~ The Art Of Change ~ with Carol Omer ~

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

Archive for the ‘Domestic Violence’ Category

On Her Shoulders…

Posted by carolom on June 12, 2018

*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, refusing to respond to the weekend staff and their invitation to join the group for Saturday brunch and Sunday lunch in the meeting house.
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 and responded with, “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 it in her file that I have expressed a concern please?”

This was a familiar scenario for Tricia, managing passionate social workers, fresh out of university, who insisted on ensuring that every detail is documented.  They worked alongside of seasoned staff that didn’t share the same reverence for reams of policies, risk management forms and paperwork that, according to Vicky, “have wrapped our little village in red tape and rules”.

“Of course Bec, your concern is noted.”  

“Thanks Tricia”.  Bec’s response 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 that 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 attend 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 that were in endless supply in the staff pantry.

She didn’t ask Tricia if she wanted a coffee, after working together for fifteen 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 of the 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.  Delete nasty messages but keep a record for the police on memory stick. Tick. Suspend all of my social media accounts. Tick. Change all passwords for all of my accounts. Tick. Ask staff for a 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 heryoga teacher’s quirky ways making  her feel reconnected to the life she had before she met the man who turned her world upside down.

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 never seen before.

Tricia & Margaret were standing side by side  under the kitchen window 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, ending the sentence with Pending!!

She was about to prepare Nathans bath when she heard the sharp knock on the security screen. “Hold on” she called out, unlocking the two security bolts and releasing the catch on the outside door.

Tricia felt the familiar wave of admiration and concern rise in her chest as she looked directly into Bridget’s eyes. “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”. She looked slightly embarrassed 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”.

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Posted in Domestic Violence, Shelter, Transformation, Uncategorized, Women | Leave a Comment »

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 »

‘Always Remembered’. Honouring the Women and Children and Pets who have died…

Posted by carolom on February 18, 2017

I was invited to facilitate The ART Of Change  program Always Remembered

A group of women who had each experienced trauma and violence wanted to create art work that honors the lives of the women and children and pets who have lost their life in domestic violence and to inspire other women to claim their power to leave an abusive relationship.

We created black and white mandalas  for coloring in as a meditation and relaxation colouring book  for women living in shelters and emergency accommodation and we also used the designs to create book marks and badges.

The women who participated in this amazing project experienced a significant culmination of their own journey of recovery from domestic violence and will now be taking the message of Always Remembered  and the power of art for healing and empowerment, back to some of the shelters where their journey first began.

My life long friend was killed by her husband in 2001, he then killed himself and my friends sstory and the memorial art I created in the week after her death inspired me to share in the message of the importance of our right to be safe, loved and respected at all times..



Posted in Art, Community, Creativity, Domestic Violence, Imagination, Journeys, Justice, Lifes Stories, Oneness, Relationships, Sisterhood, Social Artistry, The Art of Change, Warrior Women, Wealth, Wisdom | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Creating wearable Empowerment Art…

Posted by carolom on February 13, 2017

 Bead Happy Empowerment Art  is an ART of Change  program for Women who have experienced violence.

We hand roll  beads  from air drying clay to create an empowerment necklace. Meeting over 3 sessions at the Shelter,   participants shape their beads based on a Vision they hold for the future or as an expression of  strength and developing a clear, confident  sense of Self and identity etc.

When  the personal vision  beads are dry we paint them and give them life, colour and vibrancy. Das clay is  quick drying and a very hardy medium that is not heavy once it has dried.
The rolling of the clay and shaping the beads is a very relaxing process,a form of open eyed meditation that  is very conducive for learning and relaxation.

The Bead Happy Empowerment Art project engages two significant aspects – process and completion, which are often difficult to attain for people who are living with post traumatic stress and the effects of violence, losing ones home and coping with injuries and grief.

The talking circle format is a very relaxed, creative  environment .

This informal setting  is often more culturally relevant for many of the participants from CALD backgrounds. (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse).

