Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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All Our Emotions. #ShePersisted. No. 35

No. 35 #ShePersisted
Mixed Media 11 x 14″
2017 Louise Gallagher

Years ago, when I was a newly minted manager of a communications department in a start-up tech company, I struggled with keeping my emotions in check when discussing difficult topics. During meetings with my boss, an A-Type personality, I would sit and try to explain what I was dealing with while he paced his office, continuously pitching a small rubber nerf ball into a basketball hoop he had set up on a sideboard.

I knew it was not okay to cry, but the more difficult the problem I was trying to sort out, the faster he would pace and the more unnerved I would become. Unnerved, my tears inevitably followed while I tried desperately to stuff them back down my throat.  He’d get upset by my display of emotion. I’d get upset with his rapidly escalating pacing and my inability to stop my emotions from stealing my voice and self-esteem.

It was not pretty.

One day, when I had to discuss a very challenging problem and needed his guidance, I knew the past would repeat itself if I did not do something different.

I took my own box of kleenex into the meeting.

In essence, I told him that my tears were simply part of my expression just as his pacing and throwing the ball into the hoop was part of his. At least this time he wouldn’t have to go searching for the kleenex box he kept in a drawer. I had my own.

The meeting went much better. He still paced but, having given myself permission to cry, my frustration eased and I was able to get through the meeting with my composure intact.

It was a great lesson, though many years later, I have still not perfected the art of giving myself permission to be okay with my emotions and how I express them. I still attempt in times of stress or discord, to control my emotions by stifling my truth.

The art is in giving myself permission to breathe and consciously invite myself to ‘open up to expansion’ so that I can express myself without censuring my truth, and thus my emotions. When I speak from my truth, without being attached to the outcome, I am free to express my thoughts without igniting emotional outbursts that undermine my power and presence.

Card No 35 #ShePersisted
All My Emotions

We are conditioned to think of some emotions as ‘bad’ while others we deem ‘good’. As we ‘grow-up’ and become more mature, we are counselled to not display too much of even those emotions deemed as good. All things in moderation, my dear. Don’t make a scene. Don’t be too emotional. You’ll make others feel uncomfortable.

There is no ‘good and/or bad’ in our emotions. There are just our emotions. How we express them is up to us.

We can’t control our emotions, but they can control us, when we do not heal the broken places within so that our emotions are expressed in safe and loving ways.

Anger, like laughter is simply an expression of how we are responding to the situation we face, in this moment right now. When our expression becomes radically greater than the moment in which we stand, our anger, and our laughter, are signs of something deeper within calling us to explore unhealed places. Pushing them down, ignoring their call, makes our angry or hysterical responses fight harder to be heard. In their fight for expression, we become a target of their need to act out, undermining our capacity to be fully present in the now.

This card is inviting you to explore your anger and laughter. Ask yourself, “Is my anger present based, or does it constantly simmer, just below the surface of my thoughts, waiting for opportunities to erupt?”  “Is my laughter genuine or am I hiding behind my ‘shadow laugh’, that nervous, automatic response I give when I am uncomfrotable, don’t know what to say or am telling myself I don’t belong. I am unworthy. Nobody likes me?”

Ultimately, expressing our emotions in loving and kind ways creates a world of loving kindness. When we allow our emotions to have unconditional reign over our lives, we are not present to ourselves or the moment. We are acting out from past hurts and pains, and letting ourselves off the hook of being accountable in the present.

To be accountable, we must face the darkness we fear within, and turn up in the light of today, expressing ourselves with loving kindness. Fully present, acting in all things with integrity including how we express our emotions, we create a world of peace and joy all around us.


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Speeding tickets and other hazards of the road.

I paid off two speeding tickets yesterday. Fortunately, they were camera-radar so didn’t cost me any points!

And here’s the rub. They were both within a week of eachother, from the same location on my drive into work every day.

I felt like I was living the story by Portia Nelson in her book, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery:

“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.”

Yesterday, I changed my route. Best to avoid those areas where I am prone to getting speeding tickets.

And yes, before you tell me I could have just chosen to slow down and obey the traffic signs, mostly I was. It’s just this is a really long zone. Okay?

