Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher

Thank you for all things (My daily intention)

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What will you do with your 30,000 days?

Three separate yet connected events inspired this post.

  1. An interview on CBC radio, The Current, where several authors including, Neil Parischa, shared the books that changed their lives. Parischa talked about the life expectancy of the average Canadian as being 30,000 days. That got my attention.
  2. On Monday, I co-presented to a group of first year medical students on homelessness in our city. Before the session began, I chatted with a palliative care doctor who has started a program here in Calgary to deliver palliative care to people dying in homelessness. His passion, his commitment to provide care that respects the individual, treats them with dignity and provides them support in their final days was inspiring.
  3. A share on FB of an article on CBC Radio on palliative care in the homeless sector in Toronto. (Thank you @NFalvo )

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And then, I heard the 30,000 days quote and wondered, what will I do with my remaining days — whatever the number I have left.

What will you do?

By the law of averages, I have used up approximately 2/3rds of my 30,000. Like everyone of my 30,000, the next 10,000 are precious. Filling them with heart-driven purpose is vital to my well-being.

But what about the 2/3rds already used up? How well did I employ them?

Fact is, I cannot change the days past. They are gone. Used up. Spent.

Today is all I have in my bank account. How will I spend it? Because, spend it I must. I can’t save it for a rainy day. I can’t deposit it into some huge cauldron where days not spent are accumulated so that I can get the biggest bang for my buck by using all my days together.

I only have today. How will I fill it with meaning and purpose? How will I inspire the best version of myself today?

How will you?

Here are 3 + 1 ideas to inspire you on living this day of your 30,000 well.

  1. Say ‘Thank you’ to yesterday. 

Gratitude is the seed of joy. Be thankful for everything that appears on your path and in your life. No matter how dark or grim, no matter how bright and shiny, be present to the opportunity to experience it by acknowledging everything as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to become. And remember, just because something appears on your path, doesn’t mean you have to keep it there or pick it up or hold onto it forever. It simply means, it’s on your path — what you do with it is your choice. Choose compassionately.

2. Let yesterday go.

Whatever you did, or didn’t do, whatever embarrassing moment, hurt or slight you perceived/received, let it go. Holding onto slights from the past will not improve the quality of your life today. It will only get in the way of living today freely. (And yes, I know. They were mean. They didn’t hear you. They didn’t care for you the way your deserve.  You cannot change what happened, just as you cannot change what they did. You can change how you hold on to it, how you respond. Find a way to respond that sets you free of carrying someone else’s stuff.) And if you caused someone pain or hurt, acknowledge it, apologize, make amends, commit to doing better and let it go.

3.  Live today free of guilt.

A friend was telling me how they feel so guilty about the fact they have….. and then they listed the beautiful things in their life. Later, another friend was telling me about how guilty they feel about something they’d done to someone else that they knew they shouldn’t have done. They’d already apologized but the guilt was killing them, they said.

Guilt is just a way of staying trapped in the ego. Guilt keeps you roiling around in the past, preventing you from living compassionately, authentically, lovingly in today. Guilt is not your friend. It’s the enemy of joy. It’s the killer of hapiness. Make the decision today to let go of guilt. To get out of your ego’s desire to be the centre of attention (good or bad) and set yourself free to live in this moment right now unburdened of guilt. You can’t change whatever was done to you, or whatever you did. You can change its hold on your joy and appreciation of this moment right now. Let guilt go.

Whatever days we each have, living them as if each one counts is what matters most. Because everyday counts. Every  moment creates the possibility of the next being filled with the more of what you want in your life — what ever that is.

Which leads me to the +1 idea.

4. Whatever you do today, make sure it creates ‘the more’ of what you want more of in your life.

Whatever you are faced with today, choose to do the things that bring you closer to your ‘more’. In your ‘more’ is where your passion lives.


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The Gift Project

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“I’ve been sober 18 months!” 

It is the first thing she says to me when I see her. I haven’t seen her in at least 4 years. Not since I worked at the emergency shelter.

I barely recognize her. I am thrilled to see she is alive.

We share a big hug.

Her eyes are clear. She’s grounded. Smiling.

She’s living independently in her own apartment with support from Keys to Recovery. Keys provides housing and supports to individuals leaving addictions treatment who would otherwise end up back in homelessness. It’s hard enough to maintain sobriety after treatment. Living in homelessness multiplies the risks of lapsing.

