Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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How does avoidance strengthen fear?

Under stress I tend to slide into avoidance, spinning plates where hitting home runs cannot happen because I am too busy running around the bases trying to catch the balls I am constantly dropping.

It is a thoughtless, mindless movement I consciously think about not doing — and then catch myself doing, again and again as I run faster and faster to catch up to m yself.

Avoidance strengthens fear.

I am learning.

To avoid fear I must do the things I fear doing.

Otherwise, I’m thinking about what I fear more than what I’m doing — and living without being conscious of my doing is unhealthy for me.

Like most of us, I fear change. Yet, as a boss of mine long ago used to say, “Change is here to stay.”

I’m in this game of life for the long run. May as well embrace change and give up fearing it.

Avoidance builds resistance.

When I  acknowledge that my fear of change creates ripples of unease in my world, I let my fear push me out of avoidance into courage

Action strengthens courage.

Last week I took care of an issue that I needed to do for quite sometime. Bye bye avoidance. Score one for me.

This week, I’m meeting with someone I’ve avoided as I don’t have good news for them about something they wanted to do. Hello action!

These are ‘small things’ that have appeared large on my horizon, muddying up clear thinking, clouding my vision of possibility and creating a world of excuses I keep breathing into as I avoid taking care of business.

Making excuses weakens my integrity.

Clearing them up makes room for possibility to arise, for my forecast to be sunny. Clearing them up makes room for the universe to move in and support me in the big things I want to do to create more of what I want in my life.

Because, in my avoidance of clearing up small things (as they appear on my horizon – not after I’ve let them grow into mountains of resistance) I give the small things more mind-space. And with my mind full of the small things I am avoiding doing, I have little time or energy to breathe life into my dreams.

Avoidance undermines my dreams.

To live into the dreams of my life come true I must keep my vision clear, my thinking sharp and my perspective open.

I must avoid avoiding the things I fear doing!

Here’s to living today free of avoidance rising into fear.

Here’s to living my best life every day filled with action on making my dreams come true!

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When people behave badly, what do you do?

A girlfriend and I are sitting in an upscale restaurant having a glass of wine and a bowl of classic onion soup.

Shortly after sitting down, the hostess seats a couple at the booth just behind and to the side of us. It is in the direct line of sight of my friend.

As we chat and get caught up, I notice how uncomfortable my friend is looking. “What’s up?” I ask.

She nods her head to the couple in the booth behind us and says, “They’re making out like no one is watching.”

I turn around to look and sure enough, the woman is crawling into his lap and they are deep kissing.

At one point, when our server came by to check on us, I mentioned the couple behind.

She turned her back slightly to face away from them and whispered, “I know. It’s awful. You wouldn’t believe what we see in here sometimes.” And she went on to tell us several stories of people’s bad public behaviour.

“What I find fascinating is how we are sitting here whispering about their behaviour to not embarrass them while they’re doing a perfectly good job of embarrassing themselves!” I said at the end.

We all three shrugged. Gave little laughs (you know that shadow kind of laugh where you don’t know what to say and want to pretend it’s all okay)… And the server walked away.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what to do. The manager had come over a couple of times to check on the couple (mostly to interrupt them when they were getting too hot and steamy) but nothing was said about their behaviour.

Not wanting to ‘make a scene’, I did nothing. Though I did suggest to my girlfriend that I could go over and suggest they ‘get a room’.

“Don’t you dare,” she replied.

I’ve thought about that scene a lot since then. What could I have done differently?

I know there are those who would have confronted that couple and given them a piece of their mind. And there was part of me that wanted to. Just like there was part of me that wanted to avoid the whole situation completely.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe anyone who thinks it’s okay to behave like that in a restaurant is really all that concerned about other people’s thoughts or opinions of their actions.

But I am concerned about mine.

I am concerned about my unwillingness to stand up for what is right for me, in the moment.

Ultimately, we did leave — without me giving them my ‘evil eye’ on the way out!  You know that look that says how shameful I find their behaviour and how much better I think I am!

And that’s the crux of it. It’s not about who’s better or worse. Right or wrong.

It’s all about what each of us is willing to do to create better in our world.

I don’t know if saying, or not saying, something would have made much impact in that moment. It would have helped to have said something to the restaurant management, even though they were already aware of the situation. Perhaps knowing their customers weren’t happy with it too might have helped them take more affirmative action.

