Tag Archives: personal growth

Year in Review 

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Year in Review 

What a year, 2016. Where do I even begin?

It started off in Oakland, which is always great because I love spending time with my brother. I was channeling creative energy into helping him give his place a refresh. It turned out really nice- I love to decorate. 

I also started graduate school at SMU. I am shocked it’s been a year. Pursuing a career path that I know is ultimately going to be way bigger than me is daunting. I’m up for the challenge, but I have to mention that it has been a huge challenge. 

Personal growth has been a huge part of the last five and a half years of my life and counseling has only pushed me further in the direction of self knowledge and awareness. 

That kind of information, if I’m able to apply it to my life, is invaluable. It can also be painful though, if I’m being honest. I didn’t want to recognize that I was struggling for the first eight months of this year. Why would I? I literally have everything going for me this year that I didn’t have last year. I have my own place, I’m headed toward a fulfilling career and I finally feel like I’m moving forward.

If everything was on the up and up, then why didn’t I feel like getting out of bed? Having spent the most recent four months of this year reflecting on why I was feeling that way, I can definitively say that depression is a persistent, sneaky bastard.

It was scary. I thought all kinds of other things were wrong with me. I had no energy or motivation and I perceived almost everything as overwhelming and sometimes even impossible. I spent a lot of time sleeping or in the dark with my eyes closed. I made it to school and work, and that was about it. Eventually I knew it was time to go back to therapy.

Luckily, I found the best therapist I could imagine. She helped me learn to recognize the early signs of depression, develop internal coping skills for depressive thoughts, set realistic expectations for myself, develop more self compassion, pull away from situations that contribute to feelings of hopelessness, and look at the big picture when I need motivation.  I made a lot of changes. We wrapped up last week and I’m going into 2017 feeling much more prepared for life in general. 

my nickname is krabby, and it’s seemed especially fitting this year.

Ha, well, this is what happens when I don’t write. I sit down to write one thing and end up on a completely different tangent. However, it wouldn’t be authentic to write about the fun parts of this year without mentioning my depression because I was carrying it with me for well over half of it. 

That being said, I traveled quite a bit this year, gave my own apartment a refresh and even threw a Christmas party. So stay tuned for the rest of my year in review. Thanks for reading.. to be continued.. 

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Remembering Mom: part 5

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Remembering Mom: part 5

It feels bizarre that I’ve been grieving for five years.  It went by much more slowly in the beginning.  The sorrow is less all consuming five years in, but the hurt is still there, as I suspect it will always be.

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Mom

I attended a funeral on Friday (my mom’s birthday) and that put me into a state of contemplation.  Death is so final. Obviously I understand that death is final, but I was thinking about it on a deeper level.  The DFW National Cemetery is huge, there are so many graves that it’s almost unconscionable to even wrap my head around.  What happened to all of those families?  Were they able to move forward, or is the loss still affecting the family generations later?

I’ll never know the answers to those questions for those families, but I know the answer for my family.  If I were walking through the cemetery where my mom’s dad is buried, I know for sure that the effect his death had on my mom deeply affected my childhood.

I’m not resentful about this, I point it out to illustrate that there is a cycle that can develop in families if grief and trauma remain unresolved.  Our brains love patterns and seek them from the moment we are born.  If there’s a pattern of sadness and grief in a parent, the baby’s brain will pick up that pattern and light up in the same areas.  If that grief remains unresolved in the parent, as the baby’s brain develops it will continue to follow that pattern.  That pattern of grief and sadness becomes the foundation for all the future relationships the baby has, even though all those feelings could be going on subconsciously in the parent. Isn’t that bananas?

The brain is amazing.  It loves patterns, but is also adaptable.  We have the ability to change those early patterns in our brains at any time.  This is what has been going on with me.  When something clicks in my self awareness and I examine it’s origin, I can create a new pattern my brain can follow that works better for my life.

Look how far I’ve come by simply becoming aware of the deep fear I was experiencing and learning to recognize the negative impact it was having on my life.  I am in graduate school pursuing the career I always wanted but, until recently,  never thought I could actually have.  For the first time in decades, I actually feel ambitious.

