Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Listening to My Heart Song

No. 3 — the Heart Song Series

We all have a song within our hearts. Sometimes, we hear it and let it be our guide. In our busy world, it can sometimes be challening to listen in.

Since leaving the formal workforce two and a half months ago, I am tuning into my Heart Song. it is a lovely, soul-envigorating, life-inspiring process. Some things I’ve noticed as I’ve ‘turned in’ since starting this rejuvenation journey, post-retirement:

  1. My internal clock seems to have reset itself — I don’t wake up at 5:30 anymore. My clock seems to think 7 is a much more reasonable hour to awaken. I totally agree!
  2. My breathing comes more easily — towards the end of my ‘out-there’ professional career, I was having trouble catching deep breaths. The stress has lifted and I feel much more relaxed.
  3. There’s no time limit on creative expression — As an example, I take longer to create my blog in the morning. I’m not as focused on ‘gettin’ ‘er done’ as I am on creating words and images that reflect where I’m at. It’s not that I didn’t do that in the past, it’s just I don’t hurry through the process anymore and now savour the creation.
  4. There is no end to creativity — I’m feeling my creativity expanding, which is seriously exciting for me. I know I’m a creative but in this post-r/rejuvenation place, I am ‘seeing’ the world through much softer, more colour soaked eyes and seeking out beauty where ever I go.
  5. Being a’life learner’ brings me joy — In my ‘courses’ file on my computer, I have several courses I’ve purchased and downloaded that I’ve never gotten around to completing. Time seemed less ‘available’ in the past and so, while I wanted to immerse myself in the learning, I didn’t give myself the opportunity. Now, I’m working through them. Most of them are ‘art’ related and are expanding my creative expression. One course I’ve just started (this week) is a Contemplative Photography course which lasts an entire year. I’m excited to explore the coursework with my fellow contemplatives.
  6. There is beauty in each step — My walks with Beaumont are longer and more energizing. I don’t hurry to the park and home. We saunter and check out the world around us, watch the river flow, the paddle-boarders, the rafters, the ducks and geese. A walk takes as long as a walk takes.
  7. Cooking is another form of creative expression — I am spending more time reading recipes, creating meals, immersing myself in culinary arts. And I am loving it.

Perhaps though, the biggest shift, or transformation as Val of Find Your Middle Ground named it yesterday in her response to my blog, is that I am consciously being more gentle with myself. Rather than ‘give myself heck’ for struggling at times in this rejuvenation journey, I am learning to breathe into the opportunities for growth and to find value in the struggle.

Like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, I must first listen to my heart. From the quiet centre of my heart, I create space for my dreams to awaken and grow into the beauty of my life unfettered by inner chatter that would have me believe I must do it all, now, and do it all perfectly.

I am becoming kinder to myself. And that’s a beautiful thing.

___________________________________

Over the past few days I have been creating a series of ‘Heart Song’ paintings. In their creation, I have been inspired to create a half day workshop on ‘Discovering Your Heart Song’.  Stay tuned for more info as I open the doors to my studio to share with others my joy and love of creative expression so that they can discover their Heart Song.

 


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Do you struggle against change?

I am struggling.

Struggling with the sense of not having a purpose. Of not having ‘a job’, something that defines me, that acts like a pin on a map, showing people ‘this is where I fit in’.

It’s an odd place, this place of struggle. I know it’s been less than 3 months since I left the workplace, since I hung up my “I’m a leader, changing the world of homelessness” nameplate, and I know, that’s not a long timeframe.

But it still doesn’t make ‘the struggle’ any easier.

Oh, on the surface you can’t see it. I’m busy, doing things, organizing, clearing out rooms and garages and basements. Setting up my studio, riding my bicycle, walking my pooch, cooking and entertaining, painting and creating.

But I struggle with my sense of ‘meaning’, or lack thereof.

And I know me.

Yesterday I heard about an ED role in an organization that was interesting. And I thought… maybe I should apply!  (Yes I know. Aren’t I fascinating! And amusing.) 🙂

See, when I find myself in the dissonance of my discomfort, I look for solutions out there. I seek soothing from external sources in a quick fix mindset that says, “Here honey. This external recognition/ occupation/activity will make you feel better real quick.”

Reality is — external gratification is fleeting. It seldom soothes the core of inner dissonance, offering up instead transitory mental, in-the-moment of the discord, appeasement.

And I breathe.

Struggle is part of the journey. It is not all of it. It is integral to it though as I learn new ways of being present in my life, new paths of travelling to find grace, patience, joy and wonder in my new world of possibility.

Struggle is good. As long as I don’t allow it to become a means to escape, or deny, or avoid or defend against growth.

Growth is part of living.

Growth is inevitable.

It’s up to me to determine how I grow. How much. In what direction. It’s my job to find its value, meaning, possibilities. I can let it drive me into withering, or propel me into creative expression I never before dreamed of as possible in my life.

