The Story of Your Dreams

"You carried the story of your dreams with you when you came into this world. They were written on your heart in the world beyond this place where miracles are birthed in the magic that is real and the mystical that is always present. You carried your dreams with you into life and all that matters now is you become the story of your dreams unfolding."

I wrote the quote above in freefall writing yesterday. It was my first time back in the studio since Monday. Before the fall.

It has a certain poetic drama, doesn’t it? Before the fall.

Like Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden. Or the Roman Empire before it fell apart.

Coining it to describe the mirror that fell on my head is me taking great poetic license and an exaggeration. It is obviously not of the same significance but, everything is relative. A small thing in the big picture can be a big thing in our own experience.

Yet, so often we attempt to minimize our experiences. To devalue their impact.

Years ago, when I was spending a lot of time in groups of women healing from experiences of the really painful ‘love (that was actually abuse) gone wrong’ kind, women would often say when someone recounted their story, “I know what you’re going through. Of course, my story isn’t as bad as yours…”

The fact is, every story we tell has value – it isn’t good or bad — it is of value to our experience. And when we tell it in a way that opens doors and windows to our heart, we release ourselves to create a new story. Diminishing our own story limits how wide the doors and windows of our heart can open.

For me, a bump on the head that slows me down is a big thing. It’s a call to wake up and pay attention to my body. To ‘get into my body’, not ‘out of my head and into my body’ but to be all of it, head and body. It is one unit, one being, one ‘thing’. There is no separation. no dividing line that says, “This is your head job. This is your body’s work.” It is all one.

And here’s the thing for me. When my body is hurting, I like to power through by pasting a smile on my face and ‘carrying on’ as if nothing is amiss. I let my mind override whatever my body is feeling as if my mind is in charge.

It’s not.

The body and mind are all and one of the same unit. They are all of me and I need all of me to be present, working as a wholistic being on creating substance to my dreams — the one’s that were written on my heart (and in every strand of my DNA) before I was born.

So… This time, I’m taking a different tack. I’m taking care of all of me, first.

See! It’s never too late to do things differently.

Which is also why I headed into the studio yesterday afternoon – it was R ‘n R.

There is something that happens when I sit down at my worktable and get present to the unknown, the invisible, the muse’s urgings I let appear what is calling itself into being.

In those moments, I know there is no separation between mind and body, heart and soul. I am all present. All in harmony.

And that’s exactly what happened yesterday.

I opened my “Learning to Fly” art journal and found myself exactly where I was, as I was. Present in the flow of all that is when I stop trying to compartmentalize my body from my head and acting as if my body’s trying to play a con job on my mind.

When I get present, my dreams get real.

Our Silence Matters

Years ago, when a man I’d been involved with, stalked me and my then-teenage daughters feared what might happen if he ever caught me walking alone at night, we took a self-protection course together.

“You can’t control what others will do but you can ‘safety harden’ yourself and your perimeter so that you have some control of what you do if the worst happens,” the former police sergeant teaching the course told us.

Safety hardening our perimeter included cutting down bushes around the house where someone might hide. Putting motion detector lights all around the house. Installing an alarm system and meeting with the watch command at our community police station so they would know if one of us called, they needed to respond. Right now.

One day I mentioned to the instructor how ridiculous I felt when I left the house, got into my car and immediately locked the doors. It feels so weak, I told him. Like I’m living in fear.

He told me it was just good practice. You live in the inner city of a large city. There are bad people all around. You need to protect yourself.

At the time, I didn’t question his advice. It was true. The man stalking me had already once jumped out of the bushes and tried to stop me as I took a shortcut to a girlfriend’s house.

I knew he was right. But still, the idea that I had to do the work to stop him from attacking me, grated.

It’s like when we ask/wonder, when a woman is murdered by a partner who had a history of violence, “Why didn’t she leave?”

Given that a reported 19,000 women and children are turned away from shelters every night in Candaa, shouldn’t we be asking, “Where will she go?”

And, “Why does he think it’s his right to beat her?” “Why does he believe he has the right to take her life?” “Why does he think violence against women is acceptable?” “Why do we blame the victim?”

On Tuesday, 8 women were tragically murdered by one man in Atlanta. He has a sex addiction he told police. He thought killing those women would help him.

