~ The Art Of Change ~ with Carol Omer ~

Art and Creativity as Mediums for Empowerment , Connection and Change…

On Her Shoulders…

Posted by carolom on January 16, 2021

*A fictional account of the kind of  real life stories behind the walls of a domestic violence shelter.

Bridget heard the crunch of stones on the pathway two seconds before the knock on the door. Two seconds that gave her time to turn off the television, position herself behind the curtain and pretend she wasn’t home.  Her visitor knew she was in there of course and after her first lyrical tap on the screen was ignored she called out “hey Bridget, you may have forgotten, just want to remind you, it’s group day today. There’s childcare on site and we are having morning tea. You are very welcome to join us”.

Bridget looked over at her sleeping baby, hoped he wouldn’t wake up and then returned her attention to the slight gap in the curtain. She hadn’t left her unit since arriving at the shelter four days ago. She had  refused  to respond to the weekend staff and their invitation to join the group for Saturday brunch and Sunday lunch in the meeting house, she did not want to mix with the rest of the women at the shelter.


Bec, the newest team member expressed her concern during the handover with the Monday shift,  “I think we might need to use our key to check on Bridget, she hasn’t made contact all weekend and she might have self harmed or overdosed in there.” Tricia, the site manager, smiled, “It’s fine Bec, we know Bridget’s okay her lights are on in the evening and staff saw her taking rubbish out to the bin on the weekend.”

The familiar frustration that came with the feeling that she was not being heard washed over Bec, her chest tightened, her heart started beating faster and to her great annoyance she could feel her cheeks begin to go red. Tricia’s answer did little to appease Bec’s growing concern for Bridget.

“Okay” she responded, frustration tightening her voice, “but can we document in her file that I have expressed a concern please?”

This was a familiar scenario for Tricia, managing passionate young social workers, fresh out of university, who insisted on ensuring that every detail is documented.  They worked alongside older, seasoned staff who didn’t share the same regard for reams of policies, mountains of risk management forms and paperwork that had, according to Vicky, had  “wrapped our little village in red tape and bureaucracy”.  Vicky had been in the family support team for 15 years and had seen many changes  in the politics and policies  of domestic violence recovery and support.

“We will just keep on doing what needs to be done while they have another conference to work out what should be done “  was one of Vicki‘s favourite responses to the changing times they were in.

Tricia’s response to Bec’s request was firm  and non indulgent. “Of course Bec, your concern is noted.”  

“Thanks Tricia”.  Bec’s reply  was terse and she had to make a conscious effort not to bang the door as she left the shelter.

Behind the closed curtains and locked doors of her unit, Bridget felt safer than she had felt in a very long time. Her beautiful son was sleeping soundly, he would wake up for his warm milk and cuddles, rest contentedly in her arms and usually fall asleep again shortly after. Bridget envisaged she would not need to leave the unit for at least a week, thanks to the thoughtfulness of charities that provided generous food vouchers for women at the shelter and the efficiency of the staff who had supplied her with sheets, towels, kitchenware and spicy smelling soap and shampoo (leftover from the Christmas donations),

At Bridget’s’ induction Vicky mentioned there were domestic violence support groups on site at the shelter and she was welcome to join in  but Bridget wasn’t ready to mix with the women from the other units.

“The last thing I need is to be with women whose life is as crappy as mine.” was her silent response.

Nathan woke for his mid morning feed and after an hour of delighting in each another’s company, fell asleep again. “We are both so tired aren’t we baby” she cooed as he began to doze against her chest. Bridget returned to her computer, grateful for the wifi access, (provided at no cost to the shelter by the local service club) and although the staff wouldn’t have guessed, she was also immensely grateful for thepeaceful quiet sanctuary behind the high fences and security cameras. She felt very safe and was currently in the middle of a project that consumed most of her waking hours.

From the staff office Tricia heard Bec’s car reverse out of the driveway and down the street, the hole in the muffler was getting larger and her arrival and departure at the shelter becoming increasingly noisy. She smiled to herself, opened Bridget’s file, documented Bec’s concern and her response, sent a copy to Bec and exited the computer. In the 23 years she had been working in women’s shelters, Tricia had come to understand that the staff members who are the most anxious for the women at the shelter were sometimes the ones who needed the closest supervision.

Her ruminations were interrupted by the arrival of Margaret, returning from dropping two children at school and their mother to a hospital appointment. It had been a busy start to the working week and Margaret was ready for a cup of coffee and two of the chocolate biscuits  she had spotted in the staff pantry.

She didn’t ask Tricia if she wanted a coffee, after working together for twenty  years, morning tea was a well-established ritual. Bec’s response to the offer to join them  was usually “thanks for the offer but I’m too busy to stop for a break”. It amused the women, they knew it was Bec’s way of letting them know she didn’t really approve of sitting and chatting when there were so many emergencies that needed her attention.


