Where do you go when you feel down?

6 x 4″
alcohol ink on yupo paper
2019Louise Gallagher

I used to think sadness was not acceptable. That feeling down was not okay.

From the time I can remember my mother, I remember her as sad. She cried a lot. Never saw ‘the bright side’. Was always fearful and afraid.

Mostly, I thought it was my fault. In my childish ways, it seemed that there was little I did that made her happy. Everything made her sad.

I made it my job to make her happy. I got ‘real happy” all the time in the belief that I could turn her frown upside down and she would be happy too.

I was not that powerful.

Especially as no one realized that her sadness was actually a massive untreated depression. My mother was in her 80s when she finally got the help she needed.

I am grateful. She is more peaceful, more relaxed and less critical. Her inherent kindness shines through always and now, she laughs at silly jokes and takes great joy in videos of her great-grandson.

I didn’t want to wait that long to figure out what ailed me. In my twenties, when I first entered therapy, I couldn’t understand why my emotions were such a mess. I remember a therapist telling me that if you can’t name your emotions, you’re blocking them.

I was kind of irate. I can name happy, I said. I can name joyful.

Can you name sadness, they asked me.

I laughed. I don’t get sad, I replied.

It took me many years to learn the lesson. Everyone feels sadness. It is an emotion and we are emotional beings. The trick is to not damn our emotions up by pretending the ones we deem negative don’t exist. Emotions are transient things. We need to let them flow instead of damning them up until they can’t find any safe expression and instead blow up.

Fact is, none of us are powerful enough to erase our emotions from our existence. We are powerful enough to express them in healthy ways and determine how they affect our lives.

Last night, I painted.

For me, it is a surefire way to work through things that lay heavy on my heart. Pull out a bunch of paints, turn on some music and splash around in colour, lines and texture. In the sacred space of creative expression for the pure joy of creative expression, I find myself once again soft of heart, light of being. Present in the now, any big scary issues, along with the ones that just create fissuers of discord in my mind, dissipate as clarity rises above the mists of my confusion.

It can be easy in this world of big scary seemingly intractable issues to feel like we have lost control of our own lives. That we have no agency.

But we do. Always. No matter how deep the hole we feel we’ve fallen into or how high the walls before us look, we have the power to breathe into our fears, our sadness, our heavy hearts to give our emotions space to flow with ease and grace.

Too often, in our efforts to push away what we deem ‘negative’ emotions, we become numb to the pure, radiant joy of life lived in all its colours. Like me struggling to be a woman of constant happiness, I lost touch with my true self because I was too afraid to feel the things I didn’t want to name. Sadness, sorrow, grief. And, becuase I wouldn’t name them, I couldn’t give myself permission to be ‘real’, authentic, whole.

It took a lot of therapy and hard digging into myself work to realize the harm in my sunny ways. Like a bird with a broken wing constantly singing a happy song but never able to fly, I was tethered to the grief o the sadness I refused to feel or acknowledge, and thus, unable to soar.

That sadness was related far back to those childhood days of fearing I was the reason my mother cried, and desperately wanting to make her laugh, even when I felt sad and confused. Being sad became unacceptable for me, so I just got busy being happy.  Challenge is, in my perpetually happy state, I never acknowledged the things that hurt me and instead tried to bury them beneath my smile. Not being able to name the pains I felt, I was unable to heal my heart when it felt heavy.

Last night I painted. This morning, I feel the sun rising within me, the warmth of its rays feeding my soul with lightness of being. Doesn’t change what’s going on in the world around me, but it sure does make it easier to stay present in the now and cherish the beauty of this brand new day as it awakens.


What do you do when you feel life’s issues crowding out the joy of every day living? Do you give yourself permission to feel and heal the things that pain you?


PLEASE NOTE:  Sadness and depression are very different. Medical guidance is important.

The 3 C’s of Possibility: Curiosity. Courage.Commitment.

The river freezes from the shore out to the middle. When spring comes, It thaws from the middle back to the shore. And always, beneath the surface, the river flows swiftly.

Like life.

Moments congeal into frozen memories lying on a photo book page, or hide in some obscure file on a computer or in the deep recesses of our minds.

