Friday 22nd October 2021

Women Of Courage Series. #58 Tracey Lee. 71/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #58 Tracey Lee. 71/2021.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

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

In counting back the years, I realised that I met Tracey Lee, aged 55 via twitter first…back in what we affectionately call ‘the good old days of twitter: 2010-2012’. Then I also got to meet her in real life at a mutual friend’s book launch. Over the next few years we chatted and caught up, in that social media way, on both facebook and twitter. When we moved from Sydney to the Central Coast of N.S.W. I knew that I had a friend I could meet up with again, and we did and have for coffee and chat. Love those connections. But in recent times, I was also delighted to be both an encourager and cheerleader in Tracey Lee’s ventures which she writes of here. I will let her share the story. Thank you!

 

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

Is there anything more terrifying than your “baby” starting high school? Is there anything more potent to ring the alarm bells of what will you “do” for the rest of your life!

  • Let’s take it back a decade, to when I was made redundant from my permanent part-time graphic design job, secretly 8 weeks pregnant with my second child and knowing I had no chance of finding another position that would fit me and my childcare needs.
  • With support from also-redundant colleagues and bereft clients, I set up a computer and dial-up modem in my dining room, establishing my freelance business.
  • While I never “made a living”, it was enough to keep our nose above water and pay for family holidays.
  • It gave me flexibility to be at school: helping in the classroom, canteen, P&C, and cobbling together costumes for the dreaded Book Week.
  • And extra time to spend with my Mum, who lived alone since we lost Dad, and who was showing early signs of dementia.

I had fallen into graphic design when I dropped out of law school (a terrible choice!) because I had always been “good at art”.

  • I enjoyed design, and it certainly honed my skills as a communicator, and I loved working in publishing (because books!), but it was never a goal that set me alight.
  • Into the presumption of stability known as “mid life”, little ideas crept into my head, of how I would resurrect my creative practice beyond on a computer, to find that part of me that the responsibilities of adult life and parenthood had driven out.

Enter Twitter! 

At the (since lamented) suggestion of my husband, I started an account.

As a SAHM/WFH (Stay At Home Mum/Working from Home) freelancer, I was thrilled to expand what had become a narrow social circle. I started with old friends from publishing, then followed the bread crumbs, gathering a group of individuals whose interests mirrored mine.

It did not occur to me until later that I had created a virtual curriculum vitae for future ambitions.

I followed parents and teachers, artisans and creatives … and a cluster of allied health professionals working in mental health.

I remembered the psychology I enjoyed as a part of my abandoned law studies, and the kindling started to smoulder.

If only I could resurrect my art practice and, through the joy I knew it could invoke, help people heal from self-doubt and hardships in their lives: art … and, therapy? That’s a job!

Putting aside qualms from my flawed experiences, I spent the rest of that year secretly searching qualifications and university degrees. I discovered mature-aged admissions pathways. I applied. I was accepted. Dear God!

 

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

I was used to work schedules and deadlines, but now I needed to factor in the unexpected, to learn how to drop the ball and catch it on the bounce when a child became ill or a paid freelance job turned up without warning.

I learned to focus my research and to “kill my darlings”, the factual nuggets or personal theories that just would not fit in under the word limit. (My worst effort was the 6000 word “draft” for the 1500 word assignment).

And then there was the dreaded Group Assignment: how to get my work done and learn to trust everyone else to do their own work … or to let go when it was obvious it was never going to happen.

I needed to allow myself to hand in work that I was not 100% happy with for the sake of getting it out of the way, ready to start on the next project.

Being the anxious type, that did not sit well with me!

And then there were the results that were disappointing, especially on assignments I felt I had “nailed”, to learn that there is more than one way to interpret an assignment, and that I would not always be “right”.

 

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

But the hardest thing to learn was to be self-centred, not in a selfish way, but in a way that allowed me to believe what I was doing, my aims and ambitions, were important.

  • Even more so than parenting demands, reasonable when my children were younger, which I had let persist because what I was previously doing was “not so important”.
  • I would like to say we blossomed graciously as a family, but it was a lot bumpier than that.
  • My new priorities were resented, and I had days when I struggled with guilt.

Yet, oddly, no one died. No one got injured or even particularly hungry, although a few dirty uniforms might have been shaken out at 8am and quickly sprayed with deodorant.

