This is Life! Don’t ya’ Love it!

True confessions. I have a compulsive streak.

It is both my ally and my enemy.

Getting the job done? That’s me. Getting the job so it’s good enough… Well… let’s just say ‘the good enough’ is always a challenge. Somewhere in me is a voice that insists… it’s not good enough… yet.

It’s a mind game.

Keep going ’cause better is out there somewhere. Or, choose to accept good enough is exactly that. Good enough. ‘Cause seriously… how much time are you willing to devote to this thing that should have been done yesterday?

And, I gotta admit, … there are times when that green-eyed monster named ‘Mis-Envy’ rolls in and leaves me breathlessly chasing the goal of being what I think is ‘normal’ (based on some ridiculous child-derivative notion that normal exists) so that I can accept ‘good enough’ as good enough.

Now, in some things, living by the adage, “If better is possible is good, good enough?” is both laudable and important.

But, when the pursuit of ‘a possible better’ consumes your peace of mind and sense of well-being, perhaps a re-thinking/attitude adjustment is in order.

Like me and the non-fiction piece I’m writing editing… editing.. .editing.

It’s just not ‘good enough’. Yet.

What if…

And then, my love of ‘what ifs’ becomes the gateway to total consumption of my life balance, homeostasis, and whatever beauty is embodied within this moment right now.

Ya. That kind of ‘better is possible’ thinking.

But… I am almost done. I say almost because I’ve reordered the story. Stripped out characters, streamlined events to make the story more impactful and meaningful within the competition’s 2,000-word limit.

And now, I’m fine-tuning each scene to… ya, you guessed it… make it perfect. Sigh, I can be soooo human sometimes! she says with a smile at her own fascinating response to whatever she’s doing that bemuses her and makes her laugh.

I’m almost there.

And here’s the thing…

Writing this piece has reawakened my love of writing. Not just daily blog writing, from which I’ve been woefully absent over the past month as I crafted and recrafted my article.

No, I mean the ‘here’s the story, let me draw you in and string you along until we reach a denouement and you breathe a sigh of contentment, relief, release as the characters come to a conclusive scene that says, “This is Life! Don’t ya’ love it!”‘

Ya. That kind of writing.

That kind of being alive.

__________________________

This post is also in response to the word prompt at the lovely Eugi’s Causerie Your Weekly Prompt –Envy – February 15, 2022

It didn’t start out that way — and that’s the great joy of this space. If the shoeIf the words fit, write it.

Doing the things we always imagined, and never did.

This month I am doing something I’ve never done before. I’m submitting to a writer’s competition.

The non-fiction piece I’m submitting is about doing something one night I never imagined doing. Ever. It’s also something I’d never do again.

But, the voice of self-empowerment and self-expression within me keeps urging, “Get out there and strut your stuff Louise!”

So that’s what I’m doing, writing about a night I stood on the street, strutting my stuff. Literally.

It’s December 8, the night before my 44th birthday.

After six months of working with a group of street-engaged teens and two vice police officers, I have chosen this night to do the thing I never in my life imagined doing – Stand on the street posing as a prostitute, negotiating with johns for sex.

I recognize my use of nouns is not politically correct in this day and age – but at the time I stood on the street, it was the vernacular.

Anyway, on this particular night, I am terrified. Like, shaking in my boots terrified. Not for me six-inch spikes. I didn’t own any and I doubt that night I could have approached the john’s who stopped to pick me up if I’d been wearing them.

Nope. Rather than spiked heels that also served girls on the street as weapons, I’d pulled out of my closet a pair of cowboy boots I’d painted gold. Calgary chic.

I didn’t need a weapon, anyway. Deep in the shadows further down the street, on either side of me, two police officers in unmarked cars watched over me. My guardian angels.

I was dressed for the night, though I did keep my borrowed fur coat tightly clutched at my neck to hide my scanty outfit. And I wasn’t carrying anything in my hands, not even a tube of bright red lipstick. I was already wearing it, though I soon realized I should have brought it. I was quickly chewing it, along with all the skin, off my lips.

