Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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How to let worry slip away.

Sleep and I have always had a challenging relationship. No matter how much my body craves it, my mind says, “Six hours is enough. Wake up.”

Last night was no exception.

Tired by a busy day and a flare-up of arthritis in my right foot that had kept me awake the night before, I went to bed at 9:30 and fell asleep immediately.

3:30am I woke up. And nothing was getting me back to sleep.

Finally, I gave into the call of the morning and got up at 4:15.

So here I am, in the deep quiet of the morning, savouring the tranquility.

But, if I let my mind wander too far ahead, worry sets in. “You’re going to be tired later on Louise.”  “What if you go to bed at 9:30 again tonight and the cycle repeats itself?” “What if…”

‘What if’ is a wonderful question to ask when seeking creative solutions to otherwise seemingly intractable problems.  What if instead of doing it the way we’ve always done, we did this______________?”  

‘What if’ is not a great question when its focus is worry or negative fortune-telling.

What if I’m tired tonight and go to bed too early?

  • I may or may not be tired tonight. I may or may not decide to go to bed again at 9:30. I may or may not fall asleep reading.

When I focus on end of day happenings when the day is just awakening, I deprive myself of the joy of being present in the quiet of the morning. I deny myself the gift of being one with this moment where I breathe into what is now, instead of worrying my way into ‘what might happen next’.

What I put my attention on grows stronger in my life.

When my attention is focused on ‘feeling tired’, I feel the tiredness. When my attention is drawn to savouring the moment, I feel energized, filled with the possibilities that exist in every moment unfolding.

I woke up early today.

Morning has not yet broken.

I am grateful for this quiet time to savour the dark, to watch the water glistening on the river as it flows past the window in front of my desk.

The city is silent. Few cars, separated by many minutes, travel across the bridge to the south towards city centre. No people walk across the pedestrian bridge. The sky has yet to begin to lighten.

I am alone in the pool of light cast by the lamp on my desk. My beloved sleeps in our bed. Beaumont lays on the floor behind me. The world is quiet and I am filled with gratitude for this early morning time to awaken slowly to the beauty of the world around me.

This moment unfolds into the next and I savour the gift of quiet time in the deep silence of the morning.

Namaste.

 

 


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What do you do when you grow tired of your own excuses?

Alcohol Inks on Yupo Paper 11″ x 14″ By Louise Gallagher

I don’t yet have my studio built-out in our new home. I’ve been using that as my excuse to not create.

Yesterday, I decided I’d had enough of my own excuses.

All my alcohol inks and paraphernalia were in one box. I hauled them upstairs, set myself up on the island and began to create.

It was a dream day. A day for calm and joy. Centredness and exploration.

I haven’t used alcohol inks and Yupo paper a lot. One evening course recently with the amazing Allyson Thain and that’s about it.

But that’s the joy of creating just for the joy of creating. I don’t have to ‘know the rules’ or even worry about following them. I simply have to be willing to let go of expectations and dive into exploration.

It can be so easy in this time-challenged, expectation-riddled world to fall into the trap of believing spending an afternoon and evening creating is ‘doing nothing’.

It’s not. Nothing.

It’s everything without having to be anything.

And that’s where freedom, creativity and inspiration exist. Beyond the spaces between expectation and demands, rules and commitments. Beyond ‘have to’s’ and ‘you’re on a schedule, don’t lose it’ is a world of possibility where magic happens. If only I get out of the way of forcing it to do it my way, or expecting it to appear on my schedule, in my life-inbox the way I want.

I lost myself in the art of creating yesterday with no expectation of creating anything other than space to savour the moment and be one with The Muse.

While C.C. watched football games and hockey on his laptop in the bedroom, I muddled around with inks and paper, exploring what happens when I let go of having to make it look this way or that, and fell instead into the freedom of letting it flow.

In that space, worry subsided and I was reminded once again, to not take myself so seriously. To ‘go with the flow’ and let nature have its way. My job isn’t to direct nature. It’s to create the space for magic, wonder and awe to appear naturally amidst all the struggles, upheavals and mistakes of every day living, and amidst the beauty too.

This world is filled with angst. With turmoil and pain. And it’s filled with beauty.

When I release my need to make sense of the turmoil and fall instead into surrendering to the beauty, I create peace, joy, harmony within me. And in that place, magic awakens, miracles arise as I free-fall into being present to the wonder and awe of creation.

