My OpEd in the Calgary Herald Today

This week, I submitted a piece to the OpEd page in the Calgary Herald, and it’s in the paper today.

I’m pasting in the copy below.

It’s all about aging bravely – yet here’s the thing. When the editor said he was sending over a photographer, I demurred. “Hey! I’m almost 69. I don’t do photos.”

“Ha! Where’s that bravery now?” he queried back.

“In the face of a camera lens, bravery runs to the hills,” I joked (kind of).

Alas, there are a few grains of truth in that comment. Vanity clings like a barnacle to a whale. No matter how much I ‘grow up’ – or grow older it’s a constant freeloader gnawing away at my self-esteem!

Anyway, Darren the photographer, was charming. He showed me the photo he was going to use to make sure I was happy with it — and for those who wonder what on earth am I working on, they’re paper mache bowls for the Christmas dinner table. (the OpEd editor thought they were giant eggs! 🙂 )

OPINION: For baby boomers still working, you have nothing to fear but your own insecurities

Author of the article:

Louise Gallagher

Publishing date:

Nov 25, 2022  •  1 hour ago  •  3 minute read

 Join the conversation

Louise Gallagher, at her home studio, realized the only thing holding her back as a baby boomer in a return to the working world was her own biases and insecurities.
Louise Gallagher, at her home studio, realized the only thing holding her back as a baby boomer in a return to the working world was her own biases and insecurities. PHOTO BY DARREN MAKOWICHUK /Postmedia

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1965, have played a significant role in shaping Canadian society. Aged 55 to 74 now, boomers continue to impact society through the Great Retirement. Record numbers of boomers are leaving the workforce, causing employment shortages in Canada.

In 2019, a few months shy of my 66th birthday and after almost 20 years in leadership positions in Calgary’s homeless-serving sector, I was ready to embrace the Great Retirement.

The first six months of what I called “my reinvention” were great. Lots of time visiting with my toddler grandson in Vancouver, volunteering, time in my art studio creating and sharing my love of creative expression in art shows and art-journaling classes. 

Life was good. And then, my husband was diagnosed with COPD, my 97-year-old mother took her last breath just before COVID-19 hit and the world shut down.

Lockdowns kept me busy in my art studio and kitchen, while video calls kept me connected. By the end of the second autumn of COVID’s rampage, however, I realized something was missing. I felt aimless and lost, constantly pondering my purpose.

Was it time to go back to work? 

I made a plan: Dust off my resume. Contact colleagues in the not-for-profit sector about contract work. Get the word out I was in the market.

The plan had one drawback. The idea of re-entering the workforce after a two-year hiatus at the “ripe old” age of almost 68, caused me to break out in a sweat. I was afraid.

Afraid of what, I wondered? Rejection? Being laughed out of a boardroom for suggesting I still had value?

Fortunately, a former co-worker, now CEO of Prospect Human Services, an employment services not-for-profit, called one day and asked if I knew anyone interested in a contract role in my areas of expertise. I quickly recommended myself. Within a month, I was working from home three days a week, learning a new sector, team and organization.

Problem was, though I was energized and excited about the work, my unconscious biases around aging were tripping me up. 

We live in a world where ageism is prevalent; it’s seen in the absence of older people in the media we consume, from models in fashion magazines to movie leads. We idolize youth.

Our internal age biases are more subtle. We use terms like “having a senior moment” when we misplace our keys, even though we’ve habitually lost our keys. We make jokes about older people and talk about aging as a nasty business not for sissies. 

Re-entering the workforce in my late 60s, I discovered I held biases and fears about being older, not because my workplace didn’t welcome me, it did. My unease was because I was uncomfortable in my aging skin.

Even though there was no evidence I’d lost my ability to contribute to the execution of an organization’s strategic plan, when I first re-entered the workforce, I worried that anything I did that revealed my lack of sector knowledge would be chalked up to my age, not the fact I was on a steep learning curve.

The average age of the organization is 41. Scanning 120-150 faces on all-staff video calls, I didn’t see a lot of faces fitting the baby boomer profile. I worried about fitting in.

