Picturing Power

Picture this… A library in Whyalla in rural South Australia, it is the lunch break during a day’s workshop and people are eating and enjoying some chit-chat together…

And then picture this… As she eats, Cherie is talking with a local mum, Rachel. Rachel is a leader within her own fam, and she is committed to contributing and leading in community initiatives whenever her energy permits -because she wants to grow more inclusion for people with diverse abilities within her town – co-creating better opportunities that will not just benefit her son as he grows up but all residents and tourists/visitors with lived experience of disability

Lean in to this… Cherie and Rachel discover that they both value collaboration…. they find it is essential for enhancing reach and impact for a shared cause or purpose

Which implies this…. The way in which people view P O W E R influences their willingness and success in collaborating.

Picture this…. A lit candle has a flame which can be easily shared without dimming its own light.   Rachel had seen a meme about this recently and we both discuss it’s truth and how people are more likely to relax into collaborating if we feel that power is share-able, not a scarce commodity nor a hierarchical thing.

Consider this…. Does the analogy of power as a candle appeal to you?  And is that how power has been approached in your favourite experiences of collaboration?

Imagine this…. The meme that Rachel saw also highlighted an alternative analogy for power – this time as a battery. A battery is usually depleted by sharing its’ power….. hmmmm….. What a contrast to the candle image hey!

And ponder this…. which of the two images for power – a C A N DL E or a B A T T E R Y – are you choosing to fuel your collaborations?

Concluding this…. by thanking Rachel for the conversation and wishing her well in all her great endeavours in her family and in her community, bravo Rachel!

Leading, Advocating, Pathfinding

Want to meet some great people who make up the human face and fabric of rural life? Then I can recommend going on the road and heading out of the metro area with your “work’ hat on. Over the past 18 months I have had the pleasure of doing exactly that, visiting several towns and communities across South Australia – and even getting to go back to the same places a few times over. And the best bit about these trips has been engaging with people living with disability and family caregivers within the workshops and discussions. 

The repeat visits have been a good way to hear about developments and trends in these communities and to see how people with lived experience of disability and their family members are choosing to get involved in their local area to make the most of contemporary possibilities. 

Some have decided to contribute time and attention to developing more inclusive public spaces and facilities – in liaison with their local government associations. 

Others are looking at how they might step up to fill local gaps in services themselves. 

And some are seeing and wanting to develop further the big picture opportunities for their community’s local economy by stimulating conversations between more stakeholders.  

And pretty much everyone I met was needing to advocate for their own or a loved one’s goals in the process of pursuing community access and participation.

All these levels of promoting positive changes are valuable and complement each other really. But change can be slower than desired. It can be frustrating when the progress towards more person-centredness seems to be crawling along on a person-by-person, situation-by-situation pace. And even with the massive system change that has occurred in the disability sector nationally, there is an ongoing need for positive and intentional actions within our communities if people with disability are to actually experience their best life and fair access to participation.  

Each action that people take in rural (or metro) areas to help build inclusive communities can be thought of as helping to unlock a figurative “gate” and nudging it open to create a little more access to the field of opportunity and possibilities beyond previous limits.  Because on the other side of whichever obstructive “business as usual” gate that is faced, lies the person-centred heart space and flexible head space of the people involved. And when people on both sides of the equation – those using a system and those providing services in that system – engage heads and hearts then humane and adaptable solutions can emerge between them to get around challenges, to reduce barriers.

Indeed, it has been very encouraging to see that “ordinary” people in rural areas – just as in metro – are choosing to show-up tenaciously as leaders, advocates and pathfinders within their local communities.

Compassion – it keeps the heart of caring alive in caregiving.

A caregiving role within our family invites us into the flow of care and compassion. Perhaps we are at our best in the role when we give ourselves permission to balance the constant giving with openness to receiving some care and kindness ourselves, where-ever and whenever that shows up.

Brene Brown’s research in America explored the role of compassion in living vibrantly and found that:-

“Compassionate people ask for what they need.

They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. 

They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”

Brene brown

So have you thought about asking for what you need lately? Have you then talked yourself out of expressing the request to someone who could assist you? (why do we do that! Foolish pride!)

And has resentment crept in lately? Have you let that be a message to yourself to ponder the boundaries involved? Are there changes to make which could shape your experience of the “next time” more favourably? Where nothing can be tweaked – you may need to resolve to choose an act of self-compassion that can follow the necessary labour – like taking 5 minutes to read something of your choosing with your feet up, looking at some natural scenery through your window whilst taking some deep breaths, maybe even stepping outdoors into nature, or doing body stretches whilst the kettle boils for that cuppa. Such actions can help to shift your emotion from the negativity of resentment as you focus on the present moment and the joy you are receiving as you choose to replenish and restore You!

