Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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I am Alive!

PHOTO SOURCE: CBC Radio April 20, 2018

This is courage. This is strength. This is a woman’s story of survival and victory. An amazing story told by an amazing woman.

I am driving in my car when I hear Anna Maria Tremonti, of CBC’s ‘The Current’, interviewing Grace Acan, a woman who was abducted as a schoolgirl by Ugandan rebels and now helps other casualties of war reclaim their lives.

Tremonti is gentle in her questioning. Careful to allow Grace Acan space to respond. Or not.

I hear the strength, courage, heart in Grace Acan’s voice and find tears pooling along the bottom of my eyelids.

“I learned to do everything — however hard it was — in order to survive,” Acan says. She was was 14 when fighters for the Lord’s Resistance Army came to her school’s dormitory in the dead of night and abducted 139 girls. 30 would be released.  Grace would spend the next 8 years doing whatever it took to survive.

It was all about living. And when her captivity ended with her escape nearly 8 years later, she kept on living. Kept on pushing through her pain and sorrow and fear because, she tells Tremonti, she had to survive, ‘for the family she had left behind and the children she bore while in captivity’.

And my mind travels back to a time when I was released from a relationship that was killing me many years ago. By the end of that 4 year 9 month journey I was emotionally dead. The physicality of my being present here on earth was more of an inconvenience, an annoyance that I knew he would deal with in his own time. That time was getting closer as I had given up on me and fallen into the belief I was powerless over him. I was waiting to die.

And so I waited.

And then, a blue and white police car drove up and two officers got out and arrested the man who had promised to love me until death do us part — as long as he had control of the death part.

I was broke, broken and lost. But I was alive.

What a gift life was!

I remember in those first heady weeks and months of freedom, whenever someone asked me, “How are you?” I’d immediately respond, “I’m alive!” They’d often look at me, surprised, especially if they were a stranger or someone who didn’t know me well. I’d see their confused look and say, “Seriously. Isn’t being alive amazing!”

Most would smile (nervously) and agree and walk on. And I would keep smile and keep walking, one foot in front of the other, as I worked to restore my sense of well-being, my sense of self, of who I am when I’m not carrying the label, “Abused Woman”.

Recovery is a journey. Of hope. Belief. Trust. Love. It is a two steps forward, one back and three forward again. It is a spherical path leading ever further and higher away from the darkness into the light of knowing — Life is a precious gift. Use it wisely. Use it serve others. To create better in this world. To bring light and joy into whatever space you can. Life is precious. Treasure it.

This May 21st marks 15 years since that morning when I got the gift of my life back. I don’t think of those days often. Yet, when I hear a woman like Grace Acan speak, memory tugs and I am reminded once again how blessed I am, how fortunate, how lucky.

I survived that journey. I have rebuilt my life, reclaimed myself, healed and deepened my relationship with my daughters. They were my unseen angels throughout those dark months at the end where I was lost and didn’t believe I had the right to live. It was because of them I never took my own life. It is because of them, I live my life today, passionately in love, honouring the gift of my life fearlessly, totally In Love.

Thank you Grace Acan for having the courage to share your story. Your voice reminds me of the power of my voice and makes me once again breathe deeply into the beauty and wonder of freedom and the gift of being able to joyfully exclaim for all the world to hear, “I am Alive!”

What a gift!

Namaste.

The Current:  Interview with Grace Acan. April 20, 2018


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Changing a habit is hard. I can do it!

I am working on changing a habit.

It’s hard.

I like sleeping on my stomach. It’s something I’ve done most of my life, even after a C-Section!

My back hates it. I mean really hates it.

Sleeping on my stomach is a sure way to give my sciatica free reign.

I need to change the habit.

Problem is, I often roll over in my sleep only to wake up when the familiar deep ache in my lower back gets so painful, it wakes me up.

Rolling back over isn’t easy. I need to move with care to ensure I don’t A) scream out in pain and awaken C.C., Beaumont and Marley the Great Cat.  B) my lower back doesn’t lock up.

So, I’ve devised a method to keep myself from rolling onto my stomach while conscious and asleep.

First, as I get ready for bed, I tell myself how much benefit there is sleeping on my back or side. I do this for a long time. Every time the critter sneaks in and whispers, “But you can’t go to sleep if you’re not lying on your stomach”, I face him square on and say gently, “It’s okay. You’re just afraid of change. I can do this.” And then I do it. (Yeah my team!)

Second, as I get into bed, I turn on the heating pad and place it behind my back — the warmth keeps me in place and helps me fall asleep. (My heating pad shuts off after half an hour. It’s the perfect gateway to falling asleep.)

Third, when I wake up during the night, and find myself still on my back or side, I turn the heating pad back on. It’s preventative.

So, why am I telling you all this?  Because changing a habit in one area opens the door for other changes too.

