Monday 25th March 2019

What Is Courage? 29/52. #LifeThisWeek. 2018.61.

What Is Courage? 29/52. #LIfeThisWeek. 2018.61.

To answer this question I sought responses from various people and the internet sure does pop up some good ones. Yes, I have read some before. Yes I understand them…now.

No I did not always get why courage was so important.

Surely staying safe and small was best. Then, over the last few years I needed guidance and knowledge to help me gain skills that I am sure became dormant in a body rattled by far too many changes in my life at one.

These photos explain more. I recall taking each of them…and the last one  I had started to feel the courage I needed.

 

From these quotes I can see there are a number of views on courage. I leave them here for you and after you have scrolled, read or skipped them…my responses, via examples, to What is courage will be below.

https://www.tes.com/lessons/ZP0RzEjUkL554Q/what-is-courage

https://www.pinterest.com.au/33rdchance/courage/

http://acelebrationofwomen.org/2013/02/courage-is-not-the-absence-of-fear-women-in-recovery/

https://randyfrazier.com/brene-brown-quote-on-courage/

 

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1343701

I recently saw this quote and it had to be here: It’s from Dr Danny Penman who has written a book called: The Art of Breathing, which I have found very helpful.

What are some personal examples of courage? 

  • Moving away from our family, friends and the known to the unknown to live here on the Central Coast. I paid for this courage with resulting fear and anxiety yet, on reflection, 3 years afterwards it was worth it.

 

  • Deciding that I could apply for and get a principal’s role in 1998. Before then, I wanted to stay “safe” because that felt best. Yet as I considered my life as it continued, I knew UNLESS I got up the courage to go for roles, I would always regret it. I did get a principal’s position. I did really well in the first three years and then, the fourth year I was brought down by over-work and I had the courage to leave to help me save my mental health.

 

  • Starting a blog. I know that might not seem courageous to some but for me, a lonely retired educator I was prepared “to put myself out there”. It’s been hard to see some of the external measures of success in blogging by-pass me but look now, a lovely community thanks to this link up has joined in and that has made it worthwhile.

 

  • Speaking up and telling my father that some of his comments to me over the years have hurt me and I would prefer to have his support, no matter what, than advice that is not sought. I did wait till my mid-60s but I have done it and as a result, there is an adult to adult relationship now. I took the risk and it worked.

 

  • Insisting, after many sessions of conservative treatment,  that my dentist removed the bridge and attached teeth from my upper gums because of the pain and trouble the area had caused me for the past many months. Getting it done, despite my anxiety being sky-high at the time because I knew the only way was to find what was causing the problem underneath.

 

  • Being prepared to let go of any real or perceived attempts that I can control other people and their behaviours and this was especially true for my family relationships. I risked not knowing what I thought I needed to know and can accept this as a reality.

 

  • Determining, after taking some time to convince myself, that my cancer diagnosis, surgeries and treatments were not to harm nor scare me but to help and heal me and once I did that I was/am a more responsive and healing patient.

This list is not the end but an example of some instances that came to mind as I was preparing the post. Each of them starts with a verb. Yes, action is required in courage.

I found this example of my artwork which helped (and continues to help) me move through the often slow, boring and painful times of recovery from the BIG surgery in July 2017. I concur with past me!

A very influential person to help me learn aspects of the courage I could tap into in my latter years is my husband and along with him, my reading and listening to the works of Brene Brown. Her statements on vulnerability hit home!

So, what is courage for you?

Denyse.

 

 

Joining with Alicia here for Open Slather.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in. * Please add just ONE post each week! * Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not. * Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do! * Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right! * Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. * THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 30/52. Share Your Snaps 6.  23/7/18.



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Learning To Deal With Uncertainty Via Cancer. 2018.28.

Learning to Deal With Uncertainty Via Cancer . 2018.28.

In the past four years I have been on such a long and hard learning experience.

Perhaps I am short-changing that time frame.

Possibly it has been since 2003 when I had to resign, for medical reasons, from my substantive role as a K-6 Principal.

However, in May 2004  I was deemed well enough to return to teaching duties only and that was fine by me because I actually missed schools!

In my working life in N.S.W. public schools from 1970 until 2010 I liked the certainty:

  • of the school day,
  • the rhythm of schools
  • and the fact that my work life was timetabled
  • and I could work knowing I had familiarity and knowledge.

I now modify the above by adding: no school day was ever the same and of course there were many uncertain times and experiences but they were all familiar and I understood them well.