The environment does not have a counsellor – client dynamic. It is an empowering model that facilitates conversation  beyond pain and issues to the place of connecting with personal power, natural talent and new possibilities.

We celebrate personal strength and explore the potential we have to move beyond limitations and the impact of domestic violence.

Thank you to the Women who have shared their work in the images below.

Although they remain anonymous in the photos, the very personal stories and amazing creativity that is expressed through the clay and the beading process  affirms to me how privileged I am to provide art based life coaching at the grass roots, community level where so many amazing women have extraordinary stories to share.

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We roll the beads from air drying clay

 

making-beads

As we roll and then sand them we are holding the vision of our goals and aspirations

 

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Spraying the Bead Happy Empowerent Necklace seals in the vision and stengthens the clay

 

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Every bead, every necklace is as unique as the fingerprints of the woman who created them as she  pressed her vision into the clay

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

http://www.CarolOmer.com

Posted in ART of Change, Domestic Violence, Sisterhood, Transformation, Uncategorized, White Ribbon | Leave a Comment »

Ode to the Rescuer

Posted by carolom on September 15, 2016

*Updated
This poem is dedicated to the many women, especially those who I meet in domestic violence shelters, who really do believe:

If I just keep on loving him, he will change & we will have the relationship that I know is possible…

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We hear the words “I thought he would change” so often inside of the walls of domestic violence shelters that I created the following dramatisation for our Talking circle so that the group of women who have sometimes had 2 or 3 relationships with violent men, could begin to unravel what keeps them there and how to recognise the pattern.

The following piece is not relevant for all women who leave domestic violence, but for those women who sit in support groups and say “I believed him when he said he would change” and “He is a really nice guy, he just had a rotten childhood”, this piece is for you.
And for Janet who was killed in domestic violence by a man who then killed himself, leaving four beautiful children behind.

Ode to the Rescuer:

There was something very appealing about his pain, it matched her pattern perfectly
and her pattern goes like this:

Give me a damaged man with potential and I will embrace him as my life mission
My personal quest!

I will claim myself to be his Rescuer and through my eyes he will see how sorely he has been denied Love

And with the love of this Good Woman, he will heal!

He will heal
He will heal
He will heal

With the peace of mind that I alone have brought to him, delivered to him on a sincere heart that pulses with conviction, his heart shall finally, after many troubled years finally beat with contentment in symbiotic rhythm with my own

Ahh..this future memory brings tears to my eyes and reminds me to be patient and the reward will come.
Of this truth I have created, I am sure.
He will change
He will change
He will change
I shall interpret his moodiness as poetic brooding,
his sarcasm as merely the shadow of his enormous artistic sensitivities and
his broken promises as the unfortunate repercussions of a busy, preoccupied man.
I shall deny myself my heart’s desires,
less they place too much of a burden on his already busy mind.
I shall desperately seduce him into security with words thinly veiled
with the false reassurance that I want nothing of him
After all he is the broken one
Not me!
I will prove to him that I am the one single woman
on this Earth who can heal his troubled Soul.
Because I believe in him like no other has in the past
or could possibly at any time in the future
As the rescue program gets under way I will slowly begin to allow
the duality of the situation to come to the fore
Actually I won’t have a choice!
Having ensnared him with my rescuers net
or having fallen into his
I shall wrestle with the duality of being drawn to his charismatic withdrawals
whilst also experiencing an awakening awareness
that he is indeed mirroring my own need to heal and rescue the wounded heart.
There is something painfully seductive about that wounded heart after all it’s in all of the fairytales and rom-com’s isn’t it?
Love that Beast fair Beauty for he will come good in the end!
In order to ignore the needs of my own hopeful
desperate
optimistic
aching
wounded heart
I will plunge into my rescuing role with paradox and passion
for I am drawn to the angst of tortured feelings
which I have misconstrued as Romance and Love
as haplessly as he is drawn to his broody silences
and the acidic observations he casts out to bait me every now and then.
And quite regularly at times.
And yes. He has hit me in the past but the degree to which he is so truly deeply sorry overwhlems me with compassion for him.
Every time.
Every single time.
Except the last three times when I only felt fear and loathing,
But I got over that!
Didn’t I?
Didn’t I?

or Did !?

