Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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The Window through Which We Look

The Window Through Which We Look

A young couple moved into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they were eating breakfast, The young woman saw her neighbor hanging the wash outside. ‘That laundry is not very clean,’ she said. ‘She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.’

Her husband looked on, but remained silent.

Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, The young woman would make the same comments.

About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband:

‘Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this.’

The husband said, ‘I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.’

And so it is with life.

What we see when watching others depends on the window through which we look.

Author Unknown

It is a sometimes human practice to sit in our easy chairs and judge others. To view their world through the comfort of our view of the world to see the defects on their side, rather than notice the cloudiness of our own lens.

I often hear this in the homeless-serving sector from those not immersed in the work.  “Why do they drink?”  “Why don’t they plan better for financial hardship?” “How can they let their children down like that [by bringing them to a homeless shelter]?

No matter the injustice about which we are speaking, or the social condition which we are viewing, our judgments come from a lack of understanding, an inability/unknowingness of how to step out of our own construct of how the world should be according to us, to see the world according to another’s lens and position in it. Living within our own world view, it is challenging to see how our privilege has provided us more grace, more room to make mistakes, more capacity to weather life’s storms. How another’s choices are not based on a ‘desire to create worse’ but rather a lack of opportunity or knowing of how to create better.

As I journey through this week, may I always remember that no matter my view, it is different than someone else’s. Not right. Not wrong. Just difference.

No one sits where I sit just as I do not walk in someone else’s shoes. May I always remember to check the cloudiness and cleanliness of my own view. That no matter my view, may I remember, it is more compelling and compassionate to make room for other’s to share their own views, rather than make them see mine as the right and only view through which they must live.


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Today is a special day

It was cold on January 30th, 1988 when she was born. Her father and I were just finishing off touches to her bedroom when my water broke, two weeks before my due date. There was a nurses’ strike happening, the temperature was sub-Arctic and I hadn’t quite finished doing all the things I wanted to get done before her arrival as Alexis’ little sister. I wanted to wait. At least until after the nurses’ strike. My doctor informed me waiting was not an option. My daughter agreed. She arrived just after 3pm in the afternoon of the 30th. Two weeks early. 6lbs 1 oz. A perfect miracle of life.

And that is how she has rolled ever since.

She doesn’t wait for things to happen. She makes them happen. She doesn’t wait for the world to catch up. She leads the parade.

Inspiring. Thoughtful. Thought-provoking. Lele (as we call her) likes to challenge ideas, shake-up the status quo, see things through different perspectives.

And she likes to invite everyone into her creative way of seeing the world.

Once, when she was about eight, she really, really wanted a dog. When she asked me if we could get one, I told her I didn’t think so. I was a single-working parent of two young daughters. I didn’t want to have to care for an animal. A few days later, she asked me if we could get an elephant. Of course not, I laughed. An elephant’s too big. What about a giraffe? Same thing, I told her — plus the fact our roof wasn’t high enough to accommodate an animal that tall. She pretended to think about it some more and then asked if we could get a tiger. Tiger’s don’t do well in the city, I replied. Oh, she said. Do dogs? Of course, I casually responded. And they’re not too big or too tall for our house are they? No. They’re not. Good, she said. Then a dog is perfect.

It wasn’t until two weeks later when we were on our way to the SPCA to check out dogs that I realized I’d been outsmarted by my 8 year old daughter.

And when we came home with Bella, an 80lb shaggy black bear of a dog, I realized I’d been out-smarted again. I’d insisted that if we got a dog, it would be a small one.

Lele was right though. We needed that big shaggy girl in our lives. And so did their dad, she would later convince me.  Travelling back and forth between houses with the girls, Bella had become his best friend. She’ll only be a block away, mom, she told me when she asked if Bella could go live with their father. You’ve got us. He needs someone in the house with him. And so Bella, the dog she’d lobbied for so convincingly took up residence in their father’s house a block away.

Because it was the right thing to do and doing the right thing is at the heart of who Lele is. She cares about people, animals, everything. And beyond caring, she turns up. She takes action.

During the floods in 2013, she volunteered around the city helping to sweep out flooded basements, carry out sodden belongings of strangers. It didn’t matter what the job. She was needed. She was there.

