When your call is answered

When your call is answered

By Tracey Lemming

Think back to a moment in your life when a call was answered. When a prayer was answered.  Was it immediate, or did it take years to receive?  I believe that we all have times in our lives when we can look back and see the connection of a call and a response in our life.  Sometimes it feels as if we will never receive the answer, but if we keep our mind fixed on what we want, it will come to fruition.  Is there a question that you have been asking to a higher power?  Are you sowing seeds of expectancy, or seeds of doubt?

Growing up, I knew that I needed jaw surgery to correct my bite.  It was hard to chew and only my back teeth touched, putting a lot of pressure on them. This could lead to serious problems if it wasn’t corrected. When my older sister was in high school, she had the same jaw surgery that I needed.  At the time, my Dad’s insurance paid for her surgery, but when I was old enough for it, the insurance companies considered it a cosmetic/elective surgery and would not pay for it.  Knowing at a young age that this condition existed, the orthodontist gave me a dental appliance to wear to try to correct my bite. Unfortunately it didn’t work.  Surgery would be the answer, and surgery was very expensive.

After college, I again met with my orthodontist and he referred me to a specialist.  Again, I heard “well you really need to have this surgery, but it will not be covered by insurance.” The specialist and orthodontist wrote letters and sent x-rays to the insurance company showing why the surgery was medially necessary, but the claim was denied.  Of course I adapted and was able to chew, but the jawline affected my profile and how I appeared to the world.  I was always self-conscious of this.  I didn’t feel as confident or as beautiful as I wanted to on the outside.  I didn’t want to draw a lot of attention to myself, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I see that it affected my ability to speak my truth. It was easier to blend in and not be seen.

When I moved to North Carolina, I asked my Human Resources contact for recommendations on finding a dentist, and I went to the one that she recommended within a few months of moving there.  Of course, on my initial exam, the dentist asked me if anyone ever told me that I need jaw surgery.  Well yes, I’ve been told this my whole life I explained, but the cost is so much, and wouldn’t be covered by insurance.  Of course, I would love to have this surgery, but it really did feel like a dead end road after years of hearing no.  My dentist mentioned an oral surgeon down the road who was great, and she encouraged me to meet with her.   She said that she had a really good track record of getting this surgery approved by insurance.  I agreed to meet with her and could feel some hope coming back.

When I met with the oral surgeon, I felt like I had finally gone to the right doctor.  I trusted her and her opinion, and I felt comfortable with her and her recommendations.  With this surgery being on my face, I really wanted to make sure that the doctor was someone who I could trust and cared for me as a person and patient.  After going over options, she recommended upper jaw surgery only, which would be less expensive and invasive.  After thinking of the expense as a really expensive car, I decided to go ahead with the process, whether insurance covered it or not. I knew that this would be the best for me in the long run and decided to invest in myself. I would have braces for a year, which would actually make things “worse” but give my teeth room for the the surgery to be performed.  The next year of braces, would be pulling everything back together to perfect my smile.  I was so thankful for this process, and I knew that it would not only help me to chew easier, but I thought that it would also help my confidence as well.  It did just that, and I really felt beautiful inside and out.  

Throughout the 2 year process, friends and family were there to help.  I was thankful to have the time to go to my appointments.  My parents and niece Claire came down for the surgery and stayed for a week.  I know that they wished they could have stayed longer to help, but when they left, my Mary Kay director was there to take me to appointments and make sure that I had enough food (mostly mashed potatoes, soups, ensure protein drinks), since I couldn’t chew for a few weeks.  At this time, I also learned the power of visualization and listening to healing tracks.  I now know the power that your mind and subconscious have on your body, and this definitely sped up my healing. 

About 6 months into the braces and process, the insurance company partially approved my surgery, and I was so thankful that I only had to pay the max out of pocket expenses.  I learned that when you take a step towards what you want, you will always be provided for in some way or another. I truly believe that one of the reasons that I was led to North Carolina was to have this surgery.  The doctors in the area (UNC and Duke) are some of the best in the world.  I even was able to have my surgery in a specialty hospital that had the lowest infection rate in the state of North Carolina.  And at this hospital, I was assured, even when my 24 hours were up, I would not be “kicked out” and would be given the time to be discharged when I was ready. It was truly a great experience from the start to the finish.

