Sunday 22nd September 2019

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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Women Of Courage Series. #14. Veronica. 88/2019.

Trigger Warning: Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatments.

 

 

Women of Courage Series. #14. Veronica. 88/2019.

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 Veronica, who is 50,  for some years now and we met way back via the blogging community in Sydney.  For some years we continued following each other via the usual social media and then we had a closer connection than either of us would choose. I was treated for my head and neck cancer in the same place where Veronica received the news she discloses in her story.  I welcome her to share today and her story concludes with a number of important links Veronica supplied. 

 

 

 

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

My life changed forever in March 2018, just about the time I was planning how to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday.

After several hours of poking and prodding, I was sitting in the waiting room, trying to stay calm, breathing intentionally, focusing on positivity, yet bracing myself for bad news. The doctor finally called me into her office.

We sat down and I grabbed my husband’s hand tightly.

“I’m sorry…..you’ve got breast cancer.”

I tried to hold my composure as I attempted to absorb the news and subsequent information. “Treatment and outcomes have improved”, I heard someone say. A lot of the discussion was about the next steps. It was only when I mentioned what was first and foremost in my mind, my young daughters, that I burst into tears. I had to be here to see them grew up. I just had to.

 

 

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

There is no instruction manual for these type of moments. I didn’t realise it at the time but I found my natural problem solving drive kicked into gear. All procrastination seemed a thing of the past. I had to make quick decisions and take action to do what I needed to get this disease out of me immediately.

Amidst the persistent surreal fog I found myself in, my days were intentionally and determinedly busy. There were numerous tests, referrals, specialist appointments, scans, surgery and days and days of treatment. Attacking and overcoming this disease was the priority but keeping busy and distracted with work and a daily routine was paramount. It was my main coping mechanism.

Whilst I felt I could not control cancer or the treatments to come, I tried to focus on what I could control. Very early on, I knew I would lose my hair and chose to take control of that process very deliberately. I chose to embrace the hair loss and not hide it. It was liberating and empowering and still is.

The diagnosis and treatment forced me to look more seriously at my overall health. I started exercising after years of ignoring my general health and it’s helped with the after-effects of surgery and treatment.

I had to learn, and am still learning, to really be kind to myself and my body. Rest, sleep, eat well, let stress go. It’s still a work in slow progress but it’s a step in the right direction.

 

 

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

Over the ensuing months, many people commented on how strong I was. The truth is I didn’t feel strong much of the time and I definitely did not feel brave.

Before my own diagnosis, I remember looking in awe at others facing this disease and the debilitating effects of the treatments. I would think of my children and be grateful that wasn’t me, feeling strongly in my gut that I’d never have the wherewithal to face such a battle.

Then it was my face in the mirror and I had to face it and there was only one choice. It wasn’t a decision made from bravery. It was a no-brainer. It was a choice to live; a choice to survive; choice to fight for my children, my husband, my family, my loved ones; a choice to fiercely hang onto this precious life we have all been gifted. The quote below rang and still rings so true:

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” – Bob Marley

I also learnt that I can’t solve every problem. I can use my agency to control what I can, and when there is little I can do, I have to release my mental and emotional grip. I have to go with the flow and embrace the moment and deal with what comes on the other side when I get there.

I learnt that life is a precious gift and worth being grateful for every day. Not everyone gets the chance.

I learnt that worry is inevitable but it fixes nothing. It is a thief, just like the disease. Positive energy, staying hopeful and being in the moment are the best choices.

 

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

Yes, but being courageous is to me is feeling the fear but pushing through anyway. It’s not going forward with a sense of power and invincibility. It’s going forward, feeling fragile and vulnerable, yet knowing it is not an option to stay in that dark place. It’s searching for and moving towards the best possible choice that drives me.

 

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

Take things moment by moment. Make one brave decision at a time. Take one brave step at time. Be in the now, embrace the present moments. Your initial goal is to take the first step. Then, you take another “first” step and the so on. Don’t worry about the 10th step still you have to face the 10th step.

 

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

Please add a trigger warning. See above.

Breast Cancer resources:

Pink Hope – Know Your Risk, Change Your Future

http://pinkhope.org.au

Be Dense Aware (Did you know dense breast tissue can make diagnosis more challenging?)

https://www.bedenseaware.com/

iPrevent – Breast Cancer Prevention Through Risk Assessment

https://nbcf.org.au/19/prevention-through-precision-medicine/

Sydney Breast Cancer Foundation – The 3 Step Breast Check

https://www.sbcf.org.au/resources/

National Breast Cancer Foundation – Zero Deaths from Breast Cancer by 2030 campaign

https://nbcf.org.au/

 

I do admire Veronica for her honesty in sharing what for many would be a great challenge. Watching Veronica through the social medium space of instagram I have been in awe of her courage. It was so good to know that she was prepared to share her words. Thank you again dear V.