I know it’simportant to heed the speed limit in playgrounds, I do. In this instance, it’s a playground zone near a subway station. I pass through it everyday and everyday I slow down, until the end of the zone which is a couple of blocks from the playground. Then I start to speed up. Unfortunately, I’ve been speeding up just before I exit the zone and the camera radar has been waiting.

I mentioned it’s a long zone, right? Like three blocks long. So it’s not really my fault.  (just kidding). I know it is.

The rules of the road are there to be followed. Not following them comes with a consequence. In this case, a couple hundred dollars in speeding fines.

And yes, some rules do need to be broken. However, rules of the road, especially in those zones where children play, are important. And, when all it takes is a vehicle parked at the curb with a camera trained to pick up drivers speeding up before they reach the end of the zone, it’s important to stay conscious of my speed. Radar cameras are impartial, impassionate and indescriminate. They don’t really care that for the first 100 meters of the zone I did keep to the limit, especially right past the playground, or that I think the zone is way too long! They only care that I wasn’t driving at the limit in the part of the zone where they were watching.

See, we all have rules we break. Sometimes intentionally. Sometimes unintentionally.

For me, getting caught speeding in a playground zone, twice in one week, is a reminder to stay present. It highlights how often I drive without being truly conscious of what I’m doing. and that is even more dangerous than driving above the posted speed limit in a playground zone. (I wasn’t going that fast, honest.)

I paid my speeding tickets yesterday. It was a great reminder to pay attention to where I’m at in every moment of my day and to stay present to what I’m doing. And, while I may have changed my route to avoid the playground zone of my despair, I still need to be conscious of whatever route I’m on.

Namaste.

 


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The Shoulds of Habit – #ShePersisted No. 50

 

#ShePersisted Card No. 50

The Teachings

Staying unactivated by the opinions of others can be challenging. As women, we are conditioned to give ground to what others say. We have been raised to listen to the internal voice that says, “I should do [this] or [that].” Or, the one that says, “Authority/men know best.” We have been trained to not trust ourselves.

Learning to trust ourselves calls us to listen to our hearts. It is a life-long journey into empowered self-love, that place where we listen to our wise inner voice that intuitively recognizes and honours our natural states of being present, shoulds and all, without leting ourselves be pounded into submissoin by the ‘shoulds of habit’.

The shoulds of habit are deadly.

They zap you of energy. Drive you into silence. Keep you playing small.

The shoulds of habit make other’s voices more important. Other’s opinions your truth.

Learning to give way to empowered self-love means listening for the ‘shoulds’ that tell you how to be, what to do, and say, and not letting yourself fall into the fray of conforming, just for the sake of not making waves. Not standing out. Not speaking your truth.

Learning to breathe into empowered self-love creates space for all your truth, no matter what you label it, good, bad, ugly, indifferent, beautiful. Empowered self-love heals the broken spaces within where you have lost touch with the Divine Feminine,

This card is an invitation to listen deeply to ‘the shoulds of habit’ and ask yourself, “If I am being truly authentic, if I am walking my true path and not falling into habitual ways of giving in or letting others tell me what to do or is best for me, what is my heart calling out for me to claim as my birthright? What is my heart yearning to express?”

Listen to your heart. Let the opinions of others remain their property. Claim the sacred ground of your Divine Feminine essence as you dance in the light of your heart beating to the drum of your deep feminine wisdom calling you to rise up, shine, and soar free of the ‘shoulds of habit’.

 

 


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Who do you think you are?

#ShePersisted Series No 49
Mixed Media
11 x 14″
2019 Louise Gallagher

Yesterday, as I was cleaning out some files in preparation for my transition from the office to rejuvenation spaces, I found my Performance Review from February 2018.

When I had first joined the organization it was with the intent of staying for one year to help establish their communications and government relations strategy. One year would have been May 2018. When I did my Performance Review, the one year mark was approaching and the ED at the time had asked me to consider staying a bit longer in order to support him in achieving a couple of critical strategic directions. I was enjoying the work, the people and the challenges and agreed. In my Performance Review under “Goals”, I wrote that my goal was to create a succession plan that would allow me to transition from workplace to retirement by…. (wait for it)…. end of May 2019.

