The Two Faces of Poverty and Privilege

I am at the park for my early morning walk with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle. He has attempted to demonstrate to a little grey fluff ball of a dog that he is boss. The fluff ball will have none of Beau’s nonsense.

I call Beaumont to my side. “He truly does not know his size,” I say to the woman walking with the fluff ball. “I’m sorry he acted so inconsiderately.”

The woman leans on her walking cane, laughs and tells me not to worry. “She’s 13. She takes no guff from nobody.”

I thank her for her understanding and am about to turn away when she says, “I know you. You look really familiar.”

I turn back towards her and look at her weathered face closely. I don’t think I know her but my memory for faces is often suspect.

“What’s your name?” she asks.

I tell her and she smiles, nods her head and says, “I knew I knew you!” And she mentions an agency I did some consulting for several years ago. It’s a social services agency providing housing and supports for Calgarians facing physical and mental barriers. Many of their clients are housed through Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.

I am surprised she recognizes me. It’s a bright but chilly morning. I am wearing sunglasses and a toque pulled low on my forehead.

I say, “Wow. What a great memory.”

She laughs, picks up her cane and waves it in the air as she replies. “My body may be falling apart but at 63 I’ve still got my faculties about me.”

She goes on to tell me about her mom who, at 95, still drives and lives on her own in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. “Though she is thinking it’s time she gave up driving.”

I tell her about my mom, who when she died at 97 last year, was still intellectually sharp, though her physical health was decimated by arthritis.

She looks at me and says, “When you get to be my age you’ll be grateful for your mom’s sound mind too.”

I do not tell her I am five years older than she is. I also don’t tell her I am surprised by her age. Looking at her weathered and lined face I would have given her at least 10 – 12 more years.

And I wonder if what I see is the price of poverty, of a life lived on the margins and its constant struggle to make every dollar and cent stretch to meet a month with too many days. Of worry and strain and fear of one more mishap leading to the last place you want to go, a homeless shelter.

Because I do remember her. Not from the agency that provides housing for her now. I remember her from the adult homeless shelter where I used to work. She wasn’t there long. An adult, predominantly male homeless shelter, is not a particularly safe environment for a woman. Once in, getting out is the number one priority for most women.

But it can be difficult. Especially for ‘older’ women. Lack of education, lack of work experience make it difficult to divine a way back out beyond the shelter’s doors. Compounded by a life time of living on the margins, divorce, death of a spouse, spousal abuse, loss of health and/or an addiction, what little emotional, physical or financial reserves women had are stripped away, leaving them exposed to not just homelessness, but the hopelessness that walks in its every step.

This woman was one of the fortunate ones. She connected to the appropriate supports and is hanging on to them with every breath and every step she takes.

As I sit at my desk this morning looking out at the beauty of my environment, the green/golden leaves of autumn not yet ready to fall, the river flowing past beneath a cerulean sky, I think about my life and the lives of other women in my cohort.

Our privilege is subtle, but it is there. It creates a natural anti-aging barrier that keeps it from lining our faces with worry and stress, aging us beyond our years. It gave us options throughout our lives that women like the woman at the park probably never had – access to education and training, access to gyms and massages and facials and so much more. It allowed us to choose between a live-in or live-out nanny because we could afford to pay for what we wanted. It filled our fridges with an abundance of foods that left us free of having to make the difficult decisions of whether to send our children to school with a breakfast in their belly or have a dinner for them on the table that night.

It opened doors to career-paths of our choice. Because, if we chose to work or stay at home, if we took a minimum wage job or a second part-time one, it wasn’t out of necessity. It was our choice.

For too many women, the deck they were dealt is weighed down by poverty and its limited choices. Full hands are rare and under the weight of of poverty’s pervasive nature, every card played can take you out of the game, leaving you empty-handed, fighting for your survival.

I met a woman at the park this morning. She reminded me how blessed and fortunate I am to live this life of mine.

