Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Critters and other inner beasts

A friend and I are talking about inner discord. “I was surprised to read about your struggle with your internal critter,” she says. “I always think you’ve got everything so together.”

I laughed.

Recognizing and acknowledging my inner critter isn’t about not having things ‘together’, it’s about seeing everything fitting together the way it does, critter and all and accepting it is all essential to the whole of my life.

I don’t judge myself for those inner struggles with the critter, I told my friend. They are imminently human and, because I like to celebrate my human condition, I accept my struggles and celebrate my capacity to move through them — sometimes with grace and ease. Other times kicking and screaming as I pound my fists against the injustices of the world around me. Even when I falter and give into ‘the veg in front of the TV’, I celebrate my process. If I’m going to give myself that space, why not accept with grace my choices?

For me, it is about our human struggle with the need to be perceived, or our need to attain, perfection.

I will be perfect when I know no struggle, we tell ourselves.

My life will be perfect when I know no conflict.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Living life fully involves struggle and conflict. It involves engaging deeply with life, not just skimming its surface in search of the easy, constantly staying on the lookout for quick exits from anything that involves going deeper than the superficial.

Life is a joyful, complicated, messy journey. How we navigate its many byways and detours, how we travel its unknown depths determines the quality of our experience, not the journey itself.

The journey is what the journey is. Somedays, it feels like a walk through the park, every sight and sound a joyous reflection of our peace of mind. Other days, we wonder if we need to go back to bed and get up on the other side. On those days where discord abounds, we get to decide if we fight against it, or lovingly delve into what is happening within to create our angst. It’s always a choice. And it’s always our choice, even on those days when we tell ourselves we have no choice.

Every day, we are the judge, the juror, the architect, the conductor of our experience. Choosing to love ourselves in all our complexities creates space for the journey to be less of a struggle against ourselves and more of an adventure into falling in love with ourselves.

Falling in love with ourselves isn’t about seeing only what we judge to be the beautiful or worthy about ourselves. It’s about accepting all of ourselves, critters and angels, sinners and saints, those parts we deem worthy, those we don’t.

Ultimately, I gotta love all of me ’cause all of me is all I got. Loving all of me means embracing beauty and the beast. Dark and light. Yin and yang. Wounds and wisdom, without wishing I was some other way. If the way I am, the way I am being present in the world is not creating the peace, joy, compassion and love I seek, I get to choose what I do with it – and if I choose to do nothing, then that is the journey I’m on.

Change or stay stuck.

Move or stay put.

My choice.

Seeking perfection is just a way to stay stuck. It lets us off the hook of being 100% accountable for ourselves; our actions, words, thoughts, impact.

A friend told me she was surprised I struggled with my critter.

I laughed.

My critter and I know each other well. I love him in all his angst-driven chaos. Loving him doesn’t mean I give him control of my life. It just means when I recognize his strident calling for me to act out or to ‘get perfect’, I lovingly embrace his fears and pains and let him know, I am perfectly content being present with my perfectly perfect human imperfections.

 

Namaste.

 

 

 


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What is always is what is.

“Bursting Out”
Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper
11 x 14″
2019 Louise Gallagher

Yesterday I had a lesson in expectations. I am grateful.

With the South Calgary Art Show & Sale fast approaching on May 10 & 11, I am spending as much time in my studio as I can.

Last night, when I came home from work, my beloved was engrossed in ‘Hockey Playoffs’.  I headed to the studio.

It was a struggle.

My mind was roiling about, thinking over a situation at work that is not the way I would like it to be. I was tired. Maybe even a bit grouchy. I was having trouble letting it all go so that I could sink into the joy of simply being present at my art table.

I wanted the time in my studio to be fun. Light. Airy.

I wanted to feel content. At peace. Present.

I didn’t feel any of it.

Instead, I felt the expectations of what I wanted and the contradictions of where my mind was at, weighing heavily on my entire being.

