When the ship is going in the wrong direction, you can’t change course without making waves.
You gotta rock the boat to stay off the rocks. Especially if those rocks loom closer and closer.
Holding steady when you’re sailing towards the rocks is not a good plan. You gotta rock the boat to stay off the rocks. You gotta change course.
July Woman is a reminder making waves is not about ‘playing safe’. It’s about creating a safer course for all humanity to find calm waters and safe harbor in all kinds of weather.
She’s the Warrioresses cry to stand up, be heard and to let your courage draw you out of fear. Fear will only drown you in its insistence that rocking the boat will cause you to fall overboard. Courage gives you the confidence to know that falling overboard isn’t the worst thing that could happen. Drowning in apathy, ennui, despair and desperation is.
There was a time when the question, “Who do you think you are?” felt scary. Like I was somehow failing a life test that I didn’t even know I was taking. In those days, I felt I had to behave the way others expected if I was to be accepted into ‘the club’ of incomprehensible rules that were often unwritten but seemed to be somehow intuited by everyone else but me.
Life. Time. Falls. Summits. Fogs and frostbite. Found confidence. Lost fears. Attitude shifts. Perspective gained… Whatever the source, I have stepped out from the shadows of believing other people’s opinions of me matter most.
It was deadly. That worrying about what other people thought of what I was doing, the choices I made, the directions I took. It caused me pain. Confusion. Angst. Dissatisfaction. Uncertainty. Self-doubt.
Now I know the opinion that matters most to me is mine. Just as your opinion of yourself and what you’re doing matters most to you.
I’ve always kind of had a sense that this was important. But conditioning, environment, social constructs play a role in life.
For me, that role was to appear as a people pleaser on the outside all the while feeling defiant and angry on the inside.
Which left me constantly unsettled. And lying. To myself and to others.
A simple example… When asked, “Where do you want to go for dinner?” I’d often say, “I’m easy. I don’t care.”
I didn’t respond that way because I didn’t have a preference. It was because I was too afraid if I said what I preferred or wanted, I’d get shot down or someone would try to change my mind and the angst of what I perceived as displeasing someone by not changing my mind to suit theirs was debilitating.
The lie was in my silence and my non-committal attitude that constantly grated against my desire to be strong and truthful.
I can remember when my liberation from lies and acquiescence for the sake of ‘keeping the peace’ really took form.
It was in a therapy session in my early thirties. To illuminate just how debilitating and dishonest my need to please was, my therapist posed a hypothetical.
“It’s a hot summer’s day,” he said. “You want an ice cream. What flavor do you choose?”
I didn’t have to think about it long. “A lemon gelato.”
“I think you should get a chocolate one. It’s my favourite,” he responded.
“But, I really like lemon and it’s so refreshing.”
“Maybe. But chocolate is so yummy. Don’t tell me you don’t like chocolate. Everyone likes chocolate.”
I hesitated. I wasn’t all that fond of chocolate ice cream but it seemed easier to agree. “Sure I do.”
“Then why not have a chocolate one!”
I sighed. “But ice cream is so full of calories and gelato isn’t as bad.”
He laughed. “But it’s hot out and you deserve a treat, don’t you?”
And on and on it went. My justifying my choice. Him challenging me.
Finally, as I launched into another justification for my choice, he stopped me and said. “Do you see what’s going on here Louise?”
“I want lemon gelato and you think I should have a chocolate ice cream?”
“Bigger than that…”
I looked at him in confusion.
“Who cares what I want or think Louise? It’s your gelato. Your choice.”
And that’s when the truth hit me like a snowball getting the hell out of Dodge.
I spent a lot of time justifying my choices, my thoughts, my decisions, my ideas because I didn’t want people to think… well…. the truth is… I didn’t want people to know I had a mind of my own.
That would have been dangerous. With a mind of my own, I could become an outcast. An outlier. An unwanted.