I am grateful she is safe now.

I am grateful she touched my life.

I am grateful for it all.

Namaste

Autumn is Falling

“And all at once summer collapsed into fall.” – Oscar Wilde

This morning, when Beaumont and I took our early morning walk along the river, a thin layer of frost-tipped dew covered the ground.

Autumn is falling.

Leaves are turning.

Geese are flying south.

In the northern hemisphere, we are orbiting away from the sun.

It happens every year. Days grow shorter, shadows grow longer as the sun’s rays lengthen. And though the nights have been growing longer since June’s Summer Solstice, evidence of our turning away from the sun grows stronger with the approach of the autumnal equinox.

This will be our second autumn under Covid’s thrall. As I look back over the past 18 months I am in awe of our human capacity to adapt, to shift, to do what we never imagined possible, what we never imagined would be necessary.

Stay home. Keep our distance from one another. Wear a mask. Sanitize everything. Avoid touch. Get a vaccine.

As I look back I see the toll it has taken on everyone around the world. It has been devastating.

In my extended family, a cousin lost her life to the virus. Others sickened and recovered. An aunt far away and all alone, was unable to leave her apartment for over a year and no one was able to visit. Vacations cancelled. Family reunions postponed. Children growing up at home with little interaction with playmates and schoolmates. Parents stressed with jobs and working at home and caring for children who are underfoot all day and all night long.

And still, there is joy. There is laughter. There is love.

As autumn falls, our numbers here in Alberta are rising with dizzying speed. More hospitalizations, more people in ICUs than at any other time during the pandemic. And the death count climbs as hospitals become overwhelmed with the influx of people needing care.

Yesterday, provincial leadership finally announced increased restrictions to try to bend the curve. Many fear too little, too late.

I fear more lives will be lost. More anger will rise as those who decry restrictions clash with those who are in favour.

For my beloved and I, hunkering down and limiting outside contact has once again become our norm. Double vaccinated, he is still at higher risk should he catch the virus. It’s not worth taking chances.

And as autumn colours grow brighter and birds fly south, I remind myself that, as with all things, all seasons, all times, this too shall pass.

My responsibility isn’t to change the viruses course, I am not that powerful. What I am powerful enough to do is the right things so that its sphere of influence in my life and those around me is as limited as possible. And while it was nice to feel for awhile like I could go outside and meet with friends and do the things I love without worrying about an invisible microbe’s presence, like autumn leaves turning, reality settles in as I once again come to grips with the fact there is a microbe of devastating impact in our midst. I can’t see it. I can’t change it but I can accept, with as much grace as possible, that I can do everything in my power to limit its spread and impact.

And that is what I must do as autumn leaves fall.

I can’t change the season’s turning. I can change how I dress to keep myself warm on frost-covered mornings.

I can’t change the virus. I can change how I behave to stop its spread.

Beyond All We Know.

The leaves whisper amidst the trees branches reaching out towards the sun. “Lean further! Lean further! You’ve got to lean further to reach the sun!”

And the branches push out and away from their trunks, their arms reaching further and further into the space beyond where they must compete with their brethren to gather sunlight.

And the trunks pull back, rooting themselves deeper and deeper into the ground they know so well. Desperately they fight against gravity, trying to keep their branches from reaching too far. “Too far is dangerous,” they tell the branches. “Lean too far and you will break.”

It is the dance of nature. A never-ending ballet of leaves yearning for light and branches pulling against their roots as they reach for the sun.

It is the dance of life.

Our dreams call us to lean out, further, away from our comfort zones, out beyond the realm of where we tell ourselves we will be safe, into the space beyond all we know, all we believe to be true.

Rooted in our fears, we ground ourselves in the belief to risk change is to lose control of all we know, all we believe to be true.

We cannot change when we stand in the same spot, rooted in our fears.

