Denyse isnt what I pictured as the typical social media savvy woman when I started writing online. She’s a grandma, a retired principal and a passionate educational advocate. I noticed her commenting, chatting, tweeting and networking when I first dipped my toe into the blogosphere. Earlier this year she sent me a lovely note IN THE POST! saying she looked forward to meeting me at a conference that we’d both be at and I knew she was someone who was warm and engaging and most importantly had a good heart. I had the pleasure of meeting her lovely husband when I popped over to her house and then got lost on the way home. Denyse shared a post last month that really touched me, her follow up email saying she’d love to take the leap and share her space in between led to the interview I have shared below.
Here is part one…pop back tomorrow for part two. As always grab a nice warm cup of tea, and your partner if you have one, and have a read.
Denyse, tell me a little about you?
I was brought up as the eldest child of two – girl and boy- by two parents who were wed for 60 years. I was born in their home town of Wollongong and when I was 10 we moved to Sydney, and settled at the new area called Balgowlah Heights. Dad was a company executive and mum was a traditional home maker. We had family holidays, visited good places and were part of groups such as Guides and Scouts. I chose to go to a public High School over a private one, and I had wanted to be a primary school teacher since I was 11. I had a brilliant teenage life living near Manly. I had independence, could walk to the local Forty Baskets Beach, had boyfriends, and always enjoyed an alcohol free fun time. My serious boyfriend before I met B, was a Uni Student, and I was one year behind him at Teacher’s College. We both graduated and I went to Barraba in North West NSW for my first teaching role aged 20, and the boyfriend went to Tamworth nearby, but hated it, had a health breakdown and broke up with me.
For around 9 months in 1970 I was a single lady in a small town, and with some friends from school we decided to go to the first ever NSW Teachers’ Federation Meeting on Sat 17 October 1970 in Tamworth. That seals my future for it was that night I met B.
Love of my life, soul mate and husband of almost 42 years. I wrote about our 42 years together here
You wrote about the seasons that have punctuated your relationship and your time together. Tell me about the season you are in now?
It’s the season of the Winter of my life. I am writing as I approach my 63rd Birthday. Even writing that fact doesn’t look like it relates to me. Surely, that’s my aunt, or my mum. Alas, when I grasp the reality of it all, it is ME. Born in 1949 I am about to be 63.
This season is not one I am enjoying particularly. It’s bringing with it feelings of irrelevance as a mother and to a lesser extent as a grandmother. In the days of raising children I had influence, care, love and wisdom to give. Once the 2 children grew up, and moreso as my daughter is 41and my son is 33, I feel very unneeded. Now for many reasons this is a good thing. Of course it is! But yet, there is an air of being cast aside, no longer listened to, nor sought for an opinion or even an enquiry of ‘how are you going, Mum?’
I can see that I have placed myself in a position where my messages may be mixed. I am slowly relishing the freedom of no responsibility for children yet I still want to be relevant.
Even in the role as Grandma, I am losing the contact, loving times and sharing stories with my six grandchildren. As they now range in age from almost 16 years to 6 months I have been fortunate to have them in my life, yet my time with them has much more meaning for me than for them. I can only hope that in their relationship with me from pre-birth to now there is a little of me and my time with them that they carry on with their families.
The surprise for me in the beginning of the season of Winter is that my body is not being as helpful to me as it was. Why surprise? I haven’t abused it from a drinking/smoking/drugs perspective. However, I have been overweight for more years of my adult life than I wish to count. In my 30s and 40s I did the diet/exercise/daily weighing thing and hated myself for the ‘failures’ and applauded myself for the numbers moving down on the scales. This has reduced my emotional stability in some way, and whilst I am not over-eating, I know I eat for reasons that are not always related to hunger. In my late 40s I made a vow not to ever diet again, and to treat my body with kindness and not to classify foods into good or bad. This has not reduced my weight though….as I have used some foods as emotional salves for pain and heartache of my reduced ability to deal with the many blows that being married to a very unwell person have struck.
Even though I imagined that by stopping work as a School Principal (due to emotional ill-health in 2003) and as a School Teacher in 2010, I would have had enough of schools and teaching, the opposite is true! Thanks to the sunshine world of twitter and professionals who tweet, I am ‘relevant’ again as an educator. I blog about education and schools here
I also visit groups of Early Childhood Centres to impart my practical knowledge of schools and schooling to families. I now work with aspiring teacher-professionals as an external observer for their work towards professional accomplishments. In my professional life I am relevant. I like that.
Despite my forays into the world of social media by blogging I have not been able to become a popular or well-known blogger but am far more content now to be the ‘education specialist’ than ‘Denyse Whelan, blogger’.
How do you live in the space between wanting to be present and your thoughts for what the future might bring?
Distraction, distraction, distraction! I can easily become caught up in the future (could be even closer than we realise due to B’s health prognosis) as I am by nature a ‘glass half empty’ person, and a ‘think about the next day, week, year’ person.
So, knowing this is me, I have to give myself a proverbial kick up the &*s^ and force myself to get back to the ‘now’ and the ‘known’. Some ways I do this is by photography. I’ve been known to shake a mood of pessimism by going for a drive, and checking out nature. My preference is always by the water, but living in Western Sydney the water I enjoy is a long drive away. So, I look for trees, plants, animals grazing, the sky…and I get behind the viewfinder, and I am “in the moment”. My meditation….
I find it hard to stay in the moment, the busy-ness of life means that we don’t necessarily recognise the speed in which we do things let alone stop and focus on where we are. Denyse’s pondering on life and relationships have made me take stock of what I know to be true. Pop back over tomorrow afternoon to read the conclusion of my chat with Denyse. The seasons, as Joni Mitchell sings, do go round and round.
How do you try to stay in the moment?