Sunday 12th July 2020

The Value Of A Smile. 46.1./2020.

The Value Of A Smile. 46.1./2020.

I’ve been contemplating the ways in which smiling can improve my/our health.

Maybe too, because of being socially isolated and  when being out keeping our distance, I have noted that when engaging with people a smile cuts through any communication to be gain a positive response often with a smile back!

Have you noticed this too?

Regular readers here will know I lost my smile for a long time when the top half of my mouth (and some of my top lip too) was removed because of head and neck cancer, and that I really, really missed my smile!

Recovering from Cancer Surgery 2017. Smiling as Best I Could.

Interesting to get to know my needs for social inclusion were/are based on my ability to connect with my smile.

I think it is fascinating that of the three things I lost for a while after the July 2017 surgery: ability to eat & drink, talking clearly and smiling…that I found

S M I L I N G was what I needed to do most.

There is science in this too!

Recently I read this:

We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do. Peace begins with a smile.

Mother Theresa.

Years ago, I was seeing a psychiatrist for some issues and he talked of the fake it till you make it smile. It seemed silly to me then, but apparently there IS something to this.

I can share this practice , from my experiences of meditation and being mindful, of not allowing myself to retreat or resist what I am not liking. I still need to remember this. In fact, I ask myself ‘what am I afraid to admit, or do or be’?

I need to be in the moment. The only moment as that’s all I have.

Yet, the physical act of helping my body make a smile, works. It’s like a circuit breaker. I can look in the mirror and smile. Not always genuinely but it changes things.

Further advice in troubled times:

  • life the corners of your mouth with your fingers, literally putting a smile on your face.

  • let the smile remind you that acceptance is more powerful than resistance.

  • breathe deeply, then exhale slowly

  • invite yourself to be curious about whatever set of circumstances initiated your resistance.

           Ashley Davis Bush: The Little Book of Inner Peace.

I do engage as much as I can with feeling gratitude each day (and made a promise to do this every day in 2020). Smiling reminds me of how grateful I am for my health, and that even though my top lip is shrinking back somewhat, smiling is one very sound exercise as is connecting with the people around me.

I made my first vlog…I am not sure that is what I call it…but I now have the ability to make mini-videos at home and sorted my channel on You Tube to be able to do so. Yes, the ending is a bit unproffesh but the message is mine!

Take care, people….and do remember to smile.

Denyse.

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Women of Courage Series. #36. Anonymous. 33/2020.

Women of Courage Series. #36. Anonymous. 33/2020.

Trigger warning: Marital Breakdown, Psychological Harm, Mental Illness.

Woman of Courage #36  has chosen to be anonymous.

There will be no replies from this poster.

She will, however, be reading and I will be responding as I always do to readers’ comments.

Thank you for your understanding.

 

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 do know the person who has chosen to be anonymous. She is in her early 40s.

I am in awe of her courage and was honoured when she decided to share this in this on-line space. Thank you. 

 

 

 

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

Late one night, when I was lying in bed beside my husband, I asked him if everything was okay.

He’d been acting strangely for a couple of days and I was becoming worried about him.

He sat up in bed and told me that no, everything was not okay.

He told me he didn’t love me and that he was having an affair.

Within 15 minutes of blindsiding me with this news, he left and never came back.

I spent the rest of that night vomiting and shaking from shock.

My parents were overseas and I didn’t want to wake my siblings.

I honestly did not know how I was going to make it through the night, act normal for the kids in the morning and drop them to school.

There had been no, I repeat, no indication that my husband was unhappy in our marriage.

All aspects of our marriage were normal.

We rarely fought.

I loved him with every inch of my being and from the words he’d told me and the cards he’d written me (even up to three months prior) made me believe he felt the same way.

We’d been together almost 20 years and I had thought we were the best of mates.

In those early days, I wouldn’t say I was courageous at all.

When I wasn’t catatonic, I was in survival mode.

I was simply going through the motions with the kids and trying to make sense of why and how my life was suddenly tipped upside down.

I leaned on my family and friends.

I sought professional help, got a lawyer and prepared to fight against someone, I realised that I didn’t even know.

Even though my husband was the one who had the affair and didn’t want to work on repairing our marriage, I was made out to be the ‘bad guy’.

