Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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In the space between living and dying, there is life as we know it.

It is early morning. Outside my bedroom window, I hear the quiet meowing of Marley the Great Cat. As the weather warms, he likes to spend the night outside, sleeping under the sheltering branches of the birch tree in our backyard.

Until around 4am that is. Then, he likes to sit outside my window, meowing in the hopes of waking me up.

It inevitably works.

I get up, no matter the hour, and let him in.

Though this morning, he managed to awaken my sister who is staying with us while in Calgary visiting our mother in the hospital.

Our mother is in that twilight time of living in this moment passing into that space where the moments are no longer here.

She is alert. She likes to get dressed in the morning with the help of her nurses. She likes to put on her own make-up and then, be moved from her bed to a wheelchair where she spends her days, sitting beside the window.

Outside her window, where once the view was of the distant peaks of the Rockies, she now has a red brick wall to look at.

She laughs about her view. Thinks its funny to only see a red brick wall.

I wonder if it reminds her of her life that is quickly changing its course from being amongst the living to being in that other place where life is no longer here on Earth.

She sits in her wheelchair, does her WordFind puzzels, watches TV and eat her meals, as long as the food is minced. She chats with whomever comes in, and in particular, flirts with the males who enter.

She’s good at that, our mother. Flirting. Always has been.

A beautiful woman all her life, she perfected the art of making men (and women too but I notice it particularly with men) feel welcome, important, special.

She loves it when my beloved, C.C., comes to visit. She smiles and treats him extra special, like his coming to visit is the best thing that ever happened, at least that day.

It’s very sweet to see her so animated, so committed to making him feel special when she’s the one lying in a hospital bed.

My sister and I chatted about mom’s state of being this morning.

About the uncertainty of her days to come. Concern for what happens next.

“It has to be frustrating,” my sister said as we stood in the kitchen sipping coffee in the pre-dawn quiet of early morning. “To feel so helpless. To not know what’s coming next.”

Yesterday, Anne offered to take our mother for a walk around the hospital. She was working with a nurse’s aide to rig up the IV onto the wheelchair when the head nurse came in and vetoed the idea. “We don’t want to risk her having a cardiac arrest somewhere in the hospital,” the head nurse said.

Well that’s reassuring. Not.

The sepsis that has invaded mom’s bloodstream continues to fight against the antibiotics they are pouring into her system.

The question remains, which will win?

At almost 95, it is a precarious battle. The winner unknown except, we know she has little resiliency to fight against anything, especially something as insidious as an infection seeking to claim her red blood cells as its own.

I see it in how she flirts with male visitors. She wants to be ‘normal’, she wants to act like life will continue on as one big adventure.

And she is losing the battle. Her heart isn’t in it. She’s tired.

Life is taking its natural course. Like a river flowing to the sea, it continues on, gracefully flowing around obstacles in its course, embracing them in its never-ending journey towards release into the great body of water that awaits it at some distant point upon the horizon. And as it gathers volume, its waters become deeper, more silent, more accepting of the flow, moving ever more gracefully towards the great sea beyond.

Our mother’s life is like that river. She continues to be in and of its flow, embracing what comes along her path, gracefully breathing into each moment, effortlessly letting go of each breath, moment by moment. And with each passing moment, she settles gracefully into the depths of knowing, her life is moving towards that giant sea where she will once again be united with those she has loved, and lost, upon her journey.

 

 


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Reflection – Life is of a Mingled Yarn

This post from Val is very comforting and inspiring for me today.

Find Your Middle Ground

I wrote this post some time ago, and now the time seems right to publish it. After all, this is a weekend where the cycle of death and everlasting life is celebrated around the world.

“The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.”

~ Shakespeare – All’s Well That Ends Well, Act IV.Scene 3

When we separate the good and ill yarns, life starts to unravel

We suffer

Yet, when we accept it is part of the natural balance

We find solace and hope

oo0O0oo

As I was looking for an image to reflect today’s reflection, I came across this amazing James video animated by Ainslie Henderson. I found it so creative and deeply moving. Let the love filled tears overflow if you are ready today.

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What labels do you carry?

FullSizeRenderIt’s called Jazz Vespers:  Where Jazz Meets the Spirit.

