Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Wide open spaces of possibility and other vistas

Alcohol Ink on Yupo 11 x 14″ 2019 Louise Gallagher

I played yesterday. I set aside my list of ‘todo’s’ and immersed myself in the pure joy of spreading colour and texture upon a canvas. Well, Yupo paper to be exact.

Yupo paper is a synthetic sheet of plastic that alcohol inks do not soak into but instead, float on the surface until they dry. It’s what gives them such vibrancy and unpredictability. That, and their chemical make-up.

My chemical make-up has been struggling with the fears, tears, frustrations, angst of imminent retirement. I smile as I read back on what I just wrote. This having an end date without a ‘destination’ is rather daunting! And while I am excited, thrilled, filled with anticipation and joy, this transition time also has its ennui.

Who am I without my title? Who am I without a place to be every day?  People expecting me to turn up, have answers, make decisions, make things happen?

And while I know the answer is “I am all of me and then some”, there is still this place of angst to navigate and cross-over.

It is a threshold. It is part of living because life is filled with thresholds.  Some easier to cross than others. Some harder.

In a workshop I recently took with the incredible Kelly Lee Bennett , she encouraged each of us to create a list of 100 Aspirations.

At lunch last weekend with my beautiful friend Kerry Parsons, she encourged me to leave off determining the ‘how’ of my aspirations until after I’ve spent the summer enjoying life, savouring downtime and alone time and time to play with my grandson and my creativity. “Can you give yourself space to just be present without having to set any goals?” she asked me.

Goals are the ‘how’ of my aspirations. They are the concrete, measurable steps I need to take to create reality to the things to which I aspire.

Aspirations are my ‘why’, my heart-driven, emotional sometimes whimsical thoughts of what I’d love to create in my world if…. my life were ideal, my world perfect. I was living my dreams.

Goals are factual. Aspirations are an expression of my inner self, my feelings and emotions.

Since moving into this home a year ago, I have been planning on having our builder come back to build out my studio space downstairs. One of the deterents has been C.C. and my conversatoins on where to put the studio versus where to put his ‘den’. You know that man cave where he watches sports, drinks beer and throws peanut shells on the floor — okay the throwing peanut shell bit is not true but it paints a true picture of what the space is for.

I need light.

He needs…. whatever light he feels like turning on.

Hence, the debate has been studio in the front end of the downstairs walkout leading to the river or, in the farside where there are no windows.

Not having the studio builtout has resulted in my using the kitchen island as my makeshift studio. It’s 14 feet long so there’s lots of room to paint and cook, but, I do put everything back at the end of every painting session simply becuase I don’t like the mess.

It’s also meant I haven’t had much space to work with anything other than the inks.

Yesterday, I jettison  my ‘to do list’ in favour of creating a space in the walk-out side of the downstairs for me to paint. (You know, the ‘to hell with waiting to make the decision, I’ll just take matters into my own hands’ kind of move that gets one thing done immediately — and leaves the rest of what needs to be decided until later.)

I am grateful. Relieved. Happy.

Something in my heart went click, like the tumblers in a safe’s combination falling into place.

I have a space, a place. To create in. To dream in. To aspire in.

I have an artist’s space.

It is filled with light. Beauty. Possibility.

I threw away my ‘to do’ list yesterday. I played with inks and then, decided to get busy creating for myself a space where I can come home to the canvas, to my art journal pages to find myself at ease, inspired by the sheer joy of letting my creative expressoins flow freely.

Hello retirement!  Or, as Thelma Box, founder of Choices Seminars calls it, ‘Refirement’.  I am all fired up about the wide open terrain before me as I step lightly into the undefined, unmapped possibilities of my life.

Namaste.


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What makes you happy?

I dropped in to visit friends at Choices over the weekend. The seminar was in session so I knew there’d be lots of people there to hug and say hello to.

I wasn’t wrong.

It is what I love about visiting Choices friends. It’s as though whatever time has passed is erased and we are all standing, heart-to-heart, connecting on the deeper plane we each discovered exists when we went through the program. It’s the space the space that makes life so much more rich and vibrant.

At one point, I sat and chatted with a lovely woman whom I don’t see very often but when I do, always reminds me of the power of the human spirit to grow and heal and stretch and deepen.

