To the Mother who Struggles, I Promise You: This Too Shall Pass

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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

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

Your Story is What the World is Waiting For

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 ~

Their Forgiveness Isn’t Your Responsibility

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There are times we hurt others. Whether purposefully or inadvertently, it makes little difference. We have still damaged another through our own actions, and so we seek to make that right. It hurts us to know we have hurt another; we ask forgiveness and seek restoration in the hope to receive grace from those we have wronged.

We hope for the best outcome. We hope for what we perceive as fair.

Sometimes though, we don’t receive forgiveness, no matter how sorry we are. No matter how much we try and make it right. And it’s hard to accept, it’s hard to let go of the injustice we feel at not being granted the forgiveness we had so hoped for.

But this is what we need to remember.

Their forgiveness isn’t your responsibility.

Your responsibility is this: To admit your mistakes. To own your actions. To seek forgiveness. To make right the things you can. To let go of the things you can’t. To learn, to grow, to recognise behaviours in you that have hurt others and change them. To mindfully choose to be a better person, and take necessary action required for that to happen.

But their forgiveness isn’t your responsibility.

We don’t get to control the way others think of us or what they choose to believe about us. We can stand before them with our heart in our hands and ask them to see it – to see us ­– for who we are and not for what we’ve done. But we can’t make someone forgive us who is determined to only believe the worst of us. Who is determined to hold tight to their judgement, their bitterness, their animosity.

This is a hard lesson for people like us to learn.

People like us, who believe in forgiveness. Who give second chances. Who understand the human condition, the way we fail and fall. Who choose to believe people are good, and that until we have walked a mile in their shoes, we will never fully understand the choices they have made. Nor the mistakes they have made, and why they have made them.

We are people who believe mercy triumphs over judgement, and we choose to love others with grace and with second chances, understanding the frailty of our own humanity. And it can be hard to accept there are people who don’t live like this, who don’t love like this.

But what matters is these people aren’t our judges, nor are they our jury. We don’t belong in their courtroom.

What they choose to believe about us is their choice, and who we are isn’t dictated by who they try and make us believe we are.

When we have taken responsibility for our actions, when we have owned our wrongs and sought to make them right, when we have asked forgiveness and reached for reconciliation, then we have done all we need to do. We are no longer bound by their unforgiveness but can walk away knowing we are worthy of our own grace, even when they are unwilling to extend theirs.

What others choose to believe of us is not the truth. It is only their opinion. Only their judgement. Only the evidence of their unenlightened heart.

Their forgiveness isn’t your responsibility.

We don’t always get the outcome we hope for.

But when we have done all we can do, it’s no longer our burden to carry. Just because someone isn’t willing to forgive us, doesn’t make us unforgivable.

Unshackled from the chains of their unforgiveness, we can now run free under skies of grace and redemption.

We can now rise strong.

The Unravelled Heart, a profoundly true reflection on trauma, abuse, love, loss and healing, now available worldwide on Amazon http://amzn.to/2BIvFhp

Image courtesy weheartit.com

To The Mother Who is Struggling

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Dear Mother Who is Struggling,

I know you haven’t been yourself lately.

I see it in the way your eyes no longer carry the light the way they used to, their colour faded; like an old photograph that once held a cherished memory, now lost.

Your frown lines have deepened, they outnumber the lines of laughter that once etched the sides of your face, back when your joyful smile would reach that far, back when your shoulders were straight and the weight of your tiredness didn’t pull you down.

You love your babies, I know you do.

But this is hard.

And you are tired. So damn tired.

And maybe this is what adds to the tiredness; the guilt that you shouldn’t feel this way. You wonder if you’re the only mother out there who feels so isolated, so alone, so exhausted. Or do they all have these villages you hear of; support networks of family and friends who share the burden of raising a family, while you wake up each morning and wonder how you will get through another day on your own?

There was a world you used to belong to, and you grieve it. It’s there in front of you, every day, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – there, in the radiant faces of other women as they go about their social lives, their holidays, gym classes, dates, promotions. You wonder how, in a world so connected by social media, you are left feeling so goddamn disconnected from it all.

Surrounded by little people, noise, clutter, you find yourself lonelier than ever. But it’s not a loneliness from being alone. It’s a loneliness that comes from being so far from yourself, so far from who you once were. You don’t even know who that is anymore. You feel as though you’ve traded your whole identity to be a mother. Sacrificed your entire life to care for those around you. This is all you know now. This is all your life has become.

And you miss the woman you once were, and the life you once had.

You long for your independence, your spontaneity, your carefree. For road trips and dinner dates and live music and nights out in the city. For beach days and lazy Sundays in bed and to read a book, uninterrupted. Drained, you yearn for the things that bring nurture to your tired body and soul as you force yourself through another day on the scarce remnants of what you have left to give.

Around you, other mothers appear cool, unflustered; they’ve got this. You wonder if they catch a glimpse of the defeat in your eyes before you look the other way, if they can sense the effort it takes to simply place one foot in front of the other.

I know this is hard. But take heart, dear one.