After another year of braces, I could finally see my vision realized.  I was so happy to finally feel as beautiful as I always wanted to. My prayer wasn’t answered when I wanted it to be, but there was a better and more aligned time for me to go through this process.  I truly believe that finally having the surgery that I had hoped I would someday have was a huge reason that my journey led me to North Carolina.  Within months of arriving, the 2 year process was set in motion.  The right people showed up at exactly the right time.  Had I had the surgery when I wanted, I may have had both upper and lower jaw surgery as recommended, which may not have been necessary. I may not have been as happy with my results  and the process as I am.   I may not have had such a great experience and the insurance approval of the surgery.  It was truly a great experience, and I know that this call was answered in perfect timing.

So, the next time that you have a prayer, know that it may not be answered on your time.  But, it may be answered in a more aligned and perfect time for you.  It’s easy to give up hope, and the surgery was something I wanted for many years. I knew that it would improve my quality of life, and it did.   It was truly a gift, and I believe if you hold a vision in your mind and let go of how and when it “should” happen, you may be surprised when your call is answered.  But when it is, you will know without a doubt that it was.  Plant seeds of faith, and know that your desire is on it’s way.  Allow yourself to relax and let go of the need to control.  Allow the higher power in your life to surprise and delight you in the unfolding of your journey.  There is so much unknown, but do your best to remain positive, and celebrate the signs that you are headed in the right direction.  When you are call is answered, you will know and the winding roads will all make sense. Is there something you have been praying for for years?  Are you keeping the faith? 

I’m like a bird

I’m like a bird

Written by Tracey Lemming

I ’m like a bird, and you probably are too.  Birds have this intuition to know where to find the best food, and when it’s time to fly south.  One of my favorite movies growing up was “The Mighty Ducks,” about the hockey team who beat the odds and worked together as a team.  They took their signature formation from the birds in the sky in order to be victorious over their stronger opponents. Whenever I see a flying V in the sky, I always stop to take notice.  Amazed about how they have a lead bird, and then when that bird gets tired, it will go to the back and another bird will step in and lead the flock.  They work together for the greater good and common goal. Sometimes I see “stragglers,” but I know that they will catch up with their friends at the next pond, and continue their journey together. 

It’s amazing when we face times of uncertainty, how if we trust our intuition, the right people and circumstances will show up at the perfect time.  Sometimes you just have to take the first step towards what you desire, and then let go and trust.  About 5 years ago, I began to practice yoga on and off.  After my jaw surgery, I couldn’t exercise as rigorously as I was used to, so yoga was a nice way to get a workout in.  I found that I enjoyed how calm and balanced that I felt after a yoga session.  Over the next 4 years, I would jokingly say that I should become a yoga teacher, but usually I would tell my friends that they should become a yoga teacher.  Much easier if someone else does it, and I didn’t really believe that I had the confidence to be in the teacher’s spot.  When I visited my friend’s parents in April 2019, and told them that their daughter should teach yoga and they should get goats for goat yoga, I started to see my pattern of always volunteering someone else to take the risk.  And, I started to think, why not me?  I talked to a friend about attending an upcoming meditation class, and she mentioned how she took a meditation class from her current yoga instructor.  There it was again. Then, I really began to wonder what would happen if I really took the steps towards this desire that I first saw as an impossibility? I checked online at local studios, and saw that there was an intensive summer training coming up at a studio just 3 miles away at the end of the month! What perfect timing! I attended my first class there, and when the instructor quoted my favorite author, I knew that I was in the right place.  Within a few days, I was enrolled for the 200 hour yoga teacher training.  It was great. Even though I missed 2 of the 5 weekends when my Grandma passed away in June of 2019, my teacher set up a time to teach me what I had missed when I returned.  Last September I taught my first yoga class, which was a really rewarding experience.

