As part of our “Caring for the Caregivers” Program, our team travels to domestic violence-focused organizations and shelters to provide in person support and training around compassion fatigue and burnout. In March, our team was delighted to travel to Philadelphia to train over 50 Caregivers from multiple domestic violence organizations. Our founder, Indrani Goradia, was also able to attend one of the training days, providing more insight and care to our training participants.
Throughout the week we worked with staff in various arenas: medical advocates, hotline staff, legal advocates, administrators, therapists and housing advocates among others. We had lively discussions about the extraordinary situations staff encounter on a day-to-day basis and subsequently, how the pervasive stress leads to burnout and compassion-fatigue. Many of the staff shared that this stress has had an impact on their capacity to take care of the needs of their friends and family.
Our trainers actively listened and validated the Caregivers experience. We taught numerous tools designed to support staff with recognizing and setting boundaries, a fundamental practice of self-care. One staff person who has been in the field for two decades said of the boundary tools, “This has changed the way I look at everything.” We received consistent feedback that the visualization exercises were immensely helpful in preparing for having difficult conversations. An administrator commented “This exercise has helped me both personally and professionally.”
We take great joy in knowing our trainings are supporting Caregivers as they continue to do their work. For more information about our resources and support, visit ourCaregiver Resources. We’re looking forward to our next training!
Looks like a pile of trash yes? No matter how many times you look at it or stare at it, it still looks like a pile of dirty tissues.
Look at photo number 2.
See something peeking out? Look closely. It’s a gold bracelet.
There are two lessons here: Lesson One: NEVER wrap your jewelry in tissue paper for “ safe keeping.” Better to stuff it in your shoe so when you go to put them on, you will feel the sharp edge. Better yet put it in a safe or on your body! Lesson Two: What looks like garbage to you may hold treasures for another. Let’s not judge what others hold precious, they have their reasons. Better to ask and be curious in a kind way.
There was a time when I used to buy flowers and hang them upside down for them to dry. I had a notion that I could have a small business making dried floral arrangements. This illusion did not last long.
These days I buy beautiful flowers and rush home to put them in water to keep them fresh. I take pains to prepare the water. I use a few drops of chlorine or a crushed baby aspirin in the water and I lovingly arrange the stems. I change out the water and try to make the flowers last as long as I can.
I realize that taking loving care of the flowers with preparing the water is a lot like raising children. We try to give them an environment where they will thrive and bloom and grow up to be strong and kind. We pay close attention to how we behave around them, except for when we don’t.
If we live in an environment where there is violence, be it emotional or verbal or physical, and we pretend that it does not affect our kids, we are deluding ourselves. This year on valentine day if you get flowers or buy them yourself, ask yourself if you care if they live or die.
If you don’t care then just throw them away.
If you do care, notice how much attention you give to them.
Our kids are our precious blossoms and they need nurturing and pretending that violence is not affecting them is lying to ourselves. Take a step back and access the situation and ask for help if you need it. It’s not easy to look at what’s really happening and making a few changes, but I guarantee you that it’s worth the time and effort.
Say NO to abuse. Don’t leave yourself unfinished. Inspired by business executive and author, Seth Godin. Read the post here.
If you don’t have time to clean up, you don’t have time to cook.
Professionals understand that the project is the whole project, not simply the fun or urgent or interesting part of the work.There are countless productive shortcuts along the way. But not finishing the project isn’t one of them.
I have been reading Seth’s posts for a whole year and I am amazed that his posts take the simplest things and make them mind blowing business advice.The above post made me realize this:If your lover/husband/anyone feels they have the right to hit you then you better feel you have the right to leave.
You see, when we stay inside of abuse we leave ourselves unfinished.We were sent into the world to work on ourselves and complete the work we need to do and accepting abuse is not part of a success scenario.
I stayed at a hotel recently and the key to the room was an electronic gizmo that looked like a key. It inserted into the lock like a key and turned like a key.
I wondered, “why the trouble to make this new technology look like old tech?”
