Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Seek Clarity First.

“Where are you right now?”

I realize how off track I was as soon as I hear C.C., my beloved, ask the question. We have invited friends for an impromptu dinner. They’ve been to the condo we’ve rented while renovating our new house before, but it can be tricky to find.

When my girlfriend called to ask, “So how do we find your place again?” I’d immediately leapt to giving directions without first clarifying, “Where are you right now?”

Definitely off track.

In life, no matter where we’re going, to get clear on our path, we need to know where we are starting from.

My directions only confused her until C.C. took over and made it simple. He asked the question and then confirmed, “You’re on the right track. Just keep driving along that road and you’ll see our place on the left, just past the community hall.”

Within minutes they were at our door and we spent a delightful evening sharing food, wine, laughter and watching the Ice Dance Competition at the Olympics.

And I wonder, how often do I do that? Forget to ask the questions before leaping into fix-it mode or jumping to conclusions.

Note to self. When someone’s lost or seeking direction, or when I’m searching for my way, seek clarity first. Understand the situation. Get clear on where I’m at or the direction they’re coming from. Don’t be too quick to jump to the rescue or leap to a conclusion. Or, as stated in Steven Covey’s Fifth Habit in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.”

Words to live by.


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When the war came.

He was nine when he remembers the war coming for the first time. It was how he said it, “I was nine the first time I remember when the war came.”

When the war came.

I had never heard it said that way. I think of men going to war. Of soldiers never coming back. But never of the war coming to me. To my family. My home. My city.

For Sam, the war came to him and his family. It came to his neighbours’ homes. To his city. His country. The war came and he hid. In a basement. All night. All day. “We’d be allowed out sometimes for a couple of hours during the day. For sunlight. To get food. Water. We weren’t allowed to play. You don’t play during war,” he said.

The second time the war came he was about fourteen. And then nineteen. “By then, I didn’t much care about the war,” he said as he clipped and shaped my hair, “I didn’t think about it. It came. It went. I knew it would come back. I tried not to think about it. It just was.”

He had to join the military. “I didn’t like that at all,” he said. “I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t fit in.”

“I couldn’t figure out why we had an army anyway,” he added. “We didn’t really have any guns. We didn’t want to have a war.”

He clipped a bit more hair. In the mirror, I watched his hands deftly wielding the scissors. His shaggy black hair. Full lips. Deep brown eyes. EArly thirties, handsome. But his shoulders are hunched. His chest curled forward, huddled over his stomach. I think of a turtle crouched in its shell protecting its soft body.

His eyes are downcast. He concentrates on his job. Stops. Punctuates a comment with his hands. The scissors snipping at air.

“They made us march. And line up. It was so tedious.” Snip. Snip.

“I was lucky. The war came back the year after I left the army.” Pause. “I’m glad I was gone from the army. I could not have killed another man.”

Snip. Snip.

“It is wrong what happened. I was just a boy. I should have been playing with my friends. Kicking a ball around. Instead, I hid out. Eventually, it became normal.”

The war kept coming back. “The last time the war came, my mother and cousins left for safer places. My father and I, we didn’t leave. It was our home. We couldn’t leave it.”

Snip. Snip.

And then they had no choice. They had to leave.

“I don’t want to be at war. I don’t want to fight. I want to get married. Raise children. Have a family.” He paused. His hands stopped moving. His body stilled. “I want to have peace.”

For Sam, war came and drove him from the arms of his family. It tore him from those he loves to send him half way around the world to a land he’d never been, a city he’d never heard of before. It took him from the sea he loves, a city, for all its war torn streets, that was familiar to him, a place he called home. It took him away and deposited him here, in a cold and northern clime.

It drove him to a place where ‘war doesn’t come’. And for that he is grateful.

I pray it never does. Come to him again, or me, or anyone I love, or anyone in the world. And I know my prayers are already unanswered. There are owars/conflicts taking place right now. I can name a few. Libya. Syria. Afghanistan. Nigeria. l know so little about war. I do not want to know more.

