I Am Learning How To Be Lonely

I am learning how to be lonely.

How to not reach for another to lessen this ache in my ribs when I have known no other way.

I am learning how to not fear the silence; to be still with this hollow chest and no longer fill the space you once belonged with shallow distraction.

I am learning things I should already know, but was not taught; instead raised to hold a man’s sovereignty before my own.

I am learning I am more than what I was taught.

I am learning what I am worth.

I am learning I am worth these hard things.

The Woods Are Lovely, Dark and Deep…

New ink ❤️

For years, I have been haunted by these words – by their imagery and metaphor, their ambivalence, their struggle, their resolution. By the way they encompass everything I feel; the days I long to dwell in the woods and take comfort in the darkness because it is so much easier than having to show up; than having to fight a never-ending battle to stay one step ahead of the shadows; never far behind me. Because it is so much easier to give in to the heaviness that settles upon me, to get lost in the loneliness of the woods with no desire to be found, than to find the strength to get out of bed and face another day.

But I promised myself I would fight, and never stop fighting, for the life I deserve. For the life my children deserve. To turn the ashes of the generations before me into a structure of strength and beauty that the generations ahead will walk into with sure feet and fierce hearts.

Though some days weak, I am never defeated.

This is my reminder.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

and miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.”

(Robert Frost)

Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to me! It may be the shortest day of the year for those of us who live in the Southern Hemisphere but the sun is shining and I am blessed and thankful to be another year further along in my journey ❤️

To celebrate, I’m taking 40% off The Unravelled Heart from today until the end of June if you buy directly through my website, link below.

Also, June 23rd is PTSD Awareness Day in Australia, something very close to my heart, so if there’s anyone in your life who has suffered abuse or trauma, please do consider buying a copy for them. There is so much healing in art, in words, in poetry, in the power of telling our stories.

“But in the end, stories are about one person saying to another: This is the way it feels to me. Can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you?”

Much love ❤️

https://kathyparker.com.au/the-unravelled-heart/

I Love My Children But I Mourn The Self I Gave Up To Have Them

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Our time will come, right?

These words I wrote to a friend last week who, like me, has four children and who, also like me, has given the best part of his last two decades to raise said children. We were chatting about restless feet, eager to get out and explore unknown lands, yet still mired in family responsibility. The words were said with light-hearted flippancy, leaving me brilliantly unprepared for the outburst of tears that followed. Whoa, I thought. What the hell is this about?

Outside, wisteria leaves danced without sound onto pavers below; I watched their display and tried to make sense of this feeling of being been bitch-slapped by a torrent of emotion I didn’t know existed in me. I cried. Wailed. Sobbed. Then allowed myself to lean into this moment of irrational sensibilities until finally, I was able to grasp the feeling behind it.

Grief.

There it was. The overwhelming sense of – will my time really come, or has it already been and gone? Because there I was, a woman in her late thirties, left wondering where her last two decades have gone. What have I done, except wake up each day to the same family routine? Where have I gone? What have I seen? My Instagram is filled with friends sipping wine in France or sunbathing in Bali or eating pasta in Italy; unhindered, child-free, living the best years of their lives while I spent my last Saturday night folding 36 pairs of socks. Did I trade the best two decades of my life for some dodgy promise of domestic bliss that never quite came through with the goods? In that moment, I felt overcome by such a tangible sense of loss. Our time will come? No, my friend, our time has already gone, and we missed it.

I barely remember my twenties. I know I had four children during them. That adds up to three whole years pregnant. Nearly five years with babies permanently attached at my breast. Nine consecutive years of nappies. An entire decade of sleep deprivation.

Cue my thirties, where life was supposed to become easier. It hasn’t. I don’t even understand where the days go, all I know is they are all about watching the damn clock. Waking up on time. Kids to school on time. Cramming three days of work into a six-hour school day. Not being late to pick them up. Not missing school functions. Getting them to sport, music lessons, birthday parties, after-school jobs, dentist appointments, home in time to not miss Nigella week on Masterchef for god’s sake. It’s watching every hour of the night pass as my mind races with to-do lists and don’t-forget lists and the worries only a parent of teenagers can understand. Another entire decade lost to sleep deprivation.

In the supermarket this week I caught myself staring at a woman. She looked in her forties, cradling a newborn in her arms. I couldn’t help but imagine how her twenties and thirties must have been: spontaneous, adventurous, unencumbered. In my mind, I could see her life: the accomplished career, travel, Friday night drinks, Sunday morning brunches, a life of never once having had to set foot inside a K-Mart store. And now here, settled down to have her family, content.

