~ The Art Of Change ~ with Carol Omer ~

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

Archive for November, 2015

We all have Choices…or do we?

Posted by carolom on November 24, 2015

Choices…

I hosted a Creativity and Conversation afternoon for a group of professional women recently and Vivienne, one of the newest members of the group brought along a delicious banana cake for morning tea.

The compliments flowed, some went back for seconds and several of us asked her for the recipe.

Vivienne laughed and called it the never-fail banana cake recipe. It’s a family recipe but I changed a few things.

I stopped mid bite to absorb her words. A family recipe.
I have worked in domestic violence shelters and prison settings for over 25 years and I recently participated in a number of social media conversations about families, lifestyles and choices. It was the 90’s when terms like you have choices and it’s your choice began to circulate.

It is a broad sweeping concept that basically says, you are free to choose differently at any moment and if you make a poor choice, you must deal with the consequences.

In the homeless sector we began to hear about choices at conferences and forums. Some took it on board as a tool for case management for working with at risk youth and young offenders.

“You have a choice”  became firmly embedded in the language  of homelessness and housing.

Choices could also be put on the table if a woman was facing eviction from her public housing because she had not paid her rent, citing her gambling addiction as the reason: You made the choice to gamble instead of the budget you agreed to. Unfortunately this is the consequence of your choice.

To assume a person has made a conscious, considered choice leaves little room to factor in complex issues such as post traumatic stress which can manifest as making seemingly poor choices.
Replicating the ingrained habits and behaviours  that are reinforced by the social and behavioral norms of the people we spend most of our time with can also seem like a choice . However in  context of social and family conditioning they are mirroring people who have enormous influence on our world view not a conscious choice at all.

“You have choices” precludes the overwhelming emotional and psychological impact of being born into systems of oppression, racism and abuse that distort a persons sense of self and the capacity to reach ones fullest potential.

Some of the women we meet in shelters and domestic violence support settings had lived at the shelter  with their mothers when they were children, returning a few short years later as a young mother who is trapped in the same cycle of family violence and lifestyle “choices”.

Other women in shelter settings  may be struggling with the relentless alcohol addiction that also plagues other members of her family. Is it a choice or are the implications of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder so significant  yet externally invisible. In these cases  choices  are limited by neurological impairment.

You made the choice or you could have chosen differently assumes that because one person has the fortitude and inner strength or resilience to “choose well”, others should also be able to make the same kind of informed and considered choices when in reality many women are struggling simply to overcome the impact of past events and feeling unsafe in the world.

Unfortunately minds that are filled with fear, stress and chaos are not always  well equipped to make considered choices.

Back to Vivienne’s fabulous banana cake and the recipe that her mother had received from her grandmother that was then   tweaked and changed in Vivienne’s kitchen.

Her changes included adding crushed walnuts to the batter and brushing a light lemon syrup over the top of the cake before the icing.

Many family recipes remain unchanged, handed down through old note books and cook books without a single adjustment made to any of the ingredients or formula

Some women are able to improve upon a great recipe and others completely throw out the old one and rid themselves of the predictable serving that has been handed down through the generations.

Most of us can think of an old recipe or formula that we learnt in the family home and decided to re-work and let go of once we left the nest that imprinted us with who we are and how to move in the world.

In shelters these change makers are the women we support and cheer on!

We recognise that she is courageous and brave to make a conscious choice to explore a different lifestyle recipe for her self and her children.

We know she will have to work very hard to acquire all of the ingredients and skills she will need and there will be times when old habits and familiar formulas will distract her along the path of obstacles that she will face.

What about those who are repeating “poor” choices that could be identified as the  attraction to the bad boy  characters who feature in so many of our group conversations?
As one woman said “Every guy I’ve ever loved has either been to jail or he should have but didn’t get caught”. Many of the women in her family and social circle had similar patterns.

What about  the woman who hasn’t fully realized that the choice to allow him back into her life is a recipe for disaster?
We love her any way!

We continue to believe in her, support her and offer her different tools for navigating her lifestyle.

We recognise that what might seem to be a very poor choice on a daily basis to some people is perhaps the very thing that is keeping her afloat at this point in time.

In shelters we meet women who are very new to the concept of self agency and the power they have to choose differently.

I created the C.H.O.I.C.E.S. acronym for discussion during our Art of Change  group and whilst it encourages strong and informed choice making, we also discuss the some of the limitations and road blocks that are in place when it comes to navigating those words you can choose differently at any time…

C.H.O.I.C.E.S.
Carol Omer bio:

Carol Omer is a certified Life Coach and artist. She specialises in creativity based empowerment and healing programs for women. Carol recently launched The Big Girls Little Coloring Book, a life coaching colouring book for women.

http://www.CarolOmer.com

 

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It is White Ribbon Week. A poetic tribute to Resilience.

Posted by carolom on November 23, 2015

The Flashing Light

Saturday night and an empty dance floor

a flashing, aging disco light and desperately loud music

that pulsated a false promise of a fabulous time ahead.

In he walked with three loud and noisy friends

Handsome Hunk. That was her very first thought.

It was love at first sight!

At least it was for Grace, who would say many times in the coming weeks
He is my knight in shining armour, my love and light, my new best friend

 

The seeds of the kind of crazy making chaos

that had begun by date number five

were planted at a time when other suitor-seeking-women were travelling joyously

in four wheel drive chariots and on shiny motorbikes

that roared with the sound of it’s so good to be alive!

 

The first time he shoved her into the wall

she was holding their brand new baby girl

By the time their fourth child arrived her friends were chanting a mantra

that made Grace’s ears burn and her heart race:

Why don’t you leave him?

Surely you don’t still believe him?

What are those bruises on your face?

