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!

You Have A Story To Tell (a visit from my mother)

My Mother. 1943

I suppose it had to happen.

After taking a break from visiting me while I was in the bath, my mother returned. For one last visit, at least for this year or until I do something, or don’t do something that makes her want to shake me up, as is the case now, she tells me as I lay immersed in hot, bubble-laden water, trying to ignore her presence.

“You can’t ignore spirit,” she says. Her voice is laced with more of her French accent than it was in the past. It’s stronger, more sing-songy too.

“What happened to your Holly Golightly get-up?” I ask, wanting to avoid at all costs, any conversation with my dead mother about spirit. If we never had those conversations in real life, why would we have them now?

In her previous visits, she was always dressed, a la Holly Golightly of Breakfast at Tiffany’s fame, in a red satin cocktail dress, black high heels, bouffant hair sprayed stiff. In one hand she held a martini glass. In the other a long ebony cigarette holder.

“Oh that. She was for you. You always wanted me to be a little more flamboyant than I was. So, I decided in this iteration of my being, I’d at least make myself over into someone you could relate to.”

Surprised, the bubbles wafting up around my hands as I tried, vainly, to vanish this latest apparition of my mother, I sputter and say, “You’re dead. You’re not here. I am alone in the bath.”

“Well, you’re definitely alone in the bath. I am no longer in need of such cleansing. But, I am definitely here. Sort of like a message in a bottle, only this time it’s in a spirit. And she does that thing I seldom recall hearing her do in life. She giggles.

My mother started appearing, (always while I was in the bath), shortly after she… passed over, as she likes to call it. “The spirit never dies,” she says. “After its human journey, it returns to its eternal state, energy, or as you humans euphemistically call it, Love.”

Originally I wasn’t that surprised to see her. We had a lot of unfinished business and I needed to clean it up to heal.

I thought we were done. Which is why I am surprised to see her. After several attempts to conjure her up earlier this year when it became clear her visits were over, I’d decided she was gone. Forever.

Which was a bit of a relief. I felt very uncomfortable entertaining my mother while I was in the bath. No matter how high I piled on the bubbles, I always felt she could see right through me.

And in spirit form, she always could.

Something I didn’t give her much credit for in life.

I always thought she was so immersed in her own stories of worry and woe, she couldn’t see me, at least not the real me. The one I liked to think I was in the world.

It took many of my adult life years, and hundreds of hours in therapy, to get to a place where my anger and disappointment in what I judged as her inability to be the mother of my dreams, didn’t interfere with my capacity to love her as the mother she was. Human. Flawed. Imperfect. Carrying her own history. Her own schtick.

Just like me.

And then, she died just before her 98th birthday leaving me to deal with my grief that in life, I’d never found the secret to being the kind of daughter to her that my daughters are to me.

“You know you’re doing it again, Louise, ” she says as if reading my mind, which apparently, in spirit form she can, she reminds me.

“What’s that?”

“Well, for one, right now, you’re trying to play innocent. Like you don’t know what I mean when you do.”

I sigh. I am positive she was never this perceptive, nor direct, in real life.

“What you are living right now is not ‘real’ life, Louise. Take it from me. It gets a whole lot more real on this side. In fact, all you get is real over here, ’cause you no longer have to hide behind your smile, or make-up, or pretending you’re anything other than who you are. Yourself. On this side, judgment, criticism, one-upmanship… it all vanishes as spirit claims the purity and love at its essence. It’s quite refreshing actually.”

It is about the longest speech I’ve ever heard her give. Not to mention the deepest.

And with that, she begins to merge with the air around her.

“Quit hiding,” she tells me on a parting breath. “Write the story. You have something to say.”

And with that, she is gone.

I am alone.

Or am I?

What I Want

What I want is to not feel the weight of our human condition burdening the world with hopelessness and despair.

What I want is to let go of knowing our human capacity to harm one another without thought of the consequences of our deeds.

What I want is to believe there is only light.

But I know I cannot do that. To have what I want, I must live in denial of the darkness.

I do not want to do that.

And so, I choose to see the darkness. To witness the crimes against humanity, the desperation of the oppressed, the fear of the oppressor. The tears of the abused. The anger of the abuser.

