Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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You gotta stir the pot to change the world (A short story)

This post is longer than usual. It is a short story/fable I wrote inspired by my #ShePersisted series. 

 

Stirring the pot to stir up change.

A fable by Louise Gallagher

©2017 Louise Gallagher

Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to change the world. The world was a pretty big place which was kind of scary, so she kept doing the little things she knew she could do to make her own little world a better place.

One day, while walking to work at the Ivory Tower where every day she did what she was paid to do to keep the wheels of commerce turning, she met a man who asked for some loose change. “I’m hungry and have no money to buy a bowl of soup,” he told her.

“I’m not allowed to carry loose change,” she told him. “My bosses only like to deal in millions of dollars and it makes them nervous to hear the jingling of small coins.”

She wanted to do what she could to help him though and promised to meet him in the same spot the next day. “I’ll bring you a bowl of soup,” she told him.

And that’s what she did. The next day, and then the next and the next until one day, the man brought a friend to share in the bowl of soup. A few days later, a third man joined them and the number of people trying to share the one bowl of soup grew.

Eventually, the girl realized that one bowl of soup was not big enough to feed all the people who kept turning up. She decided to make a great big pot and bring it down to the street.  And the people kept coming and she kept making soup until she realized, she had to do something different.

She didn’t feel a lot of satisfaction counting money and pushing paper. She decided to quit her job. There were so many people clamouring for her soup, she decided the time was now to find a space to make soup close to where the people were so nobody had to travel too far to fill their bellies.

The girl pooled all her money, posted a CrowdFund site on the internet and asked her friends for help. Everyone pitched in until she had enough to get a great big room with a great big kitchen in a building that stood all by itself on a side street near the great big Ivory Towers where once she’d worked.

Every day she’d go to her soup kitchen and make great big pots of soup to feed the people who kept turning up.  They said it felt like home. They said, ‘Thank you’, and offered to help make the soup and serve it and clean up every day.

It worked well. Everyone contributed what they could and she felt good about what she was doing. So did her friends who’d helped raise the funds for her soup kitchen. They couldn’t always take time out from work to help her make soup, but they always made sure she had enough money to buy the ingredients she needed to make a wholesome meal for the people who needed it.

She was doing her bit to change the world, one bowl of soup at a time.

One night, just before the lights went out in her soup kitchen, the girl noticed a man curled up under a table sleeping.  “You can’t sleep here. It’s against the rules,” she told him.

“Then where am I supposed to sleep?” the man asked.

“Why don’t you go home?”

He laughed and said, “I don’t have a home to go to.”

“Oh. What happened to your home?” she asked the man.

He told her the story of how his job was made redundant when a robot took over what he did. “I couldn’t afford the rent on my apartment ‘cause the boom kept pushing the cost higher. And I couldn’t find work because I never had a chance to finish high school after my dad died and I had to get a job to help my mother take care of my brothers and sisters.”

The girl was surprised by what had happened to him and started asking everyone who came to the soup kitchen if they had a home.

Lots of them didn’t.

She didn’t think that was right and decided to go see The Powers That Be to make them change the rules for her soup kitchen so the man, and all the others who came to eat soup and didn’t have a home to go to, could sleep on the floor at night.

She travelled to the Seat of Government and told the elected Powers That Be her big idea. The Powers That Be really liked it. They’d received lots of complaints from other citizens about the people without a home wandering the streets and asking strangers for money. The Powers That Be didn’t like complaints, especially when they piled up just before an election.  The girl and her soup kitchen, that also had a floor to sleep on, was the answer to their prayers.

And so it went. Year after year. She kept changing the world with bowls of soup and a warm place for people to sleep on the floor at night.

And all around her, people kept going to work and businesses kept humming along as the wheels of commerce kept turning and the Ivory Towers kept growing taller.

One day, a man in a black silk suit looked way down at the street far below his eerie at the top of his Ivory Tower and noticed all the people lining up outside the girl’s soup kitchen. He called his assistant to his side and asked , “Do you know what dwelling that is yonder and why so many people are lining up outside its door?”

“Yes sire,” his assistant said. “It’s a soup kitchen.”

The man in the Ivory Tower had never heard of such a thing and called his cronies together from all the Ivory Towers around him to find out if anyone else had heard of a ‘soup kitchen’.

Nobody had. But one man, an economist, informed them that a soup kitchen fell into the fiscal category of Not Good for Business. “I understand from my assistant that it attracts people of dubious background. He tells me they are all poor.”

As one voice the gathering of men from the Ivory Towers rejected the idea of poor people on their streets. Poor people will bring down our credit ratings and the value of our realm, they declared.

