Wednesday 19th January 2022

Women of Courage Series. #73. Gillian Coutts. 116/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #73. Gillian Coutts. 116/2021.

Two years ago… 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 into September 2021 when it will conclude.

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

Introducing Gillian Coutts who told me she is ‘just 50’ so I am guessing she was born in that year which was one I know well, having become a first time Mum then too. It was recommended to me by fellow educator and Woman of Courage Tracey here that I ask Gillian to do this story for us. And here she is. Mind you, we had the odd messaging conversation before the story landed. Something very familiar to many of us. On-line learning and also working on-line. From home. I am very glad she did commit her story to email, and with her images, I know the story ahead will be of interest to many. Thank you Gillian.

 

 

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

Until I was in my late 30s, I’d been relatively lucky in life.

I’d had an interesting corporate career, come from a great family, I’d married a good man and become an instant step mum.

I became a bio-mum when I was 38, and a year later was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Lots of people at that time would have said I was courageous about the treatment and balancing work and family, but to me I was just doing what you had to do.

There was no other choice.

But what I did next was – in hindsight – more courageous.

There’s something about those experiences that helps you see life is short, and there’s not much point in living the life others expect you to, but rather, taking the path that you want to.

This for me was about finding an alternative career.

I’d been a typical corporate ladder climber, and while I’d started out with a big heart for people and social justice, I’d ended up managing divisions of consumer goods companies which seemed to be more about making profit from people buying things that they didn’t really need.

My heart was definitely not in that.

So when my role was made redundant a few years later, I decided not to take another “job” for two years.

It was risky as I’m the primary bread winner for our family, but I knew there had to be another way.

So I stitched together a “portfolio” of things – consulting, becoming a partner in Potential Project here in Australia, board roles.

The only criteria was that I had to work with people I loved doing things I enjoyed.

I also had to say yes to opportunities if I felt scared (but not if I didn’t want to do them).  So that took courage.

The thing that really took courage though was when my friend and I started to join a folk rock band.  That was really pushing the boat out there!

 

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

Joining the band is a great example of the challenges I felt all the way through the last ten years, in all the things I’ve tried.

It takes courage to dream of doing something that you’re not good at… yet.

It takes more courage to book the venue, show up and play when you know you’re still not that good… yet.

The funny thing was that when I joined the band, I thought maybe I could be one of the lead singers.

It turns out that my voice wasn’t that good.  I was relegated to be one of the back-up singers and played the keyboard, while two great young singers took the lead.

Then I wasn’t that great at the piano, and the bass player decided he’d be better at keys, so I learnt to play the bass too.

Then the lead singers left, and my friend and I looked at each other and decided we had to go for it.

So we got some singing lessons and have slowly worked our way to the front.  We all take it turns to lead now, and have great harmonies too.

It’s been a lesson for me in continuing to turn up, even if you’re not perfect.

It’s taught me an enormous amount about performing in all aspects of life.

If you are content in yourself, and not too precious about how others see you, you can help other people have a really great time.

Even if you’re not the next person likely to win Australia’s Got Talent!

 

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

Letting go of the need to be perfect is so liberating!

It is also infectious.

People have loved coming to see us perform because they can feel free to sing along and just have a good time.

Many have come to tell us that they’ve also been inspired to pursue their own “not yet perfect…” kind of project and share their pride with us.

 

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

I think I’ve realised that what is most entertaining and engaging is when you as a performer are engaged, present and having fun yourself.

Sure, you need a base level of talent to not completely embarrass yourself, but fully committing to the present moment is a joyful feat in itself.

It’s rare and people appreciate it.

I’ve had to give a lot of talks and run programs for leaders all over the world now where I would have previously (and still sometimes do) have a massive imposter syndrome moment.

And then I remember that’s human, I know my stuff well enough and just commit to the moment.  And 99% of the time that’s more than enough.

 

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

When it comes to pursuing your dreams, think less about how others will see you, and more about what you want to do for others.

Compassion is an amazing catalyst for courage.

 

Thank you so much. Living life to the fullest with all its ups and downs yet finding a balance between work and family AND being yourself.

Denyse.

Social Media Connections for Gillian.