We are in the apartment of another man in the building. He has offered up his delightful, homey space to our video crew so that other tenants, all clients of Keys, can come in and film Christmas wishes on film. We’ll be putting the wishes up on a website (thegiftproject.ca) which will be live in the next couple of weeks.

Everyone on the film crew is a volunteer.

Corkscrew Media, has volunteered time and energy to be part of The Gift Project.

“It’s been meaningful for all of us,” he says as filming wraps up. “Life-changing even.”

Along with the tenants who have agreed to go on camera, and a staff member from Keys, there are five of us present. Brent Kawchuck, Corskscrew’s Executive Producer, Mike the camera man, Blake the director, Paul Long a Calgary-based writer/creative director and myself. About a month ago I had mentioned my idea for The Gift Project to Paul and asked if he would be willing to help out.

He didn’t hesitate.

He immediately checked in with Brent and suddenly, an idea went from ‘conceptual’ to being ‘in action’. Paul’s also connected with Six Degrees Studios and they agreed to do the sound editing.

All pro bono. All because they want to make a difference by being part of a project that aims to connect people to what lies at the heart of Christmas.

It was a question Blake asked each of the participants yesterday.

“What does Christmas mean to you?”

The answers were heartfelt. Poignant.

Belonging. Love. Hope. Being together. Sharing with family and friends. Childrens’ laughter.

“When I was a kid it was all about gifts, the receiving,” said one of the interviewees. “Now, it’s all about gratitude and what I can give others.”

Sobriety is the gift that keeps on giving. And giving.

For some of the individuals interviewed, this Christmas will be the first time in years, they’ve been sober during the holidays.

It is a gift they all treasure. Value. Cherish.

Sobriety.

It is the gift they all said they wanted to share with others.

As one woman so beautiful described it, “I wish I could bottle some of the good things I’ve found in recovery so they could have a sip of it too.”

‘They’ are the people still struggling on the street. Sill searching for a way out, for the courage, the hope that this life, this life of hopelessness and fear, feeling lost and alone, could end.

For the thirteen people we interviewed yesterday, there is life beyond addiction.

It is a miracle kind of place to be.

I sat amidst miracles yesterday. Listened to people tell their stories of struggle, pain, addiction and their journeys into hope, possibility, sobriety.

I felt blessed.

I felt humbled.

I felt grateful.

Thank you Crystal, Gwen, Doug, Tracey, Randy, Kim, Michelle, Jayme, Vivek, Cheryl, Kelly, Brittney.

Your words and courage touched my heart. Your courage is beautiful. Your journeys’ inspiring.

Thank you Keys to Recovery for being part of The Gift Project.

Thank you Paul, Brent, Blake, Mike and Six Degrees.

Your generosity gives me hope. The compassion and care you have brought into this project makes a world of difference.

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As The Gift Project comes online, I shall keep you posted.

Namaste.


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Be Grateful | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 15

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Yesterday, C.C. broke the handle off a china coffee mug. I’d just bought him a set of 4 beautiful china mugs because he doesn’t like heavy pottery ones and these ones are so beautiful, I thought he’d enjoy drinking his coffee out of them.

And now, there are only 3.

When I saw the broken pieces of the handle on the countertop, I felt a tinge of disappointment course through my veins. Quick as lightening. I like even numbers of things. I like there to be 4, not 3.

I know. I know. A tad compulsive. A tad rigid if I do say so myself!

And that’s when I remembered, Stop. Breathe. Remember. Be grateful for all things.

I’d broken a crystal wine glass the day before. We had a set of 16 of these particular glasses. Now, there are 15.

It was a good reminder for me to pay attention, to get in the moment of what I’m doing. I’d dropped the wine glass because I was trying to do too many things in the kitchen at once and was not paying attention to what I was doing in that moment, right then.

The broken handle on the coffee mug was an opportunity to say, Thank you. Thank you for the reminder that accidents happen. It’s just a mug.

The handle can be glued back together and back onto the mug. Some cracks will always show. And as Leonard Cohen sings so poignantly, “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”.

Thank you for the crack in the mug. Thank you for the reminder that hearts like mugs are fragile places. That when I treat one with disrespect, throw angry words at it or sear it with my disdain, it can be broken. That when a heart is broken, the only way to heal the cracks is to shine a little love, or a lot, on the broken places. That treasuring the cracks in another, is the path to finding one another in Love.

And thank you for the reminder that having an even set of china mugs is no where near as important as having a heart where cracks are made more beautiful because we are together, shining light on one another.