Denyse.

 

Instagram:  @mixedgems

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. #13. Alicia O’Brien. 86/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #13. Alicia O’Brien. 86/2019.

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 Alicia who is 46, for many years thanks to ‘the old world of Australian blogging’ where I was first a reluctant entry into ‘link ups.’ This blogger friend has had a link up called Open Slather for years. It was on Mondays and now she has moved it to Friday. Do join in! Alicia impressed me from the beginning with her images: photos of her cooking and outdoors where she captures nature in her part of Australia so well. I welcome Alicia to share her story today, and love this image, captured by one of her young daughters! 

 

 

 

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

 

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometime courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’. – Mary Anne Radmacher

 

There have many times in my life I have had to call on my courage stores. Plenty of times come to mind when I hadn’t been courageous.

My earliest memory was crossing the rail lines to get to school in the morning. Scared the crap out of me. I may have been a cautious, anxious kid, because it used to frustrate the hell out of mum that I’d turn around and walk back home than to cross the lines.

When I talked to her about it, a true story of courage arose. That of my mum. Twenty four years old with five kids in a small country town, a working husband, no car. She’d walk me half way to school, torn, wanting to take me all the way, but four kids at home on their own. We as women are all courageous, in the way we are responsible for, we struggle and care for our loved ones.

Another time is when Mum asked me get out the car and herd the sheep from behind along the roadside. I would NOT get out of the car. My three-year-old sister did the deed. Gee did mum give me a serve about that. My little sister was the courageous one.

My biggest regret in not being courageous is when as a young mum, I stood in line at the checkout while an older man spewed racist hate at an Asian man who was holding up the line. I could not believe what was coming out of this man’s mouth. My regret was that I never stood forward and said something. No one did. I was angry that my daughters had to listen to such racist filth in this current age. I wish I had of been courageous enough to tell him to stop. Life teaches us many lessons and I will never ever hold back in the same situation again. The Asian man was the one who was courageous.

Most of my calls for courage, I guess anxiety and self-doubt have played a part. I have noticed that calling on my courage stores was easier when I was going through more confident stages of my life.

Meeting new people, taking the step of starting a new job, getting through tough things like my sons’ diagnosis of schizophrenia and the crap that was involved before and after that. It takes courage to keep pushing on in the face of uncertainty.

Even to this day, I must occasionally talk myself into making phone calls or walking into the school gates and be social! I know it’s easy and doesn’t take that much courage, but I let my brain convince me it’s a difficult task!

 

 

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

I am not sure if it has changed me in any way. I guess it’s made me more aware that I can get through things that maybe my brain was telling me were going to be hard. The funny thing is when it’s all over, it really isn’t that bad. It has given me the tools to face adversity the next time and made me realise I am capable and worthy of confidence in myself that I can do the hard stuff.

I feel I am more persistent and resilient in my approach to tasks.

I am often amazed at how well I cope in a crisis. My brain then seems to snap into survival mode, and I push through under pressure. My brain doesn’t have time to talk me out of it. This ability would come after some experience too. It’s the time after that I need a break to re-centre myself.

 

 

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

I learned that no matter how tough you think something is going to be, the courage to get through it is already inside of you. It is not something you have to make, it’s there. Don’t overthink the situation and only cross bridges once you come to them. In most situations, your brain can be your worst enemy, the key is to listen to the positive more often than you listen to your negative talk. Tell yourself, “I can do this!”.

 

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

The more I put myself out of my comfort zone, the more confident I become in facing life’s hurdles. The hurdles are bloody inconvenient, and I often question the universe if it thinks I’ve had my fair share already. They say practice makes perfect!

I am however aware that my problems are dwarfed by others, there are so many who are doing it way tougher than me and I am amazed at how courageous they are. They provide inspiration for me to draw on.

The courage of others always inspires me. I have learned that some of those courageous things are just everyday ordinary things and some life changing. Everyone is challenged by something, no matter how big or small.

 

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

The more steps you take everyday out of your comfort zone and facing your fears, the more able and confident you become in facing fears. Life is hard. I think having supportive people around you to help is important and not being afraid to accept that help. I think it is also helpful to have someone who knows what you’re going through at any time to talk to, so you don’t feel so alone in your struggles.