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Thank you Kerry Parsons for reminding me of my creative nature and inspiring me to connect once again with The Muse.


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Who cares about age? Do it now.

When I grow old I’ll read poetry in the bath by candlelight and drink champagne to rock ‘n roll. I’ll dance until the sun rises and sleep until noon when I’ll arise to drink my latte curled up in a velvet robe in a big easy chair in a room with books piled all around.

When I grow old I’m not going to care if my socks don’t match, or my roots are showing or my panties and bra are different colours because I’ll seldom wear socks and I won’t bother to dye my hair.

When I grow old I’ll wear bright coloured silks and feather boas to go to the grocery store and slinky satin palazzo pants when I visit the doctor.

No wait, when I grow old I won’t have to visit the doctor, he’ll come see me and tell me I’m a grand old dame and bring me bonbons and rare red wine because red wine keeps my arteries flowing freely and bonbons are just plain good to eat.

When I grow old I won’t worry about what people think about me or try to prove how smart I am.  I’ll just be me and  I won’t care if they think I’m odd or eccentric and they won’t care that I repeat myself and forget their names.

When I grow old I’ll walk barefoot in the mud right after the rain and feel the squishy oozy coolness of the earth sucking at my toes. I’ll laugh and dance and spin about and I won’t care if anyone is watching. I won’t care. I’ll do it because I want to. Because it pleases me.

When I grow old I’ll speak my mind without fearing someone else’s opinion of me is greater than my truth.

When I grow old I’ll write from my heart without fearing other’s will see my heart and then feel compelled to tell me what they see as the matter with me. I’ll write and speak my truth and know no one can take that from me.

When I grow old no one will have to remind me to eat my vegetables or lose weight or get some exercise. I’ll do it because it feels good and it speaks to how much I love me.

When I grow old the world will have grown older with me and in its ageing it will know grace, and peace and love and kindness. It will know that evolution isn’t about killing off what we fear but rather, about embracing our fears and loving them for all we’re worth. And as we evolve we’ll change from fearing each other to loving the world enough to create peace.

When I grow old I’ll never tell myself to act my age. I’ll tell myself ‘I Love You’ just the way you are and I’ll know I mean it. I’ll believe me.

When I grow old, my age won’t matter.

When I grow old…

Hell, what am I waiting for? I’ll start today. I’m going to quit acting like age determines how I act, think, feel and start living it up like age doesn’t matter! And what the heck! I won’t worry about growing old, because no matter my age in years on earth, I know I’m just getting better and better at being authentically me!

Namaste.


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Treasure the gifts of life.

We are in the final stretch of the year. Those last days that move us closer and closer, here in the Northern Hemisphere, to the longest night.

It is a time of reflection. Of savouring what light appears on the horizon. Of gentle contemplation of ‘what was’ and ‘what can be’.

A question I like to savour throught the final days of the year is, “What have I learned this year that has enriched my life?”

Recently, while chatting with a friend about age and the relentless marching of time, she shared something she’d learned about treasuring ‘beautiful moments’.

Like me, she became a grandmother for the first time this year. For her, it is bittersweet as her granddaughter is in another country. Much further away than my beautiful grandson.

Distance doesn’t matter, she said. I treasure the beautiful moments. The time spent with her granddaughter earlier this year when she was born, and the moments in between the next time she’ll see them at Christmas. She spoke of the FaceTime calls, the late night calls with her daughter, and the early morning ones too when her daughter calls to ask for support.

And she spoke of the past. Of watching her daughter grow into the incredibly beautiful woman, mother and wife she is today.

As she spoke, I imagined a beautiful string of pearls encircling her neck in a circle of love that is her life. Each pearl represented a moment worth treasuring — and her necklace was full and heavy for she is treasuring every moment.. And yet, sometimes, we miss so many moments of beauty, she said.

“If I had known the last dirty diaper was the last one I would change when my daughter was little, I would have seen the beauty in that diaper,” she said.

There is beauty in every moment. If we knew that this was our last moment to treasure, how would we see it?

From where I sit at my desk this morning overlooking the river, I can see headlights crossing the bridge. Unseen drivers speed towards downtown and destinations unknown. The sun has not yet appeared above the tops of the trees that line the riverbank just outside my window yet the sky above is slowly lightening. My paintings cover the walls surrounding me, their vibrant colours the expression of my creative core that I have cast upon the canvas. Beaumont the Sheepadoodle lays sprawled out on the sofa behind me. Mark Bordoni plays his classical guitar softly in the background to the quiet hum of the morning. I am surrounded by softness, light, colour, gleaming wood and the streetlight casting reflections that dance on the water passing by beneath the bridge outside. I am surrounded by beauty.