I don’t consider the other possibilities – that perhaps after two decades of independence she is unable to cope with the loss of her freedom. That her body, at forty, is less capable to deal with the physical demand that mine did at twenty. That she is not sure how she feels about still having a child at home in her fifties, maybe sixties, while her friends enjoy retirement. That she possibly wanted children earlier and wasn’t able. That maybe she stares back at me as I stand alongside my teenagers – near-adults – who now surpass me in both height and wit; desperate for these stages of sleepless nights and endless feeding schedules to be over. Maybe she stares at me thinking, I wish I had done this sooner.

I don’t know. I don’t know how it feels to have lived child-free in my twenties and thirties. I don’t know if it would have better, or just different. I don’t know the right age for a woman to start a family; if there even is a right age. I only know there must be positives and negatives to both. I love my children; I would not be without them for anything. But having children requires sacrifice, no matter the age. And we need to acknowledge sacrifice comes with a loss of self – with grief for who we once were, for the life we once had, for the life we wish we’d had. We need to give ourselves permission to speak these things out loud, to hold them in our hand, observe them, become acquainted with them, not fear them. There will be days our feet are restless and edgy, days they are grounded and sure. We need to learn to be okay with both.

Our time will come.

But until then, don’t be surprised if you find me at home on a Saturday night crying into a pile of socks.

Article originally published at www.tendaily.com.au

Thank You for Teaching Me I Was Worth More Than You: An Open Letter to the One Who Nearly Broke Me, But Not Quite

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“You didn’t love her. You just didn’t want to be alone. Or maybe, maybe she was good for your ego. Or maybe she made you feel better about your miserable life. But you didn’t love her, because you don’t destroy the person that you love” (Grey’s Anatomy)

When I look back now, it’s hard to believe I ever thought you loved me. How desperate I must have been to call that love when in your hands I became so small; crushed by the heaviness of your fingers as they pressed into my skin, the imprint faded but still visible after all this time. How eroded my worth became with each crash of furious words that washed against the already worn breakwaters of my heart. How afraid I became of not just you, but of everything I once was that I no longer trusted myself to be, for fear I would take a wrong step and set off another landmine beneath the surface of your skin.

You left that day, stopping only to push the knife in a little deeper on your way out the door. The pain was so great I hoped to bleed out, right there on the floor where you left me. I wondered if I could survive what you had done to me; if I even wanted to. But resilience has always coursed through my veins faster than sorrow and though weak, I found the courage to pick myself up from the floor that day.

It all seems so long ago now. How far I have come since these pale scars were once open wounds. How distant the taste of bitterness upon my tongue now seems. I’ve long since stopped wanting to call, to write, to tell you of all the ways you nearly broke me, but not quite. Instead, I have come to realise should I ever pass by you on the street, there is only two words I would need to say.

Thank you.

Thank you for teaching me I will never again settle for someone who can destroy a woman and call that love; who can not only justify their abuse through victim-blaming, but make a woman believe they actually deserved such abuse.

Thank you for teaching me I will never again be controlled by another in a relationship; that I am the keeper of my own life, my own choices and my own relationships and I’m entitled to live my life with freedom, and not be imprisoned by another person’s power over me.

Thank you for teaching me I need not compromise who I am and all I believe in order to be loved; that I do not need to scrape my knees on the ground of another’s approval, nor ever apologise for who I am to those who choose not to accept me regardless.

Thank you for teaching me I do not need another to complete me; that I am better off being alone than ever being with someone who does not love me with respect, kindness, thoughtfulness, gentleness, acceptance.

Thank you for teaching me never to look back; for all the apologies that didn’t reach your eyes, for all the promises spoken through lying teeth, for all the times I did come back only to end up more shattered by you each time.

Thank you for helping me understand men like you never change.

Thank you for teaching me I deserve more than you.

Thank you for teaching me about love.

The kind of love you could never give.

The kind of love I am worth.

The kind of love I will only ever accept from another so long as they can love me the way I have finally learned to love myself.

Fearless

And though I have not
been well taught
in the ways of love,
what I do know
is I will never again
settle for one
who does not see
both the brilliance
and destruction of me,
and chooses to love
without fear of either.

~ © Kathy Parker ~

To the Mother who Struggles, I Promise You: This Too Shall Pass

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I was twenty-one years-old when my first son entered the world. He came early; two weeks before his expected date, and with such haste the midwife delivered him before the doctor made an appearance. After him, there were three more – my second son and two daughters, all within six years, all with their own birth stories, their own personalities, their own idiosyncrasies that make them unmistakably who they are; vastly different from one another despite being raised so symmetrically.

I hadn’t planned on having my first child so soon; life had chosen otherwise. Though married, I was young. In hindsight, too young. But, I was determined to be prepared. I read pregnancy books, birthing books, parenting books. I was prepared for the ways my body would change. I was prepared for the ways my life would change.

But I wasn’t prepared for the ways I would change.

