Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Do you see me? (My Daily Intention)

Recently I read that Maya Angelou suggested there are four questions that every human being unconsciously asks other human beings all the time.  

Workmates, playmates, lovers, friends, bosses. We ask and are being unconsciously asked these 4 critical questions:

  1. Do you see me?
  2. Do you care that I’m here?
  3. Am I enough for you, or do you need me to be better in some way?
  4. Can I tell that I’m special to you by the way that you look at me?

And then, we make decisions (assumptions), and choices based on what we perceive to be the answer.

We will move closer, or move away. We will seek intimacy, or find distance. It all depends on what we assume the other person is telling us by their actions, words, gestures and expressions.

It makes sense why people love dogs so much. Dogs always answer these questions with a huge emphatic YES! (and a lot of tail wagging and squirming too).

It might also explain why parents often complain about how little their teenagers notice if they’re even in the room, or if they hear them — teenagers have perfected the art of pretending they DON’T see you and we humans do not like the feelings of not being seen!

I’m not suggesting you wag your tail and wiggle your body when you are talking to people, but you might consider putting down the IPhone when you partner walks into a room, or at least looking up from the TV or tablet in your hands to say hello. You might even consider smiling too.

‘Seeing’ someone doesn’t mean going over the top, gushy and breathy when you talk with them. It means, taking one second to really look them in the eyes. Taking a moment to pause and listen, attentively, to what they’re saying. A smile helps. As does touch, nodding your head in acknowledgement… There are countless ways to show someone you’re seeing them — ways we too often forget to employ in today’s plugged in, activity-charged pressure-cooker environments.

‘Seeing’ someone means making the effort to show you’re paying attention. It means showing love and affection through being loving and affectionate — again, you don’t have to go over the top. You just need to connect, show them you are truly present in their presence, and care about they’re being present too.

It means turning up, being real and being present with the people in your life.

And don’t worry about the dog feeling like he’s losing out on your attention. He’s going to love you anyway. He always does.

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Today’s Daily Intention was inspired by Ian Munro of Leading Essentially who shared THIS article on his FB page from ThriveGlobal.com

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Where are the men?

No. 30 #ShePersisted series
http://louisegallagher.ca/shepersisted

When I was in my late twenties, I worked as a stockbroker. Years before, I had worked for a summer at a brokerage firm in Toronto and was intrigued by the business. Perhaps not the business itself, but more the aura of power and wealth that imbues the industry with its sense of self-importance and attitude of ‘the whole world revolves around us’. It was seductive.

At the time, I was  one of a small group of females in the sector.

We did not band together. We did not form a group to support one another, even though sexual misconduct was rife within the industry, covertly and overtly. When we occassionally met over a glass of wine or at a party, we’d talk about the sexual advancements we’d received as if being propositioned every day was the norm — because unfortunately, it was.

Every woman I knew attested to the fact that from innuendo to explicit comments, there was little confusion as to where some of the men stood on the notion of women in the field — they might ‘accept’ that woman were brokers, but they sure did not respect nor accept that women had equal status and rights to being treated like anything other than sexual objects.

I say ‘some’ because the vast majority of men I worked with were respectful and considerate.

And then there were the few.

The one’s like one of my bosses, a VP in a large firm who offered to pave the way to my success if I had sex with him. “Tell anyone and they won’t believe you,” he said when I rejected his offer. “You’re just a rookie. I’m a VP.”

I believed him. I left the firm and went to a smaller company where I felt safer and accepted. Even though I was the only female broker amongst a cadre of men, not once was I subjected to sexual improprities. I believe it was because the Managing Partner was pretty clear on the level of professionalism he expected from his team. There was to be no sexual misconduct.

A father of three young daughters, he stood up for what he believed in – that when they became adults, his daughters deserved to step into a world where they were safe to make their dreams come true, without having to face sexual misconduct and harrassment.

Which brings me to my question this morning… Where are the men?

Women have been marching. Speaking out. Wearing pink pussy hats and t-shirts decrying sexism and sexual harassment. Calling out for equality. Fair pay. Fair treatment. Fairness.

Where are the men?