Each moment makes a life flow with multi-coloured hues of possibility, Sometimes the colours flow freely. Sometimes they make a muddy mess. Always they flow as we learn to swim in the seas of life.

My life is changing soon. Soon I will be shifting horizons, seeking new vistas, leaping into a new way of being present in my day to day life.

It is an interesting place, this liminal threshold that leads to new possibilities as I leave old certainties behind.

I am curious.

What will I do next?

What do I want to do next?

It is an exciting space. Scary too. I have dreams. I have goals. I have a vision for what I want to do that will only unfold when I step out of my life as I know it today and leap into what awaits beyond the known.

For the past 13 years I have known what it means to make a difference by working in the homeless-serving sector. Before that, I volunteered for many years working with street teens. Throughout my tenure, I have been blessed with countless opportunities to have an impact, to use my voice proactively to create change. I have been fortunate to be able to apply my talents to shift perceptions and build bridges to other ways of seeing and responding to homelessness. And in the process, contribute to the public dialogue on homelessness to help minimize the thoughtless acts of those who struggle to separate the human being from the condition of homelessness, so that their judgements and condemnations do not further traumatize those whose experiences of it have beaten them down so far to the hard surfaces of the road of life, they fear there is no way up or out of the darkness.

Throughout my time working in this sector I have held onto my core beliefs that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. That we are all human beings on this journey of life. No different in our need for belonging, connection and love.

What is different for each of us are our life experiences, our beginnings, our family stories, our paths. Regardless of where we stand on the road of life, no matter our struggles or the ease with which we travel, we are all miracles of life, created equal, unique, magnificent. We are all born to shine.

Recently, I set a deadline for myself, the thought being, I need a date by which I am committed to ‘create change’ for myself that will open up new possibilities, new vistas for my life. That date is fast approaching.

As part of my discernment process, I started writing in my journal in answer to the question:  What do I want to do next?

My list came fast.


And yes, I purposefully ordered my list to create an anchronym for myself:  WICCS.  This is my next bright idea for living my life fearlessly in Love with me, my life and everyone in it. Like the candle buring beside me on my desk, it carries the light of hope, possiblity, opporutnity and Love. It is my watchword, my beacon of possibility, its beautiful glow a reminder of all the wonder life has to offer.

The next question in my process is a little more challenging. It requires me to stay open to the Three C’s of Possibility:  Curiosity. Courage. Commitment and to be open to living in the questions while fearlessly standing in the dissonance of not having to know the answers so that the answers can appear without my forcing them into being: What do I do next to create my future?

Theses are exciting times. Like the river which is beginning to thaw from the centre back to the shore, I am opening myself up from my heart out to explore all that is possible when I stop standing on the shores of what I know and dive into the depths of life’s unexplored possibilities.


Walk with Integrity

Often, after completing a task or experiencing something difficult, people say things like, “I wish I’d known earlier what I know now. I wouldn’t have made so many mistakes.” Or, “If only I’d come before XXX happened. I would have done it differently.” And then often, they’ll add, “But I probably wouldn’t have listened if I’d known earlier anyway…”

We do not know what we do not know.

Knowing earlier or not, whatever happened in our lives in the past, is part of what created who and where we are today.

If I had known I would meet a prince charming who turned out to be the prince of death, would I have got in his red ferrari?

Fact is, that journey is part of who I am and how I am today.   Perhaps it would have taken some different experience, or another disastorous relationship for me to slow down but the fact is, I needed to wake up. And the universe opened a door for me to step into the possibility. Ultimately, that journey brought me to the truth of my own magnificence and our shared mangificence in this human condition. Doesn’t matter what road I too, that was the truth to which I needed to awaken. Perhaps, that relationship was my shortcut to this place of awakening? Perhaps, if I’d not gone through those dark days, I would still be repeating disastorous patterns that were keeping me from being truly, authentically me.

There were a thousand paths I could have taken to lead me”, to this place I am today.

That relationship was just the path I chose to get me here.

Last night, as I journalled about the change in my role at the family homeless shelter where I work, I realized that no matter where I end up, as long as I can claim, “I acted with grit and integrity.” then, whatever path I take to get where I am, has been a good road.

It’s when I wake up and cannot or won’t look myself in the mirrir, I need to take heed. My unwillingness to see is keeping me on the wrong road. Awakened, it’s up to me to choose what step I take next to reinstate my integrity.

