Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


Being alive is the most precious gift.

Outside my window, spring is colouring the world in all its joyful splendour. The grass is turning green. Leaves are unfurling on the trees that line the river bank. The undergrowth is growing thicker. Soon it will become too dense to navigate easily.

Traffic rumbles across the vehicle bridge that spans the river to the north. A lone bicyclist pedals across the pedestrian bridge on its southern side, the side closest to my window.

This morning, the skies are grey, one massive steel grey sheet spanning the sky. And still, the sun shines behind grey skies.

In the darkest moments, there is light.

I sit and watch the river flow by, the traffic move, two geese landing upon the green waters of the river.

Memory rises up to greet the spring and I am pulled back. To another day. Another river.

This day is sunshine bright. Blue sky soaring. Leaves fully burdened with springs bounty blossoming into summer.

This day is another like all the others so recently before where I have stood by this river and wanted desperately to unhinge gravity’s hold upon my body so it could fall of its own volition into the waters and be swept away to the ocean. Into the west flowing into the unseen depths of nothingness so that I would never be seen standing on the shore again.

On that day, like so many others before it, I could not unhook gravity. I could not cast my body into the waters and be washed away.

Just as today, I cannot wash away memory. I can only honour its loving reminder to let it flow so I can be fully present in the now.

How is it I wonder, that memory’s hold still pulls me into the darkness of those days when I was lost and my life meant nothing to me? How is it that after all these years memory still slips into my mind on a grey sky day in May as I sit at my desk and watch the river flow past?

The tears have dried up. The sadness has lifted. Yet, memory advances, a counterpoint of darkness in spring’s early light, reminding me of a time when I danced with death, promising I’d give it all up if only gravity would let me fall into death’s welcoming embrace.

Death has slid silently into a future I cannot see nor need to know until it is time. Life embraces me each day awakening me to all I have, all that is possible when I embrace life as my constant companion.

And still, those memories of death’s beckoning flow into my mind like the river flowing endlessly to the sea. Those memories where casting my body into the waters seemed to be the only course to end my pain.

I know the truth now. I am grateful.

The river cannot flow backwards.

Memories of those dark days no longer stalk me.

They flow freely, appearing like a canoe on the river. In their passing I am reminded of the gift of my life and the precious nature of each moment passing by.

On this dreary May morning I fall with gratitude into knowing the gifts those memories that float by carry for me. In their darkness I am reminded of the light that is always there. In their presence I stop and breathe into the possibilities of this moment right now. Grounded in the beauty of my life today, my heart is full of gratitude and the beautiful truth I embrace in this moment right now as my mind soars free of the darkness like the geese flying by.

“I am alive and I am so very grateful,” my heart whispers. And so it is.


May 21, 2003 at 9:14 am, a miracle drove up in a blue and white police car and released me from the hell of a relationship that was killing me.

Sometimes, as that day draws near or a conversation sparks a thought, memory flows in to remind me of the precious gifts of my life today. I welcome their presence as I walk joyfully in the now.

Yesterday, someone asked me for the link to the TEDx Calgary Talk I gave about my journey into healing.  This is it.



Let your heart run wild!

I am entering my 9th to last working day before I leave ‘the workforce’ on May 31st.

Things I notice… I feel less stressed around the daily workings of the organization. That could be because the new ED is handling it all. What is refreshing is I don’t feel any angst about not being involved in it all.

I am sleeping better.

I don’t check my emails continuously and when a staff member notifies the leadership team of something that transpired, I don’t immediately check the logs.

I am not missing being ‘the one in charge’.

I’m not missing having to make decisions.

And, I’m not feeling any regret, or fear, or concern.

All is as it should be. I am releasing.

On the weekend at my art show, several friends dropped by and inevitably someone would ask, “So… how are you feeling scared about retiring?”

My answer was always, “I’m feeling excited about my rejuvenation!”

And I am. Excited. Curious. Open.

On the weekend, someone also asked me if I would be participating in any more art shows in the fall. I haven’t got any booked, I replied, but I’ll have the time to research which ones I want to be in and to apply!

Now that’s exciting.

The art show went well. It was slow vis à vis attendees, but I still did well. My cards were a big hit as were the alochol inks. Lots of lovely affirmation from people, friends and strangers, that the work is pleasing. Exciting.