Ha!

I was prescient without even realizing it. I’m fulfilling on a goal I’d given a specific date to, and forgotten!

Don’t you love serendipity?

On May 31 I shall be transitioning out of my daytime job to step into the as of yet undefined spaces of retirement/rejuvenation. In March, when the Board announced the selection of the new Executive Director who is taking on the role on April 15, I met with her to discuss my transition. We agreed that six weeks would be ample time for me to transfer any needed knowledge and to assist her with a couple of specific tasks. At the time, I truly hadn’t remembered the goal from my Performance Review. At the time, we set the date as May 31.

I felt light-headed when I saw my note in my Performance Review. I felt calm and filled with a sense of satisfaction and peace.

Yesterday, after I’d spent an hour and a half meeting with the incoming ED, I left feeling uplifted, inspired, free. The agency will be in great hands.

As I move towards April 15 and then May 31, I am beginning the process of releasing my sense of ‘belonging’ to the organization. With each day, as I clear out old files and create a folder for the new ED of issues/ideas/projects in process that need her attention, I am also working on my release of needing/wanting to be engaged in everything.

It is an expansive place this releasing of my sense of belonging. And while I shall always feel a deep admiration and respect for the amazing people who work there and the incredible work they do and the vitalness of that work to our communities and the families served, I shall be pulling away from ‘the work’ itself to create space for my own work to evolve.

Last night, as I sat down at the work table in my studio and began to create, the #ShePersisted Series muse awoke and invited me to explore my creative essence through her voice.

As I splashed paint and moved through that grungy space of ‘Ugh. Nothing is looking right,” which is an inevitable part of my creative process, I was reminded of how when I first started at the agency almost two years ago, I knew little about its inner workings and needs and the imperatives of ending child and family homelessness.  There have been moments over the past two years when I wondered if I was ‘doing it right’, getting it?’.

Those wonderings are integral parts of every creative endeavour, of everything I do. They keep me open to change. Keep me listening for inner truth, other’s truths and connected to possibility in every truth. As I move beyond ‘the workforce’ to being a force of my creative change, I carry with me all I’ve learned, experienced, heard and seen. I carry with me the incredible passion of so many people to create better in the world for those whose voices have been stifled and those whose dreams have been lost beneath the struggles of poverty and homelessness.

I carry with me my own inate desire to create better in the world so that everyone, no matter their status, colour of skin, faith or riches can experience the wonder and awe of being who they are, exactly as they are right now.

No 49 in the #ShePersisted Series came into being last night. I’m excited to explore the more of what can happen when I let go of ‘9 to 5’and step into the uncharted spaces of rejuventation where I am wild and free. I am woman. I am me. . .

Namaste


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Rock the Boat

No 5. #ShePersisted Series
Mixed Media
2017 Louise Gallagher
“Rock the Boat”

When I began the #ShePersisted series in the spring of 2017 I had no idea what this process would awaken within me. I didn’t know the possibilities.

I created 1, then 2 and a 3rd and then the muse reminded me that I am not in control. She kept flowing and I kept creating, until I’d painted and created quotes for 47 paintings.

And then I stopped. We bought a new home, my studio was put into boxes, we lived in a rented apartment while we renovated. After four months, we moved into our home along the river but my studio space was not complete. I let it go. I was busy. Work was taxing and engrossing. I didn’t need a ‘space’. Or so I told myself.

Last fall I reconnected with my creative expressions when I took an Alcohol Ink course with the amazingly talented Allyson Thain.

…And I was reminded — creative expression is vital to my well-being.

I’ve reactivated my studio space and now, I once again feel myself shifting, changing, emerging like each painting in the series emerged from the mists of creative expression.

This series is a journey in self-discovery and expression.

One of my desires with this series is to create a set of divination cards that women and men can use to inspire courage and grace in their daily living.

Over the next weeks, I shall be diving deeper into what is at the essence of each paintings message. These ‘messages’ will be the foundation of the card deck I’ll be creating and selling.