I haven’t spent a lot of time with her, but today, as we sat and chatted about the things in life that have held us back from living the life we want, time wasn’t important. Our heart conversation was.

We talked about how the experience of going through Choices and using the tools in our lives has changed us and all our relationships. How we have both found our lives enriched and our capacity to use our voices strengthened.

One of the greatest gifts Choices has given me is the belief in myself and my right to be happy and my accountability for my own happiness. There was a time when I thought a man would make me happy. Or perhaps the right job, or more education, or more money, or more anything.

What I didn’t realize was that my search for externals was keeping me from diving into the one place where I would find the source of my discontent, and my happiness. My own heart.

Another friend commented that my life seems really busy. “It is,” I replied.

“Are you happy?” she asked.

I heard her question coming straight from her heart and stopped a moment to reflect. I took a breath. In. Out.

Am I happy?

I listened deeply to my heart.

“Yes,” I replied. “I am. And even more than happy, I’m content.”

“What makes you happy?” she asked sincerely.

Ahhh.. Well, of course my grandson. Daughters. My marriage. My life. Beaumont — of course.

But even deeper is my sense of fulfillment. My sense that the work I’m doing matters. That I matter.

A few weeks ago, when I took on the role of Interim Executive Director of the family emergency shelter where I work, I wasn’t thinking about my happiness. I was thinking about  how taking on this role was the right thing to do for the organization at this time.

Doing what I believe is the right thing makes me happy.

I hadn’t thought of that until my friend asked me, “What makes you happy?”

In many instances, I’ve been focused on how scary it is to step into these shoes. How daunting a task to try to stabilize an organization that has gone through a challenging period.

I haven’t thought about my own happiness. I haven’t had to.

In doing what I believe is the right thing, I have inherently created a sense of happiness within me. Because, to not do it would have left me disquieted. Uneasy. I would have felt like I was letting people down and while that’s not always a good enough reason to do something, there is a place in me that recognizes that being of service to others fills me up. It feels right within me. And when I feel right within me, I am happy.

I spent a few hours this weekend immersed in the world of Choices. It was a gift of time. Of connection. Of deep-feeling and listening.

It was also an opportunity to delve inside and connect to what makes me tick. What gives my life meaning. What brings me joy.

I am so blessed.

I have a life I love. I am surrounded by people who love and adore me and whom I love and adore.  I get to work everyday in a place where I find meaning and fulfillment. And I have friends who are willing to ask me the tough questions that give me pause to consider… What makes me happy?

What makes you happy?

 

 


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3 Things I learned through Choices

The world can be a harsh place. Filled with breath-taking beauty, it also holds inexplicable pain, suffering and terror.

It can be easy in today’s world to forget about the beauty. To believe the suffering and terror are consuming the love and joy, pushing it further and further back into an ever present darkness.

In the Choices Seminar room I am constantly reminded of the awe, beauty, and power of the human spirit, of our capacity to live IN LOVE and let go of fear.

There are many, many things being in that room teach me.

Here are 3 key take-a-ways from this past week.

  1. LOVE is always present. Choosing to embrace LOVE, know it, be it, is my choice.

I get to choose what I carry with my on this journey called life. I can ‘travel heavy’, burdened down by past regrets, choices, experiences, or, I can choose to accept this moment right now is all I have. What do I choose to fill it with?

I do not want to be consumed by fear, holding onto regret, clutching desperately to the past believing it will be my future. I have a choice. To hold on to what doesn’t work for  me anymore, or let it go and fill each moment with love.

It is my choice. To believe in Love or give into fear. And if I fall, or forget, or buy into fear, it is my choice to choose Love again and again, always.

2.  We are not alone.

We all have experiences in the past that have hurt us, caused us to falter, to stumble on our journey. And while my experience may be unique to me, and yours to you, we all share in this human experience. We are not alone on this human path.

When we risk telling our stories of pain and expressing our fears, we make room for others, including ourselves, to see into our hearts. When we choose to look into the heart of what makes us build walls to keep others out or push back against those who want to know us deeply or dig ourselves into corners and hide in darkened rooms, we create the possibility of light shining through, illuminating even the darkest corners of our fears.

