Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Can you accept it all?

When I am finished speaking in front of the audience at Music for a Winter Evening, I want to curl up in a corner, breathe deeply and cry.

I have noticed it before, this space after a presentation where really, talking to people is the last thing I want to do. I’d rather just go off somewhere and cry.

At intermission, after I have finished speaking, I tell my sister and my friend Wendy who have come to the concert with me, how I feel. My sister asks, “Is it because it brings back all those memories?”

It is the logical assumption. Talking about those dark days when I was lost and waiting to die at the hands of an abuser could bring the fear and self-loathing back.

But that is not it. I know how strong I am today. I know how loved and cherished I am by so many. And,  I know that, that was then. This is now. And in the now, my life is a beautiful tapestry of love, friendship, family, community, joy and deep belonging.

No. It is deeper than that this desire to cry.

And then I listen to Steve Bell talk about strength and vulnerability. How we must find a way to allow both to live within the dichotomy of both being present.

I feel it. That is the truth for me in that moment.

I have stood on that stage in front of hundreds of people and allowed myself to be vulnerable. In vulnerability I call upon my strength to rise up and hold me in loving arms.

It’s not easy. It’s not hard. It is not open. It is not closed.

It is vulnerable.

In the vulnerability of being willing to share the times when I was hurt and hurting, desparate and lost, I must allow my strength to carry me over the threshold of my vulnerability.

And that can feel scary. To be seen. Deeply.

The tears come because in that sacred space of being vulnerable, I know how truly human I am. And I feel blessed.

And the tears come, because the critter is also present. It wants to remind me what I forgot. Where I messed up. It wants to tell me who’s judging, for what and how. It wants to measure my sharing against others and say, “See, you are lacking.”

And that is when I must breathe. Deeply.

In. Out.

In. Out.

Yes, I want to cry. But my tears are not because I am sad or feeling the pain of the past. They are because in my human condition, no matter what I share, I still want people to see, ‘the perfect me.’ And I’ve just told them all the ways in which I’m not perfect.

How can I then walk into the crowd and be present when they come up to thank me, to tell me how my story impacted them. To tell me how they admire my courage, when deep within me, the critter is hissing, “It’s not true! It’s all a lie!”

And I smile.

The critter is who the critter is. He is not all of me. He is just the insecure part of me to which I must turn, step into his fears and whisper into the darkness, “I love you. We’re okay. We are safe in Love’s embrace.”

It was a magical, awe-inspiring evening.

Malcolm Guite opened the evening with his poem, “Begin the song exactly where you are/ Remain within the world of which you are made/ Call nothing common in the earth or air/ Accept it all…”

To accept it all, I must accept all of me. To accept all of me, I must love all of me.

Can you do that?

Can you accept your ‘woundedness’ and your wisdom? The broken places and the whole? The beast and the beauty?

Can you Accept it All?

Last night, I stood in front of several hundred people and shared a story of a time when I was lost.

In its telling, I found my heart break open in Love.

And while I cannot control how others receive that story or me, I can stand in the vulnerability and strength of knowing, in its sharing, other hearts were touched with all that I wanted to give. All I had to give. Love.

Listening to Steve and Malcolm, hearing Malcolm’s melodious voice share words of poems that resonated within my heart striking chords of awe and recognition, listening to Steve ask, “Why do we hunger for beauty” and feeling my heart break even wider open, I felt the presence of the Divine. I felt the wonder of Love shimmering in the darkened corners of that theatre as it struck a chord with every beating heart.

My heart beat in time last night. And in that time, I felt the truth of Steve Bell’s words ring within my heart.

In my vulnerability is my strength.

It is there in all of us. All we need to do to know it is to begin the song, exactly where we are.

Namaste.

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I am not alone.

Unexpectedly, I am self-conscious.

Unexpectedly, I wonder if my words have meaning. Depth. Substance.

Most mornings when I write in this space, I am simply present. No artifice. No ‘gotta make people think this, feel that’. No, hmmm, what message shall I give today? It’s just me, the velvet night turning light outside my office window, the desk lamp casting a golden glow upon my keyboard and Beaumont, curled up on the floor behind me, sleeping.

This morning, the critter awoke and ego mind leapt into the fray. “You gotta make sure your words have meaning, Louise. You gotta write important stuff!”

The critter is a devious character. He likes to try to convince me that what I write must come from my mind. “Your heart is too soft,” he says. “Your heart will get you into trouble. Take care. Listen up and listen only to me. I will tell you what to write so it sounds important. Like you know what you’re talking about.”

And I laugh. Eventually.

The critter is not my friend. Though he thinks his job is to protect me, he’s really only acting out from my fears and limitations. He wants to keep me in the ‘box’ even though I know within my heart, there is no box.

Yesterday, two remarkable things happened.  I followed a link to a man’s blog that resonated so deeply within me I felt seen, heard, known, even though I do not know this person. As I read his words I experienced courage. Humanity. Humility. Love.

And I knew, I am not alone.

Last night, I had dinner with a group of people organizing and performing at tonight’s Music for a Winter’s Evening where I will be speaking.

Malcolm Guite is an English poet, singer-songwriter, Anglican priest, and academic. (Wikipedia) He will be performing with Steve Bell, is a Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is among the best-known Christian musicians in Canada and is an accomplished songwriter and record producer. (Wikipedia)

And then there’s me. I’ll be speaking just before intermission. Telling my story to inspire the audience to give with heart to two agencies, Next Step Ministries and Oxford House, who work with women healing from addictions, street-engaged life, prostitution and homelessness. I italicize ‘my story’ because for me, it is no longer ‘my’ story. It is a story that I no longer own, but is simply the gateway through which I step to live my purpose and life intention — to touch hearts, open minds and set spirits free to dance in a world of love, joy and harmony.

As we sat at dinner last night, Steve asked me to share a bit of ‘my story’ so that he would know how to introduce me when it’s time for me to take the stage and share.

I gave them the cliff’s notes and when I was finished, Malcolm pulled out his iPhone and read a poem he’d written about Mary, Mother of Jesus.

And the conversation soared.

And I knew, I am not alone.

Now, I have never sat at a dinner table in a restaurant and had a man, or woman, read a poem with such grace. It did not feel out of place. It did not feel uncomfortable and even though this morning, after a night’s rest, my critter mind wanted to revert back into its shell an play small, I remember how it felt sitting at that table. It felt… beautiful.

And I thought, this. This is the kind of world I want to live in. A world where people share from their place of magnificence, where we connect through that magnificence so that each of us can remember and feel and know we truly are magnificent.

And in our magnificence, we let go of mediocrity, our desire to play small, our fear of standing tall. We let go of giving into the voices that whisper in our heads to shut up! Stay down! To not shine. To not be our most magnificent selves.

I want to live from that place — where we each share our unique brilliance to make the world lighter and brighter so that together, we truly do awaken our humanity to see, we are all the same kind of different, and in that difference and sameness, we are each being the best kind of human we can be.

So Mr. Critter. I see you. I know your fear. I know your voice. And I want you to know. Your box is not my place to shine. My heart is my home. And when I am living from my heart, I’m safe out here in the light. Sure, I may stumble. I may even fall. But I have the best defense of all out here because out here — I am not alone.

_________________

And btw — there are still tickets available. They’re only $27.00 and the evening promises to be one of heart, music, soul and inspiration. I hope you can come!