Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Hail The Wild Woman Within!

No. 48 #ShePersisted
Mixed Media on watercolour paper
2019 Louise Gallagher
“I Am Worthy”

Yesterday, I painted and breathed into the truth of art as Pablo Picasso once described it, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

After four days of grandson time, my heart-felt light and breezy. My senses alive.

I’d given myself a day of relaxation before returning to my office. A day to breathe into the open spaces of time unplanned. When the muse called and invited me to explore my creative essence, I stepped into my studio, picked up a paintbrush and began to express myself freely.

In March 2017, I began a series of paintings titled, “The #ShePersisted” Series. Inspired by the events in the US congress that lead to Senator Mitch McConnell stating, “She was warned… Nevertheless, she persisted,” about fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren, I heard the call of the wild woman within me; the one who stands tall when told to sit down, who speaks up when told to be quiet. I began to paint the series, got to No. 47 and then… we moved, my studio was packed up and the series went into hibernation with the wild woman’s silence.

Yesterday, the wild woman within returned. This painting is No. 48 in the series. “I am worthy.”

In everyone’s life there is a place where we fear or believe someone else determines our worth.

As a teenager, I remember desperately wanting to fit in while fearing the price of doing so. I bought the latest styles. Danced the latest steps and gushed over the latest Hollywood heart-throb, juggling school and extracurricular activities and a parttime job while struggling to figure out what to do with my future. University. Job. What next?

In my twenties, I railed against conforming as I donned the wardrobe of a working woman. I wore suits and carried a briefcase and told myself my worth was made up in the things I carried and the height of the ladder I climbed.

In my thirties I became a mother. I was struggling in the ‘wife’ role, but I could do the mother thing to perfection. Or so I thought. The pressure to do it all, have it all, be it all became a daily treadmill of workdays spent rushing from meeting to meeting and weekends chasing my husband up rocky screeslopes and glacial expanses or hurrying my daughters from birthday party to dance class to sleepovers and playdates. And did I mention I was always training for half and full marathons, throwing elegant dinner parties and learning to cook in the latest craze?

My forties brought an abrupt end to much of my life as I knew it. I failed completely (or at least that’s what I called it) as a wife and became a single mother of two pre-teen girls. Briefcase in one hand, dance outfits and bobbypins in the other, the treadmill picked up speed until I ran full tilt into a man who professed he would love me until death do us part, and wound up taking the death part way too seriously.

It was that painful encounter that opened the doors to my freedom from believing my worth was determined somewhere ‘out there’. Healing from the devestation of that relationship meant taking a deep dive into my psyche, rotor-rooting into the bedrock of my being to find who I truly am. It was there, in the broken pieces of my feminine soul that I found myself waiting where I’d always been. Grounded in the brilliance and magnificence of my inherent human condition, I discovered, I am worthy. Period. No explanation needed. No caveats. No designer clothes or big titled job to prove it. I am worthy.

We are all worthy. Period. No explanation needed.

As I journey through my sixties towards this place called ‘retirement’, I hold steadfast in my belief of my human worth. It is irrevocable. It is priceless. It is undefeatable.

I may struggle with letting go of my working identity, or rail against falling into the ease of unstructured days, the truth is, nothing and no one can change my worth, my worthiness.

I am worthy.

You are worthy.

We are worthy.

Grounded in that truth, the open fields of possibility planted within the seeds of my creative passions, are calling me to explore what it means to express myself in freedom.

I am excited. It promises to be a fascinating journey. Hail the Wild Woman Within!


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Do it your way.

No. 19 – The #ShePersisted Series: Mixed Media on watercolour paper. 11″ x 14″ (unframed) — Art and words ©2017 Louise Gallagher

It’s not difficult to play it safe. To take the same old path, to stay the course of how it’s always been done.

It’s not difficult. But it can be numbing, tiring, maybe even heart-breaking.

Just for today, imagine there is no path. That every step you take you are creating as you go. That even though you ‘know the answer’, there are answers you don’t know.

Be curious.

Ask yourself, “Am I doing it this way because it’s the way I’ve always done it? I wonder what would happen if I changed it up?”

And when the critter, that negative little voice in your head who thinks he’s keeping you safe by holding you to the tried and true, pipes up with, “Why change it if it’s working?”, lovingly embrace his fears and tell him you aren’t changing what’s working, you’re exploring a new way to see what else works.

Changing things up isn’t about ‘throwing out the baby with the bath water’.

It’s about checking the temperature of the water to see if it’s gotten too cold because the baby’s been in it too long.

Start small.

