Tuesday 19th December 2017

A Very Personal Post About My Weight. 2017.134.

A Very Personal Post About My Weight. 2017.134.

In this, my last post for 2017, I am finally unlocking what I have kept inside more than I have let out. Into the world beyond my conversations with my husband who is my trusted confidante.

This is about my weight and what I see and think about the place it has had in my life as an adult. We are talking over 48 years.

Mid 2014 Left. Recently 2017 on Right.

It has been always, and yes it is a not very good analogy, the elephant in the room.

I do not mention my size, weight or fluctuations other than in written form in my diary or in saying something to my husband.

So, where to start with what I want to say….it’s here. As a young woman.

My Twenties.

  • I was 20 when I left home to teach in north-western NSW. I was free to be me. Well, in some ways and I do know I had the first sense of freedom around food. I believe I was a less than normal eater in my teens, still living at home and preferred ‘junk’ food over the better food.
  • I think my parents did what they could but in some ways, I had/have that sweet tooth which I used to calm and comfort. I was not overweight at all but like many young women moving into their 20s I saw the faults of hips and thighs. In fact, being told by a teaching colleague I had child-rearing hips was not taken as a compliment. In the photos above you can see I was a normal  looking young bride and then mother.
  • However, the very first notion that I needed to diet (i.e.) lose weight came at my 6 week post-pregnancy check up where the OB told me I needed to get those (back then in pound/stones) half a stone off me to be back to wedding day weight.
  • Thus it set something off in me about not being good enough AND to add to this, I was one miserable stay-at-home mum (very isolated in the NSW bush for 8 hours a day for 6 months) so I comfort-baked and ate.
  • Onto a new school and a new house and our baby grew to be a pre-schooler and my weight did too. I ate to soothe. I ate to calm and I ate, interestingly enough, because I could not fall pregnant even though the first time round was too easy!
  • We moved to an even more isolated area where we were both on staff: hub was the principal and I was the teacher and our daughter started school with us. We enjoyed the teaching stint because it was incredibly challenging but in the meantime, and the downtime I baked for ourselves and others and I put on even more weight.
  • When I saw my parents, family and friends in the school holidays  it was not a topic for conversation but my imagination took over and there were many judgement of ME by others (that they never said but I imagined). I was already ashamed to be the size I was but I was not going to talk about it to anyone. Some diets were tried to limited success and as someone who hates deprivation it was never going to last.
  • The doctor who told me I would never fall pregnant without losing weight was hated by me. I did so much want to have a second child but it appeared not to be something that would happen so I accepted the fate of one child.

My Thirties.

  • I became pregnant! Not by dieting, oh no. The  next specialist I saw once we had settled back into Sydney, diagnosed multiple ovarian cysts and other things inside that were preventing pregnancy and following major abdominal surgery…and a bit quicker than the specialist recommended, I was with child.
  • I was at a lower weight (still around 18 kgs above my wedding day weight) and kept that weight consistently with no increase until the last couple of months of pregnancy. Gave birth, went well, breastfed (the weight did not drop off!) and back to work full-time when the baby was 18 weeks old.

STRESS: This time in our married lives were amongst the worst as my husband was made to medically retire due to ill-health and the next 4 years or so were pretty grim. I was teaching full-time and seeking promotions as I was the only one now in education. Our kids were growing and whilst their Dad did some things for them, he was very unwell and a lot fell to me. How did I cope? Well, good old food. Comfort foods of course. However, noticing that I was getting bigger did not help my self-esteem and I would put myself through rigorous exercise and restricted eating in the hope that would help.

  • And no, I would not talk about it ever. My GP always checked my BP and bloods and even though I did have highish BP medication helped that and it was not weight-related. Blood tests were awesome. I was healthy.
  • But I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror or photos so I stayed behind the lens as the family photographer.

My Forties.

  • As a mum I used to wonder if my kids (who were of so-called normal weight) were ever ashamed of me and I hoped at the same time that they would never mention my weight. They did not.
  • But I sure told myself stories about how my parents must have felt about me as neither of them was overweight.
  • So, there I was on the outside trying my best to look good: I had nice clothes, I had my hair done regularly but my mind told me I looked fat. Always. And that others must be saying that behind my back too.
  • I went on diets at least 3 times. I lost and re-gained the same 18kg each time. Diets included weight watchers (who never could explain to me how NOT to be an emotional eater) and attending a dietitian.

My Fifties.