I learned that when I centred myself, others would fall in around me.

As a primary caregiver it can be confronting to be the instigator of one’s own obsolescence. It can be frightening to peel off the cocoon of parenting to see if what emerges will have beautiful wings, or be incomplete and damaged, unable to fly.

 

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

While this is about my year of Open Foundation, the next chapter was the four years of ups and downs it took to complete my three-year Bachelor’s degree (with Distinction!), with Mum leaving us in my final year.

By then I knew I was not cut out for the post-graduate Master’s as I had planned, so I looked for smaller certificate courses, finding one I could mostly complete online. And then …

And then COVID-19 spat its contagion, hungrily eating its way through freedoms I took so for granted.

I was used to WFH, but now my husband was WFH, my oldest had TAFE shut down and my youngest was studying “FH” as well. I was happy we could be safe and not suffer financially, but as someone who requires a quiet space, I shelved my plans for the year.

Sometimes courage means knowing your limits and when to say no.

Sometimes courage is an understanding that life will throw sharp sticks, and you need to protect yourself and regather for when it is safe to start again.

 

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

If years as a mature-aged student — forging a pathway to my first ever burning passion — taught me anything, it is that by creating a clear image of who you are, you can hold steady.

If who you wish to be is not possible right now, do not believe it can never happen or that your efforts have been wasted.

Such intrinsic courage does not fail at the first, or even fifth, hurdle.

I once read that direction, not speed, is pivotal when finding your way through life.

With a few pressing family issues and my youngest attempting the HSC in 2021, I’m still not quite ready to spring ahead, but I know my pathway when I am.

And hey, 60 is the new 40, am I right?

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post. For example a website or help line.

From UON / Open Foundation:

“Open Foundation is a free pathway program offered at the University of Newcastle for people who do not have the qualifications required for direct entry into an undergraduate degree program.’

https://www.newcastle.edu.au/study/pathways/open-foundation

 

Gosh I loved reading this from Tracey Lee because I remember a lot of what was happening as she plunged in…and see the top photo? A proud artist. Lately I have been loving her instagram pics where she includes art and art via nature. I was incredibly pleased to know of her graduation. However, like everything in 2020, the graduation could not happen in person. The photo here is from her graduation from the pathways’ program. Lots to be proud of here and perhaps for others to find encouragement in their tertiary study ventures.

Thank you!

Denyse.

Tracey Lee’s  Social Media:

Business Facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/LPFdesign

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tracey_ArtTx

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

This series continues over the next months.

If you have  story to share, please leave me a message in the comments.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest

Women Of Courage Series. #20. Tracey Fletcher King.100/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #20. Tracey Fletcher King. 100/2019.

A sad update: In August 2021, we received the news that Tracey had died. This woman loved by many, stayed as well as she could, to enable her to see her only child graduate with her PhD. I suspect Tracey didn’t quite own up to how hard life was for quite some time…and even when she agreed to write this post. I am so grateful, like many to have known her, even without meeting in person. Vale Tracey.  

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

Welcoming friend and artist, Tracey Fletcher King, aged 51, to this series. Tracey and I have ‘known’ each other via the world of art and creating and a few years back, she had some wonderful on-line classes called Delicious Paint. They were delicious because it was about learning to paint fruit and vegetables. I amazed myself when I saw the shapes and colours in a few I managed to do under her guidance.

I learned so much about ‘patience’ in waiting for  a page to dry because it would not help me get the result if it was a teensy wet. Maybe, without me knowing it, Tracey was using her experience as a cancer patient to then help me (again) as a newbie cancer patient back in 2017. Here’s more about Tracey in her words. A little different in presentation this week, is the use of two other images (I asked Tracey to supply them) about her Art Exhibition. Go, if you can. I know some Queensland blogging friends did last year.

 

Blog/Website: www.traceyfletcherking.com

Instagram: traceyfletcherking

 

 

 

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

Six and a bit years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Nothing too special about that as 1 in 8 of us will be diagnosed with it, and despite mine having spread to some lymph nodes and a gruelling year of treatment I had good results and for a glorious couple of years I was cancer free. In April 2016 I went for my routine check to hear that my cancer had returned and had metastasised to my liver, and suddenly everything changed.