Pick one thing you do every day that doesn’t need to change (technically), but has the possibility of change.

Like how you drive to work. Choose a different route.

Or, if you always match your handbag to your shoes, or never mix silver and gold jewellry, change it up. Do it. Wear mis-matched socks or earrings. Wear brown shoes with black pants. And if you’ve never cared about mis-matching, go for matching.

Do something unusual, not to create the discomfort of change, but instead, to explore your responses to change. Be curious about what it is that makes you feel uncomfortable in the change.

Be curious about yourself.

Always.

Give yourself permission to ‘do it my way’ and see what happens when you let go of your mindset that says, ‘why change it if it’s working?’

Be curious about what happens inside you when you step outside your comfort zone. Explore those feelings. Be an observer of yourself doing things differently.

_________________________________________________________________

I am changing things up this morning.

For the past year, since starting to paint The #ShePersisted Series in late February 2017, I have told myself that when I get to 52 paintings in the Series, I will write a corresponding descriptor of what the piece means.

I’ve completed 47 paintings in the series but won’t have my studio completed until the fall.

So… rather than do it the way I planned, I’m going to start writing the descriptors for the one’s I’ve already painted – in random order. This is No. 19 of the Series.

It also means, 52 paintings may, or may not appear.

I’m curious to see how I’ll respond to the freedom of not having to reach the number 52. Maybe I’ll stop here. Maybe I’ll go higher!

I wonder what will happen when I start writing out the descriptors in no specific order….

Stay tuned.

I’m doin’ it my way.

___________

To read more about the #ShePersisted Series and to view the completed paintings, click HERE.


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Where are the men?

No. 30 #ShePersisted series
http://louisegallagher.ca/shepersisted

When I was in my late twenties, I worked as a stockbroker. Years before, I had worked for a summer at a brokerage firm in Toronto and was intrigued by the business. Perhaps not the business itself, but more the aura of power and wealth that imbues the industry with its sense of self-importance and attitude of ‘the whole world revolves around us’. It was seductive.

At the time, I was  one of a small group of females in the sector.

We did not band together. We did not form a group to support one another, even though sexual misconduct was rife within the industry, covertly and overtly. When we occassionally met over a glass of wine or at a party, we’d talk about the sexual advancements we’d received as if being propositioned every day was the norm — because unfortunately, it was.

Every woman I knew attested to the fact that from innuendo to explicit comments, there was little confusion as to where some of the men stood on the notion of women in the field — they might ‘accept’ that woman were brokers, but they sure did not respect nor accept that women had equal status and rights to being treated like anything other than sexual objects.

I say ‘some’ because the vast majority of men I worked with were respectful and considerate.

And then there were the few.

The one’s like one of my bosses, a VP in a large firm who offered to pave the way to my success if I had sex with him. “Tell anyone and they won’t believe you,” he said when I rejected his offer. “You’re just a rookie. I’m a VP.”

I believed him. I left the firm and went to a smaller company where I felt safer and accepted. Even though I was the only female broker amongst a cadre of men, not once was I subjected to sexual improprities. I believe it was because the Managing Partner was pretty clear on the level of professionalism he expected from his team. There was to be no sexual misconduct.

A father of three young daughters, he stood up for what he believed in – that when they became adults, his daughters deserved to step into a world where they were safe to make their dreams come true, without having to face sexual misconduct and harrassment.

Which brings me to my question this morning… Where are the men?

Women have been marching. Speaking out. Wearing pink pussy hats and t-shirts decrying sexism and sexual harassment. Calling out for equality. Fair pay. Fair treatment. Fairness.

Where are the men?

Not just the single voices speaking out against those who have recently come under scrutiny for sexual assault and misconduct, but the marchers. The placard bearing. The fist pumping the air demanding an end to sexual violence; in the home, in offices, in military quarters, in locker rooms and movie sets.

Where are the men?

Do they not see that while they stay silent they risk being tarnished by the same brush that paints the perpetrators of sexual aggression and violence? Do they not see that in their silence they become victims of another man’s bad behaviour?

Sure, there are laws against sexual violence but laws do nothing for a woman while she is being raped. Laws do not bring comfort to a child while he or she is being abused. And laws do not heal the wounds of sexual assault.

Woman have been marching and in their midst there are a few men courageous and strong enough to stand up for what they know to be true and right — women are not sexual objects, the weaker sex or a sex toy who’s main purpose is to pleasure a man so he can get off on his power.

We are human beings deserving of respect. We have the right to feel safe walking down any street a man walks down. We have the right to step into an elevator alone with any man. We have the right to be in a room with any man and not be harassed, demeaned or propositioned.

