Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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What if we stepped closer? #MeToo #MYActions Matter

My office overlooks the C-Train platform at CityHall. Almost everyday, there is some sort of altercation on the platform. Highschool kids mixing it up. Someone trying to avoid the Transit police. A rider trying to be first on the train.

Yesterday it was two women yelling at each other right below my window. Their conversation was peppered with F this. F you. F that. They gesticulated and shouted as people moved further and further away, or as one mother did with her child, covered their ears.

From above, there wasn’t much I could do to change this playing out of our human condition, though I did want to storm down and suggest to one man that his yelling at the two women to SHUT the F Up was not helping. But the C-train arrived, people got off, people got on, and the two women disappeared.

And I wondered…

For those two women, both of whom appeared visibly homeless and street engaged, what if we heard the pain beneath their shouting at one another? What if we felt their sorrow?

Perhaps, instead of hearing the expletives and standing in judgement, turning our backs or covering our ears or yelling back at them, we chose to Step Closer and Listen Deeply?

What if underneath their words, what we heard was…

I’m in pain.

So am I.

I hurt.

Me too.

I don’t want to live like this.

Me neither.

How do I make it stop?

I don’t know. I can’t remember it being any other way.

Me neither.

I’m just going to keep yelling because nobody cares.

Me too.

I feel so lost.

Me too.

I feel so hopeless.

Me too.

I’m afraid.

Me too.

I feel so alone.

Me too.

I feel invisible.

Me too.

I feel hopeless.

Me too.

Nobody sees me.

Ain’t true. I see you.

Nobody hears me.

That ain’t true either. I hear you.

You are me.

I am you.

And what if in that moment of both women acknowledging they are each other, those of us around them called out, “You are me. I am you. We are here with you, not against you.”

And in that our calling out, they realized, WE Are Not Alone.

What if, in that moment they realized there are people willing to step into their pain and grief and sorrow and angst?  That they are not alone in a broken circle of life, because we are here, together, circling them with love, in the same broken circle of life.

We are here with them. Not against them.

And what if, with one breath, we chose to let go of our judgments and instead say together, Me Too.

And in that affirmation, what if we chose to live from that place of connection knowing that for each of us, acknowledging our shared human condition gives us the power to step closer together.

In that shared space of our humanity, what if we build a community where the things that hold us apart are nothing compared to what brings us together — Love. Peace. Harmony and Joy.

#MYactionsMatter

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50 Brave women. 50 stories. 50 photographs. #MyActionsMatter

Last night I was honoured to be part of Discovery House’s brilliant inaugral

The question each women was asked: What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

For me, as I wrote, HERE, my answer was immediate, visceral and surprising — Apologize to my daughters for deserting them.

I hadn’t expected that to flow from my fingertips when Monique Auffrey, the Executive Director of Discovery House, and one of the participants in the exhibit, asked me via email when she nominated me as one of the honouree’s at She’s So Brave.

On the surface, it could appear that apologizing doesn’t seem to be so brave.

For me, it was essential to my healing journey.

Because in apologizing, I claimed responsibility for my actions. I was their mother. I had committed to do my best — and I had hurt them.

I remember once when my eldest daughter was asked, “What did your mother’s apology mean to you?”

She replied that it wasn’t the fact I apologized once, it was that I was willing to acknowledge the pain I had caused them, and apologize however many times needed to let them know, I heard them, I saw them, I was willing to turn up and be present, however they needed me. She described the process by saying that the past was like a river of pain flowing between us. Every time my mother apologized, she said, the pain flowed free and was replaced by love until eventually, all that was left between us was, Love.

I am blessed. Love is always present.

When I was released from that relationship, I made a decision that to heal, I had to choose LOVE. Yes, there was anger, pain, sorrow, grief, hurt and a host of other confusing and painful emotions. But I wasn’t going to focus on them, particularly in the beginning, because I was too broken to dive into the anger. Too fragile to feel the pain. I had to focus on the Love and treating myself with tender, loving, care if I was to give myself the grace of healing.

No matter what other emotion(s) I was feeling, I told myself that LOVE was always present, and thus, I was always safe to simply be present the way I was, in Love.

Over time, as I began to accept that Love truly was the answer, I could dive into the anger, pain, sorrow, grief without fearing I would be swept under by their overwhelming force — I knew and trusted that Love would always hold me.

It wasn’t that I ignored the anger or pain, it’s just I had to allow myself the gift of healing first, so that I could be strong enough to step into them, to face them, fearlessly and Lovingly.

Often, I employed a process I used with my daughters when they were young and fighting with each other. Back then, I’d give them a dozen eggs and tell them to go throw them at the fire pit in the back yard.