This last year has brought many ups and downs, and there’s still a lot that I would like to learn about yoga and teaching. I would love to teach yoga more, but I am glad that I took the opportunity when it came up. If I had waited a few months or longer, I may not have been able to go through the in-person training and get my teacher certification.  I had no idea what it would be like to attend the training, or if I would even teach when I went through the training, but I am thankful that I took the time to invest in myself and chose this experience.  I have met a lot of great people, and have been able to share yoga with family and friends.  I learned that “Crow” is my favorite pose, and I am going to start working on “Flying Bird.”

In March 2020, I had the courage to share my first blog post on social media, even though I didn’t know if anyone would read or enjoy my words.  I had the feeling to write, and I created the space and time to take the action.  I still don’t know where it will lead, but that is okay.  It’s all unknown, and I am choosing to keep going.  I am enjoying allowing my creativity to flow, and have received messages of how my words have helped others.  To me, that’s so rewarding and magical, knowing that I can help or inspire others in some way.  I am currently taking a writing course, and looking forward to learning more in this area. If I had not began my blog, I don’t think that I would have realized how much that I really love to write.

So, the next time that you a bird in the sky or hopping around on the ground, notice how unattached they are to the outcome of the moment.  They simply sing because they want to.  They don’t care who hears their tweets, they sing because that’s who they are.  They don’t fly in order to win a race. They simply want to hang out with their friends and family and enjoy the view.  And they always know the best time to flap their wings and soar. Is there something that you’ve been putting off, but have a feeling that it’s time to begin? What if your time to fly is now?

Imperfect Pieces

Imperfect Pieces

By Tracey Lemming

In our lives, there will be times when we lose pieces of our puzzle.  We know that our world won’t ever be the same again.  One by one, we put the pieces back together. But, it looks different. Maybe we add in pieces that we didn’t know we had and take more out along the way. Do we give up because it won’t look like the version that we expected when we started? Or do we keep going and create a new puzzle with missing and imperfect pieces?

When I spent 4 months in Indiana during COVID-19, my Mom and I put together a few puzzles.  It was an activity that I enjoyed, but hadn’t done in quite awhile (beside a rainy beach day in vacation mode).  Seldom did I allow myself the time and space just to enjoy simply putting together a puzzle. The first one was 1,000 pieces and a Fall leaves scene.  At first, it was overwhelming.  So many pieces, and they all looked alike!  But, as we kept going, it got easier, and it was easier to differentiate between the leaves on the trees from the leaves on the ground.  It took patience, presence, and perseverance. Throughout the process, it was fun to find the pieces that fit together. The second puzzle that we decided to tackle was already together when we saw it, but it was missing a piece.  We chose to tear it apart and put it back together anyway.  Knowing that it was missing a piece didn’t make the activity any less enjoyable.  We could have decided that it wasn’t worth our time and energy knowing that it wouldn’t be perfect when it was finished, but had we chosen to not try, we would have missed out on the joy that was still there in the puzzle.

The last few months have left many of us unsure of what path to take, what piece to hold and put down. We can’t quite see over the horizon.  Mountains are in the way that weren’t there before.  It’s all unknown.  Plans that we had were suddenly changed, and we have the choice to surrender to what is, or to fight for what we knew before.  Unfortunately, we can’t go back.  This life as we knew it is completely changed.  Whether you have suffered the loss of a loved one, a job, or an every day activity, it’s okay to take the time to mourn your loss.  Giving yourself the time and space to grieve your loss is one of those “self-care” activities that is easy to bypass, but I believe that it’s important to fully heal.  Your loss is yours, and mine is mine, but collectively we can show compassion for one another.  No one knows the magnitude of your grief but you. No one knows how many pieces are missing from your puzzle, and no one knows what you may find when you begin looking for new pieces.

I would love to go back to a time when all my loved ones were still here to see the sun rise each morning.  I would love to be able to hug my Uncle Steve, my Grandma Fellure, and my Dad.  I will see many sunrises and sunsets without them, which feels so unbearable at times.  If I could only go back 2 years, or 14 months, or just 8 months, maybe things could be different.  But, I choose to keep going.  I choose to put the pieces of the puzzle back together.  Doing my best to honor my loved ones by sharing their stories and sharing mine. Knowing that the puzzle will look different than expected when it’s complete, and that’s okay.  There will be pieces added and removed along the way.  But, there will also be a lot of love and joy in the journey. We all get the choice to decide where we go from here. Will you give up on it all, or will you continue to put together your imperfect pieces?

