To Those Who Are Here To Break Cycles Of Generational Trauma

Dear heart, I see you.

I see the path your weary hands forge into new territory. I see the struggle inside this wilderness of change—the resistance you feel as you work harder than anyone will ever know, or see, to be the catalyst for change. To be the one who liberates others from the heavy chain of dysfunction, abuse, and trauma dragged down from generation to generation. The one who places her flag upon newfound land declaring, this ends with me.

There is nothing easy about breaking generational cycles. The responsibility of change carried in often-weary arms. The battle to not only heal your own wounds, but to not inflict those same wounds upon others. The overcoming of all that has come before you, the defeating of all that still tries to find its way back in.

The recognising and severing of toxic patterns. The need to take responsibility for past actions. To seek forgiveness. To learn boundaries. To reparent yourself. To fight against years of unhealthy relationships, addictions, coping mechanisms, and means of survival.

It is heavy work. Backbreaking work. Thankless work. Exhausting work. It is scraped knees and blistered hands. Faces marred with sweat and tears. It is lost sleep and unheard prayers and always wondering if it is enough. If we are enough. To do this. To be the catalyst so desperately needed.

Read more over at Elephant Journal and please remember to “heart” my article and leave a comment, would love to know your thoughts x

As a Trauma Survivor, Here are 8 Things I’m Done Apologising For.

Maybe it’s because of 2020.

Or maybe it’s because I turned 40 this year and my I-No-Longer-Give-A-F*ck-What-You-Think-Of-Me attitude has amped up a notch or two.

Either way, an undercurrent of change is churning inside me, pulling me to a place where I no longer feel the need to explain, justify, or apologise for the woman I am. For the ways I have been broken by trauma. Changed by it. Shaped by it.

I’m done trying to be who I think I should be. Trying to please. Trying to conform. Trying to be normal, like those around me. Those who have not walked in my shoes. Those who have not lived the life I have lived—suffered the way I have suffered.

I’m done saying sorry for all the ways I fall short, for all the ways I disappoint others and let them down. I’m done believing I am broken—that there is something inherently wrong with the woman I am. I’m done believing I am something to be fixed. I’m done feeling that who I am isn’t enough.

Read the rest of my article, As A Trauma Survivor, Here Are 8 Things I’m Done Apologising For, over at Elephant Journal x

To Be Honest, I Didn’t Much Feel Like Celebrating Christmas

This year has taken so much. I’m tired in a way I’ve never been tired. More than exhaustion. More than burnout. Existential, perhaps. I don’t know. I just know it has been a year of very few highs, many excruciating lows. Even more losses. Fear, uncertainty, grief. A year we will all remember, but for reasons we wish we could forget.

It’s been difficult to find joy, and today was no exception. But as I soak up the late afternoon sunshine, the sea breeze rustles the leaves and the birds call their melodies to one another and the sound of my children’s laughter rises from somewhere below me and for a fleeting moment I grasp hold of something inside me.

Maybe not quite joy, yet.

But hope.

A knowing that there is strength to rise above circumstance.

A knowing that joy may falter but still exists within us.

A knowing that in the stillness we can find our way back to peace.

A knowing that all will be well.

A knowing that love wins. Always.

For those struggling this year know you are not alone. You are seen and loved.

May hope find its way into your heart today.

Merry Christmas x

To The Woman Trying To Find Herself

“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to f*ck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?” ~ Cheryl Strayed, Wild 

To the woman trying to find herself.

This is for the woman trying to find herself when there is no trail to hike. When you do not have 1,100 endless miles stretched out in front of you; when you do not have 94 days of solitude to lose yourself in. When you do not have nature in all her wildness and beauty to soothe and heal your fragile soul.

To the woman trying to find herself somewhere amidst work, family, and other responsibilities. Somewhere between the 6 a.m. alarm and the late-night crawl into bed – exhausted once again.

Somewhere in the lonely hours of the night when your mind moves too fast, the minutes too slow. Somewhere in the hustle of each day when you are captured by a fleeting beam of sunlight upon skin or the evanescence of sea breeze upon warm summer air or the breath of wind as it stirs the crest of pine trees above your head and you know you are being called back to yourself, but cannot get there. We can never get there — it seems.

To you, dear woman, who is lost and without a trail to find your way home. I know what it means to be lost. Lost somewhere in the middle of the woman you once were and the one you are yet to become.

Read the full article over at Elephant Journal x

I Beg Of You Not To Love Me (Poem)

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.

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 her 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 her 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.

~ KP

The Patron Saint Of Lost Chances (New Poem)

Acknowledge your grief.

It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant it seems, you are justified in your grief.

In your loss. In your sadness. In all the cancelled plans and lost opportunities. In all the dreams and anticipation and hope clutched so tightly to your chest that has been taken from you. In all the moments you never had and will never get back.

This year has taken so much from all of us.

Don’t compare your grief to anyone else’s. Claim it. Own it. Allow yourself to feel it.

Your grief is real. Your grief is valid.

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