And that’s the challenge.

We all make mistakes. We all have things happen that we didn’t plan for or had hoped for a different outcome.

It’s how we rise above our pain and sorrow, our tears and shame that we shine. And with each day walked on the road of our integrity, the day becomes a little sunier and we shine a whole lot brighter.



My heart eases…

11 x 14″ Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper 2019 Louise Gallagher
I painted last night. Pulled out my alcohol inks and Yupo Paper and immersed myself in the pure joy of creating for the sake of creating.

Beaumont slept on the floor beside me. My beloved lay on the couch pretending to read when actually he too was sleeping.

Music played in the background and I was oblivious to the lyrics falling gently into the rhythm of sounds

flowing effortless

I created

and fell

Heart first into abandonment of letting go of how to’s and must do’s.

Yes. This is where my creative essence finds itself free to express itself fearlessly in love with the art of creating.


It can be so easy to forget the power of creating. The joy of letting go of what I think needs to get done, or must.

In the art of creating, I let go of thinking to give way to feeling my way through to the other side of bliss.

In the art of creating, I forget to judge myself, to find myself lacking or not enough.

In the art of creating, I am whole. I am beloved. I am free.

I painted last night.

I remember.



My Heart Eases

©2019 Louise Gallagher
My heart eases gently
into that place
where I find myself
once again
savouring the flavourful essence
of my creative expression
flowing joyfully
onto the page
where I flow effortlessly into ease.
Ahhh… this is what I forgot.
My essence is not found
in to do lists and meetings held
it is not fulfilled in reports written
and emails sent
it is filled to the brim
of joyful expression
on the page
of my creative essence
where I flow effortlessly into ease

He Walks Alone (a story prompted story)

There is a moon filled sun and a man.

There is a day that became a forever night and a man alone.

There is a city. Silent in the darkness of the moon darkened sun.

There is a man who walks alone. Always.

Once there was life.

It is gone. Void. Expired.

The moon came and stole the light. And all life was forgotten.

Except for the man. He walks alone. By himself. Always.

Not frightened. Not scared. Just alone. Like a memory that cannot die, he is trapped in the darkness.

No one asks him what he is doing in the darkened day of the city. There is no one there to ask.

He is not curious this man walking alone.

He has no thoughts to make his mind wonder.

Once, there had been curiosity. Wonder. A city filled with people building, creating, doing.

And then, the moon came and covered up the sun. Like a needle skipping over a vinyl record track, again and again, day became perpetual night, a twilight of darkness creeping ever further and further afield.

And all thought of the light vanished. All memory of day disappeared as his life became a forgotten song he no longer sings.

Once the man wondered what lay beyond the darkened light of day.

Once he thought about exploring beyond the city limits.

No more.

With the vanishing of the light, his thoughts grew still. Silent.

Now, he wanders the empty avenues and streets where no blade of grass creeps up between the pavement cracks. Where no tree pushes up through the concrete. Where no cars pass on the once busy road and no people walk on sidewalks once filled with passersby going about their day.

Day is gone. Night has come.

All that grew has died beneath the darkened sun. All that was living has turned to dust, disappeared behind doors closed against the darkness creeping ever further and further into the corridors and hallways of the buildings no longer lit by sun’s warm gaze. Now, only concrete towers remain, the asphalt, the silent avenues, the empty spaces once filled with bustling life are still.

And the man walks alone.

No thoughts interrupt his passage. No ideas form within his mind.

Like the moon erasing day, his mind has escaped to some other place, that other place from long ago, when he was once a doer, a builder, husband, father, brother, son. A person known to others.

And now, he walks alone. Unseen. Unheard. Unknown.

He does not remember that other time. He does not know what he has lost.

He walks alone. His path lit by the ghostly light of a sun no longer strong enough to shine light on the city upon which it once cast its golden hues. The city that once never slept.

He walks alone.

Forgotten. Never sleeping there is no need of awakening. He exists to walk the city alone. Sole witness of the moon’s daring take-over of the sun.

Sleep is a long forgotten pleasure. Awakening a forgotten dream.

He walks alone. Always.


