Choosing Presence over Escape

Choosing Presence over Escape

Presence.  It’s a gift, and to me it means being fully invested in the moment.  It’s listening intently to the person who is speaking to you.  Not thinking about what you will be saying next, or any other distraction that comes up to take space in your mind.  Presence is being fully engaged with all of our senses.  Seeing the beauty in the moment, no matter how hard it is, and not looking for an escape.  Being okay with the unknown that is surrounding us and embracing what we are experiencing in our current reality.

We all have 24 hours in our days, and we get to decide how we spend our time. It’s so easy to zone out, and allow our minds to be racing on a loop of thoughts that do not serve us.  It’s easy to scroll on social media or reach for ice cream when you are bored or upset.   In the moment, it feels like a good option, but usually doesn’t leave us feeling uplifted or energized. How can we use the gift of presence for ourselves and the people in our life? 

The past month, I found myself spending more time on social media than I wanted to, and I realized that I was using it as an escape from my feelings and having to completely experience the now.  When I didn’t want to think about the grief that I was going through, I found that it was easier to distract myself with mindless scrolling.  I didn’t have to feel any sadness or heaviness if I gave my mind somewhere else to go.  Unfortunately, the grief never went away, and I would just end up feeling worse about myself in the comparison/negative news of social media. What if we absorb ourselves in our day to day life instead of finding a getaway? How would we feel?  Possibly more inspired and connected to this world and our loved ones? 

When we are distracted in the present moment, that’s time that we can’t get back.  Time is our most valuable possession, and we each get the choice to decide how we use ours. How does it feel when you are talking to someone, and they are clearly in another world?  It doesn’t feel good, and it makes you feel not so important.  Distracting yourself from your life is the same thing, and gives yourself the same sign that you aren’t important either.  Mary Kay Ash once said that you should imagine each person in your life with an invisible sign that says “Make me feel important.”  How simple is that?  Giving your full and undivided attention to the person in front of you.  Really listening and hearing what is spoken.  Not just listening to their words, but reading their body language as well.   So many people need someone to listen to them, especially in our current times.  Connection is needed now more than ever.  How can you connect with others?  Who has been on your mind who would love to hear from you?

There were many times over the last year that I didn’t want to be present, but I was as in the moment as I could be.  When my Grandma was in the hospital and in home hospice, I didn’t want to be present.  I wanted to be anywhere else, but I also knew that there would be a time that I would miss being there in that moment with my Grandma and our family, even if it was so hard.  I would miss holding her hand, and being so exhausted from all of the sadness and unknown.  And I didn’t want to be present in November when I drove my Dad and I home, and he started playing songs on his phone that he wanted played at his funeral.  I fought back tears and didn’t want to hear the songs or see the meaning of what he was trying to prepare me for, but I also knew as we drove, I would someday miss that moment.  I would want to be in his truck, trying to pretend that I didn’t know what he was telling me that his time on Earth was coming to a close. I didn’t want to be in his truck hearing Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton sing “As I get where I’m going” with my Dad in the passenger seat, but now I would give anything to go back to that drive on the cold, windy day.  Writing these words takes me right back to those very hard moments, but my hope is that in sharing them, someone who may someday be in my shoes can do their best to show up for their loved ones and themselves in this moments.  Is there something in your life you’d rather not deal with and find an escape from?   How can you bring yourself back into the now?

There’s so many ways to become preoccupied, but there’s also ways to bring ourselves back into the moment.  Each moment is a new beginning. My phone is a big distraction for me, and I have added an app to track my screen time which has helped me to see how much time I am really spending on it.   I removed the notifications from a lot of my apps on my phone, and have put it outside of my bedroom when used as my alarm clock.  I started putting to-do items and papers in an inbox, then dealing with them at a certain time instead of always feeling like there was something that needed my attention.  This all is a work in process, but reminding myself to be conscious and aware has helped.  Maybe try making an effort to become more mindful when you drink a glass or water or eat a meal.  In nature, it’s easier for me to be present as I listen to the birds and watch the branches sway in the wind.  I believe that awareness is the first step.  Do you have any tips for being more present in your life?

I encourage you to take a moment to assess your ability to be present for yourself and others. Know that we all have time that we wish we could take back, but we get a blank sheet each day to write our new story.  Being present isn’t always easy, but I believe that it is always worth it. I am choosing to be present instead of looking for an escape in these unknown times. Is there anything in your life that you wish that you were spending less time doing?  What are some ways that you can become engaged while in a conversation?  How could you be more present and show up for yourself and others?

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?

Where does your focus lie?

Where does your focus lie?

Where does your focus lie? Do you look for the problem or the solution? Do you know that there is a divine connection and believe that things are always working out of the highest good, or do you believe that we are living in a haphazard mess?

Even though a forest fire appears to be violent and destructive, the clearing that it provides is necessary for growth and vegetation to bloom. The whole ecosystem of the forest benefits from this otherwise tragic event. As hard as it is to observe, I recognize that humanity’s injustices must be shown before they can be cleared and healed. Awareness is the first step, and all that has been hidden for so long is being shown to us. This shadow is being revealed not to bring more suffering, but for us to decide as a collective, do we want more of the same, or do we want change? Are we willing to be divided, or can once and for all join in unity and release the the fragmented and unspeakable past?

