Category Archives: Retirement and Rejuvenation

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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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…

.