When the light shines through its easier to see, we are not alone. There have been others in the darkness with us, yearning for the light too. And beyond the darkness, we can see those standing in the light reaching in to help us out.

3.  I can choose to be Right or Happy. It is my choice.

The need to ‘be right’ is seductive.  It convinces us that if we hold onto it, we will never be hurt, or disappointed, let down or feel out of control.

The challenge is, being right means someone else has to be wrong. And in that space, true intimacy, the one that is spelled “In-to-me-see” cannot happen. And without intimacy with those closest to us, we feel unseen, unheard, unknown, and disconnected.

We are human beings. We are hard-wired for connection. We can’t connect with others when we hold onto our need to be right.

Choosing to ‘be happy’ invites us into that beautiful space where there is room for others, along with ourselves, to feel seen, heard, known and connected.  It doesn’t mean we have to agree with other’s points of view, it just invites us into that space where other points of view are different, not wrong. And that’s okay.

Being in the Choices Seminars room these past five days has reminded me of my power to live each day with a loving heart and open mind.

It has renewed my commitment to walk my path believing in my worthiness and my capacity to create passion, delight and kindness all around me.

It has reminded me that we are all beautiful human beings sharing this space called Planet Earth, taking this journey together. We may live on separate continents, different towns and cities, but we all share in this human condition. And when we choose Love, we create greater possibility for peace to happen, miracles to appear and Love to blossom in every heart.

None of us are powerful enough to change another, but we can choose to change how we see ourselves and our capacity to create better in our world.

When we focus on how we are in the world, and look into our own hearts, we make space for others to share their heart’s desires too. In that sharing, we create opportunities to connect through Love so that hate and terror and war and abuse and a host of other human conditions that are hurting us, can be exposed and healed in the light of love.

Namaste.


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Our human condition is a journey through love.

 

Choices is an experiential journey. It is an exquisitely constructed series of teachings and processes that have been honed and developed over 35 years to fulfill on founder, Thelma Box’s vision of Changing the world one heart at a timeFor over 35 years, Thelma Box, Mary, Joe and Greg Davis have created a safe and courageous space for people to step into the wonder and awe of discovering who we truly are when we let go of the negative self-talk and self-defeating games we all inevitably employ to protect our hearts and keep ourselves safe from being hurt by others or to prevent them from seeing we are hurting.

We humans are interesting beings. We are all born magnificent. It is our birthright.

We come into this world crying out for belonging, for love, for connection and then life happens and we quickly forget the birthright of our magnificence as we adapt our behaviours to meet life’s sometimes confusing, sometimes challenging, sometimes painful teachings. We walk through each day into unknown and known places, face strangers and people we know fearing they are judging us, measuring our journey against theirs, or examining our flaws with such intensity we feel naked or invisible. We try to hide in plain view, or stand out in anger, contempt, judgement fearing we will never find peace, love, hope, joy, contentment and in our fear, do everything we can to prevent ourselves from having what we want.

In our struggle to get what we want, we set bars so high we cannot see them or don’t set them at all because we are convinced we will never reach them. And in our fear of constantly having to measure up or our fear of continually falling short, we do not see, it is our judgements of ourselves that are hurting us most. It is our negative self-talk that is killing our dreams. It is our self-defeating games that are keeping us stuck living in the shadows of our fear; we do not matter, we are not worthy, we are unloveable.

At Choices, I am continually blessed to witness people awakening to their magnificence. I am blessed with being part of miracles unfolding as people open their eyes to the truth of who they are when they let go of fearing who they are will never be enough.

We are all enough. Exactly the way we are. Exactly as we were born to be before we forgot that our value is not found in the things we acquire or the things we do or people we know or places we’ve been. Our value is in our being present and true to our hearts. It is found in how we treat ourselves and one another. Our value is intrinsic to our nature of being human when we let go of fearing who we are and remember, we are all magnificent.

It was a beautiful and inspiring five days of connecting heart to heart to one another. Of seeing and hearing the beauty of each person’s heart beating freely and fiercely with the truth that who they are is greater than their fear that they were unworthy or undeserving of Love.

We are all deserving of Love, no matter our human condition, because our human condition is a journey through Love.