Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Be still and let your heart break open

From Where I Sit

Spring has broken out with flora and festivity blossoming everywhere in the city. With its warmer weather, the spring melt has begun in the mountains to the west.

The river is rising.

Living on the river, and hearing of flooding all over the continent, it is easy to get caught up in fixating on water levels rising. I am teaching myself to watch the river flow without immediately connecting to thoughts of ‘how high will it go?’, ‘are we at risk of flooding?’.

It is challenging. To be present to the river flowing without fearing its depths.

Just as it is challenging to be present to life’s inevitable ups and downs without fearing the downs will never turn up again.

Being ‘unemployed’ is and is not as challenging as I imainged.  While I’m finding its many upsides I struggle with the concept of ‘doing nothing’.

On the upside, I awaken in the morning feeling refreshed, like I actually had a good night’s sleep without worries and thoughts of tomorrow having interfered with my rest. That feeling that resided at the pit of my stomach, that one that whispered at the edges of my peace of mind, constantly reminding of all I had to do, had not gotten done, is gone.

I am establishing new morning routines — My morning meditation followed by my morning pages. Coffee on the deck listening to the rustle of the trees, the river flowing past and the gentle rumble of the traffic on the bridge.

Eventually, I get to my computer. The need to ‘get ‘er all done’ before 7:15am is gone. I feel… rejuvenated.

I enter my day more leisurely.

I am practising the art of ‘Doing Nothing’.

It ain’t easy.

A confirmed ‘always be doing something’ I struggle to simply sit and be still in this moment right now. As if, watching the river flow, or listening to the trees rustle is not enough.

I am practising.

I am finding the gifts in practice.

Practice takes the pressure off ‘getting it right’, giving me space to be my most human self — perfectly perfect in all my human imperfections.

I am practising the art of ‘Doing Nothing.’

I’m not perfect at it, but I’m perfectly okay with my imperfect practising of the art of Doing Nothing.

Namaste.

 

 


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First, rest a bit.

My youngest daughter asked me yesterday, “So… how’s tomorrow looking?”

We were sitting on the deck in the evening light, chatting before dinner. C.C.’s daughter, Lele and her partner. C.C. answered for me first, “It’s looking just fine.”

I smiled.

Because it’s true. Monday looks fine.

Blue sky stretches into infinity. Clouds scuttle across its endless depths, going nowhere but where the wind blows. The river flows eastward, towards a distant sea and I am here, looking out at the trees and the river flowing past.

All is well with my soul.

On Friday, the imitable Mark Kolke commented on my post that the first order of business is to ‘rest a bit’ and then, get busy. The world is waiting.

Mark asked an interesting question… “What are your expectations for your life?”

Now, I tend to hesitate when it comes to ‘expectations’ because often, expectations can be premeditated disappointments, especially when I’m holding them about others.

But what about for myself?

Are my personal expectations of me designed to inspire me to live life fully, to reach my goals and dreams or are they designed to keep me reaching for a non-achievable perfection, thus setting myself up for disappointment, frustration, angst?

Good question.

Perhaps it’s not ‘what are my expectations for my life’ but rather, what are my expectations of me?

My expectations for my life are based on how I move through my life each day. I don’t expect my life to be anything other than an amazing journey, an incredible adventure. It will have highs and lows. Moments of great satisfaction, moments of frustration and doubt. Moments where I’ll wish I’d turned left instead of right, and moments when I find myself exactly where I wanted to be on my path, breathing deeply in the peace and serenity of the moment I’m in.

My expectation of me is, I shall live this adventure of my life with arms wide open, heart beating wildly and thoughts on fire with possibility as I dance with abandon in a world of Love, harmony, and joy.

I shall weather life’s inevitable storms with the same grace and ease I exude in life’s more tranquil moments. I shall face adversity with courage. I shall walk with integrity. I shall be true to me and above all, I shall be kind.

It is Monday today. I don’t have to go to work. I get to savour the moment without a timeline. I have plans, I have ideas, I have a vision of what I want to do next, but first, I must rest a bit.

 

 


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I carry it all in my heart. Always.

It is here.

End day. New day. Beginning day. R-Day.

Endings and Beginnings. Inexplicably tied.

I awaken to smoky skies. In front of my window, the river slips silenly past, a broad green ribbon of movement coursing towards a far-away sea. Somewhere up beyond the smoke, the sun shines.