To change, we must uproot our fears and let courage draw us out of our comfort zones into the vast universe of possibility beyond all we know, all we believe to be true.

_____________________________________________

Every morning, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I pass through the copse of trees in the picture above.

I haven’t noticed before how far they lean out. I have focused instead on the taller trees surrounding them.

This morning, I noticed their stance and the muse bid me to awaken.

.Namaste

Awake. Aware. Alive.

Down by the riverside

In the moment of being present within the grandeur of the Kananaskis mountains, their jagged peaks edging the horizon like the ridged back of a dinosaur sleeping beneath the infinity of the blue sky soaring above the valley bottom stretched out in verdant lushness on either side of a babbling brook joyfully streaming its way through the verdant fields, I forget to be present within the moment. I forget that this moment passing by, like the stream passing through the valley and the clouds slowly drifting out of view, is all there is to experience. That this moment full of soaring peaks and whispering pines is all there is to know.

I am busy.

After-dinner wine on the deck with Jane

Too busy, I tell myself, to stop and savour the feel of the cool crisp mountain air on my face. Too busy to let the sun caress my face, the smell of the Lodgepole pines and white camas and elephant heads tickle my nostrils.

I am too busy.

Until I remember, this moment, this nanosecond of time passing by in man-made multiples of seconds and minutes and hours, is all there is to hold onto, to know, to remember.

It is in those fleeting, liminal moments I stop, look out the kitchen window, close my eyes and breathe in. The air. The sights. The smells. The silence. The whispers, rustlings, muffled voices and the beauty all around me.

It is in those ethereal, tantalizing moments I remember to be present. To be comforted by the knowing, there is nothing else, nowhere else to be. I am here. Embodied in this moment. Awake. Aware. Alive.

A frosty morning tea.

There is nothing to push, pull, rush or divert. Nothing to change.

There is only everything to experience, embrace, delight in and savour.

And then, the moment passes and I return to chopping and stirring, to checking on the bread baking in the oven, the soup simmering on the stovetop, the onions caramelizing in a pan.

Life is like that. Moments happen. Sometimes, we happen to be awake enough, aware enough to experience the depths of its joy, beauty, richness. Other moments, we sleepwalk through time, believing we’ve got lots of time to awaken, or not.

And with each passing moment, we move on. Like the stream burbling through the valley bottom unaware of winter’s approaching harsh winds and frost-riddled chills, we blithely dance and laugh, or stumble and groan our way through each day unaware of the fragile nature of time’s hands spinning away the hours.

We weave our lives in and out of time’s warp and weft, sometimes consciously shuttling the threads to create a picture of intentional beauty, other times letting the threads push and pull their way through without much thought to our design or purpose.

No matter our passage, in the end, regardless of how much intent or inattention we put into the weave, the tapestry of our lives will be woven through all the moments we experienced, awakened, asleep or simply sleepwalking.

Jane & CJ

I spent five days in the Kananaskis. Four of them cooking at beautiful Mt. Engadine Lodge. It was a sublimely enriching experience full of laughter, shared times with lovely people surrounded by majestic mountains and lush valleys.

I wasn’t always conscious of the beauty around me, but I like to think that every morsel of food I prepared was imbued with the beauty of my surroundings and the love and gratitude I felt for the gift of time to cook in such a stunning environment amidst the wonderful staff at Mt. Engadine Lodge.

This morning, as I sit at my desk and watch the green leaves of the poplars dancing in the morning breeze and the river flow past in an endless ribbon of deep blue water, I feel rich. Enriched. Enlivened.

I am Awake. Aware. Alive.

I am grateful.