“Don’t let the worries of your day go, Louise,” the critter who likes to slide into my thinking when it knows I’m feeling tired and grouchy and make it all stinky and yucky whispered inside my head. “I mean, really. These are big worries. You need to chew on them some more.”

The calm, loving voice of reason tried to edge in. “It’s okay Louise. Just be present. In the worry. Sadness. Confusion. Disappointment. Be present and let all your emotions flow.”

The critter was having none of it, which was evident on the canvas. The colours weren’t flowing. The bottom part of the painting was a blob of dark, messy mud. “You gotta worry this bone Louise. Sure, you gotta let your emotions flow. But don’t you dare let them flow to acceptance, love and harmony. Joy and contentment. People are out to get ya’. You gotta worry about that!”

I kept pushing the paint. I kept moving it around.

I wanted to give up. To simply throw my hands in the air and say, “Fine. I’m not meant to paint tonight. I’ll just go turn on some mindless TV and veg out.”

The mess on the canvas stared back at me.

Stay or go. Give into the unease in my mind or fall into the flow of creation?

See, that’s the issue.

I know what is good for me. I know what is healing and life-giving. Being in my studio. Being in nature. Meditating. Playing. Dancing. Savouring life.

In times of stress, I sometimes like to convince myself I don’t need to turn up for me. I don’t have to be accountable for my journey.

The canvas never lies.

It reflects my lack of ease, my expectation of it being ‘easy’, my desire to not do the hard, my need to make sense of nonsense.

It also reflects my places of discord, Of not feeling congruent within myself. Like the critter urging me to give up, the canvas resists my efforts to make sense of stinkin’ thinkin’.

I entered the studio last night with the expectation that being there would be a walk in the park. That it would all just flow easily. That I would create a masterpiece without any hard work.

My expectations lead me astray. The critter lead the parade.

And then, I let go and in the surrender, I found myself falling effortlessly into the joy of creating. The result is a painting that is very different than what I expected it to be. It may not be a masterpiece, but it is a reflection of my journey from discord to ease, from expectation to anticipation of what can happen when I let go of believing ‘what is shouldn’t be what is.’

What is always is what is. How I respond, how I journey through life’s inevitable what ises that cause me unease is a reflection of where I am at, how I am in my life. When I choose to surrender expectations of how what is should be, I find myself flowing with grace in the river of life, swimming joyfully in a sea of contentment, beauty and colour.

Life is good.

Namaste.

 

 

 


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How to connect heart to heart.

I awoke from a dream about death. It had something to do with telling people all the wonderful things I saw in them, after they were gone.

Didn’t make a lot of sense. Why not tell them while we’re both alive and able to enjoy each other’s company, I wondered?

A tool we practice at Choices Seminars is the “The thing I like most about you in this moment is….” and then you name it.  There are other versions of that tool around as well. “What I appreciate about you right now….”  “I really like how you….”

You can get even more creative as my beautiful friend, mentor, inspiring human being Patricia Morgan of Solutions for Resilience does.

Her question is simple. “What do you think I think is incredible about you?”

The question always gives people pause to think before they answer. And after they’ve quietly (hesitantly/shyly…) said one thing they think you think is incredible about them, the response is…

“That’s true and that’s not the only thing. What else do you think I think is incredible about you?”

And after their second answer, the response is the same… “That’s true too and that’s not the only thing either. What else?”

After their third answer, you get to tell them more… “All those things are so true about what I think is incredible about you. What else I think is incredible about you is…..” And then name all the amazing, incredible, inspiring, beautiful things you think about them.

Believe me, they will be delighted to hear what’s on your mind about them and you will have created space for a deeper, more inspiring connection!

Human beings yearn to connect in deep and meaningful ways. It’s in our DNA. Often, though, we make it hard. We put up walls. We talk over one another. We don’t listen to eachother’s hearts. We discount each other’s voices. We listen to the voices in our own heads telling us people will think we’re silly, or we’ll be judged if we get so honest, or hurt if we are too vulnerable.