In the years following my retirement from teaching in 2010 up to 2014 I decided that helping families learn more about transitioning to school would be good and set up a solo education consultancy. There was some certainty in this once I found a group of early childhood centres who were not only interested in my work, but would pay me a fee too. Win!

In 2013 I was fortunate to meet then Prime Minister Julia Gillard who thanked me for my work in education.

What changed for me and how did I HAVE to learn to deal with uncertainty?

Three major triggers during 2014 and into 2015.

  1. Deciding to sell our Sydney home of over 18 years, pay off the mortgage and other debts and move to rent a place on the Central Coast.
  2. Resign or down-grading my employment status in education: teaching at Uni, having my business and remaining as an observer for (then) NSW Teachers’ Institute.
  3. Leaving the families of our adult children and their children with whom we have loved and connected from 1996 to the present including daily child-care before they started school.

I have written about them before, but the memories of those times appear in my ‘on this day’ in Facebook and in ‘time hop’ so I see and recall them usually with a sickening thud to my gut. But then because it is NOW in 2018 and I am learning much more about how to manage uncertainty I am able to counter it!

Sign Above Where I Blog. B.Be Brave O.Optimistic L.Learning & Loving. D. Determined Denyse.

Where were we?

The rational and thinking brain does not  know why because it was logical back in 2014 and KNEW the decisions we were making to commence what felt like a proper retirement for us both were right. We needed to have no more debt. We wanted to live away from Sydney. We had been told my our family that childcare was no longer required.

The thing is, I found out in many hard ways that I had created a situation (or actually more than one) where my inner soul and feelings were in conflict with my brain choices. I spent all of 2015 trying to make sense of it and until a psychologist told me: Denyse, feelings take a lot longer to catch up with decisions and change, I felt I was doing it all wrong!

And in some ways I was.

I was ignorant of so much. I finally accepted the sadness and grief that enveloped me for that year. I actually thought things would improve for me when we moved house at the end of 2015 but it was short-lived. My brain was now on super alert setting and affected my decisions and my life. I tried medications (no, none helped) and meditation (a little bit helped) and walking and art too.

But it was not until I started learning more about the Buddhist way of living in the now, as it is all the certainty we know from teachers Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, and Anne Lamott  more that I clicked:

OH. I cannot control anything really.

At all. I can control my responses.

A big gap was closing in my learning. My husband had been doing his level best to enlighten me but I was not ready. Or, I was obstinate and wanted proof!

So for all of 2016 I continued to ‘try’ to accept things but then I would revert to the default in my brain and work on all the ways “I” could control life. This did not make a happy Denyse even though I felt I needed to look like I had things under control. Ha! My Irritable Bowel Syndrome told me in its very special way “no you do not!”.

Into 2017 we (my brain and my feelings) went… and matters worsened. And I hated how reclusive I became. I rejected ideas of trying exposure therapy because ….no control!  It was a to and fro between head and heart (with the gut in the chorus) until matters changed dramatically.

Late March – early April 2017.

I HAD to follow through with using graded exposure therapy to get my awfully sore gums and teeth sorted. I did.

It felt a bit better and when my new local GP met me and suggested a small dose of an evening anti-depressant from the ‘old school’ which would help ‘firm up’ my IBS issues, I trusted him and gave things a go.

THEN. May 2017.

I had a biopsy, I thought something serious was wrong in my mouth post teeth/bridge extraction and I was right. Squamous Cell Carcinoma in my upper gums and away I went on the cancer journey.

WHAT DOES HAVING CANCER HAVE TO DO WITH UNCERTAINTY?

Everything for me. I had to change so much in terms of my ill-founded beliefs that I could control my life.

Nope. That was a BIG lesson.

What I did learn, and have  learned every.single.day. since May 2017 is that I need to trust those who care for me and provide their services as they know more about this cancer of mine than I ever will.

This does not mean I surrender because no-one does that without thinking. What I learned about myself is that I can get through some very tough times (I did and have) because I can let time pass, let my body heal in its way and take the advice of those who are experts in the field where I am not.

Of course I ask questions! In fact, I sent off about 20 before my huge initial surgery in July 2017 but I had a much greater sense of security in having met the Professor and Associate Professor, the Prosthodontist and the Practice Manager. No-one seemed to mind my questions and it was clear to me, that by asking I was helping myself be better prepared for not only cancer surgery but for the relative uncertainty in the life ahead.

On Thursday last…waiting for the next part of the treatment. Selfies rule, right?

