Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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I carry it all in my heart. Always.

It is here.

End day. New day. Beginning day. R-Day.

Endings and Beginnings. Inexplicably tied.

I awaken to smoky skies. In front of my window, the river slips silenly past, a broad green ribbon of movement coursing towards a far-away sea. Somewhere up beyond the smoke, the sun shines.

The river never stops moving. The river cannot flow backwards just as time cannot rewind itself.

And in this moment of time, my heart is at peace.

It is a time of Completion.

A segment of my life changing. Evolving. Transforming. Opening up. Expanding.

I like expansion.

The feeling of possibility that pries open the known and hidden corners of my heart, my mind, my spirit, my life.

I like expansion.

Making the unknown visible. Making the unseen, known.

I cannot see tomororw. Cannot know what it will bring.

What I can know is that when I step into today with arms wide open, heart beating freely, mind expanded to accept all that is, and all that is possible, tomorrow is not mine to worry about.

When I step into today fully conscious and aware, today is all mine. My passion. My joy. My responsibility.

I am entering my last day of my formal working career. Last night, C.C. and I had dinner with a lovely young couple who are at the beginning of their lives together. She is pregnant, just completing her Master’s degree. He is in his dream job. Together they are renovating a home. Building a life and a place for their yet to be born child. The possibilities for their lives are unbounded.

Many years further along the road, I am just beginning this new phase, my ‘rejuvenation jaunt’. Though my days on this earth are not as far-stretching as their’s, my possibilities are also unbounded,

It is not the number of years I’ve walked this road of life that make the difference nor how many unknown days I have left. It’s how I live each step I’m taking now. How much love I fill into each moment, how much joy I share.

When I joined The Inn, my intention was to end my formal working career in a place I love — at the frontlines of the homeless sector. And then, possibility of ending it on an even higher note opened up with the opportunity of stepping in as the Interim Executive Director.

What a beautiful gift.

I can’t say it has been ‘easy’, but it definitely has been fulfilling and rewarding. I have grown and stretched and learned and experienced leadership in ways I never imagined I would, ways I never even thought I wanted.

I have been wonderfully expanded.

And so today, I say good-bye to an organization that has treated me well and given me an opportunity to have my contributions make a difference. An organization that everyday stands beside those whose journies have been disrupted by this thing called ‘homelessness’, so that they can see in the darkness and find their way home.

Last night, as we sat over dinner and chatted, I shared with the young woman who is just beginning to frame the future of her career, stories of my times working in this sector. One of the stories I shared was of a man who was a client at the adult singles homeless shelter where I worked when I first started in this field. He didn’t know he was passionate about photography until one day he picked up a camera that had been donated to the art program I’d started when I first began working there. That camera changed his life.

Three years later, on a cold December night as I sat with him in hospice and he took his last breaths, photos of his work surrounded him on the bed. He wasn’t conscious but I described to him the photos I’d brought to give him comfort. With each photo I described, I felt immersed in life’s mysteries. Here was a man who ‘had nothing’ and yet who was leaving behind a beautiful legacy of the last three years of his life because one day he picked up a camera.

I imagined as he took his last breath that all those images he’d captured in his last three years of life were forming a bridge that carried him from this world to the next place of his journey.

He passed on the inhale. I imagined that his last slow rattly breath was filled with Love and that Love is all he carried with him and all he left behind. The rest was just stuff.

When the nurse came into the room to open the window so his spirit could fly free, the breeze of the window’s opening stirred the photos slightly and I heard the whispers of Love all around me.

Thoughout my almost 14 years working in the homeless-serving sector I have met some remarkable people. Regardless of their role, staff, donor, volunteer, funder or stakeholder, what has bound us all together is the commitment to ensuring those for whom the road of life has not been easy, have a safe, secure place to ease the load of homelessness.

We all come at this work from different places, perspectives, needs. Yet, regardless of what brought us to this work, it is the belief that everyone deserves to find a place to call home that fills our vision and our hearts.

And it is our love of this human condition that keeps us connected and committed.

Today I say goodbye to people who everyday demonstrate what it means to be compassionate, courageous, kind and real. People who with every step of their journey create a path for those whose journies are troubled, to find solace and comfort on their way.

I like to imagine that path is built on Love.

And while I am leaving the organization and the sector, with every inhale and exhale, I will carry the Love I have found, witnessed, known in my heart. Always.

 

Namaste.

 

 

 

 


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Lessons from a Pooch: Life is a gift. Live it up!

