You Have A Story To Tell (a visit from my mother)

My Mother. 1943

I suppose it had to happen.

After taking a break from visiting me while I was in the bath, my mother returned. For one last visit, at least for this year or until I do something, or don’t do something that makes her want to shake me up, as is the case now, she tells me as I lay immersed in hot, bubble-laden water, trying to ignore her presence.

“You can’t ignore spirit,” she says. Her voice is laced with more of her French accent than it was in the past. It’s stronger, more sing-songy too.

“What happened to your Holly Golightly get-up?” I ask, wanting to avoid at all costs, any conversation with my dead mother about spirit. If we never had those conversations in real life, why would we have them now?

In her previous visits, she was always dressed, a la Holly Golightly of Breakfast at Tiffany’s fame, in a red satin cocktail dress, black high heels, bouffant hair sprayed stiff. In one hand she held a martini glass. In the other a long ebony cigarette holder.

“Oh that. She was for you. You always wanted me to be a little more flamboyant than I was. So, I decided in this iteration of my being, I’d at least make myself over into someone you could relate to.”

Surprised, the bubbles wafting up around my hands as I tried, vainly, to vanish this latest apparition of my mother, I sputter and say, “You’re dead. You’re not here. I am alone in the bath.”

“Well, you’re definitely alone in the bath. I am no longer in need of such cleansing. But, I am definitely here. Sort of like a message in a bottle, only this time it’s in a spirit. And she does that thing I seldom recall hearing her do in life. She giggles.

My mother started appearing, (always while I was in the bath), shortly after she… passed over, as she likes to call it. “The spirit never dies,” she says. “After its human journey, it returns to its eternal state, energy, or as you humans euphemistically call it, Love.”

Originally I wasn’t that surprised to see her. We had a lot of unfinished business and I needed to clean it up to heal.

I thought we were done. Which is why I am surprised to see her. After several attempts to conjure her up earlier this year when it became clear her visits were over, I’d decided she was gone. Forever.

Which was a bit of a relief. I felt very uncomfortable entertaining my mother while I was in the bath. No matter how high I piled on the bubbles, I always felt she could see right through me.

And in spirit form, she always could.

Something I didn’t give her much credit for in life.

I always thought she was so immersed in her own stories of worry and woe, she couldn’t see me, at least not the real me. The one I liked to think I was in the world.

It took many of my adult life years, and hundreds of hours in therapy, to get to a place where my anger and disappointment in what I judged as her inability to be the mother of my dreams, didn’t interfere with my capacity to love her as the mother she was. Human. Flawed. Imperfect. Carrying her own history. Her own schtick.

Just like me.

And then, she died just before her 98th birthday leaving me to deal with my grief that in life, I’d never found the secret to being the kind of daughter to her that my daughters are to me.

“You know you’re doing it again, Louise, ” she says as if reading my mind, which apparently, in spirit form she can, she reminds me.

“What’s that?”

“Well, for one, right now, you’re trying to play innocent. Like you don’t know what I mean when you do.”

I sigh. I am positive she was never this perceptive, nor direct, in real life.

“What you are living right now is not ‘real’ life, Louise. Take it from me. It gets a whole lot more real on this side. In fact, all you get is real over here, ’cause you no longer have to hide behind your smile, or make-up, or pretending you’re anything other than who you are. Yourself. On this side, judgment, criticism, one-upmanship… it all vanishes as spirit claims the purity and love at its essence. It’s quite refreshing actually.”

It is about the longest speech I’ve ever heard her give. Not to mention the deepest.

And with that, she begins to merge with the air around her.

“Quit hiding,” she tells me on a parting breath. “Write the story. You have something to say.”

And with that, she is gone.

I am alone.

Or am I?

If it hurts, it isn’t Love.

I wonder sometimes, if he hadn’t been arrested, if I hadn’t survived those harrowing years of his abuse, where would my daughters be today? Would their lives, already turned upside down by that relationship, ever have righted themselves? Would my disappearance have left them exposed to creating their own history of abusive relationships and other crises too scary to imagine?