It’s who she is. It’s how she is in this world. Loving. Laughing. Living life her way.

And I am so blessed. She has gifted my life with grace and love not to mention a lot of quirky humour. And when I really needed it, she gave me the forgiveness I so desperately needed and kept on loving me just the way I am.

Today is my youngest daughter’s birthday. My life and the world are a better place because she’s in it.


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Life is Messy.

My life is not perfect.

I like it that way.

Once upon a time, I didn’t like it that way. Once upon a time, I believed a perfect life was an antidote to everything I did not like in my life. I spent a lot of time trying to achieve perfection.

And then I fell.

In falling, I discovered the perfection of being in the mess of life. Because, let’s face it, life is messy.

Learning to accept life’s messiness has many gifts. Peace of mind. Contentment. Joy. Life without fear.

When I was striving to create ‘the perfect life’, I spent a lot of time in fear. Fear I’d never make it. Fear I’d be found out as a fraud (perfection is not attainable but I sure tried to act like it was). Fear I’d never reach my goal (which was true because it’s impossible to reach something that does not exist.)

Living in the messy, I am free to celebrate every moment, triumphs and mishaps, highs and lows, falling and flight.

I am free to dance in the rain, and walk blithely under an umbrella.

I am free to sing out loud, and sit in silent contemplation.

In the messy, there is no right way. There is only the way I choose that works for me. And when I choose to walk in love, creating better in the world around me, my way works for me and the world around me.

Once upon a time, I thought a perfect life was the one where I’d always be happy, always feel ‘on my game’, always have everything I wanted.

In real time, I know striving for ‘the perfect life’ is not a goal worth achieving.

In real time, I relish the messy because the messy is full of juicy moments to explore as I dive deep into living from the inside out and outside in, breathing deeply into the beauty and wonder of every facet of my world.

In the messy, I’m okay with beauty and the beast, yin and yang, yoda and Darth Vader. Because in the messy, there is light and dark, all and nothing. And in the all and nothing of this precious life, there is everything I need to know happiness, joy, contentment, love. Because, in the messy. there is perfection in the messy when I am loving all of me, inside and out.

Namaste.

 


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Mistakes are a place to grow.

There is a responsibility in making a difference. A universal pact that the difference should, do no harm.

In  Ethical Intelligence by Bruce Weinstein, PhD, the first principle Dr. Weinstein cites as essential to living an ethical life is ‘To do no harm’. He goes on to say that if you must do harm, minimize it. The example he gives is when you have no choice but to terminate an employee, do it in a way that retains their dignity, that respects and honours them as well as you and your organization.

Recently, in an effort to do something good for someone, I harmed them. It wasn’t intentional, harm seldom is when we come from a place of wanting to do good. But, in the act of creating ‘a moment’, I didn’t consider the consequences of some of the aspects to what I was doing and the recipient felt unheard and unseen.

I am 100% accountable for my footprint in the world and how I walk in other people’s lives.

When I take a misstep, when I create harm or hurt in another’s life, intentional or unintentional, it is my responsibility to get accountable and clean up my mess.

The most effective way I know to do that is to acknowledge my mistake, apologize (no excuses, no rationalizations, no blame-game), get accountable and commit to making amends and doing better.

Recently, I made a difference I didn’t want to make.

It provided an opportunity to recommit to doing my best, being my best, to paying attention, staying focused and present in what I do.

We all make mistakes. Mistakes can make a lasting impression that creates ‘worse’ when we do not clean them up. We can pretend, ignore and carry-on blithely,

or,

We can hold ourselves accountable for what we’ve done.

Mistakes are an opportunity to create better when we  turn up, pay attention, speak our truth and be 100% accountable for ourselves. When we turn up without expectation of our mistakes being made okay by the other and instead use our mistakes as an opportunity to be vulnerable, to create intimacy, closeness, better, we create a space where resentment does not find fertile ground to grow as we move closer in love and forgiveness.

In my mistake I have taken action. Embraced the opportunity to learn and grow. I have apologized and am committed to stay present in my desire to make a difference and do better every day.

It is the best I can do and my best is good enough.