They sat down at the round kitchen table and exchanged a smile. “So how was Bec today?” Margaret asked.  “She was annoyed that I wouldn’t give permission to use our key to enter Bridget’s unit. She thinks Bridget is at risk and we need to check on her”.

Margaret smiled slightly, the familiarity of this scenario holding no surprises for her.

“Didn’t the weekend staff see Bridget putting her rubbish out and haven’t her lights been on every night?

Tricia nodded as she dunked her choc mint biscuit into the coffee, leaving it there just long enough for the edges to begin to melt into the hot liquid. “Yes and yes. Bridget needs rest, you’ve read her file, she’s exhausted! She was invited to the group this morning but she pretended she wasn’t home. She needs time”. Tricia smiled as she popped the last bit of sweet, melted chocolate into her mouth. “Bridget  is going to be fine. Bec is the one  I am concerned about”.

In the sanctuary of her unit, surrounded by the small handful of possessions she had brought with her, Bridget immersed herself in the project that had been inspired by one of the brochures she received during her induction. A small, purple and green pamphlet titled Digital Safety for Women sat amongst the service agreement forms, payment benefit forms and information folder with numbers for local doctors, schools and legal aid (over the weekend she had noted there were no take away pizza numbers but then cancelled her interest because she realised she would have to speak to a staff member about the delivery anyway).

Last Thursday morning, when the police had arrived to escort her safely from the damaged house, she had been able to collect some of her possessions that weren’t broken. Her laptop had miraculously survived the attacks, even though he checked it randomly and frequently and had threatened to remove it from her along with her phone. For some reason it had never been a target during his rages. She assumed it was because it had been a gift from his parents for her 21st birthday and carried a higher status than the vast array of personal belongings that he had destroyed, pawned or hidden from her.

Bridget was following the instructions in the pamphlet to a tee. She had a small list that she would ask the staff to help her with once she emerged from her unit but there were some things she could do on her own and she was well into the process of doing them. With a red biro (found in the pencil case that accompanied the gold colored note book that was amongst her induction package) she turned to her list. Block his number. Tick . Delete all photos of him from my phone. Tick.  (Deleting him was Bridget’s addition to the checklist, she refused to carry a single images of the man who had threatened to kill her ). Delete messages but keep a record and screen grabs  on usb of the vitriol and threats.Tick. Suspend all of my social media accounts. Tick. Change all passwords for all of my accounts. Tick. Ask staff for a digital safety referral to audit my phone, computer and car for tracking devices. Pending. Change my mobile number and upgrade. Pending.


She smiled with satisfaction, stood and stretched her a
rms above her head and brought them slowly to her sides as an unfamiliar calmness began to envelope her. For a moment the big red ticks on the page in front of her looked like darting arrows. “Serena would love that” she said out loud, “It looks like Artemis shot her bow and arrow all over my page”. She laughed for the first time in weeks, the memory of her yoga teacher’s quirky ways making  her feel reconnected to the life she had before she met the man who turned her world upside down and plunged her into turmoil and danger.

Bridget could feel a shift in the air. She looked over at Nathan who had awoken from his brief nap and was laying contentedly in his cot, looking at her. He kicked his legs as she leant over to pick him up, filling him with delight to hear his name and see her smiling.

“It’s dark in here isn’t it baby, let’s open these curtains.” A quick cuddle, two kisses on his forehead and she placed her precious little boy into the bouncer on the floor.

“Watch this” she said pulling on the curtain chord theatrically and then sliding the netting across the rod. Bright light flooded the room and they both blinked rapidly, as a powerful stream of sunshine illuminated the arm of the grey vinyl couch.  

“Look where we are baby, there’s trees everywhere”. Nathan waved his arms excitedly, he didn’t understand what his mama was saying but he could see her beaming at him like he had not  seen before.

Tricia & Margaret were standing side by  under the kitchen window clearing the morning tea dishes when they saw the curtain in unit seven open. They looked at one another and smiled. “Bridget?”.

“Yes” Tricia answered, “I’ll head up there and see if she needs a hand”.

Bridget bent down to the bouncer and scooped Nathan in her arms, nestling into his neck and laughing. “We’re free baby and we are going to be okay. I promise”. For a moment Nathan was completely silent as he felt his mothers soft, rhythmic breath across his hair. He pulled his head back to look at her and gurgled with joy, luxuriating in the happiness of his mothers gaze.

“Hang on, there’s something I’ve forgotten for my list” and she picked up the red biro and wrote with a flourish “My new tattoo” followed with  the word pending! in large upper case letters.