I am standing in the dissonance of my discomfort, embracing my struggle and diving deep within to find my path through grace, joy and Love.

I am embracing growth and leaning beyond the creative edges of my knowing who I am today. I am allowing myself to feel and know this struggle as part of my journey and to celebrate its presence.

And for today, I’m into getting down and dirty with my ego as I learn to embrace all I need to learn and grow into so that I can grow lovingly and joyfully into this new way of being present in my world that I am not yet comfortable in.

I am pulling the pin of where I stand on the map of my life and setting myself free to gracefully freefloat in a sea of possibility.

I am struggling and celebrating my struggle. It means I’m growing.

And that is cause for celebration!

Namaste.


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What will your story be today?

I haven’t found it yet.

Not after cleaning and clearing out the back half of the basement and organizing my art supplies.

The Reading Corner

Not after clearing out the far corner of our bedroom (the reading corner) and organizing books and papers, clothes and paraphenalia.

Not after reorganizing the entire kitchen, culling dead spices and aged out dry goods.

And not after purposefully not filling my calendar with coffee dates and wine encounters.

I still haven’t found it.

My rhythm in the post-retired in the process of rejuvenation life.

And yes, I know. It’s only been seven weeks, four of which I spent away. But still… throughout my working life, my days were prescribed by the known of my routine; dependable, predictable regardless of unexpected happenings, crises and daily demands.

I feel adrift. Cast-away. Free-falling through time.

In the dissonance of my discomfort, I struggle against the flow and search for meaning in my life even in the presence of knowing, there is no need to search for meaning. The meaning is present when I am present in my life.

Ahhh. The ennui of taking myself too seriously!

Yesterday, Bernie at Equipose Life wrote about her search for her rhythm and I had to smile. I’d been wondering about the very same question since getting back from my month long trip and had been planning on writing/meditating on it today. Once coaching at Choices Seminars was over, I had this wide open playing field, and I was struggling to stay calm in the center of my life.

I think I’ve forgotten how to play in unscripted, unmarked spaces. To simply be in the moment of being rather than the rush of doing.

It’s possible I’ve spent decades forgetting.

And now, in the sudden onslaught of unscheduled time, I am peering too far into the future searching for some glimmer of what happens next.

I close my eyes and breathe deeply.

Patience grasshopper. Patience.

There is lots of time to figure out the future. There’s no other time than now to be present in today.

I take another breath, and the wise woman within whispers to my heart. “It’s okay. This unease will pass. Open your heart and bring your sights closer to home. Step lovingly into the space you’re in. Do not criticize yourself for feeling unease. Celebrate your willingness to be in its presence. And now, let go of looking into tomorrow. Today is calling.”

I open my eyes and smile. I am worrying about an unknown future when today is calling me to be present to its many gifts.

Outside my window the river flows past, the wind whispers through the leaves that line the bank. Through their filigree canopy I see the azure sky stretching out to the horizon.

I am in a land of new horizons. To be free of ‘what was’, I must stretch out of my comfort zone, lengthen the familiar muscles like the sky stretching out to the horizon and become present to ‘what is’.

Arms free, heart open I breathe into the possibilities, the joy, the wonder of being here right now. I slip into the river of possibility where life is inviting me to get into the flow of a new rhythm. When I quit figthing its pull, it will find me.

There is no need for me to crowd my time with a list of ‘important things to do’ or to worry about a yet to unfold future. Tomorrow will arrive soon enough.

I breathe into being present in my life right now. I open my heart and mind and greet the day. Life greets me back with its alluring invitation to release my fear and step into the flow of a new way of being in this world of wonder and possibility.

Namaste


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Wednesday is bake day

Wednesday morning Banana Muffins

Those who know me well know I have a secret passion.

Ok. Not so secret as it’s a passion I love to share with others. I love the smiles on their faces, the conversation, the gathering of personalities and sharing of stories that happen when I indulge in my secret passion.

Curious?

I love to cook and entertain. Fortunately, my beloved loves to indulge in the ‘entertain’ portion of my passion just as much as I do. Though I should add, he’s a not bad chef himself and we make a pretty good duo in the kitchen!

In the past, weekdays were for working. I’m moving in a new stream.

This morning I awoke and decided I’d make muffins. To understand how wonderful it was to be in my kitchen at 8am, baking, you need to know how that just wasn’t possible in the past. Usually, I was out of the house by 8ish after getting up around 5 and wouldn’t be home until after 6pm.

Weekends weren’t necessarily for relaxing, baking and doing things around the house. I often spent a few hours working and though we did often entertain, I didn’t indulge myself in days of preparation — like I can now!

