Wednesday 16th October 2019

Women Of Courage Series. #21. Deb Morton.102/2019.

Women Of Courage Series. #21. Deb Morton.102/2019.

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.

I got to know Deb Morton via her son Rick’s social media. Rick Morton (see a post here) and I first chatted back in 2011 at the first ever Aussie Bloggers Conference. I knew he was someone who not only would go far but he also had a big story to tell. He has done that in his book (see below). However, that’s how I learned about the pivotal and most important person in his young life. His Mum. Deb. After seeing Rick at the same writer’s festival where I got the idea for these posts, I asked Deb to be my facebook friend too and we chatted from then on. I was chuffed when she agree to respond to “what is courage” and here is her story…in her words. Thanks so much Deb (and Rick for the friendship which saw me get to know your Mum).

 

Courage: The ability to meet difficulties and danger firmly or without fear.

Source: unknown – supplied by Deb.

 

Well I did have fear on September Fathers Day 1994, the date I will never forget! My 9 year old son had a serious farm accident, the Flying Doctors were called and airlifted my son, myself and my 3 week old baby girl to the Burns Unit at Royal Brisbane. As a mother I was distraught that I could not take the 7 year old son with me as well, he stayed behind to what ended up being a major catastrophe in our lives!

Our stay in the Burns Unit had many sleepless nights, skin grafts, infections and being away from home for just over 6 weeks. I knew before I arrived home all was not well on the home front, call it your gut instincts, trust them!

My marriage , my home  and lifestyle had dissolved in one full swoop.

During this time I had to find somewhere to live, still take the son to his appointments at the Burns Unit and find a school for the boys , as they were previously educated on Distance Education. I had anger, fear , loneliness and trying to pay bills as well. Make sure you have a network of support people in your life, luckily for me my Mum, sister , brothers were there for me.

A few years later I was to lose Mum and my sister within a year of each other.

I am a better person for what I have gone through , I am so lucky that my little daughter saved me , the fact that she needed me , helped, I thank God every day she came into my life and I know that I have passed on to her the ability to deal with whatever life throws at her, she is a hardworking and capable person that I can be proud of!

I think of the simple things in life, sitting in my garden, watching birds, enjoying the flowers blossoming . Always be grateful for what you have , there is always someone worse off than you and we do live in the best country!

Thank you Deb. When I read about this in Rick’s book that was hard enough to take in. You lived it, as did the children. Reminding us of gratitude and looking around us for the good makes me understand that we humans can go through more than we ever imagine.

Denyse.

My catch up with Rick Morton. A little plug for him is he is now senior reported for The Saturday Paper. In other news, he and his sister have given their Mum Deb a brand new bathroom. Amazing gift! Just what she needed…and asked for! His twitter handle is @squigglyrick and his work for social justice needs to be followed.

Recently Rick and his sister  Lauryn appeared on SBS Insight program: Estrangement in Families. A powerful show and equally powerful responses from two of Deb’ s children. Here is the link.

Next week a Women of Courage story will not appear. I will be sharing stories about Women of Courage. The next one to be published will be on Wednesday 23 October. Thank you all for your interest and comments. Denyse.

 

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 © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

 

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Women Of Courage Series. #20. Tracey Fletcher King.100/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #20. Tracey Fletcher King. 100/2019.

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

Welcoming friend and artist, Tracey Fletcher King, aged 51, to this series. Tracey and I have ‘known’ each other via the world of art and creating and a few years back, she had some wonderful on-line classes called Delicious Paint. They were delicious because it was about learning to paint fruit and vegetables. I amazed myself when I saw the shapes and colours in a few I managed to do under her guidance.

I learned so much about ‘patience’ in waiting for  a page to dry because it would not help me get the result if it was a teensy wet. Maybe, without me knowing it, Tracey was using her experience as a cancer patient to then help me (again) as a newbie cancer patient back in 2017. Here’s more about Tracey in her words. A little different in presentation this week, is the use of two other images (I asked Tracey to supply them) about her Art Exhibition. Go, if you can. I know some Queensland blogging friends did last year.

