Feel It All

I lay in bed as a wall of sticky notes stares back at me. They read, “I am a runner! I am worthy! I am brave! I create energy! I am smart! I am a trauma thriver! I am beautiful! I am loved!” On the far right corner hangs the prepossessing purple sticky note that reads, “Feel It All.”

Feel It All.

Every emotion, every stab to the heart, every joyous laugh, every smile, every tear.
Feel It All.

I lay in my bed consciously feeling it all, every fervor of emotion that comes to me.
I feel the beauty that is in the sun shining outside.
I feel the pride of the year I’ve spent challenging myself.
I feel the heart break of loss, of both the dead and the living.
I feel the anxiety, of never doing or being enough.
I feel the depression, the deep sadness and NEED to be in bed, in my safe zone.
I feel the grief, of constantly wondering how to go on when Cooper is gone.
I feel the surprise, of life- the good and the bad.
I feel the disgust for the world we live in.
I feel the joy for the world we live in.
I feel trust, in that I know where I need to be- here, right here, in this moment.

Feel It All.

Feel every thing, every moment, every thought, every thing.
Friends, when you choose to feel it all, it doesn’t mean life will be easy- it actually means life will be harder. But you will be stronger for choosing to feel it all. For choosing to stand up to every emotion and say, “Here I am, here you are, together we are one.”

I never understood ‘being in the moment’ until I swam with sharks. You would think I would have learned this lesson from watching my brother die, but I assure you I could not be farther removed during that situation. When Cooper was passing my mind was so distracted about the ‘after’. After we would leave Cooper at the hospital, where would we go? How will our home be different? Does a little bit of me die too? Also, the social worker just handed me a pillow with Cooper’s handprint on it, is that all I’ll ever have left of him? I could barely focus on the moment I had in front of me, one last physical touch of Cooper.

However, swimming with sharks was quite the opposite. I HAD to be focused, completely possessed by that moment. One sudden movement and I would be choking on salt water all the while my body flailing in the water causing the sharks to FREAK OUT. The last thing any of us wanted as we floated atop their home. As I entered the ocean and looked below me, I realized I had just entered someone else’s property- a flood of respect washed over me. Thoughts consumed me as I rested atop the water. But unlike the stressful thoughts that consume me on land, in the water they simply told me to breathe, to stay calm, and to feel. Isn’t that all any of us need to do? To breathe, to stay calm, to feel? At the very basic level of being any sort of living creature that is all we need to do. What if instead of worrying about all of the necessities we deem to be important we just stopped and focused on the bare minimum? To breathe, to stay calm, and to feel.

Before I entered the ocean, a man gave me three simple instructions:
1. Stay Calm
2. Breathe
3. Always look the sharks in the eyes, it builds trust

I chuckled after that last one, really? Look the shark in the eyes? But he was right, it was our only way of communicating, me looking into his shark soul saying, “I am not going to hurt you, I am here to learn from you.”

Huge Thanks to Florida Shark Diving

I learned three important lessons that day in the water:
1. Stay Calm
2. Always breathe
3. Feel your feelings

The first two I learned from the man on the boat, but the sharks only reiterated his words. The third thing I learned was from the sharks and the ocean. ‘Feel your feelings’ the ocean taught me she is a big place full of wondrous things that we do not know about. The sharks taught me they are gentle, peaceful creatures painted only by dark stories. In that moment I needed to feel what was going on around me, I couldn’t make sudden movements, I couldn’t see what was coming behind me, and probably most terrifying, I could only see about 20 feet below me- but I knew there was far more feet beyond than that. My heart, beating into my chest a million miles a minute, skipped as I saw a shark come up from the unknown below me. She was swimming fast, and right towards me. I was nervous. But I remembered my instructions. Breathe. Stay Calm. Look her in the eyes. I did as I was asked and she swam softer, looking for the smell of food near by. I realized I was the last thing on her radar.

Feel It All.
Feeling it all is a lot like that shark swimming straight up from the unknown. At first you are terror-stricken, unable to think consciously about what you should do next. But then, if you listen to your feelings closely you’ll remember you’ve been given the instructions. To breathe, stay calm, and look her in the eyes. To look your feelings in the eyes and welcome her, to say I am ready to accept all of you. I will no longer push you down, push you away, and avoid your presence. I will feel it all.