Words that forge our bond like who else would put up with you or me and
we were meant for one another, we are as bad as each other
will be the hypnotic sound track of the saga of our co-dependence

He will be my co-star as my life unfolds according to the stories I believe
Stories that I have created, many that have piggy backed onto the romantic tales of how the good girl transforms the bad boy with exquisite mastery and tears.
Fictional stories that I will defend as
Love!

Alas it is a tired old script with no surprises in the Story whatsoever!

but it will take me a long time to understand that
to reinterpret and rewrite the lead roles
because most of this is new to me!

And I am a stranger to myself.

Indeed aren’t we all until we remember who we really are?

Therefore I will need quite some time to realise any of this
as this predictable Olde Story unfolds on a roller coaster of
drama and desire
yearning and conflict

Those old scenarios and inevitable cycles replaying themselves in the guise of Love.

Love?

No this is just unlearnt lessons in re-enactment!
I will come to realise this one day
though I do not know that yet of course!

Although my heart does skip a beat when he looks at me in that certain seductive kind of way
Surely that must be Love?

Though you may well think I am making a banquet from a few crumbs of moments of hard earned intimacy
You are wrong of course!
Wrong
Wrong
Wrong

I know this banquet will be rich in the fruits of my desires so long as I am patient.
I will be Patient
will be Patient
will be Patient

My mantras give my life meaning and hope
They really do
Really really they do.

In the meantime I will deny that the toxins of this relationship are causing me great harm.
Souring my naiveté.
Poisoning the sweetness of my illusions whilst I continue to defend his lack of friendliness and warmth as justified

The increasing violence as a sign
that his love for me is so much he can barely handle the intensity!
I understand that and why he is violent
on account of the awful things he went through as a child.
The unresolved issues with his difficult father
The conflict with his troubled mother

There was just so much trouble that went into creating his troubled life
that I share

I am perhaps the only one who really knows that
and understands him and LOVES him
The only one

The lonely one

BUT

Love will conquer all. I think I am sure of that!

There is only one fixed rule in all of this apparent uncertainty
And this the rule I made and now obey:
I must Love him no matter how hard he is to Love.

I will Love him unconditionally
will Love him unconditionally
will Love him unconditionally

This one rule will make it all wonderful one day because

He will open up
He will open up
He will open up

Ultimately of course I will deny myself the right to move forward, to reach my fullest potential because I will be anchored defiantly to our co-dependence and staunchly courageously

desperately

refer to it as
Love!

This is what I know Love to be.

The End

I dedicate this to my lifelong friend Janet 1959 -2001 who was killed by her husband who then killed himself.

Your life mattered Janet, your stories are important to be told. I miss you dearly my friend.

Carol Omer
Certified Life Coach
Author of The Big Girls Little Coloring Book

Posted in Change, Chaos, Childhood, Co-dependence, Denial, Domestic Violence, Drama, Fear, Journeys, Letting go, Lifes Stories, Love, Men and Women, Poetry, Relationships, Sisterhood, Transformation, Unrequited Love, Wisdom, Women | 9 Comments »

How Colouring is making a difference in Domestic Violence Shelters

Posted by carolom on June 21, 2016

I was recently invited to contribute to the newspaper article How Colouring-in heals the psychological scars of trauma ( <– see link) and as a result of the interview process I have a couple of pages of added information.

I thought it would be a good idea to blog some of  the questions and answers  that formed the basis of the article.

How did Coloring come into your domestic violence service?

Throughout the late 90’s and early 2000’s I was publishing an in house newsletter for the staff and women at our shelter. I called it C.H.A.N.G.E. – an acronym for Creating Happiness And New Growth Everyday

The newsletter created an opportunity for residents of the  shelter and outreach programs to share poetry and stories and for staff to promote programs and provide information relevant to the groups they facilitated.

We had already undergone a cultural change in the shelter regarding the physical environment evolving from one of issue based posters and imagery, to a much more positive and uplifting setting.

*See this blog entry for further detail:

Domestic Violence Shelters as a place of possibility not pain

C.H.A.N.G.E. updated

I was aware that the written word as a form of personal expression and communication relies on being able to read and write English.

…and that it isn’t everyone’s preferred form of expression. Delivering information in written form was not always culturally relevant for Aboriginal women or for women from CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) backgrounds.

As the daughter of a very creative mother, I recognised that many of the programs and systems in place in shelters are developed within an academic, not a creative framework so with the support of our management team and my colleagues I began to create tools that tapped into women’s creativity and gave the hands something to do that was engaging and fun. “Fun” is not usually associated with domestic violence shelters.

In the late 90’s I read Carl Jung’s memoir, “Memories Dreams and Reflections” and was fascinated by the concept of the Mandala. I had seen how the young women at our shelter would get very involved in some of the playgroup activities that were designed for their children, including colouring in.

I drew a very rudimentary Mandala and put the words “Believe in Yourself” at the centre and from that very first colouring sheet the women let me know that sitting at the table and colouring while the personal development information was being delivered had changed the group from a class room setting where they were often bored to a much more dynamic and engaging setting.

Our group attendance and retention rate increased dramatically as a result of offering creativity and colouring groups to the women.

I Believe n Myself Poster
Over the next few years I developed creative tools to accompany most of our in house information. For skills training in the area of budgeting, I designed a colouring sheet with circles representing their different financial obligations, such as rent, groceries, electricity etc and we coloured the sheet as we explored topics like budgets, direct debits etc.
The completed poster became a visual tool for budgeting rather than a hand written form that is often left in drawers or left behind in the group room after the session.

A very common topic in dv shelters is how do I change negative patterns?

…especially if it is the 2nd or 3rd domestic violence relationship that a woman is experiencing or she has grown up with domestic violence and does not recognise the intergenerational cycle.

For those sessions I designed Mandalas that had affirmations such as “I release the patterns that no longer serve me” and “I love and accept myself”.

Within a couple of years I had created a master copy folder of colouring pages that were designed specifically for issues affecting women in domestic violence settings but also other pages that related to relaxation and goal setting.
Our staff team enjoyed the colouring process also so I occasionally designed Vision statement colouring sheets for our team building days.

Patterns

How does colouring-in help people touched by domestic violence?

Colouring in is a form of open eyed meditation.  The rhythmic movement of the pencil slows the mind, acting like a kind of mantra because of its repetitive nature. Colouring brings the consciousness into the present moment. Rather than worrying about past events and speculating about the uncertain future around court cases and hospital visits, the creative process is relaxing and soothing. It is a form of mindfulness that is very effective for women dealing with trauma, who are in recovery from domestic violence.

Colouring is not competitive and it engages the hands which are often excluded from learning and relaxation processes.

Breathing relaxes, the mind slows down and for many women the internal stress is transformed into creativity and focus while they are colouring in.

Breathe Deeply b:w
When a woman arrives at a domestic violence shelter she is often in a highly traumatised and distressed state. She may have physical pain, post-traumatic stress  issues and is finding  it difficult to concentrate and focus.
Along with dealing with court cases, hospital visits, financial issues and worry for pets who have been left behind, a woman will often be managing distressed children and in some cases extended family conflict relating to her decision to leave.

I created a Colouring Pack for the women who arrived at our shelter.

We added pencils and blank paper to the pack. Many of the residents said that although they hadn’t coloured in since they were young, they felt relaxed and peaceful as they coloured.

I reminded them that we all had colouring pencils for the first few years of our life, at kindergarten and in junior primary but as time went on our creativity was often left behind in preference to the academic processes and outcomes driven education system that places the “arts” on the bottom of academic prestige and sciences on the top. As a result it is often seen to be childish or unprofessional to engage colouring-in as a training tool.
At the shelter new arrivals were often shy or distressed and uncomfortable sitting in a group setting but once they sat at the colouring table and there was no pressure to speak or hold eye contact, they would often relax and begin to share their stories in a much more organic and relaxed manner than if they were sitting with hands on laps and expected to participate in the group dynamics.

Colouring-in creates something beautiful from a black and white page. It is a personal, unique interpretation of the image and that in itself can be very reassuring and nourishing during times of distress and uncertainty.

Labyrinth

Tell me a little about some of the people who have found solace (if that is a fitting word) through your work?

Colouring Mandalas and black and white pictures is a process that is relevant for women of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

When *P was colouring her Mandala she looked up after half an hour of colouring and said I think this Mandala just spoke to me I asked her what it ‘said’ to her and this was her reply:
“When I was young if I ever felt proud about something I had done at school, my step father (who was abusive) used to always say self praise is no recommendation.
I never felt good enough around him and he was always cristicising me, he still does, but this Mandala made me realise I am good enough and I don’t need to listen to what he said all the time.
The next week she arrived at the group glowing, with a piece of paper in her hand. She had created her own Mandala with the words Self praise. The best recommendation.

We made many copies of her Mandala over the ensuing years and long after she left our service and went to University, her colouring page was there in our group room for other women to colour and medARTate on the words she had written and the important message she left us all with.
Colouring has taken her to a deeper, more reflective place within herself and in that place where she had rarely visited, insights and a new level of resolve awaited her.

There was a young woman in the shelter from a refugee background. *L had lived in a camp in one of the African countries for most of her childhood.

She was married at a young age and had courageously left domestic violence with her young baby. *L did not speak English and the staff members did not speak her language. She was shy in the group settings but her colouring style was so bright and skilful that she drew many compliments from the rest of the shelter residents.

Although the colouring circles were not competitive as such and everyone’s unique style was celebrated it was obvious that *L was a gifted artist and the recognition of her art connected her to the women around her. She was proud of her work and generous in showing the other women her unique shading techniques.

In this scenario colouring raised her confidence and self esteem and enabled her to be the “expert” in the room rather than experience isolation because she did not speak the language and we did not have interpreters on site.

Big Girls Picnic copy

 Would you like to see Coloring used across the country to help victims and survivors?

As a life coach and an advocate for equitable learning and embracing diversity I would like to see colouring circles in women’s prisons, homeless and domestic violence shelters and Community health and healing environments.
I would also like to see social workers trained in the process of engaging with creativity as a tool for case management as many of the students who come to our shelters are often very uncomfortable with their own creativity or using it as a tool for developing trusting relationships.
In settings where there are Aboriginal clients the colouring process draws on the cultural practices of art and creativity as central to community and learning through story and sharing creative practices.

Victims of domestic violence are entitled to heal and recover in their own time and colouring is a gentle, easy meditation and in that moment of colouring they can have respite from dealing with the vast array of pressing matters that fill every waking moment.

I would like to see front line staff and management and board members trained in the simple process of establishing colouring and conversation circles, this includes access to the colouring process as part of an organizations work-life balance policies.

As a community education and relationship building tool, colouring and the self reflection and creativity that it unleashes is  a fabulous, inexpensive way to build relationships and encourage creativity amongst women who are looking for new answers to old problems

Colouring circles are creative way for women who have escaped domestic violence  to offer her knowledge and experience, to “give back” as one woman put it in the Talking Circle aspect of the colouring circle.

Healing Power of Nature b-w

Carol Omer is a Certified Life Coach and Artist, specialising in Women’s Personal Development and Empowerment programs.
The Big Girls Little Colouring Book is available on her website: CarolOmer.com

The Big Girls Little Coloring Book is also available on Amazon

Posted in ART of Change, Carol Omer, Community, Creativity, Domestic Violence, feminism, Healing, Patterns | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Why doesn’t she just leave? Why did you stay?

Posted by carolom on September 14, 2014

Sistars2

We hear it said often, especially when there is a high profile domestic violence case in the media.