I am forever grateful for that therapist and his love of chocolate ice cream.
Cultivating my courage to speak up, nurturing ‘the audacity’ to stand true to myself and letting go of worrying about other people’s opinions of me has been a life-long journey.
It gets easier with practice.
And always, the more practiced I become in standing in my truth and staying unattached to the outcome (including the opinion of others), the more I find myself growing wild and free.
As I was walking along the river with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle, she drifted in and out of my mind whispering words of possibility, encouragement, hope.
As I leaned against a tree and rested my cheek against its gnarled trunk, she cast her spell upon the moment, wrapping me in her magic.
And as I sat down at my studio table, she flittered about like a butterfly in search of nectar, until landing on the canvas before me with a deep sigh and joyful exclamation of, “Here I Am!”
Trusting in her colourful presence, I dripped paint and ink and water onto the page and, as always happens when I let go of ‘making it happen’, what was seeking to appear became visible.
The ‘It’s All About The Fuss?’ woman was only a shimmer of an idea when I began.
When I was finished several hours later, my heart felt light, my pulse beat slow and I fell with joy into the creative field where magic and mystery bring me home to myself. Home to that place where I remember, To be the change I want to see in the world – Let it begin with me.
I was reminded this week that, in the ‘real’ world around me, reports are written, ideas are born, recommendations made which, before the ink is even dry, become shelved. Platitudes like, ‘be patient’, ‘change takes time’ ‘we’re doing our best’ are doled out to appease the oppressed instead of the critical dollars and sense and political will to put real and lasting change into the lives of those who need it most. And all the while those in power, those who hold the purse strings and political currency point, with earnest hearts and righteous indignation, at the report as concrete evidence of all they’ve done to make change happen.
Until, 20 years later, someone writes another report that clearly demonstrates how little anything has changed. How little progress has been made.
The ‘It’s All About The Fuss’ #ShePersisted Woman is my rebellion. My line in the sand. It’s my, ‘I’m putting you on notice” declaration of change! Yes. I will make a fuss. Yes. I will keep pushing back until instead of putting your head in the sand and keeping status quo going, you acknowledge how bad it really is.
Status quo only works for those with enough status to take advantage of its benefits and privileges.
Status quo keeps those it disadvantages in ‘their place’. It keeps them hidden in the margins, scrambling to be heard, to be seen, to be known as worthy of more than just the status quo of the limitations that circumscribe their lives.
As long as there are those who insist status quo is not that bad, we must make a fuss.
For those of us who live within its protective privileges and who have awoken to its demeaning limitations to others, must keep making a fuss so that the fuss of those whose lives have been sorely impacted by injustice and inequities in our legal, social and political systems know they are not wrong to insist on change. They are not wrong to demand action.
Over the past 3 years of working with this series, I have created a number of stencils of ‘the women’ that I will occasionally reuse .
The original of this woman is No. 52 – “They said, You can’t always get what you want. She said, it’s time I got what I’ve always deserved. Equal rights. Equal voice. Equal opportunity.”
I reused the stencil to create the painting that appears as the April Woman in this year’s #ShePersisted Calendar. “They said, You need to follow our path. It’s better for us. She followed her own path and encouraged others to do the same. It was better for everyone.”
The significance of using the same figure, just in a different/altered way is important. We are all the same kind of different. Our human nature desires a sense of belonging. To be part of a ‘tribe’ or gang or community – something that lets us know we’re not alone. We’re not outcasts. We are part of something. We matter.
The challenge however is that, when we follow a path because it’s comfortable, we can lose our way and not see that our staying on the path is keeping those who created it, comfortable in their limited view of the worth and value of every human being.
It is then we must decide what path we want to be on. A path that reflects our belief in the magnificence of every being on this planet or one that limits the possibilities of some because they ‘don’t fit in’ or look the same or present as ‘unequal to’ an invisible measure of success or class or faith or humanness we don’t buy into, but in our silence and presence in the group, uphold.
