Wednesday 8th July 2020

Women Of Courage Series. #42. Ann. 45/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #42. Ann. 45/2020.

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.

This woman of courage, Ann who is 70, has known me longer than anyone who would be reading this blog….unless my brother or father do ….and I suspect not.

Ann and I met aged 10 when our family moved from Wollongong to the northern beaches Sydney suburb of Balgowlah Heights. I was placed in 4th class in December 1959 as Dad decided my brother and I should start school before the long summer holidays. I then went into 5th and 6th class with Ann, who had been at the school since Kindergarten. She and her family also lived in the same street as the school and I remember visiting their amazing house.

Sadly, like my parents’ house it no longer looks as it did in those years.

Ann and I also travelled by bus to Manly Girls High School as the foundation students for the 6 years of the education now known so well and we did both the School (Year 10 1965) and Higher School Certificates (Year 12 1967). By the time the senior years came we had different subject choices, friendship groups and futures planned that were tertiary education-based. I went to teaching and she went to architecture.

We lost any connections until the latter years when we found each other via facebook or maybe one of those school groups. I can’t recall. However, before we left Sydney we caught up for those decades having a morning tea together…and discovering for all those preceding years, she and I had probably passed each other quite a few times as Castle Hill’s “Towers” as she and her family, like ours, settled in the north-west of Sydney, not the northern beaches!

 

 

 

 

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

I have never considered myself as a particularly courageous person and found myself wondering how to respond to Denyse’s request to take part in her mission, so my first reaction was to look up the meaning of courage. 

“Courage: the ability to do something that frightens one; bravery”, “strength in the face of pain or grief”.

After deliberating, I can look back at times during my 70 years of life on Planet Earth where that “ability to do something that frightens” certainly played into action, although I was oblivious of my strength of courage to work through these events at the time. 

My first need to find strength was during 3rd Grade at school, as we had a most terribly strict female teacher who delighted in the use of harsh military tactics and corporal punishment to maintain discipline. The entire class was petrified, scared stiff and united in our fear of this sadistic woman, to the point that her behaviour was a major talking point amongst us when we were out of the classroom.

I remember waking every Monday morning with dread, then thinking to myself that I made it through last week, so I would get through the coming week.

Courage? Yes, and incredibly, I now realise that I have recalled and drawn on this singular experience of that brave little eight-year old girl many, many times.

 

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

I was raised by parents who drew no gender barrier in our household of six females and two males, and due to my love and abilities in the artistic and mathematical arenas, selected a career in architecture.

This was a field dominated by men back in the 1960s, but of which I was rather naively oblivious.

After graduation, I had a struggle finding employment as I had to scan the “Positions Vacant, Men and Boys” columns of the daily newspaper and often did not get beyond the receptionist, who was quick to remind me that I was “a girl”.

However, I persevered over months of unsuccessful interviews and finally did find employment with a delightful partnership of three “liberated” young men.

I still faced the difficulties of a young woman dealing with foremen and labourers on building sites and men in local councils who decided I was the receptionist, but that little girl was always there in the back of my head, pushing me to rise above them and whispering “you’ll get through this”.

I am the mother of four children, born six and a half years apart, and when the youngest was just under three years of age, I found it necessary to end my marriage.

I had since moved my design career sideways, running my own business in stage and costume design, which enabled me to work from home.

But…raising my four children, running the home and working my business, all entirely on my own, was hard, hard work.

There was no time out, apart from the school holidays when my wonderful parents and equally wonderful mother-in-law would take two each of the children for a few days, then swap.

There were times of total exhaustion, but I always remembered my 3rd Grade experience, and how I had managed, as an eight-year old, to “make it through” each week.

Over the last eight years, I have dealt with lung cancer on two occasions four years apart, occurring in each lung and requiring radical surgery both times.

I suffered greatly due to a surgical mishap during the first surgery, so when it was necessary to repeat the operation four years later, I was most fearful of the outcome.

Again, that little girl and my years of experience helped me to remain strong, particularly around my now adult children, who were as fearful of possible outcomes as me.

 

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

I live by the “one day at a time” adage, and it is now obvious to me that my eight-year old self survived her 3rd Grade schooling by taking one day at a time.

Yoga, yoga breathing and meditation follow on from this and both can be done anytime, anywhere.

 

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

As an Elder now, I feel that I now have the advantage of many life experiences to fall back on. 

Strange, though, as I had not realised how important a landmark the courage and determination of that little 8-year old girl had become in my life, until I began to ponder upon Denyse’s questions. Thanks, Denyse!

 

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

This is a crazy hectic world that we live in, and it is difficult, at times, to not become overwhelmed and fearful.

However, this is your life and you have permission to be selfish about inner peace.

Take time out during times of stress to wind down. 

Relax, breathe slowly and deeply to calm the mind, as it only takes a few minutes to realign.

 

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

I give permission to anyone who reads this to use that little voice my that whispered to my 8-year old self: 

“You made it through last week, you’ll make it through this week…”

 

 

Thank you Ann. This was a big one for you to respond to and I am most grateful that you did ponder the questions and let your memory and voice through. Getting to 70 and being well is a great outcome. Let’s continue to connect and one day we will be sharing a cuppa again too! 

Denyse.

Here’s a little trip down memory lane which Ann and I shared. Thanks again, Ann!

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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Women Of Courage Series. #41 Johanna Castro. 43/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #41 Johanna Castro. 43/2020.

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.

So good to welcome Johanna (I know her as Jo!)  to share her story here this week. Jo, who is 62, is a regular blogger and writer who has been part of the international and Australian travel and writing scene for a long time. I am pretty sure Jo and I met (or at least saw each other in passing!) at Digital Parents Conference for Bloggers in Melbourne in 2012. So many people at that one and so many are no longer blogging but I have made many on-line and off-line friends thanks to occasions such as those – sadly none like them anymore- conferences and am always grateful for those connections made. Now it’s Jo who is sharing her story today.