The courage, bravery and strength I thought I had acquired thanks to my first run around was blown away from that moment on as suddenly I was dealing with incurable. Those words and the new path I was then on was devastating. I had to tell my daughter, my family, and face the five million tests to determine treatment options etc while holding it together. I still have no clue how I got through that week but I think it was one of my strongest weeks just to get up and face it.

 

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

This new reality has changed me in profound ways. We all have a use by date, but mine is monitored and discussed constantly and while some weeks it feels like we may have years left and others the end feels scarily close, it is always there at the back of your brain. It is part of my everyday and the only way to cope for me is to be pragmatic. I had a stage of not wanting to know what was going on, and I tried like crazy to pretend it was all going to be fine and that a miracle cure was around the corner and every other thought that screamed avoidance. It didn’t make things easier, in fact it made it harder and those months were pretty miserable as I tried to shove the cancer bunny back in its hole but during a round of chemo my oncologist explained having cancer is like trying to hold sand, eventually it will run through my fingers and there will be none left, but his job and mine is to keep shoving as much sand back in as we can.

That was a revelation to me.

I can only hold that sand if I acknowledge that I need it and that it is running through my fingers which that can only happen if I am dealing with it so that’s what I do. If I try to pretend and have no say in my care or face how I am doing then how can I hold that sand? It takes tears and a good old boot up my own butt somedays, and other days I feel like I am piling that sand in there left right and centre, but I face it. I don’t try and hide from it or cling to false hope. I am just going to do the best I can with what I have and for as long as I can and as long as I stick with that I can face almost anything. This is so much easier to deal with and makes courage an everyday habit rather than something to call on in dire circumstances.

 

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

The idea that if you pretend it’s not there it isn’t happening is one of the toughest mindsets to cope with. It’s weirdly easier to just face it, grieve, yell, stomp around the house, cry, try new things, change your mind a million times and be angry at what’s been dealt to you, than trying to pretend it’s not there. The sooner you face it the sooner you can live with it. The fantasies you have in your head of how bad things are going to be are always worse than the reality in my experience so just face up so you can stop wasting time and get back to the good stuff and there is a lot of good stuff. My days are filled with lots of great stuff, they are also filled with a litany of side effects from ongoing and endless rounds of chemo but life is actually pretty good now I let it be what it is and go along with it.

 

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

I know I am more courageous now. I don’t have time to warm up to things or to run endless pro and con lists before I do something I just do it. I don’t want to regret time taken making decisions and torturing myself with what ifs… I just jump in most of the time now. Well not so much jump as a bit of a lurch but I just get on with things. I am better at saying no to things and I spend a lot less time on social media. If people find my work and want to buy it etc then that’s great but I’m not into marketing my art or anything else. I got rid of a heap of online platforms and my days are much better for it. It takes so much pressure off to not be faced with a barrage of notifications and emails. I have stepped back and enjoy the quiet a lot more. I meditate daily, exercise most days and face chemo with a welcome attitude instead of dreading it. It is all about going with the flow rather than fighting things and that gives me the time and energy to be courageous when I need it.

 

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

The thought of what may happen is always worse than living with the reality so face it as soon as you feel able to, and then go with the flow because some days you just have more than you do on other days. For example I ask myself how strong am I feeling and then tell the oncologist at the beginning of the session, I’m having a strong day today so hit me with it, or I’m not feeling on top of things so just tell me what I need to know. Courage is a habit and some days you will do it better than others so make the most of it when you are feeling strong and be kind to yourself on the days when you aren’t feeling so strong.

 

 

That is one BIG story of courage. I know that others who read this are also undergoing treatment for cancer which decided to add its ugly presences elsewhere. I do hope as I am sure readers will too, that your art exhibition is a great success, and that your treatments give you the strength to attend. You are in my thoughts often. Your kindness, checking on me during my early days of learning about my cancer, will never be forgotten. Thank you Tracey.

Before this post went live, I was assured from Tracey that all fingers (and toes!) were crossed that she was well enough for her treatment regime and that she would be able to attend this much anticipated event:

Therefore I am adding this for you, dear readers as Tracey and I have discussed:

“Tracey will be delighted to see your kind words I am sure, but as she is conserving her energies (post chemo treatments is always a challenge) for this Art Exhibition “Still Blue and White” coming up on Saturday – see the brochure- I know she will read but may not be up to commenting right now.’

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

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest