light has filtered in, creating softness in those places where once only hard rock theories abounded.

To make a difference in the world I must let go of my insistence that my way is the only way. There are a thousand paths to get to the place we want to be. Every path matters.

To make a difference in the world I must stop judging where others are at and find the common ground of where we all live in a world where everyone has value and every point of view creates a world we can live in without fear.

What if you could change your thoughts?

It can be scary to think about ‘change’ in our lives. To think that maybe there is a ‘better’ way to do life than how we’re doing life now. Maybe… and then, our little critter brain leaps into the fray and pound us with its fear-driving insistence…. Change is scary. Change is too hard. It’s okay to live small. It’s okay to live in fear, anger, distrust, discontent. Nothing’s better out there anyway. Just give up.

In the critter-driven fears of not wanting to change, we rationalize our insistence to clinging to ways of being that hurt us with thoughts that only hold us back. Statements like — There’s no hope for me anyway, it’s just the way I am. I’m already doing my best so why bother? There’s nothing else I can do, I’ve tried everything to make this pain go away, nothing works.  What if, this is as good as it gets?

If better is possible, is good good enough?

We are evolutionary beings in an evolutionary world. Change begins with the moment the seed of our birth is planted in the womb of our possibility. And change continues, every moment of every day — whether we want it to or not.

Why then, do we cling to not changing? Why does our resistance to look at what is, or isn’t working in our lives, increase when we are invited to see that all things, including ourselves, change, with or without our permission?

What is it we are clinging to?

For me, getting to a place where I was willing to acknowledge there are always new ways to ‘do me’ in the world, meant accepting that there were aspects of my way of living my life that were not working for me. Like, how not speaking up or standing up for what I believe in was giving me, and many around me whiplash. Or, acknowledging that I was not living true to my values and instead was behaving like a weather vane spinning in whichever way the wind blew me was really hindering my joyfulness every day.

One of the ‘truths’ I used to tell myself was “I’m doing my best.” Which would have been great if I’d tested or explored what my best was. Instead, clinging to the belief, “I’m doing my best,” kept me from seeing I hadn’t even touched the edges of the capacity of ‘my best’. My limiting beliefs of what I was capable of in this world kept me from seeing all that I was/am capable of in this world.

The reality is, those limiting beliefs still trip me up — they just don’t control me like they used to because when they appear like tiny speed bumps on my road, I change the words I use to describe them.

Awhile ago I caught myself saying,, “Change is hard.”

Hmmm, that’s interesting, I thought. I wonder where that thought live, I asked.

In my head, my heart responded.

“What if you change that thought?” I asked myself.

What if you simply choose to think and say, Change is always here. How I experience it is up to me. I can choose to see it as hard, or, I can choose to see it as an exciting adventure opening me up to a life of wonder and awe. What if…. as Louise Hay writes in, You Can Heal Your Life,, “It’s only a thought and a thought can be changed.”

What if… it’s your thinkin’ that’s stinkin’ and not your life?

What if… you could change your thoughts and change your life?

Think about it. What would be different in your world today if you stopped thinking about not changing and embraced the idea — You cannot change or heal what you do not acknowledge?

What if… better is possible and all you need to do to experience it is to let go of your certainty there’s no possibility for change?

It’s never to late to begin again to start your day

This morning, I awoke with the clear intention of beginning my day in centered calmness.

Instead, I sat down at my computer and before sinking into the silence, decided to open my work emails. Ooops. My inbox had several issues that needed addressing. Instead of centering myself in calmness, I immersed myself in work.

And so I create a start to my day that is not what I intended, not what supports me best.

No one else chose to open my work emails but me.

And I smile at myself.

I am 100% accountable for what I do and for what I bring into my life.

This morning, rather than choosing to do what is most affirming and supportive of me, I chose to let myself become side-tracked by work.

Had I followed my intention, whatever was waiting in my emails would have still been waiting, and I would have addressed it from feeling full, balanced and able to maintain a level of calm attention to whatever needed addressing.

Instead, I am now feeling frustrated, anxious, less centered in my approach to the day.

Because that’s the thing. When I circumvent my own self-care, I veer off into the arena of addictive, unhealthy practices — such as reading emails ‘just because’, immersing myself in work when what I need is to immerse myself in good self-care.

I am feeling frustrated.

Not by the emails or work, but by my actions.

Work always has its frustrating aspects, its crises, its situations that need immediate attention along with its invitations to create and explore opportunities.

When I let go of good self-care, I move out of the space where I am open to creative thinking and problem-solving into that space where my focus is on the tactical not the strategic. Caught in the list of ‘to do’s’, I lose sight of the possibilities.

Time to ‘begin again’.

To take time out for me before I enter ‘work mode’.

While I may be entering my morning backwards, it is never too late to begin again. Never too late to start my day in self-care.

One nice thing about meditating and savouring the silence now is I won’t be distracted by thoughts of ‘I wonder what’s waiting for my attention in my emails?’ (and yes, I’m smiling at myself when I write that. I recognize the contradictions of my thinking.)

I breathe and settle myself into the silence.

I begin again to begin my day with centered calmness.

I begin again to fill myself up with peace and thoughtful balance so that I am well-nourished from the heart out to experience my day in loving kindness, my spirit buoyed up by creative energy flowing freely and my heart full of compassion and Love.