Not just the single voices speaking out against those who have recently come under scrutiny for sexual assault and misconduct, but the marchers. The placard bearing. The fist pumping the air demanding an end to sexual violence; in the home, in offices, in military quarters, in locker rooms and movie sets.

Where are the men?

Do they not see that while they stay silent they risk being tarnished by the same brush that paints the perpetrators of sexual aggression and violence? Do they not see that in their silence they become victims of another man’s bad behaviour?

Sure, there are laws against sexual violence but laws do nothing for a woman while she is being raped. Laws do not bring comfort to a child while he or she is being abused. And laws do not heal the wounds of sexual assault.

Woman have been marching and in their midst there are a few men courageous and strong enough to stand up for what they know to be true and right — women are not sexual objects, the weaker sex or a sex toy who’s main purpose is to pleasure a man so he can get off on his power.

We are human beings deserving of respect. We have the right to feel safe walking down any street a man walks down. We have the right to step into an elevator alone with any man. We have the right to be in a room with any man and not be harassed, demeaned or propositioned.

Where are the men demanding their brothers stop behaving like beasts? That they stop forcing themselves upon women. That they put an end to using their masculinity as a weapon?

Where are the men?

 

 

 


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The Poet Boy Remembered

Remembrance Day. Lest we forget. Let us  not forget.

Their sacrifice. Their honour. Their duty to country. Their names.

Let us not forget.

My father went off to war when he was a boy. He went off and fought and came home and seldom spoke of those years again.

The following is the unedited version of a shorter Op-Ed I wrote that was published in the Calgary Herald several years ago. I share it here in memory of my father, and all the sons and daughters, boys and girls, men and women, who have gone off to war to never return. I share it here to remind me to never forget my father who was once a poet boy.

The Poet Boy

When the poet boy was sixteen, he lied about his age and ran off to war. It was a war he was too young to understand. Or know why he was fighting. When the guns were silenced and the victors and the vanquished carried off their dead and wounded, the poet boy was gone. In his stead, there stood a man. An angry man. A wounded man. The man who would become my father.

By the time of my arrival, the final note in a quartet of baby-boomer children, the poet boy was deeply buried beneath the burden of an unforgettable war and the dark moods that permeated my father’s being with the density of storm clouds blocking the sun. Occasionally, on a holiday or a walk in the woods, the sun would burst through and signs of the poet boy would seep out from beneath the burden of the past. Sometimes, like letters scrambled in a bowl of alphabet soup that momentarily made sense of a word drifting across the surface, images of the poet boy appeared in a note or a letter my father wrote me. For that one brief moment a light would be cast on what was lost and then suddenly, with the deftness of a croupier sweeping away the dice, the words would disappear as the angry man came sweeping back with the ferocity of winter rushing in from the north.

I spent my lifetime looking for the words that would make the poet boy appear, but time ran out when my father’s heart gave up its fierce beat to the silence of eternity. It was a massive coronary. My mother said he was angry when the pain hit him. Angry, but unafraid. She wasn’t allowed to call an ambulance. She wasn’t allowed to call a neighbor. He drove himself to the hospital and she sat helplessly beside him. As he crossed the threshold of the emergency room, he collapsed, never to awaken again. In his death, he was lost forever, leaving behind my anger for which I had no words.

On Remembrance Day, ten years after his death, I went in search of my father at the foot of the memorial to an unnamed soldier that stands in the middle of a city park. A trumpet played “Taps”. I stood at the edge of the crowd and fingered the felt of the bright red poppy I held between my thumb and fingers. It was a blustery day. A weak November sunshine peaked out from behind sullen grey clouds.  Bundled up against the cold, the crowd, young and old, silently approached the monument and placed their poppies on a ledge beneath the soldier’s feet.

I stood and watched and held back.

I wanted to understand the war. I wanted to find the father who might have been had the poet boy not run off to fight “the good war” as a commentator had called it earlier that morning on the radio. Where is the good in war, I wondered? I thought of soldiers falling, mother’s crying and anger never dying. I thought of the past, never resting, always remembered and I thought of my father, never forgotten. The poet boy who went to war and came home an angry man. In his anger, life became the battlefield upon which he fought to retain some sense of balance amidst the memories of a world gone mad.