Grateful for everything (even the tougher moments and my (many) mistakes) but especially the people — my dear friend Jane who filled the role of Chef’s Assistant with such grace and joy, her daughter CJ who came for a short visit and taught us how to use her apple corer/peeler (Amazing!), my daughter Liseanne who gave up part of her long weekend to help me in the kitchen for the final day and a half when Jane had to leave, and her husband Al who took the time to BBQ burgers for the staff dinner on Saturday evening before they left. And the Lodge’s incredible Chef, Tony, for trusting me with his kitchen (and the guests’ gastronomic experiences) for four days and the irrepressible Simón, the lodge’s general manager, whose constant smiles and good humour kept me laughing and out of ‘the stress zone’! And all the staff who treated me with such kindness and helped me find where things were and answered my endless questions about “What would Tony do?” and laughed with me (and then helped clean up the mess) when I did things like turn on the giant mix master thinking it was on low only to discover with one flick of the switch… it was set to High — have you ever seen how far a machine like that can fling cheesecake filling? Oh my! Liseanne and I were covered as were the walls and floor and everything else within a two foot radius!

I am grateful.

And… while the last time when I got home I said I’d never do it again. I was wrong. I’d love to! While it was challenging it was also fulfilling. And, as my daughter Liseanne said on our drive home, “I feel accomplished.” And she’s right. Cooking for 29 paying guests at a backcountry lodge with a temperamental (possibly possessed) oven and an occasional meal when the water cistern runs dry and when you can’t run out to the grocery story to pick up a missing ingredient, is no small feat!

But it is fun and challenging and definitely does leave me feeling accomplished.

Below is a short video I created to remember my time at the lodge. A couple of the photos at the end are from the hike my daughter and I took to Chester Lake on the Monday after we left. It was sublimely beautiful.

Live Well. Stay Connected.

I love this photo because it is full of joy — and my granddaughters desire to get moving written all over her face! 🙂

When my 97-year-old mother passed away in 2020, three weeks before the first Coronavirus enforced lockdown, we were able to celebrate her life with family and friends. Grief and gratitude for this woman who had given so much to everyone were present. We were fairly confident the virus wasn’t.

For our family, the passing of our matriarch was a shared experience that enriched our lives and brought us closer, not just with one another but with our many friends, most of whom had known our mum and loved her for her gentle ways and many kindnesses.

In the final two weeks of her life my mother was never alone, never without a loving presence sitting at her bedside, talking, reading, sharing, laughing, caring. Sometimes, friends dropped by to say hello, and good-bye. It was a loving, peaceful farewell made even more beautiful because we each knew that we belonged within the family circle my mother had woven and stitched and patched and repaired throughout her life.

For older adults, having a sense of belonging is vital to physical and mental health. Yet, too often, social isolation and loneliness shadow their days and nights, leaving them exposed to many diseases.

The CDC reports that “Although it’s hard to measure social isolation and loneliness precisely, there is strong evidence that many adults aged 50 and older are socially isolated or lonely in ways that put their health at risk. Recent studies found that:

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
  • Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.    Source

I have often wondered how my mother lived such a long life, and aside from severe arthritis, a relatively healthy life.

My mother was seldom lonely.

She made it her mission in life to befriend strangers, to surround herself with people about whom she cared and who cared for her. She lived connected to a vast network of family and friends. And though there were times we worried about her mental health and her ability to cope with life’s ups and downs, her resilience and ability to make meaningful relationships where ever she was, her habit of always giving back in whatever way she could, kept her safe and secure to her final day.

Many older people are not so fortunate. Nor connected. As we age, so too does our close community. This can lead to feelings of loss, loneliness and isolation. These feelings can be exacerbated by life circumstances such as transitions to retirement and accompanying loss of identity, ill health, loss of a spouse or friends, mobility problems, vision and hearing loss, lower income, residential changes, and changes in access to transportation.

And, when we’re feeling lost and alone, when we fear we have no one we can safely reach out to, our mental and physical well-being are at risk.

We live in a diverse society. Not just gender, race, faith, sexual orientation and culture but age too. As in other developed countries, Canada’s population is aging. The number of Canadians aged 65 and older will rise from 14% (4.8 million) in 2010 to 25% (10.4 million) by 2036 (Statistics Canada, 2010). By 2056, 1 in 10 Canadians will be aged 80 or older (Martin-Matthews, 2011).

