Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Decisions. Decisions. Life is an experiential journey.

I love making decisions.

Okay. Maybe not the making, but I love that feeling a decision made creates within my psyche. That place where I can give a deep sigh of relief and contentment. That place where I give into the feeling of letting go that washes over me as the anxiety I’ve been holding in as I’ve deliberated over what to do, what to do becomes, I know what I want, need and will do settles in. With my maserations over what to do or not to do completed, I breathe into the space between what was and what will be. Like a trapeze artist mid arc of letting go of one bar, I hang effortlessly suspended in the wide open field of possibility between the known and the unknown. The other bar approaches. I do not yet need to reach out. I am trusting in gravity. The process. Life.

All is well with my heart. All is well in my world.

With the entering stage left of the new Exec. Director for the family homeless shelter where I work, I had two options: to stay or to go. To stay meant stepping back into my former role. To leave meant to face the great unknown, and to wrestle my psyche into accepting, everyone and everything will be okay.

I’ve chosen the ‘everyone and everything will be okay’ exit strategy. I’ve set a date. Connected with the new ED to let her know and will be informing theorganization this week of my timeline.

I feel calm. Centered. Confident.

On Friday, a woman I admire and respect in the sector came to visit and sat with me as we mulled over my transition plan. “You don’t owe anyone anything,” she said. “You’ve done an amazing job. Achieved things there no one else has ever been able to do, even though they tried. You deserve to enjoy the summer, spend time with your grandson and family.  Time enough in the fall to determine what’s next.”

She was right. My ego wants me to believe I can’t leave. The gaps in the leadership team the new ED is facing are significant. I need to stay and help out. It will make it better for her.

But what is best for me?

The night I received the phone call advising me of the Board’s decision, C.C. and I had a long chat about next steps. What do you want to do? he asked.

I want to paint and write and create a world of possibility. And more than anything, I want to let go of the anxiety that comes with feeling I owe it to others to ‘do the right thing’ in a way that makes it easier for them.

See, that’s my game. I create value for myself in ‘the world out there’ by taking care of what I think others need to achieve their goals.

Did I mention it’s a self-defeating game? It is. Because in feeling like they need me to get the job done, I abdicate on my self-responsibility to live my own dreams. I put other’s dreams first because I do not take mine seriously.

My dreams have worth. Meaning. Significance for me. In telling myself my dreams can wait, beause my value comes when I am of value to others, is simply not true.

We are all of value. All of worth. Whatever we are doing, our value does not come from what we do or what others think of us. It is not found in the depth of our bank account or the horsepower under the hood of our newest vehicle or the title on our desk. Our value is derived from the very nature of our humaness; our being present in this world. A world where we must all be dreamers if we are to create a world worth living for.

In this hurting world, we need all need to believe in our dreams for better. We need to all dream big. To create possibility for better in a world where kindness and generosity of spirit ignite our collective action to change the course of anger, fear, war and hate that abounds in the world around us.

I have always wanted to make a difference in the world. Accepting I do and have is one of my life-long lessons. Believing in my dreams is my responsibility. Working to achieve them my right.

I am an experiential learner. Life is an experiential journey. I am learning to believe in my dreams and am so grateful life keeps serving up such amazing lessons for me to embrace its lessons and dive into living my best life ever, every day living my dreams come true!

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Caution: Possibility of ice. Do you have any brain de-icer?

Spring-like weather is descending upon our city and with it, the melting of snow during the day and sheets of ice forming during the night as temperatures dip just below freezing with the sun’s setting.

Earlier this week, a patch of snow on the roof caused a sheet of ice to form at the corner of our walkway as you approach the front door. The first time I tried to traverse it, I almost slipped. We promptly threw some de-icer and it disappeared. It took a few more de-icings before the mound of snow on the corner of the roof melted and de-icing was no longer necessary.

Like life. There are patches of tricky spots, unhealed spaces, unknown hurts that lurk waiting to slip us up as we navigate life’s roads. De-icing is necessary.

This past week I have immersed myself in navigating new waters as the organization I work for prepared to name its new Executive Director. It is bittersweet for me. I love the work I do. Love working with the families we serve and the team. I love the feeling that comes with making a difference.

As in all things, however, doors open and close, opportunity knocks and new horizons beckon.

I have always been clear with our Board of Directors that I am not prepared to commit to more than a couple of years in this role. They needed more and thus, yesterday, a new ED was announced.

At the beginning of the week when I was informed of the decision, my ego, in concert with the nasty critter who likes to remind me of my human frailties, tripped me up. “See. I told you so. Nobody wants you,” it whispered fiercely. “You don’t belong.”

Now, those are old core messages that emanate from my lizard brain in moments when I feel unsafe, fearful or at risk. I know them. I see them and hear them, but, if I don’t step into the light, lift myself up to my executive brain functioning, they can cause me to slip back into the icy waters of self-deprecation.