But I’d wanted my hands free – in case I needed to make a run for it (another reason for not wearing spikes) — and I didn’t need the lipstick to write the license plate of john’s cars I got into on a telephone pole as many of the other girls did, in case a date went bad and they didn’t come back. I was not to get into a car. Never. Ever.

It was the hard and fast rule of my two guardian angels. Do Not Get In The Car.

And this is the story I’ve been writing with the intention of entering it into a competition.

I’ve still got twenty days to submit and there’s a part of me that just wants to send it off… right now. Almost as if, the pain of writing out this story is greater than my desire to enter the competition with a story I’ve honed into as close to perfection as I can get it.

I want it over.

Perhaps it’s why I always read the last chapter of a book first.

If I know the outcome I can take my time savouring the story.

Except, the outcome for me isn’t the competition, it’s the ‘getting the story entered’.

If I just send it off now, I won’t have to worry I’ll back out and not send it along or somehow, accidentally (Ha!) miss the deadline.

Which is also why I’m writing about it here. To expose the secret of my insecurities and weaken their grip. Secrets lose their power to do harm when we dare to tell the truth about the fierce beauty of our human condition.

This month I am doing something I’ve never done before — actually, never had the courage to do before… entering a writer’s competition.

I am fascinated by the fact the story I’ve chosen to enter is about something which, before that night, I’d never imagined doing.

And here I am doing something I’ve always imagined doing and never did.

Life is a fascinating journey. Don’t you agree?

____________________________

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Love Will Always Find You

When my daughters were little, I loved to write stories just for them.

One such story was about a lobster named Louis (my father’s name) who liked his shell so much he did not want to have to change. One day he decided to run away thinking that would prevent the inevitable.

As we all know, if it’s inevitable, it can’t be prevented and some things in nature are… our nature.

For Louis, running away resulted in a series of misadventures that almost got him trapped in a lobster cage (it looked safe!) until finally, he fell asleep behind a rock only to awake to discover his shell had deserted him.

Embarrassed by his shell-less body, he dug a hole in the ocean floor and buried himself in the sand.

Of course, in his shell-less/defenseless state, it was the best thing he could do. Looking out at the darkness around him, he discovered another pair of eyes looking back at him — it was a lady lobster named Sue who was also hiding beneath the sand.

The long and short of it… They fell in love with the sound of each other’s voice and the words of comfort they shared (not quite that mushily in the story ’cause Louis was scared and Sue was wise and witty…)

Anyway, what Louis learned is what the story was all about — no matter where you go, or what you do, or how you look, or how deep the hole you’ve dug for yourself…. being yourself is the only way to be, ’cause being yourself is where Love will always find you.

______________________

Louis’ story drifted into my mind in the early morning hours as I lay soaking in the bath, the light of a candle flickering and classical music playing softly in the background.

I’d awoken with a dream in which I was chasing a butterfly through a field of wildflowers and fell over the edge of a cliff to land in a bed of roses.

Just kidding.

I’d awoken at 4 from a dream where I was angry and couldn’t remember about what. As I wasn’t getting back to sleep I decided to have a bath.

It does makes sense that I was thinking about anger. I’d been speaking with someone about anger earlier in the day. They asked me, “How do you get over anger?”

You don’t, I reply. You go through it.

Anger in the moment can be a powerful force for change (as long as we express it appropriately), I said. Anger many years later is a sign of something deeper. Have you considered seeing a therapist?

I’m not broken, they exclaimed.

And that was when it struck me — as a society we sometimes hold a collective view that seeing a therapist is a sign of what is wrong with us.

I disagree.

For me, seeing a therapist is about acknowledging things that aren’t working for me anymore and seeking help to find my way through. It’s about getting right within myself so that I can walk through the world doing the right things to create a better place.

You cannot heal or change what you do not acknowledge.

Therapy is the opportunity to heal those things that no longer work for you.

For years after my brother died, I carried this unsettling anger about his choices and the things he’d done. Holding onto it wasn’t making my world a more peaceful, loving place today. It was holding me stuck in the past.

Anger needs to be released and the best way to do that is to let it flow into the Love that is always there. And sometimes, we need a guide to help us find our path.

