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

Leave Me Here In The Wilderness

Leave me here in the wilderness,

let me wander upon lost paths

where fallen limbs and bracken

cause my feet to stumble astray,

deeper down the unknown roads

that lead me further into myself.

Let my soul become entangled

with ivy and creeper and vine

as it twines through damp forest

and twists around my sad anguish.

Let moss grow upon my shadows

until sunlight warms my bitter grief.

Let me grope through darkness,

and my heart taste its sour wrath

as it unleashes, wild and savage,

upon the fury of its torn injustice,

until there is only hushed silence

broken by the weep of surrender.

Let my spirit be found crushed

in valleys of dust and drought.

Let me be consumed with thirst

as I wait upon winds of the earth

to breathe life into my dry bones

and mend me back to abundance.

Do not take my hand and lead me

from this journey I choose to abide,

but leave me here in the wilderness

where for now, I must live untamed,

for I am young, and so very broken,

and there is still much to be learned.

~ © Kathy Parker ~

The Unravelled Heart, a profoundly true reflection on trauma, abuse, love, loss and healing, now available worldwide on Amazon http://amzn.to/2BIvFhp

Your Story is What the World is Waiting For

And don’t ever be afraid to tell your story.

Don’t ever feel it is too small, too insignificant, too humble.

Don’t ever feel your voice is too faint to be heard. That your words are too shaky to hold their own ground.

The world is already over-crowded with voices of self-importance; voices that make noise but not change. Tired of people telling us what to believe, we put our earphones in and tune them out. We are no longer interested in the ideas and opinions of others; our hearts ache for something more. For connection. For relationship. For something that parallels what we understand about our own lives. To be part of something bigger than ourselves.

Our hearts ache to hear stories.

Stories of those who have fallen, but who withstood all odds to hold steady on their feet once more. Who have shed blood to overcome an adversity of which we still falter in the wake of our mistakes. Whose knees are scraped from the crawl and who have earned every battle scar etched on their triumphant faces and who no longer raise the flag of a victim or a survivor, but instead, a goddamn warrior.

We long to hear stories of those who have gone before and paved the way for us, who have endured transformation to become a catalyst for a new uprising of which our hearts are drawn to. We long to know we are not alone in our suffering, that our pain is validated, that our struggle is understood.

We long to know we are human.

Our stories are what makes us human.

They are the thread that weaves us together, words that collapse from our tongues and carry down through the generations. Our history, our legacy.

I know you feel inadequate, unqualified. I know you feel your voice will never be heard amongst those who shout from the rooftops and mountains. But, my love, your quiet and gentle voice will be what makes the world stop still, and listen. There is power in your story; in the truth you speak to the world; so vulnerable yet so unashamed.

Courage: to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.

Find courage, dear one.

For just as it only takes one stone to create a ripple, so it only takes one voice to create a revolution.

~ ©️ Kathy Parker ~

Easter, Faith and Lonely Roads

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My faith is not something I speak of very often here.

I left church a number of years ago, needing to be free of religion, to deconstruct things I had been taught to believe and discover what I really did believe. To separate religion and God, understanding they were not the same thing but finding it impossible to see the difference when shrouded in theology and expectation.

I suppose the reason I don’t speak of it much, or write of it much, is that I still feel like I’m sifting the rubble; quietly in my own time and way picking through two decades of church teaching to gather in my arms what I believe to be my own truth, the essence of my own faith. Not the truth I am told to believe, or required to believe, to be acceptable in the eyes of God.

Because of these things, I find myself restless today, on Easter Sunday, with the uncertainty of what significance this day holds for me. I have no desire to step back into a church – for all I no longer know, what I do know is I could never find God in the written prayers, the hymns, within the walls of a building. I could never reconcile in my heart this teaching of a God of unconditional love with a religion that places conditions upon our salvation. Mercy triumphs over judgement, but only if we follow the twelve-step program to redemption, otherwise, well, God will judge your acceptability into heaven. At least, that’s what religion would have us believe.

Good thing God isn’t so big on the whole religion thing either.

So today I did Easter my way; a 20km bike ride under autumn skies, surrounded by dirt roads and the fragrance of wattle trees, the call of native birds and a gentle breeze grazing against my skin. I rode to this old church that stands by itself on a hill on a lone country road, a church with dirt floors and dusty windowsills, with cobwebs on the ceiling and the low whistle of the wind as it moves through the cracks of its original freestone walls.

It is deserted, eerie, haunting.

An empty tomb.

No matter what your belief or faith, the story of Easter still remains the same. Resurrection. New life. New beginnings. New hope. It is still a story we can grasp and hold tight to – to know that at any time we hold the power and promise of new beginnings in our hands.

I may not know all I believe to be true anymore. But I do know that no matter how I doubt, struggle, question, and disbelieve, I am loved just the same.

Beyond measure.

Happy Easter x

 

Do Not Love A Girl Like Me

And you, with lips that bleed with the sacrifice of your heart.

I beg of you not to love me.

Find a girl whose contours do not snag beneath your touch, who has not traded her tears for thorns, her skin for armour.

A girl who does not forgo sleep to map escape routes on the back of her eyelids, but instead makes her home below the shelter of your collarbones.

Make sure her constitution has been stitched together with straight lines and even spaces; that she has not been woven remiss with paradox and inconsistency, both the hurricane and the shelter, the illness and the cure.

A girl who does not bleed alcohol and exist in metaphor.

Whose stories can be read in journals impressed with seaside daisies and late summer memories, not scrawled in jagged scars upon her skin.

A girl whose worth is not rich in the currency of shame and apologies.

Who does not wrap her fragile shell in a bandage of words, hoping to hold intact chalky bones that threaten to crumble away with sadness.

Who says she is fine.

She is not fine.

Do not believe the poets; the ones who tell you there is beauty in brokenness, who swathe ugly truths in pretty words and label it art, like virtuosity will ever be enough to soak the bloodstains off the floor.

There is no beauty in brokenness.

Only broken inhabits brokenness.

Do not love a girl like me, a girl too inept to be trusted with such precarious birth.

Who does not understand love when it has only been spelled as goodbye.

Who knows the taste of trust only as kisses from a razor-blade tongue.

Who does not know how to exist without one foot stretched out, holding the door ajar.

Do not love a girl like me who drapes herself in garments of tough pretence to belie the vulnerability beneath.

A girl like me, whose untamed heart betrays me with its wild abandon at the wanting in your eyes; who does not know how to love in half-measure but only with the magnitude of the entire universe that gathers within my flesh.

No, do not love a girl like me.

Find a girl who is sure-footed and able.

For I,

I am too familiar with my own heart; the delicate glass of which it is fashioned, so susceptible to causing us both to bleed should it shatter beneath the weight of your fingers.

What I mean to say is, I am so afraid of love,

I would rather not love at all.

~ ©️ Kathy Parker 2018 ~