  • Life was good in many ways. Our children were now adults and independent to a degree and both eventually left home.
  • My husband was reasonably well and we had the trappings of success outwards (new house, cars etc) but there was more happening inside.
  • Interestingly I never ate when stressed but I ate to soothe when I felt overwhelmed or needed what I would call a ‘reward’ or treat.
  • I became a school principal at this time of my life and the days might not have had time for me to eat but I made up for it when I got home.
  • I liked cooking for others and enjoyed sharing my culinary skills with plenty of leftovers, always making I had put aside food for me that I liked too for another time.
  • By now I realised that I used food emotionally. Yes. Crunchy foods helped soothe anger and frustrations. Soft food, like chocolate and cake soothed my sad or loneliness.
  • I visited psychologists about my weight, I went on exercise plans and I did diaries and I even took a prescription tablet to help me reduce my cravings. That worked for a while but it gave me side-effects so off that I went and back on came the weight.
  • By now I decided NOT to be the number on the scales anymore and threw them out.

From a Slimming Mag Article on Me. Early 2000s. Made up me, around 70kg on left, Grandma me in 2001 much heavier on right.

My Sixties.

  • I was in the decade of when my maternal aunt died. This was a bit scary as she was overweight and I know she comfort ate and her death was related to an unknown cancer.
  • I did get blood tests done annually and it was as a result of one of those around 4-5 years ago that I got my first warning of what ageing, lack of exercise and excessive weight could do. I had raised blood sugar and my GP wanted me to have the Glucose Tolerance Test.
  • She really did understand thought that I was trying to live my life without being a number on the scales. But I HAD to do something myself. I then agreed to be weighed and then I asked her to give me 6 months to do something about this.
  • Six months later, and 3 kgs lighter, thanks to more attention to the amounts of what I was eating AND to increase my walking each day, there was no need to have a GTT. Phew.
  • In this period of 2014-2017 I was affected (still am from time to time) by the immense stressors of the trifecta of transitions as I like to call them: selling our house, moving away from family and friends, retiring from all education work.
  • Enter: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) …it had emerged for the first time in my 30s but had gone till now. Suddenly, and over time I found I HAD to limit what I ate. I also found I was…ahem, going to the loo much much more.
  • My GPs (I was still going to one in Sydney and then I found one up here) re-assured me that this unintentional weight loss was OK as long as I was managing OK. I was but not always.
  • Stressors such as loneliness and sadness of the trifecta of transitions saw me settle into a healthier and better eating pattern which probably halved meals on most days.
  • I no longer went out for coffee and cake as I was too stressed to do so but I missed it. However, this helped me too.
  • I often asked the doctors “are you sure this is OK?” and they always said “yes”.
  • It took me a LOOOOONG time to believe (and I still have doubts) that this weight loss could be sustained.
  • Over the 3 years or so I lost around 33 kg. It goes up a bit then down a bit but I have gone from Size 22/20 clothes to Size 16/14. Interesting!

WHAT ABOUT GETTING CANCER?

  • Interestingly, in the 2014-2017 times I used to ask the GPs and even the Gastroenterologist “do you think I have lost some weight because I have cancer?” and this was always answered no!
  • I do not believe my cancer was weight-related either now but I also know that somewhere along the line our bodies can change inside when we are under stress. The last 3-4 years were those for me. My Professor and GP both have no idea why I got this cancer (neither a smoker nor drinker) either but they have said it can be found in older women (check) and is quite rare. Lovely. Not.
  • So, yes since having a cancer diagnosis IN my mouth it was already hard to eat as my gums and the bridge with teeth at the front of my mouth was tender. So, too sore to eat much. Weight comes down. How do I know? Clothes are loosening.
  • Time to get real about food. After the surgery I had to take responsibility for feeding myself with a very limited selections of food that can be soft, easy to swallow and are generally nutritious.
  • It was impressed on me by the dietitian before I left hospital in July that I was not to lose weight. And THAT was something I had NEVER heard in my life before.
  • Staying the weight I was and am is a bit of an up and down juggle and I weigh myself every few weeks. I have not lost much weight and have even gained a kilo or two since my lowest a few months back.
  • The importance of the nutrition in healing and staying well is something I have accepted more easily. I am eating foods I never chose before. Weetbix is my breakfast and I will even eat some scrambled egg with tasty cheese in it. I am adept at slippery and soft foods and right now, mangoes and avocadoes are my friend. Little cakes and some biscuits I can dunk for softness are my treats.

SELF-IMAGE AND CONFIDENCE.

  • I admit it took me at least 6-7 months to realise once the weight loss had settled  it is likely to stay.
  • I did donate mountains of Plus Size clothes to local charities but could not (yet) bring myself to do that with all of the size 16s so they are in a box in the linen press.
  • As time goes on, I can see with the changes I have made since cancer made me eat differently and consider food as nutrition more than for enjoyment (that still counts!) I will not re-gain those 30+kg.
  • I gave myself permission to buy new (usually on special as we have a limited income now!) clothes and over time I have begun to see myself differently.
  • The person in the mirror has more wrinkles than ever (the fat held the skin more taughtly) but she is looking, in her 60s, more like what she remembers her mother to look like. This has taken quite some time as I never thought I could be good enough to look like Mum.
  • Deciding to share my story, in bits and pieces on the blog has been good for me but until this post, I had never explained the WHOLE story.
  • Taking part in a daily outfit challenge for everyday style has given me such a lift as I do get some very encouraging and positive comments.
  • I like who I see in the mirror and in the photos now and I love seeing my husband’s eyes light up when I appear in something he likes me wearing. The day of my birthday when I wore a dress for the first time in 15 years was one such landmark.