Brighter than the Sun

Brighter than the Sun

Written by Tracey Lemming

Moths are drawn to the light, and so are we.  Many want to be in the spotlight, brighter than the sun. Our society values likes, selfies and memes over Ideas, Authenticity, and Emotions.  Comparison is a trap, and if we are not careful, we will fall in it.  Keeping up with the Kardashians, filtered photos, and unreal expectations are the name of the game.

But, what if you let go of all the expectations? Yours, others, and society’s.  The striving for perfection, always buying the next best thing, and feeling validated with the number of friends on your social account.  How would it feel to accept where you are in this moment exactly as is?  Take a moment to release the energy of always being “on” and tune into your inner wisdom.  Who do you want to be at this moment?  How will you align with your authentic self?  Your life is a canvas, and you get to paint your own masterpiece.

I found out how little I really needed when I spent 4 months in Indiana when only expecting to stay a week.  Somehow I made it from snow in March to a hot and humid July with a small suitcase.  How did I manage to make my wardrobe last through the seasons?  Friends and family.  When it grew warmer, friends cleaned out their closets and gave me their extra clothes.  I only bought 1 pair of sandals in the 4 months, and that wasn’t even necessary as my friend had let me borrow hers.  I have some really great friends and family, and I bet you do too.

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule?  We use 20% of the items in our life 80% of the time.  And we use the other 80% of our items, only 20% of the time.  This applies to all aspects of our lives.  Do we really need 80% of our items, or have we fallen in the trap of measuring our worthiness by the number of possessions that we have?  When I got back to North Carolina, I was overwhelmed by the number of items surrounding me, and how little I missed or needed them.  Some have meaning and usefulness, but most of them are just unnecessary stuff.  As I am preparing for new flooring, it has been a good time for me to look at what I love and use, and see what I can let go of for others to enjoy.  I have found that the less that I have wanting my energy, the more freedom and clarity that I feel.  What are some things that you could let go of that are weighing you down?

The 80/20 rule also applies to our time.  If you think about it, a lot of us are spending 80% of our time doing the same thing, while there is a vast array of other things we could be focusing on and using our energy towards.  For me, social media can be a good distraction from all the other things in my life that could be more meaningful.  However, I am aware that about 80% of the items on my newsfeed are negative and draining my energy.  I could let go of this habit and use that time connecting with others, spending more time in nature, and practicing healthier habits. If we could let go of what weighs us down, and focus on those things that bring us joy and happiness, I believe that we may find more peace.  When our focus is on the negativity that surrounds us, we see more bad stories and separation.  But if we switch our focus to unity and love, we find people and stories that uplift us.

As we continue on this roller coaster ride that 2020 has become, I invite you to let go of the distractions, the unnecessary, and the negative focus.  Instead, take inventory of those habits, activities, and loved ones who empower and elevate you.  Focus your time and energy on what brings you joy.  Turn off the news, step outside, and call a loved one.  Shifting our focus to what matters most can allow us to live a life brighter than the sun.  We get this choice every day.  Why not begin now?   

What hurts the most

What hurts the most

By Tracey Lemming

For me, what hurts the most about losing the ones that I love is no longer being able to communicate with them in this physical world.  At least not in the way that I want and expect to.  It’s still having questions, and not being able to pick up the phone and ask them. It’s trying to imagine that for the rest of my life, they will no longer be here physically with me.  Intuitively I know that they are in a better, more peaceful place.  But the knowing that they won’t be here to celebrate the many happy times left in my life is really hard.  Having them protect and guide me from above is comforting, but it’s not the same.  I gained 3 beautiful angels in the last 2 years, but I wish it had been different. Everyone wants more time.

