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.

Kiri’s Piano — No. 78 #shepersisted

I didn’t intend on painting a #ShePersisted woman yesterday when I walked into my studio. In fact, I had gone into the studio with the intent to tidy up and get some things ready for a course I’m taking on Saturday.

And then… the muse whispered… and I heeded her call… and #78 in the #ShePersisted Series was born.

Last evening, when I showed her to C.C., he commented that he really likes how I do eyes.

I laughed. I do not think I do eyes well at all. In fact, I struggle the most with the eyes. I painted over No. 78’s twice (and am still not happy) I told him.

“I feel like eyes are the mirror of my life,” I told him. “I struggle to get them right and with every struggle, I improve just a little bit and sometimes, to make it easier on myself, I paint them closed and then figure out how that ‘fits’ with the story. Like in life, I work at doing better, at righting wrongs and then some days, I just want to close my eyes and ears and heart and pretend I don’t see the wrongs and there’s nothing I can do.”

And I went on about the struggle and commitment and all that jazz until I ran out of steam. Gently and succinctly, he replied, “I think you’re amazing.”

Gotta love a man who listens and then doesn’t try to fix or argue you into ‘seeing the bigger picture’ or some other perspective. He just listens and when you’ve had your say, he simply affirms you.

And that is the genesis of No. 78.

In everything I’ve read about racism, cultural genocide and other forms of human eradication and ‘othering’ of our differences (I’d like to call them ‘our uniqueness’s’ but as a humankind, we are not there yet) by a dominant culture which also has historically believed it is superior because of the whiteness of its skin and its God, getting out of the way is critical to change.

Giving way, stepping aside, giving up centre stage, letting go of trying to ‘handle’ change for someone else or in ways that make it easier for us to stomach is essential for those who have been racialized and marginalized and subjected to cultural traumas about which, because we who have not experienced them in their skin/faith/shoes, can not truly understand nor comprehend. The deep historical and present impacts of their trauma can only be healed from within both their body of culture and their bodies. Not by ‘us’ telling them what to do, or how to do it or leading the way.

We do not have the answers for another.

We can create space for ‘the other’ to create a path that is reflective and supportive of what they have identified as their needs, their way, their right to make change happen and to lead their own way. And the only way we can do that is to get out of the way, step back, move aside, give way and give space for voices of cultural experience to be heard.

The impetus for No. 78 came from an article I was listening to on the radio about the rise of violence and racism in Canada against people who can be easily identified as of Asian descent. I am both confounded and saddened.

And in my confusion and sadness, I turn to the canvas. To the page. To nature to walk myself through my thoughts and feelings to understanding, harmony, acceptance, compassion, balance.

I’m not there yet.

No. 78 is just one step on a long journey. With each step I learn something more, I expand my compassion, my understanding, my sense of hope that one day we will quit repeating history – at least the bad parts.

And, as I take each step, I remember back to a song by James Keelaghan that speaks so eloquently and compellingly to me. I met James many years ago when he volunteered to perform at a concert I was producing as a fund raiser to support an organization working with street engaged teens. His heart and compassion are big. So is his story-telling.

Ever since meeting James and hearing his music, I always play his My Skies CD as I travel down off the summit of the Coquahalla Pass towards Hope. On that CD is a song that reminds me always that when we target one group we are ripping apart our own hearts and shredding our own humanity.

Below is James Keelaghan performing Kiri’s Piano. The second video is his story about writing and performing that song – it’s well worth the listen.

And I come full circle to Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and its powerful question… “When will we ever learn?”

Exposed

Yesterday, I followed through on my commitment to work on Steps 9 and 10 of my 20 Attitudes and Actions to help you live the life of your dreams.

It worked.

Once I’d printed out the two lists, I had to laugh at myself.

The ‘I can’t list’ – pretty well all lives in my head. The blocks and hurdles imaginary things I tell myself which, through repetition or simply remaining unchallenged, have become limiting beliefs that do not serve me well. And definitely don’t do much towards helping me live the life of my dreams!

And isn’t that what we all want? To live a life where we feel inspired, passionate, engaged. A life that reflects our desires, whatever they are, for love, friendship, comfort, and yes, success.