I can say now that being a mother has been the best thing I have ever done; the best part of who I am. But I couldn’t always have said that. I glance back to those early days and my fingers slip through the faded recollection of how difficult they actually were; a decade that passed me by through a filter of exhaustion and loneliness. There were so many days I struggled for air, so many days I wept for the village that was nowhere to be found; moreover, wept for the woman I once was, also nowhere to be found. I grieved for her – the responsibilities and obligations of motherhood had taken her from me and in her place stood a foreigner, a woman I no longer recognised or wanted to be.

I hadn’t expected to feel such a loss of my own identity, to become so desolate in the abyss of who I used to be and who I had yet to become. I hadn’t expected to feel so unanchored, so adrift, so alone. Once extroverted, confident and capable, I soon found myself flailing helplessly in an ocean of my own inadequacies.

We lived on a 2500-acre farm in rural South Australia, aka the middle of nowhere, or so it seemed. I had no family close by, no support network to turn to. While my friends undertook university courses, careers, travel, I no longer even seemed capable to leave the house without deteriorating into a mire of irrational anxiety. Exhausted, burnt out, worn out, I lost my confidence, my capabilities, my ambition, my passion, and most days it appeared, my mind, too.

It wasn’t an issue of love; a woman’s heart will never beat with such fierceness as for that which she has created within herself. It was the belief that because I loved my children, I should love being a mother. But I didn’t. All I felt was the loneliness, the isolation, the invisibility, the loss of self, the ambivalence, the exhaustion, the guilt, the shame of all I lacked. Every night I would collapse into bed, overcome with guilt that I couldn’t be what they needed me to be, that I wasn’t as capable as other mothers, that I wasn’t enough. I would lie awake, despondent, reciting promises in my head – tomorrow I will try harder, tomorrow I will do better. But always, they fell short. Always, I fell short.

I wasn’t prepared for those feelings, for the mental and emotional upheaval that came with being a mother. These were the things not written in books, the things nobody speaks of because we’re all too busy being ashamed of our scarcity, too worried everything we feel is wrong, too afraid of being judged by those we compare ourselves to. When little do we know, they too stand inside the valley of their own inadequacies and break apart for how short they believe they fall in their comparison to us.

This year I will celebrate my sixteenth Mother’s Day. It has taken me this long to find the joy in being a mother. To no longer wake each morning to the words – this too shall pass – scrawled on sticky-notes on my bathroom mirror. To love and appreciate all my children bring to my life. To understand what it means to hold, first in my womb and now in my arms, the next generation – a generation I have been given the privilege to teach of compassion, tolerance, respect, kindness, goodness, love. A generation of world-changers.

It’s taken sixteen years to understand that being a mother is not something we are, but something we become. As we watch our children grow and learn from us, likewise, we grow and learn from them. They awaken us; force us to pay attention as we tread upon unsure ground, help us find our footing and become decided in our steps even when we walk in darkness. They soften our hard edges as they teach us of patience, sacrifice, unconditional love. They help us forgive our own humanity through the grace we offer theirs. They show us what it means to love as a result of the love they give to us, even when we are undeserving of such a profuse gift – especially when we are undeserving of such a profuse gift – and because of that, we are found better.

There is no way, sixteen years ago, I could have been prepared for the ways being a mother would change me. But nor could I have ever been prepared for the way my children would become the most beautiful part of everything I am today.

Original article published at SA Life Magazine

Why I’m Letting Go of the Hustle to be Heard

As another week wraps up here, I just wanted to take a moment to check in with you all and say hello! I’ve not been here much in the last while, and you may have noticed I’ve been publishing very little – not because I’ve not been writing, but more because I’ve been working on some bigger projects, thanks to some wonderful opportunities that have come my way which I’m so immensely thankful for, and will chat more about as they unfold in the coming days.

For now, I’m thrilled to have been asked to be a contributor for Channel Ten‘s up and coming digital platform, ten daily – my first article is now submitted and ready for the launch of their website, which I’m told will be very soon, so keep your eye out for that!

So while it may not seem I’m around much lately, I’m still here, just with my head down and working hard, but beyond grateful for all I have happening in the next while.

The last few weeks have made me think a lot of what Brene Brown says: “Trying to win over someone means trading your authenticity for approval. You stop believing in your worthiness and start hustling for it.”

There is so much hustle in the writing world, so much desperate clawing for our voice to be heard amidst the hundreds of thousands of other voices out there. We try and scratch and claw our way in; force doors open because we’re so desperate for approval and validation. It’s hard to let go of the hustle – we fear if we do, we’re out of the game.

But the last few months for me have been a wonderful lesson in surrender. I got tired of the hustle. Of trying to jump through hoops and fit into everyone’s different boxes of requisites just to have a remote chance at being heard. So I stopped hustling. But with that came an element of fear – if I wasn’t fighting, pushing my way through the noise, how would I ever be heard?