Lots of people were curious about the process. It’s probably the piece I enjoy the most. Inspiring people to try it. To play. To release fear and dive into exploration of their creativity.

I also had a number of people ask me if I would be giving courses. The answer is yes. And while I’m focussing on going the summer without ‘a plan’ or making plans for the fall, I have decided I will be launching a workshop series this fall.

I’m calling it, “The Wise Woman Workshop Series”. Recovering your magnificence through art and play.

I have a vision. An idea. A sense of how I want the workshop series to feel. Now, I just have to create the lesson plans, or as so often happens for me, allow the muse to flow freely so that the plans create themselves.

When I stay open, the muse flows joyfully.

Years ago, when I resigned my position as Director Communications at an adult homeless shelter, I took four months to simply be present in the now, to catch my breath and to heal some of the broken places within. One day I started writing a workbook on the power of poetry to heal. Three weeks later I had an entire 21 lesson workbook completed, “Right Your Heart Out”.  I had no idea that process was within me. I have no real memory of making a decision to write it, or even where the thoughts came from that created the exercises in that book. Truly, it was the muse having her way with me.

And that’s what excites me the most. Creating space for the muse and me to dance the eternal dance of exploration, inspiration and creativity.

As my eldest daughter said to me on the phone last night, “Art is the language of the soul.”

I’m excited to immerse myself in soul dancing and setting my dreams on fire.



You Are Exquisitely Enough

A friend comes to the artshow and says, “I can’t get over how talented you are.”

I look around wondering if she’s speaking about someone else.

I have always known I’m a good writer. Since I can remember, writing has been my release.

But art? Nah. Not so much.

At the show this weekend there was a young 11 year-old girl whose talent runs deep. Her animal paintings are glorious expressions of her talent, and her life perspective. A pink giraffe munching on a wad of grass. Two bullfrogs vying for position on a lily pad. A jaguar sleeking across the canvas.

One or both of her parents spent the weekend with her at the show. Their support, love, enthusiasm for her work was a visible reminder of how important it is for parents to not get in the way of their child’s self-expression, dreams and talents.

My artshow space buddy, who along with me is one of the three women who form, The Basement Bombshells Art Collective, (our studios were in the basement, we drank a lot of wine together and because we sometimes worked collectively in her basement, it often looked like a bomb went off in it), was a high school art teacher. One of her former students was also in the show. In her early 20s now, this young woman’s talent is awe-inspiring. For my friend, having a former student showing her work in the same show was heart-warming and, affirming. To have played even a smal role in this young woman’s talent development made her feel proud.

I loved to draw when I was young.

Fear kept me from expressing my love of the arts.

Fear my family would mock me, laugh at me, tell me to not be so pretentious.

I know now that they weren’t doing it to be cruel. I know it was meant to protect me, the challenge was, it stopped me, dead in my tracks. I didn’t dare risk stepping outside the comfort zone of our familial boundaries where everyone had their role to play. And while mine was often called the role of ‘the brat’, being a brat did not include space to be an artist.

I remember in my teens being in a talent show. I loved to sing. All I wanted my family to tell me was how fantastic I was. What I heard was the many ways others were better than me. Again, I know they believed they were sheltering me from disappointment. Again, it kept me from taking the risks I needed to take back then to discover who and whom I wanted to be in the world.

My adult life has been the journey of uncovering my gifts.

What a wonderful journey it is!






Love Fiercely

I want to say I got up early after a restful night’s sleep.

I want to but it wouldn’t be true. My sleep was restless. Eventually, I moved to the living room and slept on the couch. Beaumont was happy. He got the rest of the bed.

I want to say my mind is at ease after a quiet meditation.

I want to but it wouldn’t be true. My meditation was anything but quiet. Seriously? How can so many thoughts crowd into such a small dark place?

And I smile.

As soon as I write about dark spaces, an unquiet minds, my higher self awakens.

It’s the way it is.

Writing has always been meditative for me. Healing.

On the page, I see my truth shimmering in all its many facets. I see the dark places lying in wait to capture the light and I see the light burning fiercely, edging out the dark.

On the page, I cannot hide from myself. I cannot hide in the dark.