The river never stops moving. The river cannot flow backwards just as time cannot rewind itself.

And in this moment of time, my heart is at peace.

It is a time of Completion.

A segment of my life changing. Evolving. Transforming. Opening up. Expanding.

I like expansion.

The feeling of possibility that pries open the known and hidden corners of my heart, my mind, my spirit, my life.

I like expansion.

Making the unknown visible. Making the unseen, known.

I cannot see tomororw. Cannot know what it will bring.

What I can know is that when I step into today with arms wide open, heart beating freely, mind expanded to accept all that is, and all that is possible, tomorrow is not mine to worry about.

When I step into today fully conscious and aware, today is all mine. My passion. My joy. My responsibility.

I am entering my last day of my formal working career. Last night, C.C. and I had dinner with a lovely young couple who are at the beginning of their lives together. She is pregnant, just completing her Master’s degree. He is in his dream job. Together they are renovating a home. Building a life and a place for their yet to be born child. The possibilities for their lives are unbounded.

Many years further along the road, I am just beginning this new phase, my ‘rejuvenation jaunt’. Though my days on this earth are not as far-stretching as their’s, my possibilities are also unbounded,

It is not the number of years I’ve walked this road of life that make the difference nor how many unknown days I have left. It’s how I live each step I’m taking now. How much love I fill into each moment, how much joy I share.

When I joined The Inn, my intention was to end my formal working career in a place I love — at the frontlines of the homeless sector. And then, possibility of ending it on an even higher note opened up with the opportunity of stepping in as the Interim Executive Director.

What a beautiful gift.

I can’t say it has been ‘easy’, but it definitely has been fulfilling and rewarding. I have grown and stretched and learned and experienced leadership in ways I never imagined I would, ways I never even thought I wanted.

I have been wonderfully expanded.

And so today, I say good-bye to an organization that has treated me well and given me an opportunity to have my contributions make a difference. An organization that everyday stands beside those whose journies have been disrupted by this thing called ‘homelessness’, so that they can see in the darkness and find their way home.

Last night, as we sat over dinner and chatted, I shared with the young woman who is just beginning to frame the future of her career, stories of my times working in this sector. One of the stories I shared was of a man who was a client at the adult singles homeless shelter where I worked when I first started in this field. He didn’t know he was passionate about photography until one day he picked up a camera that had been donated to the art program I’d started when I first began working there. That camera changed his life.

Three years later, on a cold December night as I sat with him in hospice and he took his last breaths, photos of his work surrounded him on the bed. He wasn’t conscious but I described to him the photos I’d brought to give him comfort. With each photo I described, I felt immersed in life’s mysteries. Here was a man who ‘had nothing’ and yet who was leaving behind a beautiful legacy of the last three years of his life because one day he picked up a camera.

I imagined as he took his last breath that all those images he’d captured in his last three years of life were forming a bridge that carried him from this world to the next place of his journey.

He passed on the inhale. I imagined that his last slow rattly breath was filled with Love and that Love is all he carried with him and all he left behind. The rest was just stuff.

When the nurse came into the room to open the window so his spirit could fly free, the breeze of the window’s opening stirred the photos slightly and I heard the whispers of Love all around me.

Thoughout my almost 14 years working in the homeless-serving sector I have met some remarkable people. Regardless of their role, staff, donor, volunteer, funder or stakeholder, what has bound us all together is the commitment to ensuring those for whom the road of life has not been easy, have a safe, secure place to ease the load of homelessness.

We all come at this work from different places, perspectives, needs. Yet, regardless of what brought us to this work, it is the belief that everyone deserves to find a place to call home that fills our vision and our hearts.

And it is our love of this human condition that keeps us connected and committed.

Today I say goodbye to people who everyday demonstrate what it means to be compassionate, courageous, kind and real. People who with every step of their journey create a path for those whose journies are troubled, to find solace and comfort on their way.

I like to imagine that path is built on Love.

And while I am leaving the organization and the sector, with every inhale and exhale, I will carry the Love I have found, witnessed, known in my heart. Always.

 

Namaste.

 

 

 

 


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A Love Poem A Day

Several years ago, after having done something really stupid to my beloved (I may or may not have called him an ‘azzhole’ when he asked me to marry him), I realized I needed to do something to create value from that situation.