Unfortunately, it’s not different, and it cannot be changed. I was blessed with more time with my Uncle, Grandma, and Dad than some people are able to spend with their loved ones.  I’ve learned many lessons during this time that I may not have learned until later in life had I not experienced this grief, and I am sure that more lessons will still be revealed as time goes on.  Time is promised to no one, and it truly is a gift.  What we choose to do with our time and energy is something that is up to us. I believe that the more time that you can spend with your loved ones and living your purpose, the better.  When you have a pull to do or ask something, just do it.  When you follow your intuition and your passion, you will feel the most happy, and can go to bed feeling that your day was good and meaningful.

Navigating a life that will never be the same is challenging.  It’s looking through new eyes, and learning as you go.  The plan that you had is no longer the plan. It’s learning how to adapt, and accept what cannot be changed. Although I no longer hear my loved ones voices, we can still communicate. Sometimes it’s through dreams, songs, or seeing something that brings back a sweet memory.  I’ve been lucky enough to receive visions of my Uncle and Dad smiling since they have ascended towards the sky, so that helps me to know that they are safe and happy. I try to remember these images and be happy for them when I am feeling sad.

After my Uncle Steve’s passing and when I was back at work, I was finally feeling a bit more like myself. One day, I drove with my convertible top down and listened to my favorite song.  As I parked and grabbed my bags out of my trunk, I noticed a penny in my parking spot behind my back tire.  It hadn’t been there in the morning when I left for work, and I laughed and said “I wonder who this is from” out loud. As I picked up the penny,  I instantly knew.  1971, the year my Uncle graduated from high school, and a nod from him to keep on enjoying the day and doing what makes me happy. I believe that our loved ones and angels leave us pennies from heaven, as they are noted with the words “In God we trust.” They are signs from above letting us know that we are on the right path and loved.   It’s moments like this that you simply know that there is something greater than what meets the eye.

When I returned to my daily life after my Dad’s passing, I noticed that the motion activated solar lantern next to my front door would blink, although it had never blinked before during the few years that I had it.  Normally, it would turn on only when I was walking up my stairs and opening my screen door.  However, now it would blink on and off.  It would even begin blinking when I was still in my car, and walking towards my door.  It was never able to detect motion from that far away before.  I remember crying in my car before I went inside, and looking at my house.  Sure enough, the lantern was blinking to comfort me, even though there was no motion anywhere. I knew that it was my Dad welcoming me home and letting me know that he was okay and he wanted me to be happy, not sad. Even though he is not physically here in my life, he wants to still be here for me. Because I am open to receiving communication and willing to be present, I have been blessed to receive these gifts.  

About a month before my Dad passed away, I had excitedly told him about the “Woodpecker Birds” at my bird feeder and how big they were.  He laughed and teased me because he thought it was funny that I added the word “Bird” to the obvious “Woodpecker”.  Of course a woodpecker is a bird. After my Dad passed away, my coworker was talking about how he would laugh and tease his daughter, and I mentioned how my Dad would do the same to me, and recently laughed about the “Woodpecker birds.”  The next morning was one of those days that I didn’t really want to get out of bed and face the day, but I did, and I asked for a sign from my Dad and strength to keep going.  As I was getting ready, I suddenly heard tapping outside my window.  It startled me, and I looked outside.  You guessed it, Woodpecker Birds.  I laughed as they had never been so loud before or pecked at my house,  and I knew that it was surely my Dad teasing me and laughing again.

The day after my Dad passed away, I was driving towards my parents house and I saw 3 cardinals. I knew that it was my Grandma, Uncle, and Dad saying hello and having a lot of fun together. I believe that cardinals are good luck and visitors from heaven.  It’s very comforting when I hear the cardinals song, and see their beautiful red feathers.

Life will never be the same when you go through any type of loss.  Grief changes you, but I hope that it changes us for the better.  I hope that it makes us more in-tune with ourselves and this world, and more grateful for those in our life who love us. We now know that everything can change any moment, and it’s important to make the best of each day. Some days are better than others, but as we keep going, we are becoming stronger and can pass our wisdom and life lessons onto others.  We can perceive simple signs and moments, and feel the vastness of this universe. What are some ways that you’ve received signs from those on the other side? What have you learned through experiencing grief?