 

Blog/Website: www.traceyfletcherking.com

Instagram: traceyfletcherking

 

 

 

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

Six and a bit years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Nothing too special about that as 1 in 8 of us will be diagnosed with it, and despite mine having spread to some lymph nodes and a gruelling year of treatment I had good results and for a glorious couple of years I was cancer free. In April 2016 I went for my routine check to hear that my cancer had returned and had metastasised to my liver, and suddenly everything changed.

The courage, bravery and strength I thought I had acquired thanks to my first run around was blown away from that moment on as suddenly I was dealing with incurable. Those words and the new path I was then on was devastating. I had to tell my daughter, my family, and face the five million tests to determine treatment options etc while holding it together. I still have no clue how I got through that week but I think it was one of my strongest weeks just to get up and face it.

 

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

This new reality has changed me in profound ways. We all have a use by date, but mine is monitored and discussed constantly and while some weeks it feels like we may have years left and others the end feels scarily close, it is always there at the back of your brain. It is part of my everyday and the only way to cope for me is to be pragmatic. I had a stage of not wanting to know what was going on, and I tried like crazy to pretend it was all going to be fine and that a miracle cure was around the corner and every other thought that screamed avoidance. It didn’t make things easier, in fact it made it harder and those months were pretty miserable as I tried to shove the cancer bunny back in its hole but during a round of chemo my oncologist explained having cancer is like trying to hold sand, eventually it will run through my fingers and there will be none left, but his job and mine is to keep shoving as much sand back in as we can.

That was a revelation to me.

I can only hold that sand if I acknowledge that I need it and that it is running through my fingers which that can only happen if I am dealing with it so that’s what I do. If I try to pretend and have no say in my care or face how I am doing then how can I hold that sand? It takes tears and a good old boot up my own butt somedays, and other days I feel like I am piling that sand in there left right and centre, but I face it. I don’t try and hide from it or cling to false hope. I am just going to do the best I can with what I have and for as long as I can and as long as I stick with that I can face almost anything. This is so much easier to deal with and makes courage an everyday habit rather than something to call on in dire circumstances.

 

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

The idea that if you pretend it’s not there it isn’t happening is one of the toughest mindsets to cope with. It’s weirdly easier to just face it, grieve, yell, stomp around the house, cry, try new things, change your mind a million times and be angry at what’s been dealt to you, than trying to pretend it’s not there. The sooner you face it the sooner you can live with it. The fantasies you have in your head of how bad things are going to be are always worse than the reality in my experience so just face up so you can stop wasting time and get back to the good stuff and there is a lot of good stuff. My days are filled with lots of great stuff, they are also filled with a litany of side effects from ongoing and endless rounds of chemo but life is actually pretty good now I let it be what it is and go along with it.

 

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

I know I am more courageous now. I don’t have time to warm up to things or to run endless pro and con lists before I do something I just do it. I don’t want to regret time taken making decisions and torturing myself with what ifs… I just jump in most of the time now. Well not so much jump as a bit of a lurch but I just get on with things. I am better at saying no to things and I spend a lot less time on social media. If people find my work and want to buy it etc then that’s great but I’m not into marketing my art or anything else. I got rid of a heap of online platforms and my days are much better for it. It takes so much pressure off to not be faced with a barrage of notifications and emails. I have stepped back and enjoy the quiet a lot more. I meditate daily, exercise most days and face chemo with a welcome attitude instead of dreading it. It is all about going with the flow rather than fighting things and that gives me the time and energy to be courageous when I need it.

 

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

The thought of what may happen is always worse than living with the reality so face it as soon as you feel able to, and then go with the flow because some days you just have more than you do on other days. For example I ask myself how strong am I feeling and then tell the oncologist at the beginning of the session, I’m having a strong day today so hit me with it, or I’m not feeling on top of things so just tell me what I need to know. Courage is a habit and some days you will do it better than others so make the most of it when you are feeling strong and be kind to yourself on the days when you aren’t feeling so strong.