And while this tragedy also puts a spotlight on anti Asian-racism, it is also a story not told about violence against sex-workers. Sex workers experience violence in the workplace at significantly higher levels than others. One review of systemic violence against sex workers states that often police don’t register these offences because of the circumstances under which the violence occurred and the workers don’t report them because of historical abuse by police. This means, on a global basis, there is little research on the issue, and thus, few demands that something be done to protect sex workers.

On March 3rd of this year, in London, England, a 33-year old woman disappeared while walking home. Her remains were recently discovered in woods 50 kilometres from where she had been walking. A police officer is arrested and charged with murder. A spotlight shines on stranger violence against women. Demonstrations follow. More arrests. Calls for investigations of police use of force. Sarah Everard has become the spark that ignited a public outcry against stranger violence against women. She was young. blond and white.

Hers is a story about violence against women that has rallied the voices of millions of women to stand up and demand “We take back the night”. It is also a story about the untold stories of millions of women worldwide whose stories never inspired a mass outpouring of demands the violence stop. Their stories did not make headlines. They did not fit into the paradigm of what we see as unacceptable violence against women because, most often, their skin was not white or they were engaged in high-risk activities that put them in the line of being targeted by male perpetrators of violence. Like the sex-trade.

Few (I would hope all) would disagree. Gender violence is unacceptable.

Our silence is also unacceptable.

Violence against women and non-binary individuals, no matter race or occupation or the relationship between perpetrator and victim is more than just a story of violence. It is a story about our mores and values. Our humanity.

Focussing on just high-profile cases diminishes the lives of those who historically have never had a voice nor the opportunity, and often right, to defend themselves. To stand up for themselves. To have their stories known.

We are contributing to the belief, some lives matter more than others.

Black lives matter.

Asian lives matter.

Indigenous lives matter.

Every life cut short by violence matters.

Let’s start hearing all the stories that matter so that together, we can create a world where no one fears dying beneath violent hands.

Because, I still wonder, years later, when I asked for police support at my local police station when I feared the man who was stalking me, were they so attentive because there was an inherent yet silent bias at play that none of us saw? Because I presented as an attractive woman with white skin, an impressive title on my business card and no history of interactions with the law, were they predisposed to believe me and come to my aid the night I did call? Because they did come that night. Fast. I wonder how it might have been different if I looked different?

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These are the moments – #ShePersisted – No 77

There are moments when the mundane feels so heavy, the woes so full of dark clouds gathering and the worries so close in, that I forget I have room to breathe. To move. To do. To be. To change.

In those close-in to the darkness moments, it’s easy to forget that I am part of something bigger than just these woes and worries illuminating my flaws with their 1,000 watt klieg-worthy glaring light. Or their words spewing out from TV newscasters mouths or plumping up Twitter threads full of bile or just cluttering up my day with their insistence I pay attention to all that is wrong with me and the world today. 

In those moments of forgetting all the room around me for other things to take up the space of woe and worry, I will tell myself, there’s nothing I can do. I am too flawed. Too tired. Too lost to change anything.

It is in those moments I must remind myself that I can breathe. Not just your everyday, ordinary take a gulp of air and keep on going kind of breath, but a deep, sinking into my toes, filling me from the bottoms up kind of breath that soothes and replenishes, nurtures and reminds me to Stop-Breathe-Listen-See-Feel-Be-Here-Now-I am the Breath of Life – kind of breath.

In that breath where I find myself breathing in the exquisite beauty of all there is Here-Now -in that breath empty of the flotsam of life swimming around in a sea of news and forgettable TV shows I watch only because I’ve forgotten I’m part of something so much bigger, so much greater, so much more mysterious, magical and mystical than this everyday life I tell myself is my burden I gotta keep trudging through, on and on and on, I am reminded – life is a gift. A beautiful, exquisite, priceless gift. Mysterious, magical, mystical, 4th of July fireworks exploding, rollercoaster-fast heart-pounding fierce, breathless kind of gift wrapped up in the miracle of life.

In that breath I am reminded, I Am Alive.

What a beautiful gift. To be alive. To be. Here. Now.

These are the moments to savour.

These are the moments to remember. To grab onto and never let go. To remind myself, I have power over me. I have power in me. I have power. To change. To get accountable. To not be ‘my flaws’ but to see my flaws as part of my beautiful, exquisite human magnificence.