When  high profile cases of violence against women are in the media, the  air waves fill with outrage, calls to action, compassion, political responses  and inevitably someone somewhere will say: “Why didn’t she leave?” and “Why did she go back?“.

Those of us who work in  women’s domestic  and family violence shelters hear her stories and witness her tears and sometimes are asked to be her voice at a time when just taking the next breath takes a huge amount of energy.

This poem is dedicated to  those women  who are living in domestic violence or have come through it and have had those words asked of them :

Why didn’t you just leave?

I’m sorry I can’t hear you…

what did you say?

My ears are blocked and heavy

From  vicious words that have been  hurled my way

There used to be sweet words and promises

and whispered romance in my ears

I now I find myself wondering

“Can ears become blocked with all those tears?”

Couldn’t you see what he was doing to you?

I once had a clear and beautiful Vision of the life

we  would live together

He held my hand when our babies were born

He was my lighthouse in stormy weather

I know that sounds corny but its true.

Each time he erupted into rage

it always finished with the deepest regret

I understood he didnt mean it because

He said you haven’t seen the best of me yet

And I believed him

But surely after those first few times you should have known he wouldn’t change?

By the time what I know now as The Cycle

had taken a hold and become our way of life

I couldn’t see the front door or tomorrow

I was so immersed in trying to be the right wife

My kids loved their daddy deeply

they still do even though he is  jailed

And what struck me when my sisters said “leave him”

Were three words- 

You have failed 

You have failed 

You have failed

Do you realise he could have killed you?

He once told me if I left him

there would be no more reason for him to live

He said he would kill us all and then himself

if I had no more love that I could give

It would be my fault. So I made sure to try harder.

He told me tales called “Theres Nowhere to Hide”

and no other man will ever have me

He put a pretty convincing case forward

he yelled it

as he turned around

and grabbed me.

I made sure to keep still and just nod. 

That sometimes worked.

But there are shelters and places where you could have got  help…

I had two friends come to my house one day

he wasn’t home

and I was glad

They came because they were scared for me

but I couldn’t hear them

and my vision that day was particularly bad

It was like they were in another place

even though they were sitting

right there in my kitchen

We all jumped and shuffled nervously

when he came home

You girls sitting around bitchen?

He said with his dangerous smile.  

And they left.

And he took my mobile phone off me.

I know it must have been hard but weren’t you worried for your kids?

My little boy was wetting the bed and

the school had called me in with

concerns for my girls…yet again…

but I just knew if I was patient

my husband would overcome his anger

and his pain

You see I knew that he had a lot of pain from his childhood.

Well good on you for finally leaving him. Were you happy with the sentence he got?

There is no place for the word happy in

any of what has gone down

My kids ask after him all the time

and I remember how he made me laugh

when he’d play the clown

Anyway, I’m finding it hard to hear you again

my heart is starting to race

Theres a thing I call The Fog in My Head

it clouds over my personal space

and it will quickly cover you

and the floor

and the door

Sorry, don’t think I’m being rude

Its just I can’t really talk about it any more ….

 

 

 

Posted in Domestic Violence, SiStars, Stories, Transformation, Trauma, Why did you stay, Women | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

EarthSong Aboriginal Healing Pathways Foundation is Incorporated…

Posted by carolom on September 27, 2008

We are very pleased to announce that EarthSong is now officially incorporated as of September 8th 2008.

Here are two of our founding members Misters John Hartley and John Williams holding our certificate of Incorporation.


If you are interested in learning more about EarthSong, who we are and what we are doing, please checkout the Facebook EarthSong Aboriginal Healing PathwaysFoundation group here:
EarthSong….Putting Action to the shared Vision for Change…

Photo update on our first working bee….

Posted in Aboriginal, Adelaide, Community, Domestic Violence, Elders, Forgiveness, Friendships, Healing, Journeys, Justice, Kaurna, Men and Women, Poverty, Power of Focus, Prosperity, Reconciliation, Staff Training, Wisdom | Leave a Comment »