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

 

Courage is a funny thing.

  • As the ability to do something that frightens you, I think it presents itself in both big life changing ways and in small everyday incidents.
  • For some people it’s finding the courage to face life in the most warrior-like way when halted by heartbreaking or frightening setbacks.
  • For others it’s being able to summon up courage at points in their lives when if they didn’t they would surely spiral downwards and not recover from the problem.

And for some, courage has to be summonsed every day just to keep living.

 

Have I been courageous?  I would say no, not really.

Although in the overall scheme of things perhaps some people might disagree.

  • Was I courageous when I set off from England for the Continent aged 18 with a rucksack on my back and a guitar slung over my shoulder, waving the White Cliffs of Dover goodbye knowing not what to expect as I headed off to be a groom for a showjumping family in Belgium?

Was this in itself courageous?

  • Well, yes because I was young and shy and emotionally insecure and I was acting out of character and defying the status quo of what was expected of me.
  • But also, no not really, because many young people have set off on similar Dick Whittington quests to travel and see the world.
  • I was also deep down reaching for a new life to escape a situation that was beyond my control because domestic abuse tainted an otherwise idyllic childhood.
  • And this leap of faith into the unknown leaving privilege and fear behind, set the course for the rest of my life when moving countries became the status quo, through necessity rather than choice.

 

 

Some years later I met a geologist from South Africa when we were both backpacking in South East Asia.

When we married I half expected to always be adorned with pretty and priceless pieces of rock that he picked up during the course of his geological hammerings, and that we would be safely settled in England by the age of 40.

How wrong I was. The reality was that we would always be on the move. Project to project. Internationally. And geologists often go in at ground zero level when nothing, not even the houses to live in, have been built.

We’ve lived in the most remote situations.

  • A tiny caravan trawled to a spot high in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho next to a river which soon came down in flood. Here the mountain road was termed as ‘the road to hell and back’, the big wigs were helicoptered in, we drove.
  • I almost got away with swapping the outdoor Porta Loo they gave us for a palomino pony that a Basutho horseman brought by one day. At least until Dave and the village chief intervened.
  • On another occasion we went from the wide open spaces of South Africa, and a house with a large garden, to a flat the size of a postage stamp on the 22d floor of a high rise building in Hong Kong where I home schooled our children for a year because there were there was a two year waiting list for a place in schools on Lantau Island where we lived.
  • My wild African toddlers were not impressed with the tiny balcony or our tiny flat, but we learnt to love Hong Kong with a vengeance.

In the very early years of our marriage Dave was offered a job as a geologist in the foothills of the Himalayas and I was pregnant with our first child. Six months pregnant and we had an auction on the lawn. All our worldly possessions and furniture went up for sale – bar what we could fit in our suitcases.

Sam was just 5 weeks old when we set off to live at a remote project site between Kathmandu and Pokhara, reached along treacherous roads, where we were without a phone, 3 hours from the nearest Doctor, and where food supplies were scarce. We had to put water through a 5 point purification process in our tiny kitchen before it was drinkable, and our diet consisted mostly of dhal, bhat, tarkari (lentil, rice and vegetable curry.)

I ended up breastfeeding Sam for 21 months, Dave became very sick from combined dysentery and hepatitis, and I was desperately tired, worried and home sick most of the time – though baby Sam thankfully survived in a robust way!

So I guess I have been courageous, and although people might say I’m lucky (of course) I have also had to sacrifice geographical safety and family stability for a life of constant change. We’ve moved 21 times, 11 times internationally. A rolling stone gathers no moss, and I can definitely vouch for that.

 

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

Having the courage to leave your roots, your family and friends and continuously jump off a proverbial cliff into the unknown has changed me because in time I realised that I didn’t have to live constrained by the limitations of other people’s expectations, or the chains that society places on us.

I also learnt that leaping into the unknown with courage and energy will always throw up fantastic opportunities and exciting new horizons along with lovely new friendships.

 

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

Don’t be afraid to change direction.

There is no wrong direction.

Go boldly and you will find pots of gold that you never even expected.

You have to remember that your heart and your head can put up all sorts of obstructions if you dare to reach beyond your comfort zone, but sometimes you just can’t look at the possible problems that lie ahead, you just have to go for it – don’t question – just go with it.

“I can do this. I’ve got this. Let’s do it.”

It might be a fleeting thought, you might not even believe it when it first appears, but you have to hang onto it, expand it, and nurture it without putting up tons of obstacles.

 

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

Yes, definitely. And I hope so! But I guess it also depends on the sort of courage that’s required in the future.

When I had a melanoma on my back I fainted before the surgeon had even made his first cut, and blood tests of any sort always send my heart straight to my boots, and my head longing to reach down between my knees!

 

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

You are stronger and more resourceful than you imagine.

 

Wow. What a traveller and story-teller from real life living you are Jo! I thought we had lived in some remote teaching spots in New South Wales but your experiences are winners “hands down”. What a ride you have had…and come up for air and can see the courage within too. As for procedures involving nasties like melanomas…you are entitled to deal with that in the way you did. Thank you so much for sharing an amazing story of LIFE lived by you.

Jo has a number of social media connections and they are all listed below for your investigation and following.

Denyse.

Social Media:

Blog/Website: https://lifestylefifty.com and https://zigazag.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/johannaAcastro

Facebook Page (not personal account): https://facebook.com/lifestylefifty and https://facebook.com/thezigazagmag

Instagram: https://instagram.com/lifestylefifty

 

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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