It became clear that I was dealing with a narcissist and I was continually getting mentally beaten down.

My self-esteem was non-existent and I was torn apart, and still am, seeing my kids suffering.

In those moments when you feel like you just can’t go on anymore, you need to find courage.

You need to dig deep, otherwise hurt and pain and suffering will swallow you whole.

 

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

The breakdown of my marriage crushed me. I very nearly lost myself, but I have been clawing my way back.

I have become stronger than I ever thought possible – mentally and physically.

Sadly, I know my ‘fight’ is not yet over and my ex and I will have ongoing issues.

I am stronger than I was at the start though and can now stand up for myself and do what it takes to support my children.

I am more relaxed now with the kids.

As a (virtually) full-time single mother with a full-time job, I need to be kind to myself.

Who cares if they skip a shower or we have Uber Eats more than we probably should?

I’m doing what I can to get by.

I’m finding real moments of happiness again now and know that there’s more to life than my ex-husband.

 

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

Sometimes you need to find courage from others.

Find your support network and lean on them.

Let them carry you for a little while until you are strong enough.

I also found journaling incredibly helpful and I sought professional help from a psychologist.

 

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

Yes, I do feel that I’m able to be more courageous now.

I’m determined to live my life to the full and ensure my kids grow up in a happy and stable home.

I’ll be damned if I let anything get in the way of that.

 

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

Again, lean on those around you. Don’t bottle up your feelings. Let people in and let them help you.

 

 

I so appreciate the thought and decision that went into this post from Anonymous.

Thank you for sharing this.

Denyse.

 

The following information may be helpful to you or another. These are Australian-based.

  • Your Family G.P. can be a helpful person to listen and make referrals.
  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636
  • Phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for 24 hour assessment, referral, advice, and hospital and community health centre contact details
  • Qualified Psychologists can be found by visiting https://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/
  • Australian Counselling Association is on 1300 784 333 to find a counsellor

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Self-Care Stories #2 14/51 #LifeThisWeek. 28/2020.

Self-Care Stories #2 14/51 #LifeThisWeek. 28/2020.

What a time! It’s been not “that long” since the first post of Self-Care stories yet, the world as we (I) knew it has changed irrevocably. Thanks to a C-word that can be said and written about but I prefer to leave that to the media. Corona virus. COVID-19.

Self-Care Stories #2 is likely to be the first of more in #covid time and I know for me, whilst it bring changes to what I thought was helpful in my self-care emotionally and physically I have to counter that with:

  • am I able to do this now i.e. go out for a stroll at the shops….NO
  • can I go out where I please…NO
  • can I see my family and friends in person….NO
  • do I need to change how I think about what I need to do with my self-care…YES
  •  is this becoming easier over time…YES(ish)

In words and pictures here’s how I am self-caring…in the way I know how. This suits me. It may not for you. I know I am feeling better for a plan.

My plan, so far,

  • is experiencing slower days
  • not ‘having’ to be anywhere
  • taking the chance to explore some art/craft I haven’t for a while
  • actually reading a magazine- I have bought the Women’s Weekly twice!
  • limiting news items on social media to reputable sources
  • contributing to some groups I belong to on Facebook but not staying on “scrolling and scrolling”
  • making sure I have my instagram feed ready as it is from the Ipad now
  • having not only enough food in the house  but more so we can eat from a variety of sources
  • taking time outside, even if it is the backyard, and looking up, and down
  • limiting car trips to every second day and minimising these just to local supermarket
  • ensuring that I do get some steps up each day but no longer being self-critical if I don’t. In fact, I adjusted the goal to allow for it.
  • installing Netflix and Stan on my bedroom TV and actually watching an episode of something from the past. Currently Pride and Prejudice
  • swapping my daily coffee from a shop to one at home, and even having a cup of tea these days as well
  • taking a drive, while it is still OK, to a local beach or waterway and walking beside the water
  • recognising when my fear becomes heightened. It has and I know what it means and can deal with it better these days
  • adding a Daily Calm to my meditation practice before I get out of bed, and finishing my day with another practice session from Calm.

