About Louise Gallagher

I believe in wonder. I believe we are all magnificent beings of divine beauty. I believe we can make a difference in this world, through every act, word, thought. I believe we create ripples with everything we do and say and want to inspire everyone to use their ripple to create a better world for everyone. I'm grateful you're here.

On Love. Family. Connection.

I am gone for the next week. Taking a hiatus. A break. A Love-fest of family time. Grandchildren. Daughters. Sisters.

We will all be together.

Pure delight. Pure love.

In the meantime. I’ll be thinking. processing. Conviving. Scheming. Planning. Ideaering. All that jazz on how to deepen this conversation on aging. How to deepen my awareness and connect more wholly to being of this age, any age, that I live.

Namaste

The air I breathe.

No matter how difficult or dark the times, there is always something for which I am grateful. My breath.

Each breath is a gift of life filling my body with energy, fuelling my thoughts and giving me life. Too often I forget to say “Thank you” to the universe around me for the breath, to the trees for their role in oxygenating the air I breathe, to the sun for nourishing the plants that also contribute to the air I breathe.

Too often, I take each breath for granted. And yet, taking each breath for granted is vital to creating a stress-free body.

I have come to appreciate ‘taking each breath for granted’ as I’ve watched my beloved and the challenges he has with breathing. It is not easy to watch. It’s even more difficult for him.

And yet, no matter how difficult, each breath still comes. Each breath still matters. Each breath still carries life-giving forces.

Finding value in each breath reminds me to slow down. To breathe deep and to cherish those deep breaths. Slowing down, eases stress. Easing stress eases the aging process — and wonderful circle of reciprocity!

To give thanks for all of life that contributes to the air I breathe contributes to my well-being, it contributes to the world around me, it fills me with peace and joy..

What a beautiful circle of life.

___________________________

I am off to a breakfast meeting this morning. Excited to be with @CalgarySeniors at the One For the Ages Breakfast with Keynote Speaker Carl Honoré! #seniors #ageing #ageingwell

White After Labour Day! Oh No! You Wouldn’t!

It is past Labour Day and I am wearing white pants.

Oh be still my nervous heart. I mean… Really? What will the Fashion Police say?

I am laughing as I type that — but on the other hand, I’m not really because I truly did have thoughts of ‘dare I?’ It is past Labour Day… as I was getting dressed.

But, our summer is lingering. It is anticipated to be 29Celsius today and that’s warm. So why not?

Defying conventions creates stress within me. No matter how much I tell myself it ‘shouldn’t’ or it’s silly to worry about it, the conditionning is there.

The opportunity is to work with what is and do the things I know will move me through it with grace.

There was one thing I could have done I decided not to do — and that thing was, wear a different outfit.

Recognizing that this is a ‘thing’ for me, I have chosen to use it as an opportunity to push myself out of a discomfort/stress point I am carrying. I have chosen to allow myself to grow through it.

Now, this is not a big stressor, but it could be if I chose to let it rule me.

To ensure it doesn’t, I am writing about it, sharing it here with you — and yes, I know it’s not a big deal and I know not paying attention to arbitrary (and imaginary) fashion police is a good course of action, but the notion of not wearing white after Labour Day is deeply engrained somewhere in my psyche.

I didn’t choose it. I wasn’t even consciously aware of it being implanted. But, there it is.

Today, I get to choose to step into it, embrace it and allow myself to grow through it so that its impact is minimized and I am strengthened.

And in doing that, I have the opportunity to release the stress it creates when I do something that defies conventions I’ve adapted to without even being conscious I’m doing so.

In my video today, I share some of my practices to release stress in my life.

I hope you share some of yours.

And here’s to dressing to please yourself. Here’s to being who you are, exactly how you are without giving space for others to tell you how you should be!

Namaste

A good night’s rest

Episode 32

In the homeless serving sector where I used to work, people would often ask things like, “Why can’t they just take a shower, cut their hair, put on some decent clothes and get a job?’ Or, “Why do they keep making such bad decisions?” (The ‘they’ being individuals experiencing homelessness.)

My answer was generally focused on helping ‘the housed’ understand the challenges and stressors of homelessness.

Making a ‘good’ decision when constantly worrying about where you will sleep that night, or whether or not you’ll survive the night, or even when you’ll get your next fix when the fix is the only thing that eases the pain and fear and trauma of your life, is relative.

