Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Spoken and Unspoken

Words shimmer on the edges of my mind flowing endlessly like the river. Words that provoke and tempt and tease me into awakening to the beauty of my world. Words that fall mindlessly to the page, tumbling out in joyful abandon, littering the lines with fat, plump consonants, juicy rich vowels and punctuation ripe with possibility.

I let the words have their way. Give them room to appear upon the page in all their gleeful disarray. Pushing, prodding I tease them into order, searching for value in every letter, every phrase.

I am a woman of words. Of visual imagery all wrapped up in spoken symbols uttered into the void of possibility that exists all around me.

I am a woman of silence. Of quiet thoughts left unspoken, expressed in hands and eyes and body movements and simple gestures that speak to what is on my mind, what pains me, awakens me, touches me, moves me, disturbs me, pleases me.

I am a woman of words spoken and unspoken. Of hidden meanings clustered behind a single word and open dialogue where ideas flow freely into pathways to truth and beauty creating light that illuminates the way to know and feel and embrace and be connected. My words to your words. My heart to your heart.

I am my truth, spoken or unspoken. I am the words I speak, the words I think and leave behind hidden in silence. I am the words I leave behind when I have spoken.

I am my words creating better, creating hope, belonging, understanding. I am my words of destruction, creating distance, anger, separation. Pain.

I am the words I employ in every spoken utterance, in every unspoken truth. I am my truth in all its shining light and painful darkness.

Sometimes, I throw my words around without thought. I must use my words wisely. Kindly. Thoughtfully. I am my words spoken and unspoken.

Unspoken

Silence waits in the space
between
two lovers
separated
torn apart
with words unspoken.

Silence breathes opening up the space
between
two lovers
joined
pulled together
by words unspoken.

Silence speaks within the space
between
two lovers
entwined
bodies enmeshed
in words unspoken.

__________________________________________________

Some mornings words are meant to be played with, coaxed and teased or let flow freely.

This was one of those morning.


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Words hurt. Actions matter.

When my daughters were little and would fight, I’d tell them they had a right to their anger. They never had the right to be cruel or mean or unkind.

Words hurt.  Actions matter.

My goal was to teach them how to be accountable with their words and actions. To recognize that anger and any other emotion that triggers negative feelings is okay, It’s what you do with those feelings that matters. Just because you’re feeling hurt or angry, it doesn’t give us license to spill our ‘ill-will’ onto others.

Making ourselves feel better by making others feel worse is not okay.

It’s a lesson I am continuously learning.

When triggered by something someone else has done or said, or something that happened, be it on the news or in my community, or work, home, acting out is not okay.

Being 100% accountable for my words and actions is vital to creating the ‘better’ I want to create in the world around me.

Recently, something happened at work that triggered a memory I hadn’t thought of in years. It wasn’t a pleasant memory. In fact, it was extremely uncomfortable.

At the time of the incident, I didn’t remember the memory. But, as I drove home later, it flashed through my mind with the speed of a comet streaking across the sky.

I had a choice. Acknowledge it. Ignore it. Or let it trigger me into acting out.

I chose to acknowledge it.

Ignoring it would only have given it more power to interfere with my peace of mind.

Letting it trigger me into acting out would only have created situations where I’d probably have to go back and clean up my mess. I’ve grown tired of the need to have to apologize for my bad behaviour. It’s so self-defeating.

Instead, I acknowledged to myself that the incident had triggered a memory from a dark period in my past. “That was then. This is now.” I gently reminded myself. “You are safe in the here and now.”

Over the next few days I repeated the mantra I use to remind myself that I have the power to re-wire my neural pathways towards the light, not the dark. I developed this mantra with my therapist a few years ago when working on PTSD that had been triggered when I was encircled by an angry mob at a community engagement session I’d been part in my work to end homelessness in our city. The crowd didn’t want us building a 20 unit affordable housing apartment in their community. They got really vocal and almost violent in their response. In the moment, I stood them down and walked away. Afterwards, my mind went into overdrive connecting dots in the here and now to terrors I’d experienced in the there and then.

My mind wanted to remind me of how unsafe I was. My heart wanted to hold me in peace.

I went back into therapy.