Connecting with people is pretty simple.  The first step is to ask a question. Ask them about who they are, what makes their heart beat, what gives them joy, what brings them peace, what inspires them when they get up in the morning.

The second step is to listen deeply to their answers. Let them tell you what’s on their minds, their hearts, what’s rumbling in their tummies and stirring their possibilities.

The third step to connecting to people is to repeat the above, again and again and again.

Because let’s face it, the answer to who we are in the world, how we want to be seen often stays locked inside us, disconnecting us from those around us with whom we’d really like to feel connection.

It isn’t until we ask ourselves, or someone else asks us:  What makes you heart beat? What inspires you to get up in the morning? What do you do that makes a world of difference?, that we really start to feel and live into the answers of our heart’s-calling us to connect, dream big, live large.

Deep down, we all know how incredibly magnificent, special, unique we are. It’s just life has taught us a whole bunch of not so healthy ways to deny our beauty. When we learn and accept our worth is priceless, we learn how to navigate the world in new, inspiring and creative ways that ignite possibility and create a world of opportunity for better all around us.

Knowing and believing our worth is priceless is essential if we are to live our dreams, fulfill our desinty. Connecting and helping someone see their own worth is important to making the world a better place. In that connection, hearts find a common rhythm so that together, we can make a world of difference.

Namaste.


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Lessons from the studio

5 x 7″
Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper
2019 Louies Gallagher

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I am in an art show May 10 & May 11.

There’s a lot to get done.

I haven’t been in this show for a couple of years. Work, busy, no time to prepare kept me from entering. As a commitment to my ‘rejuvenation’ vis á vis retirment, I decided to participate this year.

I’ve been getting ready.

Most of the work I’ll be showing will be my alocohol inks. I don’t have my studio well enough set up yet to work on large canvases and I’ve been loving working with the aochol inks so much I’ve just kept creating.

Yesterday, along with sealing my finished work with Kamar, I played with a new toy — an air brush — and even though I still don’t quite have the hang of it, I think I’m in love!

Working with alcohol inks is all about letting flow what will flow, where it will flow. It’s about layering on, taking off, trusting that whtaever happens will be okay. Sometimes, the end result doesn’t cut it. Most times, with enough play and a whole lot of alcohol, magic happens.

Three important life lessons working with alcohol inks have taught me are:

  1. You don’t need to be in control.
    • Alcohol Inks are free flowing. Sure, you can use various media such as Friska to create specific images, but the joy and pure delight (for me) comes when you simply let go and let it flow. Letting go of wanting the inks to go one way, of wanting them to blend to create a certain ‘look’ is something that you need to give up (unless you really want to drive yourself mad!). Letting go doesn’t mean you don’t care about the outcome, it just means that along the way, you take pure delight in the experience of being in the moment, are willing to risk experimenting and are flexible enough to go where the ink flows.
    • Like life, trying to be 100% in control of everyone and everything creates frustration, anxiety and disappointment. Svouring the moment, keeping an open mind, creating space for magic is vital to the experience.
  2.  The journey isn’t in knowing ‘how’, it’s in trusting you will discover the way as you go.
    • Predicting what happens when you apply ink and then layer on alcohol and more colour, use a hairdryer or airbrush or any other method of moving the ink around is part of the process, but it’s not all of the process — you gotta be willing to follow the flow. Sure, you can master the airbrush and create images that resumble a flower or leaf or tree, but working with the airbrush means staying loose enough you give the ink room to flow as it will — because seriously, you can’t ‘make’ it flow exactly where you want it to or how you want it.
    • Starting with an ‘idea’ of what you want to achieve is important — but as you move through the process, being flexible enough to adapt, and being open to new ideas as they arise is vital to creating a life that is joyful and fulfilling.
  3. Everyone has their own unique Point of View. Honour the differences.
    • Some of my paintings bring me great joy. Some, I think are okay – and then someone else sees the same painting I deem ‘blah’ and says, “Oh wow! That’s my favourite!”  and I have to smile. We all see the same thing through our own unique perspectives.
    • My sister always finds animal faces in my paintings. I don’t see them. Doesn’t mean they’re not there, it just means we are both looking at the same thing through  different eyes and points of view. She looks for faces, I tend to ‘feel’ the colours and mood of a painting. Neither is wrong. Both bring value to our lives and to our conversation (believe me, I have spent a lot of time trying to see what my sister sees and seldom do — which is what makes life so rich. We each have our own POV and can celebrate the differences by honouring where we each come from, creating space for sharing of our opinions, views, ideas.  — and just like layering on ink to create a whole new look and feel, creating space for someone else’s POV into your conversation creates a whole new landscape of texture/depth to work with!

