Thursday 20th February 2020

Women of Courage Series. #28. Beth Macdonald. 14/2020.

Women of Courage Series. #28 Beth Macdonald. 14/2020.

 

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

 

Introducing Beth Macdonald age 41 is such a joy and a privilege. I met Beth so many years ago via blogging and when I “think” her middle girl, was not even at school…and certainly her Baby (not the first one, the blog is named after) Maggie took many of us down paths of wonder and love when we saw her arrival and years that followed. Now, Miss Maggie is at school! Go figure. But, Beth, a most generous and “heart on her sleeve: gal took time out of her BIZ she has with her sister, the millions of other things she does including a podcast about the Royals too…and shares the best of her recipes (and good reality checks too) on her blog! Welcome Beth!

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

Leaving a long term relationship/engagement

Having children

Being online and in social media every day – putting yourself out there, pitching work to clients etc

Starting my own business

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

The growth and learning (both good and bad) can only help you grow and change as a person, each new step and challenge in life starts a new layer of armour and sheds an old layer of who we used to be

 

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

Only to ever listen to your gut and instinct: it knows ALL, you already know ALL your mind will try and trick you into thinking otherwise, but deep down you already know the answer – try to be quiet and listen to it

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

Age, wisdom and experience helps. Learning from your mistakes and knowing if you even get it wrong it will be OK. Being courageous is about having the belief in yourself to get it done, backing yourself and like anything, the more you flex this muscle, the stronger it gets!

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Just to dig deep, trust yourself and don’t compare yourself or your experience to anyone else. You’ve got this, you REALLY do.

 

You do too Beth!

Thank you so much for sharing.

Denyse.

 

Blog/Website: www.baby-mac.com

Twitter: @BabyMacBeth

Facebook Page: BabyMacBeth

Instagram: BabyMacBeth

This is the on-line business mentioned in the introduction by me. I can highly recommend their attention to customer service and details. And the website itself is so pretty…and interesting..oh look for yourself; it’s HERE! Add To Cart. 

 

 

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends .

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women of Courage Series. #27. Sandra Kelly.12/2020.

Women of Courage Series. #27. Sandra Kelly.12/2020.

Trigger warning: content: as advised by Sandra.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

 

 

 

 

Image credit: https://m.facebook.com/RhondaLockerPhotography/

If there is one place where I know I can find some care and support on-line it’s with Sandra Kelly who is 53. No, we have never met, but you can bet that if we did, there would be an instant rapport and a LOT of chatting together. This lady, known to me first via her blog, and now as a facebook friend has QUITE a story and it was she who asked for a trigger warning. I am in awe of Sandra and here she is, with her dear husband, with a photo taken as a memory of where they lived for quite some time before moving for family and medical reasons. What a great idea to capture the familiar for the future.

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

First of all I’ll let you in on a little secret… I don’t see myself as courageous at all (no disrespect intended to those who do).

Whether I’ve been tackling my fear of heights to absorb a breathtaking view, or staring boggle eyed at a bloody big needle about to be shoved into my boob, I’ve felt nothing but fear, anxiety, doubt, sometimes terror and many times hot stinging tears – but I have certainly not felt like a woman of courage.

You might say I fit the mould quite snuggly of Denyse’s musings that gave birth to this series – “We women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives”.

Yep, that’s me alright!

I guess I haven’t seen myself as a courageous person throughout our many years of adversity as a family because life in the face of adversity becomes… well… just life!  You get out of bed in the morning and get on with it because ‘it just is’.

It’s not always done with a smile or without a tear or fear, you just do ‘your normal’ that can appear so ‘abnormal’ to those on the outside looking in.

I’ve been married to the most courageous man for the past 32 years.  When I think of any courage I may have needed to tap into over time, it pales in comparison to the courage he displays each and every day.

My husband has severe Chronic Rheumatoid Arthritis, among other ailments, and has been in a wheelchair as a result for about 25 years now.  Infections, joint replacements, pneumonia’s, heart failure, countless hospital admissions and so much more has been our everyday life… our normal.