Competency issues followed. I worried I’d never remember, let alone learn, all the data and information I needed to do my job, including, making a difference — to anyone.

On the job I’ve learned, I had nothing to fear but my insecurities, and their value is insignificant compared to the knowledge and experience I’ve accrued over 40 years of building my career. Those 40 years have provided me with a lifetime of wisdom to draw on that informs and enriches all my interactions; whether at the boardroom table offering cogent ideas on what works and doesn’t work to build the organization’s public reputation or in the staff cafeteria cleaning up after myself.

I turn 69 in a couple of weeks. Before I returned to the workforce, I’d never have said the number out loud.

Now, it no longer scares me — because returning to the workforce has taught me it’s time to grow up and stop treating age as a dirty little secret. It’s time to accept age is an asset that increases in value with every breath we take.

Louise Gallagher is a Calgary writer, artist, story-teller, the director of communications for Prospect Human Services and a volunteer board member of THIRD ACTion Film Fest.

Soften Your Heart

When we harden our hearts we close off access to Love. When we soften our hearts and let it break open, Love flows freely.

But, softening our heart, letting it break open can be scary.

Memories of past pain play continuously in our minds. Fear of rejection holds us locked inside the walls we’ve built around our hearts. Fear of being hurt, used, misunderstood, all play a factor in how willing we are to leave our hearts and selves vulnerable to life’s slings and arrows.

It is a constant dance between choosing the way of love or choosing to live defended against its ways.

Brene Brown asks, “Why be vulnerable when armor feels safer?”

Because, we can’t show up authentically in life without taking down our armor. We can’t be real without risking being vulnerable.

Namaste

She Dares to Let Go of the Past

Mixed media journal page. 9 x10″

Letting go of the past is the decision to release ourselves from anger and regret while holding ourselves accountable for our own healing, journey, life..

Sadness for a loss, sorrow for the hurt we’ve caused others or felt ourselves, grief, they may remain, albeit more quietly than when fuelled by anger and regret, but they do not consume our thoughts nor govern how we move through each day.

It isn’t that we forget what happened. In fact, looking back, mining the past for lessons, gifts and value is, I believe, important and integral to our human journey. Unburdened by regret means, we choose to ease the sting out of the memories so that we can be free to look forward in anticipation of the infinite mysteries of tomorrow confident in our clear-minded, light-of-heart approach to the future.

______________________

About The Artwork

Yesterday, I stepped into my studio thinking I’d begin working on some ideas I have for Christmas dinner nametags (I know. I know. I’m compulsive and like to get an early start. 🙂 )

The muse wasn’t interested in Christmas decorations. She was much more concerned about me taking care of my emotional well-being.

Which is what art-journalling is about for me. – Release. Balance. Breath. Space. Contemplation. Allowing. Accepting. Becoming.

I am in awe of the muse’s ability to create space for me to flow and release. Flow and release.

And in that release, allow whatever is within to appear. A signpost on my path.

Do I regret those almost five years I spent in an abusive relationship? I regret how painful my journey of transformation was to those I love. I regret the harm it caused everyone around me. In that regret comes my duty and accountability. To ease their pain, to create space for healing, I had to do the work to heal and reclaim my life.

No. I do not regret that journey. I know my decision to take it was from a place of great confusion, grief and pain. On that journeu, there are so many lessons that fuelled my personal journey into becoming. Me.

Ultimately, I lived through it. And that is a tremendous gift.

And, as I have just started reading Dan Pink’s The Power of Regret, I am still pondering, musing, and imbibing his words and ideas – so, I’ll probably be creating and writing more on this theme I’m sure! 🙂

Pink begins his book with the story of Edith Piaf and how this song became her anthem three years before her death. We played this song at our French/Indian-born mother’s Memorial Service March 3, 2020.

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.

How to reach the stars.

On Friday’s post, a commenter mentioned how wanting something too much affects their balance.

I share that feeling.

