Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Change is here to stay.

Photo: The 5 Cheese board at Divino

It was not news we were expecting.

My youngest daughter and I regularly meet for dinner at Divino Wine and Cheese Bistro downtown. We’ve occasionally tried new places but always we come back to our favourite.

It’s been that way for over 10 years, “Ever since I reached legal drinking age,” she tells our server last night as we shared our favourite meal.

We’re regulars. We always get the same table at the front, by the big windows that lead out to their small curbside patio. We also always share the same meal. Haricots Verts. 3 Cheese Plate. Mussels. The only thing we change up are which 3 cheeses we share and, if dessert is also on the evening’s agenda, our go to is whatever the chef has created as the Trio of Macaron.

It isn’t that we don’t like change. It is that for my youngest daughter and I, we like the familiarity, the rhythm, the feeling that this is ‘our place, our thing’. And we know the food is great, there service stellar and the atmosphere exactly what we want — low key, comfortable, classy.

When her sister is in town, we make ‘our place, our thing’ Cilantro’s. Another restaurant owned by the same corporation, like Divino, it has been in operation for over thirty years. Since my daughters were little girls, Cilantro has been our family dinner favourite. Or, as my youngest daughter quipped last night, “The place we know my sister will always cry in!”

That’s also one of our things, our dinners are not just time to share a meal, they are a time to deep dive into our hearts and share what’s happening, inside and out, our lives.

Fortunately, there’s no news of Cilantro closing.

Divino’s closing is unfortunately, a sign of the times. World slump in oil prices, downturn in economy leads to less corporate lunches and soirees. The downtown restaurants, faced with rising wage costs, carbon tax and decreasing customer base are feeling the pinch.

I just wasn’t prepared for it to be ‘our place’ to close!

Last night as we sipped our wine and shared a bowl of mussels, our server told us some of the stories of the regulars who have been streaming in to visit one last time.

Like the couple sitting on the patio who had their first date in that same spot almost 20 years ago. They’ve celebrated every one of their 15 wedding anniversaries there, and last night was the last one.

There have been a lot of tears, a lot of laughter, a lot of ‘what next?’, she told us. Still in shock, she’s swimming in the five stages of grief. “I’m kind of stuck in denial,” she said. “I’ll probably stay there until the last menu ticket is placed on the counter, the last drop of wine poured.”

I’m with her, and because I loathe to say good-bye, C.C., my daughter, her boyfriend and I will be some of the last guests to bid adieu to one of ‘our favourites’ on Saturday night.

“Change is here to stay,” an old boss of mine used to say.

I just wish that sometimes, it wouldn’t change the places I like to go.

One thing it won’t change however, is my youngest daughter’s and my bi-weekly dinners. We’ll just have to stretch our minds and dining muscles to find a new restaurant to call, ‘our place, our thing’.

Cilantro anyone?

 


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In pursuit of pleasure

 

If I had a cent for every guilty pleasure I indulged in, I’d not be very rich. I’m not much into feeling guilty about the pleasures in which I indulge. My moniker is, if I’m going to do it, I’d best enjoy it. Otherwise, why bother?

Guilt is too heavy and doing things I don’t enjoy, too tiring.

My thoughts on indulging in pleasures, minus the guilt, comes from a word prompt I read this morning over at Word of the Week. The prompt is “sybarite”. I couldn’t remember its definition, though I knew it was loosely related to being a hedonist, just not quite so far over the side of the pursuit of pleasure and luxury and you wind up in the vale of debauchery.

I look up the definition for sybarite and find my old friend hedonist lurking in the synonyms. Hedonist comes from the Greek word hedone“pleasure,” while Sybarite referred to inhabitants of the southern Greek town of  Sybaris in Italy.  They were known for their love of beautiful and expensive things. Sybarite. Hedonist. Kissing cousins with a side of guilt.

I like beautiful things. I just don’t want guilt to be part of the equation.

To indulge in a beautiful sunset, sitting on a blanket on a beach as the sun sets over the water… pure pleasure.

To savour the aroma and the feel of a hot mug of coffee in my hands as I sit at my desk in the quiet of my morning hours… absolute delight.

To watch an eagle soar. An Orca glide through the water. A dear step lightly through snow-splashed forest. An infant try to catch sunbeams streaming in through an open window. A mother nurse her baby. A dog splash in a river chasing a stick. A cat stretch out along a sun-kissed wall.