I spent the weekend getting ready for my artshow in May.  It was a labour of love and delight that colour my world in vibrant, beautiful hues of possibility.

 

 


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Follow Your Heart No 52. #ShePersisted

No. 52  #ShePersisted Series  — Follow your Heart  —  2019 Louise Gallagther

My intent with the #ShePersisted series has been to complete 52 in the series. I just reached my goal.

And the muse is not yet finished with me.  She keeps delivering new ideas for the series. And I keep creating.

It is a process I love. A creative endeavour that challenges and fulfills me.

As I continue to explore all the muse has in store for me, as I move deeper into rejuvenation mode, I shall have more time to mediate on the messages and thus, be able to continue to write ‘The Teachings” for the each painting/message in the series.

It is an exciting journey. One that also invites me to go back to some of the original art pieces and possibly re-work the art, not necessarily ‘the message’.  The earlier pieces have a different style that became more recognizable as I continued to create in the series.

And that’s the beauty of this journey. There is no formula to follow. No rule saying I must do it one way or the other.  I get to create my own path. My own way. My own creative expression.

The Teaching

No. 52
The #ShePersisted Series
Follow Your Heart

Many years ago, Robert Frost penned one of his best known poems which ended with,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This card is calling you to examine where you are walking. To look closely
at your choices and see if you are choosing them for yourself
or are you following someone else’s plan, marching to someone else’s drum?

Life is full of opportunities to find your own beat, to carve your own path.
Yet, too often, we let fear of the unknown, fear of leaving the pack hold us back
from hearing the calling of our heart to follow no one person or thing, but our own beat.

Let go of fearing what others may say and listen to the voice of your heart.
Your heart knows. Listen to your heart.


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Take charge of your own life. #ShePersisted No 47

No 47 #ShePersisted Series
Mixed Media on Watercolour Paper
11 x 14″
2019 Louise Gallagher

Sometime ago a friend asked me to join her and other women in creating a book of wisdom for a niece who was turning 13. Ultimately, after writing my list of “10 Things I would tell my 13 Year-Old Self if I could change her life”, I discovered that what I would have told myself then is really, what my 60+ self still needs to hear and know and breathe into everyday.

This post originally appeared on my blog in May 2014 and then Sept. 2017.  As I was contemplating what went with No 47 in my #ShePersisted Series, these 10 things came to mind. The 11th would be, “You are responbile for your own happiness. Do not abdicate your responsibility to someone else. Take charge of your life.”

Ten Things I would tell my 13-year-old self if I could change her life.

