An Apology Without Change Is Just Manipulation

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An apology without change is just manipulation.

For many of us, it has taken years to learn how to place healthy boundaries in our lives. Growing up, our boundaries were consistently violated; from this we learned our needs were not important, that our no’s did not mean no. We have spent the majority of our lives unheard, unseen, and believing our fundamental right to feel safe is unimportant.

Therefore boundaries, for us, become even more critical. Yet we often still struggle to stand firm in our boundaries. We will often be the ones who bend easily; who allow people closer than we feel comfortable, who shift the lines to accommodate the needs of others over our own needs, who give too many chances and accept too many apologies. We are still learning to trust the sound of our no, and the power contained within it.

But when we put a boundary in place, then allow another to cross that boundary, we dishonour ourselves. Often, we allow it out of good intention; genuine love and care of another. Regardless, we allow it because we have chosen to believe our need to feel safe is not as important as their need to be seen. To believe our needs are not valid or important. That WE are not valid and important.

We feel this dishonour in ourselves; the violation deep in our core. And often we will work hard to reaffirm the boundary, only to be disarmed with an apology. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. You’re seen and heard. I’ll respect and honour your needs. You’re safe here.

But an apology without change is just manipulation.

Honouring ourselves means honouring the boundaries we have put in place. It means standing firm in our truth, demanding respect and refusing to accept less than this. No matter how nice or caring or well-intentioned a person may be, if they consistently choose to disregard our boundaries in a way that leaves us feeling unheard, unseen, unsafe or disrespected, then the relationship is not a healthy one.

When we choose to respect and honour our needs we are no longer powerless. We send a message to the world that says, this is what I will accept, and nothing less. We choose to take back everything that has been taken from us. We choose to believe we are worthy of being heard and seen.

We choose ourselves.

Why I’ve Learned To Trust My Nervous System Over My Heart

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One thing I’ve learned in the last while is the most accurate reflection of our truth is not found within our mind, or heart, but in our autonomic nervous system; the system of our body which rests outside voluntary control.

Meaning, it cannot lie.

It is our nervous system which communicates emotions to our entire body. Ongoing suppressed emotions like anger, stress, fear, frustration etc cause overload to our nervous system, creating imbalance and chaos which, if left unchecked, leaves us in a state of fight-or-flight mode where we remain until we choose to deal with these emotions.

For me, the suppression of emotions has always manifested as fibromyalgia. Studies show women who suffer trauma or abuse in their childhood are 65 times more likely to develop fibromyalgia, citing abuse as the leading cause. It’s often classed as a mystery illness; as in, doctors cannot find an actual cause, nor a cure. Which makes perfect sense, if you look at fibro not as a physical disease, but the physical response of the nervous system to negative emotion.

It doesn’t matter that I am now no longer in a situation of abuse or trauma, my body’s response to ongoing stress or negative emotion is still the same.

It doesn’t matter how clean I eat, whether I exercise, get enough sunshine or sleep or how much self-care I allow myself in a physical sense; if my life is unbalanced in an emotional sense – whether that’s too much stress, a situation that is causing a negative emotional response, a relationship in my life that is no longer healthy, whatever – my nervous system will always respond with chronic pain because it cannot differentiate the different types of stress, only that the negative emotions in my life today mirror the same negative emotions in my childhood, therefore the response of the nervous system is the same even if the circumstances are not.

It doesn’t matter what I tell my heart and mind – that I’ve got this under control, that I can manage, that I’m not that stressed, that a relationship in my life is healthy even though I know it compromises my values or boundaries or the person I choose to be. My nervous system knows better. And whenever I have a fibromyalgia flare-up, I know I need to examine what it is in my life that does not belong there or does not align with my authentic self.

It’s easy to want to resent our nervous system when we suffer these flare-ups. Instead, we need to learn to listen to what our body is trying to tell us. We need to learn to identify the stress, or the suppressed emotion, or what it is in our life that is causing misalignment. And once identified, work through those emotions, or take action to change the things in our lives we know have no place there.

The nervous system is a gift, if we can learn to surrender to its wisdom and honour its place in our journey to healing and wholeness.

So Yesterday, I Had My Last Therapy Appointment

So yesterday, after many, many months, I had my last appointment with my therapist. As in, I don’t need to see him anymore unless I want to or feel it necessary. As in, we’re both pretty happy with where I’ve arrived. As in, thank fuck for that.

