It’s amazing what is forgotten through lack of doing

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.

Where words bloom like roses.

I played in my studio this weekend. It has been a while.

Though summer is often a time of little studio play, this year’s sojourn away from its creative space was especially long.

I kept telling myself I was bored with it all. I just wasn’t interested. I had other things to do.

In reality, and retrospect, I was engaging in a lot of self-denial of engagement with the things that lift me up, balance and challenge me, and give my creative essence the spark it needs to keep flowing freely. And, when my creative essence flows freely, I feel calmer, happier, more spacious, more ‘me’.

I know I am not alone in my self-denial of the things I know are good for me.

Some time ago, I was chatting with a woman at the park as we walked along the river. Her two-year-old rescue, Toby, wanted desperately to play with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle. Beau was only interested in my throwing the ball.

Like me, she loves to write.

“I started a book three years ago,” she shared. “When COVID hit, I thought it would be the opportune time to finish it. I’m still only a quarter of the way through.”

I shared some of my unfinished manuscript stories and we both laughed and promised to check in on one another’s progress at our next park encounter.

Recently, we ran into each other again at the park. We chatted for a while until finally I blurted out, “So… I don’t have much of an update on progress to report.”

Sheepishly, she shared she didn’t either.

We chatted awhile about the obstacles, the why not’s, and the things that got in our way of doing what we say we want to do.

“I desperately want to finish it,” she said of her manuscript. “I just don’t know if I can.”

We looked at each other when she said that and laughed.

It is a shared experience.

See, intellectually I know I can do it but… and there’s always a but… my lack of conviction of the ‘can’ has more to do with the critter-mind’s constant chattering about why I shouldn’t do it.

Now that was a revelation as I sat in meditation this morning.

Why does the critter-mind believe I shouldn’t do it?

The answer is fairly simple.

The critter-mind always believes it knows best, particularly when it comes to keeping me safe. And the critter-mind believes that convincing me not to devote the time, energy and creative power necessary to complete this book is safer than risking failing, or never getting it published, or having it panned by readers, yada, yada, yada.

And so I wonder… What would happen if I simply turn up, pay attention and stay unattached to the outcome?

Will the critter-mind lose its power to convince me not to do it? In staying unattached to the outcome, will the creative act of putting words onto a page become the process through which I experience joy, happiness, fulfillment and love?

I wonder… What would happen if I imagine every word I type to be an act of love? Will words bloom into everything I imagine?

Stop. Breathe Deep. Sink.

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.

The Joy of Arting

I have been working on a ‘top secret’ project as Beaumont calls it.

I laugh at myself when I type that phrase “as Beaumont calls it”. Fact is, Beaumont doesn’t actually speak so he can’t call it anything. All he knows is that I have been back in my studio again.

And that’s a good thing.

I forget when I take long periods away from ‘arting’ how restorative, healing and calming it is to spend time immersed in the creative flow. How fulfilling it is to play with colour and texture, mediums and papers. To let my mind disassociate from the everyday to become embraced by the magical

I can’t write about the project… it wouldn’t be top secret if I did (and my daughters tell me I can’t keep a secret. Ha! Can too!) 🙂

What I can write about is the pure joy of losing track of time and space to become one with the moment, fully embodied in the wonder of now.

What I can tell you about is how when I begin each page of a new art journal, I don’t have a clear vision of the outcome. I simply have a vision of the ‘feelings’ I want it to evoke. The emotions I want to capture, the sense of there being room to breathe freely in this busy, chaotic world I want to create.

Every page is an emotional response to the moment, and on every page, I lay down not just paint, but those very emotions I want to evoke, examine, escape, embrace… show and know

Emotions that sometimes have no words. No space to breathe. No space to be simply because their ability to hide is greater than my ability to know them clearly — and so, I paint them out in an effort to set them free. Or at least, set myself free.

And that is what always happens.

In painting them out, I set myself free to be the light I want to see in a spacious, beautiful, calm and loving world.

Arting. It’s a gift that keeps creating the more of what I want in my world. Love. Joy and Beauty.

Namaste.

Coming Back To The Page

A Cosmic Event – acrylic on canvas – 40 x 46″

I can feel them. The critter’s claws scratching at the back of my mind, hissing at me to STOP! STOP what you’re doing and return to safety.

I sigh. I want to give into his sinister voice but know it’s not the Truth. Safety lives in doing the things that soothe me, nurture me, and create peace of mind and inner balance.

The critter has a different opinion.

“Those things you do that you think are good for you? They’re not! They expose you. Leave you vulnerable. Leave you open to being seen. And it’s best to hide. No one can hurt you that way.”

And I smile.

The critter and I are old… companions. I’ve walked with his sibilant hissing in my mind most of my life.

Most days, I use my tools to quieten, soothe, and reassure him that what I’m doing isn’t unsafe. It’s healthy.

And then, in moments of weakness, in those times when the road is rough and unsteady, he likes to find purchase in the silty muds of confusion and invade my calm thinking. It’s in those times I need to be most aware.

Alas, it is in those times I am sometimes my most unaware as I deal with whatever life has put in front of me.

Like life since my beloved’s first bout of pneumonia in January. It was followed by fractured ribs and most recently, another bout of pneumonia. Along with my daughter’s miscarriage, my dear friend Andrew passing, a war in Ukraine, more school shootings and a busy work-life…

Well, let’s just say I’ve been heeding the critter without even realizing I was heeding the critter.

Like this morning when I sat at my computer, opened it up and pulled up my blog. ‘Time to get back to my healthy routine of blogging every morning,’ I told myself.

“STOP!” hissed the critter, his superfine danger antennae fluttering and springing out of control. “You don’t want to do that! You don’t have the energy and you definitely don’t have the time. Why don’t you go back to bed?”

Ummm… well… I’m fully dressed. Latte steaming beside me. Rain drizzling down outside. River flowing fast. Beaumont the Sheepadoodle lying on the floor under my desk looking out the window. ‘It’s time I got back to my daily blogging. I miss it,’ I calmly reply.

“No you don’t!” hisses the critter some more. “It’s a habit you need to break.”

That one got me. A habit I need to break? Why?

Because it takes time and you’re tired and you need to sleep more and… The critter’s list of reasons drones on and on.

I breathe.

Deep.

I pause. Close my eyes. Let my body relax.

I hear you Critter. I see you. I know you think you’re telling me truth. I know you feel you need to protect me. I honour your presence. I also honour my need to be present every day to LIFE.

And writing here every morning is part of my life. Has been since 2007. It has strengthened me, supported me, and encouraged me to keep writing. Heck, it’s even improved my writing by writing every day. Writing every morning is good for my body, mind, spirit and heart. So, while I appreciate your concerns, I know in my heart what I need to do.

And so I do.

Put the critter back to bed and come back to the page.

Namaste

About the Painting

Something else I did this weekend was…. clean up my studio. It was a mess. Like. I mean. A mess.

About the only time I’d been in it for the past few months was to make name tags for dinner guests.

I didn’t clean up after each session.

It was depressing me.

This weekend. I took action.

And then, I moved a table outside and painted one sunny afternoon. It was… reviving.

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!