And now, into almost the fourth month of 2018 I am now driving myself to the prosthodontist appointments in Westmead and managing my physical and emotional health whilst doing so…and in between visits and surgeries I am doing the best I can to stay well and do as is required for my continued health.

I am letting uncertainty into my life as a gift for what it teaches me:

patience

courage

confidence

trust

I have said, more than a few times, that this cancer diagnosis (and subsequent surgeries and treatments) has helped me get back a Denyse I really like being and a person who is more out-going (as I used to be many years ago) and one who is more loving and giving to others.

What lesson(s) in life have you learned about yourself?

Do you have any issues with surrendering control?

Tell me more in the comments if you are prepared to share!

Denyse.

Joining with three generous and sharing bloggers who host link ups:

Kylie Purtell here for the I Blog On Tuesdays link up.

Sue L and Leanne L  here who host the Midlife Share the Love Linky Party on Wednesdays.

Leanne who is the sweetest hostess here on Thursdays for Lovin’ Life.

 

 

 

 

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Courage, Exposure Challenges & Me. Part Two. 2017.112.

Courage, Exposure Challenges & Me. Part Two. 2017.112.

Last week I wrote Part One here. Thank you to those who responded both with understanding and familiarity. I loved reading your comments.

April turns into May 2017.

This was a good time in my life as I relished the fact that I had achieved something pretty major for me. I had come through the dental extractions and subsequent follow up, been to see my Dad in Sydney and told myself that I was doing well. Confidence grew somewhat. It was good. BUT. There has to be a but as things were not going right in terms of what the dentist and I had hoped once the front teeth were removed. The gums were worsening. In the 5 weeks of recovering I did all I was told to do, I mouth-washed and took care as I knew I should after a major extraction. But I knew things were not good. Yet no-one could actually work out what it was even with this visit to my GP and then scans and X-rays and a return visit to the dentist then the oral surgeon. The full story is here. I will continue the topic for this post which is about how I used courage and challenges to get me through. 

These photos are some I took as I reflected on the news that I had cancer in my gums Whilst I was not surprised to know there was something sinister wrong, I still had many times of ‘shock’. Anyway, it seems that I did know best how to care for me and going out and about into nature helped.

Diagnosis and Consultations.

Diagnosis on 17th May in the morning, appointment with the Head and Neck surgeons the next day and ….O.M.G. from me. How will I do this? I need to have some help. On the afternoon of 17th May our lovely (and somewhat shocked by my news GP) reassured me that I should ‘take the valium, the immodium, put the headphones on…you can do it’. The travel to Sydney with my husband driving had, interestingly enough, escalated my fears about IBS and travel MORE than having been told I had cancer. I know. I think about this a lot.

BUT. I did it. How? Exactly as the doctor said and using my knowledge that this HAD to be done and my husband assured me of his driving and preparation to stop at any time I needed to. He was brilliant. I used my hypnotherapy on my iPhone via my ear buds and closed my eyes and we stopped at 4 loo stops on the afternoon of travel. I was OK. NO I.B.S. either.

The story of what happened following that day and visiting the dental clinic in Westmead  is also here.

Blogging Really Helped Me Voice My Fears Too. June to July 2017.

To continue to prepare myself for what was ahead once surgery was confirmed I did a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios which might be silly for some people but for me they gave me information and prediction. Rather than me doing guess work I had more formed and experienced views. My confidence that I was in the best place and with the best people once I had the surgery was confirmed when the Associate Professor wrote responses to my many questions about what was ahead. It then gave me knowledge and my GP was also someone I could chat to. The courage grew. But there were days (and nights of course!) when I was fragile. I include the excerpts here from a blog post I did in the week before surgery and I am now responding in purple italics about how things went that I had been concerned about!

When I wrote this post I thought I was managing myself quite well. Since then, I have had some pretty horrid days (and nights) where I have become fearful, panicked, and so vulnerable I wanted to go into a corner and hide and never come out.

I may have felt like hiding but I did not. I certainly honour those feelings though as they are actually pretty normal and not exclusive to me.

I am shit-scared right now.

Again, I know this is normal. ‘Normalising’ the cancer diagnosis and what it would mean for me helped to change my thoughts. 

I am worried about losing what I valued: my mouth where I speak, eat, share my emotions and smile. It has been days of crying uncontrollably, being held until I calm down (thank you dear B) and taking some valium (which I don’t really want to) and letting out the fears in words between the sobs. 

This was helpful and much better for me to have the fears spoken about, and written too so that I could see them and read them knowing that I was admitting to them and not running away from them or denying them. In fact my GP gave me praise for acting this way as he said it was much healthier in the long-term than holding it in and acting as if nothing unusual was occurring.