Now, this is just what I, as a retiree, who has recovered well from cancer can do and be…and I am fully aware there is a whole lot of deprivation and job losses, threatened security of home and more, along with worries and fears if you and/or loved ones work in essential services and maybe you are unwell or you cannot be the carer you might want to be….so I say…

I hope, that with support of words here, those from friends and family you may find some peace right now. Yes, it is a very strange place we are all finding ourselves. Author and all-round good egg, Pip Lincolne for example is one. She has  released her new book “When Life Is Not Peachy” ..see the photo above, and just into the excitement of this, she (and her family) all lost their jobs. Gob-smacked, like so many. Queueing on-line or in real life at Centrelink. Not fun. But, as she has reached out to others to help, she has been supported too. That is the best part.

Help others if  you can..but put on your own lifejacket first!

I am listening to a brand-new podcast from Brene Brown: and here is the info. The fact we are all, world-wide, “in this together” seems to help me.

Three learnings that have been life-shifting for me:

1. Anxiety is one of the most contagious emotions – that’s why it always takes down groups of people, not just individuals.

2. Calm is also contagious, but it’s a daily intention and practice.

3. We all have patterned ways of dealing with anxiety that are often set up in our first families. Understanding how and why can set us free.

Listen to the entire episode on Unlocking Us at https://bit.ly/3aBJrDH

And if you miss contact with friends and family and can get into face time and zoom (and all the others) do so. We have had chats with our daughter and grandkids this way and I had my first zoom with 2 friendly and lovely bloggers. Yay for technology for friendships..not just for work

Share o self-care tip that works best for you right now in the comments.
Take care everyone.

Denyse.

Link Up #183.

Life This Week. Link Up #183.

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Self-Care Stories. #1. 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 13/2020.

Self-Care Stories. #1. 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 13/2020.

 

Welcome to the first in the series for 2020.

This optional prompt pops up every 7 weeks or so.

Today here’s mine!

Before kicking off: I have made two changes to my daily routine which is helping me:

One is to consider what I am grateful for each day. I tend to think about something or someone through the day and by even thinking that way I notice a change within. I blogged about it here. I am doing an instagram post each day here: @denysewhelan_blogs and no longer have my account private. I still have @denysewhelan going and no longer private...look at me taking a risk

Two is I am listening to Calm meditation app twice a day. One session, the Daily Calm, before I get up from bed and last thing at night a session of whatever I need at the moment. I have just listened to 10 or so day of “relationship with self.”. Calm is free initially and then you can decided to buy. I got a lifetime price as a bargain in 2018 and am never sick of it. Sleep stories are ace too on nights when I am less than sleep-ready.

What Have I Been Doing?

  1. remembering to follow my daily routine: get up, have breakfast, get dressed and go somewhere for a coffee….come home, blog, read, relax, cook, sleep…
  2. this was, for the most part, pretty well kept.
  3. however and it may have been something that affected others too, I became more anxious than usual when we had extremes of threats:
  • Bushfires
  • More fires
  • High temperatures
  • Continued fires
  • And then it rained.
  • Rainfall was excessive in some places and caused:
  • Flooding
  • Electricity to be cut
  • And NONE of this directly affected me.
  • Mmmmmm.
  • so I was most fortunate to have an in-house counsellor (aka my husband) but also that my previous years of learning how to self-care via means at my disposal actually helped..a great deal.
  • but being an avid follower of social media there were signs that my emotional health was being impacted when I stayed on news and updates for fires/disaster sites for long periods.
  • I realised even before I was “told” by my husband to stop. That was a good self-care measure in itself.

 

Why Have I Needed to Do This?

  1. I know I thrive on being informed and also caring about and for others….BUT there has to be a limit placed.
  2. I do this now by asking myself “what is it I can do that will help this person/those people etc?” If there is nothing really, I do send out a message of empathy where it’s appropriate and I might even do this.
  3. The loving kindness messages are always a way for me to feel a greater connection with others.
  4. I recalled with some hyped and stressed memories of the 5 days of the 2015 East Coast Low when we first moved to the Central Coast and I needed to talk a few of those memories through.
  5. Once I had done that I also knew I am in (and still am in) a much better headspace some 5 years later thanks to all the work I have done to achieve greater emotional health.

Loving Kindness (Metta) can be said silently for yourself, for another or for many. These words above are just one group.

How Do I Integrate This Into My Life?