Something had to be done.

They made a plan on how to conquer the problem of the people on the street. They would go see the Powers That Be, the ones they had elected into the Seat of Government. It was their job to take care of the poor people. They would force them to do it.

Together, as one voice, the men from the Ivory Towers went to the Seat of Government and demanded the Powers That Be fix the problem of the poor people on their streets. It’s Not Good for Business, they told them.

The Powers That Be told them that they needed to pay more taxes if they wanted to fix the problem because they did not have enough money to fix the problem..

The men in the Ivory Towers did not like that solution. They left the Seat of Government vowing to find a better way.

After lots of gathering and ruminating over their thoughts and much pounding of fists on tables and counting from on high the people lining their streets and number crunching and filling in the boxes of profit and loss, they determined that the girl and her soup kitchen was the root of the cause of the poor people on the streets. Without her, they wouldn’t be lining up for soup. She was The Problem.

Determined to wrestle the problem into submission, the men from the Ivory Towers gathered en masse to take matters into their own hands.

They donned their cashmere winter coats over their $3,000 silk suits. They entered their gilded elevators and rode down to street level. Their assistants scurried before them, stopping traffic so they could cross the street safely, sweeping aside the people asking for handouts and clearing the way to the building where the girl and her soup kitchen operated. As they walked towards its doors, their assistants used their bodies to shield their bosses from the people who stood in line, and one rushed forward to open the doors so that the men from the Ivory Towers could sweep into the soup kitchen like a covey of crows descending upon road kill.

A gust of cold air preceded them as they entered, but the room remained warm and cozy. The men in their cashmere coats did not notice it. They were on a mission. They marched as one body towards the girl who stood in front of a great big stove, stirring a great big pot of soup.

“Welcome,” she greeted them, smiling sweetly as they jostled for position in front of her. “If you would like a bowl of soup, you’ll have to wait your turn. It’s only fair. Others have been standing out in the cold much longer than you.”

“We don’t have time to stand around, and we definitely don’t need your soup,” they proclaimed, ignoring her suggestion they wait their turn. Their assistants busied themselves laying out upon the kitchen counter top the reams of paper they’d prepared with their pretty coloured graphs and balance sheets and profit and loss statements.

They pointed to the bottom line, “Look. Here’s the evidence. It doesn’t lie. Your soup kitchen is Not Good for Business. You run it. You are The Problem. Because you’re here, people are lining up outside your doors. They don’t look like us. They look poor and that’s not good.  It’s not good for our businesses nor the people who make the wheels of our businesses turn. It makes our city look bad and it scares the tourists away. You have to stop making soup.”

The girl didn’t know much about balance sheets and profit margins, but she did know that what she was doing was changing the world, a bowl of soup at a time. She showed the men from the Ivory Towers the people sitting at the tables quietly eating their soup. “Who will feed all these hungry people if I stop?” she asked.

The men from the Ivory Towers looked around the room. They hadn’t noticed the people when they’d first entered on their mission to fix The Problem. Looking down their noses at the huddled masses, they were surprised to see how many people were gathered in the room, eating soup.

“These people are not contributing to the Greater Good,” the men from the Ivory Towers proclaimed. “All they’re doing is sitting around eating soup and bleeding our city dry.”

“They can’t contribute to the greater good if they’re always battling the greater issues of being poor,” she said as she slowly continued to stir a great big pot of soup.

The men from the Ivory Towers were not moved by her emotional appeal. It’s just a sob story, they muttered amongst themselves. She’s trying to sway us from the facts with her bleeding heart.

They pounded their fists on the closest table. “If their issue is being poor they need to get a job!” they told her.

“And how do they do that?” she asked, gripping the ladle in her hands a little bit tighter and moving it around the pot with a little more force. “You won’t hire them because they’re poor and even when you do, you don’t pay them a living wage because you’re always more concerned with balancing your bottom line.” She stopped stirring for a moment, looked each of them in the eyes before adding. “And without a job, how can they afford food on the tables they don’t have and a place to call home they can’t pay for?”

The men from the Ivory Towers were growing frustrated with the girl and her bleeding heart. “Be quiet and listen to us. We know what we’re doing,” they told her. “The problem isn’t whether or not these people have jobs. There’s lots of jobs around if they’re willing to work. The problem is you keep making soup and that keeps them coming back. You have to stop.”

“But isn’t that good business?” the girl asked, innocently enough, as she continued stirring the pot of soup at a more measured pace. “Don’t you call it supply and demand? I’m simply responding to their need for food and shelter. What are you doing?”