Namaste.


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On this day, dare boldly to be Kind. Brave. More.

I am lying in the border lands between awake and dreaming.

I don’t want to get up. I’d rather stay snug and cozy in my bed, listening to my husband’s breathing, Beaumont’s snuffling from where he sleeps on the floor on the far side of the room.

A thought floats into my mind. There are many ways to raise a child and only one place to do it. Home.

Work rises early.

A family emergency homeless shelter never sleeps.

I must get up.

I get up.

It is still dark out. January days slowly lengthen. Morning has yet to lighten.

I paddle barefoot into the kitchen. Beaumont follows.

I turn the kettle on so I can make a cup of hot lemon and honey. Beaumont pads over to the far side of the dining room table, by the deck doors, plops his body on the ground and goes back to sleep.

Mug of hot lemon and honey in my hand, I light the candle on my desk, settle into my chair and fire up my laptop.

Outside, the river flows quickly beneath the bridge. A city bus travels westward. I cannot see the passengers inside. The lights of several cars follow. Unseen, the city slowly awakens farther to the west.

I sip my honey and lemon. Take a deep breath. Close my eyes. Quiet descends.

David Kanigan of the I Can’t Sleep blog shared a quote this morning from Kelsey Danielle of Misguided Ghosts.

I felt my soul stir in her words. My heart give that little flutter like when you meet someone for the first time only to discover you have a world of friends and experiences in common. Possibilities of friendship expand.

I move into that space of familiarity, comfort. I begin to write.

Morning awakens. The day awaits. It is filled with unexplored opportunities to be kinder, bolder, braver, more.

On this day, Dare boldly to be kind. Dare boldly to give your heart away. Life is calling you to awaken.

 

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Let kindness start with me.

Years ago a friend asked me, “If there were one word on your headstone that completed this sentence, “She was a_______________woman”, what would you want it to be?”

Kind, I replied. Definitely kind.

When I look back on 2018 I look for where kindness has cast ripples outward, creating gentle sailing for those around me. Amidst their smooth waters I see currents where discord arose because of something I did or said. I choose forgiveness and keep moving into my heart. As I move into the moment, casting my thoughts to the year ahead, I whisper a prayer of gratitude for so many opportunities to learn and grow and make a plea for courage and strength to carry me forward.

Let kindness infuse each step. Let kindness be my ripple effect.

From kindness, acts of courage, of compassion, or greatness evolve. Joy rises, within me and around me. Love radiates from me and through me and all around me.

From kindness, I soften my heart, gentle my words and smooth my spirit’s journey. When I look more kindly upon myself, I see the world as a kinder place.

From kindness, I step softly into the world, conscious of where my footprints tread, conscious of the footprints I leave behind. May my footprints disturb no one with ripples of discord.

Ah but, you say. In this world, how can you tread anywhere without disturbing someone? Don’t you have to be a ‘yes girl’ to not disturb anyone? Doesn’t that make you weak?

Not when I stand true to my beliefs. To my values. Not when I express my truth, in Love, without fearing the outcome.

But… Isn’t that like not leaving your mark on life? On the world? Don’t you want to make a difference?

Yes. I do. Want to make a difference.

And I want my difference to be remembered in how people feel about themselves, their lives, their possibilities. Not about me.

Working at a homeless shelter I am greeted with countless opportunities everyday to be kind. To be caring. To be compassionate and tolerant and fair.

With those we serve.

Where I am not so kind and caring and compassionate and tolerant is with the people on ‘the other-side of the street’. On mainstreet. The world ‘out there’. With those I consider, in my judgement and not so kind viewpoint, should know better.

When we know better we do better.

And sometimes, I view some of those I meet on ‘mainstreet’ as lacking in the knowing they need to do better.

And sometimes, in my determination of what ‘they lack’, I am less than kind, less than compassionate, less than tolerant.

Hello? Who am I kidding? Who am I to criticize?

I cannot be kind with some, and not with others and think of myself as a woman of integrity. I cannot create compassion in some corners of my world and carry discord in others without jeopardizing my peace of mind. And when I am intolerant with some, including myself, I am creating a world of discord around me.

It is the 100% accountability factor.