On the page, I must turn up.

Just as I must turn up this morning and be present to my day.

A breakfast meeting in half an hour. A briefing note to finish off and other things to tidy up.

I had a restless night last night.

Doesn’t mean my day isn’t filled with possibility.

Doesn’t mean I’m not finding my lightness of being rising with the sun’s golden rays.

It just means I’m a little bit more tired than usual.

The South Calgary Art Show & Sale begins tomorrow. I’ve still got some work to complete to be ready.  If you’re in or around Calgary, it would be lovely to see you there!

Friday 2 – 9pm

Saturday  10 – 2pm

3130 16 St. SW

I’ll see you next week!



What is failure?

I spend the evening pouring paint on an old canvas. I was never quite happy with this piece of work. Never content it was finished. Yesterday I decided to take it on. To dive further into the story it is trying to tell.

I have a vision, an idea of what I want to create. Of the painting’s story. I am excited.

Two hours of pouring, hair-dryer blowing, torching, moving the canvas this way and that, I am scraping the paint off, letting it slide into an old bucket.

I breathe.

It is the second painting in a row which has not pleased me. Not ‘measured up’.

I breathe again.

Flutters of panic stir the outer reaches of my mind.

“It’s a trend!” the critter hisses. “You’ve lost your touch. You’re a failure. But then, you were just trying to fool yourself into believing you were an artist anyway. Give it up.”

I breathe again and turn to face the imaginary but oh so real culprit of my negative thinking.

“I see you,” I tell him. “I see you and I know your fear. I know you’re just trying to keep me safe. That you are simply doing your best to prevent me from feeling the pain of disappointment. Failure. It’s okay. Painting bad is like being willing to write bad. I gotta go through the rough spots to get to the good. It’s never a failure. It’s all just part of the invitation to begin again from where I am.”

The critter hisses and stomps his feet and puffs up his body in preparation of giving me another blast of limiting beliefs he’s created to keep me from feeling the pains of life, to prevent me from stepping so far out of my comfort zone I lose the way back.

I breathe.. Into fear. Uncertainty. Confusion. Resistance. The unknown.

I don’t need a comfort zone to keep me safe. I need wide-open spaces. The freedom to explore what it means to live on the other side of who I am when I dare to cross the boundary from being safe in who I am to honouring the sacred of all I am.

I breathe and remind myself that not every painting becomes a final project in one go. Just as the canvas I was painting on began two years ago and only now is being viewed as full of possibilities, going through the messy is part of the journey of getting to the good parts.

It is all part of the process.

And the first painting that ‘failed’ slips into my thoughts. It’s pretty ugly… at this point. But a random thought enters. What if…. and ideas on what I can do to delve into its story, to reveal its mysteries rise above my fears.

Ooooh.  That could be fun, I think. And ‘what if’s’ of trying this or that dance in my thoughts.

I want to race down to my studio. To pull out my pens and get to work.

It’s not that time of day. I have to ‘get to work’. I have meetings to attend, a Strat Plan to complete. interviews.

I breathe again.

It’s okay.

I’m okay.

It’s all just part of the process to get from here to there. It’s all just part of the invitation.

I begin again.

Life is a journey and everything on my path is necessary. It is all part of the Sacred.






Is this the new norm?

I am wondering if this is my new norm.

I awake at 5am. Check the time. Roll over. Drift off into the exquisiteness of a Monday morning with no rushing about on my agenda.

At 7 I arise, and while it feels late and decadent even, I do not rush about. Beau stays in bed with his dad. I come into the kitchen, make myself a latte. Watch the river flow past. Sit down at my desk. Breathe into the silence. Meditate. When I open my eyes, the river continues to flow past yet every drop is different. I notice the snow that fell over the weekend is gone. It disappeared overnight. I thank the morning. The buds appearing on the branches of the trees outside my window. A squirrel leaping from one branch to another. They all add texture and wonder to my morning.

I turn on my computer and a popup heralds a Youtube art tutorial video. It catches my attention. I watch it, get inspired and watch another in the series.

Ideas percolate.

I get excited about the possibilities.

Is this my new norm?

To savour morning’s passing without an agenda constraining me.

I have things to do. Places to go.

But first. Time to savour the morning.