Like Louis and Sue who shared the darkness and found their way home to themselves — ’cause that’s where Love will always find us, no matter how far we run.

Namaste.

Avoidance Strengthens Fear

She dares to fight hatred with love. (collage on mixed media)

I don’t know if it was hearing from my beloved that he could possibly be home from hospital today but if not, for sure Tuesday, or, if it’s I finally decided to stop avoiding my studio and dive into creative presence, but this morning I awoke, mentally alert, my list of ‘To Do’s running through my mind and ‘the how’ of how I was going to get at ’em in full swing.

Either way, I feel like what I imagine a bear does after a long winter hibernation – awake and eager to get living again!

Like, the world is not weighing on my shoulders but moving with me, holding me tenderly in its flow, or as my friend John M. calls it, PLOW (Power. Harmony. Love. Order. Wisdom.).

The fact is, it took a lot of mind talk, or rather quieting of some disturbing mind-chatter to get me into my studio yesterday.

The “I’m too tired. What’s the point? I don’t feel like it. I think the muse went to Mexico and deserted me to this Arctic Vortex as penance for some unknown sins,” dialogue was getting tiring!

Finally yesterday, I remembered ‘avoidance strengthens fear’ and realized I was avoiding what I know calms me, centers me and brings me peace, not because it was the right thing to do but rather, because I was walking with that ole’ soundrel, FEAR and letting him hold court over my doing the things I know are good and healing for me.

Once I acknowledged that my fear had nothing to do with creating and everything to do with my husband’s being in hospital with pneumonia and me giving into a weird internalized message that ‘if he is suffering I should too’, which is some relic of a childhood Catholicism steeped in guilt or perhaps the media or maybe the fact I gave up sugar on December 26th and was not yet off its artificial high. Regardless of why I wasn’t spending time in my studio when my world felt so shaky and unsafe, the ‘not doing’ was unhealthy for me. And, as C.C. is coming home for sure by tomorrow, maybe even today, I definitely need to be my most healthy self!

So, I threw out my avoidance, which immediately weakened my fear and I began to create.

What a gift.

To simply be present with the muse (she didn’t really go to Mexico and desert me — though I’m sure if you’re in Mexico and open to her exhortations to create you’ll find her there too!).

In being present I felt the cobwebs of doubt and worry and the tendrils of my “What if” fears dissipate and fade as I threw colour and texture and shapes and forms onto the canvas and danced.

And I mean… danced.

Like really danced.

I spun and twirled and swayed and twisted and leaped and let the music guide my body as I gave up my resistance and fell, with joyful abandon, into the art of being alive.

Such a gift.

And today, C.C. might be home and if not, the Dr. has said for sure tomorrow!

Yup! Colour me excited! What a gift.

And P.S. — writing it all out over the past few days has helped keep me grounded, as have all your beautiful words of support and wisdom. And while intellectually I know I’m not alone, your presence helped my heart remember, I’m not.

I am so very grateful.

She Dares To Transform Pain Into Beauty.

Yesterday. The day before. And before that…

so much.

to reflect upon.

remember.

savour.

And through it all, woven threads of gold spun with sapphires and emeralds and precious moments and words and thoughts glittering like diamonds in a field of love.

It is the last day of this year, a year rich with memory and joy and sadness and hardship and possibility and new adventures and missing friends and treasured rare encounters.

A year like no other. But then, every year is a year like no other for every year is filled with days sparkling with opportunities to experience, lessons to learn and happenings to grow through.

As this day (and year) draws to a close and C.C. and I, having forgone the small gathering we had planned with two other couples, await our meal to arrive at the front door, I reflect upon all that has happened, all I have learned, done and left undone or not even started. I smile at all I have gathered, created, discarded and accumulated. And, I am reminded of how this year has been a year like no other, and yet a year none-the-less to experience and learn from and breathe through as I stumbled, surmounted, succumbed and succeeded beyond my wildest imaginings.

So much of this year feels like a blur, like I was sleep-walking through its days, going through motions but not really connecting to the essence of all it offered. And still, there are moments of pure bliss, of complete surrender, of divine grace shimmering within each breath I took as I lived each moment fully embodied in the mystical, unfathomable mystery of life.

