Resilience is built into our nature.

Episode 26 – Dare Boldly: No matter your age

When I worked in an adult homeless shelter, people always commented on how it must be a very depressing place to work.

I always replied, “It’s one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever worked.”

Every day I experienced a thousand people awakening in the morning to take another step. Their lives may have been in disarray, they may have lost everything and carried only the heaviness and indignity of the label, ‘homeless’, but they kept going.

That was inspiring.

I learned a lot about resilience at the homeless shelter. I saw it every day. From the young 18-year-old who was determined to finish his high school education to the 60-year-old woman who met her 20-something daughter, whom she hadn’t seen in several years, on the elevator one day. In that one meeting the mother made the decision to get help with her mental health issues so she could move out of the shelter and be a mother that could guide her daughter away from street life.

Resilience was everywhere at the shelter.

I remember Colin. An indigenous man who had left his family and community behind when the load of his past became too much to bear. When we met, Colin had been on the streets for many years and hadn’t seen his adult sons since they were school-aged children. “I want to be a man they’d be proud of,” he told me in the self-esteem-building class I was teaching.

In an environment where being sober was the anomaly, Colin was very proud of his three-month-old sobriety. Determined to see his sons again, he kept taking steps in the right direction.

I was in awe of Colin’s commitment and resilience. Life kept knocking him down and he kept standing back up and moving forward.

Six months after we met, a massive heart attack took away any chance Colin had of meeting his sons again. And though he lost that final battle, he died exactly as the kind of man he told me wanted to be, “A proud man.”

Colin, and so many others I met at the shelter, displayed the characteristics of resilience every day. Courage. Strength. A willingness to face life’s challenges without giving up, and a deep awareness that to take a different path they had to change the things that brought them to the shelter door.

Resilience can come in many forms. There’s physical resilience, mental resilience, emotional resilience, and social resilience.

At the shelter, resilience came wrapped up in a community that held each other up and gave what they could to one another, no matter how little they had. And, it came in the hope and belief tomorrow would be a better day as long as they made it through today, together.

Colin never got to that tomorrow where he met his sons and heard them say, “We’re proud of you, dad”. But, in getting up again and again and continuing to fight for his sobriety, he taught many others the value of holding true to yourself and your dreams.

It is a lesson that continues to inspire me today.

Episode 26 – Resilience week – Dare Boldly: No matter your age

Take the “What’s the Big Deal about Aging?” questionnaire!

I’m really interested in a) writing and talking about aging, and I’m really interested in your feedback so if you don’t mind taking a few moments, I’d love to get your feedback – it’s my very first survey so I’m learning as I go! (in other words, it’s not the best designed survey but it’s my first! 🙂 )

Click HERE for survey (max 5 minutes to respond)

Gratitude is a light within

Episode 25

It has been smoky here all week.

The smoke, while bothersome, doesn’t cause me discomfort. It hasn’t affected my walks with Beaumont nor my enjoyment of being in nature.

For my beloved, it’s a different story.

It’s been a long week. Confined almost continuously to the house, he still coughts and struggles at times to breathe. And, because he’s in a clinical trial, he can’t take any oxygen or drugs, other than his normal inhalers, to help alleviate the angst.

I am grateful for this clinical trial which may result in relief of his symptoms.

But, as medical science searches for ways to alleviate asthma and lung disease, it is uncomfortable for him, and I know, at times, terrifying. To struggle for breath. To feel always as if you are gasping for air.

I am grateful this week that I had chosen to write about gratitude. Grateful that in keeping my focus on its many graces, I have been constantly reminded to breathe into its healing powers.

It doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. I do. I worry. I fixate on wanting him to get up and get moving. On thinking there’s something else, he, or I, can do to make it better.

I get out of sorts. Short tempered.

And then, I come back to gratitude.

I am grateful for this practice. Grateful to have this safe space to return to centre, to find, as Val Boyko calls it, my middle ground.