And in those moments I get to choose.

To make excuses for how I am or celebrate who I am, right now, in all my human contradictions, complexities, curves and straight lines adding up to one amazing being who has the power to stand up, speak up, and take action to create change that matters. Change that could just save my own life from being my excuse for not living it truly, madly, deeply in love with all I am and all I do and all I have in this moment, right now.

These are the moments to live. Always.

And to remember to Breathe.

Breathe it all in

and Begin Again.

Breath by life-giving breath to stop making excuses for myself and start living fully accountable for this life that is so precious, so divinely orchestrated, so…. mine.

Walking In Prayer

I found a wounded bird yesterday.

A girlfriend and I had met for a walk. I’d started at the off-leash so Beaumont wouldn’t feel too constrained walking for an hour on-leash. We headed east, along the path that winds its way along the river, my friend and I chatting and catching up. Beaumont walking beside us (between tugs on the leash). We walked about forty-five minutes in one direction before turning around to walk back to our starting point.

It was then that we spied the bird. Its tiny red and black feathered body lying in the middle of the sidewalk. Shivering. Barely breathing. Almost still.

We couldn’t leave her so I used one of Beau’s bags to gently pick her up and cradle her in my hands. I could feel her tiny heart beating fast. She was alive.

So we kept walking back to our cars in the hope that she was simply stunned by an encounter with another bird or perhaps a car.

As we walked, I kept breathing on her while my girlfriend held Beau’s leash.

As we walked, I whispered words of encouragement and hope over her tiny, inert body.

I pray for you wings to fly free. I pray for you blue sky days. And whether you body recovers and you flutter your wings or take your last breath dreaming of flight, know that you are held in hands full of Love.

Step. Breathe warm air onto her body. Step. Breathe warm air onto her body.

A walking prayer.

She still wasn’t moving by the time we got back to our cars so I tucked her gently onto the front passenger seat, ensured the seat warmer was on and Beau and I drove home.

At home, C.C. found a box for her. I lay my electric heating pad in the bottom, covered it with a towel and carefully removed the plastic bag I’d carried her in while I placed her on the warm bed we’d made.

As she settled into the nest she opened her eyes and looked at me. She wasn’t shivering any more. She just wasn’t moving very much.

I waited awhile to see if her strength returned. She moved around a bit but never tried to spread her wings.

As I’ve done in the past when I’ve found wounded wildlife, I called the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conversation (AWIC) for guidance. They rescue injured and orphaned wildlife throughout the province and provide professional care to support the rehabilitation and release of all rescued wildlife. During the day, they have volunteers who will come and pick up the animals, but, if there are no volunteers available, they have a network of vets in the city where you can take the animal for care until AIWC can pick it up in the morning.

Always, whenever I’ve called AWIC, the volunteer at the end of the line has been kind, helpful, caring.

Always, the experience has reminded me of the importance of taking care of one another.

Birdsong, watching the songbirds hop about in the bushes and trees in our backyard, spying them sitting on branches as I walk, always brings me joy. It’s as if the birds know we humans need their song and presence to lift our spirits.

We need to take care of the birds.

We found a wounded bird yesterday. I carried her in my hands and breathed warm air onto her almost weightless body,

She reminded me of how easy it is to take care of one another. How sharing a smile, a kind word, a gentle gesture eases the burden for those who have fallen along life’s paths.

I do not know if that bird will fly again or if she will gain her angel’s wings. I do know the songs she sang, the joy she brought into this world is a gift of nature that matters to our world.

Whether she takes to the skies again or gains her angel wings, I am grateful for our time together. She reminded me of the need to always walk gentle of heart, connected to nature.

Learning to live in harmony with nature is critical to the survival of our species. Living in harmony begins with taking care of one another.

We found a wounded bird yesterday. Her song was silent. Her wings still.

In our brief time together she reminded me of the need to care for one another. She reminded me that there is power in prayer.

And in that encounter, I am reminded of the constancy of my mother’s prayers. Tomorrow marks one year since my mother took her last breath. As I sit in the silence of the morning, as I walk in the woods, along the river, on busy city streets, I hear her whispered incantations showering me with care. They rustle in my heart like a sweet, gentle birdsong filling the air with Love.