My therapist explained how our minds are comfortable with habitual thinking. Following the neural pathways to the dark can be easier than flowing into the light. But, she said, you can retrain your mind to travel to the light. We talked at length about what was triggered by that event until it became really clear that the inciting fears were connected to old childhood beliefs.

In the here and now of that event as it was happening, I felt unsafe because I was.

In the here and now of the aftermath of that event. I was safe but was triggered by fears of lack of safety, lack of support, lack of belonging that were deeply connected to an unprotected childhood.

In our work together, I explored what was at the root of my feelings of lack of safety (the dark place) and developed a mantra to retrain my mind to take the path to the light (the peace of mind space).

I am grateful for opportunities where I am reminded of my power to choose the light. To choose the path to well-being over darkness. To choose to be kind to myself, and thus the world around me, so that I don’t have to then empty my shame bucket by apologizing to those I’ve hurt with my words and actions because I was triggered and felt the need to act out in my own defense.

The mind is an amazing place!  It has the power to hold us in the light of truth and beauty, honesty and Love. Or, it can drag us down into the dark places holding us captive to our fears.

Guiding my thinking back to the light makes my world a better place. It creates lightness of being and ease of mind.

I like it here.

Namaste.

 


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A trick of light

Sometime ago, while waiting for a friend to arrive in the restaurant where we were meeting, I stared at a large painting hanging on the wall behind the bar. It was a surrealistic depiction of Christ on the cross. Simple. Stark. Provocative. What made it most interesting, however, was what I couldn’t figure out to be either a shovel or possibly a broom hanging from his left arm.

I wondered what it was. What it meant. Why it was there. What did it mean?

When my friend arrived I pointed at the painting and asked her what she thought that shadowy object meant.

She turned to look at the painting and said, “Do you mean that greyish section?”

“Yes,” I replied. “It’s slightly darker. It’s almost like a floor lamp hanging upside down…” My voice trailed away. I looked at the lights hanging from above the bar. They too looked like floor lamps hanging upside down. “Oh dear,” I laughed. “It’s the shadow of the light above the bar. It’s not part of the painting at all.”

We started to laugh. I told her how I’d spent the time I’d sat waiting, wondering about the purpose of that image in the painting. About how I’d had all sorts of ideas of the artist’s statement — like, we hung Christ on a cross and then made him dig his own grave, or dug our own graves by hanging him on a cross. Some of my ideas had become almost metaphysical in their explanation of the object in Christ’s hand — when in reality, there was no object in His hand. It was just a trick of the lighting.

In focusing on the shadow of that lamp I took my attention away from the actual painting and put it on something that was not part of the ‘real’ thing. I kept looking for meaning in the unreal as I struggled to understand what the shadow meant.

In life, we look for meaning out there — in the world around us — often believing that if we can just figure out ‘it’ means, the ‘it’ being whatever is happening around us at any given moment. We focus externally rather than looking inside ourselves, to where the real ‘it’ lives and breathes and expands with every breath we take and every thought we create.

Within each of us there is a ‘shadow’ waiting to be discerned, seen, embraced, understood, faced. In that moment of seeing our shadow and embracing its presence, we set ourselves free of the past, free of the limiting beliefs that would have us question our right to live up to our greatness.

We do not know what we do not know.

In looking at the painting that night, I did not know I was being tricked by a shadow until I took my focus off of what I saw, and moved my eyes to the source of the shadow.

Within me, I do not know how my shadow is tricking me until I take my focus off what I tell myself I believe to be true about myself — and face what I fear will happen to me if I face the self-limiting beliefs I tell myself are true — and step into the light of my possibilities free of the shadow of my limiting beliefs.

To create the life of my dreams I must be willing to look at what is hiding in my shadow. I must be willing to do the things I fear, to dig into my darkness and uncover the blocks, the limiting beliefs, the outdated ideas that keep me stuck, that keep me out of the light of living my best life yet.

That life can only be achieved when I fearlessly shine my light on the shadows I fear within me. In that place, there is nothing inside me so terrifying as the darkness I refuse to uncover from the past.

The past cannot hurt me. The past only exists in my mind and in my mind is all the power, all the tools I need to reach inside my heart and love myself for all I’m worth.

In the end, there was no shovel. There was only darkness coming to light.