I am not working today. At least, not at the office.  I have some days to use up by the end of the month. As my artshow is Friday/Saturday, I’m using today to get organized. Yesterday, I mounted paintings, created the file for my flower cards that I’ll drop off at the printer later this morning, on my way to my massage. (The painting above is one of the cards.) Other than that, I’ve got time to be present in the sun’s rising. To take Beau for a long leisurely walk. To work on a painting I’m thinking of putting in the show if I get it finished. If not, there will be other shows.

I have four day work weeks from now until the end of May when I will leave my place of employment for the last time. In fact, with the days off I’m using up, I have a total of 12 days to work at the office. When I put it in the context of days to complete, it doesn’t seem like much! Yet, when I compare the time to work versus how much I still have to complete, I can feel the panic arising within me. There’s still a lot to be done.

I breathe into my fluttering heart and the knot in my stomach. I can only do my best. It is not all mine to fix, complete, do.

I practice releasing.

I am releasing. I am releasing. I am releasing.

I breathe. Deeply. In. Out. In. Out.

At a dinner party on Saturday night someone asked me if I was nervous about losing my identify. I laughed. I can’t lose my identity, I told them.  My job is not my identity.  I am more than my title, my profession, my being known in the sector in which I work. My ‘identity is a beautiful tapestry woven together in the vital and life-giving colours I create when I live my life leaning into the creative edge of all this is possible when I let go of believing what I do that pays me, defines me.

I am exploring my new norm today.

I think I like it.




When life throws up a speed bump, how will you grow?

No 37 #ShePersisted
The Naked Truth
Mixed Media on canvas paper
11 x 14″
@2017 Louise Gallagher

You know when things happen in your life and you think…. “Wow. I didn’t see that coming?”

And then, it’s there in front of you. And, even though you know it isn’t the best course of action, what you really want to do is rail against it and fling up your hands and stomp your feet and exclaim, “Why me?” or something to that affect?

Take a breath.

Step back.

Get present.


Playing the victim. Pointing fingers at the other and highlighting their faults, limitations, wrongness – it just creates more chaos and angst.

It ain’t easy in the face of adversity to turn up and stay present without fearing the darkness. It is necessary if you are to weather life’s storms without getting pulled from your course, from the centre of your “I” of who you are and how you strive to be in the world.

Stepping into your integrity, speaking your truth with a kind and compassionate heart, being congruent in all your actions, accepting and recognizing there is truth in all things and not all things are true, creates a world of possibility. It shines light into the darkness and creates space for all our shared human condition to be present, including frailties and imperfections.

Awhile ago, someone accused me of acting in a way that took me by surprise. Being called something that is not a trait I admire, wish to emulate or be known as, felt confusing. Yet, there I was, having to face someone else’s assertions they were experiencing me in a way I do not want to be.

It was humbling.

To defend myself, I felt the urge to pull out everything I knew about the other that would make them look small, less than, other than the remarkable human being I know them capable of being.

to find my center, to stay grounded in my truth, I had to…

Take a breath.

Step back.

Get present.


Trying to make someone else look small does not make me the bigger person. It just makes me less than who and how I want to be in the world. To walk with integrity in my life is more important than playing in the mud of someone else’s chaos, pain or whatever it is they are experiencing that causes them to do the things they do for reasons I can’t make sense of. In those situations, my integrity must trump getting down and dirty

My intention in life is to celebrate people, to connect through our magnificence, to create space for everyone around me to shine bright. In the lightness of our being bright lights of possibility, we illuminate the path for all the world to see, violence, bullying, discrimination, sexism, racism, anti-humanism do not create a world of peace, harmony, love and joy. They destroy humankind.

Life is a fascinating journey. It brings opportunities to shine, to express our magnificence, to be our best selves through the good times and the tough. It’s easy to walk with integrity when things are going well in your life, the challenge is always to stay true to yourself when the going gets rough and the rough is calling you to get down and dirty to ease your pain or confusion.

Standing in your integrity means letting go of the need to act out. It means turning up, speaking your truth, walking your path with integrity and staying unattached to the outcome.

And when you do that, life’s hurdles become opportunities to learn and grow and be the more of who and how you want to be in the world, in every kind of weather.