They’ve been holding it at the beautiful St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church every Sunday since 1992. 25 Years.

My daughter, Alexis and I attended it for the first time in November when I came to visit. This Sunday, her husband and his mother joined us.

It was as sublimely soothing and enriching as I remembered it.

Last time, it was just after the US election. There was talk of the new president and the need to stand, strong of back, soft of front. To not harden our hearts but to engage in conversation, to seek to understand, not judge.

This Sunday, the talk is of ‘labels’. These are not the designer labels on our clothes. Or the one’s that speak to our greatness. These are the words, the names we carry because others have stuck them to us, or because we call ourselves those things we would not say about another, but deign to call ourselves.

I listen to the Reverend Dan Chambers speak and think of all the labels I have known, carried, called myself.

Beyond daughter, sister, mother, wife, friend, cousin…

What are the labels?

I name them quietly in my head.

Most do not fit anymore.  Most, are not one’s I want to repeat, or need to own, or feel connected to. They are labels that limited me. That held me in place, or as Rev. Chambers called it, helped to simplify the complex so others felt less afraid, unsure, insecure, threatened. Or so that I could feel justified in my fear, insecurity, angst. And in my justification of the labels I applied to myself, rationalize why I didn’t have to do anything different that might dislodge the label someone had applied or which I held against myself.

Labels serve no one.

They only give us something to hang onto when the world around us feels confusing. When times are shifting. When we do not understand another and cannot, or will not, take the time to see into them or ourselves, through eyes of compassion.

Labels are our way of judging without having to name what we are doing. As if, through the applying of the label, we are excused of our misbehaviour.

He’s gay. She’s a feminist. They’re immigrants. She’s a druggie, addict, lazy, unfortunate. He’s a bully. Stupid. Red neck. Indian.

It’s not that we are saying they are bad or less than. We’re just using the words that describe where someone else is at. We didn’t make the names. But if they fit, why shouldn’t we use them? We’re not judging, we’re simplifying life.

And without really thinking about what we’re doing, we engage in the process of judging people less than, other than, unworthy of, their right to claim the magnificence of their human condition.  The same human condition that each of us shares.

I participated in Jazz Vespers yesterday.

It was a moving experience that carried me into spirit, like a river flowing endlessly to the sea, connecting me to my humanity flowing in this journey called life. A life that is so much richer when I let go of the labels that limit the full expression and experience of life.


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Will you choose to travel light?

We held a smudge at our office yesterday. We gathered in the kitchen area, sat in a circle and shared in the healing power of our Indigenous traditions.

It was a member of the homeless-serving community who reached out to ask if the team would like to smudge.

It had been a tough week. The aftereffects of Monday’s stunning news that a member of the foundation’s board of directors (where I work) had been arrested on charges of sexual assault against vulnerable youth, continued to reverberate throughout the week.

The smudge was our opportunity, the ceremony leader told us, to give our burdens to our ancestors. It is their role, he said. To carry away the burdens. To protect us. To guide us and keep us safe.

Today, some people call them ‘angels’. Long ago, they were simply, ‘our ancestors’.

No matter who they were in life or what they did, in spirit form, they are the essence of our collective humanity. Wise. Caring. Strong. Compassionate. They are the essential goodness at the core of our human spirit.

Our ancestors do not judge. They do not malign. They do not condemn.  They honour, protect and care.

You don’t have to be specific, the ceremony leader said. You don’t have to name names or even events. Just speak what is on your heart, what feels heavy, burdensome. What is preventing you from finding grace in the every day.

We went around the circle. Each person offering their burden to the ancestors. Aging parents. Moving. Challenging children.

And the elephant in the room. The man who is alleged to have committed these acts that shocked us all.

It was in the naming of what felt so unspeakable that I remembered — it is not my role to carry someone else’s burdens.

Whether the individual did or did not commit these acts is for the courts to determine.

My job is to be light, not darkness.  To carry hope, not despair.

And I cannot do that carrying the angst and sorrow and the sense of betrayal that has permeated my every thought this past week.

I surrendered my burden to the smudge. I let the smoke carry it away and cleanse me.

I cannot change the past. I cannot divine innocence or guilt.

