Alive in Love By Louise Gallagher These are the faces of love flowing between hearts beating wild the song that never ends in the key of life running full with the joy of being alive in this moment where small hands touch my tender heart breaking open. These are the glorious moments that fill my world overflowing with the exquisite nature of one tiny raindrop plump with an entire world of beauty reflected in its perfect orb suspended in life’s unfathomable mysteries holding me tenderly in this moment where the only place to be is alive in Love.
Over at Gratitude Mojo today, doyen, Joyce Whycoff, shares a series of questions to promote introspection and writing.
I almost felt my mind getting lost in the pure glee of skipping amidst the questions, flinging its metaphoric arms wide-open to the possibilities each question represents.
Some of the questions are posed by authors such as John O’Donoghue, Byron Katie, James Cleer, others by Joyce herself.
All of them spark the light of wonder and awe of our human condition.
My skipping mind wants to answer every question right now.
And then, I remember Rilke’s advice to ‘live the questions.’
So, to safeguard myself from diving headfirst into mayhem, I have decided to pose one question a day from Joyce’s list for me to explore – either here on my blog, or in my journal. To ‘live the question’ within by writing my heart out.
The question I’ve chosen today, which I will explore in my journal more completely, is from Gabrielle Roth. Her question immediately jumped out at me as I have held onto her book, “Dance of Ecstasy” for many, many years. Gabrielle Roth’s ‘5Rhythms‘ movement/meditation practice was part of my practice for many, many years. In the 90s I took a facilitators course and lead workshops, attended a weekly session with others and lost myself in ‘the dance of life’ finding me where ever I was on the floor, in the room, within and without. Occasionally, I still engage with it.
And that’s where my exploration of her question begins with the first sentence in her quote from Joyce’s list.
When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?” — Gabrielle Roth
As I am off early tomorrow morning to spend blissful time with my daughter and her family (and a whole lot of dancing with my grandchildren!), I shall mostly be writing in my journal.
But, my intent is to live that question deeply. To explore what stands in front of me, and behind me, holding me back from dancing with the thrum of heart calling me to let go and just BE. Wild. Free. Untethered. Unfettered. WILD at HEART. ME.
I do hope you go explore Joyce’s question list. Perhaps I’ll see you on the page sharing your thoughts too! That would be so sublime.
When I worked in an adult homeless shelter I heard many people’s stories. It was almost a ritual for staff. Whenever someone was talking about ‘their story’ of how they ended up at the shelter, the staff member would bring the client to my office door and ask, “Do you have a few minutes to listen to this woman/man’s story?”
I always had time for their stories.
They were, in many cases, all they had left of their past. All they carried with them. All they had to hold onto to remind them of who they were before…
…Before their husband took off leaving them with 3 small children, no money, no job, no prospects. For a while, they managed to keep it together. Eventually, the burden, the constant struggle to make a few dollars stretch to cover all the days of the month would take their toll. One drink became another and another until, the children were taken away and they were left, alone. Broken. Searching for release from the pain and turmoil that had become their life.
…Before the car accident that stole their wife and child leaving them unable to comprehend the sheer horror of what happened.
…Before the divorce. The fall from a roof. The fight. The breakdown. The big mistake…
People arrived at the shelter with their stories tightly gripped in memory banks and hands. Stories of how… life used to be.
…We were happy. I loved her. I always wanted to go to college. I had a career. I only wanted to be a good dad. I built things. I was well-respected. I made people laugh. I liked to sing. I painted. I wrote. I took care of people…
They would share their stories and I would listen deeply.
To the pain. The sadness. Sorrow. Regret. Confusion. Disbelief. Anger…
They would share their stories and I would hear the yearning for ‘the way things used to be’.
And when they were done, I’d tell them how sorry I was for what happened. How they must feel lost and alone. So sad.
Yet, no matter how they felt, one fact remained the same. None of us are powerful enough to change the past.
We can only look to today to find the path to tomorrow.
Sometimes I’d ask, “Are you able to let go?”
And they would inevitably reply. ‘Of course,’
Don’t we all believe that? Don’t we all believe we can change, leave the one we love who’s hurting us. give up smoking. find a job. go back to school. get sober. lose weight. change directions.
If only it were so easy.
We all have stories we tell on ourselves.
And when those stories are the only thing we have to hold onto, letting them go can feel like we are losing ourselves. It can feel so scary and overwhelmingly huge we hold onto them as if our lives depend upon their presence to keep us grounded on this earth.
We all have stories we tell on ourselves that hold us down.
Stories that begin with, I can’t. I don’t know how. I’ve never. It’s too late…
Are you willing to let go?
Transitions can be frightening and necessary. We can’t see the road ahead. We don’t know what will happen. We feel unsafe in unknown territory.
And…we worry that to step forward into the unknown means leaving the past behind. Including the anger, the loss, and the pain that fuels us.