I fear: the loss of ability to use my mouth for at least 7-10 days, have a naso-gastric feeding tube down my throat for those days, having the skin/flesh/bone from my right leg inside my mouth after 3/4 of my upper jaw/palate as been removed. Dealing with the not being in control.

Interesting for me that these things about that I feared did happen but I was in a less fearful place once the surgery was done. I did not like the feeling of the feeding tube when the liquid would start its hourly thing but I ended up telling myself it would be over in a minute or so and that the nourishment was helping me heal before I could eat again. It worked! 

I am, as I write, unable to really express what it means to be facing this loss of control of my body. I will be in ICU to start and may even have a tracheostomy to start if the mouth is too swollen. This is very scary to me, and I am admitting it now.

Better ‘in than out’ and this is why writing this post and the one containing these quotes has helped me. I have talked about the loss of control before and we humans are all like that. So, in a way, I shared a very human response rather than a ‘unique to Denyse’ one and so in one way, I was giving loving-kindness in thoughts to more than me but to anyone else fearing loss of control. 

For me to admit how vulnerable I feel right now is to say “I cannot do this without help”. My husband reassures me he will be there as much as possible, and given how I will look and be, he will be my only visitor until I give any indication I can see others. I am facing the unknown and that as we know is the scariest place to be. I will be losing my smile….for more than a while. Possible 3-4 months until my upper jaw recovers.

Yes, the loss of my smile seemed very important then and to an extent remains so but, as I have found as my mouth swelling reduced that my smile (sans top lip) is still there and in fact, smiling with my eyes has never disappeared. I will be more secure once I have teeth again of course and a lip too but for now, I am appreciative of the smiling coming from the inside too! 

August, September and onwards into October 2017.

Now I am feeling more courageous and in control of my reactions and responses I can consider what lies ahead with great equanimity and no longer feel the need to have everything right before I do things. In one week from now we will be on our way back to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse to see Professor Clarke for my 3 month check. It is interesting that I can be a little bit apprehensive about what is ahead but also curious about it too. I shall report back!!

I hope that reading my story about what I have had to do to change some of the hard-wired thoughts and feelings of mine to get better and to do well has been helpful. Avoidance is a short-term fix and the more we avoid, the worse it becomes as I found out. See Part One. By doing something fearful it helped re-train my behaviours and therefore added feelings and memories of success in overcoming many of the fears – real and imagined. Of course support from my professionals and my husband was another key to progress.

Tell me your thoughts!

Denyse.

Linking on Tuesdays with Kylie for I Blog On Tuesdays and with Leanne on Thursdays for Lovin’ Life.

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For Courage. 2017.80.

For Courage. 2017.80.

I’ve been taking my time since I retired from work to seek answers to life’s twists and turns. I’ve attended church and Sunday School as a child and an adult. I am not sure if or what I believe in these days. But I know I need  to connect with my deeper inside me and I am pretty sure that I also need to connect with others. That is what human beings need. Love and belonging and connection.

Interestingly I have found myself less resilient and even more surprising to me less confident in the past 3 years. I believe it may be connected to the ageing process but it still does not sit too well withe me, so I search for answers and ideas from others. I love the words and lessons from Pema Chodron. Another source is the works of John O’Donoue and in his book  To Bless The Space Between Us  I found this.

 

For Courage.

When the light around you lessen and your thoughts darken until

Your body feels fear turn as cold as a stone inside,

When you find yourself bereft of any belief in yourself

And all you knowingly leaned on has fallen,

When one voice commands your whole heart

And it is raven dark,

Steady yourself and see that it is your now thinking

That darkens your world,

Search and you will find a diamond-thought of light,

Know that you are not alone and that this darkness has purpose;

Gradually it will school your eyes

To find the one gift your life requires hidden within this night-corner.

Invoke the learning of every suffering you have suffered.

Close your eyes.

Gather all the kindling about your heart to create one spark.

That is all you need.

To nourish the flame that will cleanse the dark of its weight of festered fear.

A new confidence will come alive to urge you toward higher ground

Where your imagination will learn to engage difficulty

As its most rewarding threshold!

p. 107. States of the Heart section.

What kind of attributes help us be more courageous?

I’d love to hear from you about how you deal with fear.

Denyse.

Joining with Kylie Purtell here and the bloggers who blog on Tuesdays!

On Thursdays I join then Lovin’ Life Linky here with Leanne and friends.

 

 

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