I realized as I was working on my Can’t and Can lists that defining what ‘success’ looks like to me at this certain age of my life is different than what it looked like at 30, 40, 50. I haven’t spent as much time considering the question, “What does a ‘successful’ life look like to me now that I’m no longer ‘out there in the workforce’ but here, spending time writing, painting, creating. Am I creating ‘things’ or am I creating a life worth living?”

It was a great question to carry with me as I wandered the forest and trails of the park Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I walk in every morning.

I walked through the forest along the river and looked up into the naked branches of the trees, listened to the birds, a woodpecker hammering, chickadees calling and the wind. Always the wind.

I stopped and took photos. Noticed broken bark and branches. Touched crenellated trunks and scarred limbs.  And was reminded of how life is often a journey that leaves us scarred and scared but also beautifully weathered, worn and wise.

When I came home, I played Rod Stewart’s hit, Scarred and Scared. Stewart was one of my dad’s and my brother’s favourites way back when.  Before they left this world a year a half apart. Before we had to learn how to fill in the spaces of their missing with memories and stories of their lives interwoven with ours. In the past. Always in the past.

And then… the poem below wrote itself out as I meditated on life and the joy of my many circles. From art circle creatrixes to writing circle poetresses and family circles and friendship rings and everyone in between. We have all weathered life through days and months and years, words and poetry and actions and colours splashed against the tapestries of our lives coming into full bloom and then, softly, lovingly, gently beginning to fade.

I do not know about ‘the fading years’, as I heard the latter years of life called once. I love the visual imagery of it. The softness and gentleness.

But I don’t know if I want to fade or go out in a great big burst of colour!

And that’s the beauty of life. I don’t have to know. I simply have to live. Every moment. Every colour. Every word and action, every sight and sound the way I want to live them. Now. Fully. Completely. Wholly. In this moment.

Until there are no more moments, no more sights or sounds or even breaths to live.

Perhaps it was the melancholy of the trees, the quiet of the forest, the reading through a course I created several years ago and spent a good part of the day updating that pulled me into the lure of time. Its gathering. Its weaving. It’s meandering course through life. Its unravelling. It’s gathering. It’s weaving….

Whatever the impetus, I am grateful.

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NOTE: The course I created and updated is called, “Right Your Heart Out”. It is currently available for free download on my website – I would be incredibly appreciative if you took it for a test run and gave me what feedback you can — feedback is the only way to make it better!

To learn more about this 21 day/lesson course click here – Right Your Heart Out

To dive in without learning more, to just ‘go for it’ click HERE for immediate download.

And… working on updating this course was my diving into Step 12 of the 20 Attitudes and Actions.

Here’s the deal – a marker on my path is having someone download the course… Don’t you want to be a marker of my path forward? I get to surprise myself with a reward if you are! 🙂

The Song of Your Heart is Always Brave

Spread 6 – left hand page – Listen to Your Heart – The song of your heart is always brave.

Have you ever noticed how, when fear awakens, so do the voices in your head?

That’s my experience. As I get closer to doing something I’ve been avoiding or putting off, or doing something that’s new and/or different or requires me to step outside my comfort zone, or at least the lizard brain’s comfort zone, the cacophony of sound emanating from the dark recesses of my grey matter get louder and louder.

Intoxicated with the lizard brain’s negative feedback, I begin to tell myself it’s right. I shouldn’t… – Do whatever it is I’m attempting. Step outside my comfort zone. Talk to someone I think could really give me guidance on a project [as in, ask for help]. Submit my work to a magazine. Create that Art Journalling 101 course…

Working in my “Learning to Fly” art journal has been an awakening and an inspiration to keep on going, keep on digging in, keep on stepping out, reaching beyond my comfort zone, looking at all the things (lies) I tell myself I risk losing if I do… x, y, z.

it’s also been a great wake-up call.

As in, the only thinking that’s stinking around here is mine!

And I smile as I type that. I might sound like I’m being hard on myself – it’s actually a loving form of tough love – I’m being real and honest with my fears — as I wrote on Spread No. 6 of the journal – “Fear is the voice of doubt and confusion that would have you believe you don’t deserve to live your dreams.”