And if you’re like me, there are areas of your life where some of your habits don’t really add up to a whole lot of positive influence on your happiness and well-being.

Like, playing Spider Solitaire every night when I get into bed. I’d much rather be reading a book, but I’ve acquired this habit of reaching for my IPad…

Time to apply some habit changing karma to my night time routine. Because, quite frankly, if I can change a lifelong habit of sleeping on my stomach, some piddly little thing like Spider Solitaire is a piece a cake.

Eons ago, Socrates wrote, “The soul, like the body, accepts by practice whatever habit one wishes it to contact.”

And that’s the thing about changing a habit. Our minds, bodies and souls are engaged in keeping the good, and the unhealthy ones, in place.

To change one, we must begin with putting it in contact with something different — like my heating pad for my back.

For me, beginning with a habit where the stakes are high (I dislike being in my body when my back is out) has given me the momentum and the courage to start looking at other habits that, while perhaps not as debilitating as my stomach sleeping habit, are not having a positive effect on my life and well-being.

In shifting my stomach sleeping habit, I have proven to myself, I CAN do it. I can take on a hard task and make change happen for the better.

I’ve also shown myself that changing a habit from ‘bad’ to ‘good’ reaps benefits — my back is not as sore in the mornings and it’s much easier to get out of bed too!

Do you have a habit you need/want to change? What’s your secret to making it happen?


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The Beloved.

Richard Rohr writes in his daily column today that psychologists have determined that there is no such thing as ‘an infant’. That in essence, it is an infant/caregiver. For the first several months of life, the infant only sees the world as mirrored through their caregivers eyes. They are one and the same.

Rohr, quotes historian, Morris Berman, who writes in Coming to Our Senses, that our first experience of life is not merely a visual or audio one of knowing ourselves through other people’s facial and verbal responses; it is primarily felt in the body. He calls this feeling kinesthetic knowing. We know ourselves in the security of those who hold us, skin to skin. This early knowing is not so much heard, seen, or thought. It’s felt.

Last night, my beloved and I shared some Facetime with our grandson, Thurlow. At almost two months of age, he has grown considerably (almost double his birth weight) and is much more alert and active as he moves further from being a preemie to infant state. When he was born, my daughter and son-in-love spent lots of skin to skin time with him, reassuring him of his connection, imprinting his belonging into his body knowing.

I am in awe of my daughter as she moves with such grace into this place called, being a mother.  I am also in awe of the transformative power of love. It isn’t just that Thurlow sees the world through the eyes of infant/caregiver, it is that my daughter is seeing her son through the same eyes and they are one. In their oneness is the magnificence of our human condition shimmering in the divine essence of our human nature and its natural affinity to Love.

No one human on this earth is born separate. We are all born of our mother’s bodies. Yet, many are deprived of experiencing the mystical power of oneness of those first few months of life on earth.

A host of human afflictions can circumvent the infant/caregiver bond. Poverty, war, abuse, trauma, the turmoils of life in a divisive world, all of this can play a role in our not experiencing the body knowing of oneness that is foundational to our feeling the truth of our identity: We are beloved. Cast adrift too soon, separated from our oneness with the one who carried us into this world, we flounder, bereft, searching for a way to heal the brokenness we cannot name because we never experienced what it meant to not be separate in those first foundational months of life on earth.

I watch my daughter and son-in-love express their love and oneness with my grandson last night. I am in awe. I am grateful. No matter what turmoil, hardship, roadblocks, or strife life may put on his path, he will always know, deep within his body, the truth of his identify; he is beloved. And while his journey will include necessary separateness from his parents, the deep knowing of his oneness will always sustain him, always bring him home to the truth.

What a beautiful gift of life.

_______________

Photo Source  

 

 


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What do you do when faced with an overwhelming task?

I unpacked some more this weekend.

I didn’t want to. I want it done. Finished.

The only way to get to ‘done’ is to do the work.

So I unpacked.

My studio space downstairs became the repository for the movers to put all the boxes not marked ‘living room, master bedroom, kitchen, or dining room’.

There were a lot of boxes that fit that bill.

Since moving into our new home on March 12th, I have continually entered the soon to be studio space in search of mis-labelled boxes that might contain things I wanted. Like my Cappuccino machine, frying pans and other kitchen items. In the process, the boxes got moved about, partially unpacked, somewhat dishevelled looking.

This weekend, I decided to tackle the job.

It is a big job, which I kept putting off every time I entered the back room.

Ugh. My mind whispered. This room is overwhelming.

And I’d turn and walk away.

Not only does the room contain all the not yet unpacked boxes and pieces of furniture for which we have not yet found a home, it also contains some of the contractor’s tools, the old kitchen cabinets which I’ll use in the studio and extra wood from the renovation. As this room has a finished concrete floor, he used it for cutting and sanding wood, painting doors and other building activities.