A good decision when housed is ensuring you’ve got money in the bank to pay your rent or mortgage, put food on the table, fill your car, what movie to go see, what pair of shoes to wear, what to order at a restaurant.

Decisions when ‘housed’ are based on the choices we have to create change.

In homelessness, the lack of choice impacts every decision.

A good decision in homelessness could be deciding to eat pork, which is contrary to your religious beliefs, because it’s the only thing the shelter kitchen is serving that night and you are hungry.

A good decision in homelessness could be deciding to sleep in the shelter when it’s -30C outside even though the last time you did someone stole your backpack which had the photos of your family in it, the family you haven’t seen in six years but whose photos you couldn’t stop looking at.

A good decision could be deciding to go to the supervised consumption site because you truly do not want to die. Being somewhere safe when you put the needle into your arm could be the difference between life and death. And you choosse life.

And, a good decision could be deciding to get in that pick-up truck with the guy who says he’s got a job for the day at 10 bucks an hour. You know it’s not fair pay but you’re trying to save up to buy a safety helmet, work gloves, and steel-toed boots to get one on the big job sites that pay $25+ an hour.

By the very nature of having to choose between one course of action or the other, every time we make a decision, we encounter stress.

For each of us that level of stress is determined by our environment, circumstances, age, experiences, nature and ability to adapt depending upon the outcome of our decision.

Yesterday, because of my interrupted sleep the night before, I was really, really tired all day. I had a project I needed to get done for work and, even though I don’t work Mondays, I chose to do it yesterday rather than leaving it for today. That decision meant when I went to bed last night I wasn’t stressed about ‘the deadline’ today and had a really good night’s sleep.

This morning I feel rested and refreshed. Eager to meet the day and create something meaningful.

I’ve learned, with age, that putting off until tomorrow something I can do today only adds to my stress load. And, when I’m stressed, I do not sleep well.

Sleep isn’t just important. It’s vital.

In the homeless-serving sector, it’s often said that homelessness ages an individual 10 years. Life expectancy is shorter – not because of the dangers of homelessness. It’s shorter because of the stress load people carry and its impact on their physiological well-being. It’s also shorter because of poor diet, poor health care, uncertainty, stress and so many other factors including… a lack of good sleep.

Want to live well, healthy and vibrant? Get a good night’s rest.

Week 7 theme – The Impact of Stress on Aging

Episode 31 – Dare Boldly: No matter your age.

In his response to Episode 30 on Friday, Mark suggested that the good stresses in life can keep us on track, and like an athlete pushing into the pain zone to get to the win, stress can keep us pushing into the gain zone.

All true.

The challenge is, our brain/body connection doesn’t differentiate between good stress/bad stress. To the amygdala, where pain first registers, the autonomic system response is immediate and ‘unthought’, triggering adrenaline and changes in our physiological responses and wellbeing.

Which means, stress is stress is stress. The important part is how we respond to stressors.

Take, for example, the noise workers made from 1 – 3 am this morning on the pedestrian bridge across the river not far from our home.

The pounding of pylons (or whatever they were doing) woke me up. And kept waking me up until the noise stopped at 3am.

I was not happy.

Today I’m tired. And grouchy.

There was little I could do about the noise at the time. I wasn’t prepared to go out in my pyjamas and yell at them to stop. And… as I discovered this morning when I called the city, it wouldn’t have made any difference! While there are bylaws prohibiting noise after 11pm and before 7am, as this is a city bridge and a city project, the bylaws don’t count.

How I handled my response in the middle of the night was important. Blocking the noise required earplugs and a conscious focus on my breathing. I eventually did get back to sleep. Interrupted sleep is not healthy as is not getting enough sleep. And, until I called the city to inquire about the bylaws and the obvious to me disregard for them, my grouchiness about it all wasn’t serving me well either.

As there isn’t anything I can do about the noise and the repairs to the bridge, my choice now is to find a way to accept the things I cannot change, and find a way to lower my mind’s need to go around in circles complaining about the injustice of it all.

Because… and here’s the big deal about it all – complaining and going in circles around something I can’t change adds stress to my daily life. And stress accelerates the aging process, especially if it’s unaddressed or long-term.