I also think I’m suffering from Covid-brain Weary Syndrome.

You know, the falling into lazy patterns of thinking without even realizing I’ve been doing it.

No one can deny, this has been a long year. And there is still more to come before we can step out of our front doors and into the world without fearing this invisible microbe’s attack. As the world has hunkered down, so too have I in some ways.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been very creative and given birth to lots of creative expressions. The challenge is, I’ve not done much with my body of work. I’ve just kind of floated from project to project like a sleep-walker drifting through the silence of the night.

To wake myself up I have to get out of my feelings and into my body, my whole body, where I know, beyond doubt deep, deep within my entire being, that I am more powerful than I could ever imagine, more creative than I could ever express and more fearless than I could ever envision.

We all are.

More than we imagine.

Think about it. Our imaginings take place in our minds. Our minds are constructs of our habitual thoughts.

If our thoughts are limiting, so too will be our expressions of ourselves.

Living under the thrall of Covid has limited all our lives in so many ways, it makes sense that some of our thoughts could evolve into more limiting than freeing.

Which is also why birds appear throughout my Learning to Fly journal.

I don’t know where they’re leading, I don’t know where this journal is going (it’s all part of the adventure) what I do know is… if I do nothing, nothing will happen other than what already is. I must follow the flight of the birds where ever they lead. They carry my dreams.

To pursue my vision of creating inspiring and compelling work that ignites the creativity and passion in others, I must pursue pathways to getting my work out there.

And so… the adventure continues.

Going back to my 20 Attitudes and Actions to live the life of my dreams, today I commit to working on No.s 9 and 10.

What about you? What do you commit to doing today to move you one step closer to a dream you want to transform into your reality?

I hope you share your thoughts. I’d love to be your accountability buddy!

_________________

No. 6 – Attitudes and Actions — “Don’t let fear muddle-up your thinking. Even when you think you can’t, tell yourself you can. – Listen to your heart.”

Learning to Fly – Attitudes and Actions

Yesterday, I promised to share my 20 Attitudes and Actions to help you make your dreams come true.

What I’m discovering as I keep working in my Learning to Fly art journal is that the Attitudes and Actions are fluid things — there’s no given order to doing them, though some are best to do early in the game — like No.s 19 & 20.

I’ve already planted my seed — parsley. It’s in a pot in which I’ve been nursing a bunch of Basil throughout the winter. I love the symbolism of nursing a difficult to grow (in this clime) indoors plant, like Basil, which I’ve kept alive now since last summer with the new growth intermingled.

Doing my “Acceptance Speech” is something I learned from my eldest daughter when she was a little girl and continually practiced her Academy Award’s speech. Gratitude was at the top of her list when accepting her award.

An attitude of gratitude is vital. Along with courage it underpins everything. Employ it often. Feed it love and appreciation. Live it daily.

_______________________

I worked on the next spread in my journal yesterday — after my vaccination! I was soooo excited about getting my vaccination I got there two hours early (I had written the time down wrong when I’d phoned to make our appointments.) Fortunately, they didn’t insist I go home and come back — and C.C. could use my appointment which was earlier than his! So much gratitude! For the pharmacists and everyone at the pharmacy organizing and administering the vaccines. The researchers and scientists developing the vaccines. The manufacturers and government ensuring we have access to such life-giving/life-saving elements. The people all around me who are following the guidelines and taking good care of themselves and all of us with every action they take to curb the spread.

My worktable

When I got home, I went into the study to tidy it up — it can get real messy when I’m immersed in a project – and instead of tidying up, I fell into the muse’s embrace and created.

“Even birds must step out on a limb to test their wings. Go out on a limb and test your dreams.”

Learning to fly

Learning to Fly

I love heights. I know. I know. There are many who don’t. But I do.

I love to stand high above looking out and over the world. Buildings. Mountains. Even on the bridge looking into the river below. The higher. The better.

And here’s the deal. My challenge is, when I am standing on high, I truly believe I can fly. That I can just open my arms wide, release myself to gravity’s thrall and leap.