The part of me

The part of me

By Tracey Lemming

Lately, the chorus from Katy Perry’s “Part of Me” has been coming to my mind, over and over again. “This is the part of me, that you’re never gonna ever take away from me.”  You know it, and it’s probably stuck in your head too now!  I believe there is a part of me, and a part of you that no one can ever take away from us.  As we see more of our freedoms being taken away, our soul, or inner world, is the part of us that is always ours.  No one can ever take away our thoughts, feelings, and imagination.

I once read “Man’s search for meaning” by Victor Frankl.  He was a Holcaust survivor, and what I remember most from this book was how even when he was faced with the worst unthinkable circumstances in the Nazi concentration camps, he chose how he reacted, and did not allow outside circumstances to break his spirit. We are all dealt cards in our life, and we get the choice on how we choose to play them.  Do we fold, or do we choose another card, keep playing, and look for the chance for a royal flush?  Do we find meaning in what has showed up in our life?

When my Dad was 45, he was diagnosed with a very rare, stage 4 cancer.  I was 16, and when my parents told me that he had cancer, that was the first time I remember seeing my Dad cry. My parents didn’t tell me that it was stage 4 cancer with little chance of survival, so although I worried, I truly didn’t know the extent of what my Dad was up against until he passed away 20 years later. He didn’t complain about many of the obstacles he faced, including having a feeding tube at least for the last 10 years of his life and losing the use of his right arm due to the radiation.  And because he didn’t complain, I rarely found things to complain about, and have always been able to see the bright side of things.  One of my Dad’s friends spoke at my Dad’s funeral about how he showed up to work even when he didn’t always feel the best, because he knew if my Dad could show up for work when he faced many obstacles, so could he.  It’s amazing, we really don’t know the example that we are setting for others simply by showing up when it would have been easier to not.  What example are you setting for those around you?

My Dad used his VICTORY over cancer and his life’s journey to be an inspiration and mentor to many others.  What he offered to many who faced their own battle with cancer was a great gift, HOPE.  He was able to show others that no matter what you are facing, miracles happen every day.  I believe that because he didn’t complain about his circumstances and used his creativity to find solutions, he was able to keep going when others may have thrown in the towel.  There was a part of him that refused to give up, that always wanted to win.  He was a champion in life, not just in 1972 when his beloved Pine Knots were Sectional Champs in basketball.  Indiana basketball at its finest.  My Dad kept the winning mentality throughout his life, even when part of him may have felt like giving up.   

When my Dad was first diagnosed with cancer, he was given the books “Small Miracles: Extraordinary coincidences of Everyday Life” by Yitta Halberstam and “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff” by Richard Carlson.  I read those books during this trying time, and these titles have become the themes of my life.  I choose to look for meaning in the coincidences that show up in my life. Coincidence is taken from the word coincide, which means to fit perfectly together.   I know that all that we receive is on purpose and in perfect timing.  In the grand scheme of things, many things we see as big deals in the moment truly aren’t worth the stress and energy.  Like anyone, I can get sucked into stress-response cycles, but they usually don’t last too long.  There is a part of me that knows that all of us in this world are connected.  We can easily see division if we look for it, but we can also see stories of strength, unity, and perseverance.

Think about the part of you that no one else can ever take away.  It’s unique, and yours alone. It’s always with you, and in times of uncertainty and doubt, you will always find it within.  Sometimes the endless chatter in our minds may drown it out, but when you take a moment to center yourself and let go of all the distractions, that is when it will appear.  Keep breathing. Keep going.  Know that no matter what uncertainty we all face at this time, there is a part of you that knows your next best step.  There is a part of you that knows that healing and unity are possible.  Embrace this one-of-a-kind part of you, and together these parts of us can illuminate the darkness.  How will you use your light within you?

If grief had a checklist

If grief had a checklist

Written by Tracey Lemming

If grief had a checklist, I’d be done.  Marking off all of the items, and moving on.  Going through the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) all in the same day.  Ready to move on to the next stage of life and smile about the sweet memories that were created.  Calling a loved one, sharing memories, laughing, crying, taking a long bath, reading a book on grief. Doing these things and so much more.  Unfortunately, there is no checklist for grief and it’s something that will be experienced by most of us in our lifetime.  It’s a very individual process, and there will be good and bad days.  There will be times that you know that the timing was right for your loved one to leave this world, but it will never be the right timing for you.  Your world is changed forever, and you will always wish you had more time.  You are changed forever.

