Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


10 Comments

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. 🙂

 


9 Comments

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.

 


5 Comments

The bridge from impossible to possible.

 

When I was first released from that relationship from hell, I wanted desperately to heal my relationship with my daughters,

I had done a lot of things over the course of those almost 5 years that had hurt them deeply, betrayed their trust and caused them enormous pain.

It was tempting to stay in my victim place of ‘it was all his fault. He was a liar, manipulator, abuser” but the fact is, I was 100% accountable for everything I’d done and said that caused them pain.

Only I could do the work to regain their trust and ultimately, their forgiveness.

In the first tumultous, foggy days of my freedom, it didn’t seem possible.

How could they ever forgive me when I couldn’t forgive myself? And that’s when I realized, everything is possible when I begin with forgiveness.

Forgiving myself was hard until one day I decided to make it easy. I decided that the only path to forgiveness was to just keep repeating the statement, “I forgive myself.” No qualifications. No timelines. No repitition of the litany of my transgressions. At times, the list felt so long I feared I’d be buried beneath its weight. Carrying that weight didn’t feel like a healthy thing to do. It definitely didn’t fit on the path to healing so, I let the list go and simply stated, many, many times a day, every time a thought of my ‘unforgiveness’ entered my mind, “I forgive myself.”

I did the same with thoughts of him. I put up imaginary STOP signs in my mind and reminded myself whenever a thought of him entered, “He is not part of my life today. STOP.” And I’d turn my thoughts from ‘him’ to what I needed to do, right now in this moment, to create healing and light in my life.

And then, I breathed and did whatever that healing thing was.

And with every breath and every action I blew life into my dream of reconnecting with my daughters, of returning to that place of grace where we shared our lives, laughed and chattered together, ate meals together, watched movies, danced, sang, shared stories and adventures. That place where I was blessed to applaud them and cheer them on every step of their journey in life.

It wasn’t a straight line to healing.

It wasn’t a continuous one step forward, never looking back.

The past had such a significant hold on my psyche I had to sometimes look back to cut the threads that kept entwining themselves around my feet, sneaking up into my thoughts in moments of despair and doubt when it felt like their forgiveness was an impossible dream and I would never again know their love.

I cannot say the moment when I knew I was healed or that our relationship was all better. Healing is an ongoing process. Better is a relative term. What I can say is that in having journeyed on that road to hell and come back into the light of living this life right now in loving kindness and joy, our lives are far different and we are all much stronger than we were, even before he walked into our lives.

Sometime ago, my youngest daughter told someone that she didn’t regret that experience. While it was hard, it made us all stronger. I agree.

A couple of years ago, my eldest daughter, Alexis, and I shared our story of healing and recovery at a one day conference. Working on that presentation together was challenging. So many pains from the past to walk through to get to the beauty of today. So many moments when thoughts of  ‘if only I’d taken a different path, the road would have led somewhere else’, slithered into my thoughts. As we wrote and talked and wrote some more, I was constantly reminded, “I cannot change the past. I can heal the future when I walk in forgiveness and love today.”

Even today there are moments when triggers from the past flip open, or something will happen in one of my daughters lives and I will immediately leap to thinking it was a in some way connected to what happened in the ‘then and there’. In those sticky places, I must spend a few moments in forgiveness, reminding myself “I forgive me”, and then, I must breathe deeply and get present in the loving kindness of the here and now.

Once upon a time, I fell in love with Prince Charming and instead of finding myself on the road to happiily-ever after, I woke up on the road to hell.

Once upon a time, I believed someone else could make my dreams come true.

Today, I no longer believe in making fairytales come true or that someone else is responsible for my dreams or my happiness.

Today, I believe in me.

I believe in Love and I believe dreams can come true, even when they feel impossible, when we walk our path with truth and dignity, kindness and forgiveness as our guides.

And I believe we must all let go of the things that would have us believe we are not good enough, not worthy or deserving so that we can fall unequivocally into Love with ourselves, our life and everyone in it.

Namaste.

______________________________

This the video of the presentation Alexis and I gave.


 


16 Comments

May 21. A day like any other. A day like no other.

Last night, as I was out walking with Beaumont, it struck me what day today is. May 21.

It was on this morning in 2003 that I got the miracle that set me free.

For the final 3 and a half months of an almost five year relationship that had been killing me, I was missing. My daughters, family, friends, even the police didn’t know where I was. And I was too afraid to let anyone know.

I only had one job in those dark days, and that was to be the person he told me I had to be. To do the things he told me I had to do. Say the things he told me I must.

And so I did.

I was lost.

To myself. To those I loved and who loved me. To the world. I was lost.

And then, at 9:14am, on this day in 2003 a police car drove up and arrested the man who’d promised to love me ’til death do us part and was taking the death part into his own hands.

And I let him.

I didn’t want to live. Didn’t believe I deserved to live. I only believed what he told me. I was worthless. Nothing. Garbage. I didn’t deserve to live.