A focus on unity, love, and peace is necessary as the world appears to fall apart. It is vital to take a look at what you are focusing on, and see a vision of clarity, compassion, and love. We are all responsible for what we choose to focus on. There is a greater plan, and this global reset is part of it. Listen to the birds, feel the sunshine, and take a deep breath. Nature is thriving at this moment. The steams are clearer and the air is fresher. There is good in this world. There is a divine connection between us all. Take a moment to reflect. Where does your focus lie?

I Love you

I Love you

Written by Tracey Lemming, Photo by Laurilyn Farms

At the beginning of 2018, I had a dream that something bad happened to my Grandma Fellure.  I can’t even remember it, but it woke me up and gave me a knowing that I needed to tell her that I loved her.  She was my only living grandparent, and I realized that once she was gone, I would miss her and her stories, and our connection to the past. I knew that my Grandma loved me, but the words weren’t often said.  We would talk on the telephone, but as life gets busy, sometimes we forget about those who we love the most, and don’t get the chance to speak as often as we would like.  

So, I called her a few days later.  I worked up the courage to tell her that I loved her.  She kept talking, and I was thinking, boy, maybe she didn’t hear me, or maybe she didn’t want to say it back.  I can’t remember if she said that she loved me too at the end of that conversation, but in the coming phone calls it became the words that we ended with.  ”Thanks for calling, and I love you.” Little did I know that it wasn’t my Grandma would leave this world in 2018, but her son, my Uncle Steve a few short months later.  She needed to hear the words “I love you” and the support of her loved ones.  She no longer had someone to stop by daily and have coffee with her.  I can’t imagine how she felt, knowing that she should have been the one who went first, not her child.  She had lost my Grandpa 19 years prior, but she said that losing a child was the worst.

Grandma got through the winter, and we continued to talk often.  I put in a reminder in my phone to call her frequently.  I always looked forward to the part of the conversation where she told me she loved me. I know she loved that part too because she told my Aunt how we always said “I love you” at the end of our phone calls. My last conversation with my Grandma was at the end of May 2019.  I was excited to tell her about the updates in my life, and how I was going to be starting my yoga teacher training soon.  She told me how proud of me she was for being me and all that I had done in my life.  That wasn’t something that I expected or heard often from her, but I was thankful for our conversation and her expressing this to me.  It meant so much to me at that moment.  I didn’t know that would be our last phone call, and would mean the world to me for the rest of my life.

When my Grandma fell and hit her head a week later, and the doctor’s determined that nothing else could be done, I hopped on a plane to see my Grandma and say my final goodbye.  Thankfully, although Grandma’s communication was limited, we knew that she knew we were with her.  And thankfully, she could still say “I love you.”  The same words that we had said to each other each time we spoke for the last year and a half.  The most important words that you can tell your loved ones.

Maybe you don’t often hear or say those words to some of your loved ones.  You assume that they know.  But, if there’s someone in your life who you haven’t said these words to in awhile or ever, consider telling them how you feel. It takes courage and can feel a bit awkward, as you don’t always know how the recipient will react.  Maybe they will say the words back immediately, or maybe they will keep talking as they weren’t expecting to hear this.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.  What if the words “I love you” were exactly what your loved one needed to hear, or exactly what you needed to say? It only takes a few moments to say these words.

At that moment

At that moment

Have you ever been the one who first hears your friend’s tragic news?  Maybe they call you, maybe they show up at your door. How do you react?  I’ve been the one who first heard of the tragedy when my friend’s boyfriend had left this world way too soon.  He was too young, and we were too young. How did I react? It’s hard to remember, but amidst the initial shock, I’m sure that I tried to be the strong one.  Allowing my friend to cry, but not wanting her to see my tears. I do remember hugging her and telling her it would be okay. Someone had to be strong. I had to be there for her.  But, what if the brave face that we try to put on isn’t what it needed at that moment?

When I received news of my Dad’s passing, I was initially in shock.  I came out of a yoga class, feeling calm, relaxed and ready for my Saturday.  I saw the missed calls on my phone and knew that wasn’t a good sign. My worst fears were true.  How could the world go on without my Dad? After a hug and an “I love you” from my teacher and calling my family, I called my friend Amanda. What if she didn’t pick up?  She had to pick up, and she did. As I shared my news and she talked to me as I drove home, I realized she was crying. I asked if she was crying, and she said yes, stating she wasn’t good in these situations.  Actually, she was perfect in this situation, at that moment. I didn’t need anyone to tell me it was going to be okay. I didn’t need anyone to be strong for the both of us. I needed someone to cry with me, 700 miles away.  My tears were her tears. Although she hadn’t ever suffered the loss of a parent, she could feel my pain and sadness. She may have wanted to be strong, but she didn’t have to be. She reacted authentically, as she knew that her friend had suffered a deep loss.  She shared her tears with me.

We all experience a wide range of emotions, amazing and not so amazing.  These emotions are what make the world and human experience beautiful. Our deepest emotions, our authenticity.  We have the choice to mask our feelings, or allow them to be expressed. We are taught to be strong. But, what if feeling and showing our true emotions is what is needed at that moment?  What if it isn’t weakness, but part of healing? So the next time your loved one calls you with devastating news, allow your tears to flow if you feel like crying. Allow your loved one to know that you feel their loss and share their pain.  Sometimes that is what they need. We can all put on a brave face another day, at another moment.