I had always heard that grief comes in waves.  That didn’t make a lot of sense until I experienced the loss of my Uncle Steve, Grandma Fellure, and Dad within 16 months.  Then I understood. Grief flows in and out.  Sometimes the tide is low, and sometimes it is high.  Sometimes the waves are gentle and you are able to stay afloat, but sometimes they are rocky and will knock you down.  You know without a doubt that your loved one would want you to be happy, and you do your best, but it’s not easy.  Giving your best is all that you can do though.  Know that your best version may change each day.  It’s okay to laugh and cry minutes apart.  Each day you have the opportunity to show up again, learning and growing as you go.

When I saw my cousin Abigail at my Uncle Steve’s funeral, I knew that I didn’t want to be her.  Every single cell in my body never wanted to be in her position. My heart went out to her for the loss of her Dad, but not having been through an experience like that, I didn’t really know what to say or do except offer a hug and an “I love you.”   The thought of losing my own Dad was an image I couldn’t let myself imagine.  I could not imagine the sadness that she was feeling.  I was thankful and lucky to have my Dad with me in the moment.  Little did I know that in a short 16 months, I’d be the one at my Dad’s funeral and my cousin would be comforting me.  The sadness was intense, but it was nice to have a cousin and friend who had been through this experience and could offer some wisdom and helpful tips.  I truly believe that we are given the perfect family members and friends in our lives, and having Abigail in mine is truly a gift.

What I have learned (and am still learning) through this process is that patience really is a virtue. Being patient with yourself and others, and knowing that it’s okay not to be okay.  This experience has changed you, and it’s okay if you are not the same person you were before.  You do not need to compare your before and after versions.  Your interests may change as your priorities do.  What was enjoyable before may no longer resonate, and you may need more time by yourself to process and reflect.  For me, reading and journaling have helped me to express my emotions.  And sharing good memories and laughs always feels great!  Other people who haven’t yet had this experience may not be sure if you want to bring your loved one up, but I personally love to talk about those on the other side.  Sharing stories keeps your loved one’s spirit alive!

Traditions will change, and the first holidays, birthdays, and special occasions will be hard.  Know that it’s okay if you don’t feel like celebrating, but it is good to spend time with your loved ones if you can.  Just being together can help you feel a bit better.  Acknowledge that this day will never be the same, but you could start a new tradition to honor your loved one, such as lighting a candle in their memory. Whatever feels best at that time, and nothing needs to be forced. 

There is no right or wrong way to go through grief. There is no checklist to follow.  There is no timeline.  My grieving experience may look completely different than yours, and that’s okay.  There is no need to compare your journey to others, as it’s impossible to know what someone else is thinking or going through.  Surround yourself and others going through this experience with love. Take a moment to breathe. Make a gratitude list to look at when you are feeling low.  Keep going when you feel like stopping, and know that tomorrow is another day to show up and share your beautiful light.

Death by a thousand cuts

Death by a thousand cuts

Written by Tracey Lemming

It’s slow.  We don’t even know that it is happening.  That feeling of going through each day without any passion.  The mundane routine, the efficiency, meal prepping, working a 9 to 5, watching a few shows on Netflix, and then it’s time to go to bed to wake up and do it all again.  Where is the creativity and excitement we once had?  How do we find the time and energy to live our best life when there’s so much around us draining us?

For many of us, the words of others have become our self-talk. I had a friend in Junior High once call me timid, and for more years than I’d like to admit, I believed her words.  It wasn’t until I stepped out of my comfort zone that I had a coworker call me bold.  Timid to Bold.  Wow, that’s a 180.  I hadn’t ever thought of myself as bold.  Bold is someone who takes risks, speaks her truth, and doesn’t follow the crowd.  The thought of being bold was something that I hadn’t ever contemplated as a reality for myself, but when I did, I realized that I liked that label better than the one of being timid.  The cool thing is, we don’t have to wait for someone else’s approval or confirmation to decide who we want to be.  We have the power to create in each moment the life that we want to lead, and the person that we want to be.  What’s a word that you’d like to be described as?  Write it down, repeat it, and know that you are.