I’ve had to battle my own shyness and demons to best support and advocate for him and my family over the years.  It hasn’t been easy but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else doing anything else.

I’m right where I’m meant to be right now, doing exactly what I’m meant to be doing.

 

On the days where it feels all-consuming, for us both, I trust in that little mantra and its undeniable truths.

Around 15 years ago our niece came to live with us permanently (she and her two brothers would come to stay every holiday since they were very young).  Around 12 months later the two boys joined us permanently as well.  They were aged eight, twelve and fourteen at the time.

We had a fourteen year old of our own, granny up the end of the verandah, hurricane Nikki the Labrador, Bing the allergy ridden Shih Tzu itchy dog, two cats, one bird and welcomed the boys two pet rats into the swelling family as well (yes, you read that correctly, two rats).

We certainly were packed to the rafters.  A full house but with much room in our hearts.

I’m in awe of the courage and intestinal fortitude my family showed during those early months and years of adjustment as all our lives changed shape. So much vulnerability at its best and its worst has woven a safety net of respect, love and connectedness that cradles us with its indestructible strength.  It is a privilege to call them all my family.

In early 2013 I was diagnosed with triple negative invasive breast cancer and under went surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.  It was cruel.  Not only for me but for everyone around me.

Treatment wiped me out – physically and mentally.  I was a mess. In and out of hospital with infections and zero immune system fighting capabilities took its toll.

By September of that year I was a shell of my former self weighing in at only 38 kilos and not a logical thought colliding anywhere in my brain.  I was done.

I still shake my head and marvel at how I found the strength to crawl out of that hole and head space.  I think I used up a huge chunk of everyone else’s courage because mine was missing in action.

In 2015 I had a piece of my right lung removed because of suspected breast cancer spread.  Thankfully the lesion was not cancerous.

These few years were horrendous. My depression and anxiety were off the scale. I’m not ashamed to admit that I suffered two breakdowns in a three year period.

Thanks to the unconditional love and support of family and friends I survived it all.  Every cell of my being could not hold one ounce more of appreciation, gratitude and love for those very special people I have in my life.  Even that sentence falls way short in describing their dedication.  They fought for my existence in this world when I no longer had the will.

Recently we called on all our reserves of strength to sell our beloved home in a beautiful country town in Gippsland Victoria to move closer to health services and family.

We miss our lovely little community and our gorgeous mountain views and wildlife terribly but being closer to support services in ‘rural suburbia’ has been necessary and so worth it.

Being closer to family has brought us much pleasure as well and has enriched our lives for the better.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

My life experiences have changed me in many ways.  Some for the better and some for the worse.

If I was needing to shine a light on just one of those ways it would that I am definitely a much more patient person than I was in the earlier years of navigating all this ‘stuff’.

People need the gift of time and empathy to heal wounds and find their way, without judgement. I’m much better at gifting myself that same time and empathy now… well, most days.

I desire to live a slower quiet life.  Sure there are things I’d like to tick off my bucket list but I won’t be regretful on my death bed if they are left unchecked. I love the sense of safety that my home, friends and family bring me and I’m quite okay with pottering around home spending time with them.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

Do the best you can and be okay with that. Try hard not to lament over how you think you should  be doing life in the face of your challenges.

Placing unrealistic expectations on yourself is a sure way to smother your courage and chip away at your spirit. I’m living proof of that.  Be kind to yourself, okay?!

Laugh at the absurdity of it all, cry your eyes out, go for a walk, pull the doona over your head for a day. What I’m trying to say is, the courage to get through your every moment comes in many different forms to every different person and requires acknowledgment of your individual needs to feed your internal resources.

Do what you need to build your resilience stores in your own way.

Do ‘you’ without shame.

Having said that I also need to say this:

 

“We are all angels with one wing, the only way to fly, therefore, is to embrace one another”.

There are a few versions of this Luciano De Crescenzo quote floating around and it’s been a long time favourite of mine. We are nothing without those who will quietly wrap their wings around us as we sit in the dark and still hold tight as we take flight towards the light.

Gather your angels… courage ought not be a solitary practise.