Which is why this week, instead of exploring Aging and Dreaming, I’ve chosen to dive into Aging and Stress.

To deal with stress, I must acknowledge it, face it and learn how best to cope with it.

For me, writing here, talking about the things that ‘bug’ me, identifying where I’m off-base and finding ways to deal with it that support and strengthen me, all help me age well – with grace and ease!

I do hope you share your stress-eliminating techniques, your thoughts on stress and your feelings about aging and stresses impact on your body, life, hopes and dreams.

You help make this conversation richer.

Video to come – maybe. Depends on if I take a nap or not! 🙂

It’s the right thing to do.

Resilience is in all of us. It’s just, for some, access is blocked by life circumstances and events that lead to choices that undermine resiliency’s ability to play a part in creating a life of grace and ease.

And living a life of grace and ease, at any age, is, at least to me, a wonderful way to live.

When I make choices that undermine my body, when I think thoughts that disrupt my peace of mind and break down my confidence and belief in myself, I am not only weakening my resiliency, I am hurting the person I need the most in this life — me.

I need me to be strong, healthy, confident and full of grace to move through this world, creating better in my wake.

And to do that, I must take care of all of me — my whole body – head, heart, belly, torso, limbs, eyes, ears, mouth, skin, skeleton, arteries…. All of me.

And not just all of me – but all of the world around me for we are all connected. We are all part of this one planet. This one giant ball of matter spinning around the sun, giving birth, dying, regenerating, renewing, evolving.

We are all connected to everything. Part of the same matter, lifeforce, world.

And in this world, me, the individual, is a microcosm of the whole earth. When I stress my resiliency, I am stressing the resiliency of all the world around me.

Taking care of me, no matter my age, takes care of all the world around me, decreasing the stress I place on the world.

And that’s why taking care of myself as I age, being conscious of the choices I make is so important.

When I don’t, I put more stress on my body, the people who love me, the people and systems that are there to care for me when I’m not well or capable of taking care of myself, the world all around.

Limiting stress is good for me – it’s good for everyone.

And that’s what I’ve realized this week as we’ve explored ‘Resiliency’. If I want it to be strong and capable of supporting me when I really need it, I need to take good care of me in the here and now.

namaste

Aging is a Daily Practice

Resilience is like a muscle. We have to feed it, care for it, and nurture it to build it up and keep it strong.

When we add stressors, when we don’t pay attention to our body’s needs, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, our resilience wanes.

Aging happens to the whole body. Every day, aging is changing us. From the moment we’re born to our last breath.

When we pay attention to our personal aging process, when we invest in ourselves, no matter our age, we create better for ourselves, and our world.

Now, I would love to say that I have done everything right for my body. But that would simply not be true. Fact is, I’m carrying extra weight. I eat unhealthy foods. I sometimes drink too much wine. I douse my mind in garbage TV. I don’t always get enough sleep. And I don’t always get enough exercise.

So… knowing what I know now about aging and how strengthening my resilience is a vital component of aging well, what am I willing to change? What am I willing to do differently?

Am I willing to, as the saying goes, put my money where my mouth is?

Perhaps that is the point of this exploration – for me. To awaken me to my responsibility and accountability in taking better care of this priceless vehicle I walk around within, breathe with, think with, move with, create with, love with, be with, every single day, every single minute of my life.

There’s something… heady… about that thought on this beautiful first morning of autumn. As we enter the season of letting go in preparation of winter’s arrival, I sit at the cusp of my own season of release.

It’s not ‘release’ as in the form of youth or ‘the things I used to do’ or even ‘life as I know it’, it is a release of the things I’m doing that do not nurture, care for, nor support me on this life journey that is so precious to me.

It’s the release of the thought that what I do to my body doesn’t matter.

It matters. Big time.

As the golden autumn leaves that hang suspended from the poplars outside my window become bathed in the warm golden glow of morning light breaking through the dark, perhaps this moment is my moment of awakening too.

Perhaps these past 6 weeks of writing and thinking and talking about and sharing in this ageless story of life have brought me to my own, personal autumnal moment.

And I smile.

I like the feeling of that. I like how that thought settles into my body with a warm and welcoming hello.

Am I willing on this autumn morning to walk fearlessly into the knowing that in this, my one life to live, I have the power to live every day my personal practices of ageless aging?