Something that has really resonated with me over the last year has been to really take advantage of my abilities and talents rather than minimize them.  When I use my creativity or connect with a child, I feel enriched.  These are my gifts and I think they were given to me so I can use them to influence the world in a positive way.  Maybe not the entire world, but someone’s little word.

I want to be honest and let you know that I still struggle.  A lot of my recent growth has been sparked by having to accept some painful realizations about myself. I still have to keep strategies in place to cope with my anxiety and depression. It’s required if I want to be my best self and I own and accept that.

For me, there has definitely been marked change in the way I grieve at the 5 year mark.  I’m beginning to come around to the idea of letting her go in a way that I wasn’t before.  I was holding on to so much for so long because I was afraid that letting go of those feelings would mean letting go of her.  I realize now that, regardless, she’ll always be a part of me.  I still miss her everyday and I wish she could be here to see the person I am becoming, she’s the one who started me on this journey and she will always be a source of inspiration to me.

RIP, mom. I miss you and I love you so much.

Peggie Gardner
April 15, 1951-April 19, 2011

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Artwork by Logan Pack

 

Remembering Mom: part 4

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Well it’s April, folks. Time just keeps passing on by, as it tends to do. I just got back from a Caribbean cruise last week. It’s been one year since my brother’s bone marrow transplant. My little chickpea will be two years old at the end of next month. It’s been five months since her mom passed away. It’s been four years since my mom passed away.

I’ve turned into someone else entirely, over that time. My eyes have been opened to the depths of the human experience. Over the last four years I have witnessed true suffering, pure, unadulterated joy and experienced profound empathy (of which I did not think I was capable).

I can’t emphasize enough how much I feel like I have grown as a person in the last four years. I am easily recognizing who I want to become and the kind of people I’d like to be surrounded by. While I’ve known the direction I’ve been heading for a while, I never felt like I deserved it for myself until recently.

In my mom’s place, there’s an emptiness. The best way I can describe it is, it’s as if my mom and dad are my shoulder angels and both of them rested there my entire life until the age of 27, when my left one disappeared.

The emptiness brought not only a feeling of deep loss, but also an intense questioning of who I really was. Ever since then, I’ve been on the path to figure that out.

I’ve been through many emotions ranging from near euphoria to intense self loathing, but along the way I have found out who I am. I’ve done the work and gotten to know myself well enough to know what motivates me, why it does and how to use that knowledge to better my life. The struggle IS real, and it’s not easy.

However, in my life it’s been better than denial and ignorance. When I say I wouldn’t be who I am without my mom, I also mean that I wouldn’t be who I am had I not lost her. She continues to inspire and influence me to keep moving forward, be more aware and really attempt to see in myself what she saw in me.

That’s how I live. Awareness and facing my life head on is my new normal. It’s not easy and I have to fight constantly, but it’s worth it because the only people who don’t fight for what they want are people who’s spirit is broken. Mine has been on the mend for four years and it’s only going to get better from here.

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Four years, countless tears
I wouldn’t be who I am
I’ll love you forever

RIP, mom.
Peggie Anne Gardner
April 15, 1951-April 19, 2011

Titles are overrated

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Hi there! Well, what a few months it has been since I last spoke. I’m not sure how long this entry will take to write for me to be able to articulate what I’d like to, but I am going to try to at least start.

Can I tell you how much my little chickpea has grown? She’s 16 months old and she’s the cutest thing anyone in this house has ever seen. She enjoys making funny faces, loves animals, and she likes to say “wasssat?!” (what’s that) Spending so much time around a baby, I’ve learned that they change really quickly! It’s really fun to watch her learn how to communicate. She’s a little foodie, so of course her first sign was “more.” In order to get me to make a funny face, she’ll make a funny face. In order to go for a walk, she’ll go get my shoes and look longingly at the door. When I sign and say “I love you” as I put her to bed, she points to me when I say I and herself when I get to you. Then, she blows me kisses. Only she doesn’t know how to take her hand away from her mouth yet so she just keeps it there and smiles. It’s so precious. I really cherish her.

I think the baby is the whole heart of a house that is filled with many that are breaking. Her mom is actively dying of cancer. This house is full of sadness because her mother is involuntarily leaving her husband and children, a husband is losing his wife, a very young daughter and son are losing their mother and a mother is losing her daughter. it’s heart-wrenching, painful, sorrowful and, quite frankly, not fair.