When we decide to heed the inner calling to spread our wings and create a path where everyone is free to travel and find their belonging in their own unique way, we step off the road more travelled and start creating a world of infinite possibility – for everyone.
In that creation, when we carve our way through life guided by our values, principles and belief in the worth of every human being, we become beacons of light encouraging others to do the same.
It doesn’t mean we’re no longer part of ‘the tribe’. It means we are part of the human race where we are, every one of us, free to journey on our own path that is beautiful in its distinctively unique voice, way, style and perspective.
It is then that our differences turn up in living colour. Full of life. Full of possibility. Full of Love.
And in that multi-hued and multi-faceted world, every path is honoured, every voice recognized worthy and every human being on planet earth gets what every being on this planet deserves – Equal rights. Equal voice. Equal opportunity.
A world where everyone of us is worthy of being part this one, beautiful and magnificent human race.
War. Famine. Poverty. Injustice. Discrimination to name a few, including economic and social policies that leave some feeling they are ‘less than’ while others believe they have a right to consider themselves ‘greater than’ because of an inherent bias in what they consider to be their privileged status.
And there is much in this world that I feel I have no power to change or affect.
Yet, when I take care of my own world, when I create better in the emotional, physical and spiritual environment around me, my world changes. And, while it is easy to say, those changes are infinitesimal in the big picture, the ripple effect of millions of small changes can create transformation of a grand scale.
We are all one humanity. One people on this one planet called earth. We are all connected. Through the air we breathe. To the trees and the sky and the water and the animals and the flora. We are all connected.
What we do to eachother and to our planet matters.
But how can I change what others do?
In the simplest of forms, I can’t. I am not that powerful. Nor is it my ‘job’ to change another.
What I do have the power to do is inspire change in the world around me by ensuring how I am, what I do, say, create, share creates better for everyone in the world around me. Holding space for better, my ripple becomes a constant ebbing outward of peace, harmony, joy, Love.
In that rippling effect, the things that annoy me abate, the feelings that keep me playing small diminish and the fear of making waves or being different washes away.
In their place, transformation within my world happens. And if there are millions upon millions of us transforming our own worlds, our collective ripple can become a tsunami of hope, possibility, change leading to transformation on a grand scale.
And never has that been truer than today.
Yes, Covid 19 is running amuck. Yes, there is political, economical and environmental strife everywhere.
And everywhere, there are human beings doing their best, giving their all to create lasting change that will, and must, transform our world for the better.
The March #ShePersisted Woman is a reminder to no longer accept you don’t have the power to change. To never give up on believing transformation is possible.
We just need to keep doing small things with great heart that change our worlds so that ripple by ripple by ripple the entire planet is transformed through each of us creating a better world for everyone and everything on earth.
There was a time when my silence caused me pain. When speaking up felt too dangerous, too complicated.
My critter mind kept repeating, “Speaking up makes you a target. Be quiet.”
Fortunately, the critter and I have evolved and while it still likes to have its say, the voice of inner wisdom has the vote that counts.
And that vote is always to support me in living true to who I am. To my values, principles and beliefs.
Which is why the January Woman is such a powerful message for me.
My voice matters. Your voice matters. All our voices matter. Even those I don’t agree with. We all matter.
My job isn’t to teach others how to speak up. It’s to ensure that when I speak, my voice fosters truth, honesty, respect and kindness.
For years, I had a note posted above my desk that read: It’s my responsibility to turn up, pay attention, speak my truth (with loving-kindness) and stay unattached to the outcome.
Not always easy.
Sometimes, I want to scream at the world to stop being so blind, so cruel, so ugly.
Sometimes, I want my voice to matter more.
A few years ago, while doing community engagement work for a not-for-profit that managed housing for individuals exiting homelessness, I faced an angry crowd who had convened a Town Hall to share their opposition to the NFP’s apartment building in their community.