Somewhere, in a book I have long forgotten the name of, I read that we must look to nature for inspiration. The author wrote of how the beauty of fall is followed by the death of every leaf. The leaf lets go because it knows it’s time to move on. It is not striving for something else. It is not angry with the tree for letting it down. It isn’t about being perfect, it’s about the willingness to acknowledge its journey was perfect.
For humans, that perfect journey includes acknowledging our human imperfections, making amends where our imperfect behaviours have caused harm (where possible) and forgiving others so that we can transform our hearts and lives throughout our journey as change is as inevitable as the sun’s rising every morning.
To let go of what was and to allow what is unfurling to unfurl, we must forgive what was, what was, what wasn’t, and what did hurt us, and caused us angst, or pain.
And in that forgiveness is the gift of more. More peace. More gratitude. More possibility. More grace.
It isn’t that forgiveness negates justice or the need for justice. It is that forgiveness sets the forgiver free — and possibly the forgiven too. It is that forgiveness opens our hearts to possibility. Renewal. Hope. Peace. Love and Joy.
Forgiveness makes me whole. Because no matter what justice I deem necessary, or the law determines right, there is and always will be room for Divine mercy.
Mercy is the right of the God, the Divine, the Universe, the unknown and forgiveness is the deepest mystery of all.
A mystery is not something that cannot be solved or to be frightened of. Mystery is something I do not understand enough. And in the quest to understand the mystery of forgiveness, I am strengthened in my quest for inner freedom through learning what it means to forgive.
Those words in a book I cannot remember, continue to resonate as I explore what it means to be human on this journey of my lifetime.
A human being who makes mistakes and is never a mistake.
Every morning I wake up and choose to write here, or not.
My story. My choice.
Every day, there are things I have to do over which there is very little choice or none at all. Like breathing. Bodily functions. Eating. Sure, I get to choose where and when and what I eat, but eat I must to stay alive.
Every day, my choices impact my quality of life, and if the science is correct, its duration too.
Which brings me to my thoughts about today – What choices will I make today that create the story I really want to tell about myself and to myself?
What kind of story do I want my life today to be?
A story of joy? A tale of woe?
Boldness untethered? Timidity quivering?
Living large? Playing small?
Signing out loud or silencing my voice?
What if, instead of just operating as if on auto-drive, you chose to get hyper-conscious of being here, right now, present and alive in this moment, writing your story as if it’s the greatest story you will ever have to tell about your life today?
Maria Loohufvud and Love Martinsen’s. Calendar Girls, a documentary about an over 55-year-old dance troupe whose use of glitter, feathers, bling, and heavy eye makeup would make RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants look under-dressed, recite while dancing as rainbow unicorns, “We use magic from our hearts to make the world a better place,”
At first glance, there is a natural response (driven by societally driven unconscious biases on how ‘older women’ should look and behave) to mock or at least look askance at these older women strutting their stuff rife with flabby arms and wrinkles.
What are they doing? Trying to look young? Trying to recapture lost youth? Make fools of themselves? Why don’t they cover-up?
By the end of the hour-long documentary what’s clear is that none of the above is the case.
These women are teaching all of us how to live life on our own terms. How to be BRAVE. BOLD. And above all BE TRUE TO OURSELVES.
The documentary is currently ‘doing the circuit’ of festivals and competitions. It won a prestigious spot at the Sundance Film Festival and continues to inspire, provoke and confuse audiences across North America.
Last night’s screening by THIRD ACTion Film Festival is done. I hope you can find it somewhere else so that you too can be enchanted by these women who not only use the magic of their hearts to create a better world but whose friendship and sisterhood remind all of us that none of us have to take this journey of life alone. None of us can.
We are all going in the same direction. Why not glitter it up, throw on some bling and heavy eye makeup and dance your way into the dying light rather than, as Dylan Thomas once counseled, rage against it.
And, if you want to continue to shake-up unconscious biases about aging and get those sillies out, February’s My Sailor – My Love promises to be a moving, inspiring and provocative film about family, aging and Love. Perfect for Valentine’s Day (which is when it’s screening)
In file folders on my laptop, I have a number of projects I’ve started, and never finished.
In my studio, on shelves and in drawers, tucked into drawing pads and sketchbooks, I have a number of projects I’ve started, and never finished.
Pithy words about ‘starting’ abound. We talk about one door closing and another opening, about the journey of a thousand steps beginning with one. About how to begin anything you must take the first step.
And all of that is true. Taking that first step is important. The next step and the next are also important because, the fact remains, without follow-through, you will never cross the finish line.
When I stop to survey my started/not finished accumulations against my completed projects, I find there exists a delicate tension between the two.
I could look at the ‘started/not finished as an example of my failures, my lack of discipline, commitment, staying power.
I could see them as stepping stones that taught me invaluable lessons along the way.
Sure, I sentenced some of them to the pile of forgotten flotsam that crowds cupboards and drawers, but, each of them helped improve my techniques, my abilities, my capacity to create, AND my understanding of myself.