She was about  to prepare Nathans bath when she heard the sharp knock on the security screen. “Hold on” she called out as she unlocked  the security bolts and released  the lock on the screen door.

Tricia felt the familiar wave of admiration and concern rise in her chest as she looked directly into Bridget’s eyes. She had conducted the induction interview with Vicky and had been looking forward to seeing Bridget again .

“Hi Bridget and hello Nathan, I’ve come to see if there’s anything you need a hand with?” 

Bridget adjusted Nathan’s position on her hip and opened the door wider. “Yes, thanks, come in. I have a list”. Her eyes sparkled  as she continued,  “And I’m wondering if you know of a good tattooist near here. Have a look at my drawing. I’m going to get her tattooed on my shoulders.”

Tricia smiled and touched Bridget lightly on the arm, “I do actually, I don’t have tattoo’s myself but I’ve seen some pretty amazing designs over the years.  The woman who stayed in this unit before you designed a butterfly tattoo as well. Isn’t that a coincidence? She called it her transformation woman”.

Tricia stepped over the threshold and through the door of unit   seven like she had hundreds of times before.

She knew Bridget would face many obstacles over the coming months and  there was a long list of tasks for her to work through.  Secure and safe housing had many complicated referral processes and Bridget  would be encouraged to access counselling for her on going recovery. There would be  a myriad of engagements with a variety departments, agencies and organisations as a direct result of the violence she had endured and Bridget would be required to tell her story many times along the road to rebuild her life.

After  years of supporting hundreds of women through the initial weeks and months of recovery there was one thing Tricia knew for certain.  Bridget’s future was strong and bright.

That was always the case for those women she fondly referred to as the Butterfly Women.

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As I lay Dying, I learnt about Love…

Posted by carolom on January 16, 2021

Spending time at the bedside of someone who is dying transports our every day world to another place. A place where there are no guarantees and all of the things and all of the ‘stuff’ we have accumulated mean very little in the light of the next chapter of our infinite Journey.

I wrote this poem to honor the people I have known who made their journey back to the Spirit world from a hospital bed and  to pay my respects for a beautiful, simple act I witnessed recently as a family member  tucked the blankets around her loved one’s well tucked in body, and patted  them down with the tenderness of a heart that was bursting  with love from a sacred place, a scared  place where  words could only transmit the tiniest fragment of her love…

As I Lay Dying…

For many days people came to my bedside.

I was moving between Here and Out There and would awaken

to see smiling faces  sad faces  concerned faces

standing over my bed side

Why even my old enemy from many years ago

appeared from yesterday, our passions long spent, our lessons now learnt

His  once suspicious  eyes that  mirrored my own

were gazing upon me with Love

It was a little strange but when he took my hand in his

I squeezed it lightly

I didn’t really have much reassurance to share as

every single thing took a great deal of effort

as I lay dying

Who ever would have thought all those years ago

when we fought it out in that stuffy meeting room

that we  would share such a tender moment as this…

~

Next  a sumptuous lover who I believed

I could not possibly live without

who I once wept, raged despaired and hoped for

Smiled down at me from her weary  wrinkled face

Her eyes exuded the very same Love we once revelled in

before jealousy soured the sweetness and poisoned

all possibilities of Love gifting us

with its fullest purest force

My jealousy, that burdensome trait I created from

who on earth knows where….

How silly it all seems now…

Jemilia, with the strange name and outrageous flirtatious ways

completely unsuited to one as insecure in Love as I!

Our Love never died. I understand that now

We  had different roads to travel.

Jealousy and the fury of insecurity seemed

a little ridiculous by the time we met again

When love kissed us with its fullest purest force

~

My friends they gathered

An  impressive array dressed in

different skins and shapes and sizes

Strong people, troubled people caring people edgy people

The whole eclectic cavalcade of those who travelled with me for awhile

they arrived like an endless stream, the audience from within

The theatre of my life

In spite of my semi conscious place

Well actually I was fully conscious at all times

but I was not always in the room

and from the vantage point of my  plumped up pillows

I realised that all of my family and all of my friends

Now all looked exactly the same

regardless of which of the skins they were in…

Love had softened  their eyes, made their smile tremble

some would even tuck in  my well tucked  body a little more

To let me know they cared (as if I couldn’t tell!)

and to move some of the Love that was making them feel very emotional indeed.

And I bathed in the pure sanctuary  of their uninhibited compassion

perhaps understanding Love for the very first time

Better late than never I heard the angels say…

~

When my time came, almost ten days into the final chapter

of my physical demise

I slipped quietly away

just as the new dawn was awakening

The nurse had stepped out of the room for just awhile

…I wanted  to leave with no fuss as we had agreed not to

resuscitate my body  under any circumstances

And that final breath, a dramatic moment indeed

the biggest noise I had made for weeks…

but oh such Joy!