These things bring pleasure. And cost nothing more than the time to witness.

Yet, too often, it is the pursuit of pleasures that cost that occupies our time.

We chase after the big career, the next big score, the new job, the flashy watch, the shiny car, the sparkling jewellry, the bigger house…

We chase and in our chasing forget to take time to savour the simple pleasures that only ask for us to stop, take a breath and slip into the silky luxury of their presence.

Neither sybarite nor hedonist, I want to enjoy my pleasures without exhausting myself chasing after them.

What about you?

____________________________

This morning’s post is a writing exercise using the word prompt from Word of the Day.

My desire was to free-fall write without editing. Just go with the flow of any thoughts that arose from the word prompt. It’s a lovely guilt-free pleasure to write without looking for meaning! To write what I sense and feel, not what I think!

____________________________

Photo by Teddy Kelley on Unsplash

 

 

 


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Limbs on the One body of Life

We are one people. One planet. One earth.

We breathe one air. We share the same sun. The same moon.

We walk this planet as though the continents, the colour of our skin, the altars at which we kneel, the languages which we speak are what keep us apart.

What keeps us apart is our belief we are not one humanity.

Zen Flash

No automatic alt text available.

“How wonderful it
will be when All Beings
experience each other
as limbs on the
One body of Life.”

~Shantideva~

 

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To walk in beauty, count your blessings.


I am walking at the park with Beaumont, The Sheepadoodle, throwing the ball whenever he deigns to drop it for me.

As is his way, his run out for the ball is fast. Lightning quick.

Running back… not so quick. Not so direct.

It doesn’t matter. He makes me smile. Laugh. Feel good.

I keep walking. He keeps running circles around me, dropping the ball whenever he pleases. Unless I ask him to of course. Then he is quick to comply.

It’s our thing.

I breathe in the air. The smoke from the fires burning fiercely to the west is not so heavy this evening. There is a breeze blowing. The leaves on the trees rustle like a thousand worshipers whispering prayers to an unseen deity. The air is coolish on  my face. My hair blows around my eyes.

We keep walking. I keep throwing. Beaumont keeps running and fetching.

I feel rich tonight. Full. Filled with the enjoyment of spending time outdoors, walking with this dog who has brought limitless joy into our lives.

Earlier in the day, someone asked me about a man I knew years ago. Is he your friend, she asks?

I laughed. Not by a long stretch. He was a a cohort of the man who almost killed me, I tell her. Neither of them were good or honest people.

She is relieved. He had once hurt her badly. She could not imagine how we could be friends if I called him friend.

I tell her how my life is so much richer, fuller, complete since that experience. How, while at the time it was awful, terrifying, now I am grateful to have come through it. To be able to carry with me all I learned journeying through those dark times.

Years ago, I walked this same park with Ellie, the Wunder Pooch. My life at the time was filled with fear, uncertainty, horror, angst.

I didn’t savour the wind on my face, my hair blowing into my eyes. I didn’t hear the whisper of the leaves or see the sky above filled with limitless possibilities.

I didn’t laugh at Ellie’s antics or throw a ball.

I walked, steps heavy, every cell in my body filled with dread, my heart and mind consumed by the darkness that seemed to fill my entire world.

The darkness has lifted. The winds of fate have changed direction.

I walk in beauty now.

I am grateful.

I am filled with richness, loving-kindness, joy.

My world is a sea of limitless abundance.

I am blessed.

Namaste.

___________________

 

 


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3 Tips to Travel Lightly

3 Ways to unpack your worries every night:

  1. Write them down
    • Keep a notebook by your bed and every night before you sleep, write out your ‘troubles and worries’.  They don’t have to be a beautiful piece of prose. Just write them down.
  2. Meditate
    • If all you can manage is five minutes, take five minutes. But whatever you do, spend a few moments in silence. Breathe deeply. In. Out. In. Out. Let your mind slowly unwind. Let it empty itself of thoughts and simply be present in the silence of following your breath. In. Out. In. Out.
  3. Read something inspirational
    • Before you fall asleep, after you’ve done everything else you need to do, read something that inspires your dreams, your flights of fancy, your imagination, your heart. You don’t have to read for long, but whatever you do, spend the few last moments before sleep letting your mind rest in thoughts of possibility, dreams and dreaming.