It’s been tempting to give in to the fear but instead have just continued to do what I love to do – write. Without the need for outcome. Or income, for that matter. But just keep sharing my words with the world and let the universe take care of the rest. And it has – more than I could’ve ever done for myself. And I’m so thankful.

It’s good to learn to let go of the hustle, and instead surrender to the process of creating things simply because they bring your heart alive with joy and purpose, and to let the universe take care of the rest.

The world so desperately needs less hustle and noise, and more of the beauty and meaning that only you can bring to it.

Have a wonderful weekend x

Love Is Rarely More Than a Fatal Blow

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I.
When the boy with the green eyes comes looking for my body, I let him.
He is absent-minded hands upon the soft curves of my flesh; he takes in
the body but not the girl and I pretend it is enough for I am desperate to
believe these crumbs he offers will sustain my malnourished bones until
I know what it feels like to be loved and not just settled for.
Frantic he will leave before I can convince him to stay, I turn my body
into a war-zone; torture it, starve it, persecute it for every morsel it
consumes and for every proportion of this womanly mass that does not
shrink from the underskirts of my skin and if my body is the only currency
of which I have to saddle his pockets then I will punish it into flawless
compliance and maybe then it will no longer be her name that rises and falls
with every breath he kisses into my lungs; rife with the taste of her memory
which he cannot drown beneath the sinkholes of his eyes where I am too
afraid to swim. My body fades until all that encases these organs is the
corpse-like skin of a hollow beggar and it weeps its song of victory,
Please stay, please stay, please stay,” but still, he does not know the sound
of my name on his tongue and my heart becomes a wasteland as vacant as the
hollows of my cheeks but I tell myself this is love because even though his laces
are tied he has not yet left and I am still cleaning the mess from the ones who
came before and slit my wrists with the sharp edge of their goodbyes; whose
blood of abandonment I used to finger-paint the words of my story upon the
walls of my house when I needed to remind my heart of what it had not yet
learned: Everyone you love, leaves. But hope is a diehard weapon and though
his finger rests on the trigger I convince myself he will be
the restoration not the destruction;
the healing, and not the wound.

II.
Love is rarely more than a fatal blow
we never see coming.

III.
When the boy with the green eyes no longer comes looking for my body,
I write a new story upon the walls of my house:
Leave first, before they leave you.

Sunday Ramblings and Wide Open Spaces

It’s the last day of school holidays here, and as much as I love the time with my babies home, I am so restless at this point to get back into routine, back into writing, and to find some much needed solitude. It seems I’ve become quite accustomed to my working week, which is spent mostly on my own; having others around 24/7 – even my own children – has proven challenging, and I have found my only sanity has been stealing away each afternoon for a long bike ride in this glorious autumn sunshine.

Riding this afternoon, I was reflecting on my journey of wanting to live a more wholehearted life, and how exercise has been such a huge part of that – a huge part of who I am, of what ignites my joy and passion, what makes me come alive, what propels my motivation and focus, and also how vital it has been for managing my PTSD.

Recently I’ve had a couple of injuries – a torn disc in my lower back and a torn hamstring, both of which have seen me unable to exercise for a fairly long period of time. During these times of no exercise, much of the wholehearted living thing has gone amiss; instead I have only managed to live half-heartedly. I lost my joy and passion, my energy and motivation, and my mental health struggled immensely – I feel as though in not being able to do something I love so much, I lost a huge part of myself.

My love of exercise has never been about the exercise itself. I don’t know what I weigh nor do I care what size my clothes are – in this Instagram world I’m not interested in competing to be the fittest or the thinnest, there are already enough women pitting themselves against one other rather than cheering each other along to be the best version of ourselves we can be. I refuse to let numbers define my worth and I will raise my daughters to know their value lies in so much more than this world’s unattainable standard of beauty.

Exercise for me is about movement, energy, freedom, exuberance. It’s soaking sunshine into my bones and gulping fresh air into my lungs. It’s about feeling healthy and strong in body, spirit and mind; finding wide open spaces where I can renew my spirit and connect once more to myself (which, let’s face it, usually means connecting to the 14 year-old tomboy in me who loved to fang around on BMX tracks – long live her zealous spirit). It’s about doing something I love; taking time out of my busy, responsible life which mostly involves caring for other people, and choosing to care for myself. It’s about deliberately choosing to live a wholehearted life – to embrace life and not just survive it.

After what has been quite a long recovery time, I’m so damn thankful and overjoyed to be able to exercise again (which, SA peeps, can’t recommend the amazing people at Adelaide Advanced Physiotherapy enough), to feel like myself once more, to find joy in each day again.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman.

Here’s to a fresh new shiny term and embracing each day with wholehearted abandon.

K x