I choose to acknowledge we are all of this. I am all of this for if it is in you, it is in me.

We are all of this. And so much more.

We are darkness. We are light.

We are the lies we cannot hear and the ones we repeat to keep ourselves from hearing the truth.

We are the sadness and sorrow of the things we do to harm one another. We are the laughter and joy of loving one another fierce and true.

We are limited by our beliefs. We are limitless possibilities of life.

And though I cannot erase the pain and suffering, though I cannot eradicate hunger and disease, I can stop turning away from those who suffer, those who harm, those who blame and shame and ignore the pain of others. I can stop pretending that I am powerless to see what is happening and choose instead to walk into the darkness shining my light so that others can see there is light in the darkness.

Because when I shine my light, I am courageous enough to see into the darkness that is all our humanity and still believe in the goodness of humankind.

When I shine bright, I am strong enough to shoulder this burden of our human condition as if it is made of feathers.

And when I never quit believing in the beauty of our shared humanity, I am powerful enough to change my world in ways I never before imagined.

I want to pretend the darkness is not there.

I cannot do that so I carry my light where ever I go because I believe the light will always overcome darkness and Love will always lead the way as long as I keep stepping into the darkness shining my light as bright as I can be.

And in that light, I join hands with all who walk with eyes wide open in the darkness, holding their light for others to see.

_____________________________________

I was going to share photos of my visit to Vancouver — but I have to upload them first to my computer and then… this morning, I dropped into David Kanigan‘s place, followed a link he shared to another blog, Memory’s Landscape, and….

well… let’s just say the muse had her way with me as she is wont to do when I feel inspired by the beauty, wonder and awe of all I discover is possible when I stop pretending nothing is.

Airport Hustle

Airport Hustle
by Louise Gallagher

The world is on the move
masked faces
eyes watching 
smiles
frowns
furrowed brows
checking…
Where’s my ticket?
Wallet?
Hand sanitizer?

Suitcases rolling
wheels turning
clicketty clack 
clicketty clack 
people walking
people standing
milling about
beneath glass ceilings 
soaring high
pouring light
upon bustling crowds
gathered
around touch screen kiosks
checking in
printing out
baggage tags
and boarding passes
people on the move
conveyor belts
rolling
clicketty clack 
clicketty clack 
carrying baggage
to distant ports
clicketty clack 
clicketty clack 
in the hope 
it will arrive 
at the end of the journey
in the same shape it began.

 
Long lines
snaking through
security barriers
laptops tested
carry-on scanned
passing through
to the other side
leaving behind
going towards
new horizons
home turf
everywhere
busy
busier than its been
through an invisible microbe’s
demands 
the world limit
where we go
and who we see.

The world is on the move 
faces masked
eyes watching 
people moving
wheels turning
clicketty clack 
clicketty clack 
airport humming
with life
and people
travelling 
holding on
to the hope
that when they reach their destination
they will be home
free
of an invisible travelling companion.

Photo by Joseph Barrientos on Unsplash

I am home again. My heart full. Memory overflowing with joy.

See you soon!

Coming Home.

Let the fun begin!

Coming home, I enter my studio.

The muse is calling.

I play. I layer paint. I scratch and inscribe and make marks on the paper until, satisfied, I begin to draw and colour in floral shapes.

When I’m done, I have a small, (5 1/2 x 4″) 8 page booklet. On each page, I print in gold, one letter of the word Thank You.

It feels good to be creating. Easing into the creative field. Full of inspiration, ingenuity, inventiveness, I feel myself swimming effortlessly in its vast open waters of imagination.

It is here I find myself coming home.

_____________________________

If you are interested in an online (or in person) workshop on how to create one of these little booklets… drop me a note — either in the comment box below or via email/messenger or on my FB page.

Here’s a 10 second video of the final result of one of the booklets I made.

Page 40. Line 8.

Sometimes, when she thought no one was looking, she would sprinkle fairy dust on the flowers in her garden and watch the colours flow, wild and free, cascading like a stream pouring over a waterfall, onto the ground, turning the world into all the colours of the rainbow. 

Delighted by her creation, she'd splash with joyful abandon amidst the running colours until exhausted, she fell into a pool of cherry red and periwinkle blue and sunshine yellow and viridian green swirling all around her. Content to be amongst the living colours dancing in harmony, she'd fall asleep and drift into dreamland.  

It was there, floating upon a cloud of shimmering violet, she dreamt of flying high in the sky, sprinkling fairy dust all over the world. And as the colours ran free, pouring their beauty into the hearts and minds of everyone, notes of harmony and joy rang out amongst the hills and valleys, from mountain tops and deep from beneath the ocean beds. And all around the world, the animals danced and the people leapt for joy, and the trees swayed in the beauty, harmony and peace of the world around them.

Satisfied with her creation, she fell deeper and deeper into sleep, wishing and hoping she never had to wake up to a world without colours running free and mountains singing for joy and harmony ringing out in all the voices of humankind.

And so it was. And so it is. And so she sleeps on and on and on.

I have started a new morning practice. I read it on a thread in an art website to which I belong and felt so inspired by the idea, I immediately jumped in.

The process is simple — Close your eyes. Pick a book from your collection. Open your eyes. Open the book to Page 40. Go to Line 8 — read it — now let whatever is on Line 8 be your writing prompt. Set your timer for 6 minutes and begin to write.

The book that picked me this morning (my first morning of entering into this morning practice) was, CREATRIX: She Who Makes by Lucy H. Pearce.

Line 8 on Page 40 reads: “Because, while my own creativity scared me, I knew subconsciously that I still had to be around the magic somehow.”

I set my timer for 6 minutes and began to write.

There was a time when my creativity scared me, when I let what others think (or at least what I thought others were thinking) dictate how I expressed my creativity. Not that I expressed it much. Mostly I tried to hide it, shield it from outside eyes, keep it buried within me. For some reason, being ‘creative’, or acknowledging that I was creative felt foolish, uncomfortable. I was embarrassed by my own nature. It was as if the very word, ‘creative’ was a dirty word, never to be spoken out loud...

Released by my 6 minute writing flow, the ‘story’ above appeared and flowed out of my fingertips as I began to write this post.

I wasn’t thinking them.

I wasn’t wishing them into being.

They simply flowed.

I hope you try it — pick a book, any book and turn to a page (I like the symmetry of page 40 but you can use any number – your age, house number, day of the week…) go to a specific line number – and use that as a prompt.

Important caveat — have your number scheme organized before you begin. It helps stave off confusion, worry and the possibility of changing your mind to find ‘something better’ to use as your prompt. Part of the magic and beauty of the prompt is its randomness and its consistency.

I hope you do give it a go and let me know how it worked/works for you!

Oh… and do remember to stay out of self-judgement and criticism. Magic only works when we let go of telling ourselves it’s just not possible, or no good or… all that jazz.

Have a colourful, joyful and peace-filled day.

Namaste.

Re-Imagining

I am off this morning to pack up my art from the art show, where because of COVID capacity numbers, no artists were in attendance, just their art. It was strange to receive texts and messages throughout the weekend asking, “Are you here? We are? Where are you?”

Back at home, I worked in my studio. Not creating art. Creating the space, or rather ‘re-imagining’ it.

Two years ago, when my daughter and her partner bought a bungalow and began to renovate it, I became the owner of two solid wood closet doors.

Last year, when we gave a leather couch to a friend for his lodge, one of the doors was used as a solid surface for transport. The lodge is closed in the winter so the door stayed tucked away in storage until our friend went to open up the lodge this past week.

Last week, when I got the door back, I decided it was time to do what I had always intended to do with the doors, transform them into tables for my studio. I’d been using two of those long plastic tables with the fold out metal legs — they worked well, but added no esthetic value to my studio.

It was time for beauty to supersede function.

Over the weekend, I attached the legs I’d bought and re-organized. I also hung the beauty art quilt tapestry that my friend Jane gave me. Bonus.

I LOVE it all. The process of re-imagining. The attaching the legs to the closet doors. The cleaning and organizing. The hanging my tapestry. The feeling of calm that my studio embodies.

This morning, as Beau and I went for our early morning walk, I was thinking about the process of getting ready for the art show and how the ‘knowing’ I had to create for it had sat at the back of my mind every single day for months. No matter what I was doing, there was always the thought “I need to be doing’ simmering away on a back burner.

This morning, that though was gone. Poof! Vanished.

I won’t know until later how I did at the show, though I know a couple of pieces sold, which is lovely.

What I do know is that not being there was strange. Kind of otherworldly almost.

And I know it’s just a case of it being ‘different’ than how I’ve done shows before. Not bad. Not good. Different.

In that ‘different’ is the opportunity to assess what I want.

Like the door that became a table when it returned, when my unsold art comes home, I can decide what next.

Do I re-imagine my online store? Do I hold an art show of my own? Do I….

Lots of options. Lots of opportunity.

All mine to explore.

And, like the sparrows who are transforming the robin’s now empty nest outside my studio doors into a nest of their own, I get to re-imagine what was into something new and wonderful and inspiring just for me… What a lovely opportunity. What a wonderful day!

The Table Door

How to Beat Back Fear

Grow Wild – mixed media on canvas, 12 x 12″

Every time I sit at my studio table, stare at a blank canvas or page in an art journal, I feel the dark, dank tendrils of fear slithering up my spine. They scurry throughout the dendrites of my brain, plump with their insidiously sour whisperings about why I must stop. Now. Before I prove my worst fear true: I am inadequate to the task.

And every time I put paint brush to canvas or word to print or complete any task I set out to do fearing I can’t, I beat back fear.

Painting has taught me, I must feel the fear. See. it. Acknowledge it even. And then, I must transform it through taking action.

It doesn’t matter if the action leads to a ‘masterpiece’. What matters is, I stepped into the fray, faced my fears and forged on.

Creativity is the art of facing fear down with action. Action that takes you into the very territory fear is trying to keep you out of. Your fear of facing your magnificence, your beautiful self expression of your soul’s calling to be witness to all of life. Your fear of moving beyond your comfort zone. Of facing your fears, and the world. Your way. Wild and Free.

Perhaps, that’s what makes one person dive into their creativity while another will insist they don’t have any – the willingness to face fear again and again and again and still keep going.

Perhaps, it is our definition of ‘creativity’ that needs to expand so that we can all see how inherently creative it is to be human.

I have a friend who constantly says she is not creative, even though she is a marvelous cook, seamstress, friend. One of the things she does that always strikes me as an expression of her creative nature is to make beautiful meals for friends in moments of distress. She artfully packages each meal up with flowers and a beautifully penned note of support and delivers them to her friends in need. Yet, when I point out this is another viewpoint of creative expression, she brushes off my assertions with a, “That’s not very creative. It’s just what friends do.”

“Don’t you worry about intruding on their grief or pain?” I ask. (I have a fear of intruding when people are in moments of distress.)

“Sometimes,” she replies. “But I also know how much comfort someone feels when a friend turns up at their door with a gift of food and flowers when the last thing they can think about is what to make for dinner. So I do it anyway.”

See. Facing fear with action to create beauty, comfort, and ease in the world around you.

Yesterday, a friend picked up one of my paintings he’d purchased. One of his comments touched me deeply. “I love your art,” he said. “It’s so peaceful.” (Thank you BC)

I have never thought of my work as ‘peaceful’. Yet, when he said it, I felt the peace that consumes me when I face my fear of the blank canvas and lay down swathes of color and texture. Perhaps, that is what my friend sees and feels – the peace and joy within me, expressing itself outward onto the canvas.

The great Russian abstract painter, Vassily Kandinsky said, “Color is a power which directly influences the soul.”

I paint with color. It is an expression of my soul. It soothes my mind, my body, my being present.

It calms my fears and, even though I hadn’t realized it before, it stirs my courage awake. Awakened, I beat back fear. Not with angry words and protestations against its presence. But with the most loving, kind thing I can do for myself. Get creating.

And while I often don’t know where I’m going with a painting until I get there, the fastest route to get beyond my fear to find out where I’m going, is to let the colors lead my body into self-expression.

So thank you BC. Not just for your friendship and support of my work, but for your words. They touched me deeply and bring me great joy. And have given me a window into my own self-expression I hadn’t opened before. Much gratitude.

Namaste

Unfurling

I awoke with the first stanza of this poem drifting through my mind.