The men from the Ivory Towers puffed up their chests and huffed loudly through their noses. “We are keeping the wheels of commerce turning and building empires and taking care of the little people who keep our Ivory Towers growing higher.” And they pounded the closest table again, just to make their point.

“Please don’t pound the table,” the girl told them. “You’re scaring my guests.”

“Your guests are not our problem!” the men yelled loudly. “You and your soup kitchen are The Problem. You have to stop making soup so people will stop lining up on our streets and scaring people on their way to work.”

And the men from the Ivory Towers kept pounding on the table, telling her to stop.

And the people kept lining up for soup and a place to call home.

And the girl persisted. She kept stirring the pot and doing what she could to change the world.

The moral of the story is:  You can’t change the world if you don’t stir the pot.

 


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The creative process is a constant journey through trial and error, experimentation and hope.

On the weekend, I began working on a couple of paintings loosely based on my #ShePersisted series. For most of the paintings in the series, I drew a figure that became a stencil, or the actual figure I collaged into the painting after printing onto coloured paper.Which means, I’ve got a bunch of stencils and cut-outs I can use to create new paintings with.

I am not yet ready to sell any of the paintings in the series. I’ve created 40 different paintings with quotes and want to create 52 before I do anything with it.

And that’s where the experimentation comes in. I decided to start creating using the stencils and cutouts and see where it took me.

What happened was fascinating.

With a ‘destination/purpose’ in mind, I was not as loose nor fearless as I like to be when I create. I was too conscious of the outcome. In fact, while I didn’t take a photograph of the original background for this painting, I was so attached to that background, I worked carefully, not fearlessly. In that space, my curiosity took a back seat to my desire to ‘create an outcome’.

And I felt frustrated. Dissatisfied. Unfulfilled in the process.

Creative endeavour is a journey through discovery.

What happens when…

What if I…

I wonder what…

Painting with an outcome in mind limits my freedom to be ‘in the process’. Attached to the outcome, I think, rather than feel, my way through.

The results showed.

The first iteration of this painting, once I applied the same figure who is in the final to it was not satisfying. Though there was a point where I gave a big ‘oof’, which is my sigh of contentment when something goes just right in the process, I moved beyond that moment and muddied up the colours, over rode the symmetry and was too careful in my application of everything!

The final painting pleases me more — though I am thinking of going back in to now bring out some of the flowers…

But, we shall see.

For me, the secret is to let the painting sit for a few days so I can feel my way back into what is calling out to be revealed, or not.

I often begin my paintings with meditation. From that space, words often appear. I like to write them onto the canvas. I use them to inspire me to ‘stay loose’ and to inform whatever is calling out to be revealed.

Underneath this image is written:

A flower doesn’t think about what it is going to grow up to be. A flower just grows into itself.

We can learn a lot from flowers. How to bloom in full colour. How to grow where planted to be who we are and not spend endless time trying to become someone we’re not.

If you look really closely at the first photo of the words painted on, you can see the image of the ballerina — upside down.

As always in life, it’s all in our perspective.

If you don’t like what you’re seeing, change your glasses, change your position, turn things upside down.

Namaste.

______________

I am creating these paintings for an art show & sale I’m in —

South Calgary Art Show & Sale

Friday, May 12 — 2 – 9pm

Saturday, May 13 — 10 – 5pm

Marda Loop Community Centre,   3130 16th St. SW


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The #ShePersisted Series

When I began the #ShePersisted series I thought that I would create 12 images and quotes for the series, and that would be that.

Ideas continue to flow. The muse persists.

I am grateful.

The muse and I have a love/hate relationship. She loves me 100% of the time, I am not so loyal. In fact, I like to tell myself, I don’t need her. Or, in my willful disregard of her presence, I like to believe she has deserted me.

It is my victim’s voice. That monkey mind chattering place where I tell myself all sorts of things to justify why/how/what isn’t happening in my life, isn’t my fault/responsibility/accountability.

I cannot control 100% of what appears on my path. I can choose to be 100% accountable for what I choose to do with what appears.

This morning, the muse awakened me with her insistence I pay heed.

I decided to get 100% accountable and take her lead.

The thoughts that awoke me were about my youngest daughter’s ballet point shoes that still hang from the corner of the armoire in my art storage room downstairs.

They are pink. Scuffed. Well worn.

I remember the first time she danced ‘en pointe’. She was so excited, in spite of the pain.

She continued to persist, to push herself to dance ‘en pointe’ because it was so beautiful, so seemingly effortless when done well.

It was never effortless. And it always hurt.

In her teens, her feet were a mess.

I am grateful today for her wisdom to stop doing it.

I didn’t want to interfere. I didn’t want to take a stand against doing something she obviously loved, even though it caused her pain.

