Friday 1st July 2022

Women Of Courage Series 2020. Accidental Feminists’ Author: Jane Caro AM. 8/2020.

Women Of Courage Series 2020. Accidental Feminists Author: Jane Caro AM. 8/2020.

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.

The posts are returning each Wednesday from now…and I have posts waiting ‘in drafts’ for publication until April 2020. Do tell me in the comments if you would like to be part of this series. Already 27 women (including  Jane and I ) have shared their stories.

 

 

In April 2019 I attended Newcastle Writers’ Festival and got to hear, amongst others, Author and Public Education Advocate, Jane Caro speak. Jane’s been known to me for a long time via social media, her other books and her involvement in promoting public education. She spoke at length of the roles we women have played and often at great loss or expense to our health, welfare and future financial security in her book Accidental Feminists.

 

Her written and spoken words really made me think.

Women do so much unsung, not necessarily because of not wanting people to know, but because we “just do get on.” I know that my life has taken some not great twists and turns and I realised I drew on resources of courage to do so.

This led me to finding out more about courage from others.

Introducing Jane Caro A.M.

Many of you may have seen Jane speak and give commentary on TV shows like The Drum and on Morning T.V. Jane’s voice, particularly in terms of Public Education has been remarkable. She went to a N.S.W. Public High School – Forest High and I went to another local Northern Beaches public high school too. Jane is younger than I but we share some common elements in our upbringing in new-ish suburbs that now command million dollar prices. I knew of Jane’s career in advertising (she has appeared on Gruen) from her first book and she has written others. Find them here. Jane generously took time to complete the same questions I asked others, and like others who I call “Women of Courage” she does not see herself that way. Enough from me, thank you Jane Caro.

 

 

 

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

People often say they admire my courage, but I don’t really feel that I am courageous. Reason being, I am not afraid. Courage, to me, means doing something you are genuinely afraid to do and – th thing that most people see as courageous – speaking my mind – privately or publicly – is not something I am afraid of. It seems it is something many others are afraid to do – hence they mistakenly ascribe courage to me. I find this terribly sad. We ought to live in a society and at a time where being straightforward and candid is applauded, not punished. For many, especially many women, the opposite seems to be true.

Sure, many people (usually men) try to shut me down by insults, sneers, mockery, threats and general nastiness but I long ago realized they only have the power to hurt me if I give them that power, otherwise their weapons shrivel and die because I will not respond the way they want me to. No doubt being forthright has cost me work, promotion and opportunities, but it has also delivered all of those (well, except promotion, we only want lily-livered leaders apparently) and, best of all, it has delivered self-respect.

Was I born this way? Certainly not. I was hyper-sensitive as a child and young person about what people thought of me and I knew they did not think well of me. What is bearable in an old lady is unbearable in a young one, I think, which is why so many of my younger feminist friends cop so much more abuse than I do. I suffered from an anxiety neurosis as a young woman and it was in overcoming that that I feel I did something that required actual courage.

 

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

The neurosis was so debilitating and intense that it forced me to seek help via a variety of therapists, some more helpful than others. I learnt an enormous amount about myself and about people in general in the process of that therapy that has served me well ever since. Not least how to hang on to my own power in the face of criticism, abuse and bullying.

I think women are trained to seek approval and that is why we so fear conflict or unpleasantness or find it so hard to express ourselves without fear. This training makes sense when you are a member of a subordinate group. It can be dangerous not to be approved of and to be excluded. As a result of my therapy, I gave up seeking approval. All I try to do now is be as much myself as I can.

 

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

After about 15 years of mental tribulation – I functioned fine, I just felt like shit – I finally overcame my anxiety neurosis (some may feel I have over-corrected). It didn’t disappear in a puff of smoke, just dwindled away slowly until I no longer suffered from anxiety at all. The dwindling began after I faced real danger (I have lived a very protected life) when my first child was born premature, caught an infection, stopped breathing in my arms and almost died.

She was so sick she got the last available neo-natal intensive care bed available that night in NSW. She eventually stopped breathing at least 4 times and had to be intubated. The next morning, I asked for help (as going to therapy had taught me to do) and spoke to neo-natologist and grief counsellor Dr Peter Barr. He said these three sentences to me that began to crack the carapace of anxiety I had been living behind. “There’s nothing special about you, there’s nothing special about Polly (my daughter). Terrible things can happen, and they can happen to anyone. Safety is an illusion, danger is reality.”

Sounds brutal but it was just what I needed. What he was saying to me was that I could not control what happened which, as it turns out, was what my anxiety neurosis was all about. I was both thinking of all the terrible things that might happen as a sort of spell to stop them happening, while at the same time fearing that by thinking about them, I was conjuring them up. Of course, I had no such power – none of us do. As a result of Polly’s near death (she survived with no ill effects) I began to let go of the illusion of control and with it came a loss of fear. If I can’t control my own or anyone else’s safety – no matter how much I love them – no point worrying about danger until it happens.