 

 

That is one BIG story of courage. I know that others who read this are also undergoing treatment for cancer which decided to add its ugly presences elsewhere. I do hope as I am sure readers will too, that your art exhibition is a great success, and that your treatments give you the strength to attend. You are in my thoughts often. Your kindness, checking on me during my early days of learning about my cancer, will never be forgotten. Thank you Tracey.

Before this post went live, I was assured from Tracey that all fingers (and toes!) were crossed that she was well enough for her treatment regime and that she would be able to attend this much anticipated event:

Therefore I am adding this for you, dear readers as Tracey and I have discussed:

“Tracey will be delighted to see your kind words I am sure, but as she is conserving her energies (post chemo treatments is always a challenge) for this Art Exhibition “Still Blue and White” coming up on Saturday – see the brochure- I know she will read but may not be up to commenting right now.’

Denyse.

 

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 © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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My ‘Head & Neck Cancer’ Spring Story. 39/51 #LifeThisWeek. 99/2019.

My ‘Head & Neck Cancer’ Spring Story. 39/51 #LifeThisWeek. 99/2019.

Spring is here.

In Australia and the rest of the Southern Hemisphere. I am glad to have cool-ish evenings and lovely days but, I know from experience, the lengthening of days will bring more heat and then I will be complaining a bit as I can when the heat is on!

True to my word of needing AND wanting to get out and about I ventured to the local beach nearest to us on Friday only to find it closed off due to sand erosion (climate change, anyone??) so I took another way, up the hill then  down to arrive at the sand and gentle waves. Cold water but worth it for the paddle.

Head and Neck Cancer Check.

When head and neck cancer arrives in your life, you are taken into new and different worlds. Fortunately my ventures have been to improve my life’s quality, living with a rare cancer, and meeting many professionals who have contributed to my well-being since my diagnosis on 17 May 2017.

On Tuesday 17 September, a very rainy day, I drove to Westmead Oral Sciences for my 38th treatment with my prosthodontist and he could not have been more pleased with how well I am maintaining the skin (grafted) around the abutments (added implants to my ‘jaw from my leg’) and we both cheered when I told him I am for the most part pain free in the area that had been bothering me for months. Yay.

On Tuesday 24 September, this time on a sunny day, I arrived at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse carrying cards of appreciation and little cupcake packs for my professional team. These people have cared for and about me for over 2 years now and my relationship is close and warm as they are when they note my progress. I enjoyed a catch-up with Nadia from Beyond Five with a coffee as well, and then to Clinic on 2nd level for my cancer check. First seen by Cate, and then Jonathan and the consensus was I am doing so well, no return till early March 2020. As I finished up, I asked Jonathan how I was going in recovery and his words made me smile:  “Denyse, you are our poster girl in recovery”. I left feeling very well indeed. And the cupcakes and cards were appreciated.

There’s More To Life Than Cancer.

I could not be more appreciative of how well my cancer recovery is going and as a result, I am expanding my world and re-connecting where I could not before as recovery, treatments, resting, driving to and from Sydney took their toll.

On Tuesday, after being to my head and neck check up, I drove out to North Kellyville P.S. to see the granddaughter’s school’s inaugural Art Exhibition. What a joy it was to be there and I couldn’t resist this photo. It actually summed up just how well I felt that day!

Gratitude – for my connections found through having head and neck cancer.

And then this happened.

Those of you who have been reading my head and neck cancer posts (see here for access) will know I have NEVER found another person with cancer “like mine”. My professor had told me I was “rare of rare” in terms of risk factors and so I kind of learned to understand that was it. Until I was contacted, firstly by a mother, then by her son. This man is another head and neck cancer patient. They had found my story on the Beyond Five site after his diagnosis in 2018. It turned out, once I was contacted, he was not only living in Sydney but we shared the same professional surgical team, the same comprehensive cancer hospital and he also attended Westmead Oral Sciences.