Perhaps it is as George Orwell wrote in his novel, Nineteen Eighty-four:

“The very word ‘war’, therefore, has become misleading.  It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist… War is Peace.”

For my father, anger became the peacetime of his world until his heart ran out of time and he lost all hope of finding the poetry within him.

There is still time for me.

On that cold November morning, I approach the monument. I stand at the bottom step and look at the bright red poppies lining the gun metal grey of the concrete base of the statue. Slowly, I take the first step up and then the second. I hesitate then reach forward and place my poppy amongst the blood red row lined up along the ledge.

I wait. I don’t want to leave. I want a sign. I want to know my father sees me.

I turn and watch a white-haired grandfather approach, his gloved right hand encasing the mitten covered hand of his granddaughter. Her bright curly locks tumble from around the edges of her white furry cap. Her pink overcoat is adorned with little white bunnies leaping along the bottom edge. She skips beside him, her smile wide, blue eyes bright.

They approach the monument, climb the few steps and stop beside me. The grandfather lets go of his granddaughter’s hand and steps forward to place his poppy on the ledge.  He stands for a moment, head bowed. The little girl turns to me, the poppy clasped between her pink mittens outstretched in front of her.

“Can you lift me up?” she asks me.

“Of course,” I reply.

I pick her up, facing her towards the statue.

Carefully she places the poppy in the empty spot beside her grandfather’s.

I place her gently back on the ground.

She flashes me a toothy grin and skips away to join her grandfather where he waits at the foot of the monument. She grabs his hand.

“Do you think your daddy will know which one is mine?” she asks.

The grandfather laughs as he leads her back into the gathered throng.

“I’m sure he will,” he replies.

I watch the little girl skip away with her grandfather. The wind gently stirs the poppies lining the ledge. I feel them ripple through my memories of a poet boy who once stood his ground and fell beneath the weight of war.

My father is gone from this world. The dreams he had, the promises of his youth were forever lost on the bloody tide of war that swept the poet boy away.  In his passing, he left behind a love of words born upon the essays and letters he wrote me throughout the years. Words of encouragement. Of admonishment. Words that inspired me. Humored me. Guided me. Touched me. Words that will never fade away.

I stand at the base of the monument and look up at the soldier mounted on its pedestal.  Perhaps he was once a poet boy hurrying off to war to become a man. Perhaps he too came back from war an angry man fearful of letting the memories die lest the gift of his life be forgotten.

I turn away and leave my poppy lying at his feet. I don’t know if my father will know which is mine. I don’t know if poppies grow where he has gone. But standing at the feet of the Unknown Soldier, the wind whispering through the poppies circling him in a blood red river, I feel the roots of the poet boy stir within me. He planted the seed that became my life.

Long ago my father went off to war and became a man. His poetry was silenced but still the poppies blow, row on row. They mark the place where poet boys went off to war and never came home again.

The war is over. In loving memory of my father and those who fought beside him, I let go of anger. It is time for me to make peace.

 

 


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Forgetting to remember.

Dad Aug 1943 copyWhen the war came, my father set out to find it. He was living across the ocean in what was to become my homeland, Canada. But the war was important, he told me once. Britain was his homeland and all the young men were going. He figured he’d be okay. So he lied about his age and off he went to fight, for justice and peace, he said.

It was a lie. Not just the one he told about his age, but the other, bigger one, about being okay with fighting for what he believed in.

The war did not sit well with my father. He carried it with him and when he came home, he left justice and peace behind, and brought with him anger and pain instead.

My father seldom mentioned the war. He never spoke of what he saw, the things that hurt him, the regrets and sorrows he carried, the things he learned and wished he hadn’t. It was as if in the silencing of the guns, memory had to be silenced too.

I wondered about his memories. I wondered if that was where his anger came from. He wasn’t a violent man, but he was mercurial. One moment the world would be sunny and bright, the next a dark and seething storm would erupt and all you could do to avoid it was run for cover. I wondered if it was his unspoken memories that pushed him over the edge into darkness. I wondered if in not speaking of what happened, of what he saw, of what he felt, the pain could find no release except through anger.