My Spirit stretched like a cat who has been sleeping for a very long time

Stepping out of my body was so easy

I wondered how I had not accidentally slipped out before!

I was greeted with the open arms of those

who had travelled back to the Spirit world before me

There was much to catch up on, a great deal of Remembering to do

and  many new sights and delights to   see

~

Over the next few days I visited the grieving

as they gathered by my breathless earthly shell

and I saw how their Love had melted into tears

as people cried and told stories and remembered the times we had shared

even those stories I had once commanded  “Don’t talk about that!”…

were joyfully retold over and over

making me laugh and twirl through the air with delight

late into the dark night of their loss…

I learnt a lot about Love as I travelled through its embrace

and would share with you this one last thing

Though you may think I am gone

My Spirit travels on

and one day soon, we shall Love and laugh and dance

once again…..

R.I.P.  ~ Roam in Peace……

******************

This Love cloud floated past me … when we leave this world what we have learnt about Love will travel on with us… the rest of our ‘stuff’ stays behind….

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How Parents Influence their Children’s Reality…

Posted by carolom on January 15, 2021

An event occured recently when I observed a vibrant little girl carefully, and with great focus, carry two empty glasses to the counter in a busy cafe. 

Her mother was busily chatting to a friend and the girl had been watching the staff clearing tables.

 Carrying the glasses to the counter was a demonstration of her willingness to help and show her capabilities as little kids like to do. “I can do it .  Let me help. I’ll carry that”.

We are coded to serve and contribute but often, over the pathway of years, the external world can negatively impact that core impulse.

Although the instinct to contribute and demonstrate autonomy is instinctive and little children yearn to ‘help’, that intention can become thwarted.

I was right there with the little girl, supporting her energetically, seeing her successfully navigating through the lines of tables and we were going really well until her mother spotted her and called out, in a shrill voice with tsunami-type currents:

“CAREFUL!!! YOU”LL DROP THEM. YOU’LL DROP THEM”….

Crash!!..smash!! Her mothers shrieking voice & powerful omen cut through the girls  focus and shattered her concentration in an instant.

“SEE! I TOLD you you would drop them. Silly girl!

Come and sit back down”.

And so – and sow- the little girl, only a few minutes ago SO confident of her abilities and focused on her vision of the glasses reaching the counter safely, now sat small in her chair, immersed in the feelings of clumsiness and swamped with shame.

We are fragile, incredibly resilient human beings, made of steel and cotton wool. 

I felt like I witnessed a moment in her life that was one of many that have the potential to shift her far away from her authentic Self.

But I also know that life has a way of transforming our childhood wounds into enormous strength and insight once we step out into the world beyond the family patterning and begin that journey of reclaiming who we were always meant to be.

Image source: Freepik

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Old Chairs that were once Trees with Memories

Posted by carolom on January 15, 2021

1995. 

I bought 4 2nd hand solid wooden chairs in great condition. 

They had soft comfy seats and high backs. For the next few years they hosted big chats around the table with a new and old friends, many meal times, rushed breakfasts before leaving for work at the Shelter, writing time (including the 12 week course The Artist Way that required 84  days of writing at the kitchen table) and thousands of other matter-of-fact moments some which included enjoying the company of friends who I didn’t know I would never see  again.

I sat on my comfy chair on long anguished nights when I knew he wasn’t where he said he would be.

And when I was on the phone over and over again to the psychiatric unit, who were reluctant to come and medically arrest him again…

…and then after they did and I had moments of reprieve from his delusional chaos sitting on one of my comfy chairs wondering how on earth I got here.

1998

In one last burst of frustration over the lies and machinations,  I stepped out of my chair with such  energy that it flew to the floor and one of the high backs cracked.

After I left him and that chaotic life,  my chairs were way too big for the tiny kitchen in the emergency housing house that became my sanctuary. But I put them in there anyway.

Nestled in a street of former post-war public housing (with only 85yo Mrs. Murphy left from that era) the street had morphed into an enclave of welfare housing, joined side by side with threads of homelessness, domestic violence, trauma recovery and addiction weaving their way up and down the street.

I was working in the area of emergency housing and had not predicted that I myself would move into a “Category One” street.

I am very grateful that it was possible… but there were not many roses in that street.

I immediately planted a fortress of trees over the large bare  block, trees  that  eventually overshadowed the house and became a sanctuary for dozens of nests for the local birdlife.

I was in long term Emergency Housing for Desperate Situations but  my big wooden chairs remained solid and safe, even the cracked panel was an affirmation of the courage it took to leave.

2008

Life moved on and so did I, it was time to move again after 10 years of soul school bootcamp in that street.

I  brought my four chairs to our new home with   my very different, never lies Beloved and we bought a new kitchen dining suite. 