He wasn’t all that upset. In fact, he thought it was quite funny I got so upset when he asked me to marry him in front of 40 people gathered in our home for my 60th birthday party.

I thought it was awful I responded as I did. Particularly as my beloved LOVES surprises.

I am not so good with surprises. Don’t get me wrong, I love to surprise others but I like to be prepared when being surprised.  Go figure.

What I realized at the time was that in my not so nice and prepared response to his surprise proposal, I was quelching one of the things I love most about C.C.  His spontaneity.

It also didn’t help that a couple of months later I really got tripped up by my expectations of him and we ended in a royal battle. He was living in another city and I needed to do something to bridge the physical and emotional distance between us.

I started to write him a love poem a day. Originally, my intent was to write for 14 days, but as I delved into the sweet tender joy of exploring love through writing a poem every morning, I became immersed in the wonder of what happens when I started my day ‘in Love’.

For one year I wrote him a love poem a day and emailed it off to him. As the project that wasn’t a project evolved, I began to take photos of my day and write the poem to it. It was a way of sharing our day in a unique way.

Occassionally, C.C. would send me back a poem. What a lovely gift that was. But it didn’t matter. Whether or not he said anything, commented, read my poem even — what mattered was that I was sharing with him.

Eventually, what I noticed most was that my understanding about Love, about how to Love and especially, be loving, shifted. Immersed in loving thoughts every morning, my days were filled with loving spaces.

It was an incredible gift I gave myself without even realizing when I began, what I was creating — not just between us, but within me.

Initially, my Love Poem A Day project was ‘for’ C.C.

In the end, it enriched me – and in that enrichment, it impacted my life, my world, my love and lover, my relationships on every level.

The poems weren’t long. Some were a line or two. Some a full stanza.

It didn’t matter.

What mattered was, I was writing a Love poem a day, and in the process, opening myself up to Love.

When C.C. and I exchanged vows on April 25th 2015, my gift to him was a song my dear friend, an amazing human being who was also our DJ at the wedding, created of some of the poems. His ‘hip’ name is @YIntelligent  — I call him Ken.

I was thinking of Ken this morning as I prepare to leave this sector. Ken and I worked together for several years and always, he was kind, funny, compassionate and above all committed to giving his best.

I’ve met so many incredible people working in this sector, Ken is one of those whos passion for serving vulnerable people reminds me daily to always seek the possibilities in every soul I meet. To always be a soft place for someone to land and to always be kind.

I was also thinking of Ken’s song A Love Perspective as C.C. and I prepare for this next part of our journey. I feel so incredibly blessed to have him as my walking companion. My love. My heart.

I’m excited about what tomorrow may bring!  I am excited about each moment right now.

____________________________________________

This is the soundtrack of Ken’s song, A Love Perspective.  It is his wife and young daughter who are the voices.


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I’ll think about it tomorrow…

I happen upon an article on TimeBoxing, the simple practice of moving your ‘To Do’ list onto a calendar. It’s purported to increase your productivity quickly and effectively and, according to the author, TimeBoxing brings the added benefits of improving how you feel (control), how much you achieve (personal productivity), and how much you contribute to and achieve with your work teams (enhanced collaboration).

Dang. And here I am only discovering the secret to productivity and satisfaction at work when I’m about to leave the formal workplace.

I smile. Whew!  There’s still time to tear up my To Do List and replace it with the practice of TimeBoxing my deliverables.

Except, my work To Do list is ever decreasing in size as I get closer to my final day,  May 31. (7 actual work days left)

So, what can I do with this practice that makes so much more sense to me than creating To Do list after To Do list?

I know! Write a poem about it.

Time
all boxed up
into a calendar
tight
with deadlines looming
over activities
scrambling
to get done.

Don’t
timebox me in
to a calendar
limiting
my time to be
present
alive
and creative.

And I smile.

I dislike To Do lists. Inevitably, my To Do list makes me feel inadequate. I want to get ‘er all done in a day but interruptions, distractions, that shiny object calling for my attention pull me away from staying on task.

Maybe TimeBoxing is for me, even in my rejuvenation.

Maybe, using my calendar as a commodity that measures out my control and productivity will keep me focused on achieving the things I want to do next.