Comfort to the guests. We all know what a key looks like. We are all creatures of habit and want to feel secure, so holding a key in our hand is a familiar feeling.
This key was different. It was embedded with the code to get into a particular room. Room 1167 would not be able to work on the lock for room 1624.
Makes perfect sense.
All the keys, however, were able to access the elevators that took each guest to any floor they wanted to visit. I have been in hotels where your room key only allowed you to access your floor, and if you had a friend on another floor they had to let you in.
This got me thinking about the symbolism and metaphors we have for keys:
The keys to our hearts.
The key to success.
The 5 or 10 or 100 keys to ______
The ONE key to happiness
Happiness is key to ________
Food is the key to a man’s heart
I am sure you can come up with other sayings.
When we allow people to enter into our lives, we give them a symbolic key of trust. We welcome them into our private spaces. We don’t say, “you are only allowed to use the kitchen but not the bathroom.” We ASSUME that they will respect the trust we have given.
However, when the people we trust take the key we have offered and turn it against us, we feel violated. We may say things like,
“I trusted you to not steal my money when we opened our joint account.”
“I trusted you to not have sex with my best friend when we went out last night.”
“I trusted you to not bash my face in when you are angry and blame all your failures on me.”
Each one of the above sentences represents a situation where we GAVE the key to our hearts and lives to another and they use that key to wreck our lives.
When this happens, we must find the courage to “lock” them out of our hearts. That, often feels quite impossible.
We feel like they know us too well for us to set any real boundaries. Often, they know us better than we feel we know ourselves, but that is not true.
We must find the courage to block the codes they have used to enter our private heart spaces. If we have values of love and bravery and courage, they know our strengths and may say “Well you say you have love as a value, but you can’t find a way to love me as I am. You must be a liar!”
When this happens, we may try to prove them wrong by showing them how much love we have and we may stay in unhealthy situations longer than we should.
What to do?
Turn those values of Love and Bravery and Courage back on yourself and show your own self that you have the only key to emotional freedom. Freedom to choose a healthy relationship over one that causes pain.
I do not recall exactly when I discovered Rum Raisin Ice Cream. I think it was when I was living in New Jersey as a new bride and my husband brought it home from the store. I believe he said, “Taste this,” and he fed me a spoon of this nectar and I must have screamed and yelped, because he looked scared! (My brand of extroversion tends to be loud. I am often over the top in my enthusiasm and I tend to scare people).
So all these years of “sweet married life” later, my hubby will bring me rum raisin ice cream and I still squeal! Often times if we happen upon an ice cream store, he will ask for it on my behalf, while I am reading the favors on the wall.
I LOVE rum raisin ice cream. I also love RUM CAKE! I grew up on rum cake in Trinidad and whenever I think of the glorious cakes my mom used to make, I smile. My brother makes a great rum cake and this is what he gives me for Christmas every year.
Imagine MY absolute delight when I walked into “Neuhaus Company” the other day and saw that they had RUM CAKE ICE CREAM! (Yep! I squealed, in the store, on Madison Avenue, in Manhattan!). My extroversion is always ready to show its enthusiasm.
I was thinking… “Maybe it has raisins it in also!” So I asked for a taste. The sweet young man took a plastic spoon, smiled at me, reached into the appropriate bin and scooped out a HUGE taste. He ceremoniously reached over the tall counter and gave me the spoon. My eyes never left the bulging scoop of ice team balancing precariously on the edge of the tiny spoon. I carefully took it from his fingers and put it in my mouth as I closed my eyes….
And I ran to the trash and spat it out!
It was awful.
I did not like Rum Cake Ice cream at all!
I did not like it on a spoon. I would not like it on the moon.
I cannot tell you how much I disliked that ice cream.
I thanked the young man and bought some chocolates, which I loved, and ate one to get the taste of the rum Cake ice cream out of my mouth. Then as I walked down Madison into the cold and blustery day, I knew I had the makings of a blog post.
So here goes …..
Let us suppose that you meet a great looking guy and he is everything you wished for, and he seems to feel the same way about you. He made you feel safe, secure, protected, loved and cherished. You were all warm and fuzzy inside as you pondered a life with this man.
Then one day, as you two are having a lovely day, out of the clear BLUE …. He hits you, or verbally berates you, and you are stunned!
You look at him and he seems the same, his features are the same, his voice sounds the same but the flavor of human coming out of his mouth is horrible, distasteful and nasty, and you need to escape.
Let’s say you DO leave. You were strong enough to leave. A few days pass and he calls to apologize and gives some very sound reason for his nasty behavior, and you go back to him.
That is like me going back to the trash and picking up that nasty rum cake ice cream and eating it because I have told myself that I like rum cake, AND I love rum raisin ice cream ….. So I SHOULD love RUM CAKE ice cream. I force myself to swallow that distasteful ice cream because of some strange reasoning that I make up in my head.
Let me be clear. I know that a person is more important than ice cream. I also know that YOU are too special and lovely to accept nasty behaviors from ANY person. If you were abused as a child and you think that love looks like abuse, think again.
WATCH my TEDxTalk here:
As an adult you have the power to set boundaries that you could not set as a child.
Set your boundaries. They will protect you. When you have clear and clean boundaries, you will know in a flash what is and is not good for you. Try it.
Love and light.
(P.S. Did you like my TEDxTalk? Please share it with your friends and family. Let’s start spreading the word to live in peace within our four walls at home. http://bit.ly/1SMK1NZ)
She was only 16 or 17 years old. I had just given a short presentation to a group of students and I asked for questions.
She was brave.
She asked what she could do after she had been beaten, and still had to stay in the house.
My heart hurt for her. I knew her pain at a cellular level. I knew her well. I WAS her. I remember being beaten so badly and having welts all over my body, and having to dry my tears. I was told to “go wash your face and when you come out I better not see any crying, you asked for that beating.”
Of course, dear reader, I did not ask for any beating. I had made some childish mistake and I was whipped like I had murdered someone. I remember going to the bathroom, and I was not allowed to shut the door, the abuser needed to “see” that I was not going to have any more “crocodile tears.” I had to suck up all my pain and come out smiling like a good girl. This behavior lasted well into my 50’s.
Don’t let them see you cry those crocodile tears. “They don’t care “…was the voice in my head.
To this day, I still have a hard time owning my pure emotion and I have to fight really hard to not push them down, allow them to morph into anger or rage, or blame. It will probably be a life long lesson. Some days I win and some days I lose.
I told the young lady to try to find a place of solitude in her home and tell herself that one day, she will be out of the house and the abuse will stop.
She could not tell her parents, her parents would be angrier that she “embarrassed the family,” and she would be beaten even more. I told her to use school as a respite. I wish I had someone to tell these things to me. I did not. I had no one to tell me that the abuser was wrong, even though they were caregivers, and said they were beating me because they loved me.
They were wrong. They were telling lies.
We do not hurt what we claim to love.
I deserved love and attention and guidance, not rage and anger and beatings. I have a clear memory of being about 12 years old and kneeling at the side of my bed, praying. My abuser came into the room and asked what I was praying for, and I said for strength. The abuser was pleased.
Yes, I was praying for strength, but strength to live in my hellhole called my childhood.
If I could not get the strength, I prayed that God would take me that night because I could not go on. I was praying to die, at 12 years old. I was not taken, so I guess I got the strength …… and that strength has been parlayed into the work I do now. We are resilient beings. We can stand a lot of pain. If you are in a hellacious situation, and you are an adult, reach out to your local shelter for confidential help. Even if you don’t leave, there are services you can access. They can help you with a plan.
There are people who care that you are in pain.
If you know a child living in a hellacious home, try to be a point of comfort to that child. They need to know you will keep their confidences and that you are a safe place to lay some burdens.
Be that safe place for someone. Someone needs you.
How has my personal story been sitting with you so far? My hope is to help you begin your journey of healing shame, and become the activist you desire to be! Meanwhile, I’m taking a DEEP BREATH. What I’m about to tell you will help me “Live-A-Brighter-Life.” This is the vulnerable place that Brené Brown talks about. This is the place where Indrani Goradia encourages me to be brave.
So, in the Part 1 blog I slightly touched on my story of being raped as a young teenager. As a young girl, I was walking tall, confident, and very secure in myself as I entered into the high school scene. I was involved in all of the sports, highly regarded in my church, played many instruments in our school band, and never broke “the rules.” My parents were known as responsible and loving people, who were living the blue collar “American Dream.” But as we know so often, many of these kinds of families are hiding a secret. Our secret was I had an older brother who was suffering from his own demons of a mental illness and drug abuse. This was back in the 70’s and 80’s when families rarely talked about their private lives. As you can imagine, I made sure I was the “good little girl,” and wanted to make sure I never disappointed my parents, my community, or my church.
In my youth, I was taught that being a “good little girl” meant that you should help people, and do the things God would want you to do here on earth. I thought that was a reasonable request, so I set out doing my best to do JUST that. I had found and befriended a teenage boy who was older than me, and living in a challenging home situation. I continued a friendship with him against my father’s wishes. You see, my parents had some kind of gut feeling about this boy that I wasn’t aware of. So (on a rare decision to disobey my father) I decided to go to this friend’s house and invite him to church. This is where my nightmare began, and did not end for 30 years.
Many of you reading this article right now can completely relate to this story. Certain feelings are stirring up in you, and you can understand the rush of trauma I was experiencing during and after I was raped. Some of you have been raped, sodomized, or sexually abused in your life. You know the feelings of guilt, shame, humiliation, denial, anger, confusion, betrayal, uncertainty, and grief about the loss of innocence that was taken from you. The nightmares have been haunting you for years, and your entire existence revolves around this suffering. And then the biggest question of your lifetime…. Do you tell anyone what happened to you?
I made it home somehow that horrific day, crept into the shower, and felt frozen in my body. I made the painfully conscious decision that I could not tell my parents, or report what had happened. I had disobeyed my parents, and “this is what I deserved.” I told my best friend at the time, and throughout the years I have felt obligated to tell my partners. My parents found out just a few years ago about my rape, and even after a 30-year career in law enforcement and private investigations, I could not NAME my feelings about what had happened to me.
It’s been almost four years since I received the opportunity to start REALLY healing from my rape. When I began to tell my story, the grip it had on me began to release.
What story is gripping you tight? What story is holding you hostage? I had not been open to therapy…. Ever! But through the encouragement and help of people I trusted, I began to see a therapist for my PTSD.
At Indrani’s Light Foundation, we encourage our community to reach out to the people they trust if they need help. In module 4 of the “Live-A-Brighter-Life” workshop series, we teach about “Finding Resilience.” Indrani teaches that separating and insulating yourself from others is a petri dish for shame. Brené Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly,” is my new Bible now, and as I continue to teach Indrani’s “Live-A-Brighter-Life” curriculum, I continue to heal my shame.
Part 4 of my blog series is coming up next. If you’ve been a victim of discrimination, or have ever been shamed or treated differently because of your race, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or any other situation, I encourage you to keep following my blog series. I lost my beloved career because I was a woman, and a lesbian. I will talk about how I coped with this loss, when the grieving process began, and how I have come to understand this trauma.
Welcome to Episode #20 of the Live a Brighter Life Podcast!
In this episode of the Live a Brighter Life Podcast Indrani speaks with Andrea Scher. You will learn:
Andrea’s personal story and experience with “hiding her light” as a child.
How Andrea practices encourage and compassion to live “big.”
What is the difference between joy and happiness?
Are you measuring your “joy factor?” Are you “joyful” enough?
Indrani looks at how she can use this teaching to help women live a brighter, more joyful life.