The question is: What truth is your shadow hiding? Are you willing to dig into it and uncover the light?


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Black to blue and fade – November is Family Violence Prevention Month

I am driving in my car towards downtown. Work. A family homeless shelter. A family housing agency.

My tires hiss along the pavement. November is unusually warm. What snow there was has disappeared.

I hear a line in a song, ‘from black to blue’. I do not know the song. I do not know the artist. I know the story.

An image flashes through my mind. Fast. Like a comet falling. A hand raised. A slap. A bruise. Sallow yellow. Just forming. Black to blue and fade. Back to black. Sallow yellow.

A woman. Black to blue and fade. Fading into sallow yellow. Fading into nothing.

A man. A woman. Anger. Flash. Black to blue and fade. Nothing.

It goes on. And on.

The cycle.

A man. A woman. Anger. Flash. Hand. Slap. Sallow yellow. Black to blue and fade. And nothing.

The woman falls. She rises up. Smiles. Cajoling. Encouraging.

Anger flashes.

The man rises up. Hand raised. Pain. Cry. Sallow yellow heating up to orange. Red. Black to blue and back again. Fade to black.

A siren.

Screaming.

A body. Lying. Cold. Still breathing.

She smiles through the pain. The ambulance jolts into gear. She is carried away. Away from black to blue.

He loves me, she says.

Love doesn’t hurt like this, someone answers in the darkness.

She cannot hear.

He didn’t mean to do it. It was an accident. She insists.

And their voices fade from black to blue into nothing.

She grows silent.

And goes back.

Not for more. Never for more.

He won’t do it again.

Never more.

He promised.

There’s always the promise of never again after black fades to blue to sallow yellow into nothing. Always the promise of never more fading away at the edge of happily ever after.

It is promise of what could be without black fading to blue to sallow yellow to nothing.

And the cycle turns and the pain continues and the fear rises and black to blue fades deeper and deeper into unending black. Deeper into that dark space where blackness lives in memory blocked of any colour beyond black to blue. Beyond that place where truth lies. Where life fades
from black to blue
to constant sallow yellow
rising once again
to red
black and blue
all over
before
she fades,
away
forever
into nothing.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

November is Family Violence Prevention month.

This piece wrote itself after hearing the line, “from black to blue” in a song playing on my car radio.

I share it today in honour of those who have/ have not/ cannot/ did not/ will never / get away / from black to blue.

Domestic violence is a family affair. We can all help end it. It begins with not staying silent. It begins with education. It begins with you and me.

Some Resources

Calgary Domestic Violence Collective

Family Violence Prevention Resources

Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters

YW Calgary

Calgary Counselling


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I cried this morning. What about you?

I cried this morning.

It wasn’t intentional. It definitely wasn’t ‘planned’. But I sat at my desk and the tears slowly fell.

It began with a TedMed video I stumbled upon and decided to watch. I don’t usually do that in the morning as that extra 15 to 20 minutes makes a difference. But there I was, engrossed in the video, tears streaming down my face, my heart hurting.

Outside my window, the light from beneath the bridge dances on the water flowing beneath it. The stark, leafless branches of the trees that line the river stand in silhouette like soldiers on guard. Traffic is more constant. A couple of cars crossing the bridge, a gap, a few more, another gap, and then some more. Above, the sky is dark but slowly lightening. My window faces west. The sun has risen over the horizon behind me but its light has not yet reached me.

And I cried.

The video I watched was a talk Sue Klebold gave in February 2017 at TedMed.  You may not recognize her name or connect her to the events that jarred the world and changed countless lives, including Sue’s and her son Dillon.

Sue Klebold’s son was one of two shooters who murdered 14 students at Columbine on April 20, 1999. In this gut-wrenching and heart breaking talk, she shares her journey back from the abyss of the darkness of those days and her despair and grief over what her son did and the lives he took and the lives he changed. And she shares what she has learned. About grief, being a mother, brain health and so much more. She is brave. Courageous. Real.

This is not an easy talk to watch but I’m grateful I stumbled upon it.

Her words struck many chords within me.

I am grateful.

And words escape me as I struggle to label what it is her words evoked.

And that’s okay.

I am still processing.


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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.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

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