On Grief, Regret And Grace

My cat died this week.

Technically he wasn’t my cat but was a gift to my eldest son on his 6th birthday. My son is now nearly 20, so the cat has been part of our family for a significant amount of time. He was by no means my favourite cat — he was, in fact, kind of annoying most of the time — regardless, I was fond of him and as he became more frail and unwell in the last few weeks I took it upon myself to care for him as best I could and make sure he had all he needed.

As his death became imminent it seemed especially important that he knew he was loved. Each day that came and went I expected would be his last, so I made sure he was adorned with lots of pats and told what a good cat he was and how much we loved and appreciated him as part of our family.

I assumed he would pass peacefully by the fire with his family close by so was absolutely distraught to find one cold morning that he’d passed outside in the garage, alone. It wasn’t his death I grieved — he’d had a pretty good wicket for a cat — it was that I wasn’t there; that I didn’t get to tell him one more time he was loved and say goodbye and just be there with him when he left this earth.

Did he know even though he was annoying I really actually didn’t mind having him around? Did he know he was loved? Did he know he was a welcome part of our family? Did he know we were going to miss him? I mean, he was a cat for god’s sake. Yet still, the thought of him dying alone shattered me; the unsaid words still heavy on my chest.

It made me think of all the things we leave unsaid to the people in our lives. How we always think time is infinite. That there will always be more of it, another tomorrow. How so much of grief is interlaced with regret; how really, the two are rarely separate.

I think about how little relationship I have with my parents; with the family outside the one I have created for myself. The weight of unsaid words I hold in my body. How I’m not ready to release those words. How I want to control time and space and life and the universe and have it all unfold as I would dictate. How I want to confront such things on my time; my way.

How I may never get the chance to do so if I wait for tomorrow.

I’d like to think there’s a call to action in there somewhere. That perhaps I’d take heed of this lesson and stop assuming tomorrow is a given. That I could believe my parents did the best they could with what they knew, and find forgiveness.

But the truth is, I feel more grief for the loss of a cat than I do for the loss of relationship with my parents and maybe one day I’ll know what to do with that but right now, I don’t. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s enough to just be able to admit these hard things — to say them out loud and allow ourselves grace for the parts of us that are broken; perhaps irreparably so.

Maybe it’s enough to just be able to forgive ourselves.

If you missed any of the articles I published on Medium this week, read them here:

“They’d Be Better Off Without Me” : Inside The Mind Of Depression

How A Routine Pap Smear Triggered My Complex-PTSD

Purity Culture Vs. Rape Culture: Are They Really All That Different?

An Open Letter To The One Who Nearly Broke Me, But Not Quite

I’m The Child Of An Alcoholic Parent. This Is How My Life Has Been Affected

Equinox (Poem)

How Is It Nearly June Already?!

Hello! It’s been a while since I did an actual blog post about what’s going on here, so on this gorgeous late autumn afternoon I decided to make a pot of tea, soak up the sunshine and do just that.

As we reach the halfway point of 2021 I’m faced with the reality that I have not achieved even half of what I had hoped to this year. In fact, more days than not lately I’m not really sure I’ve achieved anything, except to say I survived it.

I try to remind myself that’s enough. That I have four teenagers under my roof who all have their own things going on; that some — most — days supporting them requires every shred of my physical and emotional capabilities. That my primary job is still (always has been, always will be) raising them to be good people and functional adults in the world, and this season of full-time parenting will soon pass.

I try to remind myself that we are still in a pandemic and it’s okay to feel tired and less productive. That I was suffering total burnout at the start of this year and specifically took on less work to prioritise my health. That I am still in a time of healing; that it’s okay to just be and not have to do. Yet the Type A perfectionist in me rebels against all of this and I continue to struggle to not define my worth by what I do or don’t achieve each day, despite knowing better. It’s a slow learn but still, I persist.