  1. There is no such place as forever. Nothing is forever. This too shall pass. Whatever you are experiencing, the trauma, the angst, the joy, they are all illusory. Transitory. Ride whatever is happening hands free, barefooted, body wide open to the experiences of life. Now is not forever.
  2. You’re okay. More than okay, you are amazing. Just the way you are. There is no fashion too out there, no style too wild if it is what you want to wear. You are not too fat, too skinny, to short, too tall, too under-developed, over-developed. You are who you are, how you are. And that’s amazing.
  3. You are worthy. This is a tricky one. Your mind wants to steal this one away and hide it because to know your worth, you must risk — the unknown. the perceived impossible. You must risk the ups and downs, ins and outs, overs and unders of life. To know your worth, you must know there is nothing, noone, no way anyone can steal it from you. It is your birthright.
  4. Believe in you. Really, really believe in you. Don’t question your right to be. Don’t question you’re right to go anywhere, do anything, anyway you choose. Be you. Everyone else is taken. Wear your hair up, down, wild, straight. Colour it pink, gold, orange or green. It’s your body. Your hair. Your skin. Your life. Your right to believe in you and be you just the way you are.
  5. Be kind. People will say mean things. Do cruel things. Be kind. Like you, they struggle to know their worth, find their place, feel their feelings. Like you, they are taking this journey of life without a manual, unable to control and predict everything life will throw at them. Like you, they are sometimes scared, sometimes silly, sometimes confused, sometimes wise. And like you, they too are looking to fit in, to belong, to be part of something bigger than themselves. Be kind, no matter how they act. Be kind.
  6. You don’t have to find your meaning. You are your meaning. Live it with your whole heart wide open to life. Your meaning is not in wearing the latest fashion or having the coolest stuff. Your meaning is found in how you approach every moment, engage every person from that place where you know, no matter what you think they think about you, you think and know you are amazing, just the way you are.
  7. Seek magnificence. Don’t go looking for mediocrity. Seek to be known through your magnificence and seek always to know others through theirs. Don’t look for fault, seek the lessons, seek the knowing, seek the value in all things.
  8. Risk often. Life isn’t a predictable series of events over which you have ultimate control. The only person you have control over is yourself – and even then you’ll sometimes doubt just how in control of yourself you are. Risk anyway because, if you’re involved with others, there will be lots of messy, sticky, unexpected and sometimes painful things happening on your journey. They’re just things. It’s all just stuff. You are amazing  – I know, I said it already – it’s true. Believe it. Risk living from the place of knowing you are okay, you are amazing, you are magnificent. Risk living as if it’s true — because it is.
  9. Smile often. Laugh lots. Dance always. And when you cry, cry out loud. When you laugh, laugh out loud. And when you see injustice, ask what can I do to change it, and do that thing with your whole heart and know, that is enough. You are enough. You don’t have to have all the answers, you only need to learn the one’s that will allow you to make the difference in the world you want to see and be. And that’s enough.
  10.  Get creative. Don’t go looking inside boxes for the recipe for life. Live it not knowing what’s next. Live it expecting the unexpected. Live it free of holding onto hurts and pains, sorrows and regrets. Live it up. Fill it with joy. and always, always SHINE! Because you are amazing. You are worthy. You are magnificent. And that’s the only truth you need to know to live your life fearlessly in Love with all of you.

 


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The presence of the present.

Tables turn. The world spins and life goes on.

This morning, Alberta awoke to a new political landscape.

Election 2019 heralded an upheaval for the reigning NDP, with Jason Kenney’s UCP stepping to the forefront with a crushing win.

Yup.  It’s politics.

And I do not write about politics.

So what do I write about on this morning when the river flows past my office window and the birds chirp in the trees lining the riverbank unmoved by the upheaval in our Provincial political landscape?

Maybe… there’s nothing to write about but the presence of the present.

Maybe it’s a day to breathe just as every day is a day to breathe.

Maybe all I can do in this moment is, to pause. To take in the quiet of this morning and savour the sun’s rays peeking through an overcast sky tinting the horizon in hues of pink and golden amber.

Maybe it’s a morning to simply be present, without searching for meaning, a message, a grand idea to inspire minds, open hearts and set spirits soaring.

Maybe it’s a day to simply be.

And in ‘being’, to set my intention to weather whatever changes are on the horizon with grace. To embrace what is present with acceptance. To breathe into all that is without judgment.

A new day dawned this morning. Behind grey clouds lying low on the horizon, the sun still shines. The world still turns and life goes on.

I am choosing to step into to this day, without carrying anything but the joy of being open to its possibilities when I turn up with a loving mind and open heart to the grace that is present in every moment.

Namaste.