This person, who is quite happy to be found on instagram here, has a more complex and serious version of head and neck cancer than mine. He and I connected via social media and then personally when we got together for a coffee at a place a bit up the coast for him, and down the coast for me.

Our talking and sharing was so good. I know for me, re-telling some of my story was good but I think, for him listening to the ways in which recovery occurred for me may have helped. Nevertheless he has a way to go right now and I am full of admiration for his attitude and his patience. We are both very keen to continue to spread the head and neck cancer message.

Thank you Fergus!

Time for change. Transitions. 

I’ve written before about the transitions in my life (retirement, leaving Sydney, family etc) before and I am now, 2 years 4 months post head and neck cancer diagnosis recognising a shift in my emotions, signalling change. Even good change has its downside. I am a little more emotional as I consider how far I have come. I am also feeling the feels about ageing…and turning 70 in 2 months. Our twosome relationship in our marriage continues to be strong as we navigate life at ‘this end’ together. Family is less connected to us now as caring is no longer required and they are all just about grown up.

It’s of great interest to me to know how quickly the changes occur. Sometimes we may blink and miss them. On the weekend, our daughter and 3 of her children came for Saturday lunch. We even managed some fun games outside. I admit “we” the oldies got tired very quickly. We also did a a bit of a nostalgic look at one’s growing up years. She will be 23 later this year Yikes! Where is that time thing going? Nevertheless, my afternoon’s phone call from my 96-next-January-Dad reminded me we are all going OK.

How is Spring going for you?

Had you heard about head and neck cancer before my diagnosis?

Denyse.

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 is: 40/51 Share Your Snaps #8. 7/10/19

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Women Of Courage Series. #19. Jan Wild. 98/2019.

Women Of Courage Series. #19. Jan Wild. 98/2019.

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

Today I welcome Jan to the series. Jan and I connected via blogging and, I admit, to us both being in our retirement years. Jan at 65 is an amazing role model to many, including me, in her ‘get up and go’ attitude to what life brings. Jan is currently on a wonderful holiday overseas and is staying in touch via social media. I hope the vacation is going splendidly!  

 

 

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

As Denyse says we tend to downplay our own courage and I admit that in answering this question I didn’t feel very entitled to the description of courageous. So I had a look at some definitions and liked this one for courage; “strength in the face of pain or grief”.

I realised then that I had been courageous in my life on more than one occasion. No not big saving someone’s life courage, more personal decisions related to my own life.

The thing that comes most to mind is leaving my job and taking 12 months time out to improve my health. This was due to my having suffered two grand mal epileptic fits. I don’t know about courage, I felt I had no choice than to address my health as my top priority. But of course it was courageous as I was not in a relationship where I could depend on someone else bringing in income and I needed to sell a property and dip into my savings to fund my living expenses for the year.

 

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

Making that decision really did cause me to rest on my own resources and my resilience. I moved to Hawks Nest in NSW and ate simple healthy food, walked on the beach, swam in warm weather and spent plenty of time resting. I also took up hand painting ceramics, something I had not done previously, it was a great creative outlet.

 

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

I learned that taking a risk doesn’t have to be a disaster. Health wise there really was no choice, financially it was challenging. But I took the time to readjust my expectations and indeed my expenditure. I would shop to a tight budget and there would only be a treat if there was money left over. There were no new clothes or overseas trips but I knew my health was improving (and I have not had any further fits).

I learned to really enjoy my own company and to move in accordance with my own rhythm of life. I recommend anyone who can to try that for themselves (and I know it isn’t always possible).

 

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

I’m not sure that it has made me more courageous, on reflection I have made several decisions which others may consider courageous. But I have no desire to do any extreme sports and I am very cautious in many parts of my life so I think my answer is no. Although I do know that I am resilient and able to cope well in many situations (not all though).

 

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

Yes, if possible, consider the alternatives, do your homework and make a well-considered and well-planned  decision. Ask yourself  ‘What is the worst thing that could happen?” For me (other than deteriorating health), that was running out of money, and I realised that in the worst case scenario I could land on a family member or take a less taxing job than the one I had left (or both of those things).