To let my anger, hurt and pain out, I’d take a dozen eggs, head off into the forest, write all my hurt and anger and pain on the eggs and then smash them against trees, under railway bridges, against the rocks at the water’s edge. It didn’t hurt the environment, the eggs were biodegradable. And it released the anger, hurt and pain in a safe and loving way.

And always, whenever I got to the last egg. I’d hold it in the palm of my upturned hand, stand quietly, breathe deeply and then gently turn my hand over and allow the egg to fall of its own volition to the ground. In that moment of release, I’d breathe deeply and remind myself, I am free.

Letting go of the past is a choice. It’s a decision to not be tethered to the pain, sorrow, grief — and to choose instead to be free to explore today in Love.

Letting go is not the same as giving up, or giving in. It’s about freedom and having the courage to do the things you need to do to fall in love with Me, Myself and I, in this moment right now, knowing that no matter what the past held, or the future brings, you are safe in the arms of Love. In this moment, right now.

For me, that meant owning what I’d done and apologizing from a loving heart to the ones I’d hurt.

Last night I stood with my beloved C.C. and friends who came to support me as I breathed into the beauty and freedom of my life today.

It was a beautiful evening of celebration of all that makes women so brave. And a wonderful tribute to all that we do and inspire, when we stand tall, speak our truth and shine brightly in the brilliance of our own light and courage.

I am truly blessed, grateful and, Loved.

Thank you Monique, Maria, Leanna, Alan and all the photographers, as well as the team at Discovery House — You are amazing.

And thank you to the other brave women who chose to stand up and be seen so that in their shining brightly, others can find their way through the darkness into the light.

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To watch the CBC news report on the event, click HERE.

 


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Why does he choose to hit her? #MyActionsMatters

It is a question almost always asked of a woman living in the perils of an abusive relationship. “Why does she stay?”

The question not often asked is, “Why does he choose to hit her?”

The first question suggests, in some way, that she has options, that she is in control of the situation.

For the woman, the question of ‘why does she stay’ is a reflection of our belief that she knows how to get out of the situation she’s in. That she feels in control and powerful enough to make a different choice. Yet, abuse, by its very nature, is designed to undermine, to tear away an individual’s sense of self-efficacy, to destroy their belief in their power to change what is happening in their life and the options they have to do so.

In not asking the question, “Why does he choose to hit her?” we are placing the responsibility for the abuse solely on the woman. We are suggesting the relationship and all that is happening in it are of her doing. He is just being who he is. He is just doing what he does.

In not asking the second question we make abuse a woman’s issue. Solely.

It’s not.

Yes, she knows abuse hurts. She knows it destroys self-esteem, drives you crazy with its crazy nonsense, its brutal reality, its ugly existence.

She knows abuse is wrong. So does he.

She knows he could kill her. So does he.

The responsibility for abuse is 100% the responsibility of the person choosing to use violence as a tool to get what they want, to control another through using their physical size and other measures such as control of money to exert power over another.

Why does she stay?

She stays because after years of living in the confusing, terrifying, reality-shifting, crazy-making world he creates with his abuse, she’s learned to take it, to not stand up to it but instead, to lie down to it. She’s learned to believe him when he says, she cannot leave, she’ll be nothing without him. She’ll have nothing without him. He’ll kill her if she leaves.

She’s believed everything else he’s told her. Why wouldn’t she believe he’d kill her if she left him?

Why does she stay?

She stays because of the children. Because she has no money and no control or access to their finances. She stays because he tells her to. Because she believes all the lies he’s told her about why it’s her fault, how she’s the bad one, she’s the crazy one, the one who doesn’t deserve anything other than what she’s getting.

She does not stay because he hits her or because she likes his abuse.

She stays because she believes no one can stop him. He’s told her that often enough. It must be true.

She stays because she not only feels worthless, undeserving, like he is all she deserves, she believes it. He’s told her so many times that she is worthless, a piece of garbage, stupid, ugly, and every other horrible word he can think that will make her believe it’s true. She does. Believe it.

The real questions, the ones we don’t ask, the ones we shy away from, the ones we don’t yell out and insist he answer?

Why does he do it?

Why does he lie and manipulate and scream and yell and hit and do everything he can to convince her she is unworthy of anything other than what he gives her?

Why does he choose to hit her?

 

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This is a repost from August 17, 2015. I am honouring the 16 Days of Activism by making my voice and my actions matter in the vision to End Gender Based Violence. #MyVoiceMatters #MyActionsMatter @WomenCanada #EndViolence #GBV