Like many journalists and freelancers I lost the vast majority of my work with Covid, specifically the regular op-ed writing I was doing for Network Ten’s now-axed website, 10 Daily. Finding work at this time hasn’t been easy and I was starting to wonder if it was me (hello, imposter syndrome), but was comforted to listen to this fabulous podcast with Ginger Gorman on how the journalism and freelance industry is in crisis, with over 1000 journalists losing their jobs last year alone, and how difficult (almost impossible) it has become to get published in the industry at this time with many platforms forced to fold with funding/advertising/budget cuts. As it turns out it’s not just me, for whatever small relief that’s worth.

It’s been difficult to stay motivated and keep pitching articles amidst a sea of ongoing rejections but then I was under no illusion that it was an easy industry at the best of times. However, as hard as it is, freelancing is still the work I’m most qualified for, best suited to, and being self-employed allows me to be home with my family and work the hours that work best for me, so I’m still here.

I think too, I’ve found myself struggling to write lately because the industry has become harder and so I find myself trying too hard to write and overthinking everything and being paralysed by perfectionism and then feeling inadequate knowing how narrow the publishing window has become and feeling that nothing I write will ever be good enough. I know I need to just get over myself and write but this is always easier said than done for creative thinkers.

In the meantime I’ve been writing on a more personal front as time and energy allows. I rekindled my platform over at Elephant Journal who I regularly wrote for before I started writing for Network Ten. However, I found it was a different platform than when I left; one which no longer aligns with my personal integrity, so I made the decision to no longer continue writing for them.

Since then, and with some writer peeps recommending Medium, I’ve taken the plunge and joined numerous publications over there where I’ll be publishing personal essays and poems, such as these published last week:

“They’d Be Better Off Without Me” : Inside The Mind Of Depression

To The Lost Woman Trying To Find Her Way Home: Navigating The Journey Back To Ourselves

Poem: In The Humidity Of This Awakening

I’d love you to follow me over there, you can find my Medium profile here.

On the poetry front, I have some interstate spoken word features booked for later in the year but I’m reluctant to get my hopes up with Covid lockdowns still proving to be a regular disruption to scheduled plans, so we’ll see how the year plays out. Slam heats for the 2021 Australian Poetry Slam competition have kicked off around the country — I’m still undecided if I’ll compete this year. I chose not to last year as I struggled with the idea of competing over Zoom (my god if I never use Zoom again it will be too soon) and had hoped this year would be back to its usual real-life format but things continue to remain uncertain, so I wait.

In other news, I’ve recently finished a poetry masterclass with Mark Tredinnick which I highly recommend — you can find out more about it here — and have just started a creative non-fiction online writing workshop with Sophie Cunningham over at Kill Your Darlings because apparently I always need to be doing something. But as Einstein said, “Once you stop learning you start dying.”

I hope to still be doing, and learning, for a long time to come.

K x

To The Lost Woman Trying To Find Her Way Home

Image courtesy stocksy.com

“I understand 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.

To long for a wilderness that is not yours to have; to be challenged, stretched. Broken. To ache for a pilgrimage, for a holy moment that defines you. Heals you. Transforms you. To yearn to break free from the smallness of this pedestrian life; to lose yourself amongst something so much bigger than you will ever be.

To scream anger and rage to mountaintops that will embrace you with their solidness. To weep bitter tears of grief upon rivers that will carry your pain out to the ocean. To leave behind years of regret and sadness on dust-blown paths and feel yourself become lighter as each step widens the distance from you and the pain you no longer need to bear.”

To the lost woman trying to find your way home – my latest over at PS I Love You, recommended by the editors to be featured to readers across Medium’s homepage, app, and emails. Read more at the link below x


10 Ways To Better Love the Avoidant-Attachment In Your Life

My name is Kathy and I’m an Avoidant-Attachment.

Recently I was asked to write a poem on the theme: A Brief History Of Belonging.

I’m always up for a challenging prompt, but this one I particularly struggled with. Obviously, the prompt was open to interpretation and could have been steered in a myriad of different directions, except, I kept getting stuck on my own history of belonging — or more to the point, lack thereof.

Belonging, to me, is a warm word—one I associate with connection and bonding and nurturing and being grounded in love. It is a word I have grieved as long as I can recall—a word I have wanted to own for myself but one which I did not experience in an upbringing rooted in dysfunction.