WHAT NOW?

  • I need to remember to be kind to the ‘person who was not at an ideal weight’. I need to forgive her and tell her she was doing the best she could at the time. I do.
  • I see the ‘me’ keeping on keeping on. I know so much more about the why of what I was doing. I also think I know so much more about how to stop that continuing.
  • Getting my mouth re-construction completed in early-mid 2018 will be interesting for me as for the first time in close to a year I will probably be able to eat all foods. I have missed crunching and chewing a lot.
  • I know if I am seeking comfort for something I am not prepared to admit or talk about I want something food-wise so I will keep an eye on that.
  • My IBS is well-controlled now thanks to a medication my GP has me taking.
  • My anxiety levels (which were incredibly high PRE-cancer) have reduced by around 90%. In other words, they are not out of control.
  • Telling my story has, for the first time in ages, been both cathartic and brave. I hope, that if you got this far it has proved to be of interest.

Me: Sun 17 Dec 2017. Off to Granddaughter’s 21st and 7 months post- cancer diagnosis. I miss smiling! It will be back next year sometime.

 

I understand this is a tough topic for many of us and it took me a LONG time to own up to what has been going on for me here.

Thank you for reading and let me know what your thoughts are about weight and self-image.

Denyse.

Yes, it’s the last post in 2017! How DID that happen.

Last linky with IBOT and Kylie on Tuesdays until January 2018 and with Leanne on Thursdays for Lovin’ Life. I know Leanne is returning in the same week I am with #lifethisweek. My Monday link-up is back 1 January 2018. Leanne’s is Thurs 4 Jan.

 

 

 

 

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Letter to 20 year old Me. #LifeThisWeek. 40/52. 2017.115.

Letter to 20 year old Me. #LifeThisWeek. 40/52. 2017.115.

Prefacing my letter with this photograph. My eldest granddaughter is the age I am writing about. In fact she will be 21 before year’s end as I was too around this time of year. Thanks J for the inspiration and the LOVE you share with me and many. In fact, by co-incidence, J has posted her Sunday night vid on You Tube about her at 20! Neither of us knew what the other was up to. Love this.

 

Dear Denyse,

I remember you being 20 so well. It was the last year of teachers’ college. You were acing the pracs at the schools you were sent to and in fact those schools were great but you had something else on your mind. You were ready to flee Sydney weren’t you as your boyfriend of almost 3 years was going to a regional area for his first job after graduating Uni?  No longer a Northern Beaches girl like your friends from school, you were about to go BUSH…in fact to Barraba NSW that January 1970 but wait. There is a little more to remember before you became loaded with class teaching responsibilities and being ‘dropped’ by the long-term boyfriend….and not being sure of what was ahead after that.

Graduation as a teacher aged 20. End of 1969.

Social life aged 20. Uni balls were the best!

Teacher’s College mates and yes, pigtails on me.

So, in 1970 you had some highs and lows. However, you also had one of the best times socially as in the country back then teachers tended to group together and have dinners and parties and it was good. On October 17 1970 something VERY important to you then and now happened. You met the man who would become your life’s partner. He was a young 21 year old in his 3rd year of teaching in a small school beyond the mountains where you were teaching. But once the love grew and GREW, you no longer wanted to be apart. In fact, after becoming engaged just before your 21st birthday something else grew. A wee baby was on her way – we did not know that yet – and even though that was a surprise, we both knew…we are together for life!!

Wedding Day 1971. Dad, Mum, Bro, Gran, B & Me, Poppy, Papa

It was not an ideal beginning to our marriage but you know what, Miss 20, you chose well as did your B. Despite some criticism from your parents, in particular your mother, you shone. Marriage is a hard road and you learned that early. B was and is always a great life partner and you know what? In all the ups and downs, health scares, financial matters, relationship changes with our kids, welcoming grandkids into our lives, having to retire early, and more, we have shown that OUR decision to be together for the rest of our lives was the BEST. Coming up to 47 years since we met this very week!!

