Why I Will No Longer Be A 24-Hour Woman

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Photo by Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com
It’s 2pm on a Friday afternoon.

I count the productive minutes left in my day before my children are home.

Ninety minutes. Ninety minutes. 

My fingers tap against the desk. I need to write, dates and deadlines approach too fast and the heartbeat in my ears sounds more like the second hand of a clock. My eyes sting. I stifle a yawn and tell myself it’s too late in the day for another coffee. I waste minutes as I watch geese shuffle past the window in their clumsy line.

I came back Sunday from my Writers’ Festival weekend wrecked, but with no moment to catch my breath before being propelled into the week ahead.

The need to submit two more articles to Elephant Journal this week. That makes 8. If their writers submit 8 articles in one month they are eligible to receive some kind of payment. Eligible. As in, not even guaranteed. It relies on how many views my articles generate, and whether that helps them grow their readership as a whole. Otherwise they receive a complimentary annual subscription. Which is swell, given I’ve already paid my annual subscription. #writerslife

The need to plan a workshop and presentation for Literacy Week. The need to write some articles for HuffPost. The need to write an article on PTSD for a journal awaiting my submission. The need to plan words, plan scenes, plan time to write my novel-in-progress. The need to pay bills, do housework, pull weeds, plant vegetables. The long term projects around the house and farm that will have to wait.

Then mid-week the husband decides he wants to lamb-mark this week before the rain. Which means drop everything and cook food. Lots of it. Because for the rest of the week, not only will I have to feed four growing children, but also four fully grown, working, hungry men.

And so my week since has involved mornings spent wading through muddy sheep yards and marking lambs, a couple of hours of writing time grasped in the afternoon before school finishes, the rest of the day in the kitchen baking copious amounts of food, making dinner, preparing lunches, helping with homework, doing chores, sorting and folding washing, cranking the fires, feeding the animals, and this week preparation for piano exams thrown in there too.

When the evenings have slowed down I have reached for a glass of wine, somehow synonymous with calling it a day, and fallen onto the couch. Except, I don’t call it a day. I remember messages I need to reply to, emails I need to return, plans I need to confirm. I try to fool myself into the belief that sitting on the couch with a glass of wine is conducive to relaxation time, but as my fingers quick-fire against my phone and I engage in virtual conversations I’m too tired to have, I know this isn’t true.

Eventually all four kids are in bed. I tell myself I should write for another hour, but instead  berate myself as I inch upstairs, the promise of writing tomorrow night vague upon my tongue. I wash and moisturise, brush and floss, check everyone is asleep, then force myself to read one chapter of my book, which I’m too tired to absorb and will have to re-read anyway.

Tomorrow the alarm will go off at 6.30am, and I will do it all again.

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Photo by Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash.com
I recently read an article by Kristi Coulter, The Real Reason Why Women Drink , that confronted and challenged me. Yes, it was ultimately about why women are compelled to drink. No, I’m not ready to delve into my own psychological demons about that one just yet.

But she makes reference to the 24-hour woman, which I thought of again today after I went to bed too late, woke up too tired, and have struggled to work this afternoon, too exhausted. She writes,

“We can’t afford to act like it’s okay that ‘Girls can do anything!’ got translated somewhere along the line to ‘Women must do everything.’ We can’t afford to live lives we have to fool our central nervous systems into tolerating. We can’t afford to be 24-hour women.”

The 24-hour woman. I am her. She is me. And she is in the faces of most women I know as we hurry past one another, shopping in one hand, children in the other, both eyes on the clock. We are scheduled, organized, programmed, committed.

And we are exhausted.

We’re tired of not taking an hour off. We’re tired of striving to accomplish more than we can fit into each day. Tired of working as hard as any man for less pay and recognition. Tired of running our houses, running our businesses, raising our families, building our careers, and feeling the pressure to do it all with shaved legs, shaped eyebrows and three days a week at the gym.

We’re tired of the lie that women can do it all, and should do it all, and there’s something wrong with us if we don’t do it all.

But most of all, we’re tired with ourselves for perpetuating the lie in our desperate pursuit of being that woman.

Because if we’re not that woman, then we have failed.

It’s time to call bullshit.

