Wednesday 18th May 2022

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.




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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.

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  1. This is a really interesting line ‘I don’t always know when I’m happy. But I know when I’m not.’ I will think about it more before commenting. But I will comment on ‘I feel like I’ve failed. Or at least not succeeded.’ You are looking at what you currently don’t have, not all that you’ve done. Success is purely what you achieved. That list of jobs shows someone very dynamic and adaptable. You are in transition, and as someone who dropped everything to be with my dad as he died over a long period of time, I can tell you, none of that time is wasted, no matter how unproductive you are during that period. What you are giving your mum is uncomparable. It is a gift that people don’t really understand until it’s too late. You have your own place, you had savings to make this time of transition easier. And other than a pesky, belitting voice in your head, you’re confident in yourself to make big changes and choices. But I will be shutting that voice down whenever I hear it in your writing, so stand warned. Great post.

    • Ha, thanks Lydia. I read a book a few years ago (non fiction – shock horror!) called The Happiness Code by Domonique Bertolucci and there’s a chapter on goal-setting. I struggle a little to know what it is I ‘want’ and I liked that she suggested we work from the perspective of what we DON’T WANT. I find my gut instinct (oops… intuitive decision making) kicks in more when I feel like I’m off-track than when I’m on track. (If that makes sense!)

    • You make excellent points and this is why you are a treasured writer and commenter…and how else would I have known about Augusten Burroughs.

      Thanks Lydia.

      Denyse x

  2. Thanks for bringing us Deb’s story. Hers is one that shows that courage comes in different forms and I, for one, admire Deb for so many reasons. She’s done so much so far…with more to come, I feel.

    • Thanks Jo. It’s funny as other things initially occurred to me when I thought about times I’d had to feel brave (like my first o/s trip involving me going to live in a non-English speaking African country for 2yrs) but that feels like a very very long time ago now. (And is… 1995!)

    • I think as you do too Jo. I reckon Deb has much much more to remember about her story to date and more to come as she navigates one of the trickier parts of life. Using what she did before, I reckon things will work out. Not always easy but they will happen.

      Denyse x

  3. Hi Deb and thank you Denyse. Courage comes in so many forms, and you have definitely been courageous in following and giving your full attention to a career path despite your feelings of life happening elsewhere while you’ve been away. I think we all feel a bit like that … I know as an expat I’ve felt uncontrollably disconnected from my roots and family in England, and yet deep down knowing that I made the change to live abroad not out of chance, definitely out of circumstance, but also somewhere out of choice too. There is boldness in taking leaps of faith – which although you say you don’t believe in, it appears you have done. Go You – Go Deb! Grab your new life with both hands and own it x

    • Thanks Jo. I was just talking to someone else about the fact I’ve now been ‘here’ (post-seachange) for 7yrs. It really doesn’t feel like it. I think I’ve changed a lot during that time and have no regrets about leaving my old life at all. (Well, the money sometimes, but…)

  4. Oh coming from #MLSTL and Shared 🙂

    • Jo I so like how you have put this too.

      I felt similar and still do, being ‘uprooted’ from what we knew to here.

      It was all my decision along with my husband’s but there are still times I don’t recognise who I am here.

      Thanks so much.

      Denyse x

  5. Hi Deb I loved reading your story and it isn’t easy taking a leap of faith is it? However, through change we grow. We all show courage in different ways and thank you Denyse for sharing Deb’s story with us. xx #MLSTL

  6. Learning what it is that you don’t want from life is just as important as learning about what you do want. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s completely understated in its value. I agree with Lydia – your list of jobs shows someone very dynamic and adaptable. I wish you clarity and strength as you navigate your way forward.

    Sandra Xx

  7. It’s a big one for me Sandra. At the moment I keep going back to an article I read about the ‘two big questions in life’. And #spoileralert, the author suggests they’re: What do you want? And… What’s stopping you from doing it or getting there?

    I keep getting stuck on the first part. I suspect though that some of my experiences are just helping me better understand what it is I don’t want. And it’s only when I start to feel ‘icky’ (technical term, I’m sure) that I realise whatever I’m doing really isn’t right for me!

    • That icky feeling is a good one even though you dislike the fact it is taking you from earning. I have had that in my volunteer roles and have needed to step away as my values (which are set within us) did not match what my behaviours needed to align with to continue.

      Have you looked at values and come up with what’s important to you?

      Denyse x

  8. Hi Deb – lovely to read your story here and the ongoing nature of working through what life decides to deal out to you. I think society gives us so many neat little boxes we’re supposed to tick off to be able to call ourselves “successful” and letting go of some of those is the beginning of truly finding ourselves. It’s so easy to say and so hard to do (speaking from experience!) I truly believe good things are in store for you, and they may be quite outside those neat little boxes – I think you’ll be surprised when you look back at how your life slowly flowed into something you weren’t expecting, but that fits really beautifully. That’s my wish for you my friend xx

    Denyse, thanks for linking another great post up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    • That’s true Leanne and I guess I always defined myself by my career. I was one of those responsible and probably materialistic people who subscribed to the concept of ‘more’. I upgraded my apartment each time I felt it was time and guess I even did the same after I’d make my seachange. I settled into my apartment on the beach (sans mortgage) but hated the holiday-makers and lack of privacy so as soon as I got (even just) part-time employment, I upgraded again.

