Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Walk with Integrity

Often, after completing a task or experiencing something difficult, people say things like, “I wish I’d known earlier what I know now. I wouldn’t have made so many mistakes.” Or, “If only I’d come before XXX happened. I would have done it differently.” And then often, they’ll add, “But I probably wouldn’t have listened if I’d known earlier anyway…”

We do not know what we do not know.

Knowing earlier or not, whatever happened in our lives in the past, is part of what created who and where we are today.

If I had known I would meet a prince charming who turned out to be the prince of death, would I have got in his red ferrari?

Fact is, that journey is part of who I am and how I am today.   Perhaps it would have taken some different experience, or another disastorous relationship for me to slow down but the fact is, I needed to wake up. And the universe opened a door for me to step into the possibility. Ultimately, that journey brought me to the truth of my own magnificence and our shared mangificence in this human condition. Doesn’t matter what road I too, that was the truth to which I needed to awaken. Perhaps, that relationship was my shortcut to this place of awakening? Perhaps, if I’d not gone through those dark days, I would still be repeating disastorous patterns that were keeping me from being truly, authentically me.

There were a thousand paths I could have taken to lead me”, to this place I am today.

That relationship was just the path I chose to get me here.

Last night, as I journalled about the change in my role at the family homeless shelter where I work, I realized that no matter where I end up, as long as I can claim, “I acted with grit and integrity.” then, whatever path I take to get where I am, has been a good road.

It’s when I wake up and cannot or won’t look myself in the mirrir, I need to take heed. My unwillingness to see is keeping me on the wrong road. Awakened, it’s up to me to choose what step I take next to reinstate my integrity.

And that’s the challenge.

We all make mistakes. We all have things happen that we didn’t plan for or had hoped for a different outcome.

It’s how we rise above our pain and sorrow, our tears and shame that we shine. And with each day walked on the road of our integrity, the day becomes a little sunier and we shine a whole lot brighter.

Namaste

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When courage calls you to rise above, do you listen?

Being human has its awkward moments. Its times of feeling like you’re all limbs and misplaced emotions. Times when the fear of ‘being seen’ adds up to your believing you are a big fat zero with little to give and no capacity to achieve anything or to be known for how truly magnificent you are in your human condition.

When I was a little girl there was a story in my family about my birth that caused me unease. But I thought it was funny and being naturally defiant, I kept telling it anyway, not realizing how it hurt my heart until many years (and a lot of therapy) later.

The story goes that my mother wished I was born on December 8, the day of the Immaculate conception which, in her Catholic world was a highly revered date. Instead, I was born two minutes after midnight on the 9th. Disappointment!

My father, wanting a boy, lost a case of beer and $20 because I was a girl. More disappointment!

Which was why my story became cemented in the belief I was always a disappointment. I was unwanted.

And then, one day, I decided to change my birth story. Why should a story told long ago, the details of which were never verified, limit my life a few decades later? Wanting closure on the past, and peace in the present, I decided my birth story was one of being wanted, of being loved and cherished by my parents, of being divinely magnificent in all my human condition. Wounds, flaws, beauty and all.

That story sat better within my heart, mind and spirit.

Still, in moments of unease, of distress and uncertainty, the tendrils of the past seep into my consciousness unbidden. They spiral around the unhealed places, spinning their reminders of what a disappointment I am. How I don’t fit in. I don’t belong. I am unwanted.

In their slithering, uneasy presence, I unconsciously respond from a place of insecurity. Problem is, insecurity is not effective nor objective. It is an emotional interpretation of past stories, fears, doubts,  that undermine my worth in the here and now.

We all have those places within. Those places where the stories we tell or told on ourselves cut us down to little pieces of shame and doubt leaving us fearful to act up to our true magnificence. To live the personal greatness which is our birthright.

it is in those moments of self-doubt, of insecurity and caution that we must bring our courage to bear. That we must breathe into our stories of shame and doubt to live into our true-love story of our life lived free of the past, free of limiting beliefs. To live fearlessly in the truth that we are each magnificent beings experiencing this fragile, beautiful human journey in Love. It is a multi-faceted journey that shimmers in the beautiful light of truth when we let go of believing we are not worthy.

I have been stalked by self-doubt recently. Feelings of less than, unwanted, unneeded have undermined my sense of truth and worth.

I know where it originates, this place of unease.  I know the external forces that have triggered the origin story within me. The one that does not serve me well.