To be a woman of integrity. To radiate joy and peace and harmony throughout my world, I must move through myself and every moment, every encounter in Love, creating a ripple effect of kindness, compassion and tolerance all around me.

It is the way to happiness. To peace of mind. To calmness of spirit and soul. It is the way.

Because, no matter how much I might think I’m fooling myself that what I am saying is ‘the truth’ when I speak disrespectfully of someone else or treat them with little care or thought of the impact of my words or actions, I am acting without integrity. I am not being kind.

And so, I turn the mirror back to me and look lovingly upon the cloudy imperfection of my reflection.

In loving kindness, I accept the one I see and let go of the fear she will never be enough.

She already is. In all her human imperfections.

We all are.


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Moving beyond the fears of the ‘there and then’.

Years ago, when I began blogging, I set a goal of writing frequently. It quickly became apparent that ‘frequently’ left too much room for interpretation. I needed a specific measurement. I changed my goal to ‘write daily’.

It worked.

Today I have published 3,425 posts. Enough for several books worth!

I think it’s time to broaden my goal, because ultimately, writing daily is now my habit, which was the underlying intention of writing a blog — to create a safe, courageous container for me to express myself and free myself to be me while also instilling in myself the habit of writing daily.

Writing a blog for 12 years is different than writing in my journal for 12 years. In journal writing, I am an audience of one. The intention is to simply express my thoughts and feelings and allow them to ‘be’ so that I do not have to carry them around inside of me.

Writing on my blog, my intention has always been to share my experiences so that I can find value in all things – and thus, inspire others to find value in all things. No matter how dark, bad, difficult, challenging the circumstance, whatever I share, I must always find the value in whatever it is so that I can create better in the world around me.

What I’ve discovered is that in the act of setting an intention to ‘find value in all things so that I can inspire others to do the same’, I have also developed the habit of seeing the possibility in all things.

Writing every day, when coupled with my intention, has been good for my soul, my spirit, my heart, my life, my world.

But where to from here?

An interesting question as I explore my word for 2019, ‘surrender’.

One of the limiting beliefs I hold is a deeply buried fear of ‘exposure’.  It’s a weird one because it’s not really about ‘success’ or ‘failure’. It’s messed up in a fear of ‘what if people see who I truly am and reject me?’

Now, in my head, I know how ‘silly’ that fear is. But that’s the thing about limiting beliefs and the critter inside who fuels them — Limiting beliefs are fear-driven responses originally created long ago in the there and then to keep us safe in what was the here and now at the time.

Except, the here and now moved on. Our limiting beliefs didn’t. They stayed stuck in the root cause of whatever caused them to be created, deeply buried in the fears that ignited them into being. And they can only be released when we acknowledge them and lovingly expose them to the light of day.

One of the things I’ve learned is that limiting beliefs and the games they ignite are always present in my life. What has changed is my capacity to see where I’m playing them or falling into their trap, and my capacity to stop the game and get conscious of what I’m doing and where I’m at in every moment.

Where once, my self-defeating games dictated my actions, they no longer have as much power to disrupt my status quo and pull me off center.

Sure, there are times when I get triggered and respond inappropriately or without thought. But, rather than staying stuck in my victim role, or defiant child attitude, or stubborn teenager, or whatever attitude I’ve taken on, I am able to bring my integrity to bear and let go of ‘attitude’ to allow myself the grace of being real and present with myself.

So what does this have to do with a new goal for my writing?

I’ve been kind of stuck in thinking if I just keep writing, the path will appear and I will know what to do. (Which deep down is really all about my fear of being exposed)

Surrender isn’t about just letting the flow take me where it will. It’s one of the contradictions of ‘flow’. It’s not about being like a jelly fish, letting the tide’s ebb and flow take me where it will.

Surrender is about giving into and becoming one with the deeper divine wisdom within, trusting that, embraced in its presence, I am safe to step beyond my comfort zone into the unknown, confident that whatever I do or encounter, I will be supported by Love. In Love’s embrace, no action is wrong or right. It is just the action I am taking to create better in my world.

And the journey continues… Still musing…. Still evolving.. Still discerning what it means to surrender…

 

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