It’s time to realise our limitations do not diminish us, they preserve us.

It’s time to allow ourselves some much needed grace.

It’s time to no longer give power to the lie of the 24-hour woman, and instead claim the power back for ourselves.

I’m not sure yet how that will look for me, or how it will feel or how it will sound. Maybe at first it will stick a little in my throat, maybe it will feel like an unfamiliar stranger or a new pair of shoes that don’t quite feel right, and I’ll feel a little clunky and unsure of myself.

I don’t know.

I just know tonight I’ll pour another glass of wine and not think about the reasons behind it and wake up tomorrow and do it all again.

But then maybe I’ll remember I no longer want to be a 24-hour woman.

And maybe, dammit, I’ll put on my new pair of shoes and learn how to walk in them.

 

Your Naked Soul Is Worth More Than Your Naked Body

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Image via unsplash.com

“Your naked body should only belong to those who fall in love with your naked soul.” ~ Charlie Chaplin

You stand and gaze at your body reflected in the mirror before you.

The body you just gave away again, even though you knew.

You knew he wouldn’t stay.

Your eyes follow the length of your collarbone to your shoulder, down your arm, the roundness of your breast, the subtle curve of your hip. The places where his fingers burned against you as he whispered futile promises upon the hungry needs of your neglected heart.

Yes, he saw your naked body.

But he cared not for your naked soul.

Yet you are bound to your ocean of maybes. Maybe if he craves your body, he will ache for your soul. Maybe if he traces lines upon your flesh, he will trace lines down the spine of your ambitions, fears, yearnings and mysteries. Maybe if you give yourself away one last time, he will be the one to answer the question that has consumed your heart since you were a small girl who danced in a princess dress and a tiara—am I lovely?

For this is what you burn for. To have your question answered. To know you are worth the time it would take for someone to learn your soul, and to fall in love with it. To know you have captivated another with your very being. To be cherished, valued, protected.

To feel, for the first time in your life, completely and utterly lovely.

But your question was never answered as you twirled in your princess dress, or as you clumsily paraded in high heels, or as you adorned your face with blue eye shadow and gaudy lipstick. It was never answered as you traded your dress up world for your grown up world, as you strived, excelled and achieved in the hope you would be seen.

You were never told how lovely you really are. How much you are worth. And so you give yourself away in the hope he will answer your question. In the hope he will find you lovely. In the hope that, somehow, his fingerprints upon your skin will bridge together the abyss upon your heart.

But once again you are left alone, your naked body used to satiate the need of a silly boy who didn’t care to see your naked soul.

If only you could see.

If only you could see how lovely you are. The way your eyes carry the glow of a thousand fireflies. How your laughter fills the spaces of a broken chorus. The enchantment of your thoughts, delightfully articulated into words. Your heart, with all its intricacies and uncertainties; exquisite, rare, invaluable.

Maybe nobody ever told you.

But I’m telling you now.

You don’t need to give yourself away to find the answer to your question.

The answer is already there, staring back at you.

You are lovely.

Lovelier than you will ever know. Worth more than you will ever know. More important than you will ever know.

Wait for the one who falls in love with your naked soul. The one whose eyes will gaze beyond your flesh and into the entirety of you. Wait for him, for he will memorize the quickening of your heartbeat, hold close the rhythm of your breath. He will hear your unspoken words, dust the hopes hidden in your dark corners, and trace his finger along the stories you keep beneath your bones.

Wait for him, not because he is worth it.

But because you are.

How To Love A Woman Who Has Been To Hell And Back

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The woman who has been to hell and back is not easy to love.

Many have tried. Most have failed.

The weak need not attempt, for it will take more strength than you even know you possess; more patience, more resilience, more tenacity, more resolve. It requires a relentless love, one that is determined and not easily defeated.

For the woman who has been to hell and back will push you away. She will test you in her desire to know what you are made of, whether you have what it takes to weather her storm. Because she is unpredictable, at times a hurricane, a force of nature that rides on the fury of her suffering, other times a gentle rain; calm, still, quiet.

When she is the gentle rain that falls in time to her silent tears, love her.

When she is the thunder and lightning and ferocious winds that wreak havoc, love her harder.