It was May 2003. They were 16 and 17 and I had been missing for 3 months. For the almost five years leading up to my disappearance, they had watched me slowly disappear before their eyes. And then, in February I disappeared completely.

He was trying to flee the country, or so he said. I had no choice but to go with him, he told me.

I didn’t argue. I knew my life was over. Leaving with him was the only way I believed I could save my daughters. And so, I did what he said. It was what I had grown accustomed to doing. I did not question. I did not fight back. Fighting back was too scary.

That’s how abuse works.

A simple question. A piece of toast too dark. A coffee not hot enough and suddenly, you are the villain, the perpetrator and the reasons why his world is crumbling and you are cowering.

For the abuser in this story, his world had fallen apart because of his lies and manipulations. But I couldn’t see nor think about that. To think that the story he’d told me, the one about my daughters being at risk of abduction and forced into the sex trade by evil men, to think it was a lie was unthinkable. Only a monster would lie about something like that. And he wasn’t a monster. He loved me. He didn’t lie. He promised. And when he showed me the three bullets he’d received and told me about the photos the evil men had sent him of a young girl, who looked a lot like my eldest daughter, doing unthinkable things, I had to believe him. Who would make up a lie like that? Why?

He would. Because he could. Because it served his purpose. Because it was his way. To do whatever he had to to keep me in his web of lies and deceit.

If he’d hit me on our first date or second or third or even fourth date, I’d never have stayed.

But abusers set their traps with care. They prime and preen their victims, waiting until they’re sure you’re under their spell. And then the Prince of Darkness rears up and pounces. Of course, in his wake, Prince Charming rides in on waves of contrition, smoothing over your confusion and pain with his apologies and gifts. And the cycle begins again.

It’s called, ‘intermittent reinforcement.’  With the abuser who was in my life, he sowed seeds of terror first before letting out his anger. The consequences were always the same, confused, frightened, I’d threaten to leave and he would remind me of the ‘evil men’ lurking.

Terrified, and believing him when he said it was all my fault, I froze. I stayed silent. I stayed.

When we first met, I embraced his lies as if they were the truth because he was so charming and convincing, and I wasn’t looking for lies. I was expecting love.

By the end, I knew he was the lie, but I didn’t have anything left within me to fight back. I was his shill, his object. Me, the woman I’d known, the mother who loved her daughters deeply, had a career she loved, a vibrant circle of friends and loving family, no longer existed.

In her stead stood the woman who believed if she could just unhook gravity’s hold on her body, she could fall into the ocean and be washed away. And in that one final act, all memory of her presence would vanish from her daughters’ minds. Erased. Without me, they could go on with their lives forgetting they ever had a mother who had loved them deeply and disappeared.

And then, one day he was arrested and I was given the gift of getting my life back. It was a long journey home, to myself, to my daughters, to my family and friends. It was a long journey. And it was worth every step.

Today, I am a grandmother to two beautiful children. Seven years ago when I married a kind and caring man, my daughters walked me down the aisle. Together.  Just as I walked my eldest daughter down the aisle a year later.

And while sometimes I might wonder what might have happened if the police hadn’t walked in that day and arrested him, I do not have to worry about where they are, or what happened to them.

They have taken this journey back into life with me, blessing me with their unfaltering love and support.

Too many women are not so fortunate. Too many women stay trapped in relationships that are killing them because they believe there is no way out. Nowhere to go.

There is always a way out. Always somewhere to go. To get there, you must reach out for help. You must take that first step into naming his hitting you, his calling you names and locking you outside in sub-zero temperatures with no coat or shoes to protect you, what it is. Not Love. Not anger. Not his having a bad day. Not ‘he didn’t mean it’. It’s ABUSE.

And the fact is, you can heal from abuse with every step you take away from the abuser.