If this were my last moment, this is what I would see.

But it’s not and I continue typing, grateful for the time it took to appreciate the beauty all around me.

When my father had a heart attack in 1995, we had two days to reach his bedside and say good-bye. When my brother and his wife were killed in a car accident one and a half years later, we never had the chance to say fare-thee-well. We didn’t know our last conversation would be the last. In the wake of that fatal crash, all we could do was gather together in a distant city with the people they knew and share in the memories of everyone who came to their funerals. In those memories of strangers, I saw a side of my brother I didn’t know. A man who was a good friend, a generous neighbour, a caring father. Through their eyes I saw the beauty of my brother and was reminded that I was blessed to have called him brother.

We do not know what the next moment will bring. Yet, when we fill this moment with beauty, we create a foundation of beauty upon which the gift of the next one can unfold.

I am so blessed in this life I live.

Last night my beloved returned from a four day ‘football marathon’ he takes every year with a friend. He came home filled with stories of his adventures. We laughed and shared stories of his travels, even though the hour was late.

My home, my heart, my life is rich with love and beauty. I treasure the beauty of this moment and breathe into the possibility of the next. With each breath, I am filled with the gift of life.

There are so many gifts and moments that have taught me lessons of loving and living this year. But the most treasured is the gift of life. My grandson taught me that.

Namaste.


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Do you tell stories that paint you as the victim?

Have you ever had an encounter with someone and throughout it all, found yourself listening more to the voice in your head telling you stories about what’s really going on rather than really listening to their words as spoken?

If you’re human, it’s inevitable.

We all do it.

Create stories in our heads about ‘the other’ even though the story isn’t based on ‘the now’ of who you’re interacting with or what’s really going on.

Let me give you an example.

If there’s one thing my beloved does that is almost always guaranteed to get my ire, it’s not call when he says he will. Now, I know my beloved. He is trustworthy. Honest. Kind. He’s also a single-minded extrovert who loves to be social. When out with others, whether a meeting or socially, he becomes so engrossed in whatever is happening he totally forgets the time and my need to be reassured he’s okay. (which isn’t necessarily healthy btw).

His single-mindedness is a fabulous trait when you’re the one with him. Not so great when you’re me, sitting at home, waiting for his call.

But here’s the thing. I know all of this about him. I know he’s not off doing nefarious deeds yet still my mind can go into overdrive, making up stories about how he is soooo inconsiderate, soooo thoughtless and, if I’m not carefully monitoring my thoughts and reining them in, how he can’t be trusted.

Even though none of that is true. The critter inside my head wants me to believe it is.

If I haven’t had a good talking with myself, when C.C. gets home, it isn’t pretty. I’m fussed and angry because my story-making has convinced me he’s wrong. I’m right.

Now, calling people when we say we will is a good thing to do. But my ire isn’t based on the here and now of who C.C. is and what I know to be true about him (he does get super-engrossed in where he’s at).

My story-making is based on past experience. It’s based on a time when I couldn’t trust someone. When they constantly lied about where they were, what they were doing, even to the point they lied about who they were doing it with and who they really were.

Because of that experience I have a fear-based belief inside me that says something like, “All men can’t be trusted.”

Not true. But if I’m not being conscious, if I’m giving in to my fears, that belief becomes the lens through which I see my beloved.

Now, I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy getting clean on that belief. I’ve delved into its roots and lovingly pulled them out to expose the fertile soil of possibility buried beneath them to the sunshine of my truth, “I am a trusting woman”. I am capable of making conscious choices to believe in myself, my capacity to discern and my ability to take care of myself. I am able to trust the trustworthy and recognize the difference between burying my head in the sand and standing tall in the light of Love.

Yet still, there are moments when I give into the darkness of the past and find myself making up stories that do not serve me well, nor C.C. Still, I am guilty of falling back into self-defeating behaviours that undermine the love and trust upon which we’ve built our relationship.

Getting clean on my story-telling means asking myself two really simple questions — and answering them honestly.

Is what I’m telling myself creating ‘we’ or is it setting us up with ‘me the victim/he the wrong-doer’?