My comfy chairs began their journey from spare rooms, to  extra chairs at gatherings and eventually become garden chairs during a full moon circles and camp fire nights.

They had become aged even before they went out into the garden and I joked that  it’s like when  our chickens stop laying eggs,  she just retires into the garden until she passes from natural causes. 

Chickens live way less longer than quality furniture does.

2021

My chairs are beyond restoration or habitation and it is time for them to go. The garden had become cluttered with old chairs and plastic ones.

 It  was hard rubbish day and we gathered the old and dying stuff  from  various parts of the yard. 

Carrying the chair  with the cracked back felt  like I was carrying an old friend who I had met in a war zone and we were bonded by our shared history.

The hard rubbish was placed neatly out the front of the house as per the directions of the waste resource instructions.

I came inside and started to feel a bit funny…By midnight I realised I hadn’t said goodbye to the chairs. 

Chairs I sat on side by side with Mum as we coloured together.

Chairs that I carried out of my old life and into my new life.

Chairs  that Sal and I sat on when we were young-although we were in our 40’s and willing to believe in a possible future.

Chairs that I sat on in the night garden and tried to find Mum in a sign from the heavens.

So I went out and said goodbye to these beloved old chairs. 

They were once Trees and Trees have memories. 

I knew they were going to be crunched up in the back of the waste resource truck and as I stood there in the dark of night with black cat  Tommy Boombah at my feet, I said a little chair prayer.. thanking the Tree that gave its life for the chairs, thanking the chairs for enriching my life.

I just watched the truck come and crunch them away, it was swift…I’m sure I saw an invisible rainbow released into the ether as the chair crunching truck drove away….

PS I live in a wonderful peaceful old street with gardens full of magnificent roses…

****

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Partnering with Mother Nature

Posted by carolom on January 10, 2019

I have two partners in life.

My husband and co-creative business partner-good friend David.

And Mother Nature who is as reliable a partner as anyone could wish for.

8 days ago I planted the Seeds of Intention.
Sunflowers that were placed Mindfully in little pods, watered, given sun and attention and voila! 8 days later 12 little seedlings have burst forth with another dozen on the way.

 

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We are women living and evolving in a world men have ruled over, designed and largely created.

Sharp lines, cement boxes, white walls and show-me-the-evidence-thinking.

As with all generalisations this is not always true,  however I am far more at home with the stars as my ceiling, round lines instead of sharp ones and fresh air not recycled electrical air.

Partnering with Mother Nature recognises that the homes our brothers have designed and built have few round lines and circles…

Unless you go to some of the African countries of course and marvel at the Ndebele houses, many of us are living in square boxes upon a round Mother Earth…

#BringBackTheCircle

 

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*Source Google Images

 

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Domestic Violence Shelter Walls as a Gallery of Possibility not pain.

Posted by carolom on February 27, 2018

Domestic Violence Shelter Walls as a Gallery of Possibility not Pain.

Carol Omer ~ Certified Life Coach / Author

I have worked in Domestic Violence shelters in direct service delivery and on management boards for almost 30 years. One evening in the early days a resident and I were sitting in the group room of the shelter.

The walls were full of the kind of posters often found in d.v and homeless settings. Say no to domestic violence posters and statements that challenge abuse and injustice were the words on the posters lining the walls. The word violence  was written everywhere, even on the refrigerator in the kitchen.
There were also  hepatitis pamphlets, images that represented ill health, struggle and poverty and they were there because they were considered to be educational and necessary for the women, many who are considered to be “at risk”
Staff believed residents and outreach clients should be able to see the information in front of them at all times.

Pamphlets and fact sheets that had the words  trauma and stress, abuse and violence written on them in bright letters were on the wall by the door where women and children came and went throughout the day.

The woman I was sitting with looked around the room and said:

My life feels completely messed up and I look around and see these images and words  and it just makes it all feel so much worse.

It’s like the violence is everywhere. I’ve never been to a place like this before. Seeing that word violence over and over and over  freaks me out,

I saw the setting from her view point for the first time and took her observation to our staff meeting.

After several  discussions over several staff meetings we came to realise that it is not only the women who live at the shelter but the women who work there who are exposed to pain and trauma based imagery and  the words violent  and violence and deficit oriented messages on a daily basis.

Was our shelter warm and welcoming, colourful and bright or was it sterile, institutional and covered in words and messages that highlighted trauma, pain and the struggle?

Had we considered creating positive  visual images (that did not rely on English literacy) to  let women of all cultural backgrounds know that this was her place to unwind, relax and reflect or did our setting look like a government department with warning posters and issue-oriented material on the walls? No we hadn’t and yes it did.

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As a staff would we want to live in this environment at the worst period of our own lives? No we wouldn’t.

