I Gave Up A Purpose-Driven Life For A Curiosity-Driven Life And This Is What Happened

A few months ago, I went through a dark night of the soul—the darkest I had dwelled within for years.

Initially, I put it down to burnout or perhaps pandemic-related exhaustion. No doubt these factors contributed, but I knew there was something deeper affecting me that I couldn’t shift.

I had lost direction. I had lost purpose. I had lost passion.

Worse, I had lost me.

Because of this, I began to feel like a failure.

I felt ashamed that I was unable to be productive or achieve goals. I felt inadequate in my comparison to others who appeared so driven and focused. I felt that without any significant contribution to the world, my life was of little worth.I didn’t know what I wanted anymore.

Everything I had thought I wanted no longer gave me joy or fulfilment.It all just felt exhausting.

Then, I listened to a podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert that changed everything.

Read how giving up a purpose-driven life and taking the plunge into a curiosity-driven life saved me, over at Elephant Journal, link below x

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2020/11/elizabeth-gilbert-helped-me-find-a-curiosity-driven-life-how-it-made-me-breathe-again-kathy-parker/

Healing The Parent-Child Relationship: Why It Isn’t our Responsibility

Many of us who lived through dysfunction, trauma and abuse in our childhood carry into our adult lives the weight of broken relationship with our parents.

We carry the blame of them; believe it is our fault the parent-child relationship is damaged. Whether directly through our actions, or inadvertently through the circumstances we grew up in.

We carry the guilt of them; that if we are to blame we must then be responsible for repairing the damage. That if we could only find more acceptance, more forgiveness. That if we could only be better children and let the past be the past and move on, then maybe the relationship could be healed.

We carry the wounds of them. Into every aspect of our lives. Into every relationship we have. Into every inadequacy, every failure, every addiction, every wall we build, every offer of love we push away.

We carry the grief of them; the loss at never been given the love, protection, nurture and security we deserved. The pain of betrayal by those who were supposed to protect us. The sorrow of not having the support others receive from their parents; the longing for a life that was never ours, and never will be.

For those of us who have tried to repair parent-child relationships, we carry the disappointment and failure; also, the re-traumatisation as our wounds are reopened. The exhaustion of having to stitch ourselves up once more and hope this time we remain intact. Because no matter what we suffered, we still carry an inherent loyalty to those whose bodies we were conceived of; those whose cells became our cells, whose features we witness not only in ourselves, but indeed, our own children. We carry within us the child-like longing for love and approval; the need for a sense of belonging. Of being the beloved son or daughter; cherished and adored and above all else, wanted.

But we cannot mend what we did not break…

Read the rest of my article over at Elephant Journal x

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2020/11/healing-the-parent-child-relationship-isnt-our-responsibility-kathy-parker/

Burnout Culture: When Success Means No Longer Having It All, But Doing It all

It’s late Sunday afternoon. I pour a cup of tea and sit at my desk, as I do every Sunday afternoon. Pull out my diary. Rule lines, draw graphs, make schedules, write goals. On paper, the week ahead looks manageable; better yet, conquerable. This week, I think to myself. This is the week I’ll finally smash some goals.

Two full days pass and I find myself face to face with Wednesday. I have not yet achieved one thing; in fact, I have not written a single word. It isn’t from lack of opportunity, or even lack of trying. I have spent the entirety of those two days at my desk; journal in front of me, pen poised, computer open to a blank word document ready to catch any fleeting thought that may eventuate into an article, an essay, a poem; anything.

The cursor blinks at me, in sync with the music of my heartbeat: fail-ure, fail-ure, fail-ure. Wednesday passes; another day with no words written. I flatline.

At this point, the week can go f*ck itself.

It seems there’s nothing unusual about this, of late. This has been my normal for more weeks than I care to admit. With each new day I push harder than the last to accomplish something. Berate myself louder. Discipline myself more strictly. Dig deeper into my scarcity. Strive, impel, coerce, browbeat. Only to continue to exist within this paradox where the more productive I try to be, the less I actually achieve.

Not for the first time, I wonder what’s wrong with me; why it has become so impossibly difficult to achieve a single goal, let alone multiple goals most people would accomplish with ease. Even my menial to-do list continues to get rolled over to next week, and the week after.

Mindlessly, I stare out the window. Walk into the kitchen and open the fridge. Eye off the half bottle of wine on the kitchen counter. Think, God, what I wouldn’t give for a nap right now. I’m exhausted in a way I can’t shake, nor get ahead of. It grips my muscles, weighs upon my bones, never leaves the space behind my eyes.

I thought the exhaustion would ease after holidays when my children went back to school. I thought it would ease once I got back into normal routine. I thought it would ease as life returned to some sort of The-Worst-Of-Covid-Is-Over normalcy. I thought it would ease with earlier bedtimes, or yoga, or meditation, or less coffee, or essential oils. Yet, I continue to wake each day tired and unmotivated; the dichotomy of a woman who, at this point in her life, is supposed to have it all – and yet – cannot seem to pull herself together enough to have even some of it.

I recognise the gravity of the exhaustion; that I have crossed over to the bad place and am now suffering total burnout. I search for self-compassion in the revelation, as I would offer a friend or loved one. Instead, I cannot get beyond inadequacy and guilt that I have somehow failed. It doesn’t matter that I am stretched beyond all possible and practical capabilities. We were the generation of women told we could have it all; that the measure of our success would be founded upon our ability to showcase a family, a career, our materialistic gains, our parenting achievements, our perfect bodies; indeed, our perfect lives.

Yet, we were never told the cost; that it would be our physical health, our mental health, our relationships. That it would be our entire wellbeing. That we would still have to sacrifice and compromise our own needs to support our partners in their careers all the while trying to maintain our own careers with no help or support, until something would be forced to give – most often, us.

That we would forever be found juggling and trying to keep too many balls in the air at all times because god forbid we drop one, even for a moment. That it wouldn’t matter if our world was spinning out of control, we would feel compelled to keep juggling no matter how dizzy we become. Indeed, is this not how we can best define burnout: reaching such point of exhaustion yet continuing to push beyond whatever scant resources we still manage to scrape together?

On any typical week, I am found trying to cram in part-time work as a barista, a writing career (both as a freelance writer and spoken word performer), the running of a farm business, the full-time managing of a home while raising and caring for four (tween, teen, adult) children; planning and cooking meals, growing my own vegetables, grocery shopping, running errands, doing chores, paying bills, exercising, driving my kids wherever they need to be, remembering birthdays and dentist appointments and shoe sizes and who needs what done by when, all the while trying to maintain my own health as someone who suffers complex-PTSD, autoimmune disease and at times, chronic pain which leaves me unable to sleep for days or weeks at a time. 

On top of these hours is the internalised pressure to be accessible and available at all times. For family and friends who need support. For immediate response to emails, no matter the time of day or night. To be on social media more hours of the day than I have, or want to be, for fear of missing any call-outs or submission opportunities that my writing career may hinge upon. To be seen posting content regularly, engaging with readers regularly, building my brand regularly; to be seen optimising every minute of my day with work to justify and validate my existence as a writer, especially when so many of my work hours remain unseen.

According to psychologist Dr Bob Murray, humans are designed to work about 10-20 hours per week — anything above that, they need “a lot of support, praise, and positive human relationships. Otherwise, they’re pretty much in a permanent state of stress,” he says. As a full-time parent, I am already putting in an average of 14 hours of work per day before I even factor in actual work hours above and beyond this. Most women I know are working these kind of hours, and more.  

Those numbers are far from sustainable and yet, this is the minimum requirement we have been made to believe is necessary for having it all. There is no time for play, or rest. No time off the clock. Time working is seen as “good”, time not working as “bad” or “lazy”. I try and think back to the last time I took a day off. I couldn’t tell you. The last time I had a few days away, non-work related? Sometime in early 2018, I think.

It would be nice to think the answer lies here; that all I need is a day off or a few days away or to give myself a face mask and a mani-pedi and I’ll be good to go again. But anyone who has experienced burnout understands it doesn’t just go away with a weekend camping or an afternoon on the couch or meditating or reading a self-help book or drinking f*cking celery juice every morning for a week.

Burnout anchors itself fundamentally deeper and manifests as not just exhaustion, but discouragement and a loss of joy in that which we once derived enjoyment, satisfaction and achievement from. It’s an emptiness, a numbness, a feeling that everything is too hard, or too much effort. It’s a lack of motivation to work and being unable to concentrate or focus or able to follow through with commitments. It’s withdrawing emotionally from friendships and relationships as we find ourselves lacking the energy to invest; more so, the energy to even care.

But often burnout is the result of forgetting we are in charge of steering our own ship. That no-one other than ourselves can change the course of our existence. Recovery from burnout is a slow process that begins only when we are willing to acknowledge there is a need for change.

It is found in the ways we learn to set boundaries which honour our needs during recovery and beyond; less work hours, no work emails from home, switching off our phone by a certain time each night, saying no to unnecessary commitments and events.

It is found in our ability to prioritise, and to be okay with things not getting done; to let go of our perfectionist tendencies, delegate our chores, and ask for help when we need it.

It is found in the awareness there is more to rest than just sleep; that we need to rest the physical, mental, social, sensory, emotional, spiritual and creative parts of ourselves. To remember life is breath and therefore allow our lives to comprise of both the exhale and the inhale; to balance work with leisure and play and spend more time engaging with activities that have no outcome except to bring joy to our lives.

Mostly, it is found the moment we reject the ideal which lies at the very core of burnout culture: that our entire sense of identity and worth is inherently tied to our work. We must choose to believe we are not defined by what we do; rather, who we are.

Having it all is little more than an elusive concept we will never acquire; instead, we become caught in the perpetual cycle of doing it all and hoping one will lead to the other. The truth is, it never will.

I think often upon the poem, The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? I don’t have the answer right now in the midst of recovery. What I do know is I’m not so interested in trying to fit this one wild and precious life into a system designed only for profit and capitalism.

Maybe the first step is to break the system, before it breaks us.  

** Article originally published at Elephant Journal **

My Country Is A Woman (**New Spoken Word**)

“And I think of the ways my country and I are the same
how I too have been founded upon invasion
my body occupied and colonised without consent
innocence stolen, the rape of childhood
woven through my narrative; a past not forgotten
“always carried, never healed”

This poem came from the prompt, “My Country.” I wanted to weave together the trauma of our First Nations people with my own personal trauma as a way of acknowledging the way this beautiful land holds and heals us all in our collective grief. Though our stories and pain are different our tears are borne of the same ocean we are forever drawn back to.

Much love x

Courage To Fly

Precious one, you gaze with longing at forget-me-not skies while you remain grounded on the earth below, so deeply rooted in your fear.

Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of others. Afraid to fall, yet even more afraid to fly. You fear success as much as you fear defeat, and so you tell yourself you are content here on familiar land where it is comfortable and safe. Yet your spirit is a restless wind, a fervent ocean, like a force of nature your heart is wild, free, uncontained.

Beloved, you have been held down for so long now. The weight of all you have carried corrupted your wings until you no longer tried to fly. Worse yet, until you no longer wanted to. And even now, even as you heal, even as you are healed, you are too afraid to once again lift your wings toward skies that long to set you free.

But look at all you have become. See your strength, resilience, power, beauty, determination, fortitude. Now is your time to take flight beloved. The universe is quiet and hushed as it waits with eager anticipation to see you rise, to stand in awe of your creation, just as it did the day you were born.

Everything you need is contained within your valiant spirit. You are light to the darkest of places, salt to the corners of the earth, healing to the wounded, love to the broken-hearted.

Your faith wavers, so fragile in your chest, so unsure, so filled with doubt. Breathe, for you no longer have spirit of fear, but a spirit of power. Your heart can no longer be contained in your chest, your spirit no longer caged in your body, your wings no longer cast down by your side.

All you need now, beloved, is the courage to fly.

* * * * *

The Unravelled Heart – a journey of breaking to mending, surviving to loving, and the courage to rise from our darkest places, undefeated – available https://kathyparker.com.au/the-unravelled-heart/

The Journey Of Deconstruction

Deconstruction: The act of breaking something down into its separate parts in order to understand its meaning, especially when this is different from how it was previously understood.

It’s been said the average deconstruction takes twelve years.

Twelve years, from the moment we begin to question our programming, our conditioning, our beliefs.

Twelve years, from the moment we realise the life we are living is not the truest version of ourselves.

Twelve years, from the moment the ground gives way beneath us and all we have been clinging to – our survival mechanisms, our pretences, our addictions, our perfectionism, our relationships – come crashing down and we find ourselves surrounded by only the rubble of the lives we can no longer hide behind.

Here, we experience loss. Pain. Grief. Confusion. Fear. Uncertainty.

But here is where the journey back to ourselves begins.

The reconstruction is the hardest thing we will ever do. There is so much sifting through wreckage to be done. Trying to decide what beliefs we will hold onto. What relationships. What still serves us; what has held us back. It is long, and slow, but we cannot avoid the work.

It may seem like you aren’t moving forward. That you aren’t where you want to be on this journey of becoming. That you aren’t where you think you should be. But dear heart, keep rebuilding. We are so used to instant gratification. We are so programmed for immediate results.

But maybe this is the point.

Twelve years.

“Transformation isn’t sweet and bright. It’s a dark and murky, painful pushing. An unravelling of the untruths you’ve carried in your body. A practice in facing your own created demons. A complete uprooting before becoming.” ~ Victoria Erickson

This feels hard, I know. I know you have been here for years restoring all that you have lost. Healing upon healing upon healing. I know the work is hard, and unyielding. I know you long to arrive. I promise you will arrive. But for now, you are exactly where you need to be.

Keep going, dear heart. The arrival will be glorious.

But in the meantime, oh, the journey.

Oh, the journey.

Mental Health Week 10-17th October 2020

As we approach Mental Health Week (10-17 October) I have been working on some spoken word pieces to perform for a local community open mic event this weekend which aims to break the silence of mental health.

I have always been inclined to struggle through mental health issues on my own; less from shame and more from existing within an avoidant-attachment style where my upbringing led to not feeling important, loved or worthy enough to share my struggles or needs, knowing they would be ignored or dismissed anyway.

This has resulted in being an adult who is often too self-reliant – to the point I have a great need for independence and freedom and become fearful and resentful of people/places/situations which threaten this safe, autonomous existence I have built for myself.

But the thing with keeping people out is it becomes hard to let them in, even when you need them. Especially when you need them. And living with depression/anxiety/PTSD is a lonely enough world anyway without always trying to do it on your own.

These days I am working harder to seek help when I need it, to talk about my struggles, and to share them publicly that others may feel less alone, but also to know I am not alone in this either.

This is a small part of a poem written about depression; how insidiously it creeps into our lives, so underhanded yet with devastating effects on us and those who try to love us through our dark days. Thankfully those days have become so much less for me, but I’ve written this poem as a reflection upon some of my most desolate moments, and I know many of you will relate.

I’ll record and post the entire poem when I can grab some moments (like, when we’re not having the coldest and wettest Oct school holidays EVER with everyone under my feet 🙄), but until then I hope to see some local people at the Lions Park in Kingston this Saturday 10th Oct, 3pm-8.30pm to support this wonderful event.

The Art Of Self-Betrayal

Self-betrayal is found the moment we lose connection with the truest version of ourselves.

When we live according to how others would like us to live in order to keep peace.
When we sacrifice our own needs to maintain relationship with others.
When we do not voice our opinions for fear of rejection.
When we remain in unhealthy relationships to avoid feelings of abandonment.
When we do not live aligned with our true selves because we fear the opinions of others.
When we do not honour our boundaries.
When we stay in situations that cause us to abandon ourselves.
When we remain trapped in our addictions, our busyness, our perfectionism.
When we play small to avoid criticism from others.

I have lived much of my life in betrayal of self. Knowing deep in my core how I am living is not aligned with who I really am, what I stand for, and who I want to be. Because of this, I have lived much of my life disconnected, unsettled, unclear in my boundaries, fragmented, lonely and without peace.

When we live a life of dismissiveness towards our own wants and needs and desires we abandon ourselves; we sacrifice and compromise who we are and allow others to determine the trajectory of our lives. We lose touch with our own inner voice, our intuition, our authenticity. Instead we become indecisive, unsure, lose self-confidence and self-worth, become resentful, and often wake one day and find ourselves in an existential crisis – not even knowing anymore who we are or what we want for our lives.

Much of our self-betrayal stems from feeling inadequate and unworthy. We hide our true selves and seek to please others because we fear criticism, rejection, abandonment. We fear not being loved and accepted for who we really are; that our true selves aren’t ENOUGH as we are. So we become the people we think we need to be. But every small choice we make that does not align with our true selves is another drop in the river that slowly erodes the outline of the person we were created to be until there is nothing left of that person. Until we are found completely abandoned, lost and homesick for who we really are.

Healing of self-betrayal happens when we find a way to come home to ourselves; to change the relationship we have with ourselves where self-betrayal is exchanged for self-compassion. We must believe we are adequate. We must believe we are worthy. We must learn to honour the truest versions of ourselves, and live fearlessly within that. We must forgive ourselves for the ways we have rejected, abandoned and betrayed our own hearts. We must choose kindness and love for ourselves. We must come to know our worth, draw our boundaries, not fear the sound of our voices and live connected to ourselves – authentic, complete, true, honest, real.

We must live a life where we no longer abandon ourselves for the acceptance of others but live in the truth of who we are.

Unbroken. Unafraid. Unapologetic.

Challenging The Narrative Of Internalised Capitalism

Lately as I’ve been seeking to prioritise my mental and physical health – which has meant less writing and more time away from social media – I’ve been delving into some of the more uncomfortable places within myself to challenge the conditioning I have been unconsciously living by in order to rewrite the narratives of my existence.

I always thought perfectionism was the biggest issue for me to work through and remain mindful of, however, when I saw this post on internalised capitalism it was such a moment of clarity for me in realising THIS HERE has been my biggest blind spot.

As I read through each of these points I realised they have been the core beliefs I have built my life upon. That these things are what society has conditioned us to believe is good work ethic. That I have been existing in a state of burnout for longer than I can remember because in my mind, rest equals laziness. Lack of productivity equals poor work ethic. Being busy equals living a meaningful life. Self-worth equals accomplishment.

Here now, I find myself in a place of physical and mental exhaustion. I literally have NOTHING left in me, because for the last number of decades I have executed these erroneous core beliefs in my life and not allowed myself to rest. Even in the midst of chronic health conditions. Even in the midst of working through past trauma and all that has brought up for me. Even at the times I have reached breakdown point.

I haven’t let myself rest because I have been so afraid of being labelled as lazy, good-for-nothing, worthless, hopeless. Because I have been so afraid of the shame attached to those labels. And because I have believed the busier I am, the less chance shame has of attaching itself to me. I have always felt the need to prove that my past does not and will not define me; no matter what it takes. No matter how exhausted. To stop means defeat, and defeat has simply never been an option for me.

But I’m learning.

I am worthy, no matter what gets done, or what doesn’t get done.

The thing I find hardest in doing less, is believing that doesn’t make ME less. That just because I’m not writing or posting or publishing as much at the moment doesn’t make me irrelevant. Doesn’t mean I’m wasting space on this earth. Doesn’t make me a FAILURE because I can’t keep up with other writing peers, or be seen to be as productive as them. Learning not to compare is one of the first steps to freedom and joy; that we may run the race alongside others but know the benefit of remaining in our lane and continue looking ahead to our own goals and not anybody else’s.

The great thing about blind spots is when we see them we can no longer UN-see them. However, it’s up to us to then decide if we will look away, or choose to gaze upon that which can be questioned and challenged in our lives and implement action that will result in change, growth and liberation from the roots of capitalism entrenched in our society so we may create space for rest, peace, joy and wellness.

Much love x    

You Are Allowed To Take Up Space

You are allowed to take up space with your emotions.

You do not need to shut them down or push them down to be loved and accepted.

You are allowed to feel everything; to own your darkness, to revel in your joy, to experience the entire spectrum of your humanity – loudly, boldly, expansively.

You do not have to become small to fit within the expectations of others.

To keep them comfortable.

You are never too much.

You never need to apologise for all that you are.

You never need to believe your emotions are not valid.

You never need to become less.

You are here to feel.

You are here to take up space.

To live with freedom and wild abandon.

You are here to break down the structures that have kept you small.

You are here to expose the lies that have kept you held down.

You are here to pave the way for revolution.

No longer silenced. No longer sorry.

#todaysreminder