Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A sea of change

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it. Margaret Thatcher
In a sea of change, every stroke I take parts the waters, opening the way to new direction. Each stroke carries me away from where I was. Each stroke has the potential to take me closer to my goals, or away from them. The sea is always flowing. How I swim in it is up to me.

Yesterday, the artists of the program I started at the shelter had their first art show in a corporate setting. A generous man heard about the program and offered to organize a show and sale in the lobby of his downtown skyscraper. He got us the space for free, put up posters, sent out emails and personal invitations to other businesses.

Working in the sector I do, it is hard to predict if clients will turn up. For many, one of the factors that drove them into homelessness, was their inability to turn up for themselves. Commitment is not high on their agenda. Commitment is a scary word and turning up on someone else's schedule not always part of their life-skillset.

Yesterday, four of the artists turned up. An amazing number. An amazing event. They are fighting the battle, swimming in the sea of change. Yesterday, they each had a personal victory.

The battle to turn up every day is a victory that is won with every leap I take into fearlessly embracing all that I am. When I surrender my fear and fall in love with my human condition, I come alive like never before.

The challenge is, learned behaviours often inhibit me from taking that leap into living passionately and fearlessly on the other side of my comfort zone. Learned behaviours keep me swimming against myself, battling the currents as I try to force the tides to change.

Unlearning behaviours that have kept me trapped in turbulent waters requires learning new strokes, building new muscle, stretching stiff joints. Unlearning behaviours can be tiring, which is why, in the past, I would often give up on changing my course and give into the urge to let the waters carry me where they will.

Like the artists yesterday. To turn up, each individual had to believe they had something worth sharing with the world. In a world where all they share in is poverty, exposing their art to stranger's eyes, is a leap into the sea of uncertainty. And yet, each artist who turned up did it. He took the leap and flew.

I learned a lot from the artist's yesterday. Each one had the courage to expose themselves, to create vulnerability amidst their poverty. Each had the courage to turn up, in spite of their fears. And each, stepped through learned behaviour that would have them believe they're not good enough, to risk sharing the work they've created.

Native American leader, Mary Bryant said, "Courage is the power to let go of the familiar."

Each artist has had the courage to keep coming back to the art studio, to keep putting a brush to canvas, a pencil to paper, an eye to the lens of a camera. And in their courage to change what is,
they inspire me to live within the grace of Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer,

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

In a sea of change, nothing stays the same. In the sea of our human condition, each artist has been changed by turning up for themselves. And each artist has created change in my life, and in the lives of everyone who sees their art. Because in their creative expression, lives the limitless possibilities of letting go of the things we've learned to explore all we do not know.

The question is: Are you willing to turn up for yourself, even when you're afraid? Are you willing to leap, even when you want to fall down? Are you willing to explore what you do not know about your human condition?


Anonymous said...


oddly, as I just finished my column, I read yours to find we've both taken a stab at writing about fear this morning . .

hmmm ..serindipitous ..


M.L. Gallagher said...

Fear is all around us! As is opportunity. As is change. As is excitement and joy and love and bliss and....

LOL -- very serindipitous.

What's even more interesting, I fear you've got a computer glitch! I received your comment seven time!

Take good care.


Anonymous said...

Hi M.L.,

As usual, you hit the nail on the head for me. I haven't been turning up for myself lately. I've been letting oh so many things cloud my path and actions.

I commit myself to a daily devotion time and lately it seems all I can do to sit down and open that Book. Yet, when I do, when I allow the soul searching, the changing that always comes, I am happier, more productive and gentler with my children. Yet, I put it off, I allow it to be crowded out with other things.

I am afraid that if I turn to God, He will reject me as so many others have, and yet He has shown me over and over again that He is only waiting with open arms to see me through the next day, moment or minute that I am facing.

Thank you for speaking to me today. Thank you for continuing your column and inspiring me to stop hiding behind fear and insecurity but to step out and DO what I know I need to do.

You are a gift to me. A blessing. Thank you.

Sarah M

M.L. Gallagher said...

Hi Sarah -- Thank you for speaking up! I too do the dance of resistance -- I know what I need to do to be centered, calm and loving but instead, put it aside.

Good for you for acknowledging what you're doing isn't of value -- and committing to taking action to create value.

You inspire me to do the same!