Except for me, it isn’t so much about balance as it is about fear. I have long known that I have difficulties with ‘trust’. The biggest piece being ‘trusting the universe’ It’s as if within me is this critter voice hissing “don’t tell the world your dreams or even put them down on paper and whatever you do, don’t wish for something too hard! The universe will do its best to push you down if you do.”

I didn’t say it was rational. It just is what it is.

The trick is to be conscious of its irrational and non-supportive nature. In my awareness, I breathe through the fear of being pummeled by the universe so that I am free to do what needs to be done to create a world of beauty, joy, love and laughter all around me.

Again, not trusting the universe ain’t rational. It is a learned behavioral response/thought that does not serve me well. Its genesis is buried deep in my psyche, formed when I was a child trying to cope with a world I did not understand, and a religious upbringing that had me fearing ‘god’ as an angry deity seeking to smoke and destroy those who disobeyed him.

Which is why I write about it.

In writing about it I get to see it, acknowledge it and laugh about it.

I mean, seriously? I think I’m so important to the universe that my wanting to reach the stars of my own dreams would cause it to direct the furies against me?

LOL — I am not that important nor powerful for the universe to change course.

What is important is that I play the leading character at centre stage of my own life – something I’ve struggled with for eons!

This is why it’s so important for me to care deeply about my limiting beliefs that have the capacity to keep me playing small in my own life.

None of us can afford to play small in our own lives.

The universe is going to keep doing what it does to keep the planets in orbit. We each need to do whatever we can to keep our lives growing and evolving and becoming our own special version of life on planet earth.

We need to play as large and loud and joyously as we can. We need to reach for the stars within our own dreams. Topple mountains standing in our way and soar above petty fears seeking to keep us playing safe in mediocrity.

To reach the stars of our own dreams, we must let go of the fears that keep us stuck in believing we don’t deserve to shine bright.

To let go of the fears, we must give ourselves permission to acknowledge our fears and breathe through them.

To breathe through our fears, we must be willing to both laugh at ourselves and be our own biggest cheerleaders.

And, to shine bright, we must never stop believing in ourselves, our dreams, and our right to reach for the stars, no matter our age!

Hangin’ on to lettin’ go

Hangin' on
to everything 
that doesn't matter
I lose sight
of everything
that matters.
Letting go
of everything 
that doesn't matter
leaves me free
to cherish
everything 
that matters.

I am wearing a comfort sweater today. One elbow is worn out. There’s a hole in the right armpit. But, the sweater is cashmere. It’s cozy. Well worn. Welcome.

I don’t want to let it go.

Fact is, its weary threads don’t matter. What matters is I am happy wearing it, especially in the house. It keeps me warm. It feels good against my skin.

No need to throw it out.

I can hang on.

There are other things in my life, however, that don’t measure up to hanging on.

If I inventory my emotional closet I’m bound to find things that no longer serve or fit me.

Like anger. Regret. Blame. Righteous hurts. Guilt. Shame…

They don’t serve me well as I continue to strive to live my life true to my values, principles and beliefs today.

Those things that do not serve or fit, I need to discard, no matter how well-worn the pathway to their memory vaults may be.

To let them go I must be willing to also let go of the story I tell about why I hang onto them. It’s the story that keeps me clinging to their threads of discord wending their way through my peace of mind. It’s their story that keeps me stuck.

We all have stories we tell ourselves about past events. Those stories where we’re the victim of someone else’s bad behaviour. The recipient of someone else’s anger. The target of someone else’s lies.

Fact is, victim or not, whatever ‘the other(s) did, it happened in the past. We truly can’t change the past, we can choose to free ourselves of its shadows by letting go of repeating the stories that hurt us.

Do you have a story you tell yourself about a time when you were the victim of someone else’s bad behaviour?

Can you find value in what happened? Can you find one gift from those events that create beauty or joy or love or wonder or possibility in your life today?

Search hard and when you find its gift, start telling yourself that story. Again and again. Eventually, that story will lead to a letting go of the other story. The one that doesn’t serve you today.