 

I like reading the ways in which “we” can find ourselves going down the ‘worst case scenario’ route may not even happen. I so need to remember this too!

Thank you Jan.

Denyse.

 

 

Blog/Website: https://www.retiringnotshy.com.au

Twitter: @RetiringNotShy

Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/retiringnotshy/

Instagram: retiring_not_shy

 

Joining  with Sue and Leanne each Wednesday  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 © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women of Courage Series. #18. Margaret Jolly. 96/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #18. Margaret Jolly. 96/2019.

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

There are some people who come into our lives you do not have to ‘meet in real life’ to know you would enjoy having a conversation and getting to know them. Margaret Jolly who is 57 is one such person to me. We may live states apart but Margaret took time during the early days of my cancer diagnosis to call me and to regularly see how I was faring. I too have taken a great interest in Margaret’s “story” around aged care as she has outlines in her words below. I totally love her photos particularly when they are of her dad and his brother and those from her travels in the UK. 

 

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

Oftentimes the most courageous thing to have to do is to have a difficult conversation. I’ve been fortunate not to have suffered significant trauma, other than the death of my mother, but being brave, and vulnerable, in having courageous conversations, is a skill that is continually honed.  Most recently, I had to have the courage to tell my Dear Old Dad that it was time for him to go into permanent aged care – the toughest conversation I have ever had to have.  As an HR executive,  I had to have many difficult and courageous conversations which had to be rehearsed to some extent and this was no different.

 

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

It didn’t change me as such, but changed my life considerably.  You don’t know the burden of the weight you carry until it is no longer there

 

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

We put off difficult conversations for fear of hurting others, or of getting a negative response.  The longer you put it off, the more damage you do to yourself, and the harder it becomes.  There is a skill in raising difficult matters; much more difficult with someone to whom you are close, for fear that the relationship will suffer.  But not having the conversation is much more damaging.

 

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

Yes – honesty is always the best policy

 

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

It sounds trite, but honestly, in a situation which calls for a difficult discussion, you are often in no worse a position afterwards, and in most cases better.  When you find yourself running through hypothetical conversations in your head, it is time to have an actual conversation.

In the words of Dumbledore, Principal of Hogwarts – “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

Thank you so much for your story which is told with honesty and candour. It “is” indeed one very very hard conversation that you had. I know you are not alone in this matter of future care for family members either.

Denyse.

 

Blog/Website: https://lookingafteredad.blog

Instagram: @meggsie62  @66theesplanade @imperious_george  @dogsofwoodgate

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 © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women of Courage Series. #17. Lydia C. Lee. 94/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #17. Lydia C. Lee. 94/2019.

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

I have ‘known’ Lydia for more years than I can recall. She remains, however, a woman of some mystery, as this image is the only one I have seen. I am guessing it is Lydia. I also know though, that she is one very caring and helpful individual in my on-line world of friendships. She has offered me some good advice and in fact, some it relates to the person she references in her post. Thanks Lydia for sharing your words. One day, we WILL catch up in person!

 

While I was flattered Denyse asked me to be part of this series, I feel a little bit of a fraud, as I’m not sure I’ve done much with courage. However, as it would be a lack of courage not to accept, I will try my best to offer something useful. Courage is not just bravery, it also has the definition below:

Courage: Strength in the face of pain or grief.

When my father was dying, it was a long and drawn out painful affair. I had to drive two and a half hours every second day to visit him in the hospital. I was working myself into a tired and emotional state on the drive over there, and finding the visits understandably distressing. By chance, to quash my irritability in the traffic, I started listening to audio books. This found me at least on arrival, refreshed and in a good mood, as all my stream of consciousness had been hushed with the external focus.

By chance I listened to This is How by Augusten Burroughs.

This book was a life changer for me. He has a chapter on how to let someone die, and it really altered my understanding of what I could give my family at this most devastating time. The tips I express are his but they worked 100% for me and the by product from doing the small things is the courage defined above.