When I know better, I do better.

The good part of retrospection is it gives me a chance to consider what I can do to take care of me, next time.

Next time I encounter a situation where my right to be at ease in my environment is interrupted by someone who believes their right supersedes mine, I won’t be whispering behind them, trying to avoid a scene. I’ll politely ask to be moved so that I can enjoy my evening without being tempted to turn my head every few moments to see what unbelievable antic someone behind me has got up to now.

And as for the restaurant, I’d suggest they take more affirmative action to ensure all their guests are comfortable, not just those who want to make out in their booths.

 

 


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Trust. It is a beautiful grace. Thanks! @SafewayCanada

It was one of those forgetful moments.

I am at the self-check out at Safeway near our house. I pay by Debit with CashBack and walk away with my groceries, but not my cash.

It isn’t until I’m home I realize my mistake.

I call the store.

A young man named Alex answers.

He is very polite. Listens carefully and says, “Bring your receipt to the Customer Service desk and we’ll see what we can do.”

“Can you do anything?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” he says, “but if you come in we’ll see.”

Curious.

I tell C.C. what’s happened. He laughs and says what I’ve been thinking, “How forgetful of you. Were you in a rush?” he asks.

What? Me? In a rush?

I visualize in my mind standing at the checkout. People are lined up. It’s rush hour. I’m on my way home. I’m tired… yada yada yada.

I get in my car and drive back to the store. It’s only a five minute drive away and for $60, it’s worth checking out what the store can do. Though I had said to the young man on the phone, “Well if it’s my  mistake, it’s my mistake. I don’t expect you to fix it.”

“Come in and we’ll see,” he said.

I go into the store.

Another young man, Connor, is at the Service Desk.

I tell him my conundrum.

He asks for my receipt. Checks it over. Disappears into the back office.

I stand waiting. Curiosity rises. What is he doing back there?

Part of my mind is preparing my speech for when he comes back out to tell me there’s nothing they can do. You know, the one where I haughtily suggest they don’t ask people to come back in if they can’t help them, and all that kind of talk served up with a good dish of attitude.

He comes back out.

“I’ll get someone to get you your money”, he says as he walks by.

Oh. Really?

He chats with the young man at the Self Check Out desk and hands him some keys. The young man walks over to the machine where I was checking out. He waits politely for the woman who is there to finish her transaction before opening the unit.

He pulls out the black box that contains the cash. Extracts 3 x $20 dollar bills and hands them to me.

“Thank you so much,” I say.

“You’re welcome,” he replies and hurries off to help another customer.

And that’s it.

No muss. No fuss. No questions asked.

So maybe it really wasn’t my forgetfulness!  Maybe the machine forgot to give me my money!

Ha! Take that you technological wonder!

And as to my attitude.

I apologize to the unknown stranger who did not take my cash from the machine. I did for a moment have some not so nice thoughts about my fellow human beings!

I apologize for my thoughts with attitude as I stood waiting for Connor as he did whatever he was doing in the back room to resolve my dilemma.

Bless them. Forgive me.

And Safeway. Thank you. You surprised and delighted me.

Not once was I treated as if I was lying or trying to cheat anyone. Not once did I feel put down or like I was in the wrong.

Way to go Safeway! Way to go Alex, Connor and the young man who so politely gave me the cash.

Moral of the story.

No matter the situation, trust. It is a beautiful grace.

Oh. And leave off the attitude. Even if it is only in your head, it does not serve anyone well.

Namaste.


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The ocean refuses no river. Life refuses no body.

Mirabai Ceiba’s beautiful song, Ocean, begins with the line, The ocean refuses no river. It  never fails to resonate within my heart, stirring notes of harmony and peace throughout my being.

Just as the ocean embraces every wave,

life embraces every being.

It reminds me about life and how I sometimes refuse, or resist, to accept all that life offers, without judging all that life offers.

How sometimes, I desire to carve my path, regardless of life’s terrain and in my willfulness, making my own journey more challenging.

How sometimes, I want to determine my course, regardless of life’s flow, sometimes paddling upstream, sometimes drifting aimlessly in back eddies, steering along tributaries that take me further away from the ocean of life waiting to accept me, exactly the way I am.

And I breathe.