I can’t ‘fix’ any of this. I can’t, as he asked me the other day, get him a new lung. What I can do is get him a cup of tea. Bake him my chocolate chip cookies he loves so much, even though I worry about their impact on my hips. He was once a professional football player. Weight is still not is issue, other than the need to put it on! Other than when I was pregnant, I have never had a problem putting on weight! 🙂

And, I can change how I respond when I’m feeling frustrated and worried.

I can stop thinking about how ‘this isn’t what I expected’ and turn instead into the love that brought us together, the shared joy in each other’s company.

I can stop wallowing in self-pity and awaken my desire to be playful, joyful, and heartful in our relationship.

I can stop being driven by fear and allow courage to draw me back into Love, peace, and joy.

Rather than thinking about the things we can’t do together, I can lean into the things we enjoy doing together. Play games. Read to each other out loud. Watch a movie together. Cook a meal together. And so much more.

I am grateful that we get to be together. That we get to share each day, together. And, that in being together, we get to support one another in living life to the fullest of our abilities and capacities, always giving the best of what we have to one another. Always keeping our vows in the forefront of our life together.

I am grateful that in writing about gratitude, I am reminded to put my own words into action.

I am grateful.

Namaste

Brian Pearson and The Mystic Cave

I first met Brian Pearson of The Mystic Cave many years ago when I attended a concert in the church where he was once pastor. A talented orator, humble leader, gifted musician and writer, Brian’s ability to transcend Christian doctrine to reveal the ephemeral nature of our human condition wowed me. A devout, ‘I’m not into organized religion’ advocate, he didn’t convince me to sit in a pew every Sunday morning going through the rituals. He did however, awaken and inspire me, so much so that when he asked me to be a moderator on The Mystic Cave private FB group, I said yes. Spending time with Brian is always a gift.

Recently, I had the gift of spending time with him when he interviewed me for The Mystic Cave podcast (available wherever you listen to podcasts). Brian is an exceptional interviewer. Beyond asking great questions, which he does, he does his research, listens deeply and dives into not just the who, what, why, but the impact and import of everything.

He’s also just a very warm and welcoming host which makes it easy to relax when in his presence.

I hope you take the time to visit Brian’s website and… if you’re so inclined, listen to our chat.

Love Will Always Find You

When my daughters were little, I loved to write stories just for them.

One such story was about a lobster named Louis (my father’s name) who liked his shell so much he did not want to have to change. One day he decided to run away thinking that would prevent the inevitable.

As we all know, if it’s inevitable, it can’t be prevented and some things in nature are… our nature.

For Louis, running away resulted in a series of misadventures that almost got him trapped in a lobster cage (it looked safe!) until finally, he fell asleep behind a rock only to awake to discover his shell had deserted him.

Embarrassed by his shell-less body, he dug a hole in the ocean floor and buried himself in the sand.

Of course, in his shell-less/defenseless state, it was the best thing he could do. Looking out at the darkness around him, he discovered another pair of eyes looking back at him — it was a lady lobster named Sue who was also hiding beneath the sand.

The long and short of it… They fell in love with the sound of each other’s voice and the words of comfort they shared (not quite that mushily in the story ’cause Louis was scared and Sue was wise and witty…)

Anyway, what Louis learned is what the story was all about — no matter where you go, or what you do, or how you look, or how deep the hole you’ve dug for yourself…. being yourself is the only way to be, ’cause being yourself is where Love will always find you.

______________________

Louis’ story drifted into my mind in the early morning hours as I lay soaking in the bath, the light of a candle flickering and classical music playing softly in the background.

I’d awoken with a dream in which I was chasing a butterfly through a field of wildflowers and fell over the edge of a cliff to land in a bed of roses.

Just kidding.

I’d awoken at 4 from a dream where I was angry and couldn’t remember about what. As I wasn’t getting back to sleep I decided to have a bath.

It does makes sense that I was thinking about anger. I’d been speaking with someone about anger earlier in the day. They asked me, “How do you get over anger?”

You don’t, I reply. You go through it.

Anger in the moment can be a powerful force for change (as long as we express it appropriately), I said. Anger many years later is a sign of something deeper. Have you considered seeing a therapist?