Image credit – Heart Dishes by Julie Ruscello on unsplash

SESSION#6 – “Talking about Caring – Family Carers in Conversation”

The theme for our conversation in this Zoom session on 8th July was Creative Caring

We talked about how the family carer role is an opportunity to be C R E A T I V E in so many ways.

Admittedly, when super busy it may seem easier to let go of our creative hobbies (eg knitting, music, art, making etc) but actually to be human is to be creative, and to be creative is central to our humanity. So even if short of time to be creative with our hobbies, our creativity remains within us waiting to be expressed in our approach to living.

We looked at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that reminds us that creativity is highly motivating to humans – sitting at the top of the motivational pyramid along with self-actualisation, personal development and problem solving. 

So, family carers are fortunate that the Carer role itself allows us to express our creative skills and attributes within our approach to caring and in the outcomes of our care:-  

  • we get to support our loved one with choosing and creating his/her own life’s goals and plan his/her adventure with him/her
  • we get to create richness of life through the caring we bring with us
  • we get to create great moments and great memories
  • we get to use our personal strengths and gifts creatively in the way we show we care
  • we get to recall the legacy of caring that other family members in earlier generations shared with us and enjoy the opportunity to pass that care along with our own stamp on it

Interestingly we finished the conversation talking about the art of African hand drumming. A pentatonic steel drum was played briefly – the harmonic beats reminding us of the harmony we get to create in various ways in our role as family carers.

This was another encouraging conversational session in the series, and we are, as ever, ready to warmly welcome other family carers who may be available to join a Zoom conversation on any of the Wednesdays during June and July – simply register for free for your available dates via Eventbrite (where you can read more about the conversational series); so that Cherie can email to you the Zoom link to connect into the conversation.

Our next conversation is on Wednesday 15th July, when we will be discussing “Quality Caring”.

These conversations are hosted by Cherie Rowett of Heart Choice Enterprises. Cherie’s commitment is to lead a themed conversation online every Wednesday during June and July, in this series titled “Talking about Caring – Family Carers in Conversation”.

SESSION#5 – “Talking about Caring – Family Carers in Conversation”

The theme for conversation in our Zoom session on 1st July was Sustainable Caring….

Today we discussed whether it is important for the carer role to be sustainable and what we can do to keep it sustainable.

Current definitions of sustainability usually link to global environmental care…which we found applicable to family caring too really – for just as sustainability of life on our Planet Earth is concerned with avoiding depletion of natural resources to maintain ecological balance, so as family carers we find ourselves striving to balance our [caring for self] with our [caring for our loved one with special needs + for other family members + for friends] to avoid depletion of our caring reserves.

At times, the importance of keeping the carer role sustainable has even been reflected back to us from our family member with special needs.  They value us first and foremost as a family member (eg a parent, a sister, a son) and want us there in that treasured role for the long haul. 

Interestingly with the topic of sustainability, the issue of accountability then arose in our conversation.  One of the carers suggested that we need to make ourselves accountable for our self care, expressing it beautifully:- “How can we spread kindness when sometimes we are not even kind to ourselves?”

We discussed approaches we find useful for being accountable for our own wellbeing, especially for nurturing our mindset and our mind-body connection, and for keeping ourselves physically nourished during the day.  Routines were mentioned as helpful in managing the time resource around this, especially to try to incorporate some self care early in the day before we might become too tired for it. An approach of ‘sufficiency’ was mentioned – knowing when enough is enough and not needing to cater for anymore than our needs – there was agreement that can help keep our self-care do-able and sustainable if we think in terms of sufficiency.

As well as accountability for our own self care, we also found ourselves talking about how helpful it is to observe demonstrable caring attitudes and actions amongst our world leaders. We are pleased when world figures are renowned for their caring approach to their work as that reminds everyone of the value of caring. An example that arose in our conversation was Jacinda Ahern the current NZ prime minister: when we observe her approach to her leadership we feel encouraged and reminded of the difference a caring attitude and actions can make. It feels like it can have a ripple effect that encourages people everywhere to keep caring going at the local community and interpersonal level.  

In the spirit of time accountability we then honoured our 1 hour allocation for the conversation by deferring mention of ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’ into our conversation next week which will focus on Creative Caring.  We do hope you can join us then.

This was another encouraging conversational session in the series, and we are, as ever, ready to warmly welcome other family carers who may be available to join a Zoom conversation on any of the Wednesdays during June and July – simply register for free for your available dates via Eventbrite (where you can read more about the conversational series); so that Cherie can email to you the Zoom link to connect into the conversation.

Our next conversation is on Wednesday 8th July, when we will be discussing “Creative Caring”.

These conversations are hosted by Cherie Rowett of Heart Choice Enterprises. Cherie’s commitment is to lead a themed conversation online every Wednesday during June and July, in this series titled “Talking about Caring – Family Carers in Conversation”.