Perhaps, it is not time to speak out against war, but to speak up for peace. For that which keeps lives and families intact. For that which keeps us safe.

Peace.

It can only come when war comes no longer. For with every mother’s child who dies, a seed of sorrow, of anger, of hatred is sown.

War gives birth to animosity. To tears of sorrow. To future wars.

Let us give birth to possibility. To love and hope and joy and peace. Let us put down arms and for Love’s sake, let us stand up for peace.

 


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Conquering The Great Divide

I had steeled myself for the shock of arrival. I had mentally prepared myself for the cold.

And it still hit me!

After three days in the moist, relatively warm air of the coast, coming home felt like a rude awakening — even though it was after midnight.

My plane was a couple of hours late. C.C., who was originally going to pick me up at 10, had long gone to bed. I walked out of the terminal, grabbed a cab and then proceeded to say a whole bunch of prayers as we slipped and slid our way down the Deerfoot, navigating icy patches and drifted snow until climbing up Bow Trail towards the condo in which we’re temporarily living while the renovations on our new home are underway.

The cab driver’s car had really bad tires.

Note to self, before climbing into a cab, check to ensure its tires have appropriate tread to navigate snowy roads!

And now I’m home.

Back from a delightful weekend with my sisters and daughters.

On Saturday night, my youngest daughter who had flown out Thursday to spend a week with her sister, organized a ‘baby soiree’ at the home of Alexis’ husband’s mother and stepdad. With the help of Alexis’ dear friend VW and her mother and father-in-law, they created a sense of ‘one big family’ coming together to celebrate the imminent arrival of baby bean, or as he’s affectionately known in utero, Garfield.

There was laughter and teasing, friendly games of pool in the basement and lots of good food and wine upstairs.

One of the hardest things about Garfield’s pending arrival is the distance between us. Alexis and her husband live in Vancouver, on the other side of The Great Divide, almost a thousand kilometers away.

And while between our hearts there is no distance too far to travel, in physical space we are an 11 hour drive (not always advisable in the winter) or a 1 and a half hour flight.

Knowing she is surrounded by a family who loves her, knowing her friends are supportive and caring and kind, and that many of them are just a short drive away and some are also in the ‘family way’, helps ease my heart’s yearning to be closer.

As we stood and chatted at the party on Saturday night, someone suggested guessing the actual date of baby Garfield’s arrival. I laughingly told the story of Alexis’ 19 days of holding out on coming into this world beyond her due date. “I used to think it was because she knew it was the last and only time she would be 100% in control,” I said.

Truth is, I actually think it was because I didn’t want to share her with the world yet. I knew it was the last time it would be 100% just her and me.

I’ve grown since June 19th, 1986 when she came into this world.

I’ve learned to share her. To be supportive and happy in knowing she has created a world around her filled with people who love her and want the best for her in her life. People who care deeply about her well-being. Who want to share their stories with her, and share in her stories too.

As I watched both my daughters at the party on Saturday night I was reminded once again, of how incredibly loving and kind they both are. I was struck by not just their physical beauty, but the beauty of their hearts. The aura of kindness that surrounds them both.

I am so incredibly blessed. And grateful.

I may have been the carrier of the miracle that became their lives, but it is the incredible support of family and friends that have helped shape and guide and form them into the truly magnificent young women they are today.

Baby Garfield is set to arrive within the next two weeks.

In the world around us there is much happening that does not make sense, that causes me distress and unease.

But here, no matter which side of the Great Divide I stand, no matter how icy the roads or far the distance, there is only one truth to hold onto, one prayer to repeat, “May Love surround us always.”

In Love’s embrace, I know Baby Garfield will be safe, no matter how fiercely the winds may blow around him.

In Love, he and his parents are immersed in beauty, kindness, joy, harmony. And though there may be moments of tears, of strife, of discomfort, Love will carry them through.

For this grandmother’s heart to conquer The Great Divide, the only place I need to stand is In Love.


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Across the Universe. All You Need is Love

I read the news today. Oh Boy.