Just as the ocean refuses no river, life refuses no spirit, God refuses no soul. No matter your belief, or colour of skin or size of your bank account or education, there is a sacred place for each of us within this universe. A sacred chant that sings of your beauty, your wonder, your brilliance. It is rising up within you, just as it rises up within me, calling out to your heart to dance free, to spin about and laugh and turn cartwheels. To sit in silence and dream. To leap for joy and be. Just as you are.

The universe refuses no life. And in that knowing is the truth shimmering in every breath we take — It is a sacred knowing that this life, this beauty, this brilliance is mine, and yours and each of ours to live as best we can, as best we allow, in Love.

No matter how small, how big, how rusty or difficult, how tired or weary, how young or old, the universe refuses no life.

The ocean refuses no river.

The open heart refuses no Love. The open mind no truth.

And life refuses no body, not me or you or him or her or them.

Life refuses no life.

In that acceptance, in that awareness is the knowing, deep and profound and healing — We are not alone. We are one with life flowing in the ocean of Love flowing all around.

Namaste.


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The past can trap you or free you.

We all have trigger events. Those moments in time that lurk in memory, stirring up emotions and feelings and thoughts of what might have been, if only, if possibly, if….

For me, one of those trigger events was the day a blue and white police cruiser drove up and two officers got out and arrested the man who was actively engaged in trying to end my life. For several years after that May morning, I would begin to feel the stir of memory calling me, tugging at me, rippling through my thoughts. I would notice my emotions rising to the surface, tears on call, eager to spill out. I would feel anxious, edgy, like anything and everything was too harsh, too bright, too loud, too real, too much.

And then, the day would come and I’d move through it and life would go on. My moving through it wouldn’t always be graceful, in fact, in the first years after that event, my moving through it was often disjointed, filled with tears and sometimes irrational responses to everyday situations.

It was okay. I had to give myself the grace of moving through it in my way — honouring my sorrow, my grief, my fear so that I could come back to the truth of what was real for me that day, in the present. I was alive.

Over time, I came to appreciate trigger points. To view them as opportunities to heal the spaces where unease lived. I came to see them as gifts and to be grateful for the opportunity to heal through them by not avoiding them.

Trigger events come from moments where we have felt extreme joy. They come from moments where we have felt extreme fear, pain, loss.

The joyful ones we make okay to celebrate. Anniversaries. Birthdays. Graduations. New jobs. New beginnings.

The sorrowful ones, the ones that scared us, hurt us, caused us pain, sometimes we try to ignore them, or pretend they’re not real.

But they are.

Very real. Very important to acknowledge, if only because they stir up our emotions and can cause unease and disquiet within if we do not let them out.

What we resist, persists.

When we try to ignore these trigger points, or pretend they shouldn’t matter, or tell ourselves we should be over it and just get on with it, we are denying our hearts and minds the opportunity to face our angst and heal through it.

Emotions buried alive never die.

Emotions allowed to flow, free us to be present in the moment.

For the first few years after I got my life back, I consciously chose to treat myself gently when trigger points awoke. To give myself the tender, loving care I so desperately needed, and deserved.

I couldn’t change the experience of having gone through that relationship. I could change how that experience held onto me today.

And to do that, I had to acknowledge that May 21 was not just any day. It was a day to remember how lost I was, and today I am not because a miracle drove up in a blue and white police car and set me free. I needed to feel it all. To cry. To laugh. To express my anger (lovingly) To live. To Love. And most importantly, to give thanks.

It’s been fourteen years since that police car drove up. I still treasure the miracle of its arrival. I still give thanks for my life today.

I don’t tend to mark the day anymore. Some years, the day arrives, and leaves, before I even notice.

Getting to this point where the day, and those events, no longer trigger eruptions of unease and angst within me required patience, self-compassion, and Love.

It has been a process of acknowledging what was, accepting what cannot be changed, and celebrating what is true each and everyday.

I am free. I am alive. I am grateful.

I cannot change the past. I can give thanks for my beautiful life today.

______________________________________________

JM, this one’s for you my friend. May you know you are loved, safe and cherished.  I am so grateful you are alive!


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Do you practice happiness?

Do you practice happiness?

You know, consciously cultivate that space within that no matter what is happening in the world ‘out there’, within you, your heart is at ease, your mind peaceful, your body content?

It’s important to practice happiness.