SESSION#4 – “Talking about Caring – Family Carers in Conversation”

As promised, in our Zoom session on 24th June we got to discuss Do-able Caring.

It was fascinating to hear about the variety of things we each do to support our family members who require additional care. These things relate to the strengths and the needs of the people we are each caring for. 

The value of “doing with” the person we care for rather than “doing for” him/her was considered. Doing things for our loved one can be an efficiency measure but when the person has some capacity to be involved in the doing of activities, our over-helpfulness can end up undermining their dignity, their rights and their personhood.  There was mention of the joy of seeing our loved one becoming able to take on doing for themselves that we used to have to do for them as they developed their capacities with our support over time. Examples included making plans and phone calls. The option of doing with our loved one rather than always doing for them was discussed – with its’ challenges and benefits.

We could see how we ourselves have grown in the carer role over time and got better and perhaps more efficient with what we do.  We also acknowledged that meeting our loved one’s emotional needs was not an area where we could be efficient.  There was a shared sense of becoming more sensitive in attuning to our loved one’s emotions and more skilled in learning what to do in that space – being able to meet our loved one where he/she is at and then lead the emotional tone of our interactions from there – is both an art and a challenge in the “doing” of the family carer role.

It seemed too that as carers our role has a lot of responsibility around finding the middle ground that balances the needs of everyone in the family, not just the needs of the person with disability/special support needs.  This keeps it all very real. We have to be aware of what can be achieved in the available time, and think from a mini-community place.

Sometimes, for some families, there is an opportunity to co-operate to assist a loved one to achieve her/his goals. One example of this that was shared was how a goal of pet ownership could become do-able through family cooperation and contribution from several family members. Not to say that pet ownership is everyone’s goal, but if you consider your loved one’s goals then the concept of combining resources and sharing the family carer role across family members is an approach that can keep the caring “do-able” in some families.

This was another encouraging conversational session in the series, and we are, as ever, ready to warmly welcome other family carers who may be available to join a Zoom conversation on any of the Wednesdays during June and July – simply register for free for your available dates via Eventbrite (where you can read more about the conversational series); so that I can email to you the Zoom link to connect into the conversation on Zoom.

Our next conversation is on Wednesday 1st July, when we will be discussing “Sustainable Caring”. As is usual, Cherie will bring some information that invites a focus and flow in the conversation.

These conversations are hosted by Cherie Rowett of Heart Choice Enterprises. Cherie’s commitment is to lead a themed conversation online every Wednesday during June and July, in this series titled “Talking about Caring – Family Carers in Conversation”.

SESSION#3 – “Talking about Caring – Family Carers in Conversation”.

In session 3 of our conversational series we talked about Compassionate Caring. 

By definition compassion is an awareness – awareness of the suffering of other people and living things around us, combined with the desire to relieve that suffering. 

Being aware of suffering is not a comfortable feeling – and of course it can be tempting to move our awareness away quickly onto less acute emotions. When it is people in our family who we notice to be ‘suffering’ it is however much harder to let the compassion drop away without due attention to it – which often drives our loyalty to our family carer role. However, by definition compassion is not actually referring to action, just to the initial awareness. 

Mosaic image by Guilia May – Unsplash

Actions that are aligned with compassion are obviously humane in nature, but don’t need to be charitable or interventionist or rescuing. We felt that our compassion sometimes results in simply a willingness to be with the person as they work out how to approach a situation in conversation with us, or a willingness to listen as they vent, and at other times we find ourselves providing physical help and assistance or doing things for them that they find too hard to do alone or at all – and we felt that these are all great examples of actions that can flow from a compassionate heart.

In our experience as family carers we agreed that compassionate awareness on its own can become draining and overwhelming. Taking action inspired by our compassion allows a healthy flow from our heart and mind into physical expression.  Taking some action also gives our compassion some tangible boundaries too – for taking action shifts our mind on from an awareness state to a praxis state.

We loved this quote from Brene Brown – based on her social research to understand human vulnerability and resilience better:-

“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.

Brene Brown

This prompted us to consider the benefits of a planned approach to providing our compassion-driven caring actions, and we shared several strategies that we each find helpful in that regard. We also encouraged each other to avoid guilty feelings for having boundaries of time and extent of effort in our family carer role.

We are, as ever, ready to warmly welcome other family carers who may be available to join a Zoom conversation on any of the Wednesdays during June and July – simply register for free for your available dates via Eventbrite (where you can read more about the conversational series); so that Cherie can email to you the Zoom link to connect into the conversations.

On Wednesday 24th June we will be discussing “Do-Able Caring”.

These conversations are hosted by Cherie Rowett of Heart Choice Enterprises. Cherie’s commitment is to lead a themed conversation online every Wednesday during June and July, in this series titled “Talking about Caring – Family Carers in Conversation”.