I am so many things and within this moment right now, I am grateful, humbled, and surprised by how full my heart feels, how deep my sense of awe becomes me and how truly blessed I am in this life for which I hold deep and abiding gratitude.

I spent the day in the studio today. Inspired by a conversation with a friend, an email from another, an encounter at the dog park, the wide-open clear blue sky, the fresh (ok, arctic cold) air, the frost embracing the trees, the river finding new paths through the rapidly forming ice and Beaumont the Sheepadoodle trying to shed his new booties (he was unsuccessful!) and the advent of a new year, I wrote a poem and then spent a day in my studio creating to the poem which I wrote in gold lettering as part of the background of my latest creation.

Luminous Light
by Louise Gallagher

Luminous light
aches 
for the passage of time
to lean out
beyond the darkness
holding our hopes
in tender hands
like a nest gently
sheltering
a babe
preparing to fly
into a new year
full of promise
that the old one has passed
away
holding nothing
but imaginings
of a future
full of mystery, wonder and awe.

I wish for you, as they say in Germany, a “Guten Rutsch ins Neue Yahr.”

May the slip from the old to the new be a gentle reminder to live each moment with all your heart and to open yourself up with wild abandon to all the beauty, mystery, and awe the world has to offer.

And, as my creation today extolls, may you always dare boldly to transform life’s hardships into a world of beauty.

Happy New Year!

Stop What You’re Doing!

“Stop doing what you’re doing to avoid doing what you need to start doing to do the things you want to do.”

Huh?

I can’t see her as I lay beneath a blanket of bath bubbles this morning at 5:00 am. I have been up since 4. Trying to get back to sleep.

Trying didn’t work so I decided to pour myself a bath, while also hoping it was too early for my mother to awaken from ‘the other side’ and come for a visit.

No such luck.

Except, I can’t see her. Only hear her.

And that was her message. The ‘stop avoiding and get doing’ call to action.

And then, the working title of this book I’ve been struggling to write (okay avoiding writing) pops into my mind, “What Her Mother Knew.”

I smile when I see it floating into view.

As a child, the book that most impacted me was “What Katie Did.” It’s the story of an English girl who falls off the roof of her home and is forced to spend her days in a wheelchair. She didn’t let it hold her down. She persevered in her desire to create joy in her life and the lives of everyone around her.

I loved her optimistic attitude. I loved how she overcame obstacles and her stubborn defiance of those who said, “You can’t do that.” Katie did it anyway.

Along with Pollyanna, my second favourite book, and The Parent Trap which my middle sister and I spent days upon days re-enacting, I always believed no matter how dark the day, the sun was still shining behind those grey skies.

When I look back on it now, I understand why those stories meant so much to me. Katie was encumbered with a disability that she did not let destroy her. Pollyanna always saw possibility and in the Parent Trap, twins separated at birth discover their love really is the strongest glue of all.

Growing up, for a whole bunch of reasons and a whole lot of circumstances that I struggled to make sense of, I believed, deep within me, that I was a mistake, unwanted, a constant disappointment, and, that somewhere in the creation of me, the universe got confused and replaced my egg with that of a weirdo. Which meant, I always believed I didn’t fit in or belong in my family circle.

I mean seriously, I always knew I was born one day after the day my mother wanted me to come into this world, and I was a girl. My father lost $20 and a case of beer because of my mistake in gender. All of which meant, I wasn’t wanted.

Of course, those were just my child’s mind creating stories (the date and losing the bet were true btw) to make sense of a world that didn’t make sense to me — and while in the end, those are now just stories, not my truth, those books impacted me and helped me cope. They also helped me define what kind of person I wanted to be in this world.

Which brings me back to my mother’s voice wafting through the candlelight and smell of eucalyptus in the bathroom this morning as I lay soaking in the tub.

The opening of the story wrote itself as I lay there. The outline of its journey became clear.

And… to start doing what I need/want to be doing, I shall be pulling away from writing here in the mornings.