Be grateful today. For all things. The ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. The things that make you feel that fissure of anger, upset, disappointment, anguish. The things that give you pause to think about the cracks and how beautiful they look when you let the light in.

Let the light in today and be grateful.

Namaste

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And to help you remember, here’s Leonard Cohen singing, Anthem.


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What fills you up?

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Pam asked the question on her blog Roughwighting this morning and shared a list of the things that fill her up.

What fills you up?

It’s a great question. One that when I read it my initial response was hesitation. I can think of  many things that don’t fill me up, like rude people, waiting in line, people who don’t do what they say they will, or people who lie…

But what fills me up?

There are the beauty based, part of nature things like watching the sun set over the ocean, which because I live in landlocked Alberta, is not as often as I would like.

But what about sunset in general? Just watching a beautiful sunset, or sunrise, fills me up, no matter where I am.

Seeing a butterfly flit along a trail as I walk; a bumble-bee busily buzzing amidst the flowers; a flock of geese flying in v-formation overhead; apple blossoms drifting down like snow; the sound of rain outside the bedroom window in the middle of the night as I lay snug beneath the covers; the sound of a gentle breeze rustling through the leaves of a tree as I stand beneath it looking through its branches to the big blue sky above; a fuzzy fat caterpillar inching its way across a leaf; a cloud drifting leisurely across a blue sky; lightning forking to the ground; the hiss of tires in the rain, the silence after a snowfall, the roar of a waterfall; the trickle of the water flowing in the fountain in our backyard; the sound of waves lapping against the shore; the splashing of a stream flowing rapidly through the woods…

And then there are the people-centric, heart-stopping, heart-awakening things that fill me up. Like catching my beloved looking at me from the corner of his eyes as I’m reading in bed and feeling all squishy, squirmy toasty warm. Or, sitting at a dinner table with friends sharing laughter and conversation over a good meal and bottle of wine. Sitting at the top of a hill over-looking the river with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle leaning into me; an unexpected call or email from a friend I haven’t spoken to in awhile; a note in my email inbox from someone I’ve never met who just wanted to write to tell me something I wrote impacted them; feeling like I’m making a difference, that I’ve touched lives and hearts and walked softly through the world; a visit with one of my sisters and realizing there is nothing that can separate us, we are family; my beloved listening to me rant and not trying to fix whatever I’m ranting about; time in my studio creating just for the pure joy of creating; finishing a piece of art and stepping back and acknowledging, it’s good; taking the time to meditate and be present in the moment; writing something and feeling satisfied with the words as they appear; finding a twenty-dollar bill I’d forgotten was in my pocket; selling a piece of art; dancing as if no one is watching; laughter shared; a love note on my pillow…

Those things fill me up too.

I am grateful this morning for waking up to the sound of Marley the Great Cat, who’d snuck out as we went to bed, meowing outside our bedroom window. “Let me in! Let me in!” he called as the pitter patter of rain fell all around.

On awakening so early, I chose to enter the quiet sanctuary of my office and meditate before the dawn.

Soft grey light is slowly seeping into ink-black night.

Dawn waits at the edge of the horizon.

Beauty is stirring.

My day is just begun.

I am grateful.

Namaste.

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Thank you Pam for inspiring my morning with the beautiful invitation of your question, What fills you up?


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#tbt Gratitude in a glass of water

FullSizeRender (91)It’s #throwbackthursday – the following post has been edited from where it originally appeared on Recover Your Joy  May 19th, 2007.

Last night [May 18, 2007] we held a dinner for client volunteers at the shelter where I work. Client volunteers are individuals who are using the facility and who volunteer while staying there. In the course of a year, using a base salary rate of $10/hour, client volunteers provide the shelter with about $600,000 in service.

The dinner was attended by over 60 people. The tables were covered with linen tablecloths and serviettes. China and silverware was at each place setting and the room was lit by the soft glow of candlelight. A big difference from the chaotic and noisy dining room on the second floor of the building where dinner is served to over 600 people a sitting.

As I was greeting guests last night I was struck by the gratitude each person expressed as they walked into room. “Hey. This is nice!” “Haven’t had a candlelit dinner in years.” “This is for me? Wow.” “Cool.” The comments were simple. Appreciative and reflective. Each guest felt part of a moment in time away from the rigors and fears of homelessness. The meal was a scrumptious buffet of salads, roasted chicken and potatoes or lasagne, a cheese plate with fruit, delectable delights and coffee.