Blog/Website: www.potentialproject.com/Australia, www.vegasnerve.com.au

 Twitter: @GillianTPP

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gillian.coutts.7

LInkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gilliancoutts/

 

Book: One Second Ahead – Enhance your performance at work with mindfulness

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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Self Care Stories #1 7/51. #LifeThisWeek. Ageing. 21/2021.

Self Care Stories #1 7/51. #LifeThisWeek. Ageing. 21/2021.

Every 7th week for #LifeThisWeek optional prompts it’s about Self Care. Time to take a look at care habits, physical, mental and emotional.

And this year as I began to consider my purpose for continuing this blog in a meaningful way as I am changing, I added a category called Stories About Ageing. I introduced my view on ageing and I sought readers’ comments and thoughts. For this week’s post about self care, it made sense to write about what I am noticing about my habits and what I may need to change or update.

Self Care #1. Ageing.

Physical.

What I am noticing about me now. I am, because I can see from the many photos I have that I am looking older.

Yes, I am overweight  somewhat more now than when I was at my then lightest following my first year of head and neck cancer in 2017. However my doctors (and I!) do not want me to change anything.  I am also showing signs on my face with extra sun spot marks and

….for the first time ever, my hair has begun thinning.

When I first remarked on this at a recent hair appointment my lovely hairdresser said she had noticed it before and we worked on a style that will not show it as obviously. I also mentioned it to my G.P. and he said that because I have had a number of anaesthetics in the past 9 months, the effects can do that to hair and growth.

Recent blood tests showed my low iron has continued and in fact is probably the lowest it has been since my head and neck surgery in July 2017. The conservative treatment of iron supplements just don’t work for me as my sensitive IBS gut (potentially) acts up.

To rule out internal bleeding, because I had a colonoscopy back in June 2020 where all was OK cancer-wise, I am having a gastroscopy and an iron infusion. The first will check any potential bleeding sites in the gut, gullet and so on, and the second will, I hope boost my energy because even with the best of intentions, I do find hill walking hard. So I don’t do it! Update: had the gastroscopy and no bleeding areas but will need to increase use of anti-reflux meds and iron infusion went well but making me, ironically, a bit more tired next day!

Mental.

I have been well following my head and neck cancer surgeon’s visit last September when he said “see you in a year!”. At the time, that came as quite a surprise because I thought I would still be having 6 monthly checks.

I did need to take time to process this news.

Coming from my surgeon, who knows head and neck cancer the best (top one who is recognised by his peers as the best) I needed to believe he was right in his judgement.

It is quite a mind shift to make from wondering if any new swelling, pain or slight change might mean cancer is back. And I have had to work on challenging such negative and highly emotive thoughts. They can take me back to feeling fearful as I had for such a long time and I have to trust in the process that I can be well.

I am well!

Then there is this. In July 2020 and then in August 2020 I had some pretty serious abdominal surgeries. One was a rectopexy to repair and make my rectum work as it should, and when the surgeon was inside, he found a hernia, so that meant two lots of incisions. Big upside down T for me…and readers here might recall the wound dehisced. And that meant more surgery. More and much longer recovery and loss of independence, just as I had it back.

How to handle this?

By letting out my frustrations in some tears and telling my husband how I felt.

And making my home space more comfortable so I could recover in comfort. I also needed to allow myself time to grieve for how disappointed I was I needed a second surgery.

Once I had done that, I accepted with gratitude (it truly works!) and allowed the healing from the visiting nurse, my attendance at the G.P.s to go well.

It did. And now, I still cannot believe the freedom I have from having a fully working well ….body. No more worries about prolapse, and so much more embarrassing times I endured for far longer than I needed.

Emotional.

It’s hard to delineate where this fits in between physical and mental but for me it’s about how my mood is and how I can catch myself before go down any rabbit holes of negativity, regret and future concerns.

I remain in the present as much as I can and this for me has been a game-changer!

In fact, I have many more good and great days now than ever.

It has a lot to do with my own growth via reading, learning, seeing a psychologist some years back, a great G.P. who listens (and always tells me how well I am doing to when he first met me in early 2017) and my dear, counsellor-trained husband.

I have been taking an old fashioned anti-depressant since April 2017 which my G.P. originally suggested I take to help calm my insides when IBS was rampant and it would help me sleep. Since then I have, with his support, continued to take it in various doses.