It won’t always be this way. It won’t always be so hard. Days will get easier. There will be more moments to be still, to breathe, more moments to laugh again. There will be more moments where you can reach inside and find the misplaced pieces of the woman you used to be, and the days will begin to feel less lonely as you journey back to your own heart.

I know you think the way you struggle makes you a failure. That because of this, you fall short and aren’t enough. Don’t believe these lies. Be gentle on your heart, for every day you face the hardest job, alone, and you make it through. No matter how hard, you don’t give up. You show up, and continue to do the best with what you have. And some days that may not seem like enough.

But every day, you continue to love.

And that will always be more than enough.

I know this is hard. But for now, this is all you need to know.

This too shall pass.  

And when you close your eyes tonight, write those words on the back of your eyelids, and watch as they fall away beneath your skin and seep into your bloodstream where they will reach your heart and kiss it with the hope that will get you through your tomorrows.

You may not feel it today, but I promise you, my love – you’ve got this.

Image courtesy The Winged Woman 

When What Comes to Break Us, Actually Saves Us

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You were left so shattered by him; the way he tore in like a hurricane and ripped everything from you – your heart, your worth, your confidence, your hope.

You wondered how you would piece yourself together again when only broken remains lay your feet. Dazed, you picked them up, examined them, tried to place them side by side and make them fit. But they no longer did. Who you used to be was nowhere to be found in the wreckage he left behind; the only thing left was the grief over everything you had lost, everything he had taken from you, everything you once were and would never be again.

Through tears and regrets your weak hands fumbled in the mess that surrounded you; here and there you would pick up what few pieces you could find and hold them close to your chest until you eventually had enough to rebuild something of the life you once had.

You placed the pieces before you and stared at the chaos, defeated.

But soon, you began to notice the way the haphazard curves of the lines no longer looked amiss, but instead, wild and untamed. The way the colours and patterns came together not in a mess of confusion, but in a mosaic of abstract beauty. The way the cracks and flaws seemed less like weakness, and more like art; profound and perfect in their own right.

Filled with hope, you continued to dig through the remains, only using the best pieces to rebuild with; the pieces that were strong and resilient and beautiful and brave. Pieces you had once loved, but that had been lost and discarded by his careless hands.

Most importantly, pieces that carried no remnant of him.

You built until you were whole again; stronger than you had ever been, put back together with courage and resilience and worth and strength and the wisdom of one who has survived the storm.

From the brokenness came something new.

This is what we learn from those who break us.

That after the destruction, there is always the transformation.

And one day, my love, you will come to understand the beauty of a hurricane.

That sometimes what comes to break us, is actually what saves us.

~ © 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

The Busiest Person Wins. Except When They Don’t.

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I used to be a massive perfectionist. I could never rest, never relax, never have down time, never have fun. Never stop. To stop meant I could no longer run, no longer escape. And the thought of standing still, and having to acknowledge the things that silently ate away at me beneath the surface, was nothing short of terrifying.

Busyness was the vice I chose to numb my pain. It served my mask of perfectionism well. But being busy is no different from any other vice we use to detach ourselves from life a little – drinking, gambling, shopping, gaming, eating, whatever. Except, society has made busyness an acceptable vice, if not a glorified one.

The busiest person wins.

When really, our busyness, our perfectionism, our performing, is just another way we hide the shame that we’re not good enough. We think if we keep busy we won’t notice the ways we fall short, fail, disappoint, can’t keep up. We won’t notice our inadequacies. We won’t notice we’re not enough.

And we hope like hell no one else will notice either.

We fear if we aren’t accomplishing and achieving at all times then all we loathe about ourselves will be exposed and we’ll face criticism and rejection from others. We fear we’ll no longer be able to hide from the truth of how substandard we really are. How flawed. How imperfect.

How human.

Perfectionism is a slow death of the soul. It will kill our joy, our creativity, our peace, our ability to love those around us. We become servants to performance, slaves to our fear and shame. We live crippled by our comparisons and beliefs that no matter what we do, we will never be enough.

It took me years to recover from perfectionism. One of the most important things I have read, and continue to read, is this quote from Brené Brown:

“No matter what gets done, and how much is left undone, I am enough.”

Even though I have worked through my perfectionism, I still fall back into it at times, and need to be reminded of this often. Be reminded that my humanity, in all its inadequacy, is not shameful – but instead authentic and real and vulnerable and perfect.

Today two things happened.

My children went back to school after being home for two weeks of holidays.

And winter broke.

The longest goddamn miserable winter I can ever remember finally, finally broke in October. And it was glorious. 

And as I stared down the barrel at my list of things to get done today – because OH MY GOD THERE WAS SO MUCH LOST WORK TIME TO MAKE UP FOR NOW THAT HOLIDAYS WERE FINISHED – I couldn’t do it.

I was so drained, so tired, so worn down still from having spent the holidays meeting the needs of others. I needed to revel in the sunshine. I needed to be refreshed. I needed to be renewed. I needed child-like joy. I needed nature. I needed to live fully in the wonder of the day. So I came here, to my favourite place, and found life again.