Which is why I’m already starting to think about how I’m going to set the table and what to make for a dinner party we’re having Saturday night for friends — actually they’re Beaumont’s friends as they are people he either stays with, or come and walk and convene with him when we’re away. But, regardless of whose friends they are, they’re coming for dinner and I am in full, “Hmmm… what shall I make?” mode. Which, for those who know me and my dinner parties, I don’t generally figure out what I’m cooking until the day of, not 4 days in advance!

And that’s the beauty of wide open time and space to soak in it.

Yesterday, I cleaned and cleared and decluttered and organized the kitchen. I had intended to get down to the storage area to begin the process of organizing my studio but somehow the kitchen/pantry were calling for my attention. And while it might be considered by some to be procrastination, I consider it prep work for the really big job ahead.

Sometimes, when faced with a really big task, it’s good to start with a smaller, more achievable one where the results are immediate and the satisfaction level high (like baking muffins). Albeit, 8 straight hours organizing my kitchen is not a small feat, I know the task ahead is many 8 hour blocks of time. To set the stage, to prepare my psyche (and body — man was I tired last night!), beginning with the smaller goal made sense.

Today, it’s the beginning of taking bites out of the big goal, one day at a time.

Wish me luck!

 


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The beauty of daily routine

I like the familiar. The well-worn path. The knowing of what to do next, of what is coming next, of what is on my path.

Which is why I like my morning routine.

From Where I Sit

I awaken (later than I used to which is getting to be quite lovely). I pet Beaumont for awhile (it’s hard not to, he jumps up on the bed as soon as he hears me move and lays on my stomach). I get up. Take him out for a short wander. Sit in the quiet of the morning. Meditate. Make a latte. Sit down at my computer and begin to write.

Some mornings, like today, I take a couple of photos of my world. Sometimes, it’s because I think they may go with what I write. Sometimes, it’s just because.

I’m okay with it all.

In the presence of my morning rituals, I find my pace, my rhythm, myself.

This morning, I am adding back a step in my morning ritual that I had begun before I left for the west Coast — writing my 3 pages.

I left my 3 pages journal at my daughter’s — I’d intended to keep up the practice while I was away but found myself diving headfirst into my days as my grandson rises early and I love the early morning hours with him — and the morning hours are my preferred writing time.

And the river flows

Though, with my arising time getting later, that may change too. Perhaps it is in my “Sage-ing” time is becoming less the measurement of how I spend my days.

I am also falling in love with the word and concept of “Sage-ing”. Yesterday, I signed up for an online course with Spirituality and Practice — Infusing Your Life with Creativity. The course is presented by two Elders of Sage-ing International and while my life is fairly infused with creativity, the reminder to slow down, to consciously move through my day with a creative frame is important. Plus, I love to learn new things and there’s always something to learn about being a creative and its many joys.

Which all means, I’ll be adding the coursework to my morning routine. What fun!

And today, I begin the process of clearing out the back room where all my art supplies and paraphenalia are stored, in ernest. Not a small task but cloudy skies and a keen desire to create order and make space for renewed creativity and unknown possibilities are spurring me on.

As I cleanse and clear, unpack and sort, I shall carry with me the word that I pulled from my Shell of Plenty which sits on my desk, “Joy.”

To do all things with a Joyful Heart is a beautiful gift I bestow upon myself today.

May you find joy in all things today as well.

Namaste.


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What do women (of a certain age) want?

I am female. I am a baby-boomer. I am a senior. Which, according to current vernacular places me somewhere in the vicinity of ‘a woman of a certain age’, a term coined by a British essayist way back in 1754 and later immortalized by poet Lord Shelly Byron who wrote in 1817, “She was not old, nor young, nor at the years/Which certain people call a certain age,/Which yet the most uncertain age appears.” In 1822, he clarified his reference to women of “a certain age”, by crudely stating that women of a certain age were, “certainly aged.”

Lord Byron aside, recently, as I prepared to retire from a career I loved to engage in this new field of possibility called, life after a career, I began to wonder, what does it mean to be a woman of this certain age? What do I really want now that it feels like nobody really wants me?

After decades of chasing after the dream of ‘having it all’, I was tired of always trying to be everything to everyone. Of feeling like I had to do more, especially as I was never sure of what the ‘more’ was. I had raised two daughters, mostly on my own, and was a step-mother to two adult children as well. I’m still all of these things, but, along with being a wife, a new grandmother (or YiaYa as I’m called because I’m cutting back on the No’s in my life so NoNa or NoNo didn’t work!) daughter of an octogenarian and a recent passing over the threshold into what society calls, ‘being a senior’ I was tired. Tired of the constant drive to find myself in a world that told me who I was, as a ‘woman of a certain age’, was old and possibly no longer relevant.

And that’s when I began to wonder, what if I was never lost? What if, at this certain age, I have the luxury of simply being me without feeling pressured to be anyone, or anything, else?