It’s not that I believe I have wings waiting to unfurl, it’s more a feeling that somehow, through alchemy and magic, my body will be transformed into a beautiful, light as air, ‘thing’ of majestic, airborne wonder.

I didn’t say it made sense. I only said I believe it’s true.

I have not tested my premise. Ever.

Though I have been tempted.

When I used to climb mountains it was always my challenge – to stay grounded at the edge of the peak and not let go and leap. Though there was one time on a descent that began with a 2ft wide ridge walk with a 3,000 ft drop straight down on one side and about a 1,000-foot drop on the other. That day, about halfway to the point where we would be rappelling down the mountainside, I wished there was a helicopter that would come and pick me up so I wouldn’t have to leap a one-foot gap in the rock and land four feet below.

Fear made me forget I could fly or even jump as if it was a gap in the sidewalk. I had to let go of my fear

Which is the impetus for the art journal I’m creating, Learning to Fly.

In life, flying is not about heights or wings. It’s about overcoming fears that keep us tethered to our comfort zones, to dreamless-sleep-walking through our days and spiritless wanderings through time, feeding ourselves on inertia.

I have some big dreams. Had them for awhile. And still, I hesitate. I act on them. One tentative step at a time. And then, I hesitate. Holding back. Jerking forward.

No one is holding me back. Except me.

So…. I decided to focus on the things I can do, need to do, must do to unfurl my dreams.

The “Learning to Fly” art journal is my Declaration of Independence. My Magna Carta. My Holy Grail of Getting Sh*t Done.

So…. here we go….

_______________________

About the Journal:

Using various papers from watercolour to mixed media to newsprint and scraps from junk mail, I gessoed and painted backgrounds to create a 40-page journal with cover. I then bound it all together into a book. (Below is a 19 second flip through of the painted and bound journal before I painted the cover and the first 4 spreads)

As well, I’ve created a list of 20 ‘actions and attitudes’ on the theme of “Learning to Fly”. For each one, I’m writing a one-line quote and using that action or attitude as the inspiration for the spread.

Over the past few days, I painted the cover (birds in a tree in gold), the title page and worked on the first 4 spreads:

  1. Take the longview. Even a bird needs time to grow into its wings.
  2. It’s a long and winding road. Every step makes a difference. Keep going.
  3. Wherever you grow, let your heart grow wild and free.
  4. Wherever you go, go with all your heart.

Colour me excited, but I feel the energy flowing, I feel my heart pounding as I work on this journal.

And, as I step through each of the 20 Action and Attitude steps I’ve created, I feel myself expanding my wings.

I won’t be jumping off mountain tops but I will be diving into making dreams come true and soaring on the wings of creative expression!

I hope you join me on the journey — I’ll be sharing my 20 Actions and Attitudes tomororw.

Today… I’ve got a dream come true to fulfill. C.C. and I are getting our first vaccinations. I’m trying not to make it a ‘big deal’.

But… it is! 🙂

Beau’s Rules for Being…

Rule no. 1 — do not put your dawg in a hooman hat!

Beaumont has asked to interrupt our normal Sunday conversation so he can share his rules for being a better hooman.

Says Beau… Dawgs know how to have fun! We are 100% immersed in the joy of play while you hoomans are 100% immersed in getting it right. Life isn’t about getting it right. It’s about doing the right things at the right time and not sweating the stuff in between.

So here’s the deal folks. You can learn a lot from us four-legged’s.

He sure hopes you join him on his blog, Sundays with Beaumont today — you know what to do… just click the link HERE.

Oh. and btw… here’s a song he was singing this morning… just because…!

Counting Stars (a story)

Counting Stars      
A whimsical tale by Louise Gallagher 

Once upon a time there was a little boy who dreamt of one day flying amongst the stars.

Every night he would climb out his bedroom window and crawl up onto the roof of the house he shared with his mother and father in a small town where it was said, “coal mining was the destiny written on the stars of all how lived there”.

While the world slept below him, the little boy would lie on his back and gaze up into the nighttime sky, counting all the stars and memorizing their positions. His dreams were filled with thoughts of leaving the coal dust behind and one day flying to the moon, of soaring amongst the celestial beauty above.