The first thing he called out is that you will want to find ways to avoid visiting. And it’s true. I kept thinking ‘I need to do this for the kids’ or ‘I have to get this work done’ and so on. The minute I heard his words, I realised it was all unimportant for now, and the visits were the only thing I would really regret not doing.

Secondly, he points out what matters. The special moments you will share that seem insignificant or even mildly unpleasant at the time become something you treasure. One of my favourite memories with Dad was when I took cake for my birthday and we ate it on his hospital bed and laughed at our gluttony and how much better it was than the hospital food. There was such a strong connection that day. In our shared lifetime, this was not one of the ‘big moments’ but it is something I often think about fondly now, and it brings me much comfort.

Thirdly, I’m the youngest in my family. My mother and sister were dealing with it differently to me, and that’s okay – I honestly believe there is not ‘right way’, only what is right for you, and most importantly, for the dying person. It gave me the job of making sure Mum was coping, and would not grieve the difficult decisions she had to make over the myriad of medical options and how to process the conflicting information from the many specialists involved. That job made me busy and feel productive and helpful in a situation where we were really all helpless to ultimately fix anything.

 

In a very strange turn of events, I had a number of concerts already booked, and I kept going to them, even if I didn’t feel like it or as happened one time, I cried in the taxi on the way to the venue. What I discovered was the dancing and energy of the audience was transformative. The endorphins from the exercise and joyous high I’d get would reset my emotions for the next day, so I was recharged to visit again and bring the little gifts of being truly present to share with him.

Our natural instinct is to shut down when facing grief but it’s actually the worst thing in my opinion. I became an expert at compartmentalising my emotions. It’s important to grieve and feel that loss and sadness, but it’s equally important to energise yourself so you’re ready for the next day’s emotional battle.  If worse comes to worse, just leave and go home early if it’s all too hard. I told myself that a few times but it never did pan out that way.

 

One of the benefits of this compartmentalisation was that I became very good at focusing on one step at a time. I could encourage Mum to stop the ‘what if’s’ and just make decisions on the information we had at hand, and make one decision at a time, not trying to second guess ahead. It reduces the enormity of what is happening and the overwhelming responsibility.

 “We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it as not as dreadful as it appears, discovering that we have the strength to stare it down.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

In all things medical, one step at a time is all you can cope with.

Eat well. I ate my emotions – usually in the car on the way home from the hospital. It was not good for my weight or my energy. But long time readers will know I’m far from perfect so this one is a ‘do as I say, not as I do’. Had I not eaten junk daily, I might have felt better about things in those down moments. But as Augusten Burroughs says “Eat the brownie”. Sometimes food is the only happiness you’ll have that day. I’d probably do the same again so I’m not going to judge anyone on this.

If you can, during this time, exercise instead of drinking. Both will take the edge off, but one is better for the next day (and your waistline if you are eating a junkfest to feel good).

It is never a good time, but you can make it better for all involved, and for yourself so you don’t regret choices you made when it’s too late to change anything. Most of all, you are making it as best you can for that loved one who is finding their own courage when you aren’t there.

“Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

This is not medical advice, it is just what worked for me. If you are under stress and feeling it is too much, please see a doctor. Grief causes stress and disorientation and can lead to anxiety. Always seek medical help if you feel overwhelmed.

Wow, Thank you so much Lydia. Your recommendation of Augusten Burrough’s book was just what I needed to listen to last year. I am sure there will be readers here who will be nodding along with some of your insights gained personally and learning of others.

Denyse.

 

Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/lydiaclee/

Blog/Website: https://pandoraandmax.blogspot.com/

And Travel Blog https://holidazeandhellidaze.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @LydiaCLee

Facebook Page (not personal account): https://www.facebook.com/lydiac.lee.9

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 © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

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Women of Courage Series. #16. Sarah. 92/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #16. Sarah. 92/2019.