I have always enjoyed writing to prompts. It’s fun to see how others interpret the same prompt. How one image can stir different thoughts, feelings, emotions. This is the first story-prompt writing I’ve done in a long, long time. It feels like… coming home.

This prompt is from:  Myths of the Mirror. the prompt is Passover.  The photo is from:  natanvance on Pixabay

When courage calls you to rise above, do you listen?

Being human has its awkward moments. Its times of feeling like you’re all limbs and misplaced emotions. Times when the fear of ‘being seen’ adds up to your believing you are a big fat zero with little to give and no capacity to achieve anything or to be known for how truly magnificent you are in your human condition.

When I was a little girl there was a story in my family about my birth that caused me unease. But I thought it was funny and being naturally defiant, I kept telling it anyway, not realizing how it hurt my heart until many years (and a lot of therapy) later.

The story goes that my mother wished I was born on December 8, the day of the Immaculate conception which, in her Catholic world was a highly revered date. Instead, I was born two minutes after midnight on the 9th. Disappointment!

My father, wanting a boy, lost a case of beer and $20 because I was a girl. More disappointment!

Which was why my story became cemented in the belief I was always a disappointment. I was unwanted.

And then, one day, I decided to change my birth story. Why should a story told long ago, the details of which were never verified, limit my life a few decades later? Wanting closure on the past, and peace in the present, I decided my birth story was one of being wanted, of being loved and cherished by my parents, of being divinely magnificent in all my human condition. Wounds, flaws, beauty and all.

That story sat better within my heart, mind and spirit.

Still, in moments of unease, of distress and uncertainty, the tendrils of the past seep into my consciousness unbidden. They spiral around the unhealed places, spinning their reminders of what a disappointment I am. How I don’t fit in. I don’t belong. I am unwanted.

In their slithering, uneasy presence, I unconsciously respond from a place of insecurity. Problem is, insecurity is not effective nor objective. It is an emotional interpretation of past stories, fears, doubts,  that undermine my worth in the here and now.

We all have those places within. Those places where the stories we tell or told on ourselves cut us down to little pieces of shame and doubt leaving us fearful to act up to our true magnificence. To live the personal greatness which is our birthright.

it is in those moments of self-doubt, of insecurity and caution that we must bring our courage to bear. That we must breathe into our stories of shame and doubt to live into our true-love story of our life lived free of the past, free of limiting beliefs. To live fearlessly in the truth that we are each magnificent beings experiencing this fragile, beautiful human journey in Love. It is a multi-faceted journey that shimmers in the beautiful light of truth when we let go of believing we are not worthy.

I have been stalked by self-doubt recently. Feelings of less than, unwanted, unneeded have undermined my sense of truth and worth.

I know where it originates, this place of unease.  I know the external forces that have triggered the origin story within me. The one that does not serve me well.

I also know, these feelings are just emotional interpretations of circumstances over which I do have agency, no matter how much the critter would prefer I believe I’m a victim.

In that knowledge I can let go of self-doubt and fear and step once again into the light of knowing, I am a woman of worth. A divine expression of amazing grace living this one, precious life fully capable of expressing my human magnificence freely and lovingly.

Abandoning all need to play small, I rise above my fear and let courage draw me into the divine expression of my most precious and magnificent self today.







Not in my backyard?

Photo by Thomas Le on Unsplash

Let’s be clear. Homelessness does not belong in our backyards. It does not belong on our streets. It actually doesn’t belong in our society.

Homelessness doesn’t create better communities.

Not having people experiencing homelessness does.

The challenge is, when we think of homelessness, we see the person as the ‘homeless entity’ and don’t see the social issues beneath the stereotypes that keep us believing that speaking out against the person who is experiencing homelessness is actually making a difference.

That’s not how homelessness ends.

Homelessness ends when we as a society take better care of those who do not have the same privilege or same opportunities as we do to create better in their lives.

Homelessness ends when we stop targeting people and start addressing social issues that continue to create the very thing we don’t want on our streets or in our backyards, homelessness.

Because here’s the deal. Someone experiencing homelessness doesn’t want to be in your backyard. They don’t want to be on our streets. Being belittled and demeaned, ignored and shamed is not fun.