One night, his mother came to his room and found him missing from his bed. Not knowing he was on the roof, she became frantic. She screamed and called out for her husband. They looked all over the house and in the yard and couldn’t find their son.

They called the police. They called their neighbours. A search party was organized.

Meanwhile, the little boy lay on the roof, lost in wonder, gazing at the stars above. He didn’t hear their frantic calls. Didn’t know that they were searching for him. He knew only that he was safe amongst the wonder of the nighttime sky dreaming of one day building a spaceship and flying beyond his wildest imaginings of life here on earth into the vastness of the universe.

As he always did after an hour of counting stars, the little boy climbed quietly back down from the roof into his bedroom. But this night, he found his mother sitting on his bed, clutching his teddy bear.

Tears streamed down her face. Her body shook with sobs.

The little boy saw his mother and did not understand why she was crying. He ran to her, touched her arm and asked, “Mummy, what’s wrong?”

The mother, stunned to hear her son’s voice, opened her eyes and saw him standing before her. Relief washed over her. He was safe. She grabbed him and clung to him tightly. As she held him in her arms, she called out to her husband who was downstairs talking to the police. “He’s here. He’s here!” she cried out.

Everyone raced up the stairs. The little boy heard the pounding of their footsteps, felt the tremor of the floor as they entered the room.

His father burst through the door first, strode over to him and angrily demanded, “Where were you? Don’t you know you frightened your mother to death?”

The little boy was confused. Who were all these people? Why were the police there? Why were they all standing in front of him, arms crossed against their chests?

In a tiny voice he replied, “I was on the roof.” He hesitated and then whispered tentatively. “Counting stars.”

His father was angry. “You’re a bad boy,” he yelled. “How dare you cause such terror in our hearts. You will never go on the roof again.”

The little boy stood his ground. “I’m going to be an astronaut. I’m going to fly amongst the stars.”

The father shouted back. “Quit your foolish dreaming. You can’t eat stardust. You will be a coal miner, just like me. Just like my father before me.”

And so, a dream was lost. The father put bars on the boy’s window. The boy put his dream of one day being an astronaut away.

Years passed. The little boy became a man. He worked in the coalmine. Just like his father. He had a wife. A little cottage and a family of his own. A son and a daughter.

Like his father, he was stern. Distant. Uncompromising. Like his father, he loved his wife and children but never told them. When asked if he had dreams, he would reply, “Dreaming doesn’t put food on the table. Dreams are as impossible as flying amongst the stars. You can’t eat stardust.”

They were happy, in a strict kind of way. There was food on the table, clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads. No one spoke of love. No one spoke of the stars above or their dreams. No one dared dream. Dreams, like stardust, don’t feed hungry bellies.

One night, the father walked past his son’s room on his way to bed. Out of the corner of his eye, through the open door, he saw the tiny figure of his son about to step out the bedroom window. Fearful that his son might be hurt, he raced across the room and grabbed his son just as he was about to slip over the sill and onto the roof.

“What are you doing?” he bellowed as he pulled his son back into the safety of the room.

The little boy, not used to being held in his father’s arms, burrowed into his chest, snuggled his head against his shoulder and whispered, “Counting stars.”

The father stood still. He felt his son’s heart beating against his chest. Felt the softness of his arms around his neck. With his son in his arms, he looked out the bedroom window to the darkness of night. Stars glittered in the sky above. The world slept below.

“Counting stars.” he whispered. And then he repeated it. “Counting stars.”

The little boy nodded his head. “I do it every night,” he said proudly. “One day I’m going to be an astronaut. I’m going to build a spaceship and fly to the moon!”

“No you’re not,” the father began and stopped. As he reached out to close the window, he caught a glimpse of himself holding his son in the reflection of the glass. His eyes misted up at the sight of the tiny figure held in his massive arms.

As his father held him close to the open window, the boy squirmed in his arms and leaned his body out the window and pointed up towards the star-studded sky. “Look dad!” he exclaimed. “A comet.”