At our first meeting together I was confronted with about sixty people, the majority of whom did not want the people living in the apartment building anywhere near their families, homes, lives.
They screamed and yelled and threw insults while I stood alone at the front of the room.
Whenever I had the chance to speak, I calmly asked people to please not yell. “I can’t hear you when you yell,” I said. “And I really want to hear what you have to say.”
I repeated my request several times over the 2 hour meeting and while I can’t say it was easy, I do know it turned out better than if I’d put up a wall of defences around me, Stood in silence or yelled back or stormed out of the meeting.
My putting up a wall of defences would have prevented me from being present to their fear, confusion, worry, anxiety.
My standing in silence would have meant I was standing in fear which would have added to the fear already present in the room.
My yelling back would have inflamed the situation more as would walking out (though there were moments it was all I wanted to do).
Every voice in that room mattered. Every voice deserved to be heard — and the fact is – I can’t hear people when they’re yelling at me (I don’t think many of us can). My mind shuts down, my body tenses and my heart races as my fear rises up to swallow me whole.
I wasn’t there to stop people from speaking up.
I was there to create space for every voice to be heard. Including mine.
I was there to listen to everything they had to say. To their fears and concerns as well as their ideas on how ‘the problem’ could be fixed.
And while the solution was not what they originally wanted, (move out), over time, through keeping the conversation going, respectful interactions and opening up to possibility, the outcome became something far better than could have been imagined in that original meeting — a community where everyone felt safe. Where differences were accepted and where every voice mattered.
In the past, I have lowered my voice and stayed silent when fear engulfed me.
In the past, I have flung my anger at others like daggers to their heart.
In the past, I have used my voice without conscious choice.
Today, I choose to keep my voice raised to create a more loving and kinder world.
Today, I choose to drop the daggers and instead, fling my words out into the world like a fisherwoman casting a net of silk onto the seas full of the hope that what I cast out will calm turbulent waters and bring back to me tenfold what I send out. Love.
Yesterday, I decided it was time to ‘get real’ with my #ShePersisted Series paintings.
I made a start.
I spent the day creating a desktop calendar and video to go along with it.
And… you know that saying, the devil is in the details?
Well, after spending several hours loading in the photos, smoothing out the page turns, creating graphics and getting the music to sync I read the fine print on Etsy.
Videos are 5 – 15 secs. No sound.
LOL — man those details can be annoying!
Today, I shall create a soundless short video to put up on my Etsy Store a
There is a silver lining. The 1 min video I did create gave me lots of opportunity to stretch my video-editing skills, and, I do have good promotional video for the calendar! Win/Win
It also gave me a chance to use one of my favourite songs by Taylor Cochrane of 36? fame.
So… if you want to hear 1 min 14 seconds of Man at the Door by 36? please do click on the video below.
Full disclosure… Taylor is C.C.’s incredibly talented son. Once you hear him, you’ll understand just how talented.
I have been blessed with Taylor and his partner Laura Hickli’s permission to use any of their music in my videos. It is both a privilege and a gift to be able to share their music and to in some small way support them in their creative endeavours.
And now, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I are off to walk beneath winter’s soft grey sky and falling snow.
Once I’m back, I shall continue to update the #ShePersisted Series on my website and work on a new painting.
It’s the ‘thing’ I find so inspiring and amazing about the creative process. When I least expect it, ideas drift into my mind calling my imagination to run wild in creative fields of abundance.
The quote that drifted in as I lay between awake and dreaming this morning is:
“They said, it would be easier for everyone if you play by the rules.”
“She said, It’s not about easy. It’s about fairness, justice and dignity for everyone.”
Stay tuned for No. 61 (or is that No 59 or 62? gotta get that numbering fixed! :)) in the #ShePersisted Series.
The full version of The Man at the Door is available on your favourite music-listening site. Or click HERE to listen to it on YouTube.