I’m not broken, they exclaimed.

And that was when it struck me — as a society we sometimes hold a collective view that seeing a therapist is a sign of what is wrong with us.

I disagree.

For me, seeing a therapist is about acknowledging things that aren’t working for me anymore and seeking help to find my way through. It’s about getting right within myself so that I can walk through the world doing the right things to create a better place.

You cannot heal or change what you do not acknowledge.

Therapy is the opportunity to heal those things that no longer work for you.

For years after my brother died, I carried this unsettling anger about his choices and the things he’d done. Holding onto it wasn’t making my world a more peaceful, loving place today. It was holding me stuck in the past.

Anger needs to be released and the best way to do that is to let it flow into the Love that is always there. And sometimes, we need a guide to help us find our path.

Like Louis and Sue who shared the darkness and found their way home to themselves — ’cause that’s where Love will always find us, no matter how far we run.

Namaste.

If Only She Had Wings (a story)

Far away, at the edge of the land where it meets the sea, there lived a young woman who believed she could fly.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the townspeople said when she stood at the edge of the cliff to test her belief. “Birds fly. Humans stay walking on the ground.”

The young woman did not believe that was the only way to be human. Every night before going to bed, she did push-ups and lifted weights to strengthen her wings.

And every night before falling asleep she whispered to the dream fairies, “Let my dreams be filled with flight.”

And every night the dream fairies flitted into her sleep, scattering visions of flying and soaring into her dreams.

And in the morning, she would awaken, repeat her exercises and go out to the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean far below to test the strength of her wings.

One day, as the young woman stood at the edge of the cliff lifting her arms up and down like the seagulls high above, a little girl approached and asked, “Why are you standing here flapping your arms?”

The young woman, surprised that a child would even have to ask such a question, replied without stopping what she was doing. “Practising flying.”

The child watched for a few moments longer before saying, “Well that’s silly. Why don’t you just leap?”

The young woman stopped lifting her arms up and down. She gazed down at the little girl where she stood looking up at her. Sky blue eyes met sky blue eyes. Flaxen hair floated around her face just as hers floated in the morning breeze.

The child smiled up at her and the young woman felt all her fears of falling come crashing into her like the waves crashing against the cliffs below.

“What if I fall?” she asked the little girl.

“What if you don’t?” the little girl replied as she threw her arms wide and cast her body off the edge of the cliff.

The young woman watched, wide-eyed and breathless, as the child’s body floated gracefully on the air, catching the breeze and letting it carry her down to the surface of the waves before lifting her up and up and up to the top of the cliff.

In awe, the young woman watched the child land effortlessly back on the cliff beside her.

“See! It’s easy,” said the child.

And the young woman took a deep, deep breath and spread her arms wide.

And stopped.

“I don’t think I can,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes and rolled down her face.

And the child shrugged her shoulder and smiled and said, “That’s okay. One day, you will stop practicing and cast your doubts to the wind and follow me!”

And with that, the child leapt from the cliff and soared with the seagulls flying high.

Watching and wishing she could, the young woman slowly lowered her arms and turned away from the cliff. Shoulders hunched, feet dragging along the dusty trail, she began the long walk back to the village.

“It is not the townspeople who doubt,” she said to herself. “It’s me.”

And she stopped and repeated it to herself. “It’s not the townspeople who doubt. It’s me.”

And she kept repeating it and repeating it until realization dawned. “I’ve been hiding behind practising flying because I doubt I can actually do it!”

Full of the awareness of the power of her doubts to tie her to the ground, she stopped walking away from the edge, turned quickly around and began running towards the cliff. Arms spread wide, she screamed and laughed and yelled loud and fierce as she cast her body over the edge.

And as her feet left the ground, her wings unfurled and she began to fly.

And that’s where you’ll find her today. Far from the edge of fear, wings unfurled, soaring amidst her dreams and dancing in the lightness of being free from doubt.

The Unconscious Leader

When we lived in Metz, France, every day my father would drive the winding road leading down the hill from National Defence Headquarters into the city.