If you are in a relationship that feels like it is killing you, there are resources and people who will walk with you as you take those steps back into life without abuse. Please reach out.

__________________________

This LINK provides a list of resources for every province and territory.

__________________________

I don’t often write about those days of darkness and terror. Today, in honour of the women and girls who face sexual and physical abuse every day, to support efforts to end family violence, I do.

I believe when we tell our stories of coming through darkness into the light, we shine a light for others to see, there is hope.

That story, the one about me who was so lost and frightened and ashamed of what had become of her she wanted to end her own life, it is no longer my story.

My story today is rich and full of life and love, laughter and joy, creativity and the freedom to be me and to love me, all of me, including the woman who was once so lost, she believed she had to desert her children to save them.

I came home. You can too.

Namaste.

Be Like The Rain – a poem

I do not question the muse. Even when she arrives, as she did in the early morning hours, with words and ideas and images to play with.

No. I rise up and heed her calling, if only to clear my mind so I can fall asleep again.

I wrote the framework of this poem at 2:30 this morning and worked on it again when I arose (for real this time) at 6am.

I do not like to label my words, or put them in a box called… feminist, or militant, or any other constructs we use to name the ways of women and their allies that fall beyond the allowable places women have been allowed to inhabit. Those names are seeds that have been planted and cultivated throughout time by the pervasive nature of this patriarchal world we inhabit.

I prefer to write them out and give them space to be present. An expression of something deep within me seeking light, form, voice, substance. Something created to give me pause, to wonder, ponder, devour and hold up to the light to see through all that has appeared, all that is happening into the essence of all that I have divined, all that I have experienced, all that I have left unsaid that is calling to be said, now.

Recently, while on a Zoom call with a group of men and women, I felt compelled to draw attention to something that was being said between some of the men that caused me discomfort. Their conversation was rife with sexual innuendo. It felt totally inappropriate.

In the process of thinking about speaking up, I felt my heartbeat quicken, my throat constrict, my body tighten with fear.

“Why am I afraid to speak up when what is happening is not reflective of the best of our humanity?” I wondered.

I didn’t want to say anything, I wanted to pretend as I have done too often in the past, that ‘boys would be boys’ and what they were doing was harmless.

But it wasn’t harmless. Along with making others feel uncomfortable, it perpetuated the patriarchal concepts of allowing ‘boys to be boys’ because, “It’s a man’s world baby. You better get used to it.”

And so, still quivering inside, I took a deep breath and spoke up.

This poem rose up out of hundreds of such conversations and encounters I’ve endured, and too many women I know have also endured, without speaking up or drawing a line to say, No More.

Background photo source

PS. In speaking up, others spoke up too — and that felt empowering. One of the men immediately apologized and others wrote to thank me for drawing attention to something they too believe needs to change.

I am grateful. In speaking up, I am reminded, every voice matters and when we give voice to what needs to change, we create space for change to happen.

Namaste

If Only She Had Wings (a story)

Far away, at the edge of the land where it meets the sea, there lived a young woman who believed she could fly.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the townspeople said when she stood at the edge of the cliff to test her belief. “Birds fly. Humans stay walking on the ground.”

The young woman did not believe that was the only way to be human. Every night before going to bed, she did push-ups and lifted weights to strengthen her wings.

And every night before falling asleep she whispered to the dream fairies, “Let my dreams be filled with flight.”

And every night the dream fairies flitted into her sleep, scattering visions of flying and soaring into her dreams.

And in the morning, she would awaken, repeat her exercises and go out to the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean far below to test the strength of her wings.

One day, as the young woman stood at the edge of the cliff lifting her arms up and down like the seagulls high above, a little girl approached and asked, “Why are you standing here flapping your arms?”

The young woman, surprised that a child would even have to ask such a question, replied without stopping what she was doing. “Practising flying.”

The child watched for a few moments longer before saying, “Well that’s silly. Why don’t you just leap?”