 

And finally, nurture your mental and emotional health.  At two in the morning when it’s just you and your thoughts you’ll be wanting to turn up the volume on your voice of reason to drown out that persistent fear monster and his incessant mouth flapping.  Explore ways that will work for you.

 

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I believe I’m less fearful in dealing with situations now that require me to find my voice and advocate for my loved ones, or indeed myself.  Being fundamentally shy I have to draw deep on my strength for this to happen.

I found that not speaking my truth was far more crippling and detrimental than the actual fear of doing so – even if my voice trembled.  Experiencing the fragility of life through various filters, like feeling the loss of your own power and control over what’s happening, feeds a need to be heard and understood.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

I wish I had some profound, concise statement that I could wrap up in a nugget of gold for you to take away… but I don’t.

I’m still stumbling through life grasping hold of people to break my fall and trying to do my best for myself and those around me on any given day.

However, I do believe it’s very important to remind ourselves that courage is not defined by a puffed-out chest and an almighty roar striding head on with sure footed fearless steps in the face of fear or pain.  Thank you Hollywood for those illusions.

It’s more often than not a tentative negotiation of the stepping stones of life trying not to fall off and get stuck in the mud at the bottom… and that’s okay.

 

In the words of the amazing Kelly Exeter “Wobbly courage is still courage”.

 

Wobbly courage sits well with me. I identify with it and it speaks my language.

It just may work for you too.

 

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post.

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.  Then life would begin.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”  Alfred D. Souza

Please don’t wait for life to begin on the other side of crappy times like I have done in the past.  These obstacles are your life at the moment – look for the splashes of joy in each day and live the now with as much purpose and meaning as your circumstances may afford you, in whatever shape that takes and serves you best.

I wish the gift of love and strength for you all.

 

What a heart-felt and wonderful story you shared so courageously Sandra. Thank you so much.

Denyse.

 

Social Media:

Blog/Website:  www.sandrakelly.me

Instagram:  @sandrakellywhatlieswithin

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women of Courage Series. #26. Maureen Jansen.10/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #26. Maureen Jansen. 10/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

I am so pleased to introduce Maureen Jansen who is 73. We have ‘only’  met via social media thanks to us living on opposite sides of the Tasman Sea. Maureen is a New Zealander. We ‘met’ in mid 2018 via our common connection: Head and Neck Cancer. I suspect, even without this between us, the teaching and ‘grandmothering’ along with outdoor photography would also connect us!  Maureen tells her story. It is one of amazing resilience and testament to her strength of character and will. The best bit…is that in June 2020 we have plans to meet! More on that another time. 

Thanks Maureen for sharing your story today as a Woman of Courage: 2020.

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

I’ve had to dig deep four times after receiving cancer diagnoses. My first diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer was in 1996 and I decided to be brave to protect my children who were then 13, 17 and 19. The youngest was living at home and I was more scared of traumatizing him than of anything else. I’ll always remember a fellow patient in my ward saying that the first thing she said when the doctor told her she had cancer was “My kids”, as tears poured down her cheeks.  I now think that my reaction was too stoic and not open enough with my youngest son. And by the way, that advanced cancer diagnosis proved to be of a type of ovarian cancer which usually responds well to treatment. I was well and truly cured but the repression of emotions initially, followed by a complete turnaround in prognosis later, led to a very mixed up and depressed me when I returned to work after it was all over. The vagaries of the human heart!

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

The ovarian cancer diagnosis and later the head and neck cancer diagnoses changed me a lot. I had counselling and anti-depressants which both helped me deal a little bit better with my former anxieties, funnily enough. I have had to make a conscious decision to get over fear of needles and other painful procedures because I know that they will be part of my life now although I am currently very well. I’m not as scared of physical pain as I was, and even had two fillings the other day without an anaesthetic. I’ve learnt to chant a little rhyme in my head when needles and drills do their thing. It’s usually only for a short time. My proudest moment was when I had some clips out in a wrist wound five years ago. The nurse was struggling and each time she used the clip removing device, there was a surge of pain. I did my deep breathing and we talked and laughed as we went through each one. It was a strangely uplifting moment.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

I really think that learning some specific coping strategies from a psychologist is invaluable. I have found many mindfulness tools excellent. Mindfulness, walking, taking photographs of nature and posting them online … These things have helped me as well as trying to live a productive life with plenty of service to others. I’m not good at self care but we should all do it!