  1. I continue to follow my routine as much as possible allowing for days (there were a couple!) where to go out of the house meant to be on unsafe roads in flooding rains so I stayed home
  2. I managed to fill in those particular days with little and varied projects of mine.
  3. I automatically come to my art desk when I need to zone out and concentrate on ONE thing and that worked well. In fact it has been something I have done before as well.
  4. I love the variety of activities I now have at my disposal and made use of exploring more of the media too.
  5. My husband was well-occupied with his in-house hobbies and some cabinet making in the garage so with no power lost, we really did well!

 

Afterwards. Onwards.

  1. Self-care is on-going and it can change in its focus for me, depending on how I am.
  2. This week (in fact today!) I am at Westmead seeing my prosthodontist for an update on my upper mouth. I used to get quite stressed about these visits “what will he see that I cannot” and last week I said “STOP”.
  3. I had been living in fear that had no justification.
  4. It was shifting the relaxed mood in our house (and relationship) to tense because I was experiencing some mouth pain (it IS always there, it just seemed worse)
  5. I changed how I approached the pain. I stopped focussing on it by not mentioning it. I also took panadol as instructed.
  6. Self-care is pretty well an on-going matter and recently on Bev Aisbett’s Facebook page (Living with “IT” Anxiety) she posted this, with permission to share:

Recently I took this selfie looking back to  Norah Head Lighthouse in the background, the huge seas reaching the shore…to remind me of how well I am, grateful for all in my life and how far I have come. More to come too, of course!

How is your self-care going?

What do you notice if you are not keeping up your self-care practices?

I look forward to catching up with the comments after I am back from Westmead!

Denyse.

Link Up 176.

Link Up #176. Life This Week.

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* 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, or on your sidebar.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice.

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

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

Trigger warning: content: as advised by Sandra.

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

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Yep, that’s me alright!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Do ‘you’ without shame.

Having said that I also need to say this:

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

It just may work for you too.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Denyse.

 

Social Media:

Blog/Website:  www.sandrakelly.me

Instagram:  @sandrakellywhatlieswithin

 

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

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

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

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How Am I Grateful? 2/2020.

How Am I Grateful? 2/2020.

It’s an interesting question!

One I find hard to answer in summary except that I will do what I can here now!

In the first blog post of 2020 I wrote this:

It was a long read…which I did intersperse with photos to illustrate my message – teacher-me!

However, I know that for some gratitude seems ‘oh so on trend’ and what might be next.

Well, I am going to say whilst I do not mind being up with the trends, gratitude has been around for far longer than I have…and any other influencer..(joke).

And gratitude, just like any mindful practice does need to be practised and noticed and felt. Every Day.

 

But what about this? 

As I write this post, it’s Saturday 4 January 2020 when it seems more than I can imagine of Australia is burning. Fires are consuming towns, rainforests, fields, mountains, grassy slopes and all in its path. That path has included a number of people (some not yet accounted for), hundreds of dwellings, millions of animals and more. It is 43 degrees outside here and around 3 streets away the power is out. So far our house is not affected and the air-con is running.

I do not find this a comfortable place to be in my mind and in my body. I made this meme ages ago to remind me that this is what I have to do. If I cannot, then I am fighting an unwinnable fight.

How on earth do I ‘sit with this?’

  • I noticed that my mind was starting to go down the path of ‘what ifs’ and ‘o. m. g.’ and my body started to tighten.
  • I felt teary and a little out of control of my emotions.
  • I knew that I could cry, tell my husband, seek answers to the unanswerable….but what then?

So, I took notice of my mind and body’s signals and did a few things I know that can help.

  • I am better when I am just painting some lines or strokes…on a page…it seems that in itself for me that is calming
  • I did just that on a large page
  • I came here, to share some of my words. The blog is good for that!
  • I told myself that it is OK to feel scared as these times are frightening
  • However, I also told myself that the evidence is here that I am safe, well and cool.

Strategies which work(ed). For me.

I have just told my husband – the one who would have had to help me through in the past – and of course he is pleased I can see life and its challenges better these days. I am grateful that he was patient enough in the past years to help me see/feel/be grateful even when I had no real idea.

Now, I feel better physically.

I will do some more art.

In fact, I used some of that energy I needed to dissipate and cooked some meals for me, my husband and dad.

And I will realised that I can send out loving kindness messages to people who really are doing it tough today, no matter where they are.