I’ll drop in, I mean you are all part of my story and my journey. But it will be different — I’ll be reposting photos with quotes I’ve written over the years. But long posts — if you find me here doing those — tell me to get doing what I’m avoiding doing.

Thanks!

The Unholy Nature of Glitter-Götterdämmerung

Homemade twine star – with glitter (alas)

Glitter.

It’s pretty. Sparkly. Festive. Fun!

And it’s toxic to the environment.

It gets everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Not just on your skin and clothes and dog’s fur, but our rivers, lakes, and oceans too.

Microplastics, which glitter is comprised of, litter oceans and have been found lining the stomachs of fish and birds.

And another horrible thing about glitter… if it’s on your wrapping paper, it can’t be recycled. It just adds to the world of garbage pollution already out there.

Scientists say glitter won’t tip the scales on climate change, but, eliminating it from our homes is one small thing we each can do to contribute to not tipping the scales on climate change further into the disaster zone.

Which is why glitter is now off my studio table (and I might be going into withdrawal). But I need to do more to treat my world, this planet we share as sacred, holy space. And to do that, I am beginning with foregoing my annual glitter-fest. Because, when I think about it (which is not at all a pleasant thought) I’ve already contributed to years worth of Glitter- Götterdämmerung.

My awakening to Glitter-Götterdämmerung is happenstance.

I’ve been making ornaments for our 2nd Annual Outdoor Fir Tree Festooning, and, as is my way come this most wonderful time of the year, I’ve been glittering up my creations.

Until it struck me that I might want to check into how much glitter is sprinkled on everything at this most wonderful time of the year. And so, I asked Dr. Google

Dr. Google had lots to say. All of which awoke me to the seriousness of the situation. I was violating one of the five principles I strive to live by – “Do No Harm.”

Because seriously, how much harm is not the issue.

The issue is, glitter harms the environment. Full stop. End of story.

Sure, I could rationalize my use by saying it doesn’t do as much harm as plastic bottles or bags, but that would just be me rationalizing my doing harm.

And so, I am introducing a ‘no new glitter’ rule into our household, which also means my studio.

I say, ‘no new’, because I’ve already created harm with the decorations I created over the weekend. (see the photo above)

When we know better, we do better.

I didn’t think to ponder the question “What about that glitter stuff?” when I first began to create. — My excitement of entering into ‘this most wonderful time of the year’ got the better of me.

Which in and of itself is a cautionary environmental tale.

I can’t/we can’t, the environment can’t afford any of us doing things without first asking the question, “How much am I harming my world, my planet, the air and trees and rivers and earth? How much harm am I doing?”

And then take steps back from the edge.

I’m stepping back, moving once again into living by my principles to create the more of what I want to see in the world — less pollution, healthier rivers, streams, forest, flora and fauna.

Now… what to do with all those viles of glitter I already own is a much larger question I need to investigate. ‘Cause however I dispose of them, I will be creating harm.

And that’s a hard microplastic to swallow.

Namaste

If Only She Had Wings (a story)

Far away, at the edge of the land where it meets the sea, there lived a young woman who believed she could fly.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the townspeople said when she stood at the edge of the cliff to test her belief. “Birds fly. Humans stay walking on the ground.”

The young woman did not believe that was the only way to be human. Every night before going to bed, she did push-ups and lifted weights to strengthen her wings.

And every night before falling asleep she whispered to the dream fairies, “Let my dreams be filled with flight.”

And every night the dream fairies flitted into her sleep, scattering visions of flying and soaring into her dreams.

And in the morning, she would awaken, repeat her exercises and go out to the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean far below to test the strength of her wings.

One day, as the young woman stood at the edge of the cliff lifting her arms up and down like the seagulls high above, a little girl approached and asked, “Why are you standing here flapping your arms?”

The young woman, surprised that a child would even have to ask such a question, replied without stopping what she was doing. “Practising flying.”

The child watched for a few moments longer before saying, “Well that’s silly. Why don’t you just leap?”

The young woman stopped lifting her arms up and down. She gazed down at the little girl where she stood looking up at her. Sky blue eyes met sky blue eyes. Flaxen hair floated around her face just as hers floated in the morning breeze.