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

Sarah, who is 42,  and I go way back. To blogging days but also via photography. We’d already been to a blogging function in the city and Sarah offered to help me with my then new Camera. I spent an afternoon at her place with her then pre-schooler learning about how to use the various focus points and I still use that help today. I am so glad we did meet and even though we are no longer in Sydney, we connect on-line from time to time. Thank you Sarah for your willingness to share here today!

 

 

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

The breakdown of my marriage was a slow and sad journey. Looking back I am grateful that neither of us broke it dramatically but with reflection, sometimes I think the gradual descent into unloving each other did more damage to us in the long run. Our differences, which had pulled us together when we were younger and in the trenches of parenting small children, were the same differences that were causing us such frustration in our personal relationship. By the time my husband was finally able to agree that our marriage was no longer something worth fighting for, the relief was immense for me. I could direct my attention towards something active, a collaborative separation rather than pushing emotional energy into a relationship that had lost its heart. At the time I thought that was the bravest I had ever been, but the courage I had to conjure up at the time of the separation was nothing in comparison to the courage I have needed in the eighteen months since. Navigating a huge life change is complicated, deeply traumatic and takes resilience and bravery and the support of everyone around you.

 

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

I was changed in every way by the ending of my marriage. The positives have been amazing, I have learnt that I can do everything I need to do, on my own, and that the support of people around me is a gift and should never be taken for granted. But the negatives have weighed heavily on me. I have two incredible daughters who have had their perfect childhoods turned upside down and there are days where the responsibility for that causes me almost physical pain. I have learnt that when bad things happen, the world doesn’t stop turning around you and that a positive attitude can lift you and those around you out of a trough of despair. I laugh more now, I am more present and I am a better mother, friend and ex-wife. I have learnt to let go of the small things and focus on the bigger picture and I am more positive and less pessimistic which has been a really fun and rewarding change.

 

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

I cannot express strongly enough that I believe courage is something that is compounded by sharing with others, like happiness, courage grows in the presence of people. I found it really hard to express how I was feeling after we agreed the separation. People were shocked that I was relieved, but I had to remember this was often the first time they had heard about the finality of our decision where we had been living the reality for years by this stage. For a while I retreated into my own headspace and found it easier to not talk about what I was going through but this was isolating and left me feeling lonely and misunderstood.

So I started opening up to the people around me and found that sharing my experience made it more real and people responded to my openness with their own stories. Hearing about how other people have dealt with tough situations made me feel stronger and better equipped to cope with the difficulties I was dealing with. I also felt better able to help other people around me and this has planted a seed in me.

Navigating the breakdown of a family unit and a separation is incredibly difficult even when we were doing it amicably under the same roof. There are so many ways of approaching the legalities of a separation and if I was finding it difficult, I knew that there would be so many people out there who felt completely out of their depth trying to work out how to proceed. I am hoping that in some capacity I might be able to help other people facing the same difficulties, maybe by volunteering, possibly by writing, definitely by talking to people.

 

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

I genuinely feel that I could face most things now. My vision and perspective has changed during this process and instead of being a confirmed pessimist, I see the future as containing possibilities that are beyond my comprehension. Being courageous for me looks a lot like not worrying about things I cannot control and the best bit about this is having heaps more emotional time to do things I love like hang out with my children, spend time with friends, read books and plan adventures!

 

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

Don’t be afraid to share your story. I know it can be hard to be honest about how you are feeling, but I have found that being as authentic as I can be about my situation has genuinely helped others going through similar experiences. The other really important lesson I have learned about courage is that asking for help is one of the bravest things someone can do. Fear of rejection or facing our own insignificance can hold us back from being honest about what our needs are but once I started to admit how hard I was finding things, people seemed eager to help. I learnt that even the smallest gesture carries great weight when you are struggling and through my own experience of receiving help and compassion, I am in turn more compassionate and empathetic and less judgmental!

 

Thank you so much Sarah for your frankness and lessons learned. I am sure that by sharing your story, others may take courage and comfort too.

Denyse.

 

Joining  with Sue and Leanne each Wednesday  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 © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women of Courage Series. #15. Deborah. 90/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #15. Deborah. 90/2019.