It’s Sunday which means, it’s time for another Sunday’s with Beaumont conversation.

Today, Beau tries a little Latin with his it’s time to ‘carpet the day’ with fun attitude! Ok. It’s actually carpe diem but his Latin isn’t very good…

He does hope you come and join in the fun on his blog today! He’s hoping you click the link below and come play!

CLICK HERE

Love Pours In

Thoughts from my meditation on the question of Love — it is the theme this week of the year long Contemplative Listening and Writing course I began earlier this month.

Holding onto nothing, I become all that I am.

With every exhale, Love rushes into the spaces left behind where once I held onto everything.

Holding onto nothing, Love is all there is.

Holding onto nothing, Love pours in.

_______

Love Pours In

©2021  Louise Gallagher

I forget
where breath begins
and hold onto nothing
but my last breath
fearing there will never be
another to fill
the void.

Letting go
life rushes in and fills
the space
with nothing
more than
my last breath
moving into
the next.

In the ebb
of life’s
constant flow
holding on
fills the void
and I become
each breath
letting go.

And Love pours in.

I wrote this poem several years ago. I was reminded of it this morning when I started to share a painting I created on the weekend and realized, I needed to speak of Love.

I wanted to hold onto what I had intended. I had to let go.

And as it always does. That’s where love found me. That’s where love poured into the spaces created in letting go.

May Every Child Know Love

Rain. Sleet. Fog. Snow. Blue skies. Darkness falling.

Roger’s Pass

It was all present on my drive home from Vancouver to Calgary on Wednesday. I had planned to drive through on Tuesday but a snowstorm derailed my plans and I got to spend an extra day with my grandchildren, daughter and son-in-love.

I thought about staying until the weekend but the forecast was for more snow later in the week and into the weekend. Best to ‘carpe diem’ and slip through between the storm past and the storm forecast.

I left early – my goal, to reach home before darkness fell.

I just made it.

My heart is full. My heart arches with longing to once again hold these precious little one’s in my arms. To laugh with them. To read stories and make them up too! To sing silly songs and watch Blippi, my grandson’s favourite TV show, so that I can hear his laughter and watch him do his ‘excavator dance’.

And now I’m home. Separated by the miles and miles of land between us and the snow-capped mountains that edge the horizon, their serrated ridges a reminder of my grandson’s dinosaur inspired imitations when he gets out of the bath. Wrapped in his blue towel with the stuffed dinosaur head, he stomps around the house shaking his body from side-to-side and waving his arms as he roars. I pretend to be scared, cover my face and cry out, “Oh No! A dinosaur! I’m so scared!” And then, he laughs and giggles and we go through it all over again. And again. And again.

I remember the moment my daughters were born. I remember that feeling of pure all-encompassing love that descended upon me and enveloped me with its abiding presence. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with love that I felt like I’d never breathe deeply again. I remember holding them and never wanting to let go.

And then I did. Let go. I had no choice. To be their parent meant creating space for them to find their wings and learn how to fly.

And then, my grandson and now my granddaughter arrived and I feel those feelings of not wanting to let go and I know those feeling of being so deeply immersed in their presence the world outside fades and I feel enveloped in Love. Consumed. Captivated. Mesmerized. Entranced. Enchanted.

The difference is, this time I get to experience it all while witnessing my daughter transform into the kind of mother every child deserves. Loving. Kind. Patient. Imaginative. Creative. Caring. Funny. Playful. Permissive without being domineering. Disciplined without being controlling.

She is soft spoken even in the face of a tired child’s tantrum. She lovingly honours each child’s individual needs, creating space for their unique personalities to shine through. Even at three months old, she respects her daughter’s expressions, responding with loving-attention no matter the time of day or night. She creates a safe and courageous container of love for their children to shine and learn and grow and flourish.

The sadness of leaving is lightened by the memories of my time spent with them all and the knowing that, in Alexis and my son-in-love, these two precious beings have been gifted parents who will love fiercely and stand steadfast in their promise to love them forever and always.

What a beautiful gift of Love. For their children. Each other. The world.

May all children in this world know they are loved. They are safe. They are precious and unique.

Namaste.