Over the years, my father’s anger waned. Over the years, the memories he never spoke of dimmed, but my memory of his anger, his outbursts, his unpredictability stayed with me, even after he died.  

I wonder if his anger would never have found its home in his heart if he had found peace with memory.

I wonder if he’d ever known that love is greater than anger because it is the only thing that can catch us when we fall.

It is time. Time to let go of memory and fall fearlessly into Love.

Falling Into Love

©2017 Louise Gallagher

She clung
like a leaf
never giving in
to the fall

She held on
like a barnacle
clinging to
a whale’s back diving
in and out
in and out

She hoped
every fall
every dive
into memory
she would forget
how to cling
and fall free
to dive in
to her life calling.

One day, she dove
too deep and forgot
to hold on

Letting go
she fell in
to the ONE thing
she had forgotten
would always be there
to catch her
when she fell
LOVE.

 


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Circles of Hope — We must share

Photography by Mary Hone

It is 2am and I can’t sleep.

I don’t know if I’m still buzzed from the amazingness that was Circles of Hope yesterday, or if I’m just so emotionally exhausted even sleep can’t find space to turn up.

It was an amazing day.

Full house.

Incredible speakers and a team that made the entire thing look flawless and effortless.

Beyond the day however, is the emotional space created in sharing this journey with my eldest daughter. Of sitting with her and talking about the story of the past, our fears and sorrows and how to tell the story so that it not only inspires but reminds people that they are not alone.

Last night, I received an email from one of the attendees. They hadn’t planned on coming to the event, but a change in their schedule gave them some free time.

Being a parent myself and going through some personal challenges, I was incredibly moved. I left feeling a healing sensation after hearing you two speak. I knew I needed to attend, if only for a portion, today and the words of you and your daughter were that reason.
Their words reaffirm my belief in why it is so important to share our stories. They remind us that this journey we’re on is our collective human story. We are not alone, we are part of our shared human condition.
Being alone is a silent place. For me, believing I was alone in my fear kept me silent. My silence kept me trapped.
Yesterday, as Alexis and I stood at the front of the room and shared the words we’d worked so hard to create together to tell this story that is both so ugly and beautiful, I felt encompassed by something greater than just the two of us telling a story to the audience. I felt safe.
It was stunning moment — to feel safe in our vulnerability. To feel safe in our exposing of the wounds that once cut so deep I didn’t want to live.
To heal, to move beyond the trauma of the past, we must share our stories.
Yesterday, my eldest daughter and I shared our story. It is not the story of our lives. It is a story about a time in our lives when we were lost.
But as Alexis said in her closing remarks,

I too want to give my son the world. And though it may be a world in which I won’t always be able to protect him –  from others, from my mistakes, or from himself, I will teach him, as my mother has taught me, that together we can stand in the circle, no matter how broken, and know that love is the home we can always come back to.

______________________
And I want to give a shout out to the amazing Mary Hone and her photography and beautiful heart. On Monday, after reading my blog, she emailed to ask if she could the final phrase of my part of our presentation in a photograph.
What she sent me is stunning. It not only captures the sentiment of the words, its beauty creates a sense of wonder and awe, peace and hope.
Thank you Mary.  What a beautiful gift to have my words resonate within you so strongly you create something beautiful in their expression through your art in a way that says so much more than just the words.
My heart is overflowing with gratitude — and you are one of its many blessings.

______________________

(and yes, I did schedule this to post at a more decent, and humane, hour of the morning!  And as always happens when I write it out, I can now go to bed and go to sleep)

Namaste


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At Home in Our Hearts

There is an old saying, “practice makes perfect.”

But what if it’s not about ‘perfection’? What if the quest for perfection detracts from the value of practice?

In practice, if I am constantly striving for perfection, I lose sight of the joy of taking the journey, of being present to possibility.

Striving for perfection, I begin to believe there is a finite endpoint at which there will be no room for growth or improvement, or even change. I’ll be perfect so there’s nothing else to do.

Then the quest becomes about perfecting whatever I’m doing, versus, the joy of being immersed in whatever I’m doing, continuously improving and evolving my art, my story-telling, my writing, my voice…

One thing I am definitely learning as I work with my eldest daughter on our presentation for Circles of Hope, (which happens tomorrow! have you got your ticket?) is the fact that perfection is the killer of two things that are vital in my life:

Joy.     Intimacy.