The sticky notes that line my wall remind me who I am and who I aspire to be. The sticky notes are the instructions, not actions. Choosing to feel my feelings aligns fully with who I want to be. Feeling it all is the action to feeling worthy, to feeling that I am enough, to acknowledging my beauty, my trauma, and my abilities. The action of feeling it all is what turns my wall of affirmations, my instructions, into my reality.

To the sweet friend reading this, choose to not only write your affirmations, but to BE them. To take action and be your affirmations.
Sister, FEEL IT ALL. It is time to acknowledge our hearts, to feel all the beauty, pain, joy, and anguish. To hold our hearts with grace and feel it all.

Feel It All.
Today.
Tomorrow.
Every day.
Feel It All.

#graciousandgrateful

Habit of Hope

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and short-coming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. . . .”
– Theodore Roosevelt

I first want to start off by saying if you have yet to read “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown, now is the perfect time! She even has a Netflix special called “Brene Brown: The Call to Courage” I HIGHLY recommend spending your quarantine diving into her content!
In her book Daring Greatly, she discusses in depth, the above Theodore Roosevelt quote about vulnerability. She talks about vulnerability in respect to being a CEO, a parent, and just your every day leader like you and I. I have recently finished Daring Greatly and ironically as I was finishing the book I was planning on starting this blog post about hope. During the last chapter of her book she briefly discusses hope…

“According to R.C. Snyder, hope isn’t an emotion; it’s a way of thinking or a cognitive process. Emotions play a supporting role, but hope is really a thought process made up of a trilogy of goals, pathways, and agency. Hope happens when:
– We have the ability to set realistic goals (I know where I want to go).
– We are able to figure out how to achieve those goals, including the ability to stay flexible and develop alternative routes (I know how to get there, I’m persistent, and I can tolerate disappointment and try again).
– We believe in ourselves (I can do this!).

Hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities.”

“Daring Greatly” Page #239-240

In order to have hope, we have to 1. define hope, which I did for you in the latest blog post. And 2. we have to take action. We have to know what we need to do to create and instill hope in not only ourselves but hope in our current world as well.
As Snyder says, we need to set goals. Right now you need to be setting goals for yourself. We are all in a position of staying home to protect ourselves and our world, so here are some goals you can think about setting during this time to create hope.

  • Create a routine for your stay at home lifestyle
  • Decide you are going to read every day, exercise everyday, hold a plank 30 seconds longer each day- something that can create a habit
  • CREATE A HABIT! It takes 30 days to create a habit, you have 30 free days without obligations to start focusing on the next habit you want to work towards
  • Set a goal to commit to working on your dream for a certain amount of time a day
  • Set a goal to commit to working on relaxing your mind for a certain amount of time a day
  • Creating structure. By allowing healthy habits to form we are creating hope that the future will be brighter than the past

Snyder states that in order to instill hope we must figure out how to achieve these goals:

  • Again, developing a habit takes 30 days, 30 days that suddenly we ALL have available to us- the how should not be an excuse when time is FOR us at the moment
  • I believe writing out your schedule, dreams, gratitude, or even your to do list is the best way to stay on track with how you will achieve your above goals! Write everything down. I am a sticky note addict and cover my walls in anything that will develop a mindset of hope
  • PERSISTENCE, Snyder mentions this, but I think now more than ever we need to stay persistent with our routines and our goals. Given the scenario of being quarantined it is easy to choose sleep, food, or relaxation instead of pushing towards the future. While some of those things are needed, we need to be aware that we have to continue to push ourselves forward so that when life gets back to ‘normal’ we are better humans than we were before, that is how we grow- even in times of struggle

Last, but definitely not least, Snyder says we must believe in ourselves.

  • Affirmations, use sticky notes! Every night before I go to bed I write down an affirmation on a sticky note and stick it to my wall. 1- cheap wall paper and 2- It is a constant reminder as to why I am great, awesome, super human, and also a bomb dancer
  • Consume media that makes you believe in yourself. Guess what? YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA! Only consume those who lift you up. This is a great time to unfollow, block, or just mute those who do not make you feel like your best self. I highly recommend taking a moment to scroll through your feed and get rid of anyone who makes you feel less than
  • Spend some time with your thoughts. Quite your mind and see what genius or not so genius thoughts your brain comes up with and then evaluate them. Do they serve you? If not, then how can you rephrase the thought to something that does serve you? Decide to take the time to figure out how you can believe in yourself MORE