According to the Mayor Clinic, we have to Practice. Practice. Practice. For some of us, happiness levels are naturally set at a higher level. Regardless of where your happiness level is set, you can up it by consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude, deep appreciation of all things and people in your life, maintaining an optimistic point-of-view, finding and living your purpose and living in the moment.

People who have wealth, beauty or less stress are not happier on average than those who don’t enjoy those things. The happiest people are those who practice the cultivation of choices, thoughts and actions that lead to contentment, gratitude and joy. People who practice happiness, no matter their circumstances, are happier. It’s all about your life choices.

This weekend, I practiced happiness through the pursuit of gratitude and compassion, which, according to Dr. Amit Sood of the Global Centre for Resiliency and Well-being and StressFree.org, is the path to happiness.

One of the easiest places for me to practice gratitude and compassion, and thus happiness, is at the park with Beaumont, our two year old Sheepadoodle. His antics, his pure joy never cease to cause me to laugh and to feel light of heart. And consciously picking up his bio-deposits as well as those I come across that others have missed, creates a sense of compassion for the world and my environment. Bonus points on the path to happiness!

For me, another place where gratitude and compassion infuse my entire being with a sense of joy and peace is in the kitchen preparing a meal for guests. On Sunday, I spent the day preparing a meal for family and friends, while C.C. and my youngest daughter, her partner and his father, were at the Shaw Charity Classic Golf Tournament. It was double/double doses of gratitude and compassion. I got to spend the day doing something I love, preparing dinner and setting the table in preparation for guests, all the while knowing my beloved was doing something he loves, watching golf with people he loves. Later, as ten of us sat around the dining room table laughing and sharing stories, I felt the pure sweet nectar of joy filling my heart.

And yesterday, I spent time in my other happy place, my art studio. I painted and listened to music, danced around and laughed as Beaumont kept trying to climb up into my lap whenever I took a break in the easy chair in the corner or sat down in the pink chair to draw at the table.

On my gratitude list last night I wrote, 10 Things I am grateful for this weekend:

  1. Spending time with my dear friend KP chatting about life and the creative process over a delicious meal she had prepared.
  2. Date night with my beloved.
  3. Walks in the park with Beaumont and C.C.
  4. Beautiful weather.
  5. Spending time in the kitchen cooking for family and friends.
  6. Gathering around a table set with candles — because it gets darker earlier I get to use twinkly lights and candles!
  7. Chatting at length with  my eldest daughter on the phone. I love our heartfelt conversations.
  8. Creating. Creating. Creating. Time in the studio.
  9. Standing at the ridge above the river and taking in the beauty and the view.
  10. Ending each day in bed beside my beloved.

 


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Helping out our neighbours is easy, and it makes a difference.

In 2013 Calgary had a devastating flood that displaced 100,000 people and destroyed 100’s of homes and other buildings.

Talking to a friend recently, they mentioned how out of sorts they’ve been feeling. How they cry at the drop of a hat and can’t stop watching CNN. “I can’t stop watching the flooding in Houston, even though it makes me cry and feel angry,” they said.

It makes sense. In 2013 their family lost their home to the flood. They’ve rebuilt it but every spring run-off, they feel the fear, the anxiety, the tension of waiting to see how much rain Mother Nature will deliver.

That anxiety is present now as they watch the news out of Houston.

It is horrific. Sad. Heart-breaking.

And I sit, dry and safe, thousands of miles away wanting to do something.

I can’t get on a plane and fly down there to help out in flood relief.

I don’t have the resources to load up a semi-trailer full of supplies to drive down there and deliver hope, support, and the much needed necessities.

There is something I can do.

“I couldn’t do anything during the floods here except focus on cleaning up the mess and rebuilding,” my friend said. “At least this time, I can do what so many others did when we needed help back then. Make a donation.”

What about you?

Are you feeling helpless, anxious, wanting to do more?

It doesn’t take much. And it’s really easy to do, even from Canada. MacLean’s Magazine has a listing of ways everyone can help victims of the flooding.

It’s a small, small world we live in, and we  all need to help our neighbours in times of need.

In 2013 I could get involved in relief efforts because I lived in the city. The distance should not keep me from helping out now. Please, consider donating whatever you can to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey. I know for me, the minute I pressed the donate button, I felt better. I had done something to help out my neighbours.