If you’ve followed my writing this week, you will have witnessed my journey from uncertainty to clarity.

Life is filled with opportunities to explore hidden areas of our pysches where icy patches exist that need the warming grace of light and Love. It is those patches that growth and surrender co-exist to bring us back to our magnificent selves waiting to shine. It is in those places that possibilities arise and hope lives unending.

My tenure at the family homeless shelter where I work is coming to an end. There is no firm date yet as I work with the new ED on a transition plan. What I know though is that the transition will be grace-filled because doing it with grace is how I prefer to exit every stage of my life. And I do love a good swan song!

I am excited. I have dreams and schemes and ideas to create an exciting new path for myself. A path full of potent possibility, passion and purpose, A path where anything is possible because when I de-ice the tricky spaces in my lizard brain, I am free to shine and soar and step with grace into every possibility that opens up on my path.

Namaste.


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When will you be enough?

Last night a friend text me to tell me that someone she knows whom I don’t, in a city in another province, has one of my paintings on her FB wall. it was shared with her by someone else I do not know.

“What a small world,” she wrote. “Your reach is wide, my friend. You inspire and influence people you have never met.”

I was grateful my friend took the time to share her thoughts with me. Her words made my heart feel light and airy.

That’s the thing about creating — I don’t create with the thought, “how will this impact others?”. I create because I must. It is a desire that rises up from the depths of my being, calling out to be expressed through art and words, (and for those who know me well), dance.

As in all things, there are gifts. The gift of knowing something I created resonates with another always fills my heart with joy. And I love a joy-filled heart!

As I contemplate the vast vistas of the road before me, I carry with me all the wonderful notes and messages people have shared with me about how my words/art have resonated with them, given them peace, a new way of seeing something, or allowed them to move through some dark moment into the light.

It is this work, this essence of being an inspiraton for others to rise up and shine, I want to carry with me as I leave where I’m at to step across the threshold into an unscripted future. A future where I am creating a life that continues to ripple out to touch peoples’ hearts, open minds and set them free to laugh and dance and spin about in a world of love, joy and harmony.

In April 2006 when I first went through the Choices  Seminars program, I remember getting to the end of the five day seminar and realizing that for much of my life I had wanted to inspire people to be their best, to let go of all the illusion they are nothing or unworthy, and to claim their magnificence.

And then, during a process at Choices, I heard people tell me how much I inspired them. How brightly I shone and how, through my sharing my light, they wanted to shine too.

Wow, I thought. People are telling me I’m doing what I’ve said I’ve always wanted to do, but I’m still lamenting not doing what I want to do in my life.

See, I had a plan.

As a little girl my plan was to be an award winning actress or a noble prize winning psychologist.

That plan didn’t turn out so well as I froze when on stage and I never did get a degree in psychology.

Because I viewed my plan as ‘failed’, I saw myself as a failure. I wasn’t doing what I set out to do in the world.

And then I discovered I was, just in a different way. Mostly by simply being me through expressing myself artfully.

What an incredible gift and awakening.

We all have plans. We all have ideas of what we think our life should be, and then, it’s something else. Something that is equally as beautiful and grand, just shimmering in a different light of possibility that we keep missing because we’re focused on the old plan we think didn’t work out.

What if this life you are living now is the plan? What if you are on your path of magnificence, it’s just you haven’t awoken to its possibilities yet?

What if, this truly is your one and only life and you are living it under the darkness of believing you are not enough?

When we look at our lives and find ourselves lacking, we risk missing the incredible gifts we bring to the world. We don’t see the impact we’ve created and the difference we make. In our belief we are not enough, we dim our light, shutter our dreams and carry on, hoping one day to get back on the path of our dreams unfolding.

We are each the star player in this journey of our lifetimes. Let’s each live it up, shine bright and illuminate the path for others to see the darkness is just an illusion created by the belief, we are not good enough.

Namaste.

And PS.  Thank you to those who comment, write on my FB wall, send me personal messages and texts about how my words and art impact you. I am deeply grateful. Thank you ASL for your loving text.


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Where do you go when you feel down?

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

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

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

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

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

I was not that powerful.

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

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

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

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

Can you name sadness, they asked me.

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

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

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

Last night, I painted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Like life.

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

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

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

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

I am curious.

What will I do next?

What do I want to do next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

My list came fast.

Write
Inspire
Create
Coach
Speak

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

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

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

Namaste.


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Walk with Integrity

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

We do not know what we do not know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s the challenge.

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

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

Namaste

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My heart eases…

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

I painted last night. Pulled out my alcohol inks and Yupo Paper and immersed myself in the pure joy of creating for the sake of creating.

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

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

flowing effortless

I created

and fell

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

I painted last night.

I remember.

Me.

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My Heart Eases

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