I can stand in this moment knowing, whatever has happened, my role is to be fully present in this moment. When I stand in my light, when I join others in prayer and song in a circle where we invite our ancestors to support, protect, and guide us, and name the sorrows and burdens we do not want to name, and invite in the wisdom we cannot know, we are stronger for facing our truth and being open to Spirit. In Spirit’s presence, now is not forever. In time, this too shall pass.

The rivers flow to the sea. The sea becomes the ocean. In its waters we are all integral drops that make the whole of life on earth. Sometimes beautiful. Sometimes ugly and inexplicable. Always life.

We are all connected.

Yesterday, I sat in a circle and set my burdens in the centre. I cleansed my body in the smoke and invited Spirit to be my guide.

The ancestors carried my burdens away.  My choice today whether I pick them up again, or carry on lightly, free to step into this moment full of light and promise, hope and possibility, Love and gratitude.

I choose to travel light.


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Mistakes happen.

I worked in the studio yesterday.

I stood in front of the easel, pondered the blank space in front of me, and took a risk.

youre-always-going-miss-your-chance-if-you-never-take-a-risk-quote-1A search of google for quote on ‘risk-taking’ brings ups some gems.

If you don’t try, you’ll never know (Unknown)

Thinking, ‘here goes nothing’ could be the start of something.  — Drew Wagner

You’re always going to miss your chance if you never take a risk.  (Unknown)

I particularly like the last one, not because it’s more profound but rather, because in the picture of it I found, there was a typo — and I love other people’s typos. Makes me feel less conspicuous with my own.

The fact, the provider of that quote hasn’t fixed it could say many things — it’s all in my interpretation.

a) They haven’t noticed it.

b) No one has pointed it out.

c) Fixing it isn’t important to them.

d) It’s a test of my capacity to notice small details.

e) All or none of the above.

Which is really the point of this post.

Last night, there was a big mistake at the Academy Awards. Those involved handled it with incredible grace. The Academy, in front of hundreds of million viewers, corrected the mistake. Warren Beatty clarified what had happened, even as others stood around with confused expressions on their faces.

In the end, the real winners came up and the not real winners handed over the prize and the world kept turning.

And then, Cyberspace went crazy.

Seriously?

It was a mistake.

Mistakes happen.

The true measure of our mistakes is in how quickly we fix them, or not.

And last night, The Academy fixed their mistake, in the moment.

I make mistakes all the time. They are not the measure of my worth — unless I repeat the same mistake over and over again. Then it’s no longer a mistake. It’s a habit. A poor execution. A negative space I inhabit.

For the Academy, this is the first time I remember a mistake like that happening. Pretty good recovery if you ask me. A pretty good measurement of the integrity and honesty of the organization.

And, to me, it’s a pretty good reflection of the true grit and courage of the American people.

Honest. Forthright. Willing to take on big tasks and be humble in their execution.

Yes, there are issues. But the American people are bigger than the issues. Always have been.

I have faith in their ability to take action with caution and care and consideration for all.

Namaste.

 

 


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Express Yourself | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 45

acts-of-grace-week-45-express-yourself-copy

 

I am amazed to see that I am already at Week 45 with this series!

Thank you for those who follow along and encourage me.  It can be easy with a project like this to lose ground, give up, stop before it’s completed.

I am grateful that I have chosen not to. that I have chosen instead to persevere. Persist.

Writing, creating art, doing the things I am committed to doing to create ‘better’ in this world are all expressions of my true self. They are out-pourings of my divine nature looking to be seen, heard, known.

We all share this urge. We all possess a divine impulse to be seen and heard and known from the heart out.

It can be easy in this materially driven western culture to reverse the flow. To believe that my ‘worth’ is expressed in what I put around me and on me.

Don’t be fooled by expressions of material wealth.

That is all they are — an outward manifestation of how much is in your bank account. Not how much you carry and know within your heart.

Be happy for your material wealth.

Be generous with your inner beauty.

Express yourself so all the world can see, and know, what is possible when we live from the heart out.

Namaste.

 

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If you follow me on FB or Twitter or Instagram, you will have seen my series of art pieces with words:  #ShePersisted

I am posting each piece as it’s created on my website — HERE.  I’d love to have you join me in this exploration of what is possible when times are tough, when people want to shut us down — and Nevertheless… persist.