This morning, after reading the news about a Neo-Nazis group in the US, a holocaust denial article published on a Calgary muslim website and a story about fentanyl deaths in British Columia, I felt angry. Confused. Upset.

Really? What are we thinking? How can one Neo-Nazi group be responsible for 5 murders in the US in the last 8 months? How can young men be joining Neo-Nazi groups, waving Swatsika’s and raising arms, killing their girlfriend’s parents because they convinced her to break up with him because of his neo-nazi leanings? How is it that 4 of 5 fentanyl deaths in BC are men, mostly young, mostly alone at home?

We can do better.

And I use the ‘we’ on purpose.

It is not ‘them’ doing this to themselves, or to ‘us’. It is all of us. We are all on this earth together. Breathing the same air. Drinking the same water. Walking the same planet.

But here’s the problem. I want it to be ‘them’. I do not want this crazy-making, deadly part of our humanity to be part of my humanity.

And I can’t cut it out.

This part of me that is connected to you. Connected to them. Connected to all of us. It is all part of our world.

Perhaps that is what makes me feel so angry. And sad.

We are doing this to one another, and I feel helpless.

I know where feeling helpless goes. I’ve been there before when I was in a relationship that was killing me and trying to pretend my life was not on a downward spiral to hell.

I am not helpless. We are not helpless.

But I am silent. Mostly.

What about you? Are you silent too?

Silent no more, I choose to speak up. Not against what is being done in the name of hatred and violence but in the name of Love.

I choose to speak up for Love, with Love, in Love.

With all of it.

The sorrow and joy. The grief and jubilation. The darkness and the brilliance of our humanity when we step out from behind the shadows and claim our place under the sun. Together. A place where all of us belong, not because I say so or you decree it, but because in this place of belonging, we do not hide in the shadows, fearing the darkness and the light. In this place, we know darkness and light, grief and joy, hate and Love are all part of our humanity. All belong in our human journey.

In this place, we do not shame those who disagree with us, or who battle addiction, or hold a flag that makes our blood boil. In this place we hold space for light to get into the darkness so that through understanding, tolerance, compassion, we can speak up for all humanity, not just those who see it our way.

In this place, I don’t feel so helpless, so lost, so alone. I feel empowered, emboldened, fearless in my belief that when I face hatred, anger, violence with a soft heart and strong back, no matter the news or our human condition, Love will always be my answer.

And in Love, sadness fades and I am reminded once again of the power I possess to be the change I want to see in my world.

I read the news today. Oh Boy.

All you need is Love!

Namaste.


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In need of balance.

In my post yesterday on A Grandmother’s Code, I mentioned in one of my comments that I was feeling unsettled without access to my studio.

It was packed up on December 12th and is not likely to get set up again for at least a couple of more months. We are still in the throes of renovating our new home, and my studio will be the last piece in the puzzle of putting our home together.

As I lay in bed this morning thinking about not having a place to create with abandon (because that’s what the studio gives me — a place to paint without worrying about splashing, spills or slip-ups), I realized I need to come up with an alternative plan. A way to create without a studio.

People do it all the time. What am I waiting for?

Fundamentally, my studio represents more than a creating space. It is my home base. My sanctuary. My centering place.

Without it, I have been letting myself off the hook of being committed to my practice of centering, meditating and finding balance.

I have been slacking off.

And that’s not good for me.

Even my meditation practice has been impacted by this move. I am erratic in creating space for meditation and even when I do, I find myself wandering both mentally and physically.

All of which are signs of my inner imbalance.

Moving is not easy. And when the move takes three months, it becomes more about learning to live in transition than just being in transition.

I have not done a great job of learning to live in this new order of things. No matter how transitory, I am in it and need to be conscious of how I go through it.

So, today, I commit to starting a new awareness for myself of what it means to live in transition — while keeping myself balanced and centered with grace and ease.