I am grateful that I know this practice and it works for me too.

For you! And you too….sending loving kindness.

I now know, it is not about ‘the actual words’ but the intent. The sharing of our messages of well-being, hope and love for each other.

The human connections.

What are you grateful for today…and every day?

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

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Word of Year: Gratitude. 1/51 #LifeThisWeek 1/2020.

Word of Year: Gratitude 1/51 #LifeThisWeek1/2020.

This Link Up Has Been Part of Each Monday Since September 2016….almost every Monday: summer holidays & my cancer surgery July 2017 excepted.

This is #LifeThisWeek 170. I appreciate each and every blogger who links up. Thank you. Onward in 2020! 

Welcome to 2020 and Life This Week! I hope you are doing well. The past months in Australia have been very challenging with excessive heat and many fires which have caused enormous damage and loss. I send my commiserations to those affected.

In the last post for 2019, I did give a hint in the form of the beginning letter of each of the ten new optional prompts for 2020.

    R    A    T     I    T     U    D     E

I admit I have been somewhat late to the understanding of the purpose of gratitude….and then I saw this quote:

In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.

Br. David Steindl-Rast. Network for Grateful Living.

That made sense to me even more as I have learned much about gratitude and me since doing the 30 days of gratitude in the lead up to my 70th Birthday.

Over the past few years my husband’s words to me often included “what have you been grateful for today?” or “what went well for you today?”. Yes, I could answer him mostly in a positive way but until I had a shift in the form of my own revelations I guess I was paying lip service to gratitude. From time to time, I would think about what I was grateful for and write things down then I would leave it.

I need to add these words that are for me, similar to gratitude and will see me using them:

  • thankful
  • blessed (yes, not a joke)
  • content
  • grateful
  • fortunate

As someone who needs evidence I did my research and continue to read more on gratitude. This article, mentions many of those I have come to know from my reading and listening which is why I am including much of the article. It is from a US source.

 

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. In fact over the years I’ve come to realize that gratitude is perhaps our most powerful and profound emotion. And that’s the only problem with Thanksgiving — by giving gratitude its one big day a year, do we run the risk of not giving it enough of our time and attention the other 364 days?

That would be a shame, because gratitude isn’t just a courtesy, or amatter of good manners. It’s our gateway to grace. It’s no coincidence that gratitude shares the same Latin root — gratus — as the word grace. So in addition to a day of gratitude, we can choose to live in a state of gratitude — and thus in a state of grace.

We live in a stress-filled, sleep-deprived, burned out world. In fact, for many, Thanksgiving itself is one of the most stressful days of the year. And that’s ironic, because the answer to Thanksgiving stress is right there in the word itself. Whenever we find ourselves in that stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off mindset — including this week — gratitude is the brake lever. It gives us perspective and allows us to reset and recharge.

Though they didn’t have Thanksgiving, the ancients certainly knew the value of giving thanks. Cicero wrote that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others.” It took a few thousand years, but this wisdom has since been validated by a mountain of science. And we still haven’t reached the end of the list of what gratitude can do.

Robert Emmons, of the University of California, Davis, and Michael McCullough, of the University of Miami, are two of the foremost gratitude researchers. In one study, for several weeks, one group of participants wrote down things they were thankful for. A second group noted things that had annoyed them. The first group ended up feeling more optimistic and happy about their lives. And they even exercised more and slept better. But it wasn’t because the first group had more things to be thankful for — it was the act of thinking about what they were grateful forthat gave them such a tangible boost in well-being. We’re grateful not for the things we expect, but just the opposite.

“At the cornerstone of gratitude is the notion of undeserved merit,” Emmons and McCullough write in their book, The Psychology of Gratitude. “The grateful person recognizes that he or she did nothing to deserve the gift or benefit; it was freely bestowed.” It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger and resignation — a small miracle that produces a lingering moment of grace. And as they conclude in their study, when we choose to continue creating these moments, the consequences are powerful. “A life oriented around gratefulness is the panacea for insatiable yearnings and life’s ills,” they write.

Martin Seligman, of the University of Pennsylvania — and one of the founders of the field of positive psychology — has shown that the benefits of a single gratitude exercise — in one study, writing and delivering a thank you letter — can last for an entire month. Gratitude has also been found to lower levels of stress and depression, and improve sleep. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that gratitude exercises can lower levels of inflammation, which improves heart health. In adolescents, gratitude has been found to reduce materialism and increase generosity, and lead to healthier eating. At the other end of life, gratitude has been found to reduce loneliness in the elderly.

And before I go to sleep, I’ll quickly write down a few things I’m grateful for. It focuses my mind on all the many blessings in my life, big and small — and shrinks the list of unresolved problems. Of course, we all have a mix of both in our lives, but it’s up to us to choose which frames our outlook and our daily lives. As Charles Dickens wrote, “reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

And it’s not just our present blessings. The power of gratitude can also extend to what hasn’t happened — all those close shaves with “disaster” of some kind or another, all the bad things that could happen to us and just… don’t. That distance between them happening and not happening is grace. It’s summed up in one of my favorite quotes (attributed to the eighth-century Muslim jurist Imam Al-Shafi’i): “My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me.”

And then there are the disasters that do happen, that leave us broken and in pain. For me, such a moment was losing my first baby when I was 36. Losing a baby brings up so many unspoken fears and worst-case scenarios: Will I ever be able to carry a baby to term? Will I ever be able to become a mother? Everything felt broken inside. My mother had once shown me a quote from Aeschylus that spoke to me in those hours: “And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.” And there it is again: grace. Gratus. Gratitude. It wasn’t a magic bullet. It didn’t erase my grief. I wouldn’t have wanted it to. But it told me I could get through it, and that I was strong enough to take this, carry it with me and keep going.

There are, of course, countless ways to bring the power of gratitude into your life. Mark Williams, of the University of Oxford, suggests a daily “10-finger gratitude exercise,” in which you list 10 things you’re grateful for and count them out on your fingers. Coming up with 10 won’t always be easy. But that’s the point — it’s about, as he puts it in his book Mindfulness, “intentionally bringing into awareness the tiny, previously unnoticed elements of the day.”

Laurie Santos taught Yale’s most popular class, “Psychology and the Good Life,” also known as the “happiness course.” To get the full effect of gratitude, “you have to take time to feel it,” she says. “It’s a moment to really reflect on, ‘What would my life be like without this thing?’”

That’s why gratitude has been at the core of every tradition that focuses on what it means to live a good life. “Our minds are terrible at accurately predicting what will make us happy,” she says. “I think that’s why humans have historically needed religion and faith. Those traditions push us in the direction of doing acts of charity, having gratitude, being in communities where we connect with people — all things that give us a boost. Luckily, nonbelievers can get a boost from those habits, too.”

You can even work gratitude into your life through habit stacking, creating a healthy new habit by “stacking” it onto an existing habit.

For instance: Think of three things you’re grateful for while brushing your teeth or during some other part of your morning or nighttime routine. It doesn’t have to be about something big or life-changing. It can be gratitude for your morning coffee, or a random interaction with someone who made us smile that day, or a piece of nature on the way to work. Or it can be simply gratitude for being alive.

Subscribe here for my Weekly Thoughts Newsletter, where you’ll find my take on the week’s news, my favourite pieces on how we can thrive even in our stressful world, and some fun and inspiring extras.

This word, and those like it, along with more will be the subject of further explanation in my post on Wednesday.

I hope, that you may find some reasons to be grateful in your life today….

Thank you for being part of Life This Week 2020.

Denyse.

 

Link Up #170. Life This Week.

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Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 2/51 Good News 13.1.2020.

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Update: Two Years Since My ‘Weight’ Post.122/2019.

Update:Two Years Since My ‘Weight’ Post.122/2019.

Looking back to the last post I wrote here for 2017 I decided it was time for an update.

Firstly, two years!!

Secondly: Am I brave enough to do this?

Y. E. S.

Some background information. I would urge you to read the post I wrote back in December 2017 as it was the most honest I have been publically about the challenges of being overweight, obese and all the years I did not speak of it.

Two years ago, I was the lightest I had been since…early my  20s (we are talking over 48 years ago).

I was that weight for a few reasons…the major one being oral cancer in my upper mouth requiring everything to be removed and a reconstruction process begun. My ability to eat was severely challenged.

At my ‘weightiest’ 2013, and ‘lowest’ November 2017.