And…

Is what I’m telling myself about him (or anyone else) an excuse for me to avoid facing something I’d rather not deal with in myself?

.See, when we’re telling stories about ‘the other’, we’re generally avoiding getting clean with the real story about ‘what’s up with me in all of that?’.

When I’m looking at C.C. (or anyone else) as the cause of my dis-orderly thinking, I’m not being present in the here and now with my thoughts, words, actions. When I paint myself as the victim, I create a world of discord and disorder.

And yes, before you jump on the obvious, it is a good idea for someone to call when they say they will.

Not calling however, is not a criminal offence that needs to be dealt with through harsh words and accusations, especially when ‘the offender’ isn’t doing it maliciously.

Bottom-line, my words and actions aren’t about ‘the other’. They’re about me. Everyone is responsible for dealing with they’re own stuff. When I’m dealing with mine by making someone else ‘the problem’, I’ve got the problem.

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I’m reading Judith E. Glaser’s fascinating book, Conversational Intelligence – How great leaders build trust and get extraordinary results. It’s what inspired my thinking about the stories I tell myself when I want to play the victim.

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The Poet Boy Remembered

Remembrance Day. Lest we forget. Let us  not forget.

Their sacrifice. Their honour. Their duty to country. Their names.

Let us not forget.

My father went off to war when he was a boy. He went off and fought and came home and seldom spoke of those years again.

The following is the unedited version of a shorter Op-Ed I wrote that was published in the Calgary Herald several years ago. I share it here in memory of my father, and all the sons and daughters, boys and girls, men and women, who have gone off to war to never return. I share it here to remind me to never forget my father who was once a poet boy.  I repost this today lest we forget.

The Poet Boy

by: Louise Gallagher

When the poet boy was sixteen, he lied about his age and ran off to war. It was a war he was too young to understand. Or know why he was fighting. When the guns were silenced and the victors and the vanquished carried off their dead and wounded, the poet boy was gone. In his stead, there stood a man. An angry man. A wounded man. The man who would become my father.

By the time of my arrival, the final note in a quartet of baby-boomer children, the poet boy was deeply buried beneath the burden of an unforgettable war and the dark moods that permeated my father’s being with the density of storm clouds blocking the sun. Occasionally, on a holiday or a walk in the woods, the sun would burst through and signs of the poet boy would seep out from beneath the burden of the past. Sometimes, like letters scrambled in a bowl of alphabet soup that momentarily made sense of a word drifting across the surface, images of the poet boy appeared in a note or a letter my father wrote me. For that one brief moment a light would be cast on what was lost and then suddenly, with the deftness of a croupier sweeping away the dice, the words would disappear as the angry man came sweeping back with the ferocity of winter rushing in from the north.

I spent my lifetime looking for the words that would make the poet boy appear, but time ran out when my father’s heart gave up its fierce beat to the silence of eternity. It was a massive coronary. My mother said he was angry when the pain hit him. Angry, but unafraid. She wasn’t allowed to call an ambulance. She wasn’t allowed to call a neighbor. He drove himself to the hospital and she sat helplessly beside him. As he crossed the threshold of the emergency room, he collapsed, never to awaken again. In his death, he was lost forever, leaving behind my anger for which I had no words.

On Remembrance Day, ten years after his death, I went in search of my father at the foot of the memorial to an unnamed soldier that stands in the middle of a city park. A trumpet played “Taps”. I stood at the edge of the crowd and fingered the felt of the bright red poppy I held between my thumb and fingers. It was a blustery day. A weak November sunshine peaked out from behind sullen grey clouds.  Bundled up against the cold, the crowd, young and old, silently approached the monument and placed their poppies on a ledge beneath the soldier’s feet.

I stood and watched and held back.

I wanted to understand the war. I wanted to find the father who might have been had the poet boy not run off to fight “the good war” as a commentator had called it earlier that morning on the radio. Where is the good in war, I wondered? I thought of soldiers falling, mother’s crying and anger never dying. I thought of the past, never resting, always remembered and I thought of my father, never forgotten. The poet boy who went to war and came home an angry man. In his anger, life became the battlefield upon which he fought to retain some sense of balance amidst the memories of a world gone mad.

Perhaps it is as George Orwell wrote in his novel, Nineteen Eighty-four:

“The very word ‘war’, therefore, has become misleading.  It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist… War is Peace.”