I also know, these feelings are just emotional interpretations of circumstances over which I do have agency, no matter how much the critter would prefer I believe I’m a victim.

In that knowledge I can let go of self-doubt and fear and step once again into the light of knowing, I am a woman of worth. A divine expression of amazing grace living this one, precious life fully capable of expressing my human magnificence freely and lovingly.

Abandoning all need to play small, I rise above my fear and let courage draw me into the divine expression of my most precious and magnificent self today.

Namaste.

 

 

 

 

 


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Snow angels and other apparitions of joy

I am walking with Beau along the path that skirts the river. I am focused on ensuring he does not think it’s a good idea to run out onto the ice that lines the shore.

I don’t notice the woman on her bike until I almost walk into her. (That’s how hard I’m concentrating on keeping Beau to the path, not the ice.)

The woman is admiring the river. The sky. The woods.

She’s also on the walking path but at -14C who cares?  There aren’t all that many people out anyway.

She smiles at me. I smile at her.

“What a glorious day!” she exclaims.

And I agree. Clear blue sky soaring into infinity. The temperature a balmy sub-zero but not as sub-zero as yesterday, or earlier in the morning for that matter. (It does worry me that I think -14C is balmy but, when you’re been out in -30C, balmy is anything warmer.)

Beaumont, seeing I am engaged with the woman races over. She greets him almost as enthusiastically as he greets her. She starts to tell me all about a dog she used to own. He kind of looked like Beau, but not really, she says. But he was just as friendly. Her husband misses the dog more than her. Instead of dog-walking, she rides her bike. Every day. Regardless of the weather.

That’s because my husband tells me I can’t just sit around and do nothing, she adds with a laugh.

“Do you think he’s right?” she asks, before racing forward, into more dialogue. “Maybe you can help me,” she says. “My son just moved out and the room he had is now empty. I want to use it for something. It’s such a wonderful space but I don’t want to turn it into a bedroom again, definitely not. My husband says I should make it into a yoga studio but I don’t want a yoga studio at home and I don’t know… I have this dresser in the basement. It’s beautiful old wood with this gorgeous mirror and…” she pauses momentarily for a breath. “Do you think I should move it up there?”

“Do you want to?” I ask, still not sure why a complete stranger is asking me for decorating advice.

“Well, I love it and it seems such a shame to hide it away and I have all these other pieces of art and antiques.” Her eyes snap wide open, her mouth forms a tiny ‘O’. “I could turn the room into my art gallery. A place where I go and sit and admire all my beautiful things. Admiring beautiful things is not doing nothing!”

And she climbs onto her bicycle in preparation of riding off. “Oh thank you! You’ve helped me so much. Now I can go home and get busy planning how I’m going to do this and… oh Thank you!” she repeats before riding off.

Even Beau is bemused enough by the encounter, he’s sitting still. But not for long. He leaps up to remind me to throw the ball.

I throw it, away from the river, and turn back to stare at the rushing water on the far side of the ice-covered shore. And that’s when I see it. A patch of untrammeled snow, the only patch around, just at the edge of the trees leading down to the river’s edge.

I knew what I have to do.

I bid Beau, ‘Sit. Stay’ (who am I kidding?) and walk over to the patch of unmarked snow. I turn around, face away from the river and carefully lay my body down.

I stare at the sky for a moment and then start to move my arms and legs away from the sides of my body. In and out, in and out, along the surface of the snow.

Carefully I stand up and turn to admire my work.

A snow angel at the edge of the river.

How divine.

I smile up at the cerulean sky soaring above me. I laugh out loud.

And wonders of wonders, Beau stayed still the whole time.

We walk away. Me throwing the ball. Him chasing after it.

And behind us, a snow angel lies blissfully in the snow. A sweet reminder that angels are on our path always. Sometimes, they come riding up on a bike, asking for decorating advice on a blue-sky day.

Always, they come bearing gifts of laughter and joy.


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What’s the point?

One of my father’s favourite quotes when I was a little girl was, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”

Some time ago, while pondering a situation with a friend, I found myself hesitating to intervene because, well… I couldn’t make them drink, or in this case, stop drinking. And I feared, if I said anything, they’d be upset and then it would all fall apart.

Except, it was already falling apart. Why did I hesitate?

I wonder what my hesitation is all about? I asked myself.

Is there something buried in my psyche holding me back that I can’t see? Is there a limiting belief here?