      So in some ways it feels like going against the grain to think about being less materialistic… I keep considering downgrading (rather than downsizing for eg) and deciding NOT to pursue full-time well-paid employment and live a more luxurious life in terms of freedom, not things.

      (And it’s kinda weird we feel defined as one thing and then have to struggle to break that mould to become another!)

    • Thanks Leanne, lots of food for thought here too.

      Denyse x

  9. I loved this: “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.”

    I think that is always a reality. I took a similar leap and struggled with the money mindset. Then I realized that I have never been happier and that I need to redefine how much month I need to live comfortably and happily. Good luckj to you!

  10. Oh yes Michele, I just left a long blithering response to Leanne’s comment that is similar.

    I feel as if I took that leap (in making my seachange) but unsure whether I’m really walking the talk (or however that saying goes).

    I ‘say’ I want freedom and my life NOT to be able stuff I don’t like doing (ie. work!) but then I’m reminded that everyone has to do stuff they don’t like. My dad – for all of his life – was a ‘no one likes their job’ kind of person so I just assumed it was a necessary evil. And perhaps it is.

    But there’s a part of me who feels like they’ve worked long and hard for a number of years and IF I made certain decisions now (downgraded or start renting) I could ostensibly live with less.

    I’m really glad it’s working for you. (And I guess I’m slowly getting there!)

  11. I truly don’t think you’ve failed in any way Deb. I know that from where you stand it may feel like failure and be disappointing at times because you are not where you thought you’d be but that can also the case for most of us in one way or another, so you’re not alone in having those thoughts. Sometimes, perspective and the the way our minds think can be pivoted to think differently by the words and thoughts of others looking in from the outside. Looking in from the outside, my thoughts and words to you are that I admire you very much! I think you are most certainly courageous and brave and I think you’ve achieved a lot … and all as a single woman! You live in a beautiful home in a location of your choice not far from your Mum. You’ve travelled recently to Italy to a writers retreat. You have a wonderful talent for writing. You’re far from a failure. I very much like how you said … you don’t always know when you’re happy but you know when you’re not and also that you might not know what you want but you know what you don’t want. Thats how you’ll work it all out – process of elimination. Thanks for sharing Deb and thanks Denyse for having Deb as part of the series! xo

    • Thanks Min. My biggest fear is that I’ll be having these same discussions in 10 years time – though then I can be retired I guess.

      I was just talking (well, messaging) with someone this morning re some guilt that I didn’t enter a short story competition that I’d planned to enter. I had heaps of notice and have been watching the deadline loom and yet I’ve done nothing. And it’s really had me feeling guilty this week. Over-analysing the ‘why’ – laziness / fear / no ideas?

      But, I’m trying to tell myself to let it go. I mustn’t have wanted it enough and rather than let it fester (and destroy how I’m feeling in general) I need to move on. Easier said than done I realise but I really need to get better at dealing with my own expectations and then guilt when I don’t meet them. (It’s not even a perfectionist thing, just a ‘getting shit done’ thing!)

  12. Hi Deborah, thank you for your honesty in sharing about your life. I agree that when we are making decisions, the ‘nos’ can lead us to the yes, so that is not a bad thing. And, from the perspective of someone who has never met you, and only read this one post, it sounds like you have had some wonderful opportunities and the ability to make choices that many have never had. I’m sure your life has touched many people in a positive way, and that in itself is a reason to rejoice and feel successful.

    Thanks, Denyse, for having Deborah as a guest!

  13. I’ve been very lucky Candi and had some great work and life experiences. I think I take that for granted, though also realise many of them were a very long time ago.

    I was lucky enough to be posted to East Timor as a diplomat after their popular consultation in 1999 and realised the other day they’re celebrating 20 years of independence. It seems impossible I was there that long ago….

    • How amazing that you had that experience. So much of what you have done and been is ‘still there’ in you but it’s no longer what you want. I think that comes from both an ageing and experiencing viewpoint. I was a principal back then – in my first year at Richmond in NSW – and whilst I did do well, until the workload tipped me over, I don’t want to go back to those times.

      I do, however love that I had them and know I can still be useful because of the skills I used and knowledge I gained.

      Maybe that’s something to consider.

      And co-incidentally, some of the parents from my school were in the RAAF and serving in East Timor then. Connections!!

      Denyse x

  14. It’s not easy to be brutally honest, and I commend you for that. I’m sure many of us can identify with you on your feelings of failure but, I think you nailed it when you just kept going.
    Great post, thanks for your honesty.

    My Corner of the World

    • Telling and sharing our stories helps us and others too.

      Thanks so much.

      Denyse x

    • Thanks Betty. I think as I get older I feel more comfortable being honest (or being ‘me’). I know I still worry about what other people think but the things I’m more self-conscious about have changed. I’m more willing to admit ‘defeat’ or confusion than I once was.

  15. I think you have to give yourself credit for the amazing things you have done in life, and the goals that you have conquered. I am finding also as I get older ( I am not far behind you!) that I am feeling much freer to be me and being comfortable with being me. You can only do you, so do what makes you happy and leave guilt out of it xx #openslather

  16. Oh lovely Deb. You are an absolute fave.
    “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”
    Love that.
    Big hugs