The young woman stopped lifting her arms up and down. She gazed down at the little girl where she stood looking up at her. Sky blue eyes met sky blue eyes. Flaxen hair floated around her face just as hers floated in the morning breeze.

The child smiled up at her and the young woman felt all her fears of falling come crashing into her like the waves crashing against the cliffs below.

“What if I fall?” she asked the little girl.

“What if you don’t?” the little girl replied as she threw her arms wide and cast her body off the edge of the cliff.

The young woman watched, wide-eyed and breathless, as the child’s body floated gracefully on the air, catching the breeze and letting it carry her down to the surface of the waves before lifting her up and up and up to the top of the cliff.

In awe, the young woman watched the child land effortlessly back on the cliff beside her.

“See! It’s easy,” said the child.

And the young woman took a deep, deep breath and spread her arms wide.

And stopped.

“I don’t think I can,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes and rolled down her face.

And the child shrugged her shoulder and smiled and said, “That’s okay. One day, you will stop practicing and cast your doubts to the wind and follow me!”

And with that, the child leapt from the cliff and soared with the seagulls flying high.

Watching and wishing she could, the young woman slowly lowered her arms and turned away from the cliff. Shoulders hunched, feet dragging along the dusty trail, she began the long walk back to the village.

“It is not the townspeople who doubt,” she said to herself. “It’s me.”

And she stopped and repeated it to herself. “It’s not the townspeople who doubt. It’s me.”

And she kept repeating it and repeating it until realization dawned. “I’ve been hiding behind practising flying because I doubt I can actually do it!”

Full of the awareness of the power of her doubts to tie her to the ground, she stopped walking away from the edge, turned quickly around and began running towards the cliff. Arms spread wide, she screamed and laughed and yelled loud and fierce as she cast her body over the edge.

And as her feet left the ground, her wings unfurled and she began to fly.

And that’s where you’ll find her today. Far from the edge of fear, wings unfurled, soaring amidst her dreams and dancing in the lightness of being free from doubt.

In The Language of Trees

I am scrolling through news of the tragic aftermath of the atmospheric river that deluged much of BC, destroying lives, livelihoods, homes, and infrastructure.

I am sitting at my desk looking out at the autumn-naked branches of the trees that line the river.

And I think about the pain thy must feel at the loss of their brothers and sisters this past summer as wildfires swept through BC’s interior.

And I wonder if they are hurting now in the sadness of knowing many of their sisters and brothers were swept in the storm’s wake — and how, if they could only have stood their ground against the fires, some of what happened might not have been.

I am breathing into the trees this morning. Breathing and listening, deeply, to their pain and what they have to say.

In The Language Of Trees
by Louise Gallagher

The language of trees
lays buried
deep within their roots
digging into the earth
stretching their arms
in search
of whispers of life
within the cracks and crevices
of time lying still
beneath Mother Nature’s soiled covers.

The language of trees
is felt
rising up through crenellated bark
and rugged trunks
standing tall
against the wind 
hurling obscenities
at their unwillingness
to give up ground
to its demands.

The language of trees
is heard deep
within the sibilant whispers
of its leaves
telling stories
to the birds and bees
and scampering squirrels
who clamber along its branches
in search of place to hide
through winter’s storms.


The language of trees
is written
everywhere.

We must listen
before it’s too late
to hear
their roots calling us
to help them 
stay grounded.


She dares to steer her course into the extraordinary

In a sea of ordinary, she dares to steer her course into the extraordinary.

Thank you everyone for your kind words, your thoughts, ideas and empathy.

My ring is still missing but, as I often do when I’m feeling turbulent inside (and the wind is howling outside, which it is) I go into my studio and dive into curiosity and creativity, allowing whatever is seeking to appear, come to light.

The muse was all about exploring the question… “I wonder what would happen if I…”

In this case, the ‘if I’s’ were all about mixing different media to see what might happen.

Layer upon layer. Additions. Subtractions. Layer upon layer.

