Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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What do women (of a certain age) want?

I am female. I am a baby-boomer. I am a senior. Which, according to current vernacular places me somewhere in the vicinity of ‘a woman of a certain age’, a term coined by a British essayist way back in 1754 and later immortalized by poet Lord Shelly Byron who wrote in 1817, “She was not old, nor young, nor at the years/Which certain people call a certain age,/Which yet the most uncertain age appears.” In 1822, he clarified his reference to women of “a certain age”, by crudely stating that women of a certain age were, “certainly aged.”

Lord Byron aside, recently, as I prepared to retire from a career I loved to engage in this new field of possibility called, life after a career, I began to wonder, what does it mean to be a woman of this certain age? What do I really want now that it feels like nobody really wants me?

After decades of chasing after the dream of ‘having it all’, I was tired of always trying to be everything to everyone. Of feeling like I had to do more, especially as I was never sure of what the ‘more’ was. I had raised two daughters, mostly on my own, and was a step-mother to two adult children as well. I’m still all of these things, but, along with being a wife, a new grandmother (or YiaYa as I’m called because I’m cutting back on the No’s in my life so NoNa or NoNo didn’t work!) daughter of an octogenarian and a recent passing over the threshold into what society calls, ‘being a senior’ I was tired. Tired of the constant drive to find myself in a world that told me who I was, as a ‘woman of a certain age’, was old and possibly no longer relevant.

And that’s when I began to wonder, what if I was never lost? What if, at this certain age, I have the luxury of simply being me without feeling pressured to be anyone, or anything, else?

Which is when the panic set in. Having spent decades being defined by not just the fashion I wore but also what I did in the world and how much I gave to others, I wasn’t sure I knew how to step out of my designer heels and give to myself what I needed most. Especially when I wasn’t quite sure what it was I needed the most.

The question, “What is it I want most at this certain age?” became my rallying cry to discover the more of what there is to create, do, be after tipping over into the other side of the second half of my life. That place where I am learning to value the wisdom I’ve gained after so many years on this earth, without fearing ‘the younger generation’ has all the answers. They’ve got their answers but they don’t have mine. And mine are worth their weight in gold.

At this certain age, I am settling into accepting aches and pains and crêpe-like skin as part of my beauty, not detractors from my desirability. I am learning to slow down with grace, including remembering to not bend over too quickly to pick up the earring I dropped because if I go too quickly, I might just pass out.

And I am learning to accept (with grace) the answer to my question, “What is it I want most at  this certain age?” is not a sprint to the finish line of my life, but rather, a beautiful wandering journey through fields of gold along the shores of golden ponds and verdant valleys.

I am a woman of this certain age where I have the wisdom, and the experience, to know how to live life on my own terms. I know how to fearlessly and effortlessly fall in love with being old enough to know when to slow down and young enough to want to kick up my heels and dance naked in the light of a full moon, because at this certain age, I am certain nobody’s watching but me. And I if I am the only one watching me, then I am certainly not going to worry about what other’s think of me. Which means, I have all the freedom in the world to grow more certain of who I am as a woman of this certain age.

So… as I continue to explore what I want most at this certain age, I have an invitation for you. If you relate in any way, or are asking yourself similar questions, I’d love to know what you want most at this certain age. And what you don’t want.

For me, the list includes wanting to feel like my life has had meaning and relevancy. Like there is still –more’ and the more is not prescribed by what I’ve done in the past, but rather, how much I still have to contribute.

I want to feel like it’s okay to grow older without fearing being old.

I want to know my wisdom matters. That I am heard, seen known for my grace, elegance and style, not just the clothes I wear and the title I no longer carry.

I want to be okay with being silly, just because, and I want to be ‘nothing’ other than who I am.

I want to let go of feeling like I have to explain or defend my decisions.

And I want to be okay with the past and its many ambiguities so that I am at peace today, with me, the world around me and everyone in it.

I want to make peace happen.

What about you?

What’s on your list?

I’d love to hear from you. If you don’t feel like posting here, an email would be great too! You can reach me at louise [at] louisegallagher.ca.

Namaste.


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First you must dream

I am sitting in a coffee shop on Main Street in Vancouver with my daughter. She is working on her laptop. I am working on mine.

Around us the coffee shop hums with activity. The street outside the window is busy. In the background, I hear the sound of the coffee machine steaming. The clatter of crockery and voices.