Would we feel comfortable and at home there considering we would be living amongst and sharing space with strangers?

We decided that no, we wouldn’t be warm and comfortable in our group room or the kitchen area as they were covered in issue related words and imagery and none of us had the word violence or abuse in the communal spaces where we met with friends and family in our homes to share food and stories together.

We noticed we had a sexual abuse hot line magnet on the fridge which we later found out was traumatic for some women to read every time they opened the door to get milk. A “Say no to violence”  magnet was along side of it.
The words “violence” seemed to be everywhere, on pamphlets, on hand outs, on the white boards.

Where were the word’s for Peace? They weren’t there!

Over the next few weeks we took down every poster that had the word violence on it and all of the words and images that presented how life should not to be and replaced them with inspirational images and uplifting posters.

I created a World Peace Begins at Home poster which had exactly the same message as say no to violence but with a very different emotional and visual impact.

We were, for the first time considering what messages the walls and the furniture and notice boards were sending to the women who came to our shelter.

The front entrance area no longer had a list of house rules, they went into the information pack in the drawer. We redeveloped the space with the words A Peaceful Welcome inside of a glass painted Mandala  on the front window.
Our counseling areas were transformed into peaceful, inviting spaces. We consciously created an evocative, tranquil setting in what was once an issue oriented, high profile violence focused shelter.

We also had to acknowledge we had created a very Euro-centric space that had very little cultural diversity or language representation so w e renamed each of the units “Peace” in seven different languages to demonstrate a commitment to muli-culturalism rather than offer token gestures that made space available for diversity but only within a European context. We had the words  placed on plaques that were visual and educational, with the country of origin along with the word for Peace.

We approached an Elder from the Aboriginal Community and received permission to name our meeting space Inbandi  the word meaning to gather.

The Mandala portal at  the entrance point to the Shelter was now a warm and welcoming one rather than a rules and issue based message space. It was an image that spoke to all women from all cultural backgrounds and didn’t require English literacy to transmit the intention.

What we learnt from that pivotal situation is that placing violence related images and literature and issue based words in front of people who are assessed as in need of education and support is  often just adding to the existing problem of a negatively saturated experience rather than acting as a vehicle for change. It was a turning point moment for our team and was the catalyst for a huge cultural shift.

Staff who work in domestic violence settings do not need to be seeing the deficit based words every day of their working lives either. Neuroscience research shows that we are all impacted by the sights we see and the words and sounds we hear daily.

Confronting images and statistics and abuse phone lines often don’t have the impact as intended, they can unintentionally add to an existing landscape that affirms the negative and disregards the positive /aspirational content when it comes to many public awareness campaigns.

We relocated issue based information into brightly coloured folders so that it was accessible but not visually repeating the negative, stressful wording every time someone walked past the notice board. The notice board became a place where women’s art and affirmations and culturally specific images were displayed.

The subliminal impact of the environment was one we had not previously considered but we were now becoming very attuned to the setting and culture we were consciously creating.

Over the next few years our once issue-saturated shelter transformed into a place that was inspirational, evocative, creative and highly educational. Our new in-house culture was grounded in the assumption that people who want to make changes don’t need to see the language of violence and trauma before her eyes and as staff we also chose not to repeatedly see words that evoke a sense of trauma and misfortune, instead we focused on aspirations and possibility.

As time went by I saw tired and over worked government workers melt down into the colourful, warm couches in our group room, look at the walls and the plants and say: It feels really peaceful in here. That’s so unusual for a shelter.

Women who were highly agitated and still fully immersed in the crisis that lead them to the shelter would relax and slow down within the group room which was enriched by having the opportunity to colour some of the art work for themselves and take the positive images and messages back to their unit to create their own affirmation and inspirational gallery. We had meditative music and culturally diverse play lists to add to the ambience of the room.

Our group room became a community space. It was no longer a setting that was driven and created by staff intentions but by what the women wanted to create and share.

This single step revolutionised the sense of community and connection at the shelter because we encouraged the women to create the space and atmosphere by contributing to the environment rather than simply sitting in the one we had created for them.

If the women who work in domestic violence shelters and the management are not open to creativity and creating a new culture of positive imagery and a welcoming meeting space, residents will not feel comfortable to explore their own creativity and sense of place in the shelter either. The service will feel like an institution rather than a Women’s place of healing and possibility.

Creativity and visual imagery was at the core of these sweeping changes and the staff and management had to be open to creating a new culture that can be messy and uncertain during the transition phase. It was a challenge for some of the team to change some of our core practices and values but eventually we also allowed ourselves to engage with creativity in the workplace during staff meetings and staff training events at a much higher level than ever before and this had a profound impact on our work – life balance practices.