And then it struck me — beneath the ‘here, let me show you the water. you decide whether or not you drink’ is the belief — I am helpless to affect someone else’s behaviour.

I think that’s what they call. Bullsh*t!

I can’t change what other’s do but I am not powerless.

I have a voice.

I have the capacity to use it. To speak up and be heard.

Yet, I let the belief that I can’t make someone drink the water keep me from even leading them to the well.

Because the limiting belief is — What’s the point?

It’s not my business. It’s not up to me to intervene.

Actually. It is.

When I see someone doing something that hurts them or others, it is not up to me to walk away. It’s up to me to step in and intervene — lovingly. To at least say something so that they know I see them. I hear them. I feel for them and with them — and love them.

Love is not inactive.

It is constantly in action. In motion. In doing.

Love is.

It’s me who isn’t always present to doing what I must to create a world of love — a world where I don’t stand on the sidelines watching someone hurt themselves, or watching someone destroy another, or watching people hurt each other or the world around them.

I may not be able to change the world but I sure can change what I do in it to create well-being all around me. And when I see someone hurting, I have the power to step in and ask, “I see your pain. How can I be of service?”

So dad, I know you’re gone from this world but I just wanted you to know, I get it. It isn’t about leading anyone to water or forcing them to drink. It is about what I do to create opportunities for them to see fresh water is waiting. And to know — I will stand at the well with you. I will hold your hair back while you drink. I will stand with you as you move towards the well just as I hope you stand with me when I need to drink of life-refreshing waters.

We are all connected. I can’t be in your pain with you, but I can stand with you as you dive into the well of possibility to find the other side where we all swim in this ocean of life together.

We are all drinking of the same well of Love. And if the water isn’t sweet, I do have the power to pour my voice into its depths and let it rise up in a song of Love.

Namaste.


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Are you a control freak?

I am… a control freak.  Okay, maybe not a freak, but I do like control. A lot. Who doesn’t? Control, or at least the illusion of control, makes me feel safe (or so my critter mind believes).

Yet, in its very aura of safety, I am most unsafe. For in the illusion of control, I give myself up to the notion that I can predict and direct the outcome of anything/everything.

Ha! I can’t control nor direct the outcome of the world around me. Heck, I can’t really direct the outcome of my efforts to create. All I can engage in is the creative process — and when I let what appears, appear, I give up the need to control what happens as I become part of its happening.

Take for example a gift I gave my beloved several years ago. We were living in different cities and for Valentine’s Day, I gifted him 14 Days of a Love Poem a Day.

It was a gift which meant… he got to receive it and respond to it in whatever way best fit him.

But that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted him to respond the way I wanted him to respond, not the way that was comfortable/natural for him. My expectations of an outcome lead to a pretty major disagreement. Fortunately, we moved through that disagreement and I moved past my expectations. The 14 days of a poem a day lead to an entire year of a love poem a day, and in that process my understanding of love and its capacity to change my world and the world around me shifted.  I fell in love with the joy of writing a love poem a day and let go of the expectations of what the process would achieve. And that shifted everything between my beloved and me.

When I shift, everything shifts. 

As I let go of my expected/desired outcomes, the pressure of ‘what I was doing to create’ a feeling/emotion/environment/response from him flew out the window. We both became immersed in the journey of understanding one another and letting go of expectations of the other. In letting go of the need to control the outcome, love deepened, our experience of one another expanded, and harmony abounded.

Which leads me to the conclusion, control is not all it’s cracked up to be.

When I am busy trying to control people, things, experiences, I am busy avoiding the experience of people, things, experiences.  And in my avoidance, fear deepens, not lessens because — Avoidance strengthens fear. 

In my fear, I struggle to wrestle the future, the moment, and the past into something I can predict, manage and control.

In my fear, I struggle to wrestle people, things and experiences into people, things and experiences i can control and manage.

In my open-hearted embrace of surrendering behaviours that limit my acceptance of people, things and experiences, the past is filled with love, the present with joy and the future with the anticipation of the miracles that can happen when I release my hold on wanting to see or predict the future.

In opening up to being out of control in the here and now, I fall with grace into Love, living joyfully in the rapture of now where the future is yet to come.

Namaste.


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When we fear what we do not know…

Recently, in Calgary, we’ve had an ongoing debate around a Supervised Consumption Site, both a fixed address and proposed mobile facility. As part of the debate, the phrase most used to describe its necessity is ‘harm reduction’.

