Sunday 26th June 2022

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! 


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.

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