Where are the men demanding their brothers stop behaving like beasts? That they stop forcing themselves upon women. That they put an end to using their masculinity as a weapon?

Where are the men?

 

 

 


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What happens when you cross the line?

Crossing the Line
#28 #ShePersisted
11″ x 14″ Acrylic on acrylic paper
©2017 Louise Gallagher

When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.  Pablo Picasso

Each painting in the #ShePersisted series, has a story to it. Sometimes, I know the story before I begin to create. Sometimes, the story appears in the creation of each piece. In Crossing the Line, I remembered a piece I’d written several years ago on my old blog, Recover Your Joy.  And I smile — I always knew my answer. It was inside of me waiting for me to create it into existence.

When I was a child, my sister and I spent hours re-enacting scenes from our favourite movies. Gone with the Wind. The Parent Trap. We knew all the characters, all the parts and we each had our favourites.

It didn’t matter that our stage was a stretch of lawn or that Tara was a sheet draped over a tree or that we each had to play three or four different parts, differentiating the characters only through our voices as we didn’t have time to change wardrobe —  we didn’t really have any wardrobe to change into anyway. This was a low budget reproduction — very creative, just not very accurate.

But none of that mattered. What mattered most was that we spent the time together. Laughing. Sharing. Creating.

When I was a child, I liked to draw. To sing and dance and to play piano. I liked to write and make up stories. To play dolls and the now politically incorrect, “Cowboys and Indians”.

It didn’t matter to me what the game or activity. What mattered most was that I was being creative. Expressing myself through arts of all nature.

And then, I grew up.

I still liked to write. To create. To make something out of nothing.

But the tone was different. There was something lacking in my creation.

I kept thinking it needed ‘A Purpose.

To create for creation’s sake just didn’t seem to be viable, make sense, have meaning. If I was painting, there needed to be a reason. If I was writing, there needed to be an audience. And, if I was dancing, there needed to be ‘the right steps’.

I’ve grown beyond those ‘grown-up’ days of believing I need ‘A Purpose’ to my art. I’ve grown beyond thinking there are right steps, wrong moves, perfect brushstrokes or perfectly turned phrases.

I’ve grown into being me. Creatively. Expressively. Passionately.

Today, I know that at my core I am a creative being. That life is an act of creation.

Today, I express myself in ways that fulfill on my belief, and need, to create beauty in the world around me.

Today, I let go of the right steps and move with grace and ease into being each step I take to create beauty in the world around me.

There’s freedom in each movement. Freedom in being my creative self.

And, there’s joy in knowing every breath I take is an act of creation. Every step I take is an expression of the beauty I want to create in the world.

When I was a child, I believed colouring inside the lines would keep me safe. Now I know, when I lean over the edge of what I believe I know and explore the all of what I cannot see, I am free.


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Speak softly. Step gently. | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 47

 

One of my mother’s favourite sayings when I was small was “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

She held her own counsel, seldom vying from the path of kindness towards others.

Yesterday, my sister and I met with my mother and a transition worker to talk about next steps.

Since her fall and subsequent operation in December, she has not recovered well. She started out strong, defying the doctor’s predictions for her recovery.

And then, she had a set-back. Something pulled in her left hip/leg where she’d had the surgery to repair the break, and now, the pain is constant and she can barely move that leg.

The trauma of losing her mobility, of having to move from her current residence which is a light assisted living situation to a more intensive long-term care model, is heart-breaking.

And still my mother persists.

She continues to speak softly. She  still has only sweet words to share with everyone.

We could all use a page from my mother’s playbook.

Speak softly. Step gently.

Namaste.


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When failure is not an option.

badge-1-copyIt is a commonly used phrase. “Failure is not an option.”

Challenge is, when failure is not an option, we risk not learning from our mistakes, because in failure is not an option thinking, mistakes are not possible. In that space, we limit our capacity to think outside the box — or to even see, there is no box.

Our thinking becomes so focussed on doing the things that will guarantee success, we can’t allow space for ‘mistakes’ to lead the way to greatness.

In front of the easel I meet myself.

It is one of the many things I learn standing in front of the easel, leaning into the unknown.

Again and again, as I dig into the creative process, I see myself staring back at me with every brushstroke, with every layering of colour and texture and moment of wanting to wash it all over with white paint to begin again.

The creative process has expanded my understanding of the phrase, “Failure is not an option.”

I used to believe it meant, there is only one choice, come hell or high water, you will not fall down, you will not give in, you will persevere and rise above — at all costs.