The father looked up into the stars above as a streak of light soared across the ink black sky. He closed his eyes and took a breath. When he opened them, he looked down into his son’s eyes and saw the starry wonder of his dream reflected back at him.

His heart softened. He smiled. And pushed the window open. “I don’t want you to get hurt son. It’s okay to go on the roof at night as long as you promise to take me with you.”

The boy’s blue eyes opened wide. “Really?” he asked in a tiny whisper. “You’ll go with me?”

Holding his son safely in his arms, the father stepped through the window onto the roof.

“When I was a little boy, I used to climb out my bedroom window so I could count stars,” he said. He looked up into the night sky. “I forgot how many stars there are,” he whispered clutching his son tightly in his arms. “Can you tell me how many you’ve counted?”

The boy pointed up and started to count. “Two thousand and twenty-three. Two thousand and twenty-four. Two….” and his father’s voice joined in. “thousand and twenty-five…”

Together, father and son lay on their backs on the roof gazing up at the blanket of night spread out above them.

And the stars shone brighter than they had ever shone before.

_______________________________

Mark, of Musings and Other Writings, and a frequent commenter here on my blog (not to mention the person who inspired me to start blogging way back in March 2007) is celebrating the first day of his 19th year of continuous, daily blogging today.

In responding to his post this morning, I went back to my first blog, Recover Your Joy, to see what day in 2007 I’d actually begun. (It was March 10, which means I’m in my 14th year of being ‘a blogger’). As I was scrolling through the 1,677 posts, I came across a story I wrote around this time in 2009 (March 23rd to be exact).

Last night, just before bed, C.C. and I stood outside staring up at the night sky. It was strewn with stars hanging around a crescent moon. And then, this morning, as I was scrolling through the 1,677 posts, I came across a story I wrote around this time in 2009 (March 23rd to be exact) about a little boy who counted stars who became a man who had forgotten how, until his little son taught him.

It seemed like a sign… so I’m sharing it here today.

Have a beautiful, grace-filled weekend, and I hope you take time to count stars. I know I will.

Defying the Night

Many years ago, after the man who had promised to love me ’til death do us part was arrested while trying to make the death part my reality, I came back to Calgary for a visit. It was my eldest daughter’s 18th birthday and I wanted to be here, no matter that he was out on parole. I needed to be here for her big day.

That particular evening, I had dropped my daughter and her friends off at a bar to celebrate and driven back to my girlfriend’s where I was staying. I parked on the far side of the townhouse complex where she lives and took a not-well-lit shortcut between two houses.

I remember my thoughts were full of the joy and happiness of being with my daughters and friends earlier. I wasn’t thinking about ‘him’ or the dark spaces through which I walked.

And then, one of ‘a woman’s worst fears’ materialized out of the darkness. A dark figure separated itself from the deep shadows of the bushes lining the path and called out to me.

My response was immediate. Visceral. I did not stop. I did not listen. I screamed and ran.

Fortunately for me at the time, my girlfriend seldom locked her front door. (she does now)

I threw the door open, slammed it shut behind me. Locked it, crouched down on the floor and began to sob.

My girlfriend came running. I screamed between sobbing breaths, “He’s out there!”

She knew immediately who the ‘he’ was. She dialed 911. Police came. Hawcs helpicopter. Dogs.

And all the while, my girlfriend held me as I sobbed, just as she’d done so many times throughout that 4 year 9 month relationship.

We’d hidden together in her powder room once while he pounded on the front door and then the deck door looking for me. She’d listened to my endless fears and worries, tried to coax me out of my inaction. Tried to encourage me to leave him. I kept going back after every beak-up until I came to believe he was all I deserved. His abuse was all I was worth.

And then, he was arrested and went to prison and I got the miracle of getting my life back.

I had no intention of letting it go. This time, when he jumped out of the bushes, I screamed and ran.

And still, all these years later, stories of women being abducted, of being murdered by strangers or those known to them, awaken those memories leaving me with no recourse but to write myself out, back into balance, back into the light.

To use my words to let others know, “You are not alone. You are not crazy. Abuse hurts. Abuse tears apart your peace of mind, your sense of self, your belief in your worthiness, your capacity to stop it.”