So, a little bit of what was ahead for you in some snapshots. Gosh look at you. You have always been self-conscious of your weight. Do you remember in teachers’ college PE class you rated yourself fat? I know, a bit of something wrong there. I think though, that you also thought you were NOT a fashion plate like your Mum and that you actually enjoyed learning and education whereas your mum was the true home-maker mum who never worked once she had kids. Your dad supported you there but both parents often made you feel a little less than OK by veiled and actual comments about your weight. Yep. Always there and even now, as you have been diagnosed with cancer and lost a lot of weight I can tell that you ‘worry’ about putting it back on. Many women, in case you did not know, have similar battles in their hearts and minds, so take comfort and be kind. As your B would say “treat yourself like a friend”. I didn’t know how to do that properly until I was 67 so sorry, Miss 20 and beyond, you have had a rather torrid time with self-talk.

Let’s go with the show!

I would love to add some photos of our children, Miss 20,  but for privacy reasons I cannot.  We had two children in the end. Ironically after falling pregnant with our daughter it took another 7.5 years for our son to come along. I had a lot of medical and then surgical intervention for that to occur. I would add too, that as a young mother about to turn 30 you had another significant challenge in life occur when the severe and chronic illness of your B meant he was medically retired from teaching. The next 4 years, until he steered himself towards better health and recovery, were exhausting and busy to say the least. In fact, your parents stepped in to help out in  ways which supported  you so you are grateful for those times even though it is still hard to let the ‘judgy’ times heal and let go. But this time saw you embark upon more self-education and career path moves and you completed two degrees, B.Ed and M.Ed, along with raising two kids (by now B was at home helping majorly both in a physical sense as he managed the house and started a tutoring business) and going for a 3 work promotions where you eventually became a school principal.

Then came retirement for you. I know. In this day and age retirement is nothing like you saw for your dad. In fact, you retired a few times. Once in 2003 after having a health breakdown at work and not being allowed by your doctor to return, second when you had gone to a teaching role in 2004 and then by age 60 in 2010 had decided enough was enough…and thirdly in 2015 when you surrendered your part-time roles at University teaching pre-service students, closed your business as an education consultant and ceased working for NSW  BOSTES.

I know that at 20 I would have had no idea of what a blog might be or of course social media. But what I did know, into my late 50s is that I am an early adopter. I like technologies that work for me and do not need too much technical prowess from me. I also know that at 20 I loved photography but not nearly as much as I do now.

So, this next and current life stage Miss 20, is getting a little bit easier but also a little bit scarier as I approach 70. OK, not for 2 more years but hey, it happens. Life. And of course, death. You’ve experienced the deaths of 4 of the people who loved you from the photo at your wedding. Dad remains well and in fact praises you now. Yes. He has written you some healing letters and often shows his appreciation for you as his daughter and is proud of you. He tells you that! So, remember it. And in terms of new life…Miss 20 GD above might have been first, but since then you have become Grandma (Miss 20, I love that name!) to 8 children. 6 girls and 2 boys.

Of course, no-one ever wants to get sick, Miss 20 do they? You have always been fearful of that. The past few years saw your anxiety levels skyrocket as you made 3 major life transitions and your well-known IBS decided to return. It all helped you lose weight but that was not the point. Then, knowing your teeth were always trouble some you had gum problems. These were found to be cancer and you had major surgery. I am delighted to say it is highly likely the cancer has gone. But you will continue to need check ups just as you need more surgeries soon.

It is hard to decide where to end this letter so for now, it will be open-ended. I am hopeful that my recollections can soothe my 67 year old self as I recount some of the stand-outs told to my 20 year old self…and that you remember you are LOVED by many so it’s time to add you to that list too.

All my love,

Denyse xx

Joining with Alicia here for Open Slather and here with Kell for Mummy Mondays.

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Courage, Exposure Challenges & Me. Part One. 2017.110.

Courage, Exposure Challenges & Me. Part One. 2017.110.

Background.

I have mentioned a while back here on the blog that for quite some time, IBS, fear of having to find a loo quickly, anxiety about travelling on the M1 to Sydney were all contributing to a heightened sense of anxiety and worry. So much so, that I found it stressful to have family here to visit and resisted entertaining people. This was further exacerbated very early in 2017 when some very hot days in NSW, seeing a HUGE line of cars which could not move on the M1 because of a major accident and my mind immediately imaging what it be like for me to even contemplate such a happening that I literally and figuratively FROZE with fear. My planned visit to my father’s in Sydney for his birthday in early January was cancelled. By me. Crying, sad and fearful me. I felt so guilty but I also felt incredibly relieved. Interesting!

What is exposure therapy, or as I like to call it ‘personal challenges’?

Here is some information:

Exposure therapy is often essential if you are to overcome your anxiety disorder. The cognitive behavioural treatment of  conditions such as: panic with agoraphobia, simple phobias, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress usually entails an exposure component.That is, you must subject yourself to the situations you are worried about in order to beat anxiety.
Although this sounds frightening, your therapist will give you the tools to cope with confronting your fears (e.g. rational thinking, slow breathing and isometric relaxation).