As I thought more about the prompt, I considered the foundation of belonging, which led me to attachment theory — the theory that humans are born with a need to form a close emotional bond with a caregiver. How the caregiver responds to the infant’s need for emotional connection in their formative years will determine their attachment style later in life.

In other words, those of us who formed no emotional connection with a caregiver as children are going to have a f*cking hard time forming emotional connections in our relationships as adults.

According to psychology, there are four main categories of attachment styles: secure, anxious, fearful, and avoidant.

Secure attachments are more likely to have stable and harmonious relationships, anxious attachments are likely to be worried and preoccupied about their relationships, Avoidant-Attachments are likely to need a lot of space and independence, while fearful attachments are a combination of anxious and avoidants — insecure in relationships but also able to distance themselves easily if they feel threatened or uncertain.

It makes sense that I’m an Avoidant-Attachment. Whatever close emotional bonds are supposed to happen in those early years of life did not happen for me. I learned quickly to not have needs, not have emotions, to not trust or depend on anyone but myself. And though a significant amount of un-learning of these things has occurred (thanks to an even more significant amount of therapy), I have come to accept I will likely always carry some characteristics of an Avoidant-Attachment.

As the attachment style cast in the most negative light, it’s not an easy one to own. We are the commitment phobes. The ice queens. The ones who play it cool. The treat-em-mean-and-keep-em-keen’ers. Yet most people don’t realise Avoidant-Attachments desire love, affection, and relationship as much as anybody. We actually make fantastic partners, if we have a partner who is willing to understand, honour, and respect our needs and meet us where we’re at.

If you are struggling in relationship with this attachment style, I’ve written a list of things that may help you better understand and love the Avoidant-Attachment in your life, read more over at Elephant Journal and don’t forget to give the article a heart if you like it x

Control And The Fear Of Freedom: Why We Find It So Hard To Let Go And Trust

“We trade freedom for control because control allows us to manage our fear, and we have become so accustomed to control as a means of governing our lives that we are afraid of the outcome if we were to relinquish this fundamental tool of survival.

We fear what will happen if we were to let go of control—that we will swing wildly out of control—but this is rarely the case.

The truth is the less we seek to control the parts of ourselves we do not trust, the more we are led to radical acceptance of ourselves, and eventually in this space, we will find freedom from the things we fear.”

Read all of my latest article over at Elephant Journal x

I Want To Talk About Men

I want to talk about men.

There continues to be an onslaught of social media posts hating on men, and I get it. Right now, we have very little reason to hold men in high regard. Just when we think it can’t get worse, each day we are presented with more evidence of how abhorrent men in our country have acted; proceed to act. I could go into details, but we all know them. I could recite statistics of women who have been victims of abuse, violence and rape but we know these too. I could tell you how many women die each week at the hands of their partner but knowing these numbers won’t change anything.

I understand the anger. I am angry too. I have every reason to be angry. I have every reason to hate men. I was the victim of sexual abuse and rape for most of my childhood; have since suffered physical, emotional and verbal abuse all from men who said I could trust them. Who said they loved me. Who are respected by all who know them. Their lives go on; I will carry the trauma for the rest of mine.

But I saw another post today that said there is no such thing as a good guy and my reaction was this: enough.

Because I also know good men; men who are doing the work, men who advocate for women’s safety and rights and equality, men who would never hurt a woman, men who are asking how they can do better and actively taking steps to do so.

I know what it is to be loved by a good man; to know without a shred of doubt I am held safe, protected, valued, cherished, adored, seen as an equal, and above all – respected.

I know what it is to have raised good men; to stand in awe of my two sons who have grown into young men I am so immensely proud of. Young men who will walk a girl home safely and not take advantage of her. Who will protect her. Who will respect her. Who will treat her with kindness. Who will honour her needs and boundaries and no’s. Who understand how women have been dehumanised and objectified through porn and our hyper-sexualised society and who choose to rise above this culture and value women.

I understand the fallacy of the good guy. Every guy who has hurt me has been one. But there ARE good men who do not belong in this category; who deserve to be recognised, who deserve the same level of respect, value and honour we demand from them. There ARE good men working damn hard to change the culture toward women and fighting for our fundamental rights and saying, “Hey mate, that’s not cool,” when sexist jokes are being flung around the bar on a Friday night.