Life’s like that. We do things, in spite of the pain, telling ourselves we have no choice. To be a ballerina, you must dance ‘en pointe’.

To be a woman, you must wear clothes, shoes, outfits that squeeze, reveal, bunch, crunch and push up places that don’t need pushing up and scrunching in. Not to please ourselves, but rather, because we believe it is important to please others.

I like my daughters point shoes hanging in my art storage room.

They are a good reminder to stop doing things to please others, even though it hurts me.

Namaste.

May your day be filled with ease of heart, mind, and body. May you have the wisdom to stop doing things to please others if doing them hurts you.

_______

The #ShePersisted series can be viewed on my website.


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Dance like no one is watching.

Once there was a little girl who loved to dance. She leapt and spun and twirled about and no matter where she went, people stopped to watch and admire and say how cute she was.

As she grew older she kept on dancing and people kept on watching and admiring.

Until one day, when she was much older, someone in the crowd who was watching yelled out, “You oughta be ashamed of yourself. You’re acting like an old fool.”

The comment from an unidentified stranger surprised her. She stopped, mid leap, lost her footing, stumbled and fell to the ground.

As she lay on the ground rubbing her ankle, the crowd starting mumbling. “Fool! What an exhibitionist,” they muttered amongst themselves. “Can’t she see she’s too old to be dancing?”

“These are serious times,” they whispered as they moved away. “We’ve got no time for such foolishness.”

The girl, who was a much older woman now, lay on the ground, nursing her bruised ankle. She was surprised by the crowd’s response to her fall.

As she struggled to get up, a little girl came to her side, held out her hand and helped her stand up. “Are you hurt?” she asked.

The woman laughed. “No. I just have to catch my breath so I can start dancing again.”

“Doesn’t it bother you what they said?” the little girl asked. “They sounded so mean.”

The woman chuckled as she checked out her body to make sure nothing was broken. “Tell you the truth, I hadn’t noticed anyone was watching me dance.”

Just then, someone threw a rotten tomato at the woman and screamed, “Stupid old woman! Go home!”

The woman ducked quickly and shielded the little girl with her body. The tomato landed far enough away, she didn’t even feel its splatter.

“That was so mean,” the little girl squealed.

The woman knelt down in front of the little girl, gripped her hands in hers and looked into her eyes. “Sometimes, we fear what we don’t know or understand,” the woman told the little girl. “All those people are scared because they don’t remember the pure joy of dancing. Some of them probably never even knew it. So, they’re afraid.”

“But they shouldn’t throw rotten tomatoes!” the little girl insisted.

“That’s true,” the woman agreed. “But when we don’t know better, we can’t do better. Most of those people don’t know that taking life so seriously is making life harder to live.”

“If I dance, will my life be better?” the little girl asked.

“Only you know what’s true for you,” the woman told her. “The secret is, to live your truth and let everyone around you lives theirs in harmony and joy. I know that dancing won’t fix all the woes of the world, but it sure helps me get through each day loving my life and the world around me.”

“Will you keep on dancing if no one’s watching?” the little girl asked her.

The woman threw back her head, laughed out loud and took a little leap of joy. “Of course! Dancing is what I love to do!”

“Oh goodie!” said the little girl clapping her hands in delight. “I want to dance too! Will you teach me?”

And the woman rose up and taught the little girl to dance and together they spun about and twirled and leapt for the pure joy of dancing like no one was watching.

#ShePersisted

______________

I am always so enthralled and fascinated with the creative process. When I went to bed last night, I had completed the painting, but did not know what the quote would be — or the story. I had started the evening with a vision for a different quote. The muse had another story in store for me! And that’s what is so fascinating about giving into the flow of creative expression – I never know what will appear. How fascinating!

 


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What happens when you cross the line?

Crossing the Line
#28 #ShePersisted
11″ x 14″ Acrylic on acrylic paper
©2017 Louise Gallagher

When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.  Pablo Picasso

Each painting in the #ShePersisted series, has a story to it. Sometimes, I know the story before I begin to create. Sometimes, the story appears in the creation of each piece. In Crossing the Line, I remembered a piece I’d written several years ago on my old blog, Recover Your Joy.  And I smile — I always knew my answer. It was inside of me waiting for me to create it into existence.

When I was a child, my sister and I spent hours re-enacting scenes from our favourite movies. Gone with the Wind. The Parent Trap. We knew all the characters, all the parts and we each had our favourites.

It didn’t matter that our stage was a stretch of lawn or that Tara was a sheet draped over a tree or that we each had to play three or four different parts, differentiating the characters only through our voices as we didn’t have time to change wardrobe —  we didn’t really have any wardrobe to change into anyway. This was a low budget reproduction — very creative, just not very accurate.