She is a contradiction, a pendulum that will forever swing between fear of suffocation and fear of abandonment, and even she will not know how to find the balance between the two. Because today, although she will never tell you, she will feel insecure. She will want you to stay close, to tuck her hair behind her ear and kiss her on the forehead and hold her in the strength of your arms. But tomorrow she will crave her independence, her space, her solitude.

For while you have slept, she has been awake, unable to slow her thoughts, watching clocks and chasing time, trying to make the broken pieces fit, to make sense of it all, of where she fits, of how she fits. She fights her demons and slays her dragons, afraid if she goes to sleep they will gain the upper hand, afraid if she goes to sleep she will no longer be in control. Tomorrow she will be tired, and your presence will smother her, she will need only herself.

When she reaches out to you, love her.

When she pushes you away, love her harder.

New situations will make her anxious, new places, new people, new experiences. She will be fiercely independent and long to overcome her fears, all the while as terrified as a small child alone in the big world. Sometimes she will need to be courageous, to prove to herself she has what it takes. Other times she will need you to take her hand and hold it firmly in yours. Sometimes she may not know what she needs, and you will need to read her like a book with worn pages and a tattered spine and be what she needs when she does not know herself.

When she is brave and steps into the world on her own, love her.

When she is scared but refuses to take your hand, love her harder.

She will live in fear of not being enough and always being too much, an endless battle to find the middle ground, ashamed if the scale falls one way or the other, ashamed to be herself for no one has ever loved her both when she is small and also when she is tremendous.

When she feels too much, love her.

When she feels not enough, love her harder.

She will sometimes not hurt and the light will shine from her eyes and her laughter will be a rare and precious melody. But sometimes she will hurt so much from the trauma still in her body, she will feel pain, she will ache, she will anguish, the light will grow dim and the music will fade.

When she is the light, love her.

When she is the darkness, love her harder.

She will always love you with caution, with one foot out the door. For she does not understand a love with no conditions, one that is powerful enough to withstand hard times. She cannot allow herself to fully trust in your love, and she will keep parts of her heart hidden, the parts that have been hurt the most, the parts she can’t risk being hurt again when she has worked so hard to stitch them together.

She will always watch, wait and expect you to leave first. And when you don’t, she has a truth written upon her heart that says you will, it’s only a matter of time, for everyone who loves her leaves her, hurts her. And so she will seek to sabotage the relationship; she will seek to destroy it, she will seek to leave first, she will seek to hurt you before you can hurt her. This is how she stays in control, this is how she survives, how she will ensure she will not get hurt again.

When she wants to love you, love her.

When she wants to hurt you, love her harder.

Being out of control terrifies her. Don’t ever make her feel powerless, trapped, or without her freedom. She needs to dance barefoot under enormous blue skies, to feel sand between her toes, to run with wolves as the wind weaves magic through her hair, for here is where her healing is found.  Never clip her wings, for if she has the freedom to fly, she will always come back to you.

Love her when it’s easy, and love her harder when it’s not.

Love her in a way that will defy all she has ever known love to be.

Love her because you understand with every damn fibre of your soul the gift of her love, what it has cost her to offer you her fragile heart.

She does not need you. She has chosen you.

You, because you have what it takes to survive the storm.

You, because even when she doesn’t know how to love, you know how to love harder.

The Loneliest Thing (and it’s not being alone)

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I used to think the loneliest thing was to be alone.

But that’s not it.

The loneliest thing is to be misunderstood.

Because this is what we crave the most. To be seen – really seen. To be heard. To be understood. For the intention of our heart to be known.

To feel we can rest safe alongside the heart of another, without question, without confusion, without misinterpretation.

For we can be content within our own company. Here, we can find rest when we understand self-love.

Likewise, we can find contentment in the company of another when we feel understood, known. It matters not whether friend, family, lover – when we feel understood, we feel loved, we feel we belong, we feel safe.

But to be misunderstood by those we long would see the true intention of our heart leaves us homesick, lost, disconnected. It leaves us a foreigner in a strange land, desperate to find the place that feels like home, even though that’s where we’re supposed to be.

And maybe the only way to find our way home again is to release the expectation we place on others to understand us.