The guidelines for exposure therapy are that the sessions must be
* graded
* repeated and regular
* prolonged

Graded:
 Your therapist will work with you to determine what would be an appropriate first step; it should be difficult enough to provoke some fear but easy enough for you to be fairly confident you can do it. Once you can cope with Step 1 confidently, then you can move onto a more difficult situation and gradually work up your most feared scenarios.

Source: http://www.anxietyaustralia.com.au/exposure-therapy/

Shortly after my decision not to drive to see Dad, I summoned up enough courage to keep my next Psychologist appointment after I had been to my lovely GP to tell her what had happened. Rationally I knew what I was doing and feeling was not helping me but I could not escape from the rope fear and anxiety had wound around me. I also was NOT diagnosed with an anxiety disorder nor was I depressed but my behaviours and resistance to trying the challenge myself were making me (and I guess those who loved me) a bit frustrated but kindly not showing it much! I resisted even though I would tell my professionals I would give the exposure ideas a go in a graded sense it never seemed to me anyway, to be enough.

Some of the ways I was ‘convincing myself’ that things were going well. Deep down, I knew they needed to be better and only I could change that.

My Personal Challenges Getting Me Started. 

Recently I have been listening to Brene Brown on her Rising Strong – A Spiritual Practice CD and she talks of the stories we tell ourselves because our brain wants us to be rewarded with a shot of dopamine when we work out the story to fit the situation. It does not, however, mean that having that story makes you better or right. It IS just a story. I know I was telling myself many stories back in January to March. I know that they were wrong too but I could not even see myself being able to move further along the exposure challenge way. Until I HAD to.

Early April 2017. The BIG challenge after a few smaller but important ones.

It is no secret to readers here and Facebook followers and friends and family that my teeth, notably my upper jaw and gums had been giving me hell for about 8 months to this point. After some nervous but successfully personal challenges – driving on M1 to the Dentist, discussing what treatment I would need and back and forth, I faced 6th April. The day my hub would drive me to the dentist for a 1.5 hour extraction of both the bridge holding my 5 front teeth and the teeth themselves. I cannot lie that I was not scared. Not about the procedure actually but about whether my stress levels about IBS and worry of IBS would escalate. On the advice of our new then GP, I had valium and meds to counter any fears of IBS and with my hub taking me and staying in the same room with me, and listening to a CD of relaxation, I came through the biggest challenge I had to date.

How That One Event Helped Me Go to Sydney.

I drove home, alongside my caring husband, congratulating myself for having the courage to go beyond my fears and as it is said, do it anyway. I recuperated with relative ease and drove back by myself to the dentist after a week in a more relaxed and calm manner. It felt so good!  Then the so-called bigger challenge (exposure therapy-wise) was for me to drive to Sydney to see Dad. I do have to explain that it was because of ME I had to do this, not because of any pressure from him. He just wanted me to feel well and be less anxious. I did that drive, caught up with him, took him some meals and felt very pleased to have met the challenge!

So, there I went. Going well…but there was more, waiting around the corner…as regular readers know but I will continue next week!

Part Two Comes Next Week. 

Have you had anxiety or fears about doing some things in your life?

Have you overcome them?

Tell us about this.

Thank you for sharing!

I believe it IS important to share.

Denyse.

 

Joining with two blogging friends’ link-ups: Kylie here who hosts I Blog On Tuesdays and Leanne here who hosts Lovin’ Life each Thursday.

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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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Telling My Story.The Beginning. 2017.69.

Telling My Story.The Beginning. 2017.69.

Recently I decided to begin Telling My Story.

Initially it was school-career based in a memoir genre. Then I wanted to tell what had happened in my life once I’d reached 60 and what I had learned. Where I am at now it a mix of all of this! I am going to start here: the beginning of my life, and interspersed with my career will be aspects of my life and how I have grown and changed…over and over!

I hope you will find something of interest. I know essentially I am doing this for me as it helps. However, as a blogger, I would like to think it has enough appeal for you to enjoy too.

Denyse.

Telling My Story.

I was born in the last year of the 1940s.

Photo taken for my Dad in Melbourne.

But before this all happened….

Obviously most memories of early childhood are gleaned from photos and other people’s stories when they tell us too. My life began in a most conventional way, first born to parents who loved each other and already had secured a house. Mum had worked in retail until I was coming along. Dad was an accountant continuing his career started at 15 with Australian Iron and Steel Port Kembla (later BHP) and joining a new company when the old one wanted him to move permanently (with me and Mum) to Melbourne for work. He did not want to leave the familiar and family which was based in Wollongong and surrounds.

Here’s a bit more to that story….

Dad tells me that in my first year of life when he HAD to go and work in the Melbourne office was one of the worst times he could recall being separated from his loving wife and baby girl. He even had us fly to Melbourne for a stay. What a time that must have been for my mum. In Wollongong we had loving and caring neighbours who helped Mum find her feet as a new parent. This family was amazing and I loved that we had a gate between our two places and I always felt welcomed there! Dad found another job, which was in the same company he retired from some 30 years later, and the family was complete when my brother was born AND we got our first car. A Holden FJ of course!