And whatever you do, get the TV out of your bedroom! Do not let the news or some mindless chatter fill your last thoughts before sleep.


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Disagreement is not rejection

 

I am meeting with the very talented Michelle Jeffrey to get her insight on a delicate situation I am navigating at work with an external group of people who feel like their intentions to serve marginalized people have been disrespected.

“I always felt like disagreement equaled violence,” Michelle tells me. “Like if I said something against what someone else was saying that didn’t feel right to me, I’d be in harm’s way. So I stayed silent.”

Michelle speaks up today. She speaks out and lives her life on her terms. Doing it her way.

A memory slips into my mind.

Year’s ago, while working on a project with an organization that supports teens in distress, I was entering a building on their site for a meeting. As I walked towards the front door, a young woman exited the building where I was to meet one of their managers. She saw me, walked towards me and forcefully asked, “What are you doing here?”

I wanted to be polite. To show her I felt empathy and compassion for her situation, whatever it was.

“I’m here for a meeting,” I replied, smiling.

She grabbed my wrist, dug her fingers into my skin and said, “You can’t go in there.”

The suddenness of her action took me by surprise. I didn’t want to inflame an already delicate situation and quietly said, “I have a meeting. I need to go in there. Please let go of my wrist.”

She dug her nails in more deeply.

“You need to let go of my wrist. Now. So I can go to my meeting.”

I looked directly into her eyes consciously keeping my breathing slow, my voice soft.

She let go and started to walk away muttering back at me, “You can’t go in there.”

I went in.

As I remember the story of the young girl grabbing my wrist I also see something I hadn’t recognized before. I’d always focused on how upset that encounter made me feel. I often wondered what I could have done differently to avoid the confrontation.

What I’d missed seeing in my desire to make it ‘all about me’ was the strength and courage it took for me to simply stand my ground, quietly, firmly, compassionately.

I wasn’t standing in opposition. I was standing in compassion.

I wasn’t pushing back. I was creating space for both of us to move on.

I hadn’t recognized those things before. I remember thinking how scared I was. How I wanted to cry but didn’t want to give into my fear.

At the time, when I spoke with the man whom I was meeting with, he told me that the young girl had just been told she had to leave the program and return home.

“It’s possible she did what she did to force us to let her stay. She’s afraid to move on.”

“What’s important,” he added, “is that you don’t personalize her actions to be about you. If you need to talk to someone about what happened, we can find a counsellor for you.”

I assured him I was okay. But I still thought about the situation a lot. Wondering what I could have done differently.

My head wanted to minimize my fear, and the scratches on my wrist, by pretending it wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t want to make it a big deal by over-reacting to a situation which I knew, in my head, was not about me.

My heart wanted to cry. She hurt me. Why did she do it?

That young woman knew violence. It had surrounded her all her life. It was the ground upon which she stood to protect herself, to defend against the unknown, to rebel against what she’d always known.

The difference that day was, my life had taught me that disagreement does not equal rejection, or violence.

Disagreement is an opportunity to find common ground, no matter how rocky the ground upon which we meet.

I could choose to respond in violence, or find the path to peace.

Thanks Michelle for shining your light so I could see where I stand today.

We can all choose to find the path to resolve our differences by choosing compassion, understanding, tolerance and love. Every day.

Which will you choose?


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Be like the river when it arrives at the ocean

As I look out my window this morning, I notice the leaves on the hedge on the west side of our yard are turning yellow.

Already it is past the mid-point of July.

Time moves even while I sit still.

I breathe in and imagine the world breathing with me. My breath on fire with the fires burning so fiercely to the west. The sky above is smoky grey. It smells of woodsmoke, of backyard fires.

This morning, I dedicate my thoughts to those who are fleeing the fires, to those who are fighting them and those supporting the evacuees and the fire fighters.

I am in the community and the community is in me.

Namaste.

Zen Flash

 “When you speak, allow the insight of our collective humanity to speak through you. When you walk, don’t walk for yourself alone; walk for your ancestors and your community. When you breathe, allow the larger world to breathe for you. When you’re angry, allow your anger to be released and to be embraced by the larger community. If you know how to do this for one day, you are already transformed. Be your community and let your community be you. This is true practice. Be like the river when it arrives at the ocean; be like the bees and birds that fly together. See yourself in the community and see the community in you. This is a process of transforming your way of seeing, and it will transform how, and how effectively, you communicate.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Communicating

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