Which is when the panic set in. Having spent decades being defined by not just the fashion I wore but also what I did in the world and how much I gave to others, I wasn’t sure I knew how to step out of my designer heels and give to myself what I needed most. Especially when I wasn’t quite sure what it was I needed the most.

The question, “What is it I want most at this certain age?” became my rallying cry to discover the more of what there is to create, do, be after tipping over into the other side of the second half of my life. That place where I am learning to value the wisdom I’ve gained after so many years on this earth, without fearing ‘the younger generation’ has all the answers. They’ve got their answers but they don’t have mine. And mine are worth their weight in gold.

At this certain age, I am settling into accepting aches and pains and crêpe-like skin as part of my beauty, not detractors from my desirability. I am learning to slow down with grace, including remembering to not bend over too quickly to pick up the earring I dropped because if I go too quickly, I might just pass out.

And I am learning to accept (with grace) the answer to my question, “What is it I want most at  this certain age?” is not a sprint to the finish line of my life, but rather, a beautiful wandering journey through fields of gold along the shores of golden ponds and verdant valleys.

I am a woman of this certain age where I have the wisdom, and the experience, to know how to live life on my own terms. I know how to fearlessly and effortlessly fall in love with being old enough to know when to slow down and young enough to want to kick up my heels and dance naked in the light of a full moon, because at this certain age, I am certain nobody’s watching but me. And I if I am the only one watching me, then I am certainly not going to worry about what other’s think of me. Which means, I have all the freedom in the world to grow more certain of who I am as a woman of this certain age.

So… as I continue to explore what I want most at this certain age, I have an invitation for you. If you relate in any way, or are asking yourself similar questions, I’d love to know what you want most at this certain age. And what you don’t want.

For me, the list includes wanting to feel like my life has had meaning and relevancy. Like there is still –more’ and the more is not prescribed by what I’ve done in the past, but rather, how much I still have to contribute.

I want to feel like it’s okay to grow older without fearing being old.

I want to know my wisdom matters. That I am heard, seen known for my grace, elegance and style, not just the clothes I wear and the title I no longer carry.

I want to be okay with being silly, just because, and I want to be ‘nothing’ other than who I am.

I want to let go of feeling like I have to explain or defend my decisions.

And I want to be okay with the past and its many ambiguities so that I am at peace today, with me, the world around me and everyone in it.

I want to make peace happen.

What about you?

What’s on your list?

I’d love to hear from you. If you don’t feel like posting here, an email would be great too! You can reach me at louise [at] louisegallagher.ca.

Namaste.


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First you must dream

I am sitting in a coffee shop on Main Street in Vancouver with my daughter. She is working on her laptop. I am working on mine.

Around us the coffee shop hums with activity. The street outside the window is busy. In the background, I hear the sound of the coffee machine steaming. The clatter of crockery and voices.

Above our table three paintings adorn the wall. I do not know their story. I wonder if they’re just ‘finds’ the owners have placed upon the walls to give it a homey feel. They look old. Perhaps from the 40s. I decide they are a father. Mother. Daughter. They do not smile. The father looks at his wife. Sternly. The wife glances sideways at her husband. I imagine trepidation in her glance. The daughter, who hangs above the mother, looks down towards her mother’s face. She seems sad. Worried. Perhaps her parents are fighting. Perhaps she fears they will divorce. Or perhaps her mother is sick and the father does not know what to do.

And that is all the story I decide to create about them.

My grandson is with the nanny today. My daughter does not have to go into the office but has two hours of work to complete, she tells me, before we can go explore the day. Let’s do it in a coffee shop she suggests so as not to conflict with the nanny’s schedule and my grandson’s attention.

I am good with this plan.

I am good with pretty well everything these days, holding myself in that space between what is right now in front of me and dreaming of what can be when I determine it is time to breathe into my dreams of life beyond this place called, ‘recently retired’.

I am thinking alot about dreams right now. Dreams of/for my life. For what I want to do. At some future time not yet determined. At some future date not yet arrived.

I am dreaming, scheming, divining… possibility. Of what can be, will be, when my intuition rises up and I let my imagination run wild. When I dive into creation of the life I dream of beyond the life I loved when work was my focus and my world gravitated around ‘a job’.

I am dreaming of next steps, but first, I must put substance to my dream. I must know what it is I dream of so that I can see it, feel it, taste it, hear it calling my heart to awaken into its possibililities with all my senses.

First I must dream.

I am awakening to dreaming. Awakening to creating possibility where this dream I am incubating of my life after ‘work’ becomes the reality of how I live my life everyday, inspired by life itself honouring, as Albert Einstein called it, the sacred gift of my intuitive mind.

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift,” said Einstein, “and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

I am falling into dreaming, falling into honouring this sacred gift where my intuition guides me into igniting my imagination and will to create the life I am dreaming of, the life I am creating.