Am I willing to embrace the truth? have the power to be the change I want to be in my own life.

Lean Into The Questions

Years ago, I heard a story about an eagle who was raised in a chicken coop and because of his environment and companions, believed he was a chicken. One day, another eagle high above saw him in the coop and couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t eating all the chickens. They were perfect prey.

The eagle swooped down from above, confronted the eagle who thought he was a chicken and asked, “What’s wrong with you?”

The eagle who thought he was a chicken thought the eagle was there to eat him and was scared. Eventually, the eagle who could fly said, “Look, come fly with me once and I’ll prove to you that you’re an eagle, not a chicken.”

The eagle who thought he was a chicken agreed, but first, he had to go say good-bye to his chicken coop companions… just in case.

The eagle who thought he was a chicken ran into the chicken coop, slammed the door and laughed. “I’m the smartest chicken in this coop,” he said to his companions who were all cowering in the dark afraid the eagle outside was going to eat them. “I just fooled that eagle!”

And the eagle who thought he was a chicken never learned how to fly.

It’s possible that the eagle who thought he was a chicken was also displaying great resilience. He figured a creative solution out of his dilemma and survived to fight another day — and that’s the challenge, an eagle who doesn’t know he can fly turns from predator to prey. Rather than soaring, his resilience his expended fighting for survival every day.

We humans are hard-wired to fight for our survival every day. Survival is in our DNA..But, when we don’t know, or never had the opportunity to explore, our possibilities, we spend our time in survival mode. We don’t have the energy, nor the awareness that beyond survival there is mystery and awe, wonder and magic, beauty and possibility.

Life is the game of survival.

My friend Diana equates it to swimming in a lake. You know how to swim. Your’re strong. You can easily swim an hour. Maybe two. But three… four… five… Add in boats. Water-skiers. Flotsam. Deadwood. All the resilience in the world isn’t going to keep you from tiring out. Your very survival is at risk.

Which says to me, resilience isn’t about strength. It’s about our ability to overcome obstacles, endure hardship and make it through to the other side.

Challenge is, in life, there is no other side to dying. It is our only way out.

As we age, it is perhaps the fact it is our only way out that can make living so much more precious, beautiful and awe-inspiring.

Life can be hard. But… with age, the beauty can outweigh the hardships. The inherent magnificence of our human nature can shine so much brighter than the darkness we’ve come through, the hardships we’ve endured, the obstacles we’ve climbed over, when our focus is not on surviving but living.

As we age, the realization ‘the end’ is not just some ethereal thought shimmering far away on a distant horizon, but rather, a near and closing-in companion. In that awareness, the sweet juicy preciousness of life can fill our senses with the realization, fighting to survive is a one way street to nowhere but the end of life. Why not let it go and start swimming with abandon in the sea of life, filling each day with joy, harmony, serenity and love?

Thank you everyone for being my companions on this journey. I am fascinated by where it’s taking me. Curious about the unexplored mysteries it holds. Enchanted by each gem I am discovering as I let go of believing I ‘know what it’s all about’ and instead, lean into the questions blowing in on the winds of change all around me, inviting me to flow with them into the sea of my life abounding with joy, harmony, serenity and love.

Namaste

I Can’t Believe…. Believe it. It Happened.

Some time ago, I met a woman who was struggling to end a relationship that was causing her emotional harm. “I can’t leave him,” she said. “He needs me.”

How does he need you? I asked.

She paused. “How?” She seemed surprised by the question. Flummoxed. Her eyes shifted to the left, the right, up, down. She fluttered her hands in the air around her face. “I don’t know… he just does.”

And what do you need? I probed.

She sighed. Shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know… for him to love me like he did when we first met?”

What else do you need? I asked again.

She held her breath as she thought about the question. “I…. I need him to change.”

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being ‘he absolutely will’, how likely is that to happen? I asked.

She smiled sadly. “Zero”.

And is that what you want for the rest of your life and for your children? To be with a man who cannot change the things he’s doing that hurt you and, also them?

Recently, I met that woman again. Once she faced the truth that to create change in her life she had to change what she was doing, she left him. It wasn’t easy, she said, but she did it with the support of caring people in her life.

Once out of the darkness, she went back to school. Got a certificate in HR and was working hard to create a life of stability, joy and love for herself and her two children.

“I can’t believe I stayed with that creep for so long,” she said after telling me all the amazing things that were happening in her life.

Believe it. You did. I said. But, in believing it, don’t compare it by measuring the length of time. You stayed as long as you stayed, It was neither long nor short. It is simply the length of time you stayed. A moment in your life. Not your whole life.

That woman reminded me of me.

When I first got out of a relationship from hell, ‘couldn’t believe’ was one of the phrases I had to eradicate from my vocabulary.

Saying, “I couldn’t believe” was the gateway to the disbelief of something that had happened that I had participated in. It disempowered me. To build my resiliency, I had to acknowledge it, learn from it, grow through that learning and triumph over it, not ignore it or my role in it.

Saying, I can’t believe’ blocked all access to healing and resiliency.

For that woman, resiliency didn’t help her survive that relationship. Her inherent desire to LIVE did that. Where resiliency became her constant companion was in doing the things she needed to do to build her life after the abuse. With each step into living free of abuse, her resiliency strengthened her resolve to keep creating her own happiness, her own dreams, her own path.

We all come upon sticky moments in our lives, sometimes many sticky moments. Some big. Some small. Some short. Some long. Size and time are not the issue. Believing it happened is.

When we stop saying, “I can’t believe….” we open the door to possibility. We allow our resiliency to step in and strengthen our ability and resolve to grow, prosper, thrive and triumph over adversity.

In that resolve, we grow stronger.

Namaste.

Resilience is built into our nature.

Episode 26 – Dare Boldly: No matter your age

When I worked in an adult homeless shelter, people always commented on how it must be a very depressing place to work.

I always replied, “It’s one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever worked.”

Every day I experienced a thousand people awakening in the morning to take another step. Their lives may have been in disarray, they may have lost everything and carried only the heaviness and indignity of the label, ‘homeless’, but they kept going.

That was inspiring.

I learned a lot about resilience at the homeless shelter. I saw it every day. From the young 18-year-old who was determined to finish his high school education to the 60-year-old woman who met her 20-something daughter, whom she hadn’t seen in several years, on the elevator one day. In that one meeting the mother made the decision to get help with her mental health issues so she could move out of the shelter and be a mother that could guide her daughter away from street life.

Resilience was everywhere at the shelter.

I remember Colin. An indigenous man who had left his family and community behind when the load of his past became too much to bear. When we met, Colin had been on the streets for many years and hadn’t seen his adult sons since they were school-aged children. “I want to be a man they’d be proud of,” he told me in the self-esteem-building class I was teaching.

In an environment where being sober was the anomaly, Colin was very proud of his three-month-old sobriety. Determined to see his sons again, he kept taking steps in the right direction.

I was in awe of Colin’s commitment and resilience. Life kept knocking him down and he kept standing back up and moving forward.

Six months after we met, a massive heart attack took away any chance Colin had of meeting his sons again. And though he lost that final battle, he died exactly as the kind of man he told me wanted to be, “A proud man.”

Colin, and so many others I met at the shelter, displayed the characteristics of resilience every day. Courage. Strength. A willingness to face life’s challenges without giving up, and a deep awareness that to take a different path they had to change the things that brought them to the shelter door.

Resilience can come in many forms. There’s physical resilience, mental resilience, emotional resilience, and social resilience.

At the shelter, resilience came wrapped up in a community that held each other up and gave what they could to one another, no matter how little they had. And, it came in the hope and belief tomorrow would be a better day as long as they made it through today, together.

Colin never got to that tomorrow where he met his sons and heard them say, “We’re proud of you, dad”. But, in getting up again and again and continuing to fight for his sobriety, he taught many others the value of holding true to yourself and your dreams.

It is a lesson that continues to inspire me today.

Episode 26 – Resilience week – Dare Boldly: No matter your age

Take the “What’s the Big Deal about Aging?” questionnaire!

I’m really interested in a) writing and talking about aging, and I’m really interested in your feedback so if you don’t mind taking a few moments, I’d love to get your feedback – it’s my very first survey so I’m learning as I go! (in other words, it’s not the best designed survey but it’s my first! 🙂 )

Click HERE for survey (max 5 minutes to respond)