Yes, we have a right to be angry at men who deserve our anger. Dare I say, however, this is #notallmen. We aren’t fighting against a gender, we are fighting against a culture and THAT is where our anger needs to be directed. We must recognise the difference between feminism and misandry; that the core of feminism has always been the belief that people should have an equitable place in society regardless of their gender. It is equality we seek, not the rise of one gender at the destruction of another, and we must remain mindful of this.

To the good men out there doing the work: you are seen, you are valued, you are appreciated and you are needed. Thank you.

K x

This Is Why Our Stories Matter

I recently received a handwritten letter from a woman in the States who is in her seventh year of a 28 year prison sentence.

I do not know what she’s in there for. I do not know what she has done, or what has been done to her. What I do know is she was given a copy of my book and wrote to tell me how much it meant to her.

To read words that helped her understand her own pain. To feel seen and understood. To know she is not alone in what she has suffered. To know the life and beauty breathed into us when we read poetry. The way it changes us. The way it softens us. The way it heals us.

She also wrote to ask my help in creating a proposal for a book club/recovery program for the other women in her facility whose lives have been impacted by abuse; many of them still in abusive relationships, because of the impact my book has had on her life and recovery.

I have no idea how a book I wrote four years ago ended up in a prison across the other side of the world. And it’s funny, because I rarely talk about, or promote, or market my book anymore. I’m so much further along in my journey than when I wrote it that I struggle to reconcile who I am now with the words in that book; both on a personal and professional level.

But the thing is, it was still a part of my healing journey, written to help other women on their healing journey. When the book was first published and I talked about the why of writing it, I talked about how I had lived most of my life silent and ashamed of the abuse I had suffered. I said I wrote the book for those who still lived in the silence; to give them a voice. I’m so incredibly grateful and humbled that four years on, women are still finding their voice through mine.

Our stories are powerful and important. Our stories will reach people beyond what we could ever know, or imagine. Our stories are the very thing that will heal this broken world, if we have but the courage to speak x

I Haven’t Been Sleeping Again Lately

I haven’t been sleeping again lately.

This is the hardest part of living with Complex-PTSD. That the body remembers. That for most of my childhood, throughout so many years of trauma and abuse, my nervous system existed in fight-or-flight. That even now, whenever I feel stressed or overwhelmed or not in control, my nervous system is conditioned to respond with that same fight-or-flight and cannot switch off, so remains in a state of hypervigilance for days; weeks on end. Sleep deprived in a way that no amount of yoga or meditation or exercise or nature or rest or the 3,694 different sleeping supplements I have tried seems to be able to overcome.

No matter how much healing I have done this is still the one thing I cannot seem to defeat. It’s cruel and unfair; that those of us who suffered in childhood have already had so much taken from us yet decades later continue to suffer in ways most people will never see, or understand.

This kind of exhaustion is debilitating and affects so much of my life. It makes me unable to feel I can manage anything in my life. It makes me want to hide from the world. It makes me want to cancel plans. It makes me unable to work, or be creative in any way. It makes me irrational and anxious. It makes me feel incapable of finding the beauty and joy in each day.

It makes me want to give up.

Instead, today I got dressed. I put makeup on. I worked for the amount of time I felt capable of. I video called a friend. I walked on the beach. I kept an appointment. I went to yoga. I did the things because I’ve learned NOT doing the things leaves me feeling in complete despair. It wasn’t all easy, and there were moments of tears. But I did the things.

It isn’t about pushing through to the detriment of my physical and mental health. It’s about showing up for myself. It’s about making the decision to not be defeated. It’s about doing the best I can with what I have to give, no matter how minimal. It’s about acceptance; letting go of the anger and grief and sadness over the life that has been taken from me and instead choosing to honour the life given to me each day.

It’s still beautiful, even when it’s hard.

It’s still mine x

The Work Of One Season Is Always Preparing us For The Next

Last year, due to Covid, I lost most of my freelance work. I found myself home all the time fighting to get published and struggling to make an income. With this I also felt like a failure, felt inadequate, and grasped for my self-worth, believing the woman I am was inherently tied to the work I was – or wasn’t – achieving. I found myself lost in a dark night of the soul with no purpose or direction or motivation to even want to face each day.

Because of this I decided to take a break from writing and work as a barista. There have been many things about this work that I’ve loved. I truly love making coffee and being part of creating a small piece of joy in people’s day. I have loved chatting with people and hearing their stories. I’ve loved having a sense of achievement at the end of each day and knowing I have an income that isn’t dependent on finding work in what has been a volatile industry.

However, living in a crazy popular tourist town sees summer become the busiest and hardest time of year. More days, longer days, exhausting days. This summer I found myself working more often than not. On the days I wasn’t working I was so tired all I wanted to do was flake on the couch and never move. My stress levels went up, my health came crashing down; both physically and mentally. I stopped exercising. I stopped eating well (or some days, barely ate at all). I stopped journalling and writing and meditating and being out in nature and doing all the things I need to do to care for myself.

Most of all, I stopped having the time and energy to spend with my children over their summer holidays. My younger ones especially felt this and struggled with my absence at a time in their lives they need me present the most.

It was a difficult decision but after much consideration I resigned from my job. I have been unsure of whether I made the right call or not; unsure whether working full-time from home was going to be the right thing for my mental health, or not.

But this morning I set my 6am alarm, made coffee, and went for the first morning walk I have taken in months. As I breathed the cool morning air I felt myself unfolding; opening up to this new day and all the possibilities and opportunities laid out once again before me; both peace and hope expanding inside me.

Walking back into my office this morning was a feeling of coming home. And I realised this hasn’t been about starting, and stopping, and finishing, and failing. It’s just the ebb and flow of seasons in our lives. If we can learn to move in and out of them effortlessly; to surrender to our winter that we may find renewed strength for our spring, this is where we will find our peace.

I needed the time away from writing. It has been the ultimate reset. But I find myself today filled with anticipation; relieved and excited to have already found work and once again be able to write and create and feel myself living again, not just existing.

The work of one season is always preparing us for the next.

This is my today. I can’t tell you what my tomorrow will look like. But I know in this moment, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Australia Day – A Day Of Mourning

I woke up heavy of spirit today.

In my news feeds, horrific stories of invasion; rape, stolen children, stolen land, families torn apart, destruction of culture, genocide. Unspeakable atrocities carried out upon the Indigenous ancestors of our country. A country where most of us take for granted the freedom and privilege of which we live, with little regard for blood spilled upon the soil we stand upon and call our own.

I cannot claim to understand the pain, suffering and grief of the generations that have come before. But I understand invasion. I understand what it is to have everything taken from you without consent. I understand how it feels to suffer at the hands of privilege and power. To have no-one there to protect you; or worse, have those who should have protected you instead choose not to. I know what it is to be left without a home, or family. To be rooted in a history of shame and be handed down only the weight of generational trauma to carry in weary hands. I understand what it is to grieve for that which you can never get back; what a lifetime of grief can do to a person.

Which is to say, today I grieve with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters and want to help carry the weight of the grief held in these hands. I acknowledge the suffering of our First Nations people. I seek to understand and recognise the ways white privilege caused, and continues to cause, division and destruction. I seek to learn more and do better that healing and reconciliation may be seen in our country.

In saying this, I cannot deny I am a proud Australian, nor do I want to be afraid of speaking this truth. I am not proud of the actions of my white ancestors. I am not proud of the way we, as a nation, have treated our Indigenous. I am not proud of the way we have always handled things. But I am proud of the way we are learning how to listen and validate the suffering of our First Nations people. That we continue to try and educate ourselves on how this suffering still affects our Indigenous people today. That we acknowledge today is not a day of celebration but one of mourning. That we seek change and compromise to find a date that will no longer divide but bring inclusion to ALL Australians.

Because to me, this is what it means to be a proud Australian. That no matter our heritage, our history, our colour or race, we will never stop fighting to do better x

(Link to full poem here – https://youtu.be/QwGhU-dRJVQ)