We are also living longer and continuing to make meaningful contributions to society well beyond the socially accepted retirement age of 65.

To ensure we capitalize on the age diversity that exists in society today, we must ensure our policies, programs, services and structural facilities are designed to promote social inclusion, connection and belonging. To capitalize on the significant contributions older generations are making and will continue to make for the common good, we must not limit their potential.

My mother was 97 when she took her last breath. If she had one regret, she used to say in her soft, lilting voice, it was that she hadn’t accumulated great wealth to leave behind for her children and their children.

She need not have any regret. What she left us is far more valuable. She left us knowing we belong to one another and an appreciation for the power of social connection.

Will We? Can we? Change.

This is the view from where I sit in the mornings, meditating, writing, watching squirrels scamper in the trees, the river flow past.

The view is cloudy these days. Smoke-filled molecules saturate the sky with ash and toxins.

Yesterday, I uncovered the furniture on the deck. No rain is forecast.

The air is too smoky to sit outside. I covered the furniture up again this morning. I don’t want to collect toxin-laden molecules in its cushions.

There is no reprieve in sight. Wildfires continue to burn. To the south. The north. West and east.

I fear Mother Nature’s desperate pleas for help remain unheeded.

My days remain unchanged. I write and paint and walk with Beau along the river. I spend time with my beloved. We see friends a bit more now. I hugged my daughter yesterday. We don’t have to wear masks everywhere anymore. I still carry mine in my purse and car. In jacket pockets. I want to be safe and be a safe person to be around.

It is summer in the city. A different summer every year. Of note, each year feels marked by more and more days of smoke-laden air and time spent indoors with windows and doors tightly closed.

And I am reminded again. We must each do our best to pull ourselves back from the abyss of environmental disaster.

Yesterday, I read up on incandescent versus fluorescent and LED lightbulbs. I spent the afternoon ensuring there are no incandescent anywhere lightbulbs in our home.

A friend mentioned using only bar soaps – from laundry to dishes to hands to hair – she has dispensed with all plastic containers in her home.

There’s always something more I can do to make a difference.

I must keep reading up on possibilities.

Yesterday, I also read about why the sun glows red in smoke-filled skies – red rays are longer and stronger than blue rays, thus, are more adept at travelling further through the smoke-filled sky.

It was that thought which inspired the poem below. That, and the weekly prompt from Eugi’s Causerie.

Eugi's Causerie Prompt 

Your Weekly Prompt –Petals – July 29, 2021

“The soul has words as petals” – Edmond Jabes

Go where the prompt leads you and publish a post on your own blog that responds to the prompt.

It can be any variation of the prompt and/or image. 

Please keep it family friendly. This needs to be a safe and fun space for all.

Again, as always seems to happen, I had no idea where the prompt would take me until I was done.

There is a melancholy in my writing this morning. A yearning for clear blue sky and fresh air. I want to be more upbeat, promising, hopeful. I struggle.

I am hopeful. I’m also leery. Can we? Will we do what must be done to step back from the edge?

Can we? Will we? Change.

Sky Coughs. Ash Falls.
by Louise Gallagher

Heat rises
day breaks
through night
sunrise bruises the horizon
in rose petal colours
of crimson, gold and purple
blue light fades
like a memory
vanishing
into long ago days
spent languishing under a summer sky
unblemished
by smoky clouds
drifting languorously
away 
from earth’s forests
burning
red
hot.

In the distance 
an engine backfires
a car travels west to east
over the bridge
towards city centre
carrying its lone occupant
to a job
buried deep
within a towering building
reaching 
greedily
for the sky.

Above,
sky coughs
ash falls
like a symphony of petals
tumbling
silently
to the ground
covering the earth
in summer's finest snow.