As the guests were arriving and getting settled, someone came up to me and asked, “Is it okay if I pour myself a glass of water?” “Of course,” I replied. A few moments later someone else asked, “May I pour myself a cup of coffee?” “Help yourself,” I replied.

After about the third or fourth person came up and asked if they could help themselves to water or coffee, I decided to take action. I picked up a jug and walked around the tables offering people water. As I went, I reminded them that there was coffee to which they could help themsleves on a side table.

This may not seem like a big issue to you, but to someone who is homeless, who must wait in line for just about everything, who must wake up when told, go to bed when told, cannot just pour themselves a glass of water at will or make a cup of coffee when they want, being able to simply stand up and help themselves to a cup of coffee is a big thing.

What struck me even more, however, was the hesitancy with which people asked if it was okay to help themselves to something so simple as water. The night before we’d had a dinner for corporate volunteers, and no one asked if they could get water or coffee. They just did it.

For the client volunteers, conditioned to having to ask for the simplest things, having an entire evening dedicated to them was refreshing and sad all in one. It reminded them of all that they have lost. And yet, over and above the reminders of the past, there was one single attitude that overrode everything.

Gratitude.

There is so much in my life I take for granted. A cup of coffee I brew myself every morning. A piece of toast made when I want. A computer to work on when I need it. The house a temperature I decide because I have control of the thermostat.

As I listened to the people gathered in the room, there was no difference between their behaviour and the behaviour of community volunteers served the night before. They all knew what a fork and knife was and how to use them. They all put their serviettes on their laps. They chatted and laughed and told jokes with those sitting at the table with them.

What was different was none of them took anything about last night’s dinner for granted. Not even a glass of water.

Next time you pick up a glass of water, think about what it means to be able to pour it at will.

You are blessed.

May we all have the blessing of not having to stand in line for everything we need today.


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In the age of forgetting

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When I was a little girl, Sunday mornings were reserved for church. It was a ritual. We would get all dressed up in our Sunday best, pile into my dad’s car and arrive as one big family of 6 at the church with lots of time to spare. My dad didn’t like being late.

Inevitably, between home and entering the portals of the church, something in my apparel would have come askew. My mother would straighten my skirt. Tuck in my blouse and lick her finger to wipe away some spot of dirt that had managed to find its way to my cheek.

Inside, on the hard wooden pew, my sister and I would sit side by side, our feet not quite touching the floor, swinging our legs and subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, pushing and prodding at each other. My father would grumble about our behaviour and my mother would caution us to Shush.

They didn’t have Sunday School during Catholic mass so we would squirm and wiggle our way through the hour and half mass, kneeling and standing and bowing our heads in tandem with the rest of the congregation, repeating the well worn phrases of the mass, even when the words were in Latin.

Fifty years later, though I seldom attend mass now, I still know when to stand and when to kneel. When to bow my head and when to touch my breast three times with clenched fist and whisper Holy. Holy. Holy.

Cellular memory runs deep.

What is forgotten over the intervening decades is my connection to the holiness of everything. My connection to the greatness of nature. The oneness of life.

We live in an age of lost intimacy with the oneness that runs through life touching us all. Human. Animal. Plant.

We live in an age of acquiring information while forgetting to dig into the roots of our deep and abiding knowledge of life’s divine presence in each of us.

On those Sunday’s when I was a child, there was no question in my mind that God was not present in the church. I saw him in the bowed heads of the congregation. I felt him in the hushed silence, the flickering candles, the incense burning, the light streaming in through a stained glass window.

God. The Divine. Yaweh. Spirit. Whatever word you use to describe the sacred nature of life was there, in each of us as we stood together to listen to the priest, to hear the holy words, to share the wine and bread.  Just as he was there in countless other churches and services and temples and mosques around the globe where humankind gathered together to praise the holy nature of life on earth.

Places of worship bring us together. They remind us of our holy nature, our divine essence. Our Oneness. They connect us to the goodness in each of us, the wonder of our world, the sacredness of our time on earth.

It is outside the walls of worship, beyond the portal doors that I struggle to stay connected, to remember my essence, like your essence, is sacred by nature. That we are all one. All together on this one planet spinning through space held to the earth by the invisible strands of gravity’s grace and the miraculous nature of life.

Take time today to stop and breathe deeply and remember, You are Divine. Just the way you were born. It is your nature. It is all our nature. We are all the divine expression of amazing grace and light. Magnificent and perfect in all our human imperfections.