 

Cupid’s arrow had shattered into dangerous shards

that she now slept on in a bed of nails

but she didn’t tell her friends that of course

She was already grief stricken that baby number four

was not a union of love and light

but a creation of forced submission after an evening of fear and fright

Grace had to ignore her friends to keep herself from going mad.
How did she go from the disco floor to being kidnapped into confusion

amidst the a landscape of a romantic illusion

that transported the once light spirited, optimistic, amazing Grace

into the place of fright and loathing?

No longer did she laugh when he said, you are my pussycat!
Truth be known she had learnt to protect her children

by placing herself in the jaws of the fierce lion

all the while feeling like a vulnerable, scaredy cat.

One day in the supermarket, surrounded by her tribe of children,

lead by the dangerous man with the vituperative tongue,

a woman with a tray of pomegranate samplers approached Grace
The woman smiled brightly, her gaze fixed upon Grace tightly

Try this one it’s delicious, she said
and then whispered urgently

Leave him or he will kill you –you deserve better than this!


Grace stood dumbfounded that this pomegranate wielding stranger

this once terrorised sister, had sensed her present danger

 

Something changed for Grace that day

though it didn’t happen straight away

Within six turns of the full moon her children and beloved pets

had escaped and were now living in a shelter house

a place where the walls were light and fresh, with fences high

They were safe!

It took a Village to rescue Grace from the illusion

that was cast that night under the flashing dance floor light

In the words of the police officer

who attended that very last incident that Grace had to endure

You were lucky to get away

But we know that Grace was brave, it was not a matter of luck at all!

Flourish and Nourish

Posted in Chaos, Domestic Violence, Family, Fear, Lifes Stories, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Your licence is about to expire…

Posted by carolom on November 4, 2015

Your licence is about to expire…

Nestled in between two busy main roads
that were once dirt tracks winding between churches
and blue stone cottages
Rickety roads where horses kicked up dust
and the creaking milk cart was a welcome sound

Sits the Old Road Cemetery

IMG_1985A large impeccably kept burial ground
with rows and rows of gravestones
that depict a life narrative in one line
Many of the stories begin and end with
a death over a hundred years ago

Google –which is a word that had not emerged from the ether
when those original shovels tossed dirt
upon the first of many hundreds of coffins
will tell you that Daisy Bates
who set up camp with Aboriginal people

and wrote about her version of them is
in the Old Road Cemetery

Edmund Wright that renowned architect
and former Lord Mayor of Adelaide
and Edward Charles Stirling,
the first person in Australasia
to introduce a bill for women’s suffrage
are resting in eternal peace under the guardianship
of angels that fly motionlessly
whilst peak hour traffic speeds slowly by

IMG_1990Thousands of people are laid to rest
at this tranquil cemetery where the expired flowers
of the old Jacaranda trees
transform into purple snow in December
and cover bleached white headstones and red rusted railings

Young Eliza May who passed away in 1907
was only fifteen years old
her sister Lilly who barely saw life past one year
had died before her in 1895
Such a sad family story written in black letters on
pristine stone that has carried their tragedy for 120 years
Some of the letters bleed black dye
as if the headstone weeps in their honour

Bereaved mothers and inconsolable lovers
Families bound by sorrow
Friends who farewelled the young man who
died by his own hand
have all walked upon this ground

Many of them are now also buried and interned
inside of ornate coffins that cocoon them
into the tranquillity of Mother Earth

Others have become ashes tossed to the earth,
the waters
the wind
and the fires

I often walk through this cemetery with wonder
This story book of happenstance and tragedy,
with tablet headstones
bursting with lines of anguished poetry
and philosophical levity

It was at the start of my short-cut walk
through the Old Road Cemetery that something very
unusual caught my eye
At the entrance, attached to the notice board where
funeral notices and Old Souls day events
are announced
was an eye-catching, attention seeking poster
of headstones covered in thick black plastic.

They headstones looked like besieged hostages
hapless victims of torture and oppression
This puzzling somewhat disturbing site
required stopping,
getting out the reading glasses
and peering at the small writing to fully grasp
exactly what was going on

Warning sign

A heavy handed caution
reminiscent of the grim reaper ads
that prophesised impending doom back
when the Aids virus was new and we were ignorant
was written under the plastic covered headstone
Don’t let this happen to you!

It seems that in some cemeteries but not this one…yet
graves that have not had their licence renewed were being shut down!

This was confirmed as I walked through the old section and saw
rows and rows of aging graves with yellow notices stuck to the stone
Daisy May and Lilly’s graves that appeared undisturbed since 1905
now had a yellow parking ticket that said:

“The licence to this plot has expired
Please contact the Old Road Cemetery Office for renewal options
(email and telephone number provided)

IMG_1975Needless to say
I felt a wave of dismay
I have never seen flowers of remembrance
upon Daisy May and Lilly’s grave

I strolled past the resting place of George and Jack
side by side in their father and son burial plot
their sad story embossed ornately in stone in 1897
On the bottom of the headstone a simply written
statement of unwavering faith
Reunited with Grandmother in Heaven

 

 

Further down the row James and Emily Jones’s husband and wife plot

eerily reminiscent of a perfectly made cement double bed

Long forgotten and undisturbed
had also been tagged by the uncompromising slip of yellow paper
that cautioned non existent relatives
and summoned families who no longer walk upon this earth

Salutations and blessings penned by grieving family and friends
overshadowed by slips of yellow paper
announcing the grave site is now in the first stages of
negotiation and relocation

IMG_1992Old Road Cemetery has been targeted
by visual and confronting imagery
plucked from the information highway
I wonder what will become of Eliza May and Lilly
all those old, unattended graves
and the army of flightless angels who guard them?

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