Maybe the only person who will ever truly understand us, is ourselves.

Maybe the best we can do is walk in our truth, live in a way that aligns with our authentic heart, follow our path of honesty, integrity and goodness.

To understand our own intentions so completely that it matters not if we are misunderstood by others. Even those closest to us, the ones we desire most to see us, and know us.

We reap what we sow.

Let us seek to understand others. Even more than we love them. For we cannot truly love another if we don’t see them, know them, understand them. We will only ever love our version of them, and in doing so, we fail them.

And so maybe in seeking to understand others, we will help to heal the lonely hearts of the world, and all the while heal our own hearts too x

Can You Feel It?

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Can you feel it?

Can you feel the rise of your spirit, the gentle gripping of your heart as it longs to burst free from the confines of all you have told it to be?

Everything acceptable. Everything palatable. Everything right. Everything diluted.

For you must not be too much. You must not shine too bright. You must not be seen, or heard, or felt.

You must not make others feel.

No more.

The world needs you.

It needs your boldness, your brightness, your vivaciousness, your radical love.

It needs your heart. The one that has lived in fear too long and aches to be free.

Now is the time to be all you possess within you.

To be fearless, to be reckless, to live and love with abandon, to risk, to challenge, to stop playing safe and let go of all that has kept you small.

To be real. To be raw. To call upon truth. To step out of the shadows. To live your destiny.

Now is the time to walk in the greatness you were always made for.

It’s time.

Can you feel it?

To My Foolish Heart: Keep Fighting

Foolish heart, you had just started to heal.

But as I hold you in my hand you once again bleed; old wounds torn open, new wounds raw and vivid against achromatic flesh.

I examine the damage. Once a pure canvas, you are now a war zone, disfigured by the stories you will never tell.

I count the bruises first, trace a finger along your scars, some more faded than others. My finger rests on the one from the first time you were hurt. It was always the deepest one, wasn’t it? I don’t need to look closely to know it still weeps. To know it never healed like you pretended it did.

You were so quick to forgive, to trust again.

You begged to lay upon my sleeve. I warned you against it, that it would make you too vulnerable, but you insisted. You believed in the hearts of others, in the goodness of them. You believed all hearts were the same as you.

You believed in love, for is that not what you were made for?

But you didn’t know how cruel other hearts could be.

You were a soldier on the frontline and you battled hard against the ones who tried to bring you down. Over and over I stitched your wounds until you were a patchwork heart, held together with little more than frayed thread and faltered hope, and yet on my sleeve you stayed and fought until there was too much blood and not enough thread and I placed you back in my chest, determined to keep you safe.

But dear heart, you were so stubborn, and though I told you, “No more!” I could not keep you in my chest, so determined you were to prove me wrong. To prove the power of forgiveness, grace, second chances, unconditional love.

But you weren’t healed. You weren’t ready.
And this time, the wound struck too deep.

You couldn’t get back up.

Now you lay limp in my hands, surrendered, defeated. I zigzag the thread through your wounds, pull them closed, hope my saltwater tears cleanse the place where his words plunged into your fragile core.

Precious heart, you have withered, paled, turned cold and stone-like. You no longer believe in love, or in the goodness of other hearts.

But I will keep you safe in me, and you will heal. Soon, the bleeding will stop. Your wounds will become scars, and they will fade with time, reminders of how strong you really are. With each new day I will hear the sound of your resolve as you beat harder against my chest.

Dear heart, I am proud of you. You are right to believe in love and to fight for it.

Don’t allow the ugliness that resides in others take away the beauty in you.

The world is full of hearts like you. Kind hearts, merciful hearts, brave hearts, compassionate hearts, generous hearts, forgiving hearts, loving hearts.

And when you find them, you will know them.

For they too bear the scars of a warrior.

Foolish and determined, just like you, to believe that love can heal a broken world.

Blog originally published on Elephant Journal

When Darkness Gains The Upper Hand 

Here’s the thing with any form of mental illness – whether it be PTSD or anxiety or depression or whatever – just when we think we’re one step ahead, we find that something has allowed the darkness to gain the upper hand in our lives once more. And the more strength the darkness gains, the weaker we become, until suddenly we are no longer ahead of it or above it or stronger than it, and it has defeated us.