More on my parents before they met…

They were born in 1924 and raised in working class families on NSW South Coast, living through the Great Depression and World War 2 before meeting in the 1940s. My Dad is from Wollongong and my Mum was from Dapto.

Dad’s father died after a workplace accident at The Steelworks in 1935 and his mother was left to raise 4 children. Dad was the second child aged 11 at the time. He did without but his good marks at school and his willingness to become involved in the community which was predominantly the scouting movement meant he developed resilience and knew the power of having some money to survive. Even though he could have done the Leaving Certificate it was his duty to help support his family so at 15 he went to the Steelworks (AI&S as above) to begin in the role of Office Clerk.  Later this would lead to his training as an accountant as he had the mathematics for it! He tells me though, he never ‘got’ algebra.

Mum’s parents worked hard, one in the home, and one outside the home at the coal mine at Wongawilli near Dapto. My grandfather had lost an eye in a mining accident in 1924 so they gave him work ‘above the surface’ looking after the workers’ change areas. They helped raise two families. One, their own, of three children (Mum was the youngest, and 2nd daughter) and the family of two boys where the widower was my grandmother’s brother. It was not uncommon in the 1920s and 30s for this to be the case. Nevertheless my mum remembered it as the ‘boys’ got spoiled and did nothing and we girls did all the work around the house. Mum left school at 15 and went into retail where she thrived.

So how did a young man from Wollongong meet a young lady from Dapto in the early 1940s when there was a war happening? Dad was exempted from war service (age first, then industry reasons) and Mum had only just left school and was working in retail. However, they were both in the Scouting organisation as leaders in their respective home towns and met at Mt Keira Scout Camp Wollongong. After a courtship of some two years, they married on 2 November 1946 at Dapto. Mum’s cub group put on a guard of honour outside the church.

Wedding Day. 1946.

 

Dad and Mum late 1950s. Still in Wollongong.

In 1959 Dad got a job offer within the company he moved to in 1951 and that was of promotion to Chief Accountant at the Sydney office. It was one that could not be refused and this time with 2 children, I was 10 by now and my brother aged 7, we moved to what was to be Mum and Dad’s forever house at Balgowlah Heights.

Snapshots of Mum and Dad over the years…

They had active social and sporting lives, which continued in Sydney. Mum who had been a district rep in Hockey in her youth, went into tennis and played socially and competitively into her 70s. Dad found golf as a sport and business connection and played each Saturday and then once he retired on a Wednesday. Whenever they went away, their golf clubs and tennis racquets went with them as did groups of friends or they would meet up with friends. Mum loved her cards and working for charities such as the View Club. Both supported me and my brother in scouts and guides and in our sporting and school arenas.

Dad retired in 1983 and they spent 6 weeks annually on the Gold Coast, chasing the sun and meeting up with the many friends who had retired that way as well. Mum becoming unwell in the mid 2000s saw the end of that tradition. Sadly too, by the mid 1980s Mum had lost both her older siblings in their 60s. Dad, now 93, is the longest living member of his immediate family of 4.

1980s & 1990s on Holidays on the Gold Coast

 

Mother’s Day 2006. Mum and Dad with me.

Up until Mum’s 80th Birthday in December 2004 she had been quite well. A few so-called minor things were wrong and I know where my worry/anxiety gene comes from. But my mum, just as I do, could put on a smile no matter what.

Mum and Dad celebrate 60 years of marriage. 2006.

We knew Mum was not well but Dad, as her primary carer, liked to see she did as much as she could that she enjoyed in what ended up being her last 2 years. on 2nd November 2006, after the messages from the Queen and many more, for their Diamond Wedding Anniversary, there was  a very special family-only get together, where this photo was taken. After that, Mum’s health sadly declined.

Mum was diagnosed with secondary brain tumours in early 2007  We will never know how much Mum knew about her declining condition but she was the one, back in late January 2007 who said ‘no operation’ when it was offered. The specialist and her doctors  agreed, along with us,  that we would not want Mum to go through that. She spent the next 2 weeks at home and sadly despite Dad’s best efforts to care for her there, she was admitted to palliative care where she died some weeks later. Dad visited every single day.

Moving along….

Mum and Dad have always supported our families over the years and of course, we have been there to support Dad in his new status as widower. He stayed in the family home for the next 4 years. He is still fiercely independent and wanted to be there. He did all the jobs as he was raised to do, and learned via scouting. By the end of 2010 loneliness was prevalent and he announced it was time to sell and move on. Along with family help of my brother, sister in law and me he was delighted to find the best place I could have found. In June 2011, after selling at the downturn in Sydney markets (!!) he moved into an airy and spacious independent retirement unit at Dee Why and has more interactions with people every day than ever. He has only given up driving, and the car, in the past month.