I can’t help but ask myself how it can it be that just over sixteen months have passed and chickpea’s mom is now dying of cancer? I met her and her brother’s mom in her 6th month of pregnancy, one month after she was diagnosed. Up until July, I had only heard stories of the suffering people endure during late stage cancer. Now, I have seen it for myself on a daily basis.

The bravery and strength their mom has shown has been one of the most courageous things I’ve ever witnessed. One thing I hope I can impart on the kids, that I hope they understand really early, is that their mom fought, and fought and fought. She’s lost and lost, and lost again, but every single day she comes back fighting for them.

I know she’s tired, and anyone would be. I am not exaggerating when I speak of her suffering. Even though I recognize that humans are stronger than they think they are and can deal with more than they think they can, she has dealt with at least 100x her fair share with barely a complaint.

I don’t know what to say to her, I can’t even begin to understand how profound this loss is. She got 3 1/2 good years with her son and 9 okay months with the baby before she was hospitalized for increasingly extended periods and ultimately bedridden. Four and a half years and 16 1/2 months is not anywhere near enough time to get with kids she spent a total of 18 months growing inside of her. Why should she already have to say goodbye?

Especially when her kids are so eclectic with advanced personality traits. Me and the little boy quote movie references. I’ve never met a four year old that could use this obscure line from Elf to get a bedtime story:

BB: Can we read a story?
Me: No, the moon is already out on your clock. It’s time for bed.
BB: Not even ONE book??
Me: No
BB (lightly touching hands together, in old woman voice): But the children love the books!

I laughed so hard… what four year old references movies to make an argument?! He has an old soul, I really wish his mom could be there to witness how his personality continues to develop.

My job is unique and emotionally challenging. I have found that practicing mindfulness and coming from a place of complete compassion in my everyday dealings both inside and outside the house has seemed to help me so far.

I have also learned a lot about my own unresolved grief, my own heart and the way I’m living my life. Not only that, but why. This situation has led me to learn to recognize recurring themes and behaviors in my own life and put me on a path to learn to manage them accordingly.

I am inclined to believe that painful situations lead to personal growth and strength, that has certainly been my experience. I’m still not exactly sure why this has all worked out the way that it has, but I’m inclined to believe that I am supposed to learn something from it. Whatever that something is, I know it’s going to be one of the most important lessons of my life.

I didn’t do a recap, but you shouldn’t have to scroll back too far to see the story of what led me to this job.

My other job with the little girl and the newbie is going really well. She doesn’t even want to eat lunch because she doesn’t want to “waste her special ms. kasey time” and cries when I leave. The newbie is now three months old. She’s a cuddle bug and, as her big sister pointed out, is very calm when she’s with me.

I don’t really know what readers will take away from this, other than there are no guarantees in this life. Bad things happen to good people everyday, and I guess the best we can do while we’re living is love with our whole heart, and allow ourselves to be loved.

I recognize that this post is sad, and that’s one of the reasons I had to write it. This situation weighs very heavily on everyone involved. As always, thanks for reading.

I’m baaaaaaaack

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Great news! My brother was discharged from Johns Hopkins on Thursday and we were given the go ahead to move back to Dallas!

After the transplant, my brother was going to the hospital everyday to have his levels checked, get transfusions, make sure there was no infection, etc. After about a month, he only had to go 4-5x a week, now, once a week! He’s also transfusion independent, so he’s making his own healthy blood cells and platelets!

The transformation has been incredible. To see my brother back to his energetic, playful self has been a blessing. Thank you for all the positive energy you have sent our way. I think it truly made a difference in his recovery.

He still has a long road ahead, he still has to avoid sick people, or anyone that’s been exposed to someone who is sick (he lost all of his vaccines since he has a new immune system). He has to stay out of the sunlight because sunburns can be especially damaging. Even so, it’ll be nice to have him in Dallas for a while longer and also to be home myself.

I’m very happy to be home. The city life just isn’t for me. Not in Baltimore, anyway. Three years ago, maybe. But today I’m in the mindset that if one more person throws their dog’s poop in my trashcan, or waits for the bus in the middle of the street (why??!), or walks into traffic blindly, failing to use even the most common of sense, I’m going to freaking lose it!