Years ago I got stuck in New York City because when I tried to fly out, the attendant noticed I’d entered on an expired passport. Yup. It was a surprise to me too but somehow, my expired passport had passed through two scanners and four different sets of hands as I exited Canada. And nobody noticed.

“Sorry, I can’t let you go home,” the attendant informed me as I tried to check into my flight. “You’ll have to go to the Canadian Consulate and get an extension so you can fly home tomorrow.”

Needless to say, I was the first person in line when the Consulate opened. Except. It didn’t matter. They didn’t give extensions and as my valid passport wasn’t lost (it was at home in Calgary), they couldn’t issue me a new one.

For 24 hours I waited for my passport to arrive. And while I waited I aimlessly wandered the streets of NYC. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t do anything but wait for my passport and hope it got there without incident.

I eventually made it home but not without feeling traumatized by the whole incident. Yes, it was my mistake that lead to my being stuck in New York but there were a whole bunch of contributors to the saga of my not being able to make it home as planned.

Now, imagine if you made a mistake and the penalty was losing your home. Maybe you lost your job and didn’t have any savings. Maybe your spouse left you and cleaned out your bank account. Maybe, in the process, you got to feeling so badly about yourself and your life, you turned to substances to numb your pain. Believe me, I drank a fair amount of wine while I waited for my passport to arrive if only to quell my fears, no matter how unrealistic, that I’d never make it home.

See, people aren’t homeless because they aren’t willing to change, or to address their mistakes, or let go of the substances that are helping them cope. They’re homeless because the resources they need to create change in their lives are not easily/readily available. Like the Consulate office that didn’t provide passport extensions, doors keep closing in their face, and despair keeps rising with every ‘no’. Eventually, the despair outweighs their hope and they sink listlessly to the ground, letting go of any hope they’ll make it out of the darkness that is homelessness. Getting up again becomes harder and harder until one day, up is no longer an option. Staying down just hurts less.

And that’s the challenge. The longer someone remains in homelessness, the greater the impact on their resiliency, health and mental well-being. Not only must they face the challenges of finding their way home, they must deal with the mental and health issues that have arisen because of long-term exposure to the toxic stress and trauma of homelessness.

Homelessness hurts. People. Families. Communities. Society.

Let’s stop blaming the people and start doing the things that ensure people don’t fall through the cracks because there are lots of exists leading away from the danger of homelessness before they fall.

Let’s stop blaming and shaming the people. Let’s start looking at our systems and how we can make them better so they open doors, not close them.

Let’s ensure our social services are deep enough and rich enough to give those with limited options enough supports so that if they do fall into a hole, they have enough resources to climb out before they get trapped in homelessness.

Let’s speak up to create a more fair and equitable society where those on the margins don’t get locked out of possibility for a better life simply because they never had the coin to pay the entrance fee to a better future in the first place.



Snow angels and other apparitions of joy

I am walking with Beau along the path that skirts the river. I am focused on ensuring he does not think it’s a good idea to run out onto the ice that lines the shore.

I don’t notice the woman on her bike until I almost walk into her. (That’s how hard I’m concentrating on keeping Beau to the path, not the ice.)

The woman is admiring the river. The sky. The woods.

She’s also on the walking path but at -14C who cares?  There aren’t all that many people out anyway.

She smiles at me. I smile at her.

“What a glorious day!” she exclaims.

And I agree. Clear blue sky soaring into infinity. The temperature a balmy sub-zero but not as sub-zero as yesterday, or earlier in the morning for that matter. (It does worry me that I think -14C is balmy but, when you’re been out in -30C, balmy is anything warmer.)

Beaumont, seeing I am engaged with the woman races over. She greets him almost as enthusiastically as he greets her. She starts to tell me all about a dog she used to own. He kind of looked like Beau, but not really, she says. But he was just as friendly. Her husband misses the dog more than her. Instead of dog-walking, she rides her bike. Every day. Regardless of the weather.

That’s because my husband tells me I can’t just sit around and do nothing, she adds with a laugh.

“Do you think he’s right?” she asks, before racing forward, into more dialogue. “Maybe you can help me,” she says. “My son just moved out and the room he had is now empty. I want to use it for something. It’s such a wonderful space but I don’t want to turn it into a bedroom again, definitely not. My husband says I should make it into a yoga studio but I don’t want a yoga studio at home and I don’t know… I have this dresser in the basement. It’s beautiful old wood with this gorgeous mirror and…” she pauses momentarily for a breath. “Do you think I should move it up there?”

“Do you want to?” I ask, still not sure why a complete stranger is asking me for decorating advice.

“Well, I love it and it seems such a shame to hide it away and I have all these other pieces of art and antiques.” Her eyes snap wide open, her mouth forms a tiny ‘O’. “I could turn the room into my art gallery. A place where I go and sit and admire all my beautiful things. Admiring beautiful things is not doing nothing!”

And she climbs onto her bicycle in preparation of riding off. “Oh thank you! You’ve helped me so much. Now I can go home and get busy planning how I’m going to do this and… oh Thank you!” she repeats before riding off.

Even Beau is bemused enough by the encounter, he’s sitting still. But not for long. He leaps up to remind me to throw the ball.

I throw it, away from the river, and turn back to stare at the rushing water on the far side of the ice-covered shore. And that’s when I see it. A patch of untrammeled snow, the only patch around, just at the edge of the trees leading down to the river’s edge.

I knew what I have to do.

I bid Beau, ‘Sit. Stay’ (who am I kidding?) and walk over to the patch of unmarked snow. I turn around, face away from the river and carefully lay my body down.

I stare at the sky for a moment and then start to move my arms and legs away from the sides of my body. In and out, in and out, along the surface of the snow.

Carefully I stand up and turn to admire my work.

A snow angel at the edge of the river.

How divine.

I smile up at the cerulean sky soaring above me. I laugh out loud.

And wonders of wonders, Beau stayed still the whole time.

We walk away. Me throwing the ball. Him chasing after it.

And behind us, a snow angel lies blissfully in the snow. A sweet reminder that angels are on our path always. Sometimes, they come riding up on a bike, asking for decorating advice on a blue-sky day.

Always, they come bearing gifts of laughter and joy.

What’s the point?

One of my father’s favourite quotes when I was a little girl was, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”

Some time ago, while pondering a situation with a friend, I found myself hesitating to intervene because, well… I couldn’t make them drink, or in this case, stop drinking. And I feared, if I said anything, they’d be upset and then it would all fall apart.

Except, it was already falling apart. Why did I hesitate?

I wonder what my hesitation is all about? I asked myself.

Is there something buried in my psyche holding me back that I can’t see? Is there a limiting belief here?

And then it struck me — beneath the ‘here, let me show you the water. you decide whether or not you drink’ is the belief — I am helpless to affect someone else’s behaviour.

I think that’s what they call. Bullsh*t!

I can’t change what other’s do but I am not powerless.

I have a voice.

I have the capacity to use it. To speak up and be heard.

Yet, I let the belief that I can’t make someone drink the water keep me from even leading them to the well.

Because the limiting belief is — What’s the point?

It’s not my business. It’s not up to me to intervene.

Actually. It is.

When I see someone doing something that hurts them or others, it is not up to me to walk away. It’s up to me to step in and intervene — lovingly. To at least say something so that they know I see them. I hear them. I feel for them and with them — and love them.

Love is not inactive.

It is constantly in action. In motion. In doing.

Love is.

It’s me who isn’t always present to doing what I must to create a world of love — a world where I don’t stand on the sidelines watching someone hurt themselves, or watching someone destroy another, or watching people hurt each other or the world around them.

I may not be able to change the world but I sure can change what I do in it to create well-being all around me. And when I see someone hurting, I have the power to step in and ask, “I see your pain. How can I be of service?”

So dad, I know you’re gone from this world but I just wanted you to know, I get it. It isn’t about leading anyone to water or forcing them to drink. It is about what I do to create opportunities for them to see fresh water is waiting. And to know — I will stand at the well with you. I will hold your hair back while you drink. I will stand with you as you move towards the well just as I hope you stand with me when I need to drink of life-refreshing waters.

We are all connected. I can’t be in your pain with you, but I can stand with you as you dive into the well of possibility to find the other side where we all swim in this ocean of life together.

We are all drinking of the same well of Love. And if the water isn’t sweet, I do have the power to pour my voice into its depths and let it rise up in a song of Love.