I encourage all of us who work in women’s shelters, prisons and community health and settings to take a look at the walls and notice boards ask the questions:

*Are the words I am reading and the images I am seeing day after day   creating an inspirational  uplifting environment or are the walls saturated in pain, issues and trauma based messages that affirm the negative to try and create the positive?

*Could I place the information about pain and struggle and injustice and trauma based counseling into colourful, engaging folders and make space for an inspirational, uplifting invitation to change and empower community and connection instead?

*Look around at your shelter / community house  /office and ask yourself “Is this a place that is both professional and inviting or have we fallen into the government department trap of creating impersonal spaces that do not reflect the creativity, courage and unique cultural experiences of the women who come to live here for awhile?

I offer the World Peace Begins at Home b/w template  freely for workers in shelters and community settings and prisons who are interested in beginning the process of creating uplifting art and imagery in communal areas and would like to offer the women in residence the chance to create with their hands and tell stories and share information using creativity.

It was the first of the inspirational templates I created after the resident of our shelter highlighted the uninviting, clinical space that we had inadvertently created for her.

World Peace b:w

Peace

Posted in Creativity, Domestic Violence, Peace, Personal Development, Shelter, Sisterhood, Staff Training, Transformation, Women | 2 Comments »

The Women’s Village

Posted by carolom on December 6, 2017

Domestic Violence Shelters:

In the following conversation I discuss the role of the Women’s Village and why Domestic Violence Shelters are more than just a place of temporary refuge for women and children in crisis.

Here is the link:

 The Women’s Village is so much more than a Shelter

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Posted in Domestic Violence, Shelter, Uncategorized, Village, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lest We forget

Posted by carolom on November 11, 2017

My Grandad John Chapman.

Killed in the second world war.
A working class man sent to a war that wealthy men start.
A broken crumpled photo.
A grieving widow.
An only child growing up in a home where the war broke my Nanas heart.
An only child denied her Fathers love, living on her own in a house of silence where her war-widow Mother worked full time, standing on her feet all day, never discussing what happened.Finding relief in hours of silence when her working day was finished.

A solitary child in awe with the world of books and paintings, art and story.
A little note she kept in her purse all of her life “To Maugny with all my Love Daddy”.
Watching an old 1940’s movie one day with a scene of young men climbing into an army truck to head to the battlefield I saw my Grandfather for the first time, represented by those vibrant, alive, energetic young men who were being sent to battle.
It is the only time I have cried for my Grandad.
I have no memories to miss.
War took care of that.

My Grandad never came home from the war and for many years I couldn’t understand my Nana’s strange and difficult ways or why my Mother jumped at loud noises and preferred to be on her own rather than in company.
I didn’t understand the contentious relationship my Mother and her Mother had but now I know that the pain and war-trauma they both experienced turned into resentment and depression and divided them into two troubled women.

Mum staying connected to her Creativity was the biggest blessing in a very sad story.
We all learnt to hold it in.
A week before she died unexpectedly my Nana said to me, “I never really got over your Grandad being killed you know”. She was in her 80’s and had never shared her pain before. It was like meeting her for the first time and then she was gone.
Now I fully understand the devastating impact that war has had on my family and how being born into a city that was the most bombed city outside of London has reverberated down the generations.
For my Grandad Private John Chapman.

The working class man who wanted to have lots of children and who doted on his beloved Maugny for the short time they were together.
Lest we Forget.

 

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The Royal Adelaide Hospital – Renewal, Rejuvenation and Originality…

Posted by carolom on November 7, 2017

This is the hospital where my beloved Mother died.

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I was a cleaner  at this hospital in the early 80s and walked hundreds of kilometres down these corridors, wielding mops and brooms, chemical soaked cloths and bottles of disinfectant that cover every surface with mists you can’t see.

I used to mop towards interesting conversations and whispered politics because the green uniform of the hospital cleaner is like a cloak of invisibility in the fast paced, hierarchy of the world of medicine.
I learnt to drive the big industrial polishers by inadvertently slamming it against the wall whilst my wrists developed the muscles to hold it in place when the power surge brought it to life in a dramatic way. The metaphor does not escape me.
On February 7th 2015, 30 years after putting down my broom and walking out the ”Domestic” exit for the last time, I drove through the carpark gates at 6:30 in the morning after a life changing call from the hospital. I drove in knowing that this was the day my life will change for ever.

This was the day Mum was going to die.

My old familiar workplace felt as foreign to me as the prospect of living in the world without her. In some ways I feel like my car is still in the carpark.

We have a brand-new state-of-the-art hospital in the city and this old Royal Adelaide hospital site is undergoing renewal!