I write those words this morning and I embrace that woman who was so lost. I embrace her and love her and remind her, she is so worthy. Of love. Of joy. Of LIFE.

And my heart knows it’s true. I am worthy.

Recently someone asked me about what they should do about someone they know, not well, but whom they believe is in an abusive relationship. Should I intervene they asked?

I remember my friends who tried to intervene. Their care and concern, their love hurt. How could they still love me when he told me every day how worthless I was? Could they not see their love was wasted on me?

It isn’t just our sense of direction, our knowing of self and our worth that is lost when we are in the darkness of an abusive relatiopship, I told this person. It is our hearing and our capacity to understand that what is happening to us is not happening because we deserve it, or caused it. It’s because the abuser is choosing to use violence and emotional blackmail to ensnare us and keep us trapped in the web of their lies and manipulation and fear.

And in our deafness, even when someone who loves us tells us we deserve a life without the abuser, we cannot hear them because to hear them would mean the love we imagined in those first fairy-tale days of our romance is not true.

It wasn’t until I was released from that living hell that I realized the truth. I wasn’t healing from a love gone wrong. I was healing from abuse.

I was very, very fortunate. Because of friends who did not give up on making sure the police kept looking for me, the police found me and I was set free.

That is not the case for other women. Every 2.5 days one woman or girl is killed in Canada. The majority by someone they know intimtely or well, which is the opposite for men, the majority of whom, the data shows, are killed by casual acquaintances. Source

Today is May 21. It is a day like any other. A day to laugh and smile. To spend time with friends and family. To work. To play. To be free.

And for me, it is a day to embrace the woman within me who once upon a time was so lost she didn’t believe she deserved to live. And in that embrace, to tell myself the truth. I am so loveable and deserving of joy. I am a woman of worth. A woman of integrity. A woman who didn’t just survive an abuser but who has gone on to live her life fearlessly in love with everyone and everything in it, daring boldly to live brave, love fiercely, and dance joyfully in each new day dawning.

I am so blessed.

 

 


15 Comments

I’ll think about it tomorrow…

I happen upon an article on TimeBoxing, the simple practice of moving your ‘To Do’ list onto a calendar. It’s purported to increase your productivity quickly and effectively and, according to the author, TimeBoxing brings the added benefits of improving how you feel (control), how much you achieve (personal productivity), and how much you contribute to and achieve with your work teams (enhanced collaboration).

Dang. And here I am only discovering the secret to productivity and satisfaction at work when I’m about to leave the formal workplace.

I smile. Whew!  There’s still time to tear up my To Do List and replace it with the practice of TimeBoxing my deliverables.

Except, my work To Do list is ever decreasing in size as I get closer to my final day,  May 31. (7 actual work days left)

So, what can I do with this practice that makes so much more sense to me than creating To Do list after To Do list?

I know! Write a poem about it.

Time
all boxed up
into a calendar
tight
with deadlines looming
over activities
scrambling
to get done.

Don’t
timebox me in
to a calendar
limiting
my time to be
present
alive
and creative.

And I smile.

I dislike To Do lists. Inevitably, my To Do list makes me feel inadequate. I want to get ‘er all done in a day but interruptions, distractions, that shiny object calling for my attention pull me away from staying on task.

Maybe TimeBoxing is for me, even in my rejuvenation.

Maybe, using my calendar as a commodity that measures out my control and productivity will keep me focused on achieving the things I want to do next.

Things like,

  • Treasured time with my grandson, daughters, family, friends.
  • Time in the studio.
  • Writing time.
  • Meditating.
  • Walking.
  • Savouring the sunshine.
  • Dancing in the rain.
  • Splashing in mudpuddles.
  • Sipping a latte and sharing time with friends
  • Doodling
  • Dreaming. Scheming. Imagining.
  • Watching the river flow past
  • Watching clouds drift by
  • Taking long leisurely baths
  • Enjoying an afternoon nap
  • Luxuriating in unscripted time
  • More time in the studio
  • More time doing the things I want to do…

And I smile again.

TimeBoxing might be the next great breakthrough in personal productivity but… for the next 3 months I am purposefully living ‘Unplanned. Unscripted. Unboxed in by time.’

So, in the famous words of Scarlett O’hara in Gone with the Wind…

.

 


6 Comments

Being alive is the most precious gift.

Outside my window, spring is colouring the world in all its joyful splendour. The grass is turning green. Leaves are unfurling on the trees that line the river bank. The undergrowth is growing thicker. Soon it will become too dense to navigate easily.

Traffic rumbles across the vehicle bridge that spans the river to the north. A lone bicyclist pedals across the pedestrian bridge on its southern side, the side closest to my window.

This morning, the skies are grey, one massive steel grey sheet spanning the sky. And still, the sun shines behind grey skies.

In the darkest moments, there is light.

I sit and watch the river flow by, the traffic move, two geese landing upon the green waters of the river.

Memory rises up to greet the spring and I am pulled back. To another day. Another river.