To begin, I created a ‘path’ for myself to ensure I give myself room for assessment, alignment and action. My steps, as they currently appear in first blush are:

  1. Be conscious of where I’m at — physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
  2. Make an assessment of my ‘Balance wheel’.
  3. Decide on the priority areas to address.
  4. Make a commitment to do 1 – 3 things within each area to bring myself back into balance.
  5. Identify the 1 – 3 things for each.
  6. Commit to beginning and when necessary, begin again.
  7. Be gentle with myself.

It’s a new beginning, a new space, a new attitude.

I wonder what I can create?

 

 


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A Grandmother’s Code for her Grandchild

Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash

In September of last year, I wrote about the Fierce Love that consumed me when I learned that I would be becoming a grandmother this March.

Our grandson’s arrival is fast approaching.

And my fierce love grows stronger.

I know that there is nothing I can do to alter the course of her pregnancy. I know that the medical team guiding her through this last trimester is competent and professional. And, I know that along with their midwife, Dula and Obstetrician, my daughter, son-in-love and grandson are in excellent hands and are well-cared-for on this journey.

But it doesn’t change my desire to do something to make a difference.

Which is why I awoke early this morning thinking about what I could do.

“Get conscious of what it is you want to teach your grandson and how you plan on going about doing it,” the quiet voice within whispered.

What do I want to teach my grandson?

I want to teach him that who and how he is in the world makes a difference because his being in this world makes a difference.

I want him to know that this world is a place of awe and wonder. That amidst the turmoil, pain and chaos, that kindness, beauty, creativity, compassion are essential. And that in all things, all places, all situations, Love is always the answer.

And I can only do that by showing him through everything I do and say and am:

The power of kindness.

The beauty of honesty.

The gift of creativity.

The exquisiteness of compassion.

The grace of Love.

By living through these tenets, I want him to know that he doesn’t have to do anything to make a difference because his presence in this world makes our world so exquisitely and lovingly different.

 

 


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Look at me! I’m so human!

Imagine you are building a fence. You need to get the fence post into the earth. You dig a hole, grab a great big mallet, stick the fence post in the hole and begin pounding on the top of it.

It moves deeper and deeper into the earth until it becomes so tightly lodged you cannot pull it out.

Good start to building your fence.

Now, imagine that fence post is your self-worth. Imagine that every time you make a mistake or mess something up, you berate yourself for it. Again and again.

Think about it. Pounding away at your self-worth, pushing it deeper and deeper into the ground until you are so firmly lodged in the earth, you cannot pull it out, does not make for flourishing human potential.

It makes you stuck in the ground with your treasures and possibilities buried deep.

And here’s the thing. Fence building requires firmly planted fence posts. So, once you finish pounding on the first fence post, you need to start on the next one in order to have two posts to build your fence.

Building your human potential does not need a fence, nor does it respond well to pounding your worth into the ground.

That behaviour does not inspire greatness. And when you keep doing it to yourself, again and again, all you do is build a fence around yourself made of self-doubt, insecurity, limiting-beliefs and condemnation. And fences made of those things don’t leave much room for your imagination, dreams or spirit to fly free!

Here’s a bonus exercise as a follow-up to yesterday’s What’s in your bank account.

Catch yourself pounding yourself into the earth — As you go about your day, have a small note pad on hand and put an ‘x’ on the page every time you catch yourself judging yourself harshly, calling yourself names, self-criticizing yourself or mocking yourself for something you’ve done.

On the same page, put a check-mark for every time you take a moment to congratulate yourself for doing something well, handling a situation in an effective manner or simply feel good about yourself.

At the end of the day, see which mark you have more of — the checks or the x’s.

It can be telling.

Now, imagine those x’s are pounding your self-worth into the ground.

Yup. It’s time to stop beating yourself down and instead, start lifting yourself up by celebrating you!

LIfting yourself up can be as simple as stopping your self-criticism mid-thought and saying to yourself, “Oh, look at me! I’m so human!” (Smiling while you say it helps too!)

There’s no judgement in acknowledging your humanness. There’s only acceptance.

With acceptance comes the acknowledgement that we are all… human.

And we are all … doing our best being perfectly human in all our human imperfections.

Namaste.