There is a place and a time for all things. Yet, so often, I want that place and that time to be of my choosing, not someone else’s or even nature’s or the universe.

Being patient, taking care and allowing what is present for someone else to also be present in our shared space is one of those great lessons of having a fur-child that just keeps repeating itself, again and again

Last night, was tough for Beaumont. My back has been out since last weekend. My head says, stay still. Beau says, keep moving. I did not want to get up and go for a walk, even though the evening was so gorgeous. Beau didn’t give up on me and in his persistence, reminded me once again about the most important things in life, love and living.

Lesson 1

Be patient, persistent and stay optimistic.

There’s nothing like a dog sitting on the floor beside you, eyes peering steadily at you, body alert and still, while you’re lying on the couch feeling sorry for yourself. Beau reminds me to get up, get moving and stop feeling sorry for myself. And he never gives up until I get up and give him what he wants. Which is gernally always — A walk.  We both win from that one!

Lesson 2

Have fun

Having fun is not an interlude from life. It is part of life. Just like with work or any endeavour, it’s important to take time to stop and breathe. And if you happen to be playing with someone else, like your best friend Spirit, when you get over-excited (or forgetful about your manners (really Beau, that’s Spirit’s ball), you gotta take a break. Otherwise, like with so many things, fun becomes not so fun and then, fun’s all over!

Lesson 3

Don’t sweat the hot stuff.

Baby, it’s hot out there, chill out. Put your feet up, sit with your feet in a bucket of cold water, or better yet, run into the shallows at the river’s edge and splash! Splash! Splash! Splashing about is fun, and who cares if the floor gets wet and muddy when you get home? That’s why they invented mops.

Lesson 4

Not everyone’s business is your business.

Don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong. Not everyone wants to have their butt sniffed, especially the cat when she comes to visit. Back-off and give people (furry friends too) their space.  In that space there’s lots to discover about eachother that will make the relationship so much more fun and enriching! (Like who wants to chase. Who wants to be chased. Dogs intuitively know without getting all caught up in who’s who at the park).

Lesson 5

Begin again

This one’s from puppydom but still holds true today. When you make a mistake, don’t get all bent out of shape. Begin again.   Like when Beau was a puppy. Just because it hadn’t happened for awhile, didn’t mean he was all house-broken, especially in new and different spaces where other doggies were present. Or like when there’s a bone or a toy in your bed. Be kind. Be compassionate. (Remember Lesson 1) –  Clean up the mess, move the bone off the bed and begin again. Enough said.

Lesson 6

Life is a Gift. Live it Up!

This is the most important lesson Beau teaches me every day. We only have this one life to live right now, don’t waste time dragging yourself through the past or worrying about what the future will bring. The present is in the now and the gifts of being present are filled with bounty and abundance. Be grateful for all you have. Count your blessings and share them with abandon. Your world, and all the world around you, will be richer for your willingness to live right now on the wild side of being alive!


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A Love Poem A Day

Several years ago, after having done something really stupid to my beloved (I may or may not have called him an ‘azzhole’ when he asked me to marry him), I realized I needed to do something to create value from that situation.

He wasn’t all that upset. In fact, he thought it was quite funny I got so upset when he asked me to marry him in front of 40 people gathered in our home for my 60th birthday party.

I thought it was awful I responded as I did. Particularly as my beloved LOVES surprises.

I am not so good with surprises. Don’t get me wrong, I love to surprise others but I like to be prepared when being surprised.  Go figure.

What I realized at the time was that in my not so nice and prepared response to his surprise proposal, I was quelching one of the things I love most about C.C.  His spontaneity.

It also didn’t help that a couple of months later I really got tripped up by my expectations of him and we ended in a royal battle. He was living in another city and I needed to do something to bridge the physical and emotional distance between us.

I started to write him a love poem a day. Originally, my intent was to write for 14 days, but as I delved into the sweet tender joy of exploring love through writing a poem every morning, I became immersed in the wonder of what happens when I started my day ‘in Love’.

For one year I wrote him a love poem a day and emailed it off to him. As the project that wasn’t a project evolved, I began to take photos of my day and write the poem to it. It was a way of sharing our day in a unique way.

Occassionally, C.C. would send me back a poem. What a lovely gift that was. But it didn’t matter. Whether or not he said anything, commented, read my poem even — what mattered was that I was sharing with him.