For my father, anger became the peacetime of his world until his heart ran out of time and he lost all hope of finding the poetry within him.

There is still time for me.

On that cold November morning, I approach the monument. I stand at the bottom step and look at the bright red poppies lining the gun metal grey of the concrete base of the statue. Slowly, I take the first step up and then the second. I hesitate then reach forward and place my poppy amongst the blood red row lined up along the ledge.

I wait. I don’t want to leave. I want a sign. I want to know my father sees me.

I turn and watch a white-haired grandfather approach, his gloved right hand encasing the mitten covered hand of his granddaughter. Her bright curly locks tumble from around the edges of her white furry cap. Her pink overcoat is adorned with little white bunnies leaping along the bottom edge. She skips beside him, her smile wide, blue eyes bright.

They approach the monument, climb the few steps and stop beside me. The grandfather lets go of his granddaughter’s hand and steps forward to place his poppy on the ledge.  He stands for a moment, head bowed. The little girl turns to me, the poppy clasped between her pink mittens outstretched in front of her.

“Can you lift me up?” she asks me.

“Of course,” I reply.

I pick her up, facing her towards the statue.

Carefully she places the poppy in the empty spot beside her grandfather’s.

I place her gently back on the ground.

She flashes me a toothy grin and skips away to join her grandfather where he waits at the foot of the monument. She grabs his hand.

“Do you think your daddy will know which one is mine?” she asks.

The grandfather laughs as he leads her back into the gathered throng.

“I’m sure he will,” he replies.

I watch the little girl skip away with her grandfather. The wind gently stirs the poppies lining the ledge. I feel them ripple through my memories of a poet boy who once stood his ground and fell beneath the weight of war.

My father is gone from this world. The dreams he had, the promises of his youth were forever lost on the bloody tide of war that swept the poet boy away.  In his passing, he left behind a love of words born upon the essays and letters he wrote me throughout the years. Words of encouragement. Of admonishment. Words that inspired me. Humored me. Guided me. Touched me. Words that will never fade away.

I stand at the base of the monument and look up at the soldier mounted on its pedestal.  Perhaps he was once a poet boy hurrying off to war to become a man. Perhaps he too came back from war an angry man fearful of letting the memories die lest the gift of his life be forgotten.

I turn away and leave my poppy lying at his feet. I don’t know if my father will know which is mine. I don’t know if poppies grow where he has gone. But standing at the feet of the Unknown Soldier, the wind whispering through the poppies circling him in a blood red river, I feel the roots of the poet boy stir within me. He planted the seed that became my life.

Long ago my father went off to war and became a man. His poetry was silenced but still the poppies blow, row on row. They mark the place where poet boys went off to war and never came home again.

The war is over. In loving memory of my father and those who fought beside him, I let go of anger. It is time for me to make peace.


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Dance and Awaken

No. 26 – #ShePersisted Series

Dance and Awaken
©2018 Louise Gallagher

to forgive
dawn
breaking
hearts bleeding
upon the sunset
blistering heat
bruised
purple rose
the horizon
far off
far away
a dream
of happily ever-after
lost
never to rise
a new day
breaks in darkness
never to be
awoken

to accept
dawn’s awakening
the moon’s farewell
to darkness
sinking back
sinking
deep into the envelope
of night
a kiss sealed
on the lips
of secret’s laid bare
upon love’s pillow
softly
sinking
sinking back
into the night
of dreams
threadbare and worn
never to be
awoken

to dance
joy cascading
the light
of a new day
streaking across
the horizon
rooting out
the darkness
of secrets sealed
into the inky black depths
of memories caprice
long ago
forgotten
darkness flees
light breaks
breaking light
a new day
rising
dawn
awakens

to fly
free and awakened
daylight
breaking open
the dark
a giant cosmic egg
spilling out
daylight
freeing the night
surrender
surrender freely
to the dark
erasing
all fear
of rising

dance and
awaken

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I felt challenged today. Challenged to pick up my ‘pen’ and write of awakening in images bursting from my mind. Long ago, I thought in poetry. Long ago, I wrote, never in rhyme, rhyme is too predictable, too constructed for me. I wrote in poetic prose. Images skittering onto the page, in a hurry to reach their destination, tripping over each other to form an idea, an image, a poignant light shimmering upon the page.

Obviously the muse and I are still entranced with the dance of creativity. My senses merging with her creative exhortations to let go, awaken, dance.

I am loving the dance.