I can’t be real and perfect at the same time. My view of ‘perfection’ is subjective. When I reach that place where I believe, I’m perfect, there’s no room for another view, different ideas, other perspectives. And without being open to another’s voice, another’s heart-truth, there’s only room for that ole’ joy killer, perfection.

My daughter and I may not be perfect in our presentation tomorrow — that’s not our goal. Our desire is to speak from our hearts. Real. Honest. Vulnerable.

As we’ve been practicing together she has reminded me many times to breathe. To let the words become embodied in my being… present.

To let them sink down from my head into my body and heart.

And that can’t happen when I’m focused on getting them, just right or appearing to be perfect.

Being one with the words can only happen when I stay present in the now, breathe into being conscious, aware and heart-driven in what I am saying.

The words of this story have come from our hearts. They’ve come from a place of deep intimacy, a willingness to be real with each other, and a desire to share our story in a way that will touch hearts and open minds to the possibility that on the other side of trauma, loss, grief, is this place we can always come back to. This vulnerable, beautiful and grace-filled space where we are always at home in our hearts.

Namaste

 

 


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Me Too. Take Two.

 

I had a note from someone who read my Me Too post on Wednesday. She wrote to tell me that what I had written had brought her to her knees. “I cried and cried,” they wrote. “And when the tears were done, I realized I was so done with dragging myself through the pain of what he’d done. I didn’t need to carry the shame and blame another inch. They were bringing me down. I needed to set myself free so I could get up.”

Someone else wrote to ask me when was I going to stop writing about that journey.  “Why do women keep having to dredge up how badly men treated them?” they asked.

My eldest daughter and I are working on our presentation for Circles of Hope on November 8. We are presenting the mother/daughter journey of our experience of having gone through an abusive relationship, of having lost everything, only to find ourselves on the other side of shame, blame, fear, anger, sadness, sorrow, bitterness and regret. On the other side is only Love.

As we talk and write together about ‘those days’, about the immediate aftermath and the journey through healing, I am constantly reminding myself to breathe.

That was then. This is now.

There is no part of that story that can hurt me today, because the only place that story lives is within memory. And memories can’t hurt me, unless I hold onto them and claim their shadow as my truth. Yet, when I hear my daughter speak of her experiences during those dark days, there are moments when I want to hide from the truth. To defend against what happened. At times, I can feel like such a victim of my own past, I want to hold up a sign for all the world to see and know the truth, “I am a Bad Mother. I am a Bad. Bad. Mother.”

And I breathe. That was then. This is now.

Telling that story, together, is not easy. When I tell the story on my own, I control the narrative. I can paint the picture of my brokenness how I want it to appear.

Yet, telling this story together is so powerful. Freeing. Loving.

I cannot change my daughters’ journey through those dark days. I can change how I respond to her telling of those events.

I can let go of blaming and shaming myself and hold space for her voice to be heard, to be known and claimed. Her story is not my story, and though we went through that journey together, we went through it from different angles. And in those angles, the light broke and refracted differently for each of us.

Telling the story together allows ‘the whole’ of what happened to come into view so that we can share, not just the journey into darkness, but our shared experiences of growing through it in to Love today.

Years ago, I fell into the arms of an abuser. It almost killed me.

It also hurt my daughters. It broke their hearts. Caused them enormous pain and angst.

In telling this story together, we are standing for truth. For hope. For love.

When I step out from the shadow of wanting to take away her experience and replace it with something more palatable, less harsh, I know and see and live in the truth. I am not a Bad Mother. I am a mother doing her best to be real, to be strong, to live her life with integrity, grace, kindness and above all, in Love.

When I look at the amazing women both my daughters have grown into being, I know that, regardless of and because of, what happened then, in the now today, we are very blessed.

As I said to my daughter the other night as we talked about our presentation, “The gift is that we are as strong as we are today, because of what we went through together.”

Why is it important we tell our stories, again and again, from every angle?

Because our stories are real, and in their reality and our sharing, together we grow stronger.

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