Oh wow. Lots of messages there for me to learn too. Thank you so much Alicia. I loved that we have been on-line friends for ages. Maybe one day we will actually meet!

Denyse.

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alleychook

Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/One-Mother-Hen-243699915749847/

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

 

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. #12 Megan Daley. 84/2019.

Women Of Courage Series. #12 Megan Daley. 84/2019.

Some stories here need a trigger warning: this one is for: sudden death.

 

Women of Courage is 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

Welcome to Megan’s story.  She is 43. I have connected with Megan via social media initially through her #childrensbooksdaily and being both a teacher AND librarian I knew she was someone I would like to meet. Whilst we have not yet done that, her story is one that is such a BIG hug would be in order if we did meet but I hear Megan may not be a hugger. 

Here’s her story.

  

 

 

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

Those of you who know my blog and website Children’s Books Daily will be well aware that I have experienced overwhelming grief. My brother, my favourite aunt and my beloved husband all died in the space of a few short years, all very unexpectedly, and a number of very dear friends also died in this same period. I feel like my family have been utterly battered by life and death over the last few years and sometimes we do not know which way is up and which way is down. In the very early days of grief if took courage to merely face each day…and not consume all of the chocolate and carbs in the world. Having just passed the second anniversary of my husbands death, courage now looks different. Now it takes courage (and oh so much emotional and physical energy) to solo parent our beautiful daughters and to accept help in doing this and it also takes courage to walk my own path without Dan by my side – in my career and in my personal life.

 

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

The biggest change that I have had to make is to learn to accept help. I grew up with a beautiful community of family friends and we all helped each other and worked tirelessly in the community (technically I watched my parents and their friends work tirelessly in the community  – #samesame). As a young adult I threw myself into volunteer work in the children’s literature community and I’ve always baked for friends or causes in the community such as ‘Baked Relief’ and been ‘that parent’ who ends up on the committees at kindy and school. I absolutely love being with others and being the one to ‘do’. But grief and the realities of solo parenting – the lack of second income and the relentless nature of parenting (I adore parenting but let’s face it, it can be relentless at times!) have meant I have had to accept help, something I have struggled with and continue to wrestle with. I have lost so much sleep over having to accept help – it turns my brain inside out and to mush like nothing else – and I still often just say ‘thank you so much but I’m okay, I’ve got it!’ rather than ‘actually you know what? That would be just so wonderful right now’.

The girls and I have been surrounded by love, care and immense kindness since Dan’s death but, as it should, life does need to return to normal for all involved. There are a few key friends, neighbours and family members who have absolutely not stopped TELLING ME that they are going to do A, B and C for me and they will not take no for an answer – I cannot believe the love they have shown us (without hugging me – I really don’t like hugs). I am really well supported, and yet, some days (many days) life is still incredibly overwhelming. I continue to think that ‘soon I’ll have it together’ and yet I still seem to need so much help just to keep our family unit going. It’s taken courage to accept help…and ‘asking for help’ is a work in progress!

One of changes I did not expect was just how motivated I would be about ensuring that the girls and I still have a great life. Dan’s death and the death of my brother, aunt and close friends has been life altering but I am determined that my grief (which is ever present and will be with me always) will not define me, my children or my family. I just said to my mother last weekend at a family lunch that I am so proud of our extended family. Despite all the loss and sadness we have experienced, we still laugh a lot, are incredibly close and genuinely enjoy each others company. We know that even though we may disagree (even fight – siblings never really grow up!), we are all deeply loved. I am also really fortunate to have good friends. I am very comfortable with being single and enjoying the company of my friends and, in many cases, my relationships with my friends are far richer and deeper.

 

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

This is such a hard question to answer as each persons journey is unique to them. A dear friend lost her husband (a great mate of Dan’s) a year after I lost Dan and I remember feeling at a complete loss as to how to help her and what to say to her. I don’t feel courageous at all. I feel like all I do is put one foot in front of the other, and yet I have become aware that other people use words like ‘resilient’ and ‘courageous’ about me. I feel like I have to summon courage but I don’t feel like I am courageous. I do however, feel like I’ve picked up some ‘Helpful Tips and Tricks for Surviving Grief’ (tips for baking the perfect sponge cake would have been better) and as a teacher librarian, I have spent my career curating information for others, which I think is part of the reason I have blogged about grief so often. I did a post recently about ‘what I have learnt’ and I hope that this is something I can use in the future when people ask me ‘how do I cope with such loss’. You can find it here https://childrensbooksdaily.com/two-years-is-such-a-very-short-time/

 

 

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

Another hard question! You do not know what you can face until you face it. When my brother died I felt that this would be the very worst time I would ever experience…fast forward to two more family deaths and I know now that courage just takes over your being and pulls you through the hottest of flames. Courage for the big things in life is not really something I want to draw upon anytime soon; quite frankly, I worry my lifetime quota of courage may be running low! I would like to now live a really non-eventful life and I would dearly love to know what it is like to feel bored, even just for a short time. I hope to feel courage in the everyday things – like trying something new, breaking a bad habits sampling a new reading genre or learning how one parents tweens and teens (oh my glory).