Which means, though the contractor did sweep it out before the movers came, there is still lots of dust on the floor and pieces of wood lying about.

Yesterday, after completing everything I could upstairs and spending some time reading, walking Beaumont, and walking Beaumont again, I had no more excuses. I had to tackle the job.

I have begun. After working on it for six hours yesterday, the room looks a little less overwhelming and a lot more manageable.

In the days leading up to finally getting to work on the room, I let the size of the job overwhelm me. I looked at it in its entirety and didn’t see the possibility of tackling it in small, chewable steps.

Yesterday, though I worked on it for six hours total, I did it in three trenches of time, taking mini-breaks in-between each segment. In fact, my first stint at working on it was for an hour and a half. When a girlfriend came over for tea at 10 am, I took a break.

When she left at 11:30, I worked until 1:30 when Beaumont and I had a walk date with a neighbour.

By the time I returned to the room an hour and a half later, I felt refreshed and re-energized to tackle the job. I’d already made some headway and could see progress. It felt less daunting and I felt less overwhelmed. I counted the boxes I’d emptied, took out the garbage and packed up ‘the giveaways’ and reminded myself that organizing this room is a process of creating my studio space, a space in which I love to spend time.

And therein lies the secret of cleaning up the basement — it’s not about tackling an ugly job. It’s about creating a space for my creativity to have its voice. It’s about stepping into the task with an open heart and mind, knowing that it is all part of the process of creating my soon to be studio space.

I have begun to create the space for my studio. It is an exciting process. A process where I get to be part of designing the space that will be home to my creative expressions.

I am letting go of the angst of ‘cleaning up the basement’ and diving into the joy of building a space where I will feel free to explore my creativity and express myself.

I am loving the shift in attitude and perspective.

Which just goes to show, if you’ve got a big job to undertake, changing your glasses can give you a whole new outlook on getting it done!


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In an imperfect world can you forgive yourself for being imperfect?

No matter how much I forgive myself for the things I’ve done that have hurt the one’s I love, the thing I struggle with the most is forgiving myself for not being perfect.

It’s a not so subtle force, this desire to be perfect and to make the world around me perfect. Its constant yammering to do better, be better, make better of myself and everything I create in the world leaves me feeling dissatisfied and sometimes defeated by myself. Its constant wailing pounds away at my peace of mind, upsetting my sense of being at ease in the world.

In its strident calling out for justice, in its insistence that ‘this’ or ‘that’ do not belong in the world, in its labelling of human suffering and misdeeds as ‘wrong’, in its endless battling against one foe versus another, it denies the inescapable truth — everything belongs. It is all part of our human journey.

I cannot change the world. I can change my world by letting go of anger, fear, denial of what is, through acceptance of all that is when I accept, it all belongs.

Acceptance doesn’t mean I give up working towards change, towards justice and truth. It just means I stop railing against things I label as unjust and stand instead in all the imperfections knowing we are all perfectly human in all our human imperfections, and it’s all okay.

There are many ways to quieten my need for perfection; meditation, exercise, dance, creative endeavours, being in nature, yet still, it raises its persistent voice whenever I fall into the belief that I am separate from the world around me.

Fact is, my need for perfection keeps me separate through criticizing, condemning and blaming myself and others for what I have deemed ‘not belonging’ in the world.

It is in those moments that I must stop, breathe deeply, relax and forgive myself for my imperfections so that I can accept, it all belongs in my world, it is all okay.

It is in forgiveness I find peace within a deep sense of belonging.

What about you?  Are you continually judging yourself and the world around you, creating separation through striving to find perfection in our perfectly imperfect humanity?

Have you tried forgiving yourself in the beauty of your human imperfections?

 


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Born to be Magnificent.

We are all born magnificent. It is imprinted in our DNA at the moment of conception.

It is imprinted in our soul, or DNA, genetic blueprint, core essence this Divine Expression of Amazing Grace that is within each of us. We can call it placed there by God, Yaweh, Allah. It is not the word we use to name this Divine Essence of our being human that matters. What matters is we awaken to its presence.

And that’s the challenge Life can be hard. In its unfolding we forget the magnificence at our core very early on in our journey. As lie happens, we adapt to its happenings, layering over our magnificence with pain and anger, sorrow and regret and a host of our human mal-adaptations that we carry with us to protect our ego and its constant need for reassurance. In the process,  our magnificence becomes a tiny seed of memory, always present, always with us. Not always seen or known or remembered.

As we grow and age, we remember something is missing. We carry a sense of loss, of curiosity that maybe there’s more to this life than just ‘the daily grind’. This making a living day-to-day, of getting by.