Like life. We try on a new pair of shoes and if they don’t fit, we try a different pair.

My art process yesterday worked the same. I tried spray inks and acrylic inks on top. Gesso through a stencil. Inkpad on top. Again and again and again.

No hesitation.

No judgment.

No groans of disappointment.

Just pure, unabandoned experimentation.

Because… in a world where confusion, disarray, and dismay become the ordinary tidings of our days, sailing into a rainbow world of magic and mystery is a wonderful way to transform every day into something extraordinary!

Namaste.

Missing. Not Lost… yet…

For our fifth anniversary, C.C., my beloved, gave me a beautiful sapphire and diamond ring. I promptly removed my original wedding and engagement rings and took to wearing it only.

I’m not a big jewellry person and loved both the symmetry and simplicity of the ring, and how it looked on my hand.

Saturday, when Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I returned from the park I took off my gloves to discover… my ring was missing.

Dusk had already set in which meant it was too dark to go back to the park to search for it. Yesterday, as soon as the light permitted, Beau and I headed back to the park to do a search.

There were two possible places I thought it might have come off when I removed my gloves. 1) when I sat on a bench to take off my left boot to dump out a piece of gravel;

2) when I took off my gloves to clean up after Beau did his business.

Alas, after spending time searching in the morning and evening, I have not yet succeeded in finding my ring. Dried grasses and leaves cover the ground everywhere making spotting it difficult.

We’ll return this morning for another look — I’ve ordered a metal detector which will be here tomorrow. Until I’ve exhausted all avenues, I won’t give up.

It is both a strength and a weakness.

The never giving up.

When I was doing Investor Relations consulting, a client likened me to a Terrier because, in his words, I never gave up fighting to get the attention of analysts. It worked well for the client.

My mother used to throw up her hands and tell me to ‘give it up’ when I wouldn’t stop wanting to talk about things that had not gone well between us. That did not work well for our relationship.

Right now, my ring is missing. I am not willing to give up looking for it. Not only is it precious to me, (and very expensive) it was a one of a kind

And, because it’s still in the missing category in my mind, I can’t give up searching for it. Last year when I lost my phone and keys somewhere in the bushes, I couldn’t give up until I found them – and I did!

But then there’s the time, in my 20s, when I lost my beautiful silver necklace and bracelet my grandmother sent me from India — I searched and searched and never did find them — which is where the challenge comes in. I still think about that necklace and bracelet.

I have to let them go.

Which is really where my ring comes in today — it isn’t about the ring. It’s about thinking about it incessantly.

Not one of my greater qualities. Ask my beloved… I can become fixated. On fixing things. Righting wrongs. And even, changing the world.

While I regret the missing of my ring, I am grateful for its reminder to not become so fixated on ‘the thing’ that is lost that I miss the value of letting go.

And yup. I’m trying to trick my mind into getting itself righted — because the regret of not noticing when it fell off is tiring. I can’t change what happened. I can only work with how I deal with it — and the regret of its loss is far too heavy to carry.

Namaste.

PS — about the photo:

I spent time on the weekend making more bookmarks to go with my She Dares Boldly calendars. Every calendar purchased comes with a hand-painted She Dares Boldly bookmark! Check it out on my Etsy store!

She Dares to Hold On To Magic

For the “She Dares Boldly” desktop calendar I have created “She Dares” quotes to go with some old and some new artwork. None of the artwork has been in a calendar before — it’s just some of the pieces might have appeared on my blog in the past.

January’s “She Dares” quote is, “She dares to hold on to magic.”

When I was writing it, I vacillated between, “believe in magic” or hold on to magic”.

Hold on to magic won.

I can believe in anything. But, to actually hold onto it, to keep it in my sights, to keep it as a constant companion on my journey, that takes real daring.

There is magic in this world. Everywhere.

Yesterday, as I walked with Beaumont through the woods along the river, I wondered at the magical and mystical capacity of a seed to grow into a tree, to give birth to branches and leaves, and to continually renew itself every spring after having shed its leaves every fall.