Life is too short to be busy, and too beautiful to be missed. Leave behind the things that hold you to your busy, to your performing, to your need to be perfect, and live. No matter what gets done, and how much is left undone, you are enough.

Kathy x

The Courage To Choose Love, Even When It’s Hard

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I was reminded today that we can choose to be bitter. We can be bitter over how much we have been hurt, the injustice of every way we have been wronged. Over the ways we weren’t loved and how we weren’t cared for and all that we didn’t receive that we felt we were entitled to. We can carry that close to us and hold it dear and let it dictate how we treat the world. Respond in kind. Even score. Eye for an eye.

Or we can see what a blessed opportunity we have to be the catalyst for change. To be the ones to break generational cycles. To choose to no longer hurt others because of the ways others have hurt us. To do for others what was never done for us. To sow love where only hate has been reaped.

To do differently; to do better.

It doesn’t always come easy, and it doesn’t always seem fair – to be the ones to have lived without love and yet be the ones to offer love back into the world that broke us. There isn’t any justice in that. Yet we are the ones who now choose to put in the hard work of ripping out our thistles of anger, bitterness, and judgement that we have allowed to grow and have nurtured with our unforgiveness, no matter how justified we may have been. 

It takes much effort from our often weary hands to work the hardened soil of our hearts so that new seeds may be planted; much dirt under our nails and blisters on our fingers and grit that gets trapped inside our skin that we scrub, and scrub, and scrub, yet still can’t be free of. But it’s not always our own pain that matters. It’s how we choose to treat others in spite of that which makes all the difference.

It isn’t our responsibility to change the entire world ourselves – that is too much for each of us to carry. But we can change our part of it by offering love in the places we have been hurt the most. This is how we can heal not only the hearts of others, but also ourselves.

Because today, as I was able to offer love in a place I had been wounded, something was changed inside of me too. Something was released. Softened. Broken open. Healed. Restored. A work was done deep inside of me as I chose to override my own pain so that I may not cause the same pain to another.

A new seed is born.

The world is healed a little more.

Our healing comes in many ways. But always, always, our healing is found in the courage to choose love, even when it’s hard.

And This Is How Survival Looks On You

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And sometimes it is so hard to care for others when you can barely care for yourself. When you are tired in a way sleep will never ease. When the night goes too long and the morning comes too soon and you wonder where you will draw the strength to get through another day when there is nothing left in your drought-stricken bones.

You dress, make coffee, force a smile and hope nobody studies your eyes close enough to see the 4am loneliness that still lingers like tendrils of ivy that have crept in and wrapped themselves around your soul; relentless, incessant, determined.

You wear brave so well that nobody sees beyond the surface of your survival to the battle beneath. The way every day is another day on the frontline, no matter how exhausted and torn apart you already are. Nobody sees the fresh blood drawn from old wounds or the anguish in your muscles that are always on guard or how much it takes for you to get back up when your knees bleed from the crawl.

You do the best you can but it never feels enough. Every night inadequacy whispers its shame against your ear and soon your heart beats in time with its words. Failure. Disappointment. Hopeless. Weak. Useless. Incapable. All you ever wanted was to do better – to be better – than what was shown to you. But you feel as though you fall so short. That you let down those who need you. That you aren’t enough and never will be.

You’re so damn hard on yourself. As if it isn’t enough just to have survived this far. As if it isn’t enough to have found a way to stitch your broken pieces together when there was such little of yourself left. Instead, you’re so ashamed of not being straight lines and seamless joins and all you see are the jagged scars drawn across your body and your fingers trace over them like braille and to you they spell defeat.

Darling, let me tattoo truth inside your wrists so when you’ve forgotten who you are you need only look down. Undefeated. Worthy. Resilient. Strong. Courageous. Determined. Perfect. Enough. And if the light grows weak and the words fade before your eyes I will say them out loud and the letters will fall from my mouth and form a bridge that will lead you back to yourself once more.

You are so much more than you see. Your weakness intertwines with courage, your fear entangles bravery and your vulnerability is laced with strength. There is so much fortitude in the way you give all you have, even when you have nothing to give.

I know, today, you don’t believe me. I know today you are tired eyes and tear-stained pillows and battle scars etched upon your face. But all I ask is you look away from what you have come to believe about yourself and instead, look at me. Search my eyes for your reflection and in them you will see the truth.

That the way survival looks on you, my love, is nothing short of breathtaking.

Image courtesy http://asman0526.javanblog.ir

 

Free. 

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And she thought
to be accepted
she had to be good.
Follow the rules.
Do everything right.
Be perfect.
Keep them comfortable.
But good wasn’t real,
and she began to shrink
inside the lies of who
she pretended to be
until she became
so small her bones
crushed inside her frame
and she broke wide open,
scattered pieces laid bare
for the world to see.
A glorious destruction.
No longer hidden.
All of her naked.
Uncovered. Bleeding.
Exposed.
Free.
Real lost her many things.
But her soul it found.
And she would rather
walk alone in her
wondrous truth than
forfeit her real
for a scrap of their
shallow acceptance.