If I can’t control how you will react to what I say, to what you think of me on TV or when I give a speech, I shall just put my energy into controlling what I can – my research and preparation for the task and let your reaction be yours. I shall not worry about whether you like or approve of me because doing so makes no difference to whether you do or not. I finally learnt the truth and power of what we call ‘boundaries’ – simply where I stop and you start. Once you know what you can control (inputs) and what you can’t (outcomes) life gets much easier and you don’t actually need courage.

 

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

I don’t know and -with respect – I don’t really care.

For the situations that may await me I will do no preparation or worrying. I will deal with them as they appear and I will deal with them as I need to which may be with courage or may be with full on weeping, whining and falling apart. I have learnt to trust my emotions rather than fear them or try to control them. Sometimes the strongest thing to be is not strong – but honestly vulnerable and needy. I don’t need to be better, nicer, smarter or more courageous than I am. I just need to be as I am.

 

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

Be yourself. Accept and celebrate your messy, needy, unwieldy bits – they’re the best and most genuine part of you.

Don’t pretend, especially don’t pretend to yourself.

Don’t strive, just be.

Have fun and never,ever,ever feel guilty about that.

Know where you stop and others start.

And stop seeking approval. You are fine just the way you are, you just need to believe it.

 

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

Life is short, stop trying so hard.

 

I have read Jane’s words over and over and wish to take many of her messages on-board. The quote from the neo-natologist still blows me away. I too need to remember this.

With much gratitude Jane, for your time and advice. Love that you could share here too.

Denyse.

 

Social Media:

Jane Caro  on 26 January 2020 is found here.

Twitter: @janecaro

Bio: AM. Walkley award winner. Novelist (Just a Girl, Just a Queen, Just Flesh & Blood), author (Plain Speaking Jane, Stupid Country, F Word, Accidental Feminists)

 

 

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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Women Of Courage Series. #25. Anonymous. 112/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #25. Anonymous. 112/2019.

Trigger warning: Domestic Violence, Family Violence, Mental Illness.

 

 

Woman of Courage #25  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.

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

 

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

In the recent past, I was a victim of family violence. (Not of the intimate partner variety, but of the extended family variety – I’ve learnt a lot since it happened, and one of the things that I’ve learnt is that if you’re related in any way, it’s still classified as family violence.)

It was a single terrifying incident, although with the benefit of hindsight I can see the years of conditioning and gaslighting that preceded it. There were two perpetrators, and my children and I were the targets. I had to be courageous in the moment, even as my mind refused to believe what was happening. And I have had to be courageous since, making decisions to protect us and taking actions that I knew might lose us other family members and friends who refused to hear about what happened.

 

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

In the moment, I learnt that the fight, flight or freeze response isn’t an either/or scenario. My initial response was to freeze. My mind could not accept what my eyes, ears and skin were telling me. A scream from my children flicked the switch to fight (though not of a physical variety – I instead said what I thought the perpetrators wanted to hear) until I could create a path to my children and then onwards with them to flight.

In terms of diagnoses, this incident changed me by bringing the terms anxiety, adjustment disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) into my life. It also brought imposter syndrome back into my life. In the past, it had usually been related to career success; this time, it was feeling that my one little incident wasn’t ‘worthy’ of PTSD. How dare I compare myself and my itty-bitty incident to a returned soldier’s experiences of combat?

In terms of practicalities, well… I’m still working through it all. I went through the stages of grief, which is to be expected. But I spent so long in denial that I did not accept the truth and depth of the incident and its effect on me for months. It took me a long time to accept my experience as traumatic. It took me longer still to recognise and accept that there was no shame in the experience, and no shame in the label of traumatic.

The incident broke my trust. With the perpetrators, of course, but also with others. With everyone, at first. I’d been conditioned to doubt myself around the perpetrators, and that continued. My brain constantly told me everyone was on their side, everyone thought I was overreacting, everyone was going to set up another ambush, everyone was against me, and wasn’t that fair enough? Wasn’t I overreacting? Did I really remember everything correctly? I had to rebuild my trust in people who had never done anything to deserve losing it in the first place.

Other changes? Fundamental beliefs and truths I held – such as my belief in the inherent goodness in all people – were shattered. (I’m working toward believing it again one day. I’m just not there yet.) Meanwhile, my belief that everyone has a right to freedom and safety has been strengthened. It might be truer to say it was created: I had simply taken it for granted previously.