To live in possibility today, to create a world of wonder, awe, possibility, love, let go of the things that are keeping you stuck in holding on to everything that doesn’t matter. When all that really matters is left, love and joy will fill your heart and create beauty throughout your world today.

I am wearing a comfort sweater today. I’m holding on to it. It matters.

Never stop growing and exploring

Episode 36 – Dare Boldly: No matter your age

On Sunday night, we were 13 gathered around our dining room table for a late Thanksgiving dinner.

I’d spent three days immersed in prep. From creating the menu, painting name cards for everyone, and baking two different cakes, setting the table, and preparing all the fixings. I had fun!

For me, the kitchen is one of my happy zones. People often laugh at me when I tell them this is the first time I’ve made the dish I’ve made that I am setting before them.

“Isn’t that risky? What if it fails?” is often the response.

Fact is, I love experimenting with new recipes (I quickly grow bored of making the same thing again and again) and… most recipes can be saved before hitting the failure button.

This weekend, both cakes I made, along with two different veggie dishes, were new to me. All four came out well — though I did have to rescue the cauliflower from blah to ensure it pleased the palate of all our guests.

In my book, stretching out of my comfort zone, experimenting with new ideas, learning new things is critical to living a rich and full life, no matter my age.

For example, recently, I started learning new video editing software. Ouch! It’s professional software versus the semi-professional one I am accustomed to. My mind is boggled with all the options, processes, and opportunities to create film magic. It is a slow, arduous process of reading directions, following along in videos, figuring out what works and doesn’t work, making mistakes, losing my edits, and starting all over again.

It’s frustrating and invigorating.

It takes me an inordinately long time to do something I could easily do on my old software in a quarter of the time.

But, every moment I spend learning the new software is time spent stretching my brain, my thinking capacities, my memory muscles, my ability to learn and grow.

And all of that is healthy for me.

I think it’s one of the big takeaways for me in having spent the past month writing and thinking about aging well. We can’t stop doing, thinking, creating, being all of who we are.

We all have many gifts, talents, and unexplored creative terrain. The key to getting older without getting old is to always keep pushing into the unknown territory of our limitless capacity to continually be creating better with everything we think, do, and say as we become ‘the more’ of who we are becoming.

Namaste

.

Why Change Now?

I think one of the most challenging aspects of aging is the growing awareness that our one last breath is drawing nearer with every breath we take. By perforce, that awareness embodies the realization that time is fleeting. It passes quickly – and there’s less time to do the things we want to accomplish, to achieve our dreams, to heal relationships, to change directions – to step joyfully into whatever we see before us.

That pressure of time passing can act as both a deterrent or motivator to making change happen in our lives.

Sometimes, we can fall into the habit of acting out on our belief there’s no point in doing anything. We don’t have enough time to make change happen and we’re too old anyway. Our acting out looks like inaction — but the act of thinking about doing nothing is action in and of itself.

When we choose to believe every breath matters and every breath is an opening into wonder and awe, the possibility of our taking active, committed and passionate steps towards whatever it is we want to achieve or do overrides time’s insistence we keep watch of each passing minute, without doing anything else.

I like to multi-task. Keeping watch of time motivates me to keep doing the things I want to do to add richness, variety, excitement, joy, mystery, wonder and awe into my life.

I’ve lived most of my life like that. Why change now?

The Steps You Take

You will take many steps today. If you’re following the science of healthy living, 10,000 will be your goal.

Those steps, as with every step you take throughout your life journey, will affect the quality of your life. Whether taken in resentment, anger, angst, or, harmony, joy, and love, their impact on your body, mind, health and journey will always be felt.

The steps matter and apparently, according to researchers, so do the number. 10,000 steps a day have value by improving heart health, body health, mind health. No matter the number, every step adds the quality of your journey as you age.

However, when you imbue each step with Harmony, Joy. and Love, you create a world of beauty all around and within you.

How we take each step, who we take each step with, what we imbue into our steps matters.

Make your’s count by creating beauty, joy, harmony and love with every step you take.

Namaste