Fog was not uncommon.

One day, while carefully navigating the winding road in a pea soup fog, he missed a curve, drove off the road narrowly slipping between two plane trees until coming to rest in a farmer’s field.

Stuck. Yes. Damaged. No.

Until a woman rear-ended him. In the middle of the farmer’s field.

She’d been following his taillights. She trusted they would lead her into the city. Instead, they lead her into the back end of his car in the middle of a farmer’s field.

Fortunately, because of the dense fog, she too had been travelling very slowly. The damage was negligible. Though my father was a tad annoyed!

Once, while skiing through dense fog on the Zugspitze in Germany, the fog was so thick it was almost mandatory to stop after every curve to ensure you weren’t about to go over a cliff. As I took a sweeping curve in the trail, I stopped to check where I was at and a woman skied into me, knocking us both over. She’d been following my bright orange ski suit as her beacon down the mountainside.

We don’t generally get such dense fog here on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, but occasionally, fog will roll in off the river valley and obscure the view.

Whenever it does, as it did earlier this week, I am reminded of that story my father loved to tell about the woman who crashed into him in the middle of a farmer’s field.

He was upset she hit his car.

She was upset he went off the road and stopped in the middle of a farmer’s field. She was trusting him to lead her to safety.

Just like the case of the woman who was following me down the mountain. I didn’t know she was following me. She didn’t know I was about to stop. Though she was grateful I did when she saw the cliff we both might have sailed over!

Sometimes on our life journies, we can be so focused on where we’re going, we forget to notice if there is anyone else on our path, or if someone else is trusting our ability to lead to get them to safety.

Sometimes, we can be following someone else’s path so intently, we forget to watch out for our own safety, relying on their discretion to keep us safe.

In both cases, it is the belief we are alone on our journey, and not responsible for anyone else’s safety, that gets us in trouble.

Like my father, intensely focused on navigating my own way down the mountain, I wasn’t thinking about anyone else. And, while that is an almost natural response to pea soup situations, had I thought to call out, just in case there was anyone else in the same predicament or had my father immediately put on his emergency flashers, perhaps the outcome might have been different.

‘Cause here’s the thing. We can be unconscious leaders.

But the way is so much safer for everyone when we travel consciously acknowledging we are not on this road of life alone.

____________________________

A man, toddler and dog who were rescued by a volunteer in a boat after being stranded by high water due to flooding walk on high ground in Abbotsford, B.C., on Nov. 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck – Source

I have been glued to the news about the horrific events unfolding in British Columbia. For those people caught between two landslides, for the people who spent days and nights in their cars or stuck in Hope, waiting for a way back to the lower mainland, for those who lost their farms and livelihoods, their homes and possessions, their everything, my heart is heavy.

I can not lead them out of the devastation they face. I can contribute to their recovery.

We all can.

If you have any amount you can contribute, please consider helping the efforts to lead people back to safety, so they can begin the arduous journey of rebuilding their lives, comforted by the knowledge, they are not alone.

This CTV story and this Daily Hive article list several organizations and agencies doing on-the-ground work that need our support.

Thank you.

______________________

A severed portion of BC’s Coquihalla Hwy5 at Juliet is seen in a BC Transportation photo on Nov 17, 2021

On the weekend I booked my flight for Vancouver and was already scheduled to be there December 8. It is stunning to realize that I cannot drive there right now — all roads are washed out. The first time since 1885 when the railroad was completed — the west coast has no eastern access via road or rail.

Love. Courage. Curiosity

Love. Courage. Curiosity
by Louise Gallagher

Trembling, she stood 
at the edge of darkness
her heart beating
an erratic tattoo
full of trepidation
that to enter
would be the end of light

“I am afraid,” she whispered
into the darkness
holding back from stepping forward
as she stood trapped in her fear
she would be consumed
by all she could not see
and all she did not know
about the darkness.

Be not afraid, whispered her heart,
I am always here, beating steady
holding you safe in the womb of love
that is eternally present in all of life.
I’m here too, said courage.
And so am I said, curiosity chimed in.
And the light grew brighter and said, 
I will never burn out
with Love as your constant companion.