I told him my biggest fear at this point was feeling too regulated; like maybe I was missing something. A blind spot I don’t even know exists until the collision happens. Like, maybe I’ve just become so good at compartmentalising I’ve managed to fool even myself into thinking I’m doing okay.

Healing is a funny thing like that.

But the girl who sat in his office yesterday is not the same girl who walked in a year ago.

It’s not to say I’m fully healed; I don’t think those of us who have lived through trauma and abuse of any kind can ever declare the work of our healing finished, as such. Complex-PTSD isn’t that straightforward.

But I’m so damn thankful for the work I’ve done and who I’ve become. I’m so damn thankful for everything I’ve achieved and the life I’ve fought for; the refusal to be a victim of my circumstances and determination to overcome them.

I’m so damn thankful for the little girl inside me; the born fighter who made it through what many wouldn’t have. I’ve learned to offer her the love and grace she was never given; to forgive her for the ways she chose to survive when she knew no better. To gently pry those ways from her fingers and say, “here, we don’t need these anymore,” and teach her new ways.

I’m so damn thankful I didn’t give up when it got hard. That I walked through the anger, rage, grief, loss, shame, mourning. That no matter how hard it felt, I made myself feel it. That it would have been easier to remain where I was, but that I chose not to.

I’m so damn thankful for the boundaries I’ve learned to put in place; more so, for believing I am worthy of these boundaries. For knowing my worth. For knowing I am deserving of nothing less than what I am worth. For knowing the value and worth in everything I am and all that I do.

This isn’t to say it’ll all be all rainbows and unicorns from here. There will still be dark days. There will still be moments of pain and heartbreak and brokenness. But it’s not our place to fear or judge these feelings, they just are; such is what it means to be human. And such is what it means to be a poet; to observe, to feel – everything – and lay it down upon the page.

But for now, I’m just so damn thankful for all that I have let go, and all that’s left ahead for these empty and open hands to take hold of.

On Burnout, Self-Care, Social Media And What I’ve Been Up To Lately

So, I realised it’s been aaaages since I’ve written a blog about where I’m at and what I’m up to, so thought I’d grab a few minutes now and do just that.

If I had to sum up my entire life in the last while, it would be with this one word: burnout.

Which is essentially why I’ve not written much, or been here much, or been on social media much of late – have needed to step back and catch my breath and get some perspective.

The biggest thing I’ve learned in the last while, is this: we are no less seasonal than nature.

It is imperative for us to surrender to our need for rest, stillness, non-productivity, recuperation, dormancy; essentially, we must allow ourselves a season of winter in order to grow and produce fruit in the spring.

I had a wonderfully busy six month period of poetry and performances and travelling and harvesting the many hours of unseen work that comes with being a spoken word performer; all the while continuing to write articles for 10 Daily, SA Life Magazine and other various platforms, writing flat out in February for #poemadayfeb, and trying to keep up with other life stuff, including the full-time job of raising four children.

Immediately after that busy period had finished, I wrote down my next set of goals and went about achieving them with barely a breath in between. Only to find I was struggling: with motivation, with enthusiasm, with creative energy, with feeling blocked and frustrated. I pushed through. Kept pushing. Got nowhere. Pushed harder. Struggled even more. Spent too much time on social media seeing everyone else kicking goals which spiralled me into a mindset of inadequacy and failure; eventually defeat. I was totally, totally ready to quit the writing thing and get a mindless 9-5’er where I would never have to look at a blank page again as long as I lived.

But then I read a couple of perfectly-timed articles, A New Way To Recover From Creative Burnout and You Are Doing Something Important When You Aren’t Doing Anything, both validating the importance of rest and recovery as a creative artist.

With that validation came permission to first accept I was suffering burnout, and secondly, surrender to it. For me, that has looked like much self-care: less writing and more reading, putting boundaries in place to protect my time and energy levels, early nights, staying off social media, good food and fresh air and sunshine and exercise , which is easy to do when you live in a place like this:

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I feel like social media especially places a huge amount of expectation for us to be seen to be achieving; to prove ourselves worthy occupants of our online place in the world. The pressure to produce regular content to grow our platforms is, I feel, one of the greatest blockers of creative energy. For writers especially, so much of our work is unseen and unmeasurable; the hours we spend planning and thinking and researching and dreaming and the fact that it literally took me ninety minutes to come up with one metaphor this week.

We are always achieving, we just don’t often have anything to show for that. So we find ourselves freaking out that we haven’t posted anything on Instagram for a few weeks and how many readers will lose interest and how many publishers will feel we aren’t engaged enough and HOW CAN I CALL MYSELF A WRITER WHEN I HAVE NOTHING TO SHOW FOR BEING A WRITER??!!

Anyway. Rant for another day. The point of this was to talk about what I’m currently up to.

So, my one major goal this year was to compete in the Australian Poetry Slam competition (preferably without woefully bombing out in the heats like I did last year), which I knew was going to be tough to write new material given my current state of burnout. In previous years, competitors have been able to use the one same poem throughout the entire competition – heats, state final, national final. So despite having such little creative energy, I knew I’d probably be able to pull off one good piece.

BUT THEN THEY CHANGED THE GODDAMN RULES.

Three poems are now required; a new one for each level of the competition. I don’t know how many of you have written slam poetry, but it’s hard. It’s fucking hard. So I read this, and cried. Literally sobbed. And threw some dramatics around just because that’s what we creative temperaments do. Sometimes. Often. Most days.

I seriously could not see for the life of me how on earth I could get three pieces written. Three winning pieces, at that, knowing how fierce the competition is. Again, I gave up. And then fell into the most depressed funk ever. Because sure, I might not get past the first heat anyway. I might mess it up like I did last year. I might never know what it feels like to win. But I sure as hell know what it feels like to give up. And the only thing worse than not winning, is not trying.

So, for the next couple of months, I’ll be around less. I’ll be writing more than ever, but will have little to show for that. I’ll be self-caring the hell out of myself to recover from burnout while I work hard to achieve the one goal that matters most to me. And I’ll be here as much as possible, soaking up winter sun and salty air.

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Much love,
K.

 

I’ve Been Thinking About Grief Lately

I’ve been thinking about grief lately.

About those of us who weren’t given the childhood or upbringing we deserved; about what it is to grieve for something that never existed.

I find myself recognising the stages of grief more as they happen – the perpetual cycle of denial (this hasn’t affected me), anger (all I wanted was a normal childhood), bargaining (maybe something good can still come of this), depression (I will always be fucked up and unloveable), acceptance (it is what it is and I’m doing okay).

I keep getting stuck in anger. I see my lack of self-worth; the way it affects my relationships, my work, my belief that I am not just as capable as others, but also as DESERVING. I see myself sabotaging these things from the belief that I will never be enough. I obsess over who I could’ve been if I didn’t have a childhood of trauma and abuse; if I hadn’t left home so young to escape that. If I had been nurtured and loved and protected and raised without a shred of doubt that I. AM. WORTHY.

I’m reminded of my favourite quote on grief from Jamie Anderson: “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

I’m still learning to understand what it means to grieve for something I never had. How not to be jealous of those who have this. How to deal with the sadness and loss and longing that overwhelms me at times. How to let go of the anger and find acceptance.

But if I choose to believe that grief is love with no place to go, then so must I choose to build that grief a home. To not just love those in my life with abundance, but also love myself with the same measure.

So must I believe I am worthy to be that home; to believe I am worthy of a love that was never received, but always deserved.

When You Come To Understand Your Worth

When you come to understand your worth:

You’ll stop caring he chose her and know if he couldn’t see your worth back then, he still won’t see it now.

You’ll stop thinking about all the ways you weren’t enough for him and know he never would have been enough for you.

You’ll stop replaying all the things you could have and should have done better and know you never have to be more than you already are for someone to love you perfectly, now.

You’ll stop believing you need to strive for the perfect body just to earn his attention and approval and instead fall in love with the girl in the mirror, flaws and all.

You’ll stop wondering why he couldn’t see you and instead wonder what you ever saw in him.

You’ll know you are so much more now than you’d have ever been with him, anyway.

You’ll know you are everything worth loving, exactly as you are.

You’ll know you didn’t lose; he did.

Mothers Day: We Never Really Fail, Even When We Think We Do

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I never planned to become a mother; at least, not in a tangible way. It was always likely to happen. At some point. In the future. Way down the track. But wasn’t even a blip on the radar when my husband and I took our first proper holiday, three years after we were married. We’d both been working two jobs with barely a day off between us; to say we needed the time away was a hilarious understatement.

We spent a week in the mountains. At least, I think there were mountains. There was alcohol – I know this because every day we drank our body weight in red wine; and then some. It didn’t occur to me until two weeks after we returned home that my period, which was due while away, hadn’t shown.

A week later when it still hadn’t arrived, I stared at two blue lines on a stick; horrified. “But how much did we drink while we were away?” I sobbed, convinced the baby I’d never anticipated to be in my womb at that time would be born with fetal alcohol syndrome.* I hadn’t even become a mother, and already I had failed.

 *said baby is a straight-A student, Grade 8 pianist and 3 times recipient of the Dux award – he turned out okay.

Three babies arrived into the world in the following six years; no more anticipated or planned than the first (we eventually worked out sex was the problem and promptly stopped having it) (kidding) (sort of). This is where I’d love to be able to say I transitioned into motherhood with grace and ease; instead, my rate of failure only increased with each child.

Like the time my second child climbed over the gate at the top of the stairs and landed wrongly as I was in the throes of both post-natal depression and making lunch and just. couldn’t. deal that day. I played down his tears with hollow reassurance: you’re okay, you’ll be fine, just eat some lunch and you’ll feel better. My husband arrived home later that afternoon and noted his lopsided angle. Maybe we should get him checked out. He had broken his collarbone.

Or the time I had to grab a few things at Camping World and left the store, busy and distracted, thinking I had four kids in tow, only to realise at some point the third one was missing. Where’s Aliandra? Confusion. Panic. Retrace steps. Stay calm. More panic. We found her back at Camping World – she had strayed too far behind as we’d walked out; the automatic doors had closed on her and, too short to activate the door sensors, she’d ended up trapped inside.

And then there was my fourth child who could barely walk yet managed to climb onto the table, momentarily, before landing headfirst onto the wooden floor below; her initial scream lasting less than a second before she blacked out and went limp in my arms and I was left with only the screaming in my own head: oh my god, she’s dead, she’s dead. The ten seconds it took for her to regain consciousness have never felt more like a lifetime. Ten years later, I’m still reeling.

My biggest failure, however, was believing these failures (and the million unmentioned others) defined me as a mother. That I wasn’t a just a mother who failed at times, like every mother, but that I was a failure. Enough so, that I could no longer fight against the inadequacy which overcame me.

Defeated, I walked away.

Everything in me at that time believed my family would be better off without me; that my husband was a far better father than I could ever be a mother. That I wasn’t competent enough or equipped enough or able enough. That I’d not been raised with the kind of mother who’d modelled how to parent well, so I could never be the kind of mother my children needed me to be.

I didn’t have a tribe or a village or a support network or anyone to tell me, this is normal. That failing as a mother is as much part of being a mother as anything else. That motherhood is a fucking hard gig and no matter how it may seem, all women feel like they are failing at times.

I needed someone to tell me this; to tell me how I would struggle with the isolation of being home all day with my kids; that no matter how desperate I was  to leave the house and actually see other real-life people, there would always be one sick or one sleeping or one who needed to be fed or one who would have a meltdown because they didn’t want to put their goddamn shoes on.

I needed someone to tell me how alone I would feel when I swapped an adult-filled world for Play School and the Alphabet Song and never-ending rounds of Go Fish; how small my world would become. How small I would become.

How I would lose all sense of identity and self-worth to days I couldn’t even find the energy to shower and dress; how when I eventually did manage to shower I would be too overwhelmed to do anything more than stand there and cry.

I needed to know there would be days where the loneliness would become too much. Days I would be too tired to pick up the dirty socks strewn around the house; too exhausted to put away one more toy or wash one more dish. Days I would be irritable and short-tempered with my kids and react too quickly and speak too harshly.

Days I would feel desperate to be left alone; to not be touched by another or have to speak to another or listen to another. Days I would barely hold my marriage together because of this. Days I would barely hold myself together because of this.

I needed to know there would be days I would fail.

But more so, that it was okay to fail. That failure didn’t define me; not as a mother and not as a woman. That every mother out there was failing and feeling inadequate and falling apart on the bathroom floor on the days it all seemed too much. I needed to know this is what being a mother is like; that for every good day there are even more bad days. That some days are little more than survival. But even then, we’re still enough.

Being a mother isn’t measured in success or failure, but in our ability to meet our children with unconditional love; regardless. It’s in the way we offer them acceptance, understanding, compassion, grace, forgiveness, support, guidance, comfort. The way we nurture them in the truth of who they are and cultivate in them the confidence to become all they’ve ever wanted to be. It’s in the way we show up, even when we don’t know how.

It’s in the way everything they become is because of everything we are.

Even on the days we fail.

Tonight, my children sit around the dinner table; there is talk about their day, the usual ribbing of one another, much laughter. These days, being a mother is less struggle and more heart-in-throat as they begin navigate the world themselves. Days that never seemed to end become years which go by too fast; I am all too aware of how numbered my days are with four of them under my roof. Greedily, I soak in this moment, willing it to stay.

I needed someone to tell me we never really fail, even when we think we do.

Article originally published at whimn.com.au

I Don’t Stand on Stage Because I Know How to be Brave, But Because I Got Tired of Being Afraid

There are these moments on stage where I have to close my eyes for a second and summon the courage to keep going.

Being vulnerable isn’t something that comes easily to me; sharing so much of myself with a room full of people I have just met.

Offering the things I am sometimes still scared of: my brokenness, my failures, my ugliness, my fragility, the messiest versions of who I have been and often still am.

It can be daunting, and terrifying, and sometimes more than I feel able to do.

I don’t stand on stage to perform; but to tell stories.

To share of blood shed on the battlefields of my healing and knees still scraped from the crawl and how I am made of wounds but still standing and how every scar etched on my skin reminds me what a goddamn warrior I am to have made it this far.

I don’t stand on stage to be set apart by a mic, but to be drawn together because of it.

To practice courage, knowing when I do, it offers that same courage to others. It gives permission. It creates space. It allows authenticity. It brings belonging and intimacy to a world overfed on information yet starved of connection.

I don’t stand on stage because I know how to be brave, but because I got tired of being afraid.

Our stories are our history. Our legacy. Our humanity. Our connection.

They matter.

Sharing them requires the courage to be vulnerable.

But what makes us most vulnerable is where we become most beautiful.

“The speaking will get easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realised you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers and realise you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.” – Audre Lorde

Photo credit: Brendan Bonsack

Easter Thoughts

Whatever you believe, the Easter message is one of resurrection; new life, being made new, believing we are not nailed to the crosses of our past. It is courage to overcome and strength to persevere; hope for tomorrow amidst an insurmountable today. It is the assurance that every breath is a new beginning; the outcome of our story not predetermined. We rise and walk in the light and truth of all we are knowing mercy triumphs, grace abounds and love wins.

Happy Easter x

The Art of Taking Up Space

This week has been less work and more yoga; a gentle coming back to myself. Connecting breath to body, body to mind. Being still, and present. Remembering my worth beyond productivity and performance. Working through blockages. Making changes where I can. Finding acceptance and peace where I cannot.

The thing that continued to come up this week was our worth: how we either play small, or strive and compete to be seen. How both of these things are disempowering, and exhausting.

In a world where we are conditioned to remain small, yoga reminds us to take up space. We weren’t created to contain ourselves inside the expectations of others, or inside the walls of our own fears and inadequacies. We do not need to shrink ourselves to be accepted; to remain compliant and submissive to keep those around us comfortable and unthreatened.

However, we also do not need to force our worth upon others; to push and shove and elbow our way through the crowd to be seen. We do not need to yell the loudest to be heard. We do not need to compete with others, to strive to be better than those around us so our worth is seen and acknowledged.

I have always been more inclined to shrink; to believe I am not enough. The last while, I have felt small. So incredibly small. Through yoga, I am reminded to create space — to stretch beyond the limits of what I believe I am capable of.

As I inhale space and exhale surrender, I am reminded this is how we learn to take up more space in the world: every day we breathe a little deeper and stretch a little longer and push a little further against the constraints of our society, of expectations, of ourselves.

We already stand inside the space we have been given. One we do not have to shrink to fit inside. But also one we do not need to be afraid to fill. We learn to take up more space as we learn to stretch into the bold and sure truth of our existence.

Happy weekend x

(Also, someone come clean my windows, thx)