And she’s beautiful, the girl in the Instagram posts. All perfect smile and perfect tan and perfect proportions. You wonder what it would take to look like her.
If he would notice you more if you did.
In your head, you begin to calculate how many less calories you would need to become that thin. The amount of sit-ups it would take to get abs that defined. The cost of laser hair removal and breast enhancements and anti-wrinkle injections and teeth whitening.
Filled with inadequacy, your heart sinks. You know how much it would take to even come close to comparison; how much it would take to grasp a standard of beauty you know you’ll never measure up to. One you’re not sure you even want to try and measure up to.
Dear woman, you forget.
You forget she may be all those things.
But she isn’t you.
She isn’t the strength of your body that has brought forth life and risen above death; battle-scarred and weary but held together with the resilience and determination of the warrior spirit that blazes beneath your bones.
She isn’t the complexity of your mind, the paint strokes of colour and swirl like the starry night of Van Gogh’s imagination; the intelligence, the creativity, the emotion, but also the tangled knots of questions and doubts and fears; the blisters on your fingers from how much it has taken to unravel the distorted lies of your foundation to uncover the truth that now radiates from your existence.
She isn’t the beads of light behind your eyes that glimmer with the hidden mysteries of your soul. The quick wit you carry inside the cadence of your laughter. The words of courage you fearlessly speak to those who need them. The helpless tears that overflow from your heart for those who suffer around you.
She isn’t the love that rushes through your blood or the passion that douses your veins; the untamed wildfire that aches to be set alight by the strike of his fingers against your skin.
She isn’t vulnerability disguised as bravery.
She isn’t the taste of hope mingled with quiet apprehension as she learns to lean on trust once more.
She isn’t you.
And maybe he’ll never see that. Maybe he’ll never see beyond the surface of a woman’s skin; beyond an image on a screen, beyond a superficial ideal, beyond an unrealistic standard.
But maybe you deserve better anyway.
Because she might be beautiful.
But she will never compare to you.
And the only person who needs to see that, is you.
– ©️ Kathy Parker 2018 –
The more I begin to heal the less I find myself apologising for it.
It would be easy to say sorry.
Sorry for the ways I have pulled away.
Sorry for the ways I have let you down.
Sorry for the messages I have not replied to.
Sorry for the calls I have not answered.
Sorry for my absence.
Sorry for my silence.
Sorry I can no longer meet your expectations.
Sorry I can no longer meet your needs.
Sorry I can no longer put your needs above my own.
Except, I’m not sorry.
Because, the thing is, it isn’t me that needs to heal.
It’s the little girl within me; the wounded child that nobody protected. Or stood up for. Or put first. Or made to feel mattered.
The girl who was not heard, or seen.
The girl who grew up believing the needs of others were more important than her own.
That her body was not her own.
That her voice would never be heard.
That she wasn’t worth the respect of others.
That love was something to be earned.
That boundaries could be crossed by whoever so pleased.
That her value was not in what she could give, but only in what others could take.
I am fighting for her, because no one else ever did.
I am putting her first, because no one else ever did.
I am standing between her and the world; honouring her, protecting her, nurturing her, allowing her the time and space to mend the brokenness without more being taken when there is nothing left to give; without more of the world pulling her in every direction with its demands and expectations.
Because she matters. Because I matter.
I am choosing to heal the way I need to; my time, my way.
I am choosing me.
And I will no longer apologise for that.
– ©️ Kathy Parker 2018 –
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 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.
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.
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.”
I was twenty-one years-old when my first son entered the world. He came early; two weeks before his expected date, and with such haste the midwife delivered him before the doctor made an appearance. After him, there were three more – my second son and two daughters, all within six years, all with their own birth stories, their own personalities, their own idiosyncrasies that make them unmistakably who they are; vastly different from one another despite being raised so symmetrically.
I hadn’t planned on having my first child so soon; life had chosen otherwise. Though married, I was young. In hindsight, too young. But, I was determined to be prepared. I read pregnancy books, birthing books, parenting books. I was prepared for the ways my body would change. I was prepared for the ways my life would change.
But I wasn’t prepared for the ways I would change.
I can say now that being a mother has been the best thing I have ever done; the best part of who I am. But I couldn’t always have said that. I glance back to those early days and my fingers slip through the faded recollection of how difficult they actually were; a decade that passed me by through a filter of exhaustion and loneliness. There were so many days I struggled for air, so many days I wept for the village that was nowhere to be found; moreover, wept for the woman I once was, also nowhere to be found. I grieved for her – the responsibilities and obligations of motherhood had taken her from me and in her place stood a foreigner, a woman I no longer recognised or wanted to be.
I hadn’t expected to feel such a loss of my own identity, to become so desolate in the abyss of who I used to be and who I had yet to become. I hadn’t expected to feel so unanchored, so adrift, so alone. Once extroverted, confident and capable, I soon found myself flailing helplessly in an ocean of my own inadequacies.
We lived on a 2500-acre farm in rural South Australia, aka the middle of nowhere, or so it seemed. I had no family close by, no support network to turn to. While my friends undertook university courses, careers, travel, I no longer even seemed capable to leave the house without deteriorating into a mire of irrational anxiety. Exhausted, burnt out, worn out, I lost my confidence, my capabilities, my ambition, my passion, and most days it appeared, my mind, too.