When I think of hope from a personal stand point, I think of all the things I’ve accomplished and all the moments of gratitude in my life.
I feel hopeful for our world when I remember all who survived the Route 91 mass shooting.
I feel hopeful for our world when I remember my 18 year old brother making the decision to go be with Jesus because he knew he WOULD be healed in Heaven.
I feel hopeful when I think about the hard work I put in for races that ended in a medal and times beat.
I feel hopeful when I think about how I finished college after going through my brothers cancer diagnosis, his death, and a mass shooting.
I feel hopeful when I think about moving across country, away from my family, to find out who I was really meant to be and to heal from trauma that would otherwise be buried.
I find hope in the courage it took to walk away from relationships, friendships, and people I loved so I could be a better version of me.

What can you find hope in? I know there have been times in your life where you have had to persevere, where you only had hope to hang on too. And I know you got through those times- so what can you do to get through these times? What hope can you harness within you to get you through this next phase of life?

Maybe, it’s just simply showing up. Every single day. Showing up for those around you- whether in person or on social media. Whether phone calls or grocery stores. Maybe if we all just showed up for our Country, our World, and our People, we could conquer this. We could come out on the other-side a more compassionate world ready to dare greatly.

“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.” – Brene Brown

Survivor

“If your path is more difficult it’s because your calling is higher.” – @edmylett

It’s no secret that most wise people have the most traumatic pasts. They have fought long battles and probably lost most of them. They are also the most interesting people you will meet because they have gone through hardships.

But those people are also the ones fighting the hardest to live out each and every day. They are the ones escaping the wrath of suicide, depression, anxiety, negative thinking, and everything else that comes with trauma.

Lately I’ve been escaping those demons, barely getting away from the hands of my past. It’s easy to slip back into sadness, and unfortunately more difficult to choose happiness. I think it is because we long to be where we were before the trauma happened, before the loved ones died, we want to reverse time. I try every day to not live in the past, to consume my present and try to be the best version of me- I hear people say that “you can’t grow by living in the past” – but sometimes the past is just too hard to leave behind.

Post traumatic stress disorder is interesting, and for me, I find it is the hardest mental illness to overcome. Sometimes I find myself in the daze of a flashback and usually I do not want to return to my reality, I want to stay in the flashback where I know what is going to happen next. See, if I am having a flashback of me at the Route 91 concert, I know the next scene includes raining bullets. But if I go back to the present- its unpredictable, my mind is unsure of what is going to happen next.
Flashbacks make me comfortable, I’m in control- because it’s a scene of the story that has already happened.

Lately, I have been scared of my present and my future.
I have been obsessed with control.
And the only thing my brain believes to be in control over is the past.
So I’ve decided to write a letter from past Kassidy to present Kassidy.
I hope if you’ve been through something traumatic it resonates with you.

Dear 2019 Kassidy,

You’re missing out. Life is flying by and you’re sitting in a hospital room that is no longer yours to be in, walking halls that no longer exist.
You’re running from bullets that have already landed.
You couldn’t control the bullets, the cancer, or the pain- so what makes you think you will be able to control today? tomorrow? or next week?
You’re trying to put together a puzzle with pieces that don’t yet exist.
You’re losing your life all while trying to control it.
As you know, tomorrow is not in your hands.
You are not in the drivers seat.

So why don’t you sit back? Why don’t you do only what you can do in this day? Why don’t you rest, relax, and realize that you do not need to control what happens next, control is not the role God gave you on this earth.
I know you’re trying, I know you’re doing your best.
But remember that you don’t always have to be the best, you can just do your best.
Doing your best looks a lot different than being your best.
Just do what you can with what has been given to you today, not what was given to you 4 years ago, and definitely not what you think will be given to you 10 years from now.
Today is your only obstacle, what will you do with it?
You will survive.

You’ve got this.

Love,

Kassidy from 2013

I’d like to say writing this letter solves my PTSD. I’d like to say it cures it, helps me live in the moment that is today. But the illness doesn’t work like that- I have to remind myself of this letter every day. I have to choose now, 2019, over 2013, or 2017, or 2020. I have to decide to put my effort into today- and that’s harder than you think.

This post is dedicated to all who suffer from PTSD- from soldiers, to mothers, to fathers, to siblings, to you who’ve been through the worst of the worst.
You are not alone, your feelings are real, your flashbacks may haunt you but it’s only because you are called for a higher purpose.