D553F774-0CB7-4028-B0CF-F823F7C0D753Those who knew my quirky, complex creative Mother know that colour and creativity were oxygen to her soul, so imagine my delight walking along North Terrace yesterday to see the grey buildings where she took her last breath, are encased in the very promise of possibilities and creativity that brought Mums imagination alive.

Maureen Omer, nee Chapman, was a voracious science-fiction reader for decades which meant she lived in the realm of new possibilities, realities and concepts that have never been seen before when all around the world told her a very different story than the one she lived in her imagination.

 

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“The sci-fi writers are the prophets” Mum used to say.

How fabulous that the piece of land where Maureen drew the breath that we inhaled as she exhaled for the very last time, will be reincarnated as a vibrant. colourful landscape in the middle of our beautiful city!

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Drama Detox Unit open for Business…

Posted by carolom on October 19, 2017

DRAMA DE-TOX UNIT

A Cautionary Tale Dedicated to the recovering Dramaholic in all of us….well many of us. This is a fictionally true transcript from Dramaholics Anonymous, held at a venue ~ and a venyou ~ nearby.

*******

Trouble ~ “Hi my name is Trouble and I am a Dramaholic.

Person A ~ Hi Trouble”
Person B ~  “Welcome Trouble”
Person C ~ Just nods head slightly…doesn’t like to welcome Trouble anymore

Group Leader: “Welcome Trouble. It is so good you have decided to come along and we’d appreciate it if you would tell us a bit about yourself”

Trouble: “Well I was born into Trouble. My mama was a Drama Queen and my daddy was nowhere to be seen.
Mama modelled Drama to us kids very well.

She taught us to always pick the wrong kind of guy, make sure there was lots of chaos in our life before getting rid of him and then go out and find another one and get on with the whole dang thing again!. Now I look for trouble and draaama everywhere and in everything people say and do. And I sure am good at finding it!

Person A~ Praise the Lord I think we had the same mama
Person B~ Heavens above…I think I might be your mama
Person C~ silence….no longer even looks Trouble in the eye…

Group Leader:  “So what has made you decide to come to Dramaholics Anon and apply to stay in the Draaaama Detox Unit Trouble?”

Trouble:    “Well there I was in the midst of wagging my finger at yet another person who seemed to just want to make my life more complicated..my latest boyfriend who proved to be just like the last three …and all of a sudden I looked up and saw my mama standing there in front of me”

Group Leader:   “Why was this a problem”?

Trouble:   “Well she has been dead for ten years but I tell you when I looked up in that bathroom mirror and saw my mamas familiar weary face and angry brow and recognised that disappointed look in her eye, barely concealing those unshed tears…….I KNEW I was in big Trouble!
I stood there looking in the mirror and remembered all the times I had fleshed out arguments in my life.
How many times I found myself bickering with people cause they were so wrong and I was so right and I KNEW I needed to make them see my point of view. How many times  I tore peoples words apart so I could find the perfect one to be offended by…too many times to count over the years!

After all the Trouble in me had a very strong calling to point out to others their failings and how to correct their words and behaviors so they would be just like me.
Then I remembered how many times I would get to a peaceful place and it felt REALLLL uncomfortable so I would start looking around and find someone to make a bit of Trouble with or criticise someone near to me for letting me down or not acting how I thought they should be acting!

Group Leader:  “Well Trouble..you have come to the right place and the first thing we would like to do, after the big group hug , is give you a new name. So from now on we will all know you as:

“GrownUp”!

”We reckon you have had enough Trouble for one life time and with your new insight, because you have finally seen that you have been creating this Drama in your life for too long now, you earn your Brand New name…

Grown Up~ formerly known as Trouble (blinking modest tears of appreciation and realistion how lonely she had been for so long whilst she was Trouble):    “Well thankyou SO much for that. I am amazed that I only had to come here to Dramaholics once to finally really get the message that when I let go of looking for and creating Trouble then I really truly am all Grown Up!…

Group Leader:   Well the realisation is just the first step Grown up, that old draaaama addiction will still have a hold at times but at least you now have an understanding of your role in these things…

The End.

…and The BEginning of Trouble beginning to finally realise that we usually find what we are looking for and the wisdom of making sure we are looking to make a positive difference in the world rather than add to the tsunami of drama, gossip, irrelevant ‘news’ and media-machinations currently consuming the planet and the consciousness of its inhabitants with its currents of draaaama….

“Men occasionally stumble across the Truth but most pick themself up and hurry off as if nothing has happened”.

“The Magical Child in Exile – Why Does the Creative Well Being Run Dry? ” is related to the “Drama Detox unit” and can be read by clicking on the dots here…………

Posted in Chaos, Creativity, Drama, Energy, Humor, Imagination, Laughter, law of attraction, Lifes Stories, Mind Power, Women | Tagged: | 4 Comments »