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

In terms of my health I think I will be braver but other situations like dealing with conflict and communicating with others are situations I find take the most courage, honesty and wisdom. I’m still learning.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

It can well up in you when you least expect it. Often things are not as bad when you are IN them as they look to an outsider. When your back is against the wall, some sort of survival instinct seems to kick in. If it doesn’t and you feel frightened, you have every right to be. Psychological help makes a huge difference when fear and anxiety become too much to bear. Seek help!

 

Thank you so much Maureen. For sharing and for being here to tell the story. What a story! I have so much admiration for you. Looking forward to catching up “in real life” as they say. Meanwhile, I am adding below something about the facebook group.

Denyse.

Social Media: follow Maureen here.

Blog/Website: hncmaureen.com

Twitter: @HNCMaureen

Instagram: @birdlikeme

 

 

IF a family member or someone you know does have a diagnosis of a head and neck cancer or that person is a carer, the value of a good facebook group cannot be over-done. The friendly space that IS this group for eligible people to request membership is a good one. There are people from all over the world but the group is not huge so personal connections can be made. It is mainly made up of New Zealanders, and Aussies too…along with those from the U.S. There are questions to be answered to join and it IS strictly for those with a head and neck cancer. Link is here.

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

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Women Of Courage Series 2020. Accidental Feminists’ Author: Jane Caro AM. 8/2020.

Women Of Courage Series 2020. Accidental Feminists Author: Jane Caro AM. 8/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

The posts are returning each Wednesday from now…and I have posts waiting ‘in drafts’ for publication until April 2020. Do tell me in the comments if you would like to be part of this series. Already 27 women (including  Jane and I ) have shared their stories.

 

 

In April 2019 I attended Newcastle Writers’ Festival and got to hear, amongst others, Author and Public Education Advocate, Jane Caro speak. Jane’s been known to me for a long time via social media, her other books and her involvement in promoting public education. She spoke at length of the roles we women have played and often at great loss or expense to our health, welfare and future financial security in her book Accidental Feminists.

 

Her written and spoken words really made me think.

Women do so much unsung, not necessarily because of not wanting people to know, but because we “just do get on.” I know that my life has taken some not great twists and turns and I realised I drew on resources of courage to do so.

This led me to finding out more about courage from others.

Introducing Jane Caro A.M.

Many of you may have seen Jane speak and give commentary on TV shows like The Drum and on Morning T.V. Jane’s voice, particularly in terms of Public Education has been remarkable. She went to a N.S.W. Public High School – Forest High and I went to another local Northern Beaches public high school too. Jane is younger than I but we share some common elements in our upbringing in new-ish suburbs that now command million dollar prices. I knew of Jane’s career in advertising (she has appeared on Gruen) from her first book and she has written others. Find them here. Jane generously took time to complete the same questions I asked others, and like others who I call “Women of Courage” she does not see herself that way. Enough from me, thank you Jane Caro.

 

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

People often say they admire my courage, but I don’t really feel that I am courageous. Reason being, I am not afraid. Courage, to me, means doing something you are genuinely afraid to do and – th thing that most people see as courageous – speaking my mind – privately or publicly – is not something I am afraid of. It seems it is something many others are afraid to do – hence they mistakenly ascribe courage to me. I find this terribly sad. We ought to live in a society and at a time where being straightforward and candid is applauded, not punished. For many, especially many women, the opposite seems to be true.

Sure, many people (usually men) try to shut me down by insults, sneers, mockery, threats and general nastiness but I long ago realized they only have the power to hurt me if I give them that power, otherwise their weapons shrivel and die because I will not respond the way they want me to. No doubt being forthright has cost me work, promotion and opportunities, but it has also delivered all of those (well, except promotion, we only want lily-livered leaders apparently) and, best of all, it has delivered self-respect.