SESSION#2 – “Talking about Caring – Family Carers in Conversation”.

Our theme for this conversation on Wednesday 10 June 2020 was “The Art and Science of Caring”. 

In this conversation we discussed information about how human neuroplasticity is a valuable asset for everyone including those of us in the family carer role.  We learn from our experiences and over time we can establish skills and mastery in our approach to the carer role. Our inbuilt biology for being adaptive also contributes to our resilience in the role too. 

We talked about how one of the challenges in the care role is around regulating our own emotional reactions in care situations when perhaps we feel impatient or frustrated. These emotions can escalate, especially if we feel we are having a bad day ourselves with low emotional reserves. We agreed that we are not pleased with ourselves if we flare up and become reactionary rather than maintaining a calm presence and caring approach.

Understanding the neuroscience of emotional regulation can help us. Cherie described the relative roles of higher cortical brain areas and lower cortical brain areas in emotional processing.  There was agreement that preparing ahead to avoid emotional escalation in caring situations is a good idea.  Research has shown for example that learning to meditate (eg the loving kindness meditation, mindfulness meditation etc) can help us to prospectively maintain a calm emotional state with physiological benefits throughout our own body.  This supports our own happiness and positivity levels.  

Another preparatory method we can use ahead of time is shifting our mindset for how we think about anger. There has been some research that shows benefit from shifting our interpretation of “angry” feelings from being an involuntary inescapable emotion but rather as an indicator of not feeling adequately resourced for the situation at hand.  Adopting this interpretation of the feeling of anger, has been shown to improve physiological (physical) markers of cardiovascular distress within the perceiver’s body.

We can also do things in the moment to calm ourselves too – what we are wanting is a simple way to cue our attention from the perceived “trigger” – to create the mind space for choice to become possible. A simple verbal mantra can help bring our higher cortex online to inhibit the emotional surge – you can develop a favourite phrase to repeat silently eg “This moment shall pass” or “I choose to remain calm” etc; and the long tradition of yogic practice would remind us to connect with our breathing and focus on calming that eg silently cuing ourself with a phrase like “I breathe in for 4, I breathe out for 4”.  The shift in our focus of attention and the silent use of words can allow the space and mechanism for our self regulation and choice to come back ‘online’.

To become robust in our ability to respond rather than react in care situations takes practice and we agreed that it is appropriate to regard ourselves with some self-compassion as we learn from our fails and mistakes along the way. With self-compassion we can extend encouragement, patience and trust to ourselves on the path to bringing good quality care to our loved one.

Overall we agreed that there is definitely an art to being able to maintain a caring approach in the many situations we can face in our family carer role. It was good to remind ourselves that there is science-based information that we can use to guide us in choosing a positive approach.

We continue to be ready to warmly welcome other family carers who may be available to join a Zoom conversation on any of the Wednesdays during June and July – simply register for free for your available dates via Eventbrite (where you can read more about the conversational series); so that I can email to you the Zoom link to connect into the conversation on Zoom on Wednesday 17th June, when we will be discussing “Compassionate Caring”.

These conversations are hosted by Cherie Rowett of Heart Choice Enterprises. Cherie’s commitment is to lead a themed conversation online every Wednesday during June and July, in this series titled “Talking about Caring – Family Carers in Conversation”.

SESSION#1 – “Talking about Caring – Family Carers in Conversation”

With the arrival of wintry June this conversational series commenced from the warmth of our own homes. In our first session we discovered that it is indeed lovely to connect from the comfort of our own homes and yet be able to talk face to face via the online Zoom app. 

Our conversational theme for this first weekly conversation was the scope of the carer role and what it requires of the carer. Unsurprisingly this topic took us far and wide as we explored the extent of the adaptive abilities that we use to fulfil our role as family carers. 

It was delightful to discover a common experience of how sacred and precious the heart space is for family carers.  For those in conversation this week it was agreed that the love bond cuts through all other layers of the role and reminds us of why the role matters and why we are committed to it.

Photo by John Benitez on Unsplash

We are ready to warmly welcome other family carers who may be available to join a Zoom conversation on any of the Wednesdays during June and July – simply register for free for your available dates by copying this Eventbrite link into your browser https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/talking-about-caring-family-carers-in-conversation-tickets-107336781202?aff=ebdssbeac (and that is where you can read more about the conversational series). Alternatively you are welcome to contact the facilitator – Cherie Rowett – on M: 0401 065 234 to arrange to receive the Zoom link to connect into the conversation on Wednesdays. Our next conversation is on Wednesday 10th June from 12noon to 1pm (Adelaide timezone) . 

These conversations are hosted by Cherie Rowett of Heart Choice Enterprises.

Cherie’s commitment is to lead a themed conversation online every Wednesday during June and July 2020 , in this series titled “Talking about Caring – Family Carers in Conversation”.