Eventually, what I noticed most was that my understanding about Love, about how to Love and especially, be loving, shifted. Immersed in loving thoughts every morning, my days were filled with loving spaces.

It was an incredible gift I gave myself without even realizing when I began, what I was creating — not just between us, but within me.

Initially, my Love Poem A Day project was ‘for’ C.C.

In the end, it enriched me – and in that enrichment, it impacted my life, my world, my love and lover, my relationships on every level.

The poems weren’t long. Some were a line or two. Some a full stanza.

It didn’t matter.

What mattered was, I was writing a Love poem a day, and in the process, opening myself up to Love.

When C.C. and I exchanged vows on April 25th 2015, my gift to him was a song my dear friend, an amazing human being who was also our DJ at the wedding, created of some of the poems. His ‘hip’ name is @YIntelligent  — I call him Ken.

I was thinking of Ken this morning as I prepare to leave this sector. Ken and I worked together for several years and always, he was kind, funny, compassionate and above all committed to giving his best.

I’ve met so many incredible people working in this sector, Ken is one of those whos passion for serving vulnerable people reminds me daily to always seek the possibilities in every soul I meet. To always be a soft place for someone to land and to always be kind.

I was also thinking of Ken’s song A Love Perspective as C.C. and I prepare for this next part of our journey. I feel so incredibly blessed to have him as my walking companion. My love. My heart.

I’m excited about what tomorrow may bring!  I am excited about each moment right now.

____________________________________________

This is the soundtrack of Ken’s song, A Love Perspective.  It is his wife and young daughter who are the voices.


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She is Coming Home.

She is coming home today.

Since she came into creation four years ago, she has hung in my office, a reminder to always give voice — to truth, kindness, compassion, justice, integrity.

Today she comes home.

There are fewer than a handful of paintings I’ve created that I am not willing to part with. She is one of them.

I call her my Spirit Voice.

She sings to my heart, my body, my soul, my spirit to always speak up. To not give into the voices of doubt, criticism, fear.

To sing, loud and clear (or as clear as my voice will sing — but there’s no judgement with Spirit Voice so clearly I sing!) To call out to my dreams, to the Universe, to all who will listen to come, join me on this field of possibility where we can dance together in a world of love, harmony and joy.

Today I begin to dismantle my office. In its coming apart I come together with my dreams of next steps, future visions. Rejuvenation.

Today, I dismantle one space to begin the creation of a new space where my world becomes a daily leap into the world of possibiity, setting off landmines of opportunity with every step.

I have loved my work. Loved the opportunity to give back to community and to those for whom poverty and homelessness have stolen so much.

I too once felt the despair of losing everything. I too was lost.

It took a community to bring me back to life. I am grateful to have been part of that community for others.

And, while my retirement from the formal work force doesn’t mean an end of that work, it does mean a change. A change I cannot at this point see, nor wish to discern.

I am entering my last four days of ‘formal work’. I stand in this liminal space and draw in a deep breath of gratitude.

Over 13 years ago, I stepped into an office at a homeless shelter and began this part of my working journey. Being a voice for those whose voices have been drowned out by the harshness and challenges of homelessness has been one of the greatest and most humbling opportunities I have ever had in my working career.

During that time I have been gifted with hearing and carrying countless stories of those who were swept away by the raging waters of homelessness only to find themselves safely on shore because of the countless many who line the banks and wade into the waters to help them reach the safety of solid ground.

And, during that time, I have been changed by ‘the work’.

Changed and moved. Humbled. Broken. Healed.  Forever made better as a human being.

Working  in the homeless-serving sector has taught me about true compassion. It has taught me that we are not our differences. We are all connected through this condition we call being human.  It has taught me about judgement. Privilege. Scarcity. Humility. Courage. Strength. Hope. Love.

And, it has taught me about our human will to live.

When I first started working in this sector people always asked me, “Isn’t it depressing?”

“No,” I’d reply. “Every morning hundreds of people whose lives I may not understand awaken and get up and take another step and another. I may not always agree with the steps they take, but every one of those steps is a testament to their fight for their life and their will to live. That is inspiring.”

She is coming home today. My Spirit Voice.

With her home-coming I carry with me all my hopes and dreams, aspirations and ideas for what my future will look like.

No matter what I do, what happens, what dreams may come, I will carry with me always the lessons I’ve learned, the stories I’ve heard and the people I’ve met who have made my life so incredibly rich, vibrant and fulfilling.

I am grateful.

Namaste.