Because this is the thing, isn’t it? We are always fighting to be stronger than what tried to break us. And we fight hard. So goddamn hard. Invisible battles most people will never see. And most of the time, we slay our dragons and slaughter our demons and bury our ghosts, and we win.

But then there’s days we don’t.

Because, high on our victory that we think will last, we have forgotten.

We have forgotten the triggers.

And when they hit us, as they invariably do, we are unprepared, our shields down.

One minute we are fine.

The next we are not.

We feel alone, but we don’t reach out. We feel scared, but we don’t ask for help. We long to be held, to feel safe, but we have too many scars to trust what is supposed to protect us.

Instead we make friends with the darkness and watch clocks as our hearts ache inside our weary chests and silent tears speak the words we will never say.

We are tired of the fight, so tired of having to be strong, but we’re so accustomed to doing this on our own we know no other way. We are so independent and self-sufficient that rarely will we surrender to another.

Instead, we choose to surrender to the darkness. For at least we are familiar with it, we understand it, and it understands us.

For now, the pain is stronger than we are. The fear, the brokenness, the rejection, the loneliness, the heartache. For now, we are too tired to fight, and we lay down our weapons, surrender, let the darkness have its victory over us.

For now.

But tomorrow is our promise.

Be kind, people.

For you never know what hidden battles others are fighting.

I No Longer Need You

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I thought it would be painful, letting you go.

I thought I would suffer, that my heart would be anguished with the loss of you. Or worse, maybe it would stop beating altogether.

Maybe without you, I would simply cease to exist.

I thought I would become adrift, for you had been the anchor I had formed my identity upon, the compass I had relied on for my direction. I thought without you I would become lost, disoriented.

I had expected to taste salty tears as they fell upon lips that once spoke so fondly of you; that my head would lay on my pillow damp with tears for as many nights as the moon continued to kiss the stars.

But one day, I just knew.

I hadn’t expected such a feeling of relief as I cut the ropes that once shackled me to you. One instant of tremendous clarity. One instant, where I finally knew.

I no longer needed you.

I no longer needed your opinion of me, your affirmation, your approval.

I no longer needed your judgments, your criticisms, your condemnations.

I no longer needed your expectations I could never meet; your hoops too high to jump through, your goal posts that shifted with every changing breeze.

I no longer needed your blame, your excuses, your justifications.

I no longer needed your pseudo love, fraught with conditions and attached with strings.

I thought I needed you. I didn’t.

I thought it would be hard to let you go. It wasn’t.

I thought I would miss you. I don’t.

For in one instant my heart was awakened to the truth of who I am.

I am more than the lies you made believe about myself. I am more than the look of failure in your eyes when I fell short of your demands. I am more than how worthless you made me feel. I am more than the ways you tried to break me.

I am a warrior, sculpted by the hands of creation, fashioned into being by the very hands that created the oceans and the stars and the mountains and air.

I am strong, I am brave, I am wise. I am gentle of spirit with the heart of a lioness.

I am creative, passionate, sensitive, and kind. I am of open heart and open mind. I am powerful, generous, thoughtful, daring, empathetic, raw, complex, courageous, understanding, forgiving.

I am everything you are not.

I will no longer carry the shame you made me suffer under the weight of.

That shame belongs to you.

And I will no longer carry my hate for you.

For that will only ever bind me to your darkness and give you permission to destroy my light. It will allow you to stay within me, to destroy my peace, to blacken my heart with the malice that lives within you.

It will tie me to your soul-destroying bitterness, your ugliness.

It will anchor me once more to you, who tried to drown me.

Instead, I will choose to go into the world and love more fiercely, show more compassion, be more generous, offer more kindness.

I will choose to forgive. For me, not for you.

I will choose to sow what I wish to see reaped for my children’s future.

I will choose to dis-empower hate.

I will choose freedom.

I will choose love.

I will stand firm upon the unshakeable truth of who I am.

And I will soar to heights you will only ever dream of.

For I have let you go.

No longer am I held down by all I allowed you to be in my life.

I no longer need you.

I am free.

Originally published on elephant journal