3 years ago at Dad’s 90th Birthday. 3 years ago!

Reflections now…about my parents.

I love my parents and I was always well-cared for and encouraged to follow whatever path I chose. Dad was keen on continuing education and I when I wanted  to become a teacher and remain in the workplace, there was no feeling that I should be at home with the kids. However, my mother, who had always been at home, used to say “Denyse you rush those kids too much”…and sadly I may have but my work at school, along with childcare drop off, was where I was headed. I am more like Dad in personality and less like Mum. Yet I do have some of mum’s anxious disposition and I do enjoy what she did which was to cook and care for her family. She taught me a lot about cooking and I have her recipe books too. She did not encourage me to read, but I did. I was not interested in helping around the house because I preferred to read! I did not inherit Mum’s sporting prowess but I did her smile and the ability to chat with people. I can do that without my mum’s deafness for which I am grateful. More to come in the weeks ahead!

Please tell me if this has been of interest…and if it was too long.

I do know I can ramble on so I may need help!

I welcome your comments and thank you in advance!

Denyse.

Joining Kylie Purtell here for I Blog on Tuesdays and then on Thursdays, here with Leanne for Lovin’ Life linky.

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Introducing Telling My Story. 2017.60.

Introducing Telling My Story. 2017.60.

In the past few years my life has changed in many ways.

I could say it has happened from the time I turned 60 I guess and at 67 now, it’s been for longer than I imagined.

I am naming this part of my life a transition yet it is more than that.

Like all humans I am living my life and maybe unlike all humans I am trying to understand myself and my life journey better.

Blogging is going to be one of the ways in which I recount aspects of what I have been learning:

I am a life-long learner.

My story is what it is.

My story.

However, it may help me in writing more about it instead of alluding to part of it or directing readers to past posts.

It is quite hard to confess to finding aspects of life as I knew it have left me and I am needing to become used to what is now.

I will write from time to time and it may be about some strategies and resources I have found helpful.

It maybe necessary to tell  the truth of what it has been like for me. And how that has affected my relationships, with myself included for the past few years.

Like I said, I am telling My Story.

Today makes it the introduction. I do not know when the next one will be.

This work, Stop, from Jeff Foster, in his book: ‘The Way of Rest’ Finding the Courage to Hold Everything in Love is about mindfulness, stopping, staying present.

I would have to add this is one of my biggest challenges. I wrote about ‘uncertainty’ here last week.

 

Whatever is happening in the circumstances of your life, stop. Just for a moment.

Bring your attention toward the here and now. Let the moment become fascinating. Gently begin to acknowledge what is actually happening where you are. Come out of your conclusions about life, your dreams about past and future, and being to notice the sensations, feelings, thoughts that are present, right here and right now.

Let your present experience – sights and sounds and smells – become the most curious dance in all the universe. You are seeing, tasting, touching, hearing the world as if for the first time. This is your Garden of Eden, your messy, intense, joyous, and heartbreaking Garden of Eden and you are awake to it at last.

Stop trying to figure everything out. Give in. Give up. Give all to the moment’s embrace.

Fall into not knowing…

 

I hope that you will find My Story of interest and that it will be something that speaks to you to help you in some way. I do not think we have spoken enough nor even considered what it means to become older, to stop work, to find yourself adrift in some ways where you thought there was security. I write to help me as I look back and move forward into whatever is to come.

Thank you for reading!

Denyse.

Posting for the first time for I Blog on Tuesdays with Kylie Purtell here.

Then joining with Leanne and bloggers on Thursday here for Lovin’ Life link up.

 

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Uncertainty Updated. 2017.57.

Uncertainty Updated. 2017.57.

This post was updated on Sat 10 June 2017.

Did this headline make you a bit wary?

I do not like uncertainty.

However, I am learning that there is no such thing as certainty. Except for death. Apparently!

It makes me nervous and curious and I know how I must remember  that somehow I need to accept uncertainty.

Why?

I would have to say because I have grown very weary of trying to control what I cannot control…but thought I was! Is that familiar?

My journey (yep, I like the word and it stays!) has taken me on a number of learning paths as I seek help to understand life as I don’t know it!

One such person is Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, and her many books and teachings are in my library now.

I have this book beside my bed and read one chapter a night. Most nights anyway!

This excerpt is from chapter 14.

According to the Buddha, the lives of all beings are marked by three characteristics: impermanence, egolessness, and suffering or dissatisfaction. Recognising these qualities to be real and true in our own experience helps us to relax with things as they are.

The first mark is impermanence. That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and changing, is the first mark of existence. We don’t have to be mystics or physicists to know this. Yet at the level of personal experience, we resist this basic fact.