Snowy weekends in September, (I almost typed December) are not for the faint of heart; nor for those without a really good sense of humour!
Here in Calgary, while not an every-year occurrence, snow in September is not uncommon. Yet, every time autumn leaves falling give way to snow dumping, we Calgarians take great delight in sharing photos and our thoughts on this weather phenomena – on social media, in grocery store line-ups, at the park, in coffee shops… you got it – everywhere.
I am no exception.
When Beaumont and I went for our walk yesterday, I not only took copious photos, I also took a video. I mean why not? It looked like a winter wonderland and Beau was leaping for joy as he raced through the snow covered grasses. (You can read about our adventures in the snow on his blog — Sundays With Beaumont)
For me, a snowy September, Sunday afternoon was a welcoming invitation to move back into the studio and savour the joy of creating. In this case, with a lovely friend who came to share in creativity and conversation with me. (Thanks Ally!)
I didn’t spend any time creating last week. A contract to do some community engagement for an agency in the homeless serving sector along with a flu-like bug kept me focused in other areas — and because I lay in bed for a day, it also meant I got hooked on a Netflix series, The Spy. Have you watched it? It’s very powerful and based on a true story.
Netflix and Prime offer up a lot of inducement to avoid giving into studio seduction. My heart and soul are grateful I heeded the muse’s call and fell into her creativity-infused embrace.
The muse not only inspired the Autumn Flowers on a Snowy Day painting (above), she also stirred my feminist soul to create the 52nd painting in my #ShePersisted series which I began in February of 2017. That muse, she’s still got lots to say about living life free of out-dated concepts of ‘what women want’.
This morning, as I sit at my desk and look at the snow-blanketed world around me, my mind wants to grumble but finds no footing in my heart’s restful state. It’s only weather and weather can change quickly here at the eastern foot of the Rockies. Other than a romp with Beau to the park and a trip to the grocery store to stock up for visitors arriving tomorrow from Ottawa (I know, Ottawa is expecting October to open with 30 degree Celsius and they’re coming to ‘extreme winter conditions’ (the weather network’s description of our current conditions) here in the southern prairies), I have nothing on my agenda.
Ah yes! Rejuvenation is a great way to rewire my life post-retirement! No matter the weather outside, I welcome every day with a joyful heart and my creative expression burning brightly inside!
No. 52 #ShePersisted Series — Follow your Heart — 2019 Louise Gallagther
My intent with the #ShePersisted series has been to complete 52 in the series. I just reached my goal.
And the muse is not yet finished with me. She keeps delivering new ideas for the series. And I keep creating.
It is a process I love. A creative endeavour that challenges and fulfills me.
As I continue to explore all the muse has in store for me, as I move deeper into rejuvenation mode, I shall have more time to mediate on the messages and thus, be able to continue to write ‘The Teachings” for the each painting/message in the series.
It is an exciting journey. One that also invites me to go back to some of the original art pieces and possibly re-work the art, not necessarily ‘the message’. The earlier pieces have a different style that became more recognizable as I continued to create in the series.
And that’s the beauty of this journey. There is no formula to follow. No rule saying I must do it one way or the other. I get to create my own path. My own way. My own creative expression.
The #ShePersisted Series
Follow Your Heart
Many years ago, Robert Frost penned one of his best known poems which ended with,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
This card is calling you to examine where you are walking. To look closely
at your choices and see if you are choosing them for yourself
or are you following someone else’s plan, marching to someone else’s drum?
Life is full of opportunities to find your own beat, to carve your own path.
Yet, too often, we let fear of the unknown, fear of leaving the pack hold us back
from hearing the calling of our heart to follow no one person or thing, but our own beat.
Let go of fearing what others may say and listen to the voice of your heart.
Your heart knows. Listen to your heart.
No 47 #ShePersisted Series Mixed Media on Watercolour Paper 11 x 14″ 2019 Louise Gallagher
Sometime ago a friend asked me to join her and other women in creating a book of wisdom for a niece who was turning 13. Ultimately, after writing my list of “10 Things I would tell my 13 Year-Old Self if I could change her life”, I discovered that what I would have told myself then is really, what my 60+ self still needs to hear and know and breathe into everyday.
This post originally appeared on my blog in May 2014 and then Sept. 2017. As I was contemplating what went with No 47 in my #ShePersisted Series, these 10 things came to mind. The 11th would be, “You are responbile for your own happiness. Do not abdicate your responsibility to someone else. Take charge of your life.”
Ten Things I would tell my 13-year-old self if I could change her life.
There is no such place as forever. Nothing is forever. This too shall pass. Whatever you are experiencing, the trauma, the angst, the joy, they are all illusory. Transitory. Ride whatever is happening hands free, barefooted, body wide open to the experiences of life. Now is not forever.
You’re okay. More than okay, you are amazing. Just the way you are. There is no fashion too out there, no style too wild if it is what you want to wear. You are not too fat, too skinny, to short, too tall, too under-developed, over-developed. You are who you are, how you are. And that’s amazing.
You are worthy. This is a tricky one. Your mind wants to steal this one away and hide it because to know your worth, you must risk — the unknown. the perceived impossible. You must risk the ups and downs, ins and outs, overs and unders of life. To know your worth, you must know there is nothing, noone, no way anyone can steal it from you. It is your birthright.
Believe in you. Really, really believe in you. Don’t question your right to be. Don’t question you’re right to go anywhere, do anything, anyway you choose. Be you. Everyone else is taken. Wear your hair up, down, wild, straight. Colour it pink, gold, orange or green. It’s your body. Your hair. Your skin. Your life. Your right to believe in you and be you just the way you are.
Be kind. People will say mean things. Do cruel things. Be kind. Like you, they struggle to know their worth, find their place, feel their feelings. Like you, they are taking this journey of life without a manual, unable to control and predict everything life will throw at them. Like you, they are sometimes scared, sometimes silly, sometimes confused, sometimes wise. And like you, they too are looking to fit in, to belong, to be part of something bigger than themselves. Be kind, no matter how they act. Be kind.
You don’t have to find your meaning. You are your meaning. Live it with your whole heart wide open to life. Your meaning is not in wearing the latest fashion or having the coolest stuff. Your meaning is found in how you approach every moment, engage every person from that place where you know, no matter what you think they think about you, you think and know you are amazing, just the way you are.
Seek magnificence. Don’t go looking for mediocrity. Seek to be known through your magnificence and seek always to know others through theirs. Don’t look for fault, seek the lessons, seek the knowing, seek the value in all things.
Risk often. Life isn’t a predictable series of events over which you have ultimate control. The only person you have control over is yourself – and even then you’ll sometimes doubt just how in control of yourself you are. Risk anyway because, if you’re involved with others, there will be lots of messy, sticky, unexpected and sometimes painful things happening on your journey. They’re just things. It’s all just stuff. You are amazing – I know, I said it already – it’s true. Believe it. Risk living from the place of knowing you are okay, you are amazing, you are magnificent. Risk living as if it’s true — because it is.
Smile often. Laugh lots. Dance always. And when you cry, cry out loud. When you laugh, laugh out loud. And when you see injustice, ask what can I do to change it, and do that thing with your whole heart and know, that is enough. You are enough. You don’t have to have all the answers, you only need to learn the one’s that will allow you to make the difference in the world you want to see and be. And that’s enough.
Get creative. Don’t go looking inside boxes for the recipe for life. Live it not knowing what’s next. Live it expecting the unexpected. Live it free of holding onto hurts and pains, sorrows and regrets. Live it up. Fill it with joy. and always, always SHINE! Because you are amazing. You are worthy. You are magnificent. And that’s the only truth you need to know to live your life fearlessly in Love with all of you.