But none of that mattered. What mattered most was that we spent the time together. Laughing. Sharing. Creating.

When I was a child, I liked to draw. To sing and dance and to play piano. I liked to write and make up stories. To play dolls and the now politically incorrect, “Cowboys and Indians”.

It didn’t matter to me what the game or activity. What mattered most was that I was being creative. Expressing myself through arts of all nature.

And then, I grew up.

I still liked to write. To create. To make something out of nothing.

But the tone was different. There was something lacking in my creation.

I kept thinking it needed ‘A Purpose.

To create for creation’s sake just didn’t seem to be viable, make sense, have meaning. If I was painting, there needed to be a reason. If I was writing, there needed to be an audience. And, if I was dancing, there needed to be ‘the right steps’.

I’ve grown beyond those ‘grown-up’ days of believing I need ‘A Purpose’ to my art. I’ve grown beyond thinking there are right steps, wrong moves, perfect brushstrokes or perfectly turned phrases.

I’ve grown into being me. Creatively. Expressively. Passionately.

Today, I know that at my core I am a creative being. That life is an act of creation.

Today, I express myself in ways that fulfill on my belief, and need, to create beauty in the world around me.

Today, I let go of the right steps and move with grace and ease into being each step I take to create beauty in the world around me.

There’s freedom in each movement. Freedom in being my creative self.

And, there’s joy in knowing every breath I take is an act of creation. Every step I take is an expression of the beauty I want to create in the world.

When I was a child, I believed colouring inside the lines would keep me safe. Now I know, when I lean over the edge of what I believe I know and explore the all of what I cannot see, I am free.


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Honouring times of fallow

 

No 25. #ShePersisted
Winds of Change
Mixed Media on art paper

My friend Kerry Parsons recently gifted me a set of “Soulful Woman Guidance Cards.”

It is no accident the card I pulled today is called Time of Fallow — Creative manifestation occurs more easily when I have nurtured myself and honoured my time of fallow.

Nature understands the meaning of honouring its time of fallow. Spring fields produce healthier bounty when they have had a time of fallow.

I have been considering this blank page for a while this morning. Wondering what do I feel calling within, yearning to come out.

And the muse quietly rests, calling me to honour my creative urgings through a time of fallow.

I have been so consumed by the creation of the #ShePersisted series, I feel my creative energies calling out for a rest, a respite, a reprieve.

Life is ebb and flow. We breathe in. We breathe out. We step forward. We step back. We repeat.

On another level, my immersion into the #ShePersisted series is an honouring of my time of fallow.

It has given me space to gently and effortlessly explore my desire to stand up and step up to be heard. To clarify my voice, my gift, my offerings to the world.

It has given me beautiful guidance on what I want to do to create a world of difference.

If I change my glasses, shift my lens, I can see this time of creating the #ShePersisted series as my journey into my soul where I delve into exploration of our human condition through wonder and awe for all we do collectively to create war and peace, discord and harmony, walls and bridges, abuse and comfort, deception and truth, hatred and love.

As the images and words for this series have flowed, and continue to flow (I’ve still got a list of over 10 quotes that have popped into my head at random times), I have been enthralled by the experience of giving into the creative process, fearfully and fearlessly, haltingly and effortlessly.

It is the yin/yang of creativity.

To be afraid of a blank page. To dive hopefully into the open space calling itself into being.

And in that realization, I am overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude. Joy. Knowing.

There are no blank pages. Just beautiful wide open spaces calling out to me to breathe into my creative essence and with every exhale, blow away my fear of being the change I want to see in the world.

Namaste.

 

To view the whole #ShePersisted series, please visit my website.

 

 


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I surrender

I have an early morning meeting today.

Had two events last night.

Busy. Busy.

Yet, no matter how busy, the invitation is always there to co-create with the muse, the universe, life.

My dear friend Sheila K. sent me the MEME above. It’s inspiration, and her creative spark, will lead to another piece in the #ShePersisted series. “They said calm down. She created winds of change.”

Yesterday, at an International Women’s Day Luncheon sponsored by BDP, I listened to Elisabeth Manley speak about her journey through mental health issues to the Olympic medal podium. Her words inspired another piece for the series. “They said there’s nothing you can do to change it. She did what they said couldn’t be done.”

The universe is filled with invitations to co-create. To fall into the flow and let yourself be carried away by life’s juicy creativeness.

As I am leaning into co-creating the #ShePersisted series with the muse, giving into the flow means surrendering to life’s urgings to express my creative essence, fearlessly, honestly and freely.

I surrender.