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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

Note To Self

Today I am having a bad day.

Waking up is hard- I do my absolute best to choose the day ahead of me but being completely transparent, sometimes I let the day choose me. I let the depression win, I let the anxiety take over, and I decide to surrender to all the pain that is, mental illness.

Then, the guilt sets in. Which for me, is the worst part- I feel guilty for feeling my mental illness, like it’s not a real illness. I think this guilt stems from being surrounded by a physical illness like cancer for a portion of my life. I have this lie in my head that I tell myself, “You’re not really sick unless the blood test shows you that you are.” It is a lie I’ve convinced myself of and even as I type it I know it sounds ridiculous. But for so long I had convinced myself that Cooper’s cancer was of more importance than my mental health would ever be. That because it was cancer, I could never compete unless I too, had cancer. No illness, especially no mental illness, was of enough importance to admit it was a problem.
I know where this lie stems from, it stems from a long line of feeling like if it wasn’t cancer it wasn’t a big enough problem to address. See, when you’re a sibling of someone with cancer, someone dying of cancer. You make your problems small. You convince yourself that your problems are not as big as cancer so they do not matter.
The problem with this is, you cannot undo the mess you’ve create in your mind- it follows you.
So now, years after cancer has left my life and Cooper has left this world- I still believe my illness is not valid. I still have to convince myself that if I am having an off day I can rest my mind and my heart.

But let me tell you what cancer and mental illness have in common.
They can both kill you.

So I am writing this, a note to myself, that just like cancer feasting at the bodies every healthy cell, my mental illness is doing the same thing.
And if ignored, my mental illness will take hold of every healthy cell, and kill it off just like cancer.
Cancer and mental illness are not far off from each other.
It’s just how you choose to look at it.

Maybe today you too need to be reminded that whatever you’re dealing with is just as important as cancer, or a heart attack, or a paper cut. Do not weigh YOUR struggles against someone else’s. Everyone is hurting, everyone is struggling, whether physical or mental, illness is real.

If I could go back and tell Kassidy something in January of 2013, a few short weeks before Cooper would be diagnosed with cancer, I would tell her two things.
Never feel guilty for what you’re feeling- mental or physical.
Your pain is important.

Even though we can’t go back, we can go forward.
I can tell Kassidy today and Kassidy tomorrow those same words.
I can work through the guilt of feeling like my illness is not enough compared to others.
And maybe you need to work through that guilt too. Whether you’re a cancer sibling or a mom who puts her child’s needs before her own.
We all struggle with this, so lets say it together…

“Never feel guilty for what you’re feeling- mental or physical.
Your pain is important”

To My Gracious & Grateful Community,
I want to remind you-
You are loved.
You are enough.
You are important.
You are needed.
Tomorrow needs you.

xoxo,
Kassidy

Is perfection really freedom?

Sometimes I get anxious to write my blogs. Not because of my anxiety but because of my fear that they will lack perfection.

There is probably something in your life that creates anxious feelings within your body- mostly because you’re craving perfection.

Here’s an unpopular thing to say as a bloggerI don’t have an answer for you about perfection. lol – no but really, blogs were designed to help make your life easier. “This recipe will help you make dinner in under 20 minutes!”, “6-pack abs, in 5 minutes or less!”, “Childbirth… it will be easy if you read this blog!”
My blog however, I hope never gives you the answers. I hope my blog leaves you with deep questions that only you can dive in and answer.

So lets tackle perfection- why do we strive for perfection in a world where perfection is unachievable?
Why do we expect perfection when it’s physically impossible to be perfect?

per·fec·tion/pərˈfekSH(ə)n/

  1. the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.

The definition of perfection is interesting because it is described as being ‘free’ of all defects. But I do not believe that NOT having defects will allow you to be free. If I lived a “perfect” life that had no flaws- a story that didn’t involve my brother dying and running for my life in a shooting- I would not be free, I would be shackled. I would be restrained to a life without lessons.

A life without lessons, is not a free life- it is a broken life.

A life full of lessons is a life well spent- it is a life full of stories that taught you and allowed you to grow.
I would choose growth over perfection every time.

Every time I choose to open my computer and write, I am allowing myself to grow. To grow as a writer, a blogger, and as a person.
And every time I write a blog that is not perfect, I am freed.
Freed of the very thing that causes me to grow.

I am grateful that I am not perfect.
I am grateful that I am incapable of writing a perfect blog post, or a perfect Instagram post, or buying the perfect items for my shop.
I am grateful that every time I choose to be imperfect, I am choosing to allow myself to be free.

What things in your life are you forcing to be perfect, when you could allow yourself to instead- be free?

This Monday, I ask you to free yourself.
It’s going to be a challenge, because if you’re anything like me you have several things you try to be perfect at- but just remember, a perfect life is a life without experience, without joy, without adventure.
A life tethered to perfection, and one I personally, do not want to live.

How will you choose to be free today?

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