 

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

The things I’ve learnt are not fun, so I apologise to anyone not ready to hear these things. But here are the main things I’ve learnt (or things I knew that are now cemented):

  • ‘Family’ is not an excuse for violent behaviour. (In fact, it should be a promise for good.)
  • You don’t owe violent people anything. Your time, your regrets, mediation, compromise, placation, forgiveness. Anything.
  • There is no such thing as neutrality in violence. If someone says they want to remain neutral, or don’t want to get involved or pick sides, it’s too late. Whether consciously or not, they’ve already picked a side. And it’s not the victim’s.
  • You can’t control what people think about you. If people want to believe the worst of you without even speaking to you, based on nothing more than the lies of the perpetrators, that’s on them, not you. It still hurts, but you’re better off without such people in your life.
  • Anyone who expects you to compromise your safety for them isn’t worth it.
  • There is no excuse for violence.

These don’t sound like tips for courage, but knowing these things – not just logically knowing these things, but truly believing these things deep in my bones – are what eventually gave me the courage to take legal action.

One other thing I’ve learnt: lean on your support network. (You might have to wait until you’ve relearnt to trust your support network.) Many see the development of courage as a solo endeavour, but in my case it was a team sport. With my wonderful husband as captain and coach.

 

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

I don’t think it’s a case of being more courageous. It’s a case of knowing what otherwise dormant courage I already have, knowing what I will and won’t stand for, and recognising it sooner. Violence toward or in front of me and my children grants you an instant dismissal from our lives, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. And when I say violence, I now mean violence in all of its forms, including manipulative, controlling and coercive behaviour.

I do think I’d have the courage to take legal action sooner if something like this happened again. Courage borne from knowing that seeing the perpetrators in court a few times is preferable to not knowing if they’ll pop up anytime, anywhere and constantly living with the fear of that happening.

 

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

Courage isn’t a steely resolve. Courage isn’t determination or steadfastness. Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

I felt the fear. I felt the anxiety, the panic attacks, the self-doubt. And, eventually, with great support and understanding from the people I love and had relearnt to trust, I did it anyway.

And if I ever have to, I’ll do it again.

 

 

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

Thank you for sharing this.

Please note: these numbers:

https://www.respect.gov.au/services/ Emergency: 000 or 1800 RESPECT

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

 

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.

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Women Of Courage Series. #24. Grace Titioka.110/2019.

Women Of Courage Series. #24. Grace Titioka. 110/2019.

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 am so pleased to introduce Grace Titioka who is 47. We first met in 2011 as members of the early Australian blogging community and hit it off. Grace also helped me through some blog changes and social media when I was first starting to ‘get myself’ more media and on-line ready. Grace and I may not see each other as much now I have moved from Sydney but we connect on-line. Grace has a pretty powerful life story and she touches on aspects of it here. Here’s to G from D. With Love and Gratitude. 

 

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

I don’t think there’s been one particular life event where I was consciously being courageous.

People have said that setting up a life in Japan completely on my own for almost a decade was a brave act. Others tell me that having a high risk twin pregnancy would’ve surely seen me at my most courageous.

But to be honest, I don’t think there’s been one particular life event where I was consciously being courageous. In fact, lately I’ve discovered that it’s our vulnerabilities and the ability to openly express them- as raw and real as possible, no matter how uncomfortable or undignified it makes us feel, that’s where courage truly shines.

 

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

Maybe growing up as a migrant child, there was always a shield, protecting myself and my family from racism and being treated unfairly by Australian society. This led to anger and frustration, even causing me to leave Australia but it never truly resolved my issues. Only allowed me to run away from them.

Over time, especially since being married to a patient, caring husband,  I’ve learned that a tough exterior can only hurt the ones who love you unconditionally and truly help you.

He always says, he’d rather see me at my most vulnerable instead of just being grumpy and silent.

And when we’ve had a disagreement, there’s always two words he’s more than happy to hear from the stubborn me: “I’m sorry”

 

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

To have courage is to believe in yourself and surrounding yourself with those you can trust implicitly.  We all have very different sides to our complex characters – some traits we’re proud of, others not so much. But if we work to claiming all these components and seeing them for what they with a non-judgmental, gentle approach, we can find comfort, contentment and our own version of courage.

 

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

I like to think so but we never know what curve ball life throws at us. I just know now that I will allow myself to feel all those raw feelings, observe them but not let them define me. A situation is only as bad as how we react to it.

 

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

Be gentle with yourself. Being courageous doesn’t mean you have to deal with life with heavy force and resistance. More often than not, courage is the exact opposite.

 

I like the way you did explore some of the aspects of your life where you have been and continue to be courageous. Thank you for sharing and for being a caring friend, especially through my early days as a cancer patient. Always nice to know who is there for me.
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.

 

 

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