I hope you journey along with me. I hope these messages open space for you to find your true self calling out to your heart, your voice and your entire being to rise up and shine!

Namaste.

_______________________

Painting No 5.
Rock the Boat

If you’ve never swam in the ocean or don’t know how to swim, it can be scary to rock the boat.
It’s okay, as long as you wear a life jacket, you’ll find yourself swimming in the open waters of limitless possibilities.

The Rock the Boat card is an invitation to speak up in those places where you feel silenced. Where you feel like your voice doesn’t matter
or where you are worrying about what others might think of you if you carve your own path.

We are each responsible to turn up in our lives, to pay attention and to speak our truth
without being attached to the outcome. If you fear speaking up because you’re worried about what others might think of you
or doing what you believe is best for you, even if it’s different than what others say, ask yourself,
“What is worse? To carry the anger of silence and inaction within me or to let go of my fear of speaking my truth and living my life my way?”

Dare to be bold. Dare to be brave. Rock the Boat. Just carry a life jacket if you don’t know how to swim because
sometimes, when we rock the boat we fall into the deep end of life. Happy swimming!


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Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n is vital

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

My dear friend Iwona writes to remind me, retirement is a misnomer. The real word to describe this expansive and expanding space in my life is ‘rejuvenation’.

I like it. The Wild Woman Within likes it too. Especially as it’s spelt in its phoentics Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n  —  In brief, to make someone or something more vital.

Iwona’s reminder was timely. I was taking myself way too seriously. Telling myself this ‘job’ I do during the day is Über important and all that jazz. In my estimation of its importance I was letting the frustrations and weight of leadership eat away at my peace of mind.

I have been blessed. For the past almost 15 years, I have been engaged in work that fulfills on my need to feel like I make a difference in the world. It’s work that is vital and yes, important. But it is not the all of my being present and purpose-driven in this world. Beyond creating better for those experiencing homelessness and poverty, is my soul-inspired intention to ‘create a world where all people are free to dance in the light of grace, joy and love.’

A few weeks ago, my eldest daughter wrote a powerful poem to her maternal ancestors. My mother’s mothers.

In it she wrote,

There is no record of my great-great-grandmothers.
.
But like gold threads winding their way through silk
their secrets are embroidered below the surface of my skin.
Molecular chains dancing around each other.
Woven into the fabric of my being.
.
They call out to me
in the tongues of their mothers.
I can hear them in the stillness of mourning.
.
“They took our names.
Our pasts.
Our clothes.
Our bodies.
But they could not take everything
.
We cannot be erased so easily.”

She was writing of “those Dravidian girls” of India who form our maternal bloodline. Those young, teenage girls of darkened skin and darker eyes, who long ago were given to white men to serve as slaves, as consorts, and in some cases, wives.

They were seldom accepted, those Dravidian girls who became wives to men whose skin was paler than theirs. Over the decades, with time and thinning out of DNA strands, many of their descendants’ skin took on the paler hues of their paternal ancestors. With time, they became more acceptable, more desireable. More white.

I remember my cousins in Paris often bemoaning the fact their skin was so much darker than mine. That I was ‘the lucky one’. No one mistook me for some foreign chick looking to meet some fair-haired boy to gain acceptance into ‘normal society’.

I remember my brother being stripped searched at an airport because he appeared to the customs officials as a Middle Eastern man at a time when terrorism was just taking flight and a jetliner had been blown up in an African desert and men of Middle Eastern looks were deemed suspicious.

And I remember wondering why we spend so much time defining people by the colour of their skin. Why we couldn’t just see into everyone’s eyes and recognize their human magnificence, their beauty, their soulful essence?

It is those Dravidian girls who form my consciousness today. Those memories of conversations with my cousins where we compared skin colour and envied another’s fairness because it made the world feel more fair, more easy.

We live in a world of colour. Of hues and tones and vibrancy. A world of contradictions. A world of ineffable sadness and horrific happenings that we, the humans of this world, enact on one another in the name of our right to have it all because our god is greater or our skin colour is deemed better than another’s by some inexplicable measuring stick driven into the sands of time.

We live in a world of beauty. A world of possibilities that defy the imagination. Of beauty that rises with every sun and sets upon moonlit nights that take the breath away.

We live in a world of colour.

I want to create Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n In my world where every colour is vital, where every colour is celebrated and needed to create this magnificent, stunningly beautiful tapestry of life where we do not compare our skintones nor our assets. We only compare the beauty and vitality we experience every day.

The Wild Woman Within is stirring. I am heeding her call and the call of my ancestors who could not be easily erased. I am painting my world in the many colours of the rainbow. I am entering Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n and becoming more vital in all my ways and all the colours I paint my world.

 

 


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Hail The Wild Woman Within!

No. 48 #ShePersisted
Mixed Media on watercolour paper
2019 Louise Gallagher
“I Am Worthy”

Yesterday, I painted and breathed into the truth of art as Pablo Picasso once described it, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

After four days of grandson time, my heart-felt light and breezy. My senses alive.

I’d given myself a day of relaxation before returning to my office. A day to breathe into the open spaces of time unplanned. When the muse called and invited me to explore my creative essence, I stepped into my studio, picked up a paintbrush and began to express myself freely.

In March 2017, I began a series of paintings titled, “The #ShePersisted” Series. Inspired by the events in the US congress that lead to Senator Mitch McConnell stating, “She was warned… Nevertheless, she persisted,” about fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren, I heard the call of the wild woman within me; the one who stands tall when told to sit down, who speaks up when told to be quiet. I began to paint the series, got to No. 47 and then… we moved, my studio was packed up and the series went into hibernation with the wild woman’s silence.

Yesterday, the wild woman within returned. This painting is No. 48 in the series. “I am worthy.”

In everyone’s life there is a place where we fear or believe someone else determines our worth.

As a teenager, I remember desperately wanting to fit in while fearing the price of doing so. I bought the latest styles. Danced the latest steps and gushed over the latest Hollywood heart-throb, juggling school and extracurricular activities and a parttime job while struggling to figure out what to do with my future. University. Job. What next?

In my twenties, I railed against conforming as I donned the wardrobe of a working woman. I wore suits and carried a briefcase and told myself my worth was made up in the things I carried and the height of the ladder I climbed.

In my thirties I became a mother. I was struggling in the ‘wife’ role, but I could do the mother thing to perfection. Or so I thought. The pressure to do it all, have it all, be it all became a daily treadmill of workdays spent rushing from meeting to meeting and weekends chasing my husband up rocky screeslopes and glacial expanses or hurrying my daughters from birthday party to dance class to sleepovers and playdates. And did I mention I was always training for half and full marathons, throwing elegant dinner parties and learning to cook in the latest craze?

My forties brought an abrupt end to much of my life as I knew it. I failed completely (or at least that’s what I called it) as a wife and became a single mother of two pre-teen girls. Briefcase in one hand, dance outfits and bobbypins in the other, the treadmill picked up speed until I ran full tilt into a man who professed he would love me until death do us part, and wound up taking the death part way too seriously.

It was that painful encounter that opened the doors to my freedom from believing my worth was determined somewhere ‘out there’. Healing from the devestation of that relationship meant taking a deep dive into my psyche, rotor-rooting into the bedrock of my being to find who I truly am. It was there, in the broken pieces of my feminine soul that I found myself waiting where I’d always been. Grounded in the brilliance and magnificence of my inherent human condition, I discovered, I am worthy. Period. No explanation needed. No caveats. No designer clothes or big titled job to prove it. I am worthy.

We are all worthy. Period. No explanation needed.

As I journey through my sixties towards this place called ‘retirement’, I hold steadfast in my belief of my human worth. It is irrevocable. It is priceless. It is undefeatable.

I may struggle with letting go of my working identity, or rail against falling into the ease of unstructured days, the truth is, nothing and no one can change my worth, my worthiness.

I am worthy.

You are worthy.

We are worthy.

Grounded in that truth, the open fields of possibility planted within the seeds of my creative passions, are calling me to explore what it means to express myself in freedom.

I am excited. It promises to be a fascinating journey. Hail the Wild Woman Within!