My Name is Kathy Parker and Last Night I F*cked Up The Most Important Poem of The Year For Me (The Power of Shame)

40656194_850330801841369_2590078155247058944_o.jpg

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt.
 
Last night I competed in the final heat of the 2018 Australian Poetry Slam competition, fighting for a place in the top 10 of the South Australian final next week. There’s not really any words that would do more justice to my performance than to say I totally, totally fucked it up. I forgot a line, and it threw me in a way I struggled to recover from which left me unable to regain focus and stumbling my way to the end of possibly the worst performance of my life. Granted, it may have remained slightly short of a complete train wreck, perhaps just a single car crash with no fatalities to speak of, but either way, it was devastating to see something I had worked so hard for fall through my fingers in such a way; kind of like a naked dream or falling off a cliff – horrifying to watch unfold yet powerless to do anything but pray everyone will have drunk enough they may not remember it in the morning.
 
I could sit here and blame any number of factors – it had been a stretch just to get there, I had only managed to give myself a matter of a days to learn a new two-minute spoken word piece, it came at the end of a week that had been stressful and hard, I hadn’t slept well for the week leading up to it, I’d driven four hours to get there and was already fatigued before it started etc etc. But the fact is, I could have stood in front of that mic completely prepared and still messed up because that kind of shit happens to the best of us sometimes, no matter what.
 
It would be easy to spiral down the rabbit hole of failure and self-loathing about now; to believe the old voices that are busting for a chance to remind me how much of a loser I am. Instead, today I remind myself I am human. That means I fall, and I fail, and I fuck up. But it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that I get up and brush the dirt from my knees and carry on. Giving up is not an option. Believing I am worthless because I didn’t meet my self-imposed standards is not an option. Hating on myself because of my humanity is not an option. And hiding from the world because part of me believes I’m no longer good enough or worthy enough to call myself a performance poet is not an option, as much as shame would have me believe that. But I’ve done the shame thing, and it didn’t end well, so I no longer allow that bitch to have any power over my life and worth anymore. What I now understand about shame is that it thrives in the dark places of our lives – the moment we expose it, the moment we speak it out loud, it loses its power over us.
 
So. My name is Kathy Parker and last night I totally fucked up the most important poem of the year for me because I’m flawed and messy and imperfect and make mistakes and fall often and fail often and that’s cool because that’s what makes me human. I’m also brave, and strong, and resilient, and determined, and fervent, hold no pretence and refuse to quit. And last night, I finished my poem. In spite of everything, I got to the end of that goddamn poem and did what I came to do. Because that’s all that mattered to me. Not winning. Not being the best. But showing up with the courage to be vulnerable and do something that scares me, simply because it scares me, simply because I choose to overcome my fear and be braver than I was yesterday. And knowing that even if I fail, at least I fail while daring greatly.
 
Congratulations to the ten incredible, well deserving finalists who will compete next week for a place at the national final in Sydney – I am in awe of the talent that Adelaide has lurking in these spoken word corners, and also props to the guys at Spoken Word SA who foster and nurture this talent through the opportunities and events they organise and make happen. So thankful to know, and be part of, such an amazing group of people.
 
Get your tickets to the SA Poetry Slam State Final here – will be a brilliant night!
 
Much love x

I Am Not Interested In Fast Love

I am not interested in fast love

in this world which moves at the speed

of alarm clocks and bullet trains.

I desire to be unhurried;

idle summer and vinyl reminiscence,

where the only measure of time is

the count of your pulse; my breath.

Love me not with haste, but

make me wane with anticipation

until my skin is parched, then

soak red-wine kisses

into every pore,

slowly,

so I am still drunk when the dawn arrives.

Unearth me with deliberate fingers;

count every rib, memorise every slope

and surge,

work your hands through the dark soil

of my body, leave nowhere unturned.

Tell me stories of days before we met

while I fall in love with the sound

of your voice whispered against my neck.

Love me with the music of Sunday morning lovers,

adagio;

carve symphonies of desire into my bones

before time takes from us once more.

Love me with the illusion of forever

pressed between our mouths,

for I have grown so distant of this life

filled with fast promise and pretence,

that all I desire is to be loved

long enough

to feel it.

~ ©️ Kathy Parker ~

Their Acceptance Is Not Worth Your Freedom

I spent much of my life trying to hide who I was, convinced I wasn’t worthy of being loved. After all, if I had been worthy of love, then people who said they loved me wouldn’t have left. Wouldn’t have betrayed me. Wouldn’t have hurt me. It became clear that to be loved I would have to hide my true self; this girl with the fierce mind, wild spirit and poet’s heart.

I learned to hide these things and instead be whatever I needed to be to fit in and gain acceptance. I learned how to make myself the same, how to make myself small, how to make myself submissive. I learned how to make myself silent. I learned how to conform.

I learned these things will actually gain you the acceptance you’re looking for.

I also learned the cost of that acceptance is freedom.

Their acceptance is not worth your freedom.

There is nothing lonelier than existing separated from who we really are, than spending each day in captivity to the expectations of others, than denying the true heart within us that aches to be set free.

The road to self-acceptance has been a hard one; to finally have arrived at this place where I believe I am worthy of love exactly as I am. Where I will never again settle for anything less. Where I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of all that I am. It has taken me so long to be at peace with both the light and dark in me. To see my scars as victory stripes earned by overcoming every goddamn battle I’ve faced, and not just ugly reminders of how unworthy I am; how unloveable.

Freedom comes when we learn to accept and love who we are, exactly as we are. Including the regrets, the mistakes, the choices we made when we had no other choice. Including the bad days and the messy days and the godforsaken days where darkness wraps itself around us and we take comfort in the bleak heaviness that falls upon our souls. We cannot choose to love only the parts of ourselves we think are acceptable and not the rest, we cannot love ourselves only in pieces and expect to be complete. And if we cannot love ourselves completely, we will never be able to love another that way either.

Becoming our true selves in a conformist world is an act of rebellion. I have lost many people from my life who don’t like that I no longer fit inside their boxes. How dare we be different. How dare we make people uncomfortable. How dare we be so defiant. Fuck the haters. People will rarely tolerate the freedom they see in others that they choose to deny for themselves. And if others are not capable of love without conditions then we are better off without their love. Because once we have truly learned to love ourselves with the kind of love we deserve, we soon realise that anything less than that will never be enough for us anyway.

~ ©️ Kathy Parker ~

And Sometimes This Is Healing

And sometimes healing is oceans upon shorelines; tides that crash upon the thirst of empty sands, replenishing all the midday sun has scorched from our dry bones, made full once more until the moon calls the tide back again and suddenly we, too, feel pulled back to where we once came from. We clench our toes into sand that crumbles beneath our feet, powerless to fight against the grip of the tide; once again at the mercy of waves we can no longer find the strength to keep our head above anymore.

But here’s the thing about the ocean. She is forever a contradiction; wild yet gentle, fierce yet calm, rising yet falling, taking; yet always giving back. A coming together and pulling apart; the universe as it dances to the music of the night sky.

This, too, is how we heal; forward, then back again.

Such is the ebb and flow of our existence.

There is no right way to heal. We will rise, and fall. We will triumph, and fail. One day we will stand on shorelines, soaking saltwater healing into our pores; the next, we will find ourselves pulled below by our pain once more.

We must allow ourselves these undulations; forgive ourselves for the frailty of which we cling to at times. For it’s when we resist these laws of nature we struggle the most; yet is this not what the ocean comes to teach us, whispering her secrets to our parched souls: healing comes the moment we surrender to grace.

~ ©️ Kathy Parker ~

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

Image.jpg

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

Boho 3.jpg

“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.