Things like,

  • Treasured time with my grandson, daughters, family, friends.
  • Time in the studio.
  • Writing time.
  • Meditating.
  • Walking.
  • Savouring the sunshine.
  • Dancing in the rain.
  • Splashing in mudpuddles.
  • Sipping a latte and sharing time with friends
  • Doodling
  • Dreaming. Scheming. Imagining.
  • Watching the river flow past
  • Watching clouds drift by
  • Taking long leisurely baths
  • Enjoying an afternoon nap
  • Luxuriating in unscripted time
  • More time in the studio
  • More time doing the things I want to do…

And I smile again.

TimeBoxing might be the next great breakthrough in personal productivity but… for the next 3 months I am purposefully living ‘Unplanned. Unscripted. Unboxed in by time.’

So, in the famous words of Scarlett O’hara in Gone with the Wind…

.

 


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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.

 

 


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And so it is. Beginnings. Endings. And in between transition.

And so it is. An ending. A beginning. And in between, transitions.

An ending:  I am no longer the Interim Executive Director of the family homeless shelter where I work.

A beginning.  Still unplanned. Unscheduled. But it is there. Simmering. Shimmering. Quivering. The space of the unknown. That place of possibility. Dreams. Vision. That place where my creative expressions unleash my psyche to dance naked in the light of each new day dawning. Where my soul knows I belong. Where my heart knows its home is right here, within me.

More than knowing what it will look like, I am beginning this journey with how I want to feel. How I want to be. Excited. Challenged. Creative. Inspired. All jazzed up. I want to wake up each morning and leap out of bed, imagining that I am stepping onto creative landmines that explode with opportunity, that challenge my concepts of who I am and propel me into being all I am when I am living within the fires of creativity unbounded.

And first, the transition.

I am spending the next six weeks supporting the new ED and finishing off a couple of projects.  No title. Just ‘Consultant’.

More transition.  I’ll spend the summer, unplanned, uncharted. Except for a trip to the coast to spend as much time as possible with my grandson and his family, and on the way, a stop-over to visit dear friends in the Shuswap and to take in some wine tasting.  I’ll hop on over to the islands to visit my sister and her husband. Maybe even visit Tofino, but I may save that for C.C. and me in the fall with Beaumont!

The beauty of unplanned time. Anything is possible.

As I sit at my desk this morning, watching the river flow past, the sun-bruised morning sky begins to lighten. Cars intermittently travel across the bridge from the west towards the east, where the downtown waits. A bird chirps in a tree, welcoming the morning.

And I am….

I am me.

And I feel….

Now that’s the question for the day. How do I feel?  I feel a mixture of anticipation. Joy. Sadness. Uncertainty.

How will I be with this new person walking into my old role? How will I respond?

Over the past few weeks I have been practicing, ‘releasing’. Letting go of any expectations I might have held that I could stay in the role longer. Releasing any hurts and sadness I’m not.

In releasing, space has been created for this new way of being in the same place to arrive and enliven me with its sense of anticipation and possibility for my uncharted future.

As I drifted into meditation this morning, I asked myself two simple questions to set my intention for this day, week and the weeks until I completely transition out of being here to being in the next as yet unmapped ground of being somewhere else:

How do I want to feel?

I want to feel grateful. Gracious. Calm. Inviting.

I want to feel that feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing it was, a job well done.

That feeling that says, ‘my time here is done, and that’s perfectly okay with me now.’

I want to feel complete.

What do I want to create?

I want to create a space for the new ED to feel like this decision she has made to step into this role is the best decision she’s ever made in her life. I want to create a space where she feels my support and the support of all the leadership team. I want to create opportunity for sharing, of ideas, knowledge, experiences where she can learn of ‘what has happened in the past’, so that she is free to create an exciting new future for the organization, the families we serve and all the staff.

I want to feel like I am not ‘in the way’, but part of a transition that is creating better for the future, for everyone. And, as I near the end of my transition time, I want to feel like letting go is the most natural thing to do. That letting go is all there is left to do to step away and feel, ‘complete’.

I have awoken to a brand new day this morning. I sit at my desk where I sit every morning at this time and watch the river flow past. Right now, there are no cars on the bridge. No people walking or biking. Ther is only the river flowing past, the trees struggling to find their springlike finery. There is only the sun-bruised sky lightening and the birdsong calling me to awaken.

There is…. only Love.

I am grateful.

Namaste.