Above our table three paintings adorn the wall. I do not know their story. I wonder if they’re just ‘finds’ the owners have placed upon the walls to give it a homey feel. They look old. Perhaps from the 40s. I decide they are a father. Mother. Daughter. They do not smile. The father looks at his wife. Sternly. The wife glances sideways at her husband. I imagine trepidation in her glance. The daughter, who hangs above the mother, looks down towards her mother’s face. She seems sad. Worried. Perhaps her parents are fighting. Perhaps she fears they will divorce. Or perhaps her mother is sick and the father does not know what to do.

And that is all the story I decide to create about them.

My grandson is with the nanny today. My daughter does not have to go into the office but has two hours of work to complete, she tells me, before we can go explore the day. Let’s do it in a coffee shop she suggests so as not to conflict with the nanny’s schedule and my grandson’s attention.

I am good with this plan.

I am good with pretty well everything these days, holding myself in that space between what is right now in front of me and dreaming of what can be when I determine it is time to breathe into my dreams of life beyond this place called, ‘recently retired’.

I am thinking alot about dreams right now. Dreams of/for my life. For what I want to do. At some future time not yet determined. At some future date not yet arrived.

I am dreaming, scheming, divining… possibility. Of what can be, will be, when my intuition rises up and I let my imagination run wild. When I dive into creation of the life I dream of beyond the life I loved when work was my focus and my world gravitated around ‘a job’.

I am dreaming of next steps, but first, I must put substance to my dream. I must know what it is I dream of so that I can see it, feel it, taste it, hear it calling my heart to awaken into its possibililities with all my senses.

First I must dream.

I am awakening to dreaming. Awakening to creating possibility where this dream I am incubating of my life after ‘work’ becomes the reality of how I live my life everyday, inspired by life itself honouring, as Albert Einstein called it, the sacred gift of my intuitive mind.

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift,” said Einstein, “and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

I am falling into dreaming, falling into honouring this sacred gift where my intuition guides me into igniting my imagination and will to create the life I am dreaming of, the life I am creating.

 

 

 


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Island Life. Slow and easy does it.

The View From Where I Sit

Island life is a slow, easy pace. The biggest decision of my morning here at my sister and brother-in-law’s on Gabriola Island is whether to have coffee on the north deck or the south.

Decisions. Decisions.

This morning, I added one more decision. To take the seaplane from Silva Bay to the south terminal in Vancouver, (20 minutes + half hour transit) or, two ferries (4+ hours).

Seaplane won. Simple. Direct. And bonus. I get to spend the day exploring the beaches of Gabriola before returning to Vancouver.

This trip is unplanned insofar as my schedule is determined by my daughter’s needs for childcare as she settles into a new job and juggles work, family, and a nanny 3 days a week.

Tomorrow, Thurlow, my grandson, and I will spend the day together.

Colour me excited!

It is the most precious part of this trip. To spend time with him without adult supervision (I’m hoping my daughter doesn’t read this as she might get a little perturbed by my suggestion that time with my grandson is all about being a child at heart!) 🙂

Before I left for Gabriola on Monday, my grandson and I walked to the park at the end of their street for playtime. Apparently, an hour walk was a bit longer than my daughter anticipated. When my phone rang and I answered, she advised me I needed to get back.

But he’s not ready to leave yet, I told her.

She suggested I pick him up and carry him home.

I don’t think he’ll be happy about that, I replied.

I didn’t pick him up but we did manage to wander home in time to meet the nanny.

It is perhaps one of the greatest joys of being a YiaYa. Not feeling the pressure and responsibility of time, schedules and disciplined structure. It’s why I like my name ‘YiaYa’.  There are no-no’s where my grandson is concerned!

And on this trip, there is no need to create a schedule — other than to coincide with what works for friends and family whom I may be visiting. C.C. is looking at flying out for a week to visit friends on Vancouver Island. He’ll fly home and I’ll continue on my journey. Or he’ll drive back with me.

That’s the plan. And that’s the beauty of the plan. There’s lots of room for change!

Namaste.

 

 

 

 


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The Sacred Nature of Waves

From my journal yesterday:

I sat by the ocean and wept for the joy and beauty of being alive in this moment right now. My tears flowed into the sea and the sacred embraced me and this ordinary experience of being human opened my heart to the awesome beauty of our shared humanity.

We are all capable of greatness. We are all part of the light and darkness of being human.

Where we walk, how we walk is our choice. Let us step lightly on this sacred planet.

I leave this paradise of Gabriola Island tomorrow to return to Vancouver where I will spend a week with my grandson, daughter and son-in-love. And then… the script is not completely written. I shall take the ferry to Vancouver Island. Visit friends. Wander the island.

Unscripted. Unmapped. Unwritten.

Such a joyful, beautiful time to refresh, relax and rejuvenate.

I am so blessed.


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The Bucket List

A morning visitor

I am sitting in bed at my sister’s home on Gabriola Island. The view is stunning. The morning fresh and dewy. A deer walks past the window. And then a racoon. A squirrel bounces up a treetrunk. An eagle soars overhead.

Morning rush hour has arrived.

Two years ago, my sister and her husband moved to their island home on Gabriola. It is their own personal paradise, their home filled with treasures, a reflection of their eclectic lives.

I arrived yesterday afternoon via float plane. One of my favourite ways to travel. It feels so in the moment, so close to the sky and the sea. So personal.

Ryan, the pilot, has been flying for Gulf Island Seaplanes for 13 years. There’s not a day when he hates his job, he told me. Sure, there are days when he doesn’t want to get out of bed, but once up and at work, he’s reminded of how fortunate he is to do what he does, and live where he lives.

The Islanders

Like my sister and her husband, living on Gabriola Island is a dream come true for him. A bucket list kind of thing.

It’s a relatively new term, ‘bucket list’, coined by screenwriter, Justin Zackham for his 2007 movie of the same name.  He had a list of things he wanted to do before he ‘kicked the bucket’. Having a hit movie was one of them.

While visiting with my daughter and her family in Vancouver she asked me what was on my bucket list. It’s not something I think about a lot, I told her, the list of things I want to do or see before I die. Mostly, I want to live my life fully each day, experiencing life’s juicy moments with uncensored joy.

Love in a bucket seat

Yes, it would be lovely to see the Taj Mahal. The Great Wall of China, but even more, it would be good to know I have lived fully. Shared love. Spread kindness. Savoured each moment.

Where I do it is not as important to me as how I live and with whom.

And that’s where my bucket list lives. Not in places or things to do but in the heart. My heart.

And when my heart is full of time spent with those I love, my bucket list is full.

Namaste.

 

 


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33 years and I’m so in love.

Alexis aged 2ish

I remember the first time I heard my daughter cry. She was still in the womb. The doctor had just cut me open to bring her into the world and she cried before they could lift her out of the protective cocoon of my body.

I remember the feeling of my heart leaping out of my body, of wanting to still her cries, of wanting to hold her forever, to never let her go, to always keep her safe.

And I remember how helpless I felt in that same moment when I realized I couldn’t stop her cries, couldn’t keep her within my body forever. That this was the challenge I would face for the rest of her life, to love her and to let her go.

I remember thinking that my job as her mother wasn’t to stop her from growing but to create safe places for her to experience life, in all its complexities, ups, downs and sticky places too.

I remember realizing that life is its own journey and that the greatest gift I could give her would be the confidence to navigate hers independent of the lifeline of the umbilical cord that had connected us for those 9 magical months I held her safe within my womb.

And I remember the pain of having to acknowledge I was not all powerful over her life, and couldn’t, shouldn’t, mustn’t be.

I remember when I realized that even though she was separate from my body she would always have my heart, always be a part of me. That I was forever changed because of her presence in this world. A presence that was made possible because of the mystery and magic of this evolutionary process called birthing life.

That moment of hearing her cry inside the womb was 33 years ago this Wednesday. I heard her cry at 10:38pm. And, ever since that moment, I have experienced the incredible joy and fear of being her mother.

Joy because she is so miraculous, so magical, so incredibly unique and special and wondrous.

Fear because I cannot protect her from all harm. Cannot prevent the world from invading her life in ways I cannot conceive of, in ways that will challenge her, stretch her, break her, and ultimately strengthen her.

My eldest daughter turns 33 this week. In the 12,037 days that she will have been on this earth come June 19th, there is not a moment that I have not given her my heart, given her my love or wanted only love, safety and joy for her.

And while I know that I have always wanted only those things for her, I also know I have been the cause of pain, confusion, fear, anxiety, loss, separation in her life.

It is all part of life. Part of being a parent. Part of giving birth to a miraculous being of light and love; to want only the best for her, and to have my humanness be the cause of her pain.

Alexis turns 33 this week. I am so blessed to call her my daughter. To witness her journey from infant to child to teen to young woman to mother.

Becoming a mother was more than just bringing a child into this world. It has been the most excruciatingly beautiful journey I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. It has been a journey of unprecedented joy, of incredible love, of finding myself beyond the realm of who I thought I was as I became what I never imagined I could ever be, a mother and a grandmother.

I am so blessed.


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It’s Gonna Be A Bright, Bright Sunny Day

I am off today for a sojourn by the sea.

My lovely friend Wendy C. and I are driving out to the coast together. First, we’ll be stopping in the Shuswap to visit a former co-worker and his wife and to do some wine tasting. And then, I’ll be spending a couple of weeks with my daughter, son-in-love and… the light of my heart, my grandson.

Yes. Yes. I know. Others bring light and lightness to my heart, but nobody does it like my grandson. He’s special.

I didn’t realize, before I became his YiaYa, how incredible a gift it was to become a grandparent.

But then, I do not know what I do not know until I discover it.

Becoming a grandmother was like that. I thought it would be lovely. I thought it would be special.

How special, I had no idea.

And now I do. And now, I get to spend a couple of weeks with him sharing our own special time as my daughter has just begun a new job. How amazing is that? I get to spend time with Thurlow and be of service to my daughter and son-in-love helping them out as they figure out their childcare and get into the swing of being two working parents with a young child.

What it also means is that my time here will be sporadic over the next few weeks. I have no timetable to follow, other than I need to be back home by July 17. C.C. is his normal easy-going self, not asking for a return date, just smiling and nodding his head at my desire to have an unscheduled plan.

It is refreshing. This going with no plan.

Yesterday, as I was organizing my clothes, I took the time to wash a couple of tops by hand. I have not had open-spaced time to wash things by hand in a long, long time. It was relaxing. Enjoyable even.

Over the past week, Beaumont and I have had early morning walks along the river, I’ve had a couple of afternoon naps, I’ve even spent a bit of time in the studio — and I’m hoping when I’m back to be spending more time there. Right now, we have a carpenter here building a door to the studio and doing some work on C.C.s’ den — so being in the studio has not been all that easy, nor peaceful.

And that’s been okay. I’ve savoured my adventures, my time to simply decompress.

Last night, as C.C. and I sat on the deck (I skunked him at Crib btw! 🙂 ) I told him how I don’t miss work. The stress. The sense of always being on alert about what might happen next which seemed to pervade my being. The responsibility.

I miss the people but not the work.

For a long time my friend, Kerry Parsons, who is the founder of The Academy for Rising Women, suggested I disconnect from the pain body as it was draining me, not fulfilling me. Don’t tell her I said so, but… I think she was right!

I loved the work I did, but after almost 14 years in the sector, the constant exposure to the losses and trauma of poverty and homelessness had permeated my being, seeping into my essence, clouding my senses like smoke from a wildfire.

What I am realizing is that while I felt joy, my joy was tempered with the constant realization of the lack that exists in our world, and my sense of needing to ‘fix it all’.

No one person can ‘fix it all’. Together we can make a difference. That difference needs to be predicated on an awareness that becoming so enmeshed in the cause we forget to look up, see the sunshine and savour the warmth and light it brings, is not healthy for anyone!

Today, I feel like Johnny Nash singing his 70’s hit, “I Can See Clearly Now”.

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.
I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin’ for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.
Look all around, there’s nothin’ but blue skies
Look straight ahead, nothin’ but blue skies

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

Songwriters: Kenneth Gamble / Leon Huff
I Can See Clearly Now lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

I don’t know what I don’t know until I discover something new, different, another way of being, another perspective.

I thought I was doing okay. And on so many levels, I was. What I didn’t know was that my okay was not the better I seek to create in the world because I was allowing my doing to get the better of me.

I can see clearly now. Doing the ‘hard work’ at the frontlines of poverty and homelessness is important and vital in this world. It’s also important and vital that those who do the work, take time out to give themselves the space and freedom to see clearly that ‘the work’ is not the only thing there is to be done to create better in this world.

Namaste

See you when I see you! ❤