It wasn’t an issue of love; a woman’s heart will never beat with such fierceness as for that which she has created within herself. It was the belief that because I loved my children, I should love being a mother. But I didn’t. All I felt was the loneliness, the isolation, the invisibility, the loss of self, the ambivalence, the exhaustion, the guilt, the shame of all I lacked. Every night I would collapse into bed, overcome with guilt that I couldn’t be what they needed me to be, that I wasn’t as capable as other mothers, that I wasn’t enough. I would lie awake, despondent, reciting promises in my head – tomorrow I will try harder, tomorrow I will do better. But always, they fell short. Always, I fell short.
I wasn’t prepared for those feelings, for the mental and emotional upheaval that came with being a mother. These were the things not written in books, the things nobody speaks of because we’re all too busy being ashamed of our scarcity, too worried everything we feel is wrong, too afraid of being judged by those we compare ourselves to. When little do we know, they too stand inside the valley of their own inadequacies and break apart for how short they believe they fall in their comparison to us.
This year I will celebrate my sixteenth Mother’s Day. It has taken me this long to find the joy in being a mother. To no longer wake each morning to the words – this too shall pass – scrawled on sticky-notes on my bathroom mirror. To love and appreciate all my children bring to my life. To understand what it means to hold, first in my womb and now in my arms, the next generation – a generation I have been given the privilege to teach of compassion, tolerance, respect, kindness, goodness, love. A generation of world-changers.
It’s taken sixteen years to understand that being a mother is not something we are, but something we become. As we watch our children grow and learn from us, likewise, we grow and learn from them. They awaken us; force us to pay attention as we tread upon unsure ground, help us find our footing and become decided in our steps even when we walk in darkness. They soften our hard edges as they teach us of patience, sacrifice, unconditional love. They help us forgive our own humanity through the grace we offer theirs. They show us what it means to love as a result of the love they give to us, even when we are undeserving of such a profuse gift – especially when we are undeserving of such a profuse gift – and because of that, we are found better.
There is no way, sixteen years ago, I could have been prepared for the ways being a mother would change me. But nor could I have ever been prepared for the way my children would become the most beautiful part of everything I am today.
Original article published at SA Life Magazine
Leave me here in the wilderness,
let me wander upon lost paths
where fallen limbs and bracken
cause my feet to stumble astray,
deeper down the unknown roads
that lead me further into myself.
Let my soul become entangled
with ivy and creeper and vine
as it twines through damp forest
and twists around my sad anguish.
Let moss grow upon my shadows
until sunlight warms my bitter grief.
Let me grope through darkness,
and my heart taste its sour wrath
as it unleashes, wild and savage,
upon the fury of its torn injustice,
until there is only hushed silence
broken by the weep of surrender.
Let my spirit be found crushed
in valleys of dust and drought.
Let me be consumed with thirst
as I wait upon winds of the earth
to breathe life into my dry bones
and mend me back to abundance.
Do not take my hand and lead me
from this journey I choose to abide,
but leave me here in the wilderness
where for now, I must live untamed,
for I am young, and so very broken,
and there is still much to be learned.
~ © Kathy Parker ~
The Unravelled Heart, a profoundly true reflection on trauma, abuse, love, loss and healing, now available worldwide on Amazon http://amzn.to/2BIvFhp
And don’t ever be afraid to tell your story.
Don’t ever feel it is too small, too insignificant, too humble.
Don’t ever feel your voice is too faint to be heard. That your words are too shaky to hold their own ground.
The world is already over-crowded with voices of self-importance; voices that make noise but not change. Tired of people telling us what to believe, we put our earphones in and tune them out. We are no longer interested in the ideas and opinions of others; our hearts ache for something more. For connection. For relationship. For something that parallels what we understand about our own lives. To be part of something bigger than ourselves.
Our hearts ache to hear stories.
Stories of those who have fallen, but who withstood all odds to hold steady on their feet once more. Who have shed blood to overcome an adversity of which we still falter in the wake of our mistakes. Whose knees are scraped from the crawl and who have earned every battle scar etched on their triumphant faces and who no longer raise the flag of a victim or a survivor, but instead, a goddamn warrior.
We long to hear stories of those who have gone before and paved the way for us, who have endured transformation to become a catalyst for a new uprising of which our hearts are drawn to. We long to know we are not alone in our suffering, that our pain is validated, that our struggle is understood.
We long to know we are human.
Our stories are what makes us human.
They are the thread that weaves us together, words that collapse from our tongues and carry down through the generations. Our history, our legacy.
I know you feel inadequate, unqualified. I know you feel your voice will never be heard amongst those who shout from the rooftops and mountains. But, my love, your quiet and gentle voice will be what makes the world stop still, and listen. There is power in your story; in the truth you speak to the world; so vulnerable yet so unashamed.
Courage: to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.
Find courage, dear one.
For just as it only takes one stone to create a ripple, so it only takes one voice to create a revolution.
~ ©️ Kathy Parker ~