When I wrote it down, the second stanza wrote itself out as if it knew its truth long before I heard the words calling.

When I went in search of an image to include with it, the image above was the first image I opened on my computer. It is from the Sheltered Wonder art journal Icreated last year to mark all I’d learned, experienced and grown through during the initial months of our sequestered solitude.

The body knows even when the mind doubts.

Yesterday, in response to a comment by the lovely and thoughtful Kiki, I told her I wished I’d taken a video of the raw journal. And then… while I was looking for something else, I accidentally uncovered the 19 sec video I’d taken of my Learning to Fly art journal before I started to create the images and quotes.

The body knows even when the mind doubts (or as in this case, forgets).

Since completing the LtF journal, I have been working on pieces for the Vale’s Greenhouse, Cultivation of Art Show and Sale I’m in June 18, 19, 20.

Initially, I was hesitant. Worried. Fearful of moving from art journal to canvas.

I love the freedom of the art journal. There is no right or wrong way. There are no rules. Anything goes.

The Canvas… well there my mind starts to impose rules. It has to be ‘good’. Sale-worthy. Meaningful. Impressive…

I balked. Stalled. Procrastinated.

And then I listened to my body. I sank out of my thinking mind into the font of knowing deep within my belly.

Just start, my body whispered. Just start and let whatever is yearning to appear find its way into expression.

And so I did.

And so it has.

And I am reminded again, the body knows even when the mind doubts.

Blossoming – mixed media on canvas board – 10 x 10″
Nurture your dreams – mixed media on canvas board – 10 x 10″

Leafing Out – Lessons from the canvas

Leafing Out — Mixed media on canvas – 10 x 10″

I find some transitions hard.

Like going from autumn to winter. Here in Alberta it can happen in less than a day, just as spring can pop out and then be burdened again with snow. Some days, like this morning when Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I went for our walk, I’m not prepared for the sudden leap backwards from 22C (72F) yesterday to 3C (37F) this morning – my hands were really cold!

Another transition I find challenging is moving from working in my art journal to a canvas. My mind starts chattering about how ‘There are rules when painting on a canvas.” “A canvas can’t be wasted.” “Make it good.” “Don’t mess up.” “This isn’t as much fun…’

Which is what happened when I went back to working on a painting I’d begun a couple of weeks ago in preparation for an art show I’m in next month.

The under-painting

I had an idea of what it ‘should’ be. Big pops of colourful flowers on the background of smaller flowers I’d already painted.

I worked hard to make my vision come into reality.

But it just wasn’t happening. I felt stiff. Confined. Like it was all just turning to muck and mud.

I took a breath. Stepped back. Made myself a cup of tea and contemplated what was going on.

It wasn’t that the painting was awful. It was that my mindset was full of ‘stinkin thinkin’.

I was getting caught up in my expectations of how it should be, versus allowing whatever was seeking to appear to find its way into expression.

I wasn’t letting it be. I was trying to make it become…

And that’s why I was feeling so frustrated and uncomfortable. That’s why the critter was prattling on about how I couldn’t paint. How I wasn’t good enough. How my art sucked.

To find my inner knowing/intuitive self, I had to shut off my thinking mind and get into my ‘belly brain’. I needed to allow myself to sink deep into my body so that I could be present with the process instead of trying to force it into what I was trying to make it become.

It was a great lesson.

Getting stuck in your head. Dousing yourself in self-judgement. Self-criticism. Self-harshness and a desire to control the outcome all play a role in limiting joy, self-expression, creativity and passion.

To live life fully I must release myself from expectations. I must let go of the outcome to fall deeply into the process of being alive in this moment. Right now. Unfolding in all its ineffable mystery.

When I hold on too tightly to the outcome, I lose sight of where I am, what I’m doing, how I’m being in this moment right now.

I’m pretty sure spring leaves don’t tell the tree, I’ll only leaf out if I can be 3 inches long, two inches wide and a certain green hue. And they definitely don’t say, “Oh. And I’ll only unfurl if you promise to not make me turn orange and fall later in the season.” They leaf out fully immersed in the journey of leafing out.

To be fully immersed in my life, I must release my need to control the journey and throw myself with wild abandon into each moment unfurling in the deep unfathomable mystery of life.

Namaste

.