It was the unspoken, at all costs, that had me in its grip.

At all costs meant, no matter how tired, how broken, how lost I was, I could never give into letting go of the need to appear ‘successful’. I could never let go of my pride.

“Failure” is just another cloud floating by

In front of the easel, I am constantly reminded that as long as I allow the urge to create to lead me into the unknown, as long as I give into the flow and trust in the process, without buying into my ego’s insistence it knows best, failure is just a thought that flows through and out, like clouds floating by on a summer’s day.

Ultimately, the fleeting thought of failure becomes part of the outcome. And, as long as my thinking stays expansive enough to allow for curiosity and experimentation, for happenstance and unexpected developments to appear, success isn’t measured in the beauty of the final piece (because believe me, I can always find flaws in the final piece if I really want to). Success is measured in the whole-heartedness of my experience of creation and the entirety of the final product – not the individual brushstrokes, but the entirety.

Moving through the fear of the well drying up

As I have been delving into the #ShePersisted series, I keep coming up against my fear of ‘the well’ drying up — which is just another term for fear of failure. Thus far, I have created 18 different images and quotes for the series. My original intent was to create 12.

Some I really like. Some, I’m curious about because they don’t resonate quite the same way as others. All are an expression of my creative essence.

Is that success or failure? Is 12, 18, 32 the number I will measure my success by? Or, is it simply a trusting in the process knowing that when I stay open to the muse, creativity flows freely and expresses itself through me without any expectation of success or failure?

Staying open and free of self-judgement/criticism requires a letting go of my need to ‘achieve’ and produce. It requires my breathing into my desire to be in harmony with the world around me through allowing the expression of my creative essence to flow freely.

The mystery of creativity is exposed in the unknown

I am fascinated by how the #ShePersisted series is appearing in my life. Several people have asked, how do you do it? How do the ideas keep coming?

It’s a mystery to me.

And I love that part of the creative process.

I trust in the process of letting go of my fear of creating into the unknown, so that the unknown can appear through my creative process.

Every time I stand in front of the easel, I don’t know what will appear. I don’t know how it will manifest itself. I do know that something magic happens when I let go of ‘directing’ the process and let it be the process of delving into the mystery.

Often, most times in fact, I start with the quote — and let the painting appear in concert with the words I want to use.

Often, most times in fact, the words I begin with give way to the words that appear through the mystery of being part of, into and of, the creative process.

As I mentioned, it’s a mystery — and part of the teachings of the creative process. Give into the mystery and let go of the need to direct the outcome by controlling the process every step of the way.

In that space, failure isn’t an option because, failure and success are simply part of the joy of being willing to take the journey.

 

 

 

 


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Lost in the woods, I wanted to quit #ShePersisted

Lost in the woods, I wanted to quit but carried on

Lost in the woods, I wanted to quit but carried on

She still has me. Is still gripping me in her velvet gloves, massaging my creative muscles and inspiring words and images to flow.

The muse and I had quite the affair last night.

Last night, I tried to defy her.

I wanted to give up on this particular image. It just wasn’t coming.

I was painting to a different quote and this image was not measuring up. It was messy. Disconnected. Chaotic. I hated it.

I told her I was done. That this piece I was working on just wasn’t working. It was over.

She lovingly held me, soothed my wounded ego, my defeatist attitude and said, “When you’re lost in the woods, keep going towards the light.”

I threw caution to the wind and dug back in.

 

 

At the point of turning back.

At the point of turning back.

I was already painting over another piece I’d created last year that wasn’t particularly pleasing.

What did I have to lose? Leave it in a state of dissatisfaction? Or let go, carry on and be open to whatever happened?

That’s the thing about the #ShePersisted series I’ve been working on — they are nearly all created on old pieces that were not completed — I just didn’t know it at the time of originally painting them!

In most of them, the past informs the present. It shows through in pieces of colour, texture, design and even those sections you can’s see, they are lying under the topcoat, informing the context.

Like life. We can’t actually see the past, yet, it’s always there. Informing. Contextualizing. Shadowing. The present is a statement of the past. And sometimes, even when we think we’re done with what was,, if we haven’t created beauty and value from it, it will come back into the present allowing us another opportunity to create better.

Last night, while working on the 12th painting for the #ShePersisted series, I wanted to give up.

What a mess I thought.

And then the muse whispered into my heart, “Keep going,” she said. “You’re not done yet.”

I’m glad I listened. I persisted.

 

The quote became:  “They said to be careful. She threw caution to the wind.”

The finished piece is on my website HERE.