A little about Andrea Scher
Andrea Scher is the creator of Superhero Life where she believes we all learn together to use our voices, share our superpowers and live life in full color. As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, Andrea redefines what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in her world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery. See more at www.superherolife.com
Almost a year has passed since I wrote the original “Female Avatar” post, and I have been waiting, and waiting, to write a victorious follow up. A post where I could tell you that using a female character in that video game, and the conversations that followed, made a difference in how my son views gender.
The problem being, there were no earth shattering changes for me to report from that original conversation.
Sure, there were little signs of change. My son would get excited and cheer on the female contestants in America Ninja Warrior competitions, but he would also comment that “the girls never make it as far as the boys” (which is true, but still made me wonder if his view was changing).
We read, Wings of Fire, a series of books with some female main characters. However, these characters were also dragons, and my son LOVES everything dragon. So, I wasn’t sure if he was accepting the female characters completely, or if he was accepting them because of their dragon status.
My son has also become more accepting of the colour purple, which may seem unimportant, but for years purple has fallen into the category of “princess colour” and “boys don’t like princesses”. Unfortunately, pink, is still a colour that forms a grimace on his now 8-year-old face, and a disgusted comment of “pink is for girls.”
Now, to give the poor little guy a break, he is only 8 years old, so I am not expecting him to approach me and ask to have an in-depth discussion about gender norms and how he can work towards behaving in a manner that supports equality (to be honest, if that DID happen I would be a bit wigged out). But, I have been hoping that something “8-year-old big” would happen, showing that he was starting to see that boys and girls are equals.
That 8-year-old-big event happened last week.
We were in Kids Books, an amazing bookstore in Vancouver BC, shopping with Fionn’s cousins for some books for his birthday the following day. I was looking through some 7 to 10-year-old book series when I felt a poke. Looking down I saw Fionn, three books precariously clutched in his arms, looking up at me.
“Daddy, how about these books, they sound awesome”
“You’ve read the backs?” I asked, taking the books from his hands.
“Yes, they sound really cool.”
“For you to read, or for me to read to you?”
“I think I can read them, but I want you to read them to me.”
I looked down at the first book and the 8-year-old-big moment happened when I saw the cover:
Let’s break this down from the view of a Dad, trying to teach his son about gender equality, and see that boys are not better than girls:
The picture on the front of the book is clearly a girl, and he still chose to pick up the book and read more.
The subtitle of the book has the word “witch” (a “girl” word) in it.
Most importantly, and amazing for me:
The subtitle has the word “princess” in it. A word that my son, and all of his friends usually have an allergic reaction to, with much frowning and spitting, followed by “princesses are dumb.”
All right, as earth shattering as this book selection already was for me, it might not be convincing for you. Totally understandable.
I smiled down at Fionn as I turned the book over to read the back, which read:
“Silk tells stories. It sings of secrets long forgotten. It sings of fire. Maia dreams of being a Story Teller, or a Weaver, like her father, Tareth. But when the Watcher names her Sun Catcher, she must face a destiny that Tareth has kept hidden from her. For Maia is more powerful than she knows, and she is about to discover that though the sun’s fire may be dangerous…so is she.”
The back of the book makes it clear that the protagonist is female, and, from the sounds of it, a female that will be kicking some serious butt. Looking at the backs of the other two books, each book is clearly about girls leading the way and being the focus of the story. Not just a side character in the book, but a female protagonist.
For me, after just a year ago when my son refused to even think about reading Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness Quartet” because the main character was a girl, this is a big sign that our conversation around gender equality has shifted.
Whether it was switching my video game avatar to a female character, or the follow up conversations we have had, or the changes I have made in my own behaviors that has brought about this shift I cannot say.
To be honest I don’t care what has made the difference, but I cannot explain how much pride I felt in this simple moment in the bookstore when my son chose Sheila Rance’s trilogy of books to be our next “Dad and Son” reading project.
I looked up from the backs of the books and smiled, “you bet buddy. Let’s get them all, they sound awesome.”
Fionn smiled, turned, and ran off down one of the aisles to look for more books.
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