Painting Through The Shudders

There is a world of curious ‘mishaps’ beneath this painting. A world of giving into the questions. Like, “Hmmmm…. if I do [this], I wonder what will happen?” Or, “I really like the way it looks now. I wonder what would happen if I let go of the need to ‘like it’?”

Letting go of the need to ‘like it’ is hard for me. I want my art to be pretty. To be pleasing to the eye. To not disturb.

And that’s why I art journal. To strengthen my ‘letting go’ muscles.

I like to create ‘pretty’.

This is the first monoprint – I really, really liked it.

Pretty doesn’t always serve me well. Pretty can mean I’m playing it safe. Playing it for affirmation. Playing it for the outcome – which will hopefully become something I can sell.

Art Journalling isn’t about creating work to sell. It’s about selling yourself on the idea that creating for the pure joy of creating is a form of meditation, revelation and restoration.

This page had a couple of iterations. The first one above, which I really, really liked. The one on the right, which I hesitated to share because it makes my creative nerves shudder. And then the final one which makes me smile.

The Shudders

The really, really liked one got buried beneath the shudders one because I was curious about what would happen if I painted botanicals on top.

The final piece, which is all about experimentation – and a lesson in letting go – is because I felt compelled to cover up the ‘shudders’.

The blue petals are created from the masking tape I used to block off the edges of the page in my art journal. Its patterns were made as I monoprinted on the paper.

When I pulled them off the page after the paint had dried, I didn’t immediately crumble them up and throw them into the wastebasket. The patterns that had developed as I monoprinted fascinated me so I carefully hung them from the edge of my worktable. I didn’t have any idea what I would use them for, or if I would use them for anything. They simply intrigued me so I decided to save them.

It wasn’t until I ended up with ‘the shudders’ on top of the original monoprinted background and thought, ‘Oh my. Now that’s not particularly pleasing,’ that I thought about using the saved blue masking tape.

Which meant, I had to dive in and pull another monoprint of the page and start reworking it. (The white striated background)

And here’s the thing.

How we do one thing is how we do all things.

I was afraid of ruining the monoprint I really liked and hesitated to do anything else to it. But, I also knew my hesitation was fear-based and wanted to confront my fear – which I am very familiar with.

It’s all about that ‘precious thing’ syndrome. Holding onto things because I deem them precious, or because I don’t know what I might do with them and don’t want to let them go because I fear I’ll be limiting my options later.

Like the blue masking tape. I didn’t have a really good reason to hold onto it other than that it intrigued me. Sure, finding a use for it was a bonus but if I step back and reflect on things I’ve held onto because of the fear of letting go was high, I’d find a wealth of material for personal exploration of my ‘fear of letting go’ syndrome.

Like right now. I fear letting this blog post go because I’m not sure I’ve really explored it adequately.

But, I also know this is a lifelong exploration for me. This post doesn’t have to be perfect or beautiful, or even witty.

In fact, it doesn’t need to be anything other than a reflection of where I’m at right now and how I’m navigating these spaces.

The biggest ‘fear’ to overcome right now, is my fear of showing ‘my ugly’.

And the ‘shudder painting’ is all about ‘my ugly’.

I don’t like it. I want to ignore it. I want to pretend it didn’t happen.

Life, like art, doesn’t work that way. ‘The ugly’ is as vital to a rich and beautiful life as the pretty.

Finding value in ‘the ugly’ enriches my life. It creats vibrant, unexpected gifts that keep expanding possibility into sacred knowing of the essence of who I am when I let go of being anything and anyone other than who and how I am in this moment right now.

Real. Vulnerable. Embodied in the present moment. Breathing into the joy held within the darkness and the light. The joy and the sorrow. The beauty and the ugly. The known and the unknown.

Namaste

Nature Will Always Have Its Way

Autumn leaves turn green to gold to rust. A bluebell clings to summer’s embrace.

The calendar turns another page. Memory clings to falling beauty.

The seasons turn. The sun rises and sets and rises again. The river flows and freezes and flows again, a fluid stream of time flowing freely through memory’s frozen banks.

The end becomes the beginning of spring becoming the end again and again.

And through it all, beauty ripples in seasonal glory unblemished by memories of clinging vines locked in winter’s icy kisses.

Seasons turn.

Life moves forward with time, never back.

Nature will always have its way.