To those not accustomed to working in the areas of addictions or homelessness, harm reduction can be a scary thought. Partially because unless you do work in this field, you don’t really understand it (even those who work in it sometimes struggle with it), and secondly, because it immediately suggests there is harm to someone, we just don’t know who and being naturally egotistical humans, we fear what we do not understand and assume it is us at risk of the harm.

Harm reduction is about lessening opportunities for self-harm by creating safe practices and spaces for those engaged in drug use. Someone with an addiction is going to use. That’s what addictions do. They steal ‘common sense’ and override our entire beings with this burning desire to have the thing we desire, even when we know it’s not good for us. We don’t really think about the dying part. We think about the relieving ‘the itch’ by using the thing that gives us relief.

But, we say, they choose to be addicts, why can’t they take care of themselves? Or as one person commented on a news article online, Why can’t we just let them all die?

I don’t know about you but people dying on my watch, when I have the capacity to make a difference, even if it’s only by accepting a Supervised Consumption site in my area is better than being complicit in someone dying of a drug overdose anywhere.

On average, 2 people die of opioid poisoning in Alberta every day with Calgary experiencing the highest number of overdoses in the province.

This is a complex issue. Lives are being lost. And we are afraid. The challenge is, I’m not sure we know what it is we fear.

Do we fear encountering someone on a high on the street?

Do we fear someone dying in front of us?

Do we fear we won’t know what to do if we encounter someone overdosing?

Do we fear the unknown?

All of these are real fears.

Are they real enough for us to take action by learning more, by carrying a Naloxone kit for example, or by volunteering at an organization that works with people with addictions or who are experiencing homelessness?

Or, do we just complain, criticize and condemn those who are doing their best, even when we don’t understand what they’re doing or why, to keep fellow human beings alive.

There is a narrative in our society about addictions that is not healthy.

Addiction is a choice.

People should just stop.

If they’re going to use,  it’s not my job to save them.

There’s nothing I can do.

Actually, there’s lots each of us can do. We can become advocates for kindness, compassion, acceptance of our fellow human beings, in all their many facets, in all the expressions of our shared human condition.

Ultimately, by creating a kinder more forgiving and tolerant world, we create opportunities for everyone to live free of labels, free to experience what it means to be human in a world that does not judge or find others lacking simply because they’re different than us. A world that sees our differences as vital parts of the fascinating and beautiful mosaic that is our human condition.

In such a world, anything and everything is possible.

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Please note:  This post is not to create a debate on supervised consumption sites or addictions or the opioid crisis. My words are my effort to understand better what it means for me, and what I can do, create, change.

If my words stir something in you, please do share your thoughts. Your thoughts will help me understand more, create common ground, increase the field upon which we share understanding.

Please be respectful. Kind. I reserve the right to delete comments that denigrate or belittle human beings.


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Powerful Changes: Becoming my creative expression

Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper
Louise Gallagher
5 x 7″

The card is named, “Powerful Changes”.

I feel my body’s visceral response to the words. ‘Change? What change?’ my critter mind wails. “Enough already with the changes! Haven’t I done enough? ”

I want to know the changes, as if in the knowing, I can vet them, or at least measure them against my barometer of what is acceptable change. And what is not.

“When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.
As we open our creative channel to the Creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.”

I am like the river flowing to the sea, my course defined by two parallel shores guiding me, channeling me.

My creative essence is not be channeled.

When I open my creative channel to the Creator, I drift quietly away from the need to be safely channeled by the shores of my being who I think I am in this world and the life I lead. Open to my creative channel, I release my expectations that my course is predictable, known, somehow able to be directed and determined by me.

In the absence of needing to direct or be held in by the bounds of what I deem the shores and boundaries of my life, I am free to explore where ever my creativity leads me.

I am free to be my creative essence. Open to powerful changes whether they enter gently or roar in like an arctic wind.

I want to control change. To harness it to my directions.

I cannot harness the wind. I cannot change the weather.

I surrender my need to control and give into my creative essence and its deep desire to be known simply as it is.

In that knowing, I am not bound by the shores of who I am. In that powerful change of how I see myself and my creativity, I am free to become all I am when I let go of being my creative expression and become the expression of my creative essence running wild and free.

Namaste.

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Free-fall writing from today’s The Artist’s Way Card by Julia Cameron —  Powerful Changes

Without thinking about it, as I wrote, my word for 2019 became clearer. “Surrender”  That is a powerful change from my thinking that I needed to consciously focus on my word for the year.