That being said, it was still awesome to spend so much time with my big brother in Baltimore. My brother is the best guy I know, he’s always there for me and present when I need him to be. He offers me priceless advice and wisdom and I love spending time with him and talking to him. I definitely won the sibling lottery, he’s my hero and I know he would do anything for me. Including going through painful, debilitating treatments and the fight of his life so I don’t have to live without him.

yep, this was pretty much our entertainment.

So what now? Well, I was offered a live-in nanny position for my little chickpea’s family and I accepted. I love her and her brother so much, I am very excited to be a part of their daily lives and be a positive influence on them as they grow. So this will really be the start of something new!

my little chickpea turned one this week, so I made her a scrapbook of her first year

my little chickpea turned one this week, so I made her a scrapbook of her first year

I also got a great part time morning job with another family with a little girl and a newbie set to arrive at the end of next month. I’m really excited about both opportunities, I still feel very much like this is what I am supposed to be doing right now. It makes me happy and I love my work. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.

I really wanted to travel after I was done in Baltimore, but I think it will have to wait. Luckily, with my new job I can accrue vacation time. Also, since they pay for rent and food I can save up for a great vacation and other things. It just takes patience, which I’m used to.

So. I’m home for good! I start my new job in July, June is going to be a time to regroup, I’ll be working a little but also taking it easy and trying to get into the right mindset for what’s ahead. I’m still doing heavy personal growth work, even more so than before. It’s already helping me achieve more clarity about who I am, what I want out of life and who I want to eventually become.

That’s about it! Thanks so much for reading, I’ll write again soon.

Remembering Mom Pt. 3

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Hi there. I am all settled in Baltimore. My brother received his transplant and is now making healthy, donor generated blood cells. He has a lot more energy these days and things are looking up. It’s kind of crazy that all this would go down almost exactly three years after we did it the first time. April, man.

My mom’s birthday was April 15, she would have been 63. The anniversary of her passing was April 19. I sometimes wonder what place she would have in all of this if she were alive. I speculate on whether or not she would trust me to take care of Bryant, if she would be here taking care of him too…how she would have handled it. IF she would have been able to handle it at all?

I don’t know, in some ways it’s probably better that she’s not here for this. I, of course, selfishly wish that she was so she could comfort me. So I guess craving your mother’s comfort is something that never goes away with time.

Some things do change though. While last year and the year before I was concerned with what impact my mom’s death had on me, I now find myself looking for answers about the impact her life had on me.

Maybe coming to terms with who exactly she was and what influence that had on me is what I need in order to be able to celebrate her now that she’s gone. Up until a few weeks ago I had been focused on her death and consequently, my grieving.

Now I want to focus on life and healing. The process of grieving led me on this ongoing journey of personal growth. This journey has brought up very important questions about who I am and maybe even more importantly, why I am who I am.

The influences my parents had on me will stay with me forever and I’ve only been looking at the big picture. I am only just now realizing that events that, at the time I thought had no effect on me… are actually at the core of who I am as a person.

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Wedding day!

It’s not always fun or easy to answer questions about who I’ve grown to be. But as my very wise big brother tells me, “once you’re done growing, you’re done living.” I never want to stop growing, improving myself, learning. The bottom line, and I’ve said it before, is that I have a responsibility to the people that love me. You see, if I stop growing, I’m not only cheating myself, I’m cheating the people that love me and the people that I love.

I’m not sure if that makes sense but I hope it does. I can’t explain it any other way except that I never want anyone that ever loves me to feel like I gave up. My mom labeled me a fighter the day I came into this world (prematurely, dangerously underweight with a hernia) and I will remain a fighter until I absolutely cannot win anymore.

So, that’s that. I was able to keep myself distracted on April 19 with some of my amazing friends here in Baltimore. They were kind enough to take time out of their Easter weekends to join me on a local pirate cruise. It was ridiculously fun, I laughed the entire day.

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Getting knifed and photobombed simultaneously

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World class scallywags

Last year, my best friend and I went to the Perot museum in Dallas and also laughed the entire day. I decided that after this year I’d like to try to make it a tradition to make April 19 the most fun day of the year.

Mother’s Day was tough, I can try to laugh as much as I want, but deep down, I never stop missing my mom. The pain is always there. My brother was there for me though, he hung out with me all day, hugged me while I cried and tried to keep me laughing as much as possible anyway. Lots of people tell me he’s lucky to have such a great sister, but it’s me who is lucky.