This day is sunshine bright. Blue sky soaring. Leaves fully burdened with springs bounty blossoming into summer.

This day is another like all the others so recently before where I have stood by this river and wanted desperately to unhinge gravity’s hold upon my body so it could fall of its own volition into the waters and be swept away to the ocean. Into the west flowing into the unseen depths of nothingness so that I would never be seen standing on the shore again.

On that day, like so many others before it, I could not unhook gravity. I could not cast my body into the waters and be washed away.

Just as today, I cannot wash away memory. I can only honour its loving reminder to let it flow so I can be fully present in the now.

How is it I wonder, that memory’s hold still pulls me into the darkness of those days when I was lost and my life meant nothing to me? How is it that after all these years memory still slips into my mind on a grey sky day in May as I sit at my desk and watch the river flow past?

The tears have dried up. The sadness has lifted. Yet, memory advances, a counterpoint of darkness in spring’s early light, reminding me of a time when I danced with death, promising I’d give it all up if only gravity would let me fall into death’s welcoming embrace.

Death has slid silently into a future I cannot see nor need to know until it is time. Life embraces me each day awakening me to all I have, all that is possible when I embrace life as my constant companion.

And still, those memories of death’s beckoning flow into my mind like the river flowing endlessly to the sea. Those memories where casting my body into the waters seemed to be the only course to end my pain.

I know the truth now. I am grateful.

The river cannot flow backwards.

Memories of those dark days no longer stalk me.

They flow freely, appearing like a canoe on the river. In their passing I am reminded of the gift of my life and the precious nature of each moment passing by.

On this dreary May morning I fall with gratitude into knowing the gifts those memories that float by carry for me. In their darkness I am reminded of the light that is always there. In their presence I stop and breathe into the possibilities of this moment right now. Grounded in the beauty of my life today, my heart is full of gratitude and the beautiful truth I embrace in this moment right now as my mind soars free of the darkness like the geese flying by.

“I am alive and I am so very grateful,” my heart whispers. And so it is.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

May 21, 2003 at 9:14 am, a miracle drove up in a blue and white police car and released me from the hell of a relationship that was killing me.

Sometimes, as that day draws near or a conversation sparks a thought, memory flows in to remind me of the precious gifts of my life today. I welcome their presence as I walk joyfully in the now.

Yesterday, someone asked me for the link to the TEDx Calgary Talk I gave about my journey into healing.  This is it.

 


6 Comments

Let your heart run wild!

I am entering my 9th to last working day before I leave ‘the workforce’ on May 31st.

Things I notice… I feel less stressed around the daily workings of the organization. That could be because the new ED is handling it all. What is refreshing is I don’t feel any angst about not being involved in it all.

I am sleeping better.

I don’t check my emails continuously and when a staff member notifies the leadership team of something that transpired, I don’t immediately check the logs.

I am not missing being ‘the one in charge’.

I’m not missing having to make decisions.

And, I’m not feeling any regret, or fear, or concern.

All is as it should be. I am releasing.

On the weekend at my art show, several friends dropped by and inevitably someone would ask, “So… how are you feeling scared about retiring?”

My answer was always, “I’m feeling excited about my rejuvenation!”

And I am. Excited. Curious. Open.

On the weekend, someone also asked me if I would be participating in any more art shows in the fall. I haven’t got any booked, I replied, but I’ll have the time to research which ones I want to be in and to apply!

Now that’s exciting.

The art show went well. It was slow vis à vis attendees, but I still did well. My cards were a big hit as were the alochol inks. Lots of lovely affirmation from people, friends and strangers, that the work is pleasing. Exciting.

Lots of people were curious about the process. It’s probably the piece I enjoy the most. Inspiring people to try it. To play. To release fear and dive into exploration of their creativity.

I also had a number of people ask me if I would be giving courses. The answer is yes. And while I’m focussing on going the summer without ‘a plan’ or making plans for the fall, I have decided I will be launching a workshop series this fall.

I’m calling it, “The Wise Woman Workshop Series”. Recovering your magnificence through art and play.

I have a vision. An idea. A sense of how I want the workshop series to feel. Now, I just have to create the lesson plans, or as so often happens for me, allow the muse to flow freely so that the plans create themselves.

When I stay open, the muse flows joyfully.

Years ago, when I resigned my position as Director Communications at an adult homeless shelter, I took four months to simply be present in the now, to catch my breath and to heal some of the broken places within. One day I started writing a workbook on the power of poetry to heal. Three weeks later I had an entire 21 lesson workbook completed, “Right Your Heart Out”.  I had no idea that process was within me. I have no real memory of making a decision to write it, or even where the thoughts came from that created the exercises in that book. Truly, it was the muse having her way with me.

And that’s what excites me the most. Creating space for the muse and me to dance the eternal dance of exploration, inspiration and creativity.

As my eldest daughter said to me on the phone last night, “Art is the language of the soul.”

I’m excited to immerse myself in soul dancing and setting my dreams on fire.

Namaste.