In his newsletter today, theologian and philosopher, Richard Rohr calls it “The Further Journey”. It is the journey into the second half of our lives that always awaits us, though some of us may never take it. Not because we don’t get old enough to enter ‘the second half of our lives’, but rather, because we get stuck in the identity growing and boundary establishing that occupies the first half. Stuck in ‘me’, we never awaken to the magnificence, or divine spark, at the core of our human presence to realize awakening is necessary. It is an integral part of our human journey.

My awakening happened gradually. In my twenties, I could not understand why I felt like I never fit into my family. They did a few things, all unintentional, to reinforce my sense of unease within their midst, which lead me to question, “Who am I?” early on.

Who am I, I discovered, isn’t about the things I own or do, it’s about who am I when I am being my most magnificent self. When I am being of service to the world.

For me, creating things of beauty and wonder, creating a sense of welcome and peace is critical to my nature.

For you, it may be something else.

Whatever ‘it’ is, your ‘who am I’ will resonate at a deep soul level and express itself in a way that is unique to only you. In the presence of its truth, you will feel so light of heart, you might feel like your entire being is dancing in the light of love.

Answering ‘Who am I?’ is a lifetime journey of unfolding and discovery. Of turning back into yourself again and again, letting go of self-judgement and criticism to realize, Who am I is the beginning of a wondrous journey into self-forgiveness, acceptance, understanding and Love.

For today, stand in front of a mirror, look deep into your eyes and ask yourself, ‘Who am I?’.

Keep your heart soft, your mind open, your senses awakened to whatever rises up from deep within you.

Let go of judgement. Let go of self-consciousness and that fuzzy little flurry of embarrassment that wants to burble up and make you laugh uncomfortably.

Just stay present. Ask the question. Listen deeply.

The answer may surprise you.

The answer may confuse or excite you.

And always, the answer will be fascinating. Because, beneath all the stuff of life, is the answer you were born to know and breathe life into:  You are magnificent. The Divine Expression of Amazing Grace.

 

 


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The clutter is your life. Get rid of it.

“Perhaps you should just give the stuff away,” I tell my friend JD. “If I haven’t missed what you’ve got, I don’t need to know what you’ve got.”

JD and her husband AJ had dropped by on their way home from a weekend at Mount Assiniboine Lodge. We’d had an impromptu dinner and as they were leaving JD had mentioned she had some dishes and things that belong to me. “I’ll bring them over” she said.

Having spent the past two weeks unpacking boxes and organizing ‘stuff’, I am convinced, we have too much stuff.

“How is this possible,” I ask my beloved C.C. as I unpack yet another box of dishes. “I know we love to entertain, but this is getting ridiculous.”

I have two sets of white everyday dishes. A set of summer plates. Formal dinnerware. A dinner set for 16. Plus a couple of other sets of informal plateware, just for those fun occasions when I feel like changing it up.

Too much stuff is cluttering up my life, and filling my cupboards!  It’s time to get serious about unloosening the stuff of life that is keeping me stuck in believing I need it to feel ‘good, or happy, or complete — not sure what the seed of the reason is for all my stuff – I do know that all my stuff is acting like a grit of sand in an oyster shell. Except, chewing on it is not going to create a pearl of beauty. It will only create unease.

Robert Brault wrote, “I am never five minutes into stripping the clutter from my life before I start running into the clutter that is my life.”

In essence, the clutter is our lives.

As I unpack, and make choices as to what to keep and what to divest myself of, I ask myself, “Do I want this [object] to be a reflection of my life?”

It makes it easier to choose between holding onto something or letting it go, to think of it as a ‘thing’ that reflects my life.

Sometimes, I might hold an object and remember good times spent with it or the person who gave it to me, but then, I must ask… “Are the memories of this object overriding the truth? Do I need this?”

It also makes it easier if I ask myself whether or not the [object] brings me joy. It is in those moments I transcend the clutter of my life to realize, objects don’t bring me joy. Joy is found in the living of life. In the decluttering, in the unpacking, in the moving furniture around, when I focus on the joy of doing versus the pain, I find myself feeling at home, no matter where I am or how much stuff surrounds me.

I am unpacking and into decluttering right now (I can feel my daughters dancing as they read this — they have long held that I have too much ‘clutter’ in my life and need to invest time in ‘Swedish Death Cleaning’!). Swedish Death Cleaning isn’t about getting rid of things I do not need. It’s about creating beauty in my life where the things I do possess have room to breathe and be appreciate. It’s about acknowledging that one day, if I don’t do this now, my daughters will have to do it for me. Why would I put that burden on them?

Margareta Magnusson writes in The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning:

“Old people seem to think that time goes so quickly, but in fact it is we who have become slower.”

I am not ‘old’ but I’m getting there! No matter my age, or speed of ageing, what I need is a simpler, more clean-lined way of living. Decluttering is the first step. And now is the perfect time before ‘the stuff’ takes up residence and space in our new home.

Namaste.