Next time I’ll write about my trip to Dallas. It was super fun, and nice to have a break and be home. Thanks for reading as always!

on fear and fearing II

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Hey there! Well, I’ve survived my first couple weeks working at Trader Joe’s.  It’s been full of excitement, I thought I was a TJ’s fanatic until we opened.  No, not even close!  I suppose it’s because I’ve never shopped at a TJ’s in a place that hasn’t always had one before.  People have been waiting upwards of 20 years for this place to open in the Dallas area.  I’ve heard so many stories of people road tripping it to various states, stuffing suitcases, paying hundreds of dollars in baggage fees and paying for shipping charges, all to get their TJ’s fix. The cult following is fascinating and the job is pretty fun!  We did just have a recall though, the Valencia salted, creamy peanut butter has been linked to several cases of salmonella.  So if you bought it, bring it back and get a refund!

I’ve been reading a lot lately.  The most interesting book I have come across has to do with my good friend, fear.  It’s called Embracing Fear by Thom Rutledge.  It gave me really great insights into what I have mentioned in an earlier post about fear being a driving force in my life up to this point. It’s crazy because recognizing my fear of failure and my fear of losing my mom and other fears that are tangible was only the first step.  I didn’t even realize exactly how deep my fears went beyond that until I read about it.

So, I’m going to be honest.  I have this very loud, incredibly cruel voice that likes to comment on my looks, personality, or pretty much everything I say or do.  As I close my eyes at night, the voice likes to go over my day–especially if it was a good day—telling me  anything it can to make me feel worthless, stupid, incompetent or weak.  Rutledge calls this voice a bully.  Fitting.

My bully is very, very loud.  So loud, in fact, that it keeps me quiet.  I used to have a very outgoing, opinionated, strong personality.  If you know me today, you know that I am not like that anymore.  Maybe a glint of “classic Kasey” as my mother referred to it, will shine through every so often, but for the most part, I am very different than I was as a child/adolescent.  Something has snuffed out the fire that used to burn in me and I suspect it it’s my bully.

My bully tells me that if something goes wrong I should automatically blame myself, and when I do, the “neurotic fear” kicks into full force  and the emotions of panic, self-loathing, embarrassment and shame take over. He yells at me so loudly that it makes it pretty much impossible to get anything done.  So instead of talking out whatever is wrong, or sticking up for myself, I’ve just said nothing and let whatever it is sit and fester until I can finally bury it deep down inside.  Rather than deal with confrontation, I would rather just go with the flow or try and keep a low profile to avoid all the feelings that my bully tells me will come along with saying anything.

Last time I wrote about fear I spoke of the danger of becoming complacent out of fear of branching out and being rejected or failing.  All kinds of real danger also  comes from not recognizing the Bully for what he is.  He isn’t my healthy conscience letting me know valid fears, he’s a BULLY that instills neurotic fear, for no reason.  Learning to separate and recognize my BULLY from my actual thoughts, from my healthy  conscience has already changed my outlook on life.

Don’t get me wrong, the thoughts do not go away.  But recognizing the thoughts for what they are gives me an advantage because now, I can just tell my bully to shut the hell up! Rutledge encourages people who struggle with fear like I do to ask themselves “are you willing to risk it?” I definitely am, if it means I can finally be myself again.

There were lots of really great little “nutshells” in this book.  I’m not a quotes person, as a true cynic, I generally  find them really cheesy and trite, but these were a different story, I guess because they actually apply to me.  I hung them up on my mirror and I read them every morning as a reminder that I’m in charge, not my fear.

“Humility is the awareness that I am neither better nor worse than anyone else.”

“Refuse to participate in the perpetual abuse cycle within my own consciousness.”

“Measure strength according to willingness, instead of willpower.”

“To be addicted to control is to be endlessly out of control”

“Growth always moves from the inside out” 

“Courage is to fear as light is to darkness”

I very much doubt this will be my last blog on fear. I want to keep exploring it because,  much like grief, it is something that I feel will always be present and I am determined to get better at dealing with it.  I’d certainly like to hear your thoughts on this, and if anyone else out there  experiences this.  Til next time.