Each piece of forgotten flotsam adds value to the whole. And the whole picture, actually the whole truth, is… the projects I have completed are the ones where my follow-through was motivated by my passion to cross the finish line.
But, here’s the thing.
The reason I don’t cross the finish line on some projects isn’t that I don’t have the discipline or willpower to not ‘give upl.
The reasons I don’t cross the finish line on some projects are more a complex psychological dance with internal messaging about my self-worth than a ‘this art isn’t good’ kind of decision-making process.
Finishing a project is exciting. Fun. Self-rewarding and satisfying.
Not finishing is an opportunity to grow my self-awareness, to strengthen my commitment to me and my journey, and to learn and grow through every step of that journey.
And, isn’t that what life is all about? Learning from this journey that grows in value with every step we take.
OK. So maybe ‘amazing’ isn’t the right word, but it truly does fascinate me how lack of doing something, in this case building a video, can make building a video more difficult when I come back todoing it!
Take the video I’ve created for my She Dares Boldly 2023 Calendar. It took me DAYS! And over the course of those days (which were more precisely my weekend and evenings as my days were busy) I made countless mistakes, rebuilds, retakes, re everythings to complete the video. And, because I don’t have the finished product yet, I had to compile the pages manually – which took a bit of figuring out too!
Yet, here’s the thing. I learned lots. Enjoyed the process (even though it was chocker-block full of missteps) and have the joy of experiencing a great sense of achievement now that I’ve got it done.
There is another aspect to this calendar that is new to me! For the past 4 iterations, I’ve sold them via my Etsy store or e-transfer.
I’m still planning on doing that this year but, I wanted to let people use their paypal accounts too. Getting that properly set up on my blog took a lot of effort, and a lengthy chat with a WordPress expert – they were very patient.
In the end, it’s on my site. Etsy’s the next shop stop.
That’s all to say — the She Dares Boldly 2023 Calendar is available. Thank you to those who kept messaging me to ask if I was creating one. You inspired me. And, in the process I had the gift of learning, growing, accepting and becoming. What a lovely gift.
What do you want more of in your life? It’s a question often asked in personal development courses.
What do you want? More of? Less of? None of? Lots of?
What you focus on makes a difference.
When I focus on the things that bring me joy, happiness, integrity, beauty, love, I move closer to the things I want.
If I focus on ‘the lack’, the things that don’t work, that upset me and pull me down, the less becomes my focus, drawing me away from all ‘the more’ I want to live a rich and fulfilled life.
What do you want more of in your life?
I get stuck sometimes in that space between, “I want to… and I can’t be bothered to…”
It’s as if the cosmos are misaligned and I wander in the netherland between planets orbiting in balanced harmony and bouncing around the skies in seemingly discordant chaos.
So many ideas swirling in my head. So many thoughts jumbling around in my brain I forget to Stop. Breathe deep. Sink into my pelvic bowl to feel the wonder and harmony of being embodied in the present moment.
My eldest daughter suggests my flittering-like butterfly thoughts are a symptom of ADHD.
Phillip Shepherd of The Embodied Present Process suggests it’s our western cultural bias to being headstrong versus whole-body connected within nature.
I think it’s a life-long habit of immersing myself in a project and then, coming up to breathe and allowing myself to simply be carried along by life’s undulating waves until I realized I’m untethered from gravity’s calming grace and remember to Stop. Breathe Deep. Sink.
Unfortunately, sometimes my brain-wanderings are more about diversion than anything else. In those times, I allow my brain, okay if I’m being totally honest and vulnerable here, my critter-mind, to have control. Abdicating all personal responsibility for how I spend my leisure/creative time, I flit between reading a book to concocting something in the kitchen or dousing myself in trash Netflix watching just to while away the time.
There is a Latin phrase, “Plenus venter non studet libenter” which, translated, means, A full belly does not study.
I think the same is true for a contented life, as in, A contented life does not want. Which by the way, translated into Latin reads, “Contentus vita non vis”. (Thank you Dr. Google)
I know! It carries so much more veritas et gravitas in Latin!
Regardless of which language I say it in, for me, contentment can be the enemy of creativity.
Now, that is something I wasn’t actually aware of until this morning when I started writing about this creatively slumped state in which I find myself picking at different project ideas and not settling on one.
Time to Stop. Breathe deep. Sink.
Time to listen deeply to my deep inner knowing, allowing the words written in the Bhagvad Gita, “Curving back within myself, I create again and again,” to stir my belly-conscious awareness of my creative essence’s drive to be present within nature’s constant presence.
Time to release my creative urgings, without placing limits, expectations or conditions on my expressions.
And oh gosh! It’s time to turn off Netflix and Prime and Acorn and tune into myself and allow the muse to draw me deep within.
And so, I Stop. Breathe Deep. Sink – Curve back and begin again.