You’re Not Welcome… Yet.

Does a tree say to leaves turning golden in July, “Stop! Go back to green! It’s not time to change seasons yet! It’s not time to bring out your autumn wardrobe of many colours.”

Or does it embrace nature’s ways with grace and ease? Accepting that all things happen in their own time. All things unfold as they are meant to unfold. Because, the trees know, they are not separate from nature. They are one with all of life on earth.

There are glimmers of gold in the trees this morning. Buffalo berries glow bright red in the bushes outside my window. And the sun glows red in a smoke clouded sky.

We are in the height of summer here on the leeward side of the Rocky Mountains. The forests are lush and green. The yet to turn golden green fronds of prairie grasses dance in the wind as if pulled by a puppeteer’s unseen hands.

And I want to yell at the leaves that continue to fade from green to golden, “Go back. Go back. You’re not welcome here… Yet.”

And I know my exhortations to retreat will be unheeded.

It is nature’s way.

To change. To flow. To be impervious to my demands as it struggles to meet the demands of a world where the very beings that make life on earth possible, the trees and rivers and oceans and air, are being continuously bombarded with our insensitive human ways.

Perhaps that is why the most recent spate of wildfires and floods and other natural disasters have felt so daunting. So incomprehensible. So sad.

Nature is responding in the only way it knows how to our continued demands it accept our garbage, our toxic waste, our extravagant assertions it act like a sponge to all we thoughtlessly deposit into the air and rivers and oceans and fields and forests and valley bottoms. It has reached the zenith of all it can contain. It is breaking open, breaking down and we, the humans of this world, are responsible.

This is not a battle of wills, of ‘little man’ with just a slingshot looking to topple the behemoth of nature. Nature is our partner. We are one with it, part of all of it as it is part of all of us. And we are in a fight for our lives. Should we remain impervious to nature’s need for us to change our ways, no one, not nature, not humans, not sentient nor non-sentient beings who are all our co-inhabitants of this planet which gives us life will survive.

I spied a patch of golden leaves this morning. I want to tell them to turn back to green but cannot stop nature’s way.

I can stop getting in the way of nature’s calls for help. I can stop demanding nature keep giving me life and start honouring the life it gives me and the symbiotic nature of our relationship. And to do that, I must do more with less, create better with everything, and give to the earth and all its beings both the less and the best of me.

I can stop hoping someone else ‘fix it’ and start fixing what I have contributed to breaking.

Autumn leaves turning golden in July beneath a smoke laden sky reminded me this morning of my continued need to lessen my footprint, pay attention to each step I take upon this planet.

Autumn leaves are turning. And though it feels too soon, it is not too soon for us to change our ways. We’re already late.

The Stories They Wrote

No. 8 #ShePersisted Series
The Stories They Wrote
by Louise Gallagher

He wasn’t born
a criminal
though his mother said
on the day he was born
that he would grow up to be
a bad one
it was written in his stars.

She wasn’t born
drug addicted
though her father said
on the day she took her first step
that she would go nowhere
but bad
it was written in her blood.

And when he grew up
he lived true to his mother’s predictions
until he found himself in that place
where time was all you got
and he had no choice but to dig
for a way out
from beneath the layers
of a story
his mother wrote for him
on the day he was born.

And when she entered treatment
for the first time
she had to go back
again and again
to erase the scars
she’d etched into her skin
searching for the beginning
of the story her father had written
when she’d taken her first step.

And they both kept digging
and they both kept searching
and re-writing and re-wiring
the stories
they told themselves they had no choice
but to live
until to live the story of their own creation
they had no choice
but to walk away
from the stories they’d always known
but never wanted
the stories no one should have written
on the day they were born.

We all have stories. Stories we tell on ourselves, stories our family tell about us, stories we’d rather forget but can’t seem to keep ourselves from living again and again.

We all have stories.