The child smiled up at her and the young woman felt all her fears of falling come crashing into her like the waves crashing against the cliffs below.

“What if I fall?” she asked the little girl.

“What if you don’t?” the little girl replied as she threw her arms wide and cast her body off the edge of the cliff.

The young woman watched, wide-eyed and breathless, as the child’s body floated gracefully on the air, catching the breeze and letting it carry her down to the surface of the waves before lifting her up and up and up to the top of the cliff.

In awe, the young woman watched the child land effortlessly back on the cliff beside her.

“See! It’s easy,” said the child.

And the young woman took a deep, deep breath and spread her arms wide.

And stopped.

“I don’t think I can,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes and rolled down her face.

And the child shrugged her shoulder and smiled and said, “That’s okay. One day, you will stop practicing and cast your doubts to the wind and follow me!”

And with that, the child leapt from the cliff and soared with the seagulls flying high.

Watching and wishing she could, the young woman slowly lowered her arms and turned away from the cliff. Shoulders hunched, feet dragging along the dusty trail, she began the long walk back to the village.

“It is not the townspeople who doubt,” she said to herself. “It’s me.”

And she stopped and repeated it to herself. “It’s not the townspeople who doubt. It’s me.”

And she kept repeating it and repeating it until realization dawned. “I’ve been hiding behind practising flying because I doubt I can actually do it!”

Full of the awareness of the power of her doubts to tie her to the ground, she stopped walking away from the edge, turned quickly around and began running towards the cliff. Arms spread wide, she screamed and laughed and yelled loud and fierce as she cast her body over the edge.

And as her feet left the ground, her wings unfurled and she began to fly.

And that’s where you’ll find her today. Far from the edge of fear, wings unfurled, soaring amidst her dreams and dancing in the lightness of being free from doubt.

She dares to nourish her dreams with flights of fancy

Dream big…. or go home.

I remember a boss saying that many years ago. A lot. He was an entrepreneur, building a tech company on what he called a ‘wing and a prayer’. The prayer being that what he saw as a future need, or pent-up-demand, as he called it, would be real.

It wasn’t. But that’s a whole other story.

What this story is about, scratch that, what my story is about, is learning to not only believe, but trust in my dreams. To feed them reality and flights of fancy in just the right measures to give them wings to fly!

Yesterday, I met for tea and a chat with the beautiful, soulful Kerry Parsons of The Academy of Emerging Women. Not to mention a visit with Toby, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle’s brother. (and no. I did not take Beau. Two of them romping together in a confined space is one Sheepadoodle too many!)

Covid has interrupted some of my most meaningful relationships. Kerry and I haven’t visited in a while, yet, as always, in her lit presence, my heart felt like it was coming home and I came away feeling inspired, full of ideas, and radiating with dreams.

The piece above was partially completed when I left for our tea. When I got home, I knew exactly where it was leading me. I sat down at my studio table and dove in, adding colour and marks, working on the woman’s face until finally, I felt complete.

When I began this piece I had an idea for a quote, “In a world of conformity, she dares to stand out.”

By the time I finished with the art, I realized that, while I really like that quote, it is not what this #SheDares woman is saying to me.

I worked on the quote some more, settling on “She dares to heed her dreams’ urgings to spread her wings and fly.

Better.

And then I dreamt on it.

This morning, I sat down at my desk believing in the quote and its meaning that had become clear to me while I slept.

“She dares to nourish her dreams with flights of fancy.”

The Message

Dreams yearn for space, air, and the breath of possibility constantly flowing through and in and amongst their delicate, sacred promise of what can be, if only…

Dreams are not static things grounding you in their weighty matters. They don’t fit in a box or work best when tied to order and predictability.

Dreams don’t grow in the ground. They take to the skies. They seek sea-infused air bathing them in sun-speckled imagination wafting through their feathery tendrils filling them with light and joy and unlimited hope.

Dreams yearn for flights of fancy. That’s how they find the courage to unfurl and expand into beautiful wings of possibility dancing on rainbow streams coming to life in all the colours of your dreams come true.