And while science can explain it away with terms like photosynthesis and formulas that dissect the process to its tiniest quark, there is still something magical to me in the whole transformative process of shedding and sprouting, shedding and sprouting.

I want to hold onto that magic and the wonder and awe of it all. I want to dispense with formulae and calculating processes to the nth degree so that I can live and breathe completely immersed within nature’s mystery.

And so, the 2022, She Dares Boldly calendar begins with magic, mystery wonder and awe leading us into the New Year.

__________________________

And yes, there’s not a lot of mystery in this here promotion of my calendar.

I do hope you come and check it out on my ETSY store – Dare Boldly Art – shipping is free in Canada and I’ve adjusted the cost to include shipping to outside Canada as Etsy was charging almost as much for shipping as I charge for the calendar!.

It makes a great stocking stuffer, friend gift, hostess gift and so much more!

(and now to figure out how to adjust the colour so the calendar appears with its white background – ’cause that’s what it is!)

The Poet Boy Remembered

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

Their sacrifice. 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 or to return broken and scarred. I share it here to remind me to never forget my father who was once a poet boy. 

Lest we forget.

The Poet Boy

by: Louise Gallagher

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 his 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 as she sat helplessly beside him in the passenger seat. 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, mothers 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 gunmetal 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 through the crowd.

“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.

Your opinion of me is not my concern…

On his blog on Monday, David Kanigan shared the following quote:

“It crossed his mind that maybe one of the most telling differences between the young and the old lay in this detail.

As you aged you cared less and less about what others thought of you, and only then could you be more free.”

— Elif ShafakThe Island of Missing Trees: A Novel (Bloomsbury Publishing; 1st edition (November 2, 2021)

Blogger and yoga/meditation guide, Val Boyko, commented that, “Perhaps it isn’t about the aging process, but more about getting to know and accepting yourself.”

I’m with Val.

Diving into self-knowing, clarifying my values, my beliefs, my ‘Principles to Live by” have all given me the freedom to be less concerned about what you think of me.

Not because I don’t care, I do care about you and how you perceive me — I just care more about how I see myself in the world — and when I see myself living by my principles, walking in my integrity, speaking my truth with heart, honesty and humility, I don’t have to concern myself about the opinion of others. I’m living true to me.

It is a constant checking in and looking outward. Being present and being real. Giving grace to others and honouring my own worth.

It is my journey of life.

And on this journey, I have learned – no matter our age, we are always capable of acting out, or acting for good.

The better I know myself, the more I forgive and step into gratitude, the more I have less to regret about what or how I’ve behaved.

And when I use my bad behaviour as an opportunity to grow in self-awareness and truth, I give myself the grace of not having to worry about the opinion of others…

And I smile.

Because the next part of that statement was going to be… because my opinion of myself is all that matters.

And while there is truth in that, it isn’t ALL that matters. It is what matters most.

When my opinion of myself is blinded by a belief I have no room to grow or change or evolve, I am stuck in self-denial. And self-denial will lead me to act out to defend my actions in ways I can’t imagine simply because I’m blind to my human condition.

Our human condition is a beautiful, unfathomable source of great beauty and magnificence. It can also be a source of great pain and destruction.

We can inspire others to imagine possibilities they never before thought possible through simple words of encouragement and support. Or, we can destroy another’s confidence and self-esteem by thoughtlessly cast-off comments that prevent them from seeing their magnificence and human potential.

No matter our age, when we are conscious of our capacity to ignite possibility or burn hearts and minds to oblivion, we must choose the path of possibility. It is on that path we free ourselves from being shackled and shamed by the opinions of others. It is on that path we give ourselves the freedom to ‘care less’ about ‘what have I done?!’ so that we can care more about what we do to create better….

_______________________________________

Thursday morning thoughts inspired by the people around me who help me see deeper into my human condition.

Thanks David and Val for the inspiration!