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

I have followed Deborah, who is 51,  on-line for some years now. I am pretty sure I found her blog: “diet schmiet” (made me want to read as a serial diet/no diet woman) and then via other social media. She blogs about books and her life these days living away from the ‘big smoke’.I really want to sit down and have a cuppa with Deb (as I call her!) one day. I reckon it would be the best. Her story is here and I am so glad she decided to be courageous and share. 

 

 

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

I think there have been a culmination of things – brought on by myself and circumstances – that have seen me again and again questioning my sense of self and my identity.

I’ve always been single and don’t have children. Work pretty much defined my life until I was in my early 40s. I kept assuming I’d have what everyone else had (love, family) but it didn’t happen.

By then I’d already had a number of career and life-path changes, some of which had been  pretty dire. I’d worked in the social sector in Australia, then international development in developing countries. I was then a diplomat before settling back into life in Brisbane in project management and government.

But I couldn’t imagine my world continuing as it was. I’d been waiting for the life I expected to start; I felt like I’d been biding my time, and suddenly I was confronted with the fact that half of my life had quite possibly passed me by.

So (at 44yrs of age), I took a redundancy package and made a seachange. I moved to a beachside town near my childhood hometown. I hadn’t been there to support my mother as much as I’d liked when my father was ill before passing away and I wanted to be there for her.

 

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

It was like a huge weight off my shoulders. I’d felt very restricted by my previous existence. Before ‘life’ was something I savoured for a few hours in the evening and on weekends.

Suddenly I felt free for the first time I could remember.

Of course at the same time I realised how much I’d been identified by what I’d done for a living. I was no longer sure ‘who’ or ‘what’ I was.

I’d also assumed I’d find it easy to get a job. I’d already decided I no longer wanted to be guided (or bound) by ambition. I love(d) writing and hoped to pursue my creativity now that I had more time and head / white space.

Of course, since then there have been ups and downs on the job front. I’ve secured some employment and found it unfulfilling, so leapt into something more substantial again… only to regret that and resent its impact on the rest of my life.

 

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

It occurs to me that although I’m still going through some existential crises in relation to my values; and for me there’s a constant struggle between financial security and wanting to live a life that feels more authentic. To become the ‘me’ I’ve always wanted to be.

However, while I may not know exactly what it is I want… (and isn’t that why they call it a midlife crisis?) I’ve realised I’m learning what it is I don’t want from life. And sometimes that has to be done by trial and error.

I still have an image in my head of who I think I ‘should’ be. I still feel guilty that I would much prefer to not-work than to work. I mean, women in previous generations fought long and hard for the opportunities I had (and still have).

But, I’ve now made the tough decision on several occasions to step out of situations that aren’t serving me. I would never have done that before. Responsibility reigned supreme in my world. I’ve done some weird and scary things and there’s been risk involved but it’s always been very measured risk. I’ve always had a safety net. Well… until recently.

 

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

I feel like I’ve failed. Or at least not succeeded. Others don’t seem to think I’ve hit rock bottom, but it’s felt that way to me… and yet I’ve survived. I haven’t given up.

I have some contingencies in place. I’m deflated each time I miss out on an interview or by the lack of opportunities, but if life has taught me anything it’s that there could still be something around the corner.

 

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

I’d never recommend anyone take a leap of faith as I think our paths have got to be ones we’re comfortable with, but I think sometimes we can give fate a little nudge.

I’m prone to overthinking and overanalysing EVERYTHING but it means I know myself pretty well and I’m a strong believer in ‘gut instinct’ (though I believe the pros call it ‘intuitive decision making’). We often know when something doesn’t feel right.

This has been the biggest learning for me. I don’t always know when I’m happy. But I know when I’m not.

 

Thank you Deborah. You make me think about quite a lot in my life too. Your story is one for many I am sure.

Denyse.

Blog/Website: https://debbish.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/debbishdotcom

Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/debbishdotcom

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/debbish/

 

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 © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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