And here’s the thing about our stories. They are personal to us. They are our experience. Two people can have a similar experience; one is traumatized and the other doesn’t give it any more thought.

Our responses are personal. They are a combination of our emotional make-up, history, experiences, environment, childhood…

In my family, there was a story of my birth that left me feeling unwanted and a disappointment. As I got older, my family quit telling that story. I didn’t. Until one day I decided, enough is enough. And I changed the story to something that celebrates my life and my being here on this earth.

The fact remains though, that until I made that choice, everything about me was shadowed by my internalized belief that I was unwanted and a disappointment.

Unravelling the feelings that story evoked and its limiting beliefs was critical to my freeing myself to live my life, my way, in joy, gratitude and Love.

Working at a homeless shelter, everyday I encountered people whose lives were a daily repetition of stories they didn’t want to live but didn’t have the knowledge nor resources to change.

This morning, as I was reading the news, the story of a young man I’d encountered at the shelter popped into my mind. When he was born, his mother had said he would be good for nothing.

At 26, he had been in and out of jail numerous times. This time, he was determined to stay out.

To do that, he had to learn tools that would help him in walking away from the story he’d been living out of his mother’s predictions.

He wasn’t born criminal. He was made that way by his environment, lack of nurturing, lack of good role models and a limiting belief that he would be good for nothing.

We all have stories. We all have limiting beliefs.

To live our own stories, we must set ourselves free of our limiting beliefs so we can write a story that celebrates the magnificent nature of our human condition.

Do you have a limiting belief that is holding you back from living life as the star you are meant to be? Are you willing to set yourself free to shine?

You’re never too old (or young) to live with Purpose. Passion. Promise.

No 49. – #ShePersisted Series – https://louisegallagher.ca/shepersisted

In the 1970s, as baby-boomer girls stepped across the threshold from teenage angst into fully blossoming into womanhood, the woman’s movement began marching in earnest towards equality. By then, in North America, woman had ‘enjoyed’ the right to vote for 50 years. Fifty years. That’s it.

Here we are 50 years after the Women’s Strike for Equality of 1970 and glass ceilings remain largely intact, equal pay for equal work remains an unequal reality and in the area of reproductive rights and birth control, we continue to fight for the right to make decisions about our bodies as birth control largely remains a ‘women’s issue’ – there are many iterations of birth control for women to explore but other than condemns and vasectomies, no birth control pill for men. Go figure.

Yet, despite the fact women continue to experience workplace discrimination all around the globe as well as horrors such as genital mutilation in some parts of the world along with a lack of access to education, health care and more, we have come a long way baby.

And there’s so much further to go.

‘Cause here’s the thing. Baby-boomer women have been leading the charge on creating radical change all over the world for generations. And we’re still doing it as we enter our Third Acts.

We may be getting older but we’re not hanging up our shingles and putting our feet up as we pass the baton to our younger sisters.

We are still making waves, rocking boats and rocking chairs and standing up for those whose voices have been silenced beneath the yoke of patriarchy and discrimination.

We’re still marching. Maybe not as fast, but we’re still marching and demanding change.

Like Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks.

Yesterday, I re-watched her 2017 TEDTalk – Let’s End Ageism. I write ‘re-watch’ because I had seen it before and remember thinking, WOW! I must remember to not buy into the stereotypes of ageism.

And then I forgot. Not because my mind is slipping (rates of dementia are falling all over North America so it’s only a slim possibility I’ll succumb). But here’s the thing. It’s probably one of my biggest fears. That I’ll lose my cognitive abilities.

Go figure. If I hadn’t re-watched Applewhite’s TEDTalk, my fear might have overtaken my common sense.

I am getting older. It doesn’t mean I’m going to fall apart, lose my independence, memory, physical or cognitive capacity. It means all of that will keep changing, adapting, evolving — as life does. It also means… I have an opportunity to live agefully — and that’s what I plan on doing.