___________

The reference to ‘Little One” is an ode to my father whose nickname for me as a young girl was, “Little One.”


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How to be an artist (even when you’re afraid)

I have a constant driving urge within me to create. I know. No surprise if you’ve been following my blog or my FB page.  But sometimes, even though I consider myself a ‘creative’, I am surprised by what the muse has in store when I set out to express my creative urge.

Yesterday, after cleaning up the main floor of our house from the art workshop I’d held on Saturday (I’ll write more about it on another day. It was AMAZING!), I took a photo of ‘Felicity’, my clay guinea fowl by French artist, Heidi Caillard. Because I’d filled the island with art-making paraphenalia, she’d had to go reside on the side counter instead of her usual perch at the end of the island where she sits like a queen surveying her realm. She makes me smile.

I looked at the photo and thought, “Hmmm… That would be fun to write about.”

I didn’t get to it this morning as in the process of lugging everything up and down from my studio to the main floor and back again, I’d managed to put my back out. My morning was spent in bed until I got to the chiropractor at 2pm.

And still, that photo called to me.

So, I began to write words on it. The first words that came to mind were, “How to be an artist in a world of un-artfulness.’

I wrote out a few steps and realized the photo didn’t match my message. I went in search of a more suitable photo of my artwork.

Several hours later, I had the photo and the words, which were very different than the original version, all because I liked a photo I took of my guinea fowl on the island after I’d cleared it of all the art-making stuff we’d used in the workshop on Saturday.

That’s the creative process.

Unruly. Untamable. Unrestricted.

And that’s the way I like it.

Art-making isn’t about making something perfect, or even making something that makes sense. It’s about expressing whatever is calling to be expressed without fearing the expression will be more than, less than, other than what it is.

________________________________

Felicity – The photo that started it all.


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Carry Only Love

Last night, when I read an email from someone, tears welled up and spilled over my eyelids down my cheeks. Not because what they wrote was sad or disappointing. Rather, it was because what they wrote touched an aching tenderness within me. A tenderness that I hadn’t realized, or considered, was in need of my loving attention and healing.

Tomorrow, three beautiful women and one I don’t know, are coming to my studio for an afternoon of companionship, community and creativity. I am excited.

The afternoon will form the foundation of my yet to be launched/created/formalized, Wise-Woman of Wonder Workshop Series, affectionately to be known as the W-WOW Series. My intention for the day is to create an organic threshold for the W-WOW Series that will inspire my next steps in its creation.

Last night, as I meditated on the source of my tears I realized tomorrow’s workshop is an opportunity to put my loving attention on that aching tenderness and release its pressure point.

I know its source. I know what is stirring up my peace of mind, creating moments where, seemingly out of the blue, I find myself in tears, with victim thinking sweeping away my self-awareness with its singsong litany of reasons why, I’m right/they’re wrong.

In a world of possibility, it doesn’t really matter all that much whose right or wrong. What matters most is how will I choose to be present in all of it.

When I choose to blame, criticize and condemn others, I am letting myself off the hook for being accountable for myself. I am giving myself an excuse not to turn up and be present in my own life.

And that doesn’t actually work for me. It does not create the more of what I want in my life and the world around me. It only makes my heart feel heavy and me feel  small.

Enough.

I deserve more. I am worthy of better.

When my daughters were small and even into their teens, whenever they fought or be in distress over something that had happened, I would hand them a dozen eggs to throw at the firepit in our backyard. The objective was to release their anger, tears, fears and recriminations.  There was only one rule – they couldn’t throw the eggs at one another.

As an adult, I too have gone into the woods to throw eggs. After the abuser was arrested I spent many afternoons writing out my pain and anger, grief and sorrow onto eggs and hurling them against rocks and trees, howling and screaming out my angst. (They’re biodegradable and the animals will eat them and the last time I asked a tree, it said it was pleased to be of service.)

It was cleansing. Clarifying. Healing.

For each of us there are aching tendernesses inside that yearn to be released. No matter if you say, “I can’t” release it or “I’m not ready”, taking the first step to physically let go of it creates a pathway to setting yourself free of its burden. Releasing it doesn’t mean ‘the other’ is absolved of accountability, guilt, responsbiility or anything else associated with whatever has caused you angst.

It doesn’t matter the depth or width of the angst. it doesn’t matter if you measure the pain as small or big. What matters is that there is no judgement of yourself for being courageous enough to acknowledge there is an aching tenderness within that needs releasing. What matters is that you initiate the process to release it so that you are relieved of its burden and your heart, mind and arms are free to carry only Love.

Tomorrow, to set the stage for my first session of the W-WOW Series, I shall be in the woods along the river behind our home throwing eggs. it is an important initiation. An act of cleansing and clearing to set the stage for my bigger intention of creating space for community and creativity to awaken the Wise Woman of Wonder who lives within each of us.

So if you happen to hear a woman howling by the water’s edge tomorrow, please send her your blessings. She is releasing a burden that is holding her back from stepping fearlessly into her new beginnings, her rejuvenation, her next adventure. And if you’re so inclined, let the wild woman of wonder with you howl with her. Throw an egg or two and scream joyfully at the sky, “I am a Wise Woman of Wonder! I set myself free!”

And so it is.

___________________

A note about the painting:  It is a mixed media on acrylic which sold at my very first art show in 2016.  She is one of my favourites. 🙂

 


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What Comfort Zone?

I played in the studio last night. Experimented with colour and design, letting myself simply wander through fields of possibility with no clear intent to ‘create a piece of art’, but rather, to be immersed in the simple joy of being present in the creative process.

It was awesome!

So awesome in fact, that, when I woke up at 3am it’s because somewhere in my dreams I remembered that in giving myself permission to play, I had missed our Home Owner’s Association AGM last night. Ooops. It was in my calendar. I just didn’t look at my calendar and neither did C.C. who was suffering from an infected tooth and had spent most of the day in bed after going to the dentist! (I’m also giving myself full marks because I didn’t wake C.C. up to tell him we’d missed the meeting!) 🙂

For me, it’s a sign that as I enter my final five days of ‘formal’ work, I am either a) getting so relaxed I’m not even bothering to look at my calendar, or, b)  am so stressed I am not remembering to check my calendar.

I’m opting for A. Especially as I had a massage before coming home and was feeling all loose and fluid like a wet noodle.

My decision last night to ‘create without any expectation of outcome other than to have fun’ was therapeutic.

As I wind down at work, I am also unwinding some of the psychological knots that are the inevitable outcome of being in a high-stress role and environment. Most of the knots are founded in my ego’s desire to feel important, or to be appreciated and the critter’s nattering that I’m not.

In my post playful state, I smile and reply, “Who cares?”

I know that throughout my career, and in particular, throughout these last 13 years of having worked in the homeless-serving sector, I have done my best, given my all to create an environment for everyone to seek possibility, be their true selves and contribute their best. No matter my position, I have made decisions that worked well. Some that did not. I have created change that had significant positive impact and some that continue to evolve to find their impact.

In my final role of Interim Executive Director I was given the gift of leadership that allowed me to grow and stretch and learn and discover things about myself I never knew. As I leave the formal workforce, it is a gift to have had the opportunity to leave on such a high note.

What could be better than that?

And still, the critter hisses his silliness. Silly guy. Doesn’t he realize I am okay just the way I am, exactly where I am? Doesn’t he know that I am completely aware that his concerns are simply the lesser/fearful part of me wanting to protect me from stepping even further out of my comfort zone?

Which is why I have created a new motto for myself… What Comfort Zone?

I like it.

It’s short and to the point. A perfect reminder to my critter and my creative to get comfortable in a world of no limits, no walls, no comfort zones, no barriers. I am kicking up my heels and kicking down the walls to set myself free to play in the field of possibilities that exists when I let go of taking myself so seriously I think what I do in the world is what matters most.

It’s not.

What matters most is how I am in this world.

Now please, don’t get me wrong. I feel incredibly blessed and grateful for the creative gifts I’ve been given. But, if I create with ego-centric expectations that the world owes me something because of my creations, I am undermining the more of what I want to create in the world — beauty, joy, hope, laughter, grace, kindness, Love.

Ultimately, it’s not about the things we create, it’s about the joy we bring and find in every creative moment and encounter. The kindness and grace we share. The love and laughter we set free. It’s about being authentic and true to ourselves and creating space for others to be their true selves too.

We can create a world of beauty, joy, kindness and Love.

It begins with each of us choosing to live true to the kind of world we want to create and letting go of the idea that it’s our creations that matter most.

And as to missing the AGM, I can’t change missing it. Ultimately, my forgetfulness was a reflection of my realization deep within me that I needed to find my lightness of being so I can step outside my comfort zone and stop taking myself so seriously in the world around me.