But…from the image of me at my heaviest in 2013 I did start to lose some weight (not by dieting) but by a couple of years of anxiety and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (diarrheoa) from 2014 onwards.

In fact, without trying, as they say, it did come off. I admit, I could not eat much (without having to find a toilet very fast afterwards)….but, in 2015 into 2016 the weight loss whilst gradual did worry me but I was assured by my GP that it was OK. It was my body and the fact I could not eat much.

Interestingly, and I have only recently formed this view, I was on a long-term anti-depressant for at least 10 years before coming off it slowly probably in 2012 -2013 so I may never know if that too played a part in my body holding onto fat.

I also come from a family line of overweight people from both Mum’s and Dad’s relatives.

Why Am I Writing About This Now?

Well. The woman who always saw herself as F A T (and tried to L I K E herself too) is having to come to terms with:

  • how I am,
  • how I may proceed knowing weight has been an issue in my life for a L O N G time…
  • and to see if sharing my update helps not only me but others.

I am pretty sure THIS is a topic that is often OFF-LIMITS.

What’s Happened In The Two Years Since The Last Story?

  • I continue to be a work-in-progress as far as my relationship with my appearance is concerned.
  • I admit it is getting better as I compare the ‘health’ of me now, to the ‘ill-health’ of me as I was recovering from surgeries July 2017 until I got my upper prosthesis in August 2018.
  • I went up a size in some clothes in the past year. I also added around 6 kg in 12-15 months.
  • I refuse to get worn down by the weight I am story again so I am doing my best to look well and feel good too.
  • Since May 2019, the Apple Watch helps keep me honest with myself, via the daily steps and movements records. I do around 6000 most days, sometimes around 5, 500 and other days well into the 7000.
  • The thing is, even with the upper prosthesis, it is still a challenge to find foods that work for me outside the home. 
  • In this collage you will see a plate of baked vegetables. That was all I could see that was suitable on the menu at a local club at a Christmas lunch.
  • This time, when I attend, I am having cake and coffee…because I know I can eat that in public and I will not fill up and I can eat a better meal at home.
  • It really is trial and error. Sometimes the size of a meal stops me. This is OK at home as I can have the other half the next day. Many restaurants do not allow take home bags. I learned that I cannot rely on take-away or restaurant food when I had my first overnight stay in Sydney in June. It surprised me.
  • I want to remain well, comfortable and confident in myself which is why I continue some photos every few days/weeks.
  • These help me SEE that perhaps what I FEEL is wrong…as I often am surprised by my image.
  • I do admit now, that the photos I see of me post-cancer surgeries are not those of a healthy woman (albeit thinner than I had been for decades) so to want to be her again is not to be well.

More musings….

As I said above, I remain a work-in-progress. I was/can still be a comfort eater but this is what has changed.

  • I know about my cravings.
  • I know that cravings can go, given the chance, just like feelings change too.
  • I understand myself so much better now when I start thinking about food I might want because I ask myself “what is it that is troubling me?”

In the past, I would not have even gone that far. I would have scoffed the chips, bitten into the crunchy foods and allowed the smooth chocolate to melt in my mouth. I do not eat much at all like this any more. I do still eat something for texture or taste but my full limits have changed as has my mouth so far less is consumed.

Dealing with what is troubling me is the big shift.

  • I can speak to my husband about it,
  • write in my journal,
  • go outside,
  • blog,
  • do some art…
  • anything to change the situation and thoughts…and guess what happens most often..the craving has moved on.

This knowledge for me has been life-changing.

Here is where I learned about it and still continue to learn. Of course, my self-talk is probably one of my better teachers…as long as I remember the newer approaches..and yes, I mostly do. In fact, I even ask myself questions to check.

  • Is this what I really want now?
  • Am I actually needing to…(insert what I might do other than soothe with food.

I am glad I decided to write this up. I wasn’t sure. However honest me could not let the story of what’s happened just sit from where it was 2 years ago. An update was the way to go as so much has changed for me in terms of understanding my insides (brain) and the outsides (body) and the connections.

How about you?

How are you at understanding yourself in terms of appearance?

It’s a tricky thing. I get that too.

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.

This is the ‘last post’ on a Wednesday in 2019…and will be returning on 8 January 2020.. See you then. Happy Festive Season everyone:

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

 

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