 

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

I’m not going to tell you to ‘take care of yourself’ or ‘find time for you’ because I’ve wanted the punch in the noses of people who have said this to me. My message is a little more realistic, in my mind anyway!

As much as possible, steer your own path and be in control of decision making and navigating the journey from tough times to ‘being okay’ times. Sometimes life takes over and all you can do is carefully and consciously walk the tightrope through the darkness. But I promise you, that in darkness there are always moments of light – even if they only start out as tiny pinpricks of light.

 

Thank you Megan. I am in awe of your strength to carry on even though I know many times, that IS the last thing you want to do.

Denyse.

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

 

 

 

Social Media:

www.childrensbooksdaily.com

Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/ChildrensBooksDaily

Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/daleyreads

Instagram URL: http://instagram.com/childrensbooksdaily

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. #11. Kirsten. 82/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #11. Kirsten. 82/2019.

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

Welcome to Kirsten’s story. She is 46. Kirsten first connected with me via her generosity when I was sent a gift pack from a group of friends after my big cancer surgery. Kirsten has continued to be a great social media friend too. Here’s her story.

 

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

In 2015 I was diagnosed with a rare condition called idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) It’s a condition I’d never heard of before and it’s one that mimics a brain tumour in terms of symptoms. I was losing my eye sight, suffering from facial numbness, balance issues and migraines prior to my diagnose. I had no idea when I was diagnosed just how courageous I would need to be to fight it.

 

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

It changed me – and my family – completely. I had no idea I was such a determined person prior to my diagnosis. It took me two years to shove my symptoms into remission and the medication I had to take to help make this happen knocked me flat for the first year. But I was determined to beat it. I was also determined to keep life as ‘normal’ as possible for our two kids. I got up every morning, made lunches, took them to school, came home and slept or rested until it was time to pick them up from school in the afternoon. Some afternoons I was so nauseous I’d take a bucket with me in the car – I had a lovely decorative tin bucket in our pantry (I used to use it as an ice bucket when if we had a party) and that was the bucket I’d use. When the kids saw it in the car, I would just tell them I’d lent it to someone for a party and keep forgetting to take it out of the car. It makes me laugh now, thinking of that tin bucket rolling around in the front seat of the car just in case I needed to use it!

 

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

I’ve learned that when it comes to your health – and life in general – you are your only advocate. You can have all the specialists in the world looking after you, but you are the only one who can actually help you. I followed my neurologist, opthalmologist and endocrinologists advice to the letter. I went to every six weekly appointment with each of them for 2 years and did exactly what they told me I needed to do to beat this thing. But I also questioned them when I wasn’t happy with how things were progressing. I asked for more information, I wanted to understand. I tackled this thing head on.

And honestly?At the time I didn’t even know that’s what I was doing. It wasn’t until I was given the great news that I was in remission that I really thought about what I’d done to get to that point. And I guess that’s what courage is to me – pushing through the darkness until you’ve achieved what needs to be done.

 

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

I think I’m really good at slipping into old habits! Sometimes old thoughts of self doubt surface and I feel anything but courageous. But I’m definitely more aware of how capable I actually am.

 

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

There’s always a silver lining to every situation. Good, bad, happy sad – the silver lining is always there. Sometimes it just takes a while for it to show up. But when it does, you’ll feel so grateful for not being where or who you were.

 

Thank you Kirsten for such an amazing story of recovery. You inspire me to continue to keep plugging away as part of my own recovery in becoming more active!

Denyse.

 

 

Blog/Website: https://bettyquette.com.au and https://kirstenandco.com

Facebook Page (not personal account): facebook.com/bettyquette

 facebook.com/kirstenandco

Instagram: instagram.com/bettyquette    instagram.com/kirstenandco

It is so good to see Kirsten doing well. Something I am adding now is that there is a great line of oils that she and her husband have developed and now sell. I was fortunate to be given some and latterly I have bought the body oil and lip balm. First known as Skin Boss, it is now Bettyquette. Here’s what some of the products look like….I love her generosity of spirit!

 

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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