Doing our best has to be enough

Decisions. Choices.

We make them many times, every day.

Big or small, we inevitably spend some time asking ourselves; Is this the right choice? Can I do better?

In the end, no matter how much thinking I put into a problem, or how many angles and perspectives I consider when attempting to resolve a situation, I can’t avoid the decision. I have to make the best choice I can with the information I have.

It is something I am learning as a leader.

It’s vital to gather as much information as possible to support making a decision. Timing, as they say, is everything. Gathering information cannot override making a decision. Decisions must be made.

To make sound decisions, I must be open to listening, hearing, asking, seeing as many sides of the issue as possible. And in that process, I must trust that whatever the decision, I am doing my best.

The challenge is, whatever the decision it will probably not sit well with some. I must choose for the well-being of the many.

And that can be hard for a veteran people-pleaser.

I want to believe that whatever I’m doing, people will buy into it. They will see I am acting with good intent. That it is a decision not made lightly, or without thought of all the consequences.

But sometimes, people can’t see that. They can only see from their perspective. Through their lens, which is filtered through their feelings, experiences, beliefs, history.

When I first stepped into this role of being Interim Executive Director at the family homeless shelter where I work, a very dear friend said to me, “It’s lonely at the top. No matter what the situation, the final decision is yours.”  He went on to add, “You won’t be able to please all of the people all of the time. You have to become comfortable with that.”

My friend was right.

Awhile ago, there was an incident that required very difficult decisions. No matter what I chose, lives would be impacted.

I had to choose the best thing for the many, which though difficult to see for the one most impacted, was the right thing for all.

We cannot see what we do not know and what we know is always grounded in what we see as true.

When we are in pain, when fear is riding roughshod over our state of mind, it is hard to see alternatives and possibilities from where we stand mired in fear.

With our brains contracted by thoughts of all that can go wrong, of all that has gone wrong, of all that is wrong in whatever the situation, we focus on the darkness creating worst case stories that block our view of the possibilities that exist, even in the darkness. Seeing only catastrophe, we, leave ourselves with few options other than to stand still, run away, fight back or give in.

There is a fifth dimension.

When we acknowledge our lizard brain, or critter as I like to call him, is limiting our view, we create space for our higher thinking to step in.

When we breathe through our fear of whatever’s going on, of making a wrong move or upsetting everyone with our choices, we create space for all of our higher thinking to turn up. In that space, we are free to engage with our brain’s higher functioning capabilities, awakening our capacity for whole-brain thinking, judgement and thoughtful action to take hold. No longer fearing we are enough, or are ‘wrong’, we see the possibilities to create better. We see pathways we’ve never seen before and options we’ve never considered.

In that place, we are able to make choices based on possibility not fear, to see opportunity not dead-ends and to embrace hope not hopelessness. In that place, we are able to make the best decisions we can without fearing our decisions are wrong, because we know it’s not about right and wrong, it’s about trusting in ourselves.

In that place we can act compassionately, with integrity, even in the midst of pain and fear.

I am learning to let go of my fear of making decisions that impact other people’s lives. It’s an essential part of becoming a leader.

it’s been a beautiful, challenging and growth-filled journey, not without its ups and downs. Always with its possibilities because what I’ve learn is key to living my life with integrity, compassion and joy. What I’ve learn is: doing my best has to be enough.





Love is always here

Photo by Alexis M.

Last Friday, we celebrated my grandson’s first birthday. Along with his parents, grandparents, family and friends, Love was there.

I watch my daughter and son-in-love as they parent him and I stand in awe. Everything about him and his life is grounded in Love.

There is no end to it. No beginning. There is only Love.

I try to reach back into my own life and wonder, was Love always present?

Beyond the life-happenings, the mis-steps and wrong directions. The hurts and pains and ups and downs, was I so blessed by Love?

There is only one answer. Yes.

No matter our human condition, no matter the circumstances of our birth, the environments in which we grew up, all our lives are blessed by Love.

It is always present. Without beginning or end.

It does not judge our human condition. It does not withdraw itself or pervert its presence because of who we are or what we do. Love is Love and Love is always Present.

I am reminded of an exercise on self-love.

No matter what is happening, self-love creates space to name what you are feeling by acknowledging its presence and to remember, no matter what feeling is running through you in this moment, so is Love.

The exercise begins with a statement of what emotion is present without being that emotion. Rather than, I am angry, the statement is, Anger is present and then ending with an affirmation to Love.  For example:

Anger is present. So is Love.
Fear is here. So is Love.
Disappointment is present. So is Love.
Sadness is here. So is Love.

It’s important to acknowledge the feelings, without owning them or judging them, and then to acknowledge what else is present, always and forever. Love.  In that space, grace descends and acceptance expands to embrace all of you, darkness and light, yin and yang, beauty and the beast, in Love.

Love doesn’t need us to be anything other than how we are in each moment. And if in that moment anger is present, Love accepts its presence without fear of it being present forever. Love knows, all things pass, all things change except that which is always present, always here. Love.

Without beginning or end. Love is always here.

I spent five days with my grandson. it was a time to celebrate. To cherish. To savour. It was, as it always is, a time to Love.