You cannot change an abuser. You are not that powerful. You can stop abuse in your life. You are that powerful. To stop it, you must run in the opposite direction and never look back.

________________________

All these years later, when I step out for my nightly walk with Beaumont, I still feel tiny fissures of anxiety, particularly when stories like Sarah Everard’s are in the news. Those tiny sparks of fear whisper (at least they no longer howl) at me to go back. Go back. Stay safe inside.

I will not let fear dictate my life.

I will not be held ransom to the past.

And so, I walk. In the dark. I used to walk up the hill along the tree-lined edge of our property and the ones beyond, until one night I happened upon a man sleeping in the bushes.

It wasn’t his fault he startled me. He was just looking for a place to rest, out of sight. But when Beaumont the Sheepdoodle caught whiff of a stranger in the dark, he barked and pulled at his leash and the man woke up.

This time, I didn’t have to run. He stood up, gathered his backpack and took off. Fast.

I started walking in the other direction after that. Out our driveway, down the hill towards the avenue where Beaumont and I walk along the well-lit road. When we come to the pedestrian bridge I hesitate. There are huge planters on the bridge. Great places to hide between the pools of light cast by the streetlamps along the walkway.

I hesitate and then I take a breath and keep on going. I will defy the darkness. I will defy my fears and maybe, one day, I’ll be able to walk that path without its company.

Until then, I persist and keep walking with Beaumont by my side. He looks like a big fluffy marshmallow, but he’s got a wild bark.

I like that. It makes me feel safe.

Full disclosure: I have not been as keen to walk at night lately. Without my realizing it, fear had overridden my desire to defy the dark.

In writing it out, I see what fear has done.

Beaumont and I will be walking after dark, tonight.

Namaste

Our Silence Matters

Years ago, when a man I’d been involved with, stalked me and my then-teenage daughters feared what might happen if he ever caught me walking alone at night, we took a self-protection course together.

“You can’t control what others will do but you can ‘safety harden’ yourself and your perimeter so that you have some control of what you do if the worst happens,” the former police sergeant teaching the course told us.

Safety hardening our perimeter included cutting down bushes around the house where someone might hide. Putting motion detector lights all around the house. Installing an alarm system and meeting with the watch command at our community police station so they would know if one of us called, they needed to respond. Right now.

One day I mentioned to the instructor how ridiculous I felt when I left the house, got into my car and immediately locked the doors. It feels so weak, I told him. Like I’m living in fear.

He told me it was just good practice. You live in the inner city of a large city. There are bad people all around. You need to protect yourself.

At the time, I didn’t question his advice. It was true. The man stalking me had already once jumped out of the bushes and tried to stop me as I took a shortcut to a girlfriend’s house.

I knew he was right. But still, the idea that I had to do the work to stop him from attacking me, grated.

It’s like when we ask/wonder, when a woman is murdered by a partner who had a history of violence, “Why didn’t she leave?”

Given that a reported 19,000 women and children are turned away from shelters every night in Candaa, shouldn’t we be asking, “Where will she go?”

And, “Why does he think it’s his right to beat her?” “Why does he believe he has the right to take her life?” “Why does he think violence against women is acceptable?” “Why do we blame the victim?”

On Tuesday, 8 women were tragically murdered by one man in Atlanta. He has a sex addiction he told police. He thought killing those women would help him.

And while this tragedy also puts a spotlight on anti Asian-racism, it is also a story not told about violence against sex-workers. Sex workers experience violence in the workplace at significantly higher levels than others. One review of systemic violence against sex workers states that often police don’t register these offences because of the circumstances under which the violence occurred and the workers don’t report them because of historical abuse by police. This means, on a global basis, there is little research on the issue, and thus, few demands that something be done to protect sex workers.

On March 3rd of this year, in London, England, a 33-year old woman disappeared while walking home. Her remains were recently discovered in woods 50 kilometres from where she had been walking. A police officer is arrested and charged with murder. A spotlight shines on stranger violence against women. Demonstrations follow. More arrests. Calls for investigations of police use of force. Sarah Everard has become the spark that ignited a public outcry against stranger violence against women. She was young. blond and white.