In her energizing TEDTalk Applewhite says, “It is not having a vagina that makes life harder for women. It’s sexism. It’s not loving a man that makes life harder for gay guys. It’s homophobia. And it is not the passage of time that makes getting older so much harder than it needs to be. It’s ageismm.”

Hell ya.

So here’s to my wrinkles. My sagging skin and my lapses in memory. It’s not age that makes them hard to see or appreciate or even accept.

It’s ageism and the fact that my entire life, and yours, and all of society, we have been bombarded messaging that says, “Nobody wants to get old. Getting old is … ugly. Hard. Difficult. To be avoided at all costs (so buy our products so you can defer signs of ageing).”

Here’s to women like Ashton Applewhite who are shining a light on not just how deeply embedded in our psyche and society ageism is, but who are also putting out a call for all of us to rise up, however we can, and raise our voices and consciousness so that we no longer accept discriminatory practices, politics and policies that deem older people as ‘burdens’ on society. It’s time to reframe aging as a time in our lives to celebrate our growth, our wisdom, our beauty in all its many facets and to see it as the gift of life that makes our Third Act a time of Purpose. Passion. Promise.

I do hope you take the 11 minutes to watch the video. It might just change your life, or at least how you look at the wonders of your body as it carries you successfully into your Third Act.

This post is also in response to the weekly prompt at Eugi’s Causerie — Celebration!

My Credo – a reshare

On June 11th, last year, I posted My Credo – It was created in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, of the thousands upon thousands who were marching and calling for change.

I am sharing it and what I wrote about it again as when I re-read it this morning, I had this deep sense of knowing — yes… this is true for me. This is what I want to create in this world.

For me, My Credo speaks to what I stand for, and against. It acts a guidepost against which I can measure every action, word and thought. And, it provides me with a safe and courageous container within which to grow and evolve so that I can give my all to creating better in this world.

Years ago, when I began my healing journey after being freed from an abusive relationship, I created a credo for how I wanted to live my life. It included statements like, “I shall turn up for me in all my wounded brokenness and love myself completely”.

It also included a statement on how I wanted to treat the past — as a bludgeon to beat myself up with or as the vehicle that brought me to this moment right now where I was free to heal and fall in love with myself and all my world and celebrate life for all I’m worth.

I chose to treat it as the vehicle that brought me to this moment right now. The past had served its purpose. It was time for me to let go of its pain and find a more loving, caring and roadworthy vehicle within which to continue my journey.

We cannot change the past. We can learn from it and grow deeper in our understanding of its impact on our lives today. And, we can use it as corroboration for what we need to do today to ensure tomorrow is not a repeat of a past we do not want to live again and again.

There is so much good in this world. So much beauty, possibility, hope, joy… And there is grief and sorrow, pain and suffering, violence and abuse.

It is all present. And always, no matter what is present, Love is always there.

To live by this credo, fearlessly letting all of my human condition be present, I must accept all is present. Light and dark. Fear and hope. Anger and sorrow. Suffering and joy. And I must love it all, fearlessly. Joyfully. Completely.

I am not powerful enough to change all the darkness in the world. I am powerful enough to determine how bright I want my light to shine. And I am powerful enough to shine as brightly as I can so that others can see in the dark and stand with me in the light.

Today, I am choosing to shine full on. Bright beams blasting.

I am stepping onto this road armed with My Credo. Yesterday, the decision to step onto the road to ask a man with a brick if he was ok, was what I had to do. The tenets of my credo were guiding me.

To be of service in creating change so that Indigenous people, all people, who live on this land now called Canada, are treated with dignity and respect, I must live by my credo. It is my map to creating a future where my grandchildren will know, the world into which they are born is not a place in which only they and others like them enjoy its’ privileges. It is a place where all the world enjoys the same privileges. Where all people have equal rights and are inspired to live freely and shine bright.

Namaste

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Do you have a personal Credo?

If you’d like to write one, here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started.