It means life isn’t always going to go our way. It means there’s loss as well as gain. And we don’t like that.

We know that all is impermanent; we know that everything wears out. Although we can buy this truth intellectually, emotionally we have a deep-rooted aversion to it.

We want permanence; we expect permanence. Our natural tendency is to seek security; we believe we can find it. We experience impermanence at the everyday level as frustration. We use our daily activity as a shield against the fundamental ambiguity of our situation. expending tremendous energy trying to ward off impermance and death.

We don’t like it that we age. We are afraid of wrinkles and sagging skin. We use health products as if we actually believe our skin, our hair, our eyes and teeth, might somehow miraculously escape the truth of impermance.

The Buddhist teachings aspire to set us free from this limited way of relating to impermanence. They encourage us to relax gradually and wholeheartedly into the ordinary and obvious truth of change.

Acknowledging this truth doesnt mean we are looking on the dark side. What is means is that begin to  understand that we’re not the only one who can’t keep it all together.

We no longer believed that there are people who have managed to avoid uncertainty.

Comfortable with Uncertainty. Pema Chodron. 2003. Shambhala Publications.

I am a life-long learner and I have been learning more lessons about life and me in the past few years than I ever felt possible. I have great respect for the words of Brene Brown and have signed up for this combo of courses on-line called Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. If you are interested in knowing more, here is the link.

Have you given much thought to what it is to be uncertain?

Do you struggle with the notion that we are not really in charge of many aspects of our lives as we might prefer to be?

I’d love to hear your comments.

Next week I am finally owning up to the vulnerability of telling my story. It won’t be confined to one post!

Denyse.

Less than one month after writing this post, I was diagnosed with cancer. More about that here. and here 

If ever there is/was a reason to feel even more uncertainty then this is now. I am doing my utmost to stay present and appreciate now but for someone like me, who thinks ahead, plans what she can and wants to know what’s coming, cancer has been sent to test me on many levels. This weekend, I know that within one month from now, my surgery will have happened. But it’s yet to come. I am grateful for support and care from many of course, but in the end there is one person who must do this and that is me.

Sharing especially today with Sammie who has been the most kind and understanding person as she has faced her cancer and dealt with it all incredibly well. I thank her for her presence in my life. Joining here for the Ultimate Rabbit Hole.

Oh and by the way, I am still reading the above book and am about to commence the second part of the course: Rising Strong.

Joining with Leanne and friends  here who are part of the inclusive and lovely link up Lovin’ Life.

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Week 12 Intention. Practise Self-Compassion. 2017.44.

Week 12 Intention. Practise Self-Compassion. 2017.44.

After living a life with many distractions, busy-ness to the max and more, I have found the quiet times in retirement are quite a challenge. Why? Because there are more stretches of time and space in which to think.

For me, it’s interesting to notice how I continue to strive and how I continue to want others to see me doing well in my quest for greater equanimity in my life overall and better management of my IBS.

Who is out of this real or imagined group who support me? Often it’s me.

I remain steadfast in my older, learned early, self-critical views and I am S L O W L Y learning to remember my self-compassion when I am not doing so well. It is not every day because I am making progress!

I am pleased to note, that when I started a Self-Compassion Course on-line with Kristen Neff and Brene Brown my overall score was: 1.93 and when I completed the course it was: 3.11

“Average overall self-compassion scores tend to be around 3.0 on the 1-5 scale, so you can interpret your overall score accordingly. As a rough guide, a score of 1-2.5 for your overall self-compassion score indicates you are low in self-compassion, 2.5-3.5 indicates you are moderate, and 3.5-5.0 means you are high.”

So, what I take from that ‘score’ is I am improving in my self-compassion and I am remembering to speak more kindly to myself in difficult circumstances.

My Week 12 Intention.

This week I am going to practise self-compassion more. In fact, I will even make it something I do throughout the day in the smallest way. It might be a ‘go me’ under my breath or a literal ‘pat of kindness’ on my arm when I need soothing.

If you want to take the self-compassion Test, it is here: It is free and I find the work of Kristen Neff and fellow researchers fascinating. Self-esteem it is not!

I wish you well if you decide to take the test. It is very insightful.

Denyse.

UPDATE: I have chosen to reduce my blogging output as of this week so as to be more mindful of my self-care and self-kindness. I am not making any further intentions at this point. My life has been on a learning curve as part of ageing and transition to living with both a chronic condition (IBS and its accompanying limitations)  and the stress which is part of my inner being. I am wanting to feel less inward pressure on myself and needing to care for myself more. Blogging has been a part of my life for more than 6 years and will continue to be but I am blogging now for when and if I choose to. I know that regular  readers will completely understand my new(er) direction as of today! Thank you!

A reminder is in this image: 

 

Joining with Leanne and her lovely team for the  Lovin Linky on Thursdays here.

 

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