Hers is a story about violence against women that has rallied the voices of millions of women to stand up and demand “We take back the night”. It is also a story about the untold stories of millions of women worldwide whose stories never inspired a mass outpouring of demands the violence stop. Their stories did not make headlines. They did not fit into the paradigm of what we see as unacceptable violence against women because, most often, their skin was not white or they were engaged in high-risk activities that put them in the line of being targeted by male perpetrators of violence. Like the sex-trade.

Few (I would hope all) would disagree. Gender violence is unacceptable.

Our silence is also unacceptable.

Violence against women and non-binary individuals, no matter race or occupation or the relationship between perpetrator and victim is more than just a story of violence. It is a story about our mores and values. Our humanity.

Focussing on just high-profile cases diminishes the lives of those who historically have never had a voice nor the opportunity, and often right, to defend themselves. To stand up for themselves. To have their stories known.

We are contributing to the belief, some lives matter more than others.

Black lives matter.

Asian lives matter.

Indigenous lives matter.

Every life cut short by violence matters.

Let’s start hearing all the stories that matter so that together, we can create a world where no one fears dying beneath violent hands.

Because, I still wonder, years later, when I asked for police support at my local police station when I feared the man who was stalking me, were they so attentive because there was an inherent yet silent bias at play that none of us saw? Because I presented as an attractive woman with white skin, an impressive title on my business card and no history of interactions with the law, were they predisposed to believe me and come to my aid the night I did call? Because they did come that night. Fast. I wonder how it might have been different if I looked different?

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These are the moments – #ShePersisted – No 77

There are moments when the mundane feels so heavy, the woes so full of dark clouds gathering and the worries so close in, that I forget I have room to breathe. To move. To do. To be. To change.

In those close-in to the darkness moments, it’s easy to forget that I am part of something bigger than just these woes and worries illuminating my flaws with their 1,000 watt klieg-worthy glaring light. Or their words spewing out from TV newscasters mouths or plumping up Twitter threads full of bile or just cluttering up my day with their insistence I pay attention to all that is wrong with me and the world today. 

In those moments of forgetting all the room around me for other things to take up the space of woe and worry, I will tell myself, there’s nothing I can do. I am too flawed. Too tired. Too lost to change anything.

It is in those moments I must remind myself that I can breathe. Not just your everyday, ordinary take a gulp of air and keep on going kind of breath, but a deep, sinking into my toes, filling me from the bottoms up kind of breath that soothes and replenishes, nurtures and reminds me to Stop-Breathe-Listen-See-Feel-Be-Here-Now-I am the Breath of Life – kind of breath.

In that breath where I find myself breathing in the exquisite beauty of all there is Here-Now -in that breath empty of the flotsam of life swimming around in a sea of news and forgettable TV shows I watch only because I’ve forgotten I’m part of something so much bigger, so much greater, so much more mysterious, magical and mystical than this everyday life I tell myself is my burden I gotta keep trudging through, on and on and on, I am reminded – life is a gift. A beautiful, exquisite, priceless gift. Mysterious, magical, mystical, 4th of July fireworks exploding, rollercoaster-fast heart-pounding fierce, breathless kind of gift wrapped up in the miracle of life.

In that breath I am reminded, I Am Alive.

What a beautiful gift. To be alive. To be. Here. Now.

These are the moments to savour.

These are the moments to remember. To grab onto and never let go. To remind myself, I have power over me. I have power in me. I have power. To change. To get accountable. To not be ‘my flaws’ but to see my flaws as part of my beautiful, exquisite human magnificence.

And in those moments I get to choose.

To make excuses for how I am or celebrate who I am, right now, in all my human contradictions, complexities, curves and straight lines adding up to one amazing being who has the power to stand up, speak up, and take action to create change that matters. Change that could just save my own life from being my excuse for not living it truly, madly, deeply in love with all I am and all I do and all I have in this moment, right now.

These are the moments to live. Always.

And to remember to Breathe.

Breathe it all in

and Begin Again.

Breath by life-giving breath to stop making excuses for myself and start living fully accountable for this life that is so precious, so divinely orchestrated, so…. mine.