We also don’t have to wait for circumstances to change to be happy or the version of yourself that you want to be.  It’s easy to be grateful when things are going your way, but it takes practice to show up each day willing to focus on the good when it feels as if everything is falling apart.  When my Dad passed away, my friend who had lost her Dad a few years prior sent me a message acknowledging that this time wouldn’t be easy, but asked me to take notice of those around me who shared in my grief and were there to support me and my family.  She was right on both accounts, and when I took a moment to be present, I noticed sweet memories, warm hugs, and acts of kindness being shared.  Being present at this time wasn’t easy, but these words from my friend were a reminder to stay in the moment, and trust that the right people and events would show up at my time at the perfect time.  They always do.

As we all navigate the waters of this new world, take a moment to see yourself as your best version.  What’s something you’d love to try?  Do you envision yourself doing what you are currently doing each day,  or do you see a world of new possibilities?  This landscape is ever changing, and you get to be the architect of your life.  You get to choose the affirmations that you speak to yourselves and others.  You get to decide if you want to die a death by a thousand cuts, or if you want to soar in infinite possibilities.  Which one will you choose?

Compassionate Masking

Compassionate Masking

Written by Tracey Lemming, Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

I recently heard the term “doom scrolling.”  If you have been on social media the last few months, you already know what I’m talking about.  Endlessly scrolling and finding more bad news to consume.   It’s everywhere, and easy to find.  An addiction that can be easily filled with constant scrolling.  One click of an article leads you to another and another, until you realize that the cookies you put in the oven an hour ago are burning. Anyone else baking a lot?

Recently, the mask or not to mask debate has been the “highlight” on social media.  Whichever “side” you are on, you are sure to find sufficient evidence to make the other “side” wrong.  What you look for, you will find.  It’s easy to voice your opinion behind the mask of social media, and see your perspective as the only one.  Taking a moment to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and ask questions takes time and patience, and a lot of us are running low on both during this uncertain and unknown time.

Recently, I was reading my workplace’s guidelines on requesting a flexible work schedule during this time, and it mentioned a reason that a flexible work schedule could be requested was if a person has anxiety wearing a mask.  I thought back to my Dad’s final month on this Earth.  He was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and forced to wear a mask for oxygen.  To most people, it looked like a simple tube that went up his nose and up around his head.  However, my Dad had severe claustrophobia due to receiving the max lifetime radiation 20 years prior.    He had stage 4 cancer in 1999, and received radiation twice a day on his neck area.  During this time he wore a radiation mask to protect his face.  He took the radiation and wore the mask because there were not any other options if he wanted to have a longer life to spend with his friends and family.  However, after his experience wearing the radiation mask, he would get anxious if anything was over his face.  If his shirt got caught on his face while he was taking it on and off, he would feel panic.  I can’t imagine how he felt, but I can have compassion for him.  I could see the fear and the hell that wearing his COPD mask caused him for less than a month, and I can only imagine how he would feel if he was here today.  His voice was soft due to the radiation, and it became harder for him to speak and be heard.  Wearing a mask would have made it even harder for his words to be understood.  If he was here today, his weakened immune system would have made it hard for him to go out in public, but I can’t imagine that he would have been able to wear a mask.  He mentally could not do it.  It was simply too much for him.  I would like to think if anyone ever approached him in public during this time, they would have shown compassion instead of telling him to wear a mask, or talking about how disgusted they were to their friends.  But, it’s hard to tell.

I’ve heard that this pandemic will last a relatively short time, but the effects of this may last a lifetime. The same way that my Dad’s radiation treatments lasted a relatively short time, but the effects stayed with him the rest of his life.  The fear, division, and isolation that we are experiencing can’t be easily forgotten.  Your words and emotions have power, and you may not even know how you have affected someone, especially with so many consuming social media.  Whichever side of this debate you are on, I invite you to take a moment to breathe and consider another perspective before making an attack on anyone.  Seek to understand.  Do you want to affect others with loving or hateful words?  Will you use your words to tear someone down or lift them up?  How can you show compassion during this time?