Establishing a daily routine way back in the latter half of 2017 in my early head and neck cancer recoveries is still the basis of my day and it works. I shift times and so on around a bit but the essence of the routine is this which I wrote about here too:

  • Calm Meditation when I wake. Daily Calm. I lie in bed to do this as I am much more comfy.
  • Getting Up times: looser in structure now as we are retired.
  • Having breakfast and getting into my morning: reading the daily newspaper, blog reading and commenting
  • Dress With Purpose and Go Out Of the House. I continue to do this in a modified way with COVID changing my habit of sitting somewhere for a coffee but the delineation in my day makes this something I look forward to every day.
  • Late Lunch and reading
  • Afternoon for Blogging, Some art and NOW some walking outside somewhere. I got slack about this a while back and I am back into it.
  • Dinner Preparation and Eating.
  • News and maybe other viewing for a while with my husband.
  • Later: shower, bed  routine and Netflix or similar in my wind down
  • Calm Meditation of my choice in bed as I ready for sleep

In Summary.

I do all I can to remain in the present.

I remember to go outside if I need a better perspective for a while. I look up, I walk on the grass barefoot and I might drive to the river just to watch and listen.

I spend far less time than I did in comparing myself to others. This used to be a main source of upset for me.

I look at myself with a kinder eye and a warmer heart. Often.

I remind myself I AM 71….

and it is OK not to be as sprightly as those I sometimes see talking about “as we get older” and they are in fact, maybe 45-50. Eye rolling!

That’s me for now.

How are you going in terms of self-care?

Share in the comments for us all to learn.

Denyse.

Link Up #227

 

Life This Week. Link Up #227

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog & the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. These may include promotions, advertorials and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive  in nature.

* THANK you for linking up today! Next week: 8/51 Explore. 22 Feb.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


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How Am I Grateful? 2/2020.

How Am I Grateful? 2/2020.

It’s an interesting question!

One I find hard to answer in summary except that I will do what I can here now!

In the first blog post of 2020 I wrote this:

It was a long read…which I did intersperse with photos to illustrate my message – teacher-me!

However, I know that for some gratitude seems ‘oh so on trend’ and what might be next.

Well, I am going to say whilst I do not mind being up with the trends, gratitude has been around for far longer than I have…and any other influencer..(joke).

And gratitude, just like any mindful practice does need to be practised and noticed and felt. Every Day.

 

But what about this? 

As I write this post, it’s Saturday 4 January 2020 when it seems more than I can imagine of Australia is burning. Fires are consuming towns, rainforests, fields, mountains, grassy slopes and all in its path. That path has included a number of people (some not yet accounted for), hundreds of dwellings, millions of animals and more. It is 43 degrees outside here and around 3 streets away the power is out. So far our house is not affected and the air-con is running.

I do not find this a comfortable place to be in my mind and in my body. I made this meme ages ago to remind me that this is what I have to do. If I cannot, then I am fighting an unwinnable fight.

How on earth do I ‘sit with this?’

  • I noticed that my mind was starting to go down the path of ‘what ifs’ and ‘o. m. g.’ and my body started to tighten.
  • I felt teary and a little out of control of my emotions.
  • I knew that I could cry, tell my husband, seek answers to the unanswerable….but what then?

So, I took notice of my mind and body’s signals and did a few things I know that can help.

  • I am better when I am just painting some lines or strokes…on a page…it seems that in itself for me that is calming
  • I did just that on a large page
  • I came here, to share some of my words. The blog is good for that!
  • I told myself that it is OK to feel scared as these times are frightening
  • However, I also told myself that the evidence is here that I am safe, well and cool.

Strategies which work(ed). For me.

I have just told my husband – the one who would have had to help me through in the past – and of course he is pleased I can see life and its challenges better these days. I am grateful that he was patient enough in the past years to help me see/feel/be grateful even when I had no real idea.

Now, I feel better physically.

I will do some more art.

In fact, I used some of that energy I needed to dissipate and cooked some meals for me, my husband and dad.

And I will realised that I can send out loving kindness messages to people who really are doing it tough today, no matter where they are.

I am grateful that I know this practice and it works for me too.

For you! And you too….sending loving kindness.

I now know, it is not about ‘the actual words’ but the intent. The sharing of our messages of well-being, hope and love for each other.

The human connections.

What are you grateful for today…and every day?

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.

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