Who do you think you are?

#ShePersisted Series No 49
Mixed Media
11 x 14″
2019 Louise Gallagher

Yesterday, as I was cleaning out some files in preparation for my transition from the office to rejuvenation spaces, I found my Performance Review from February 2018.

When I had first joined the organization it was with the intent of staying for one year to help establish their communications and government relations strategy. One year would have been May 2018. When I did my Performance Review, the one year mark was approaching and the ED at the time had asked me to consider staying a bit longer in order to support him in achieving a couple of critical strategic directions. I was enjoying the work, the people and the challenges and agreed. In my Performance Review under “Goals”, I wrote that my goal was to create a succession plan that would allow me to transition from workplace to retirement by…. (wait for it)…. end of May 2019.

Ha!

I was prescient without even realizing it. I’m fulfilling on a goal I’d given a specific date to, and forgotten!

Don’t you love serendipity?

On May 31 I shall be transitioning out of my daytime job to step into the as of yet undefined spaces of retirement/rejuvenation. In March, when the Board announced the selection of the new Executive Director who is taking on the role on April 15, I met with her to discuss my transition. We agreed that six weeks would be ample time for me to transfer any needed knowledge and to assist her with a couple of specific tasks. At the time, I truly hadn’t remembered the goal from my Performance Review. At the time, we set the date as May 31.

I felt light-headed when I saw my note in my Performance Review. I felt calm and filled with a sense of satisfaction and peace.

Yesterday, after I’d spent an hour and a half meeting with the incoming ED, I left feeling uplifted, inspired, free. The agency will be in great hands.

As I move towards April 15 and then May 31, I am beginning the process of releasing my sense of ‘belonging’ to the organization. With each day, as I clear out old files and create a folder for the new ED of issues/ideas/projects in process that need her attention, I am also working on my release of needing/wanting to be engaged in everything.

It is an expansive place this releasing of my sense of belonging. And while I shall always feel a deep admiration and respect for the amazing people who work there and the incredible work they do and the vitalness of that work to our communities and the families served, I shall be pulling away from ‘the work’ itself to create space for my own work to evolve.

Last night, as I sat down at the work table in my studio and began to create, the #ShePersisted Series muse awoke and invited me to explore my creative essence through her voice.

As I splashed paint and moved through that grungy space of ‘Ugh. Nothing is looking right,” which is an inevitable part of my creative process, I was reminded of how when I first started at the agency almost two years ago, I knew little about its inner workings and needs and the imperatives of ending child and family homelessness.  There have been moments over the past two years when I wondered if I was ‘doing it right’, getting it?’.

Those wonderings are integral parts of every creative endeavour, of everything I do. They keep me open to change. Keep me listening for inner truth, other’s truths and connected to possibility in every truth. As I move beyond ‘the workforce’ to being a force of my creative change, I carry with me all I’ve learned, experienced, heard and seen. I carry with me the incredible passion of so many people to create better in the world for those whose voices have been stifled and those whose dreams have been lost beneath the struggles of poverty and homelessness.

I carry with me my own inate desire to create better in the world so that everyone, no matter their status, colour of skin, faith or riches can experience the wonder and awe of being who they are, exactly as they are right now.

No 49 in the #ShePersisted Series came into being last night. I’m excited to explore the more of what can happen when I let go of ‘9 to 5’and step into the uncharted spaces of rejuventation where I am wild and free. I am woman. I am me. . .

Namaste

Rock the Boat

No 5. #ShePersisted Series
Mixed Media
2017 Louise Gallagher
“Rock the Boat”

When I began the #ShePersisted series in the spring of 2017 I had no idea what this process would awaken within me. I didn’t know the possibilities.

I created 1, then 2 and a 3rd and then the muse reminded me that I am not in control. She kept flowing and I kept creating, until I’d painted and created quotes for 47 paintings.

And then I stopped. We bought a new home, my studio was put into boxes, we lived in a rented apartment while we renovated. After four months, we moved into our home along the river but my studio space was not complete. I let it go. I was busy. Work was taxing and engrossing. I didn’t need a ‘space’. Or so I told myself.

Last fall I reconnected with my creative expressions when I took an Alcohol Ink course with the amazingly talented Allyson Thain.

…And I was reminded — creative expression is vital to my well-being.

I’ve reactivated my studio space and now, I once again feel myself shifting, changing, emerging like each painting in the series emerged from the mists of creative expression.

This series is a journey in self-discovery and expression.

One of my desires with this series is to create a set of divination cards that women and men can use to inspire courage and grace in their daily living.

Over the next weeks, I shall be diving deeper into what is at the essence of each paintings message. These ‘messages’ will be the foundation of the card deck I’ll be creating and selling.

I hope you journey along with me. I hope these messages open space for you to find your true self calling out to your heart, your voice and your entire being to rise up and shine!

Namaste.

_______________________

Painting No 5.
Rock the Boat

If you’ve never swam in the ocean or don’t know how to swim, it can be scary to rock the boat.
It’s okay, as long as you wear a life jacket, you’ll find yourself swimming in the open waters of limitless possibilities.

The Rock the Boat card is an invitation to speak up in those places where you feel silenced. Where you feel like your voice doesn’t matter
or where you are worrying about what others might think of you if you carve your own path.

We are each responsible to turn up in our lives, to pay attention and to speak our truth
without being attached to the outcome. If you fear speaking up because you’re worried about what others might think of you
or doing what you believe is best for you, even if it’s different than what others say, ask yourself,
“What is worse? To carry the anger of silence and inaction within me or to let go of my fear of speaking my truth and living my life my way?”

Dare to be bold. Dare to be brave. Rock the Boat. Just carry a life jacket if you don’t know how to swim because
sometimes, when we rock the boat we fall into the deep end of life. Happy swimming!

Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n is vital

Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper
11 x 14″
2019 Louise Gallagher

My dear friend Iwona writes to remind me, retirement is a misnomer. The real word to describe this expansive and expanding space in my life is ‘rejuvenation’.

I like it. The Wild Woman Within likes it too. Especially as it’s spelt in its phoentics Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n  —  In brief, to make someone or something more vital.

Iwona’s reminder was timely. I was taking myself way too seriously. Telling myself this ‘job’ I do during the day is Über important and all that jazz. In my estimation of its importance I was letting the frustrations and weight of leadership eat away at my peace of mind.

I have been blessed. For the past almost 15 years, I have been engaged in work that fulfills on my need to feel like I make a difference in the world. It’s work that is vital and yes, important. But it is not the all of my being present and purpose-driven in this world. Beyond creating better for those experiencing homelessness and poverty, is my soul-inspired intention to ‘create a world where all people are free to dance in the light of grace, joy and love.’

A few weeks ago, my eldest daughter wrote a powerful poem to her maternal ancestors. My mother’s mothers.

In it she wrote,

There is no record of my great-great-grandmothers.
.
But like gold threads winding their way through silk
their secrets are embroidered below the surface of my skin.
Molecular chains dancing around each other.
Woven into the fabric of my being.
.
They call out to me
in the tongues of their mothers.
I can hear them in the stillness of mourning.
.
“They took our names.
Our pasts.
Our clothes.
Our bodies.
But they could not take everything
.
We cannot be erased so easily.”

She was writing of “those Dravidian girls” of India who form our maternal bloodline. Those young, teenage girls of darkened skin and darker eyes, who long ago were given to white men to serve as slaves, as consorts, and in some cases, wives.

They were seldom accepted, those Dravidian girls who became wives to men whose skin was paler than theirs. Over the decades, with time and thinning out of DNA strands, many of their descendants’ skin took on the paler hues of their paternal ancestors. With time, they became more acceptable, more desireable. More white.

I remember my cousins in Paris often bemoaning the fact their skin was so much darker than mine. That I was ‘the lucky one’. No one mistook me for some foreign chick looking to meet some fair-haired boy to gain acceptance into ‘normal society’.

I remember my brother being stripped searched at an airport because he appeared to the customs officials as a Middle Eastern man at a time when terrorism was just taking flight and a jetliner had been blown up in an African desert and men of Middle Eastern looks were deemed suspicious.

And I remember wondering why we spend so much time defining people by the colour of their skin. Why we couldn’t just see into everyone’s eyes and recognize their human magnificence, their beauty, their soulful essence?

It is those Dravidian girls who form my consciousness today. Those memories of conversations with my cousins where we compared skin colour and envied another’s fairness because it made the world feel more fair, more easy.

We live in a world of colour. Of hues and tones and vibrancy. A world of contradictions. A world of ineffable sadness and horrific happenings that we, the humans of this world, enact on one another in the name of our right to have it all because our god is greater or our skin colour is deemed better than another’s by some inexplicable measuring stick driven into the sands of time.

We live in a world of beauty. A world of possibilities that defy the imagination. Of beauty that rises with every sun and sets upon moonlit nights that take the breath away.

We live in a world of colour.

I want to create Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n In my world where every colour is vital, where every colour is celebrated and needed to create this magnificent, stunningly beautiful tapestry of life where we do not compare our skintones nor our assets. We only compare the beauty and vitality we experience every day.

The Wild Woman Within is stirring. I am heeding her call and the call of my ancestors who could not be easily erased. I am painting my world in the many colours of the rainbow. I am entering Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n and becoming more vital in all my ways and all the colours I paint my world.

 

 

Hail The Wild Woman Within!

No. 48 #ShePersisted
Mixed Media on watercolour paper
2019 Louise Gallagher
“I Am Worthy”

Yesterday, I painted and breathed into the truth of art as Pablo Picasso once described it, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

After four days of grandson time, my heart-felt light and breezy. My senses alive.

I’d given myself a day of relaxation before returning to my office. A day to breathe into the open spaces of time unplanned. When the muse called and invited me to explore my creative essence, I stepped into my studio, picked up a paintbrush and began to express myself freely.

In March 2017, I began a series of paintings titled, “The #ShePersisted” Series. Inspired by the events in the US congress that lead to Senator Mitch McConnell stating, “She was warned… Nevertheless, she persisted,” about fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren, I heard the call of the wild woman within me; the one who stands tall when told to sit down, who speaks up when told to be quiet. I began to paint the series, got to No. 47 and then… we moved, my studio was packed up and the series went into hibernation with the wild woman’s silence.

Yesterday, the wild woman within returned. This painting is No. 48 in the series. “I am worthy.”

In everyone’s life there is a place where we fear or believe someone else determines our worth.

As a teenager, I remember desperately wanting to fit in while fearing the price of doing so. I bought the latest styles. Danced the latest steps and gushed over the latest Hollywood heart-throb, juggling school and extracurricular activities and a parttime job while struggling to figure out what to do with my future. University. Job. What next?

In my twenties, I railed against conforming as I donned the wardrobe of a working woman. I wore suits and carried a briefcase and told myself my worth was made up in the things I carried and the height of the ladder I climbed.

In my thirties I became a mother. I was struggling in the ‘wife’ role, but I could do the mother thing to perfection. Or so I thought. The pressure to do it all, have it all, be it all became a daily treadmill of workdays spent rushing from meeting to meeting and weekends chasing my husband up rocky screeslopes and glacial expanses or hurrying my daughters from birthday party to dance class to sleepovers and playdates. And did I mention I was always training for half and full marathons, throwing elegant dinner parties and learning to cook in the latest craze?

My forties brought an abrupt end to much of my life as I knew it. I failed completely (or at least that’s what I called it) as a wife and became a single mother of two pre-teen girls. Briefcase in one hand, dance outfits and bobbypins in the other, the treadmill picked up speed until I ran full tilt into a man who professed he would love me until death do us part, and wound up taking the death part way too seriously.

It was that painful encounter that opened the doors to my freedom from believing my worth was determined somewhere ‘out there’. Healing from the devestation of that relationship meant taking a deep dive into my psyche, rotor-rooting into the bedrock of my being to find who I truly am. It was there, in the broken pieces of my feminine soul that I found myself waiting where I’d always been. Grounded in the brilliance and magnificence of my inherent human condition, I discovered, I am worthy. Period. No explanation needed. No caveats. No designer clothes or big titled job to prove it. I am worthy.

We are all worthy. Period. No explanation needed.

As I journey through my sixties towards this place called ‘retirement’, I hold steadfast in my belief of my human worth. It is irrevocable. It is priceless. It is undefeatable.

I may struggle with letting go of my working identity, or rail against falling into the ease of unstructured days, the truth is, nothing and no one can change my worth, my worthiness.

I am worthy.

You are worthy.

We are worthy.

Grounded in that truth, the open fields of possibility planted within the seeds of my creative passions, are calling me to explore what it means to express myself in freedom.

I am excited. It promises to be a fascinating journey. Hail the Wild Woman Within!