Gratefully, she invited them to join her
as she moved forward from where she stood
at the edge of her fear
into the darkness.

Buoyed up by their presence
she flung her arms wide
and stepped boldly into the darkness
knowing her heart and courage and curiosity
would step fearlessly with her.

Bathed in the glow of their presence, 
her light grew brighter
and the darkness grew dimmer
and fear vanished in the light
of knowing, no matter where she was,
in darkness or in light,
she was always safe
when she walked faithfully in Love.

I took my own advice yesterday and spent time immersed in wonder and art playing for hours in my studio.

The painting above is what appeared.

I didn’t know where I was going, or what I wanted to do when I began. But I needn’t have worried. The muse always knows and when I am open to her whisperings, she flows with ease and grace, lightening even my darkest doubts.

About the process:

The background in this piece is very layered and complex.

Layers of sprayed on inks covered by stenciled on gesso and pastels, shapes, textures and patterns as well as collaged on images printed onto rice paper.

One of the challenges I set for myself in this piece was to create it without the use of a paintbrush.

So that’s what I did.

About the poem:

This morning, when I sat down to write the poem began to form as if floating in from the velvety darkness all around.

I love to sit at my desk in the morning, looking out at the river, my latte steaming by my right hand, the only light the halo of my desk lamp and the candle I burn in the mornings as I write.

Perhaps it was the combination of the image and the atmosphere around me, but, I wasn’t expecting a poem to write itself out.

I had other ideas.

I’m grateful courage and curiosity opened my heart and mind to being present to the mystery of creative expression.

Namaste.

Small Significances

Small significances can make big change happen.

What are small significances? I learned this term when I was coaching in the Choices program, working with trainees on developing their Purpose Statement for life.

A small significance is that small thing you do, like taking a neighbour dinner when you learn of a hardship they’re facing, because, to you, it’s what you do naturally. You’re thoughtful about the need. You don’t think about the doing, or not doing. You just do it.

Or, picking up garbage you see lying on the pathway as you walk. Yes. people shouldn’t leave garbage lying about, but that doesn’t mean you leave it for someone else to pick up. You do it because it’s what you do.

Small significances can also apply to our habits.

Like the one I’ve developed over the course of Covid’s presence of zoning out most evenings on some trivial, inconsequential Netflix or Prime drama. Watching endless hours of flickering images on my screen, headphones popped into my ears.

This habit… (ok. addiction) is not conducive to creating the grace and ease I want in my life. It affects everything. From my joy, sleep, physical fitness and mind alertness. It also keeps me out of my studio and, now that 22 hours of my week are consumed with work, I want to reclaim those endless run-on evenings of doing not much other than vegging out.

One small significance i can do to make big-time difference is to unplug my headset, turn-off my screen and commit to spending time in my studio.

And that’s why I’m choosing to be vulnerable here in talking about my unhealthy habit (addiction) – because going public is good for my soul, and my commitment to change.

After months and months of automatically turning on the screen every evening, logging into one of the three entertainment providers we have subscribed to, it has become rote. A thoughtless, mindless and enervating practice that serves me up a dopamine laden pleasure reward that fools me into believing I’m enjoying this… when seriously, I’m not thinking about enjoying it or not. I’m really just dialing in for my fix.

And here’s the thing. The more I do it the ‘want’ to do it transforms into ‘the need’.

And what I really need in my life is enriching, heart-engaging, soul-dancing, mind-expanding experiences.

Not hours of sitting watching a flickering screen.

To achieve my desired state, I’ve begun to take small, significant steps away from the screen.

The first wasn’t designed as a ‘breaking-free of my addiction’ plan but to my surprise, it has become a gateway to it.

I’ve started reading books on Kindle. And, while there’s probably no scientific data to back up my findings, for me, it has opened up the process of change. Why? Because I think my amygdala is saying… oh look! We’re watching a screen. All’s good. Let’s feed her some dopamine.