Was I born this way? Certainly not. I was hyper-sensitive as a child and young person about what people thought of me and I knew they did not think well of me. What is bearable in an old lady is unbearable in a young one, I think, which is why so many of my younger feminist friends cop so much more abuse than I do. I suffered from an anxiety neurosis as a young woman and it was in overcoming that that I feel I did something that required actual courage.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

The neurosis was so debilitating and intense that it forced me to seek help via a variety of therapists, some more helpful than others. I learnt an enormous amount about myself and about people in general in the process of that therapy that has served me well ever since. Not least how to hang on to my own power in the face of criticism, abuse and bullying.

I think women are trained to seek approval and that is why we so fear conflict or unpleasantness or find it so hard to express ourselves without fear. This training makes sense when you are a member of a subordinate group. It can be dangerous not to be approved of and to be excluded. As a result of my therapy, I gave up seeking approval. All I try to do now is be as much myself as I can.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

After about 15 years of mental tribulation – I functioned fine, I just felt like shit – I finally overcame my anxiety neurosis (some may feel I have over-corrected). It didn’t disappear in a puff of smoke, just dwindled away slowly until I no longer suffered from anxiety at all. The dwindling began after I faced real danger (I have lived a very protected life) when my first child was born premature, caught an infection, stopped breathing in my arms and almost died.

She was so sick she got the last available neo-natal intensive care bed available that night in NSW. She eventually stopped breathing at least 4 times and had to be intubated. The next morning, I asked for help (as going to therapy had taught me to do) and spoke to neo-natologist and grief counsellor Dr Peter Barr. He said these three sentences to me that began to crack the carapace of anxiety I had been living behind. “There’s nothing special about you, there’s nothing special about Polly (my daughter). Terrible things can happen, and they can happen to anyone. Safety is an illusion, danger is reality.”

Sounds brutal but it was just what I needed. What he was saying to me was that I could not control what happened which, as it turns out, was what my anxiety neurosis was all about. I was both thinking of all the terrible things that might happen as a sort of spell to stop them happening, while at the same time fearing that by thinking about them, I was conjuring them up. Of course, I had no such power – none of us do. As a result of Polly’s near death (she survived with no ill effects) I began to let go of the illusion of control and with it came a loss of fear. If I can’t control my own or anyone else’s safety – no matter how much I love them – no point worrying about danger until it happens.

If I can’t control how you will react to what I say, to what you think of me on TV or when I give a speech, I shall just put my energy into controlling what I can – my research and preparation for the task and let your reaction be yours. I shall not worry about whether you like or approve of me because doing so makes no difference to whether you do or not. I finally learnt the truth and power of what we call ‘boundaries’ – simply where I stop and you start. Once you know what you can control (inputs) and what you can’t (outcomes) life gets much easier and you don’t actually need courage.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I don’t know and -with respect – I don’t really care.

For the situations that may await me I will do no preparation or worrying. I will deal with them as they appear and I will deal with them as I need to which may be with courage or may be with full on weeping, whining and falling apart. I have learnt to trust my emotions rather than fear them or try to control them. Sometimes the strongest thing to be is not strong – but honestly vulnerable and needy. I don’t need to be better, nicer, smarter or more courageous than I am. I just need to be as I am.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Be yourself. Accept and celebrate your messy, needy, unwieldy bits – they’re the best and most genuine part of you.

Don’t pretend, especially don’t pretend to yourself.

Don’t strive, just be.

Have fun and never,ever,ever feel guilty about that.

Know where you stop and others start.

And stop seeking approval. You are fine just the way you are, you just need to believe it.

 

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post.

Life is short, stop trying so hard.

 

I have read Jane’s words over and over and wish to take many of her messages on-board. The quote from the neo-natologist still blows me away. I too need to remember this.

With much gratitude Jane, for your time and advice. Love that you could share here too.

Denyse.

 

Social Media:

Jane Caro  on 26 January 2020 is found here.

Twitter: @janecaro

Bio: AM. Walkley award winner. Novelist (Just a Girl, Just a Queen, Just Flesh & Blood), author (Plain Speaking Jane, Stupid Country, F Word, Accidental Feminists)

 

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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