See. I think the brain doesn’t know the difference between flickering images and words passing before my eyes. It just knows there’s a blue light entering its dendrite connected neuron pathways, feeding it what its come to expect — hours in front of a screen.

Something I’ve observed in the process is that I struggle to remember what I’ve read — that didn’t used to happen and while I could just say it’s age related, the fact is, I think it has more to do with my brain becoming lazy after watching so much mindless chatter. In the getting glued to the screen, I’ve unconsciously (and perhaps somewhat consciously) turned off my memory neurons — there’s no sense in remembering what I just watched. It’s all trivial and if I want… I can always go back and watch again – and it will be like a brand new show all over again! 🙂

So, while shifting to reading on my Kindle app might feel like it’s just a baby step – it is a step and I am grabbing on and riding this stepping stone into an ocean of possibility.

And in the meantime, I shall continue to turn up here and hold myself accountable. You’re welcome to check-in anytime and ask me how I’m doing — I’d love to have you as my accountability buddy!

And in the meantime, I’m employing my new ‘neural pathway chant’ to help me stay on track, building stepping stone after stepping stone to my desired state. And that chant is…”I deserve to feel alive and free! Oh yes I do.”

Namaste.

.

The Wild Places of Your Heart

The Wild Places
by Louise Gallagher

Some may call it a wilderness
a vast
unexplored terrain
thick with brambles
and vines

interwoven

into a thick impenetrable net
of lost dreams and disappointments

of life’s hurts and wounds, scars and scares

holding you back
from breathing freely

in the light
of each new dawn

breaking free of night.



Some may call it a wilderness

I call it my heart
a wild and mystical place
where vast
unexplored terrain

rich with open spaces

yearning to be discovered
with dreams calling to be awoken

call me to cast off

life’s hurts and wounds and disappointments

to jettison the scary stories

I tell myself
of how I will never
do enough

deserve better

be worthy.


In this wild place
of my heart
beating
wild and free
untethered to the stories
I tell myself

about how I will never be

enough
I am enough
I am all I ever dreamed of
I have all I ever hoped for
I am 
all of me
worthy of living
with the wilds of my heart

breaking and breathing, breaking and breathing 
free.

The She Dares Boldly Manifesto

The She Dares Boldly Manifesto

Let me dare to hear the wild within calling me to dance.

Let me dare to invite the wildness of my heart to set my spirit free to leap and cavort as I throw my arms up above my head in a joyful salutation to the sun and the moon and the stars.

Let me dare to spin and twirl beneath a cloudless sky of blue infinity laughing and exalting in the sheer delight of being alive.

Let me dare to paint the world with childlike wonder, casting doubt and self-consciousness aside as I spread my arms wide to capture all the colours of the rainbow dancing in the magic, wonder and beauty of this day.

Let me dare to seek miracles, to believe in love and let go of holding onto unforgiveness and regrets.

Let me dare to drain every juicy ounce of goodness from the day so that as night settles in and I lay my head upon my pillow, my soul is soaked in a river of joyful celebration infusing my dreams with sighs of contentment for this day well lived beyond the realms of my imagination.

Let me dare to forget about the steps as I leap into this dance of life with wild abandon.

_____________________________________

I have often written about my awe of the muse’s ability to flow in and permeate my body causing my fingertips to ooze vowels and consonants that form words marching into sentences I never imagined could escape from my keyboard.

The manifesto above was just such an occurrence.

Unbidden, but most welcome, the muse arrived as I sat down at my desk in the quiet darkness of morning light not yet broken and began to write.

I knew I wanted to write about the latest She Dares art journal page I’d created — I just didn’t know what.

I needn’t have worried. The muse knew. All I had to do was get out of my head to let her flow freely through my body onto the page (in this case the computer screen but you know what I mean) and become a manifesto I didn’t know I needed/wanted/had to write out.

My wish, the one I dare to dream, is that